To get us started it’s important to understand we speak a foreign language. If you are reading this article, you are most likely fluent in the language of the wide-format business. You speak jargon and technical mumbo jumbo that is a foreign language to your customers; this foreign language can kill search engine optimization.
Search engine optimization (SEO), which, in everyday English, is simply how your website is optimized and ranked in search engines which drives customers who are trying to find you online. You want to avoid losing a customer because he/she could not find you. To get the job done right, it is important to understand the answers to three key questions: 1) What is a search engine? 2) What is a keyword? and 3) What can I do to help people find me?
What’s a Search Engine?
A search engine is a program that searches the web for data, organizes and indexes the data and makes that data accessible when someone enters a query. A search engine is like a spider crawling through a large web, gathering data as she makes her way around. The more common spiders you might recognize: Google, Yahoo! Search, Bing and Ask.
What are Keywords and Where Can I Get Some?
At this moment, one of your customers may be accessing a search engine, asking it, “Help me find what I’m looking for.” No one is there to tell your customer what words to enter that will best pinpoint their needs, so your customers are entering words that they believe are appropriate. The challenge is, your customers are not educated in the world of wide format printing and words they use to describe your services are quite different than what you use. These words (that your customer uses) are what we refer to as keywords.
You want to prevent lost opportunities—that is, the future clients you never meet—that use a completely different set of keywords than you do, because you speak a different language. Your customer is searching for the term red flag and you are frantically waving a burgundy banner in vain. Using keywords on your website and in all marketing pieces are absolutely critical to your success.
The most effective keywords capture the essence of what your business does. Think about what you do, what you make, what services you provide. Finish it, put it in a box and wrap it up—that thing in the box is your keyword. The words your customers use to describe a project to you are the best keywords money can buy.
How do you know what keywords to use? Two tools I would recommend are Google Adwords and Google WonderWheel. You can look up potential keywords and how competitive they are. As for a low key, low tech approach, which (in my humble opinion) is the very best way to identify keywords, simply put a notepad and pen next to every phone in your office. Start a campaign with each person in your shop who answers the phone to listen and write down every word a caller uses for two weeks. At the end of the two weeks you’ll have a list of keywords that many people would and often do pay thousands of dollars for.
What Can I Do to Help People Find Me?
Once you have your list of prime keywords, it’s time to put them to work for you. We’re talking email, direct mail, signage, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, the Yellow Pages (do people still use phonebooks?), and most importantly your website.
Where to start on the website: your title tags. Title tags are the words that appear in the clickable link on the search engine results page. Title tags not only are read by searchers and webpage visitors, they also carry a lot of weight when it comes to search rankings. An example of a title tag is to include your company name, type of business and location. Abc123SignsandBannersDallas.
Use keywords in text, especially on your homepage. Your company name should be among the first words written on your homepage. Use at least three keywords in no less than three areas on your homepage. Once you’ve accomplished that foundation, begin incorporating keywords into the rest of your pages. Please keep in mind—phone numbers are keywords; so are misspellings of your company name or variations on your company name.
One more consideration when building online traffic to your company is to build link-juice. These links appear on other websites that have a connection with you or your company. Also add links to associations you belong to, such as your local chamber of commerce, the Better Business Bureau, etc. Add links to organizations for which you sponsor, make donations or volunteer your time or services. These links will establish credibility for your company and many times help with your rankings on a search page.
Search engine optimization sounds intimidating at first. As it turns out, SEO is a way for your company to be listed when a potential or existing client seeks your service out on a search engine. All you need to do is talk to people in a way that catches their attention … and their business.