Face it – your website is never going to rank #1 in Google for “auto insurance” in either organic or paid search results without some major effort. Based on data from AdWords you’re probably not going to do well for non-brand keywords related to insurance, loans, mortgages, attorneys/lawyers, credit. You’ll have to spend a LOT of money or have a better CTR in order to beat Progressive, Geico, State Farm, and AAA if you’re trying to compete for non-brand insurance terms, or you’ll pay through the nose for SEOs who may never get you to Page 1. So why not use those precious, limited tech hours to build both your social and local profiles. If you don’t have the money to pay your way up the ladder, be smart about how you are using your resources and form a real tangible strategy.
Rather than go up against the giant brand names, rethink your strategy: devise a more local, geo-targeted approach. Google has refocused their search efforts to serve relevant local results, putting their muscle into Google+ Local and Google Maps to serve mobile needs (though, this may be temporarily stunted with the departure of Marissa Mayer). Google is placing less and less importance on the organic results by cluttering the SERPs with SEM ads, Google+ Local results, Product Listing Ads, Google Shopping ads. Only once you reach the bottom will you finally find the organic results. Now, even organic listings are getting lost on the page and decreasing in CTR compared to the shiny, fancy sponsored listings. So even if you were appearing on Page 1 for your desired keyword searches, your site can STILL get lost in the clutter.
If you don’t have big money or personnel for PPC, SEO, or full-time social media community management, I recommend the following steps to help you gain more visibility on the search engine results pages using as few resources as possible.
1) Get the walls of the house up, AKA get your company’s website in stable shape. This is the central hub for your content, and while this page may not rank the best, it is the house for all your content. Once your branding and messaging is satisfactory, the site should only need minor changes and tweaks. From there, allocate your resources to your social profiles.
2) Complete your Google+ Local page. Fill out your profile to 100% completeness and make sure all your contact information is correct. On Google+ you have some leeway to brand, customize, and pimp out your profile page. Make it look really rich, like someone cared enough, because this will increasingly be the online face of your business. Don’t forget your profile photo and create some incentive for your customers to write reviews.
3) Complete your Facebook brand Timeline page. This will allow users to check in if you have a physical location, or tag your business in their updates/posts and can help you potentially reach millions of users if you take the time to engage your audience.
4) Don’t forget about the other social profiles that can rank well on search engines. Examples include LinkedIn, Yelp, and Quora. Set up an account with Foursquare if you have a physical location. You won’t need to share content as much on these sites, but they can rank. Yelp results are also used in Bing local searches and Apple Maps for mobile.
5) Use HootSuite to push content across Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Foursquare (if you have a physical location), and LinkedIn (if your customers are active on that platform). HootSuite is one of the most accessible dashboards that access Google+ pages, which are being pulled for Google Maps and Local results.
6) At this point you probably don’t have much time to share every article and tidbit that comes your way, but you can schedule tweets and content pushes. Aim to post something once a day. Pages with fresh content that have been recently updated tend to rank better in the search engines, and pages that have user participation can perform even better
Finally, be sure to watch your website’s analytics data to see where your customers are interacting with your business. Compare it with your Google+ analytics, available within Google Webmaster Tools, and see if it makes sense to devote more resources to your website or to your Google+ profiles.
What are some of the ways your brand has worked around overpaying for advertising by creating a more in-depth social/local organic strategy? If haven’t already, you must have questions. Either way, let’s get this discussion started. Comment away!