What? SEO? Search Engine Optimization? Why should a legitimate business think about SEO?
I wrote this article and made the video for an entry into the EliteRetreat "Get a Free Ticket" contest. I didn't win the contest, but the article is still a good basic article for helping people understand why they need to think about Search Engine Optimization, so I've included it here. Please add your comments below.
Every legitimate business should maybe not worry about SEO, but MUST PLAN on SEO.
Why? Let's pretend...
for a moment, since it is the holiday season, that I'm a Christmas tree stand seller.
15 years ago, we merged with a company that has the chemistry basis to know how preserve trees. The official company name now is "Stands for American Northerners and Tree Acclimitization, Inc. (SANTA for short.) SANTA manufactures the stands, and sells them to stores throughout the United States and Canada, who sell these stands to their customers.
We have been in business for 55 years, starting with my grandfather, who built the very first Christmas tree stand out of a wooden bowl. Over the past 55 years, SANTA has become the Christmas tree stand of choice, and statistically speaking, SANTA has 50% of the U.S. market captured.
Our Christmas tree stand is not only nice to look at, but it has an amazing patented system that actually waters the tree and can keep a tree alive for up to 2 years after it has been cut.
Someone told me in 1999 that SANTA should have a web site. They told me this again in 2002, again in 2004, and finally, in September of 2006, someone convinced me that it was time to design a beautiful web site to show off my Christmas tree stands.
They told me that SANTA could have a wonderful and amazing site that would be a perfect brochure to showcase tree stands, with lots of amazing graphics, flying around on the screen and showing my customers just how beautiful the stands are. Customers would also be able to order right from my web site, and the order would go directly to the shipping department of my company.
SANTA spent $15,000 to have this site developed, and it is an incredibly attractive site..
We are really looking forward to the Christmas season, because being the best Christmas tree stand on the market, we just know that people will come to our amazing web site and buy the stands. After all, once they're on the site, they can't help but click the buy button. The site is so amazing after all.
Joe Average has just moved to America. He will be celebrating Christmas, for his very first time, this year. Joe is from Zimewah. (Zimewah is a made-up country where people don't celebrate, and have never heard of Christmas). Joe has a wife and kids. Being excited about their first celebration, they want Joe to stick a tree, which has been forcibly removed from its roots, inside their house for a month or two. Not only do they want Joe to stick this tree inside the house, but they want Joe to decorate it with hot little orbs of glowing fire. Joe's family also wants him, on Christmas day, to put little lanterns with ACTUAL fire on the tree.
Joe is not dumb. He knows that this tree, if not at least somewhat watered during this time frame, is going to get dry. This dry tree will likely catch the heat from the lights and lanterns, and ultimately, could catch fire. If it does, this is going to make his new home in America a pile of ash.
Joe realizes his problem, and having never had a Christmas tree in his life, realizes that other people around him, putting Christmas trees in their houses, must have a way to make their trees stay fresh.
Joe gets an idea. He still has an empty paint bucket from when they built his house, so he takes the lid off of it, fills it with water, and sets the tree inside of the bucket.
"I'm such a smart guy" thinks Joe. Only when he lets go of the tree does he realize that he's going to need something to hold the tree up. Joe thinks that he could use ropes to hold up his tree. He suggests this to his wife who informs him that if he ties ropes to their new living room furniture, his first Christmas may be his very last. So Joe thinks that he needs something like a base, or a holder, or a stand! Yes, a tree stand! That would be really great!
So Joe goes to www.Google.zmwh (short for Zimewah; Zimewahians love to use the Internet) and types in "American Christmas Tree Stand." Joe looks at the results and sees immediately that yes, there is actually such a thing as a Christmas tree stand.
He looks at options from the first page of results, the second page of results, and the third page of results.
Joe visits six different Christmas tree stand web sites. Joe makes his decision based on the features described on the web sites he finds, and buys a Christmas tree stand from a result at the lower part of the first page.
Nowhere, in the first three pages of search results, is the most simple, and the best answer: SANTA's tree stand.
At a company Christmas party, I, the owner and CEO of SANTA, find myself talking about how excited we are about our new web site with a group of employees. Among these employees is John Doe. He is a great assembler of our tree stands.
His wife Jane is with him at the party. From the brief conversations I've had with John, I know his wife does something with regard to the Internet. "So are you pleased with the optimization that was done on your web site?" Jane asks.
"Oh yes," I respond. "We're loving how quickly the graphics load and how easy it is for our customers to get around on the web site."
