6 Rules You Must Know for Using SEO and SEM to Grow Your Business

If you’re managing a business, you know how important a web and mobile presence is. Whether you’re selling tacos, tiaras, or terabytes, customers need to be able to find you.

You’ve probably dipped your toe into the complex world of organic or “free” search, also known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and paid search, also known as Search Engine Marketing (SEM). But what do you really need to know about SEO and SEM?

I spoke with SEO/SEM expert Andrew Shelton, founder of the digital marketing agency Martec360, who gave me six rules that you need to pay attention to right now if you want to increase your sales through search:

1. Mobile is king

Need evidence of the importance of mobile? Some 96% of smartphone owners use their device to get things done. About 70% of smartphone owners use their phone to research a product before purchasing it in a store. Half of all web traffic comes from smartphones and tablets.

Furthermore, Google has begun to make its search index “mobile-first.” That means that Google will primarily index mobile content and use that to decide how to rank its results.

2. Paid search pays off on mobile

On mobile, paid search (SEM) is increasingly paying off. Shelton says he used to tell his clients to focus on free search (SEO) but with users putting mobile first, the continuum has changed.

“The greatest return on investment is email,” Shelton says, “because you have those customers in house. But paid search is next.” He estimates that paid search spending went up by factors of 25% to 50% in 2016.

3. Have a solid content strategy

The old adage is the new adage: “Content is king.” You need high-quality content for your website if it’s going to compete in the free search business. You can’t go about that blindly.

Consider what customer problem you’re solving. What customer questions can you be answering?

Do you have a mechanism for customers to ask questions? There could be a wealth of ideas for blog posts, FAQs, and buyers’ guides right there.

4. Social media is worth your return on investment

Social media can be vexing for many businesses. You definitely have to perform a cost-benefit analysis on it. Spending six hours a day sending out tweets that don’t lead to conversions is going to be a losing proposition.

Treat social media as “an engagement with an ongoing conversation with your customers,” Shelton recommends. “It’s not just for selling.”

In fact, if your social media channels are too hard-sell, they’ll be counter productive. You have to create value. Tools like Hootsuite, Falcon.IO, and Curalate can help.

5. Manage your online reputation

According to Shopper Approved, an app that helps its clients collect online ratings and reviews, 88% of all consumers read online reviews to determine whether a local business is a good business.

All of those reviews are part of the SEO equation. They can help you, or they can hurt you. But an app like Shopper Approved can help push more positive reviews where you need them.

6. Measure and monitor your progress

The only way you’re going see your business grow exponentially through SEO, SEM, and social media is to measure what you’re doing. You have to know where you’re starting, set some benchmarks, and monitor your progress.

Install Google Analytics. There is a plethora of other e-commerce tools you can use for analysis. Data is your friend. Get used to swimming in it.

And if you need help, find a consulting firm that understands your customer and your goals.

Just remember, effective search is process. You won’t get it right the first time. But you’ll get better at it with everything you learn.

About the author:

Kim Folsom is the Founder of LIFT Development Enterprises–a not-for-profit, community development organization with a mission to help underserved, underrepresented small-business owners – and Co-Founder and CEO of Founders First Capital Partners, LLC, a small business growth accelerator and revenue based venture fund. Learn more about Kim and her company’s mission to help grow and fund 1000 underserved and underrepresented small businesses by 2026 via their Founders Business Growth Bootcamp program at www.foundersfirstcapitalpartners.com.

 

Tech

Google Closer to Using Balloons for Telecom in Puerto Rico

Last Friday, engineers on Google parent Alphabet’s internet-by-balloon Project Loon tweeted that they hoped to bring emergency connectivity to Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Irma and Maria left more than 90 percent of the island without cellphone coverage.

Just seven days later, the Federal Communications Commission Friday gave the company a green light to fly 30 balloons over Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands for up to six months.

If all goes to plan, Alphabet’s balloons will soon help replace the thousands of cellphone towers knocked down by hurricane-strength winds. The balloons would provide voice and data service through local carriers to users’ phones.

The details of those arrangements aren’t complete. But in its application to the FCC, Alphabet included letters and emails from eight wireless carriers in Puerto Rico, in which they consented for Loon to use their frequencies for disaster relief and to restore limited communications. Two of those agreements were dated Friday.

Alphabet has previously deployed Loon to provide emergency phone service, in Peru following flooding there earlier this year. In Peru, Alphabet had already been working closely with a local wireless network, Telefonica, to coordinate spectrum use and prepare handsets to work with its balloons.

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In Puerto Rico, “things are a little more complicated because we’re starting from scratch,” an Alphabet spokesperson says. “Loon needs be integrated with a telco partner