We speak a foreign language in this industry. If you are reading this article, then you are most likely fluent in the language of the printing business. Our collection of lingo, jargon, and technical mumbo jumbo is a foreign language to our customers. The sooner you can quit speaking to your customers using this foreign language the more successful you will be.
Let’s take a look at search engine optimization (SEO), which—in everyday English—is understanding how your customers are trying to find you and making that search as easy for them as possible. You want to avoid losing a customer or having them go to a competitor because he/she couldn’t find you. To capitalize on SEO, it is important to understand the answers to three key questions:
1. What is a search engine?
2. What is a keyword?
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. Oftentimes a search engine is referred to as a spider, and those spiders go by many names: Google, Yahoo! Search, Bing, and Ask are some of the more recognizable ones.
The key to success with search engines and making sure a client can find you is using proper keywords. If you aren’t using proper keywords, your client may have to sift through unnecessary information. A recent Google search of “How to use a search engine” produced well over 53 million hits. I encourage you to type “printing company” into Google. I believe you’ll understand why it is so important to communicate the right way with customers.
What are Keywords & Which Ones Do I Use?
At this moment, one of your customers may be accessing a search engine, asking: “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 that your customers are not educated in the world of printing, and words they use to describe your services are quite different than what you use. The 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 is absolutely critical to your success.
Back to our friend the spider. The spider looks for whatever it is told to look for. As it scours the Web for any and all information related to your customer’s search request, it pulls in the keywords your customer or prospect entered.
The most effective keywords are basic, they are simply the names of the products you make in the way your client thinks about them. 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. And for every four-color, tri-fold in the box, there are about a dozen names it goes by out in the non-printing world. It’s a brochure, a pamphlet, a hand-out, a bag stuffer, a mailer, and so forth. Those words—call them layman’s words—are the best keywords money can buy. By the way, you can take these and use them in your marketing.
There are numerous resources available to you to help determine the best keywords. Google Adwords and Google WonderWheel are two Web-based tools you may want to consider. It’s easy enough to open up Google, type in those keywords and click through their “getting started” and “step-by-step” pages. Very quickly, you will learn how your clients and potential customers are navigating your website and the websites of your competitors.
The best tool, in my humble opinion, doesn’t involve technology at all. It’s as simple as a pen and paper. Put a notepad and pen next to every phone in your office. Ask every member of your team who answers the phone or speaks to customers to listen very closely to the terms your callers use. Have them write those words down—each of them is a golden keyword straight from the horse’s mouth. Listen even closer to the people calling who aren’t yet clients—you know, the individuals who need a quote for an upcoming project, “Do you guys do fancy cards with raised lettering?” (139,000 results on Google). By the way, don’t use the term thermography as a keyword.
How Can I Help People Find Me?
Now that you understand a bit about the importance of keywords and you know the best keywords to use in your business, you need to put them to work. You are going to use keywords in every form of communication you use with your customers. We’re talking email, direct mail, signage, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, your blog, your daily conversation, the Yellow Pages (do people still use phonebooks?), and—the most important marketing tool of all—your company website.
If any of the following suggestions sound too complicated to perform, and especially if your provider is not suggesting or, at the very least, asking you for this information, then you might shop around for a different provider. You and I don’t have time to learn a bunch of technical stuff. Good, reasonable consulting is out there.
So, back to keywords and how to incorporate them into 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 are not only 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: Abc123PrintersDallas.
Use keywords in text, especially on your homepage. If the first words of your page are “welcome” or “save money,” it’s time for an update. Your company name should be among the first words written on your homepage. Here’s a good rule of thumb: Use at least three keywords in at least three areas on your homepage. Once you’ve accomplished that foundation, begin incorporating keywords into the rest of your pages. FYI, phone numbers are keywords. So are misspellings of your company name or variations on your company name, such as shortened versions, abbreviations, and nicknames.
Forge the Links
The last technique we’ll talk about that can help increase online traffic to your company is building links to your website. These links appear on other websites that have a connection to your company.
Get started by submitting your website to online directories, such as dir.yahoo.com and www.botw.com. Next, add links (on your website) to associations that you belong to, such as your local chamber of commerce and the Better Business Bureau. Also, add links to organizations which you sponsor, make donations to, or volunteer your time or services. Finally, don’t ever pay to have your link added to a webpage. You’ll only be buying your way onto a list of links that nobody ever uses.
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.
Tawnya Starr is a former successful print shop owner who is now president of FireSpring’s PrinterPresence. She has dedicated her career to educating the printing industry on proven website and marketing strategies. In 2005, she received the Industry Award of Distinction from NAQP for her service as a consultant and educator to the industry. Contact her at Tawnya.Starr@Firespring.com.