"Are you seeing a good level of organic search traffic?" she asks.
Knowing that I don't know what she's talking about and wanting to learn, but also not wanting to appear unknowledgeable in front of a group of employees, I say, "John has told me that you do something with the Internet. You seem to know a lot about this topic. Do you have a card?"
Jane hands me her card, and I notice that under the business name "DOE Web Enterprises" it says "SEO and Web Development Specialist."
I’m not sure what SEO is, and just at that moment, I breathe a sigh of relief, as our VP of operations, who is also the MC for the evening, begins the traditional Christmas party accolades.
Knowing that I should at least find out what Jane seems to know, I call her on January 3 and schedule an appointment.
Jane walks in to the office, and after formalities, she asks me if she can see our web traffic statistics.
"Those would be nice to have," I say, "so that we could actually measure what’s going on with our site. Where would we get those?"
She then asks me where we rank in Google for the most searched keyword and keyphrase terms in our market.
"I'm not sure what you mean," I tell her.
"Do you mind if I drive?" Jane asks, pointing at my computer.
Jane proceeds to take me to a free web site where I can actually see the number of times people searched for "Christmas Tree Stands" and related terms in December of 2006. I’m amazed to see how many people were looking for Christmas tree stands. I was even more surprised to see that the third most searched term that included "Christmas Tree Stands" was "SANTA Christmas Tree Stands."
I had no idea that that many people were looking for SANTA's stands online. The statistics showed that over 45 searches were happening each day for SANTA Christmas Tree Stands in December.
"So that's a good thing, right?" I ask her.
"Well, maybe," she responds. She then takes me to Google.com, Yahoo.com, and MSN.com, and shows me that when someone searches for "SANTA Christmas Tree Stands," our web site doesn't even show up. What's more, the number 3 result on Google, highlighted in blue, says, "Why SANTA's Christmas Tree Stands stink," and then takes people to our biggest competitor's web site.
Convinced that Jane knows what she's talking about, I call our web design company and let them know that she will be taking over our web work, and that they are to give her whatever she needs in order to work on SANTA's site. I introduce Jane to the head of our marketing department who has done phenomenal work getting us printed in newspapers and catalogs.
Jane takes much of what our company has produced over the past 55 years, and has our marketing department re-purpose the articles so that they match the words that people are actually looking for.
She puts these articles online, one at a time, every two-three days, for the next 10 months. I ask her how she’s able to manage the time to get those articles up online. She tells me she's able to do this with scheduled publishing. I don't know what that means, but since Jane is the expert, I tell her, "That sounds great!"
I start getting daily reports of our web traffic statistics. In July, we have over 400 people visit our web site after searching for Christmas related terms. Jane tells me that because of the market we are in, over the next few months, we will start to see big increases in our traffic statistics. This is not a surprise to me, since I know our peak months are between August and January. But what amazes me is how much we improved this year, over last year. In November, we had over 12,000 visitors come through our web site, and the shipping department tells me that from web orders, they have shipped out 907 stands.
Jane walks into my office December 1, and at this point, I'm convinced. Optimizing our web site for the terms people are already searching for is not only something we must think about, but now I almost see it as our duty to make sure we are hyper-aware of what our customers want.
Our customers have an issue of wanting the tree to stand up straight and stay fresh. Our business is one of the best solutions for this problem. If customers don't see us when they search for products to fix their problem, then they will buy from businesses are offering them inferior solutions, possibly at a higher cost.
In order for people to find our web site, instead of our competition's web site, we must either learn Search Engine Optimization ourselves, or we must hire out our SEO work.
Remember Joe Average? Joe would have bought the top of the line SANTA stand if he had ended up on my site. Not only is SANTA the best, but because of the volume we do as a business, SANTA can offer some of the lowest prices. Because Joe didn't find me in the search results in 2006, he didn't buy my stand. Joe would have told his Zimewahian friends in the US that SANTA sells the best Christmas tree stands, likely turning some of them into customers. Instead, Joe is now referring his friends to some other company.
Had I not met Jane, I would have seen that very few people actually purchased from my web site. Those people who purchased would likely have been people who I could have told about the stands in person or over the phone.Perhaps I would have even come to the conclusion that the $15,000 I spent on my site was a total waste of money.
People in business MUST pay attention to Search Engine Optimization. Not doing so separates you from the huge and rapidly growing population that is doing a significant part of its purchasing online. More importantly, your lack of attention to SEO takes money out of your pocket, puts it into the hands of your competition, and actually deprives your customer of finding the best solution that could have fixed their problem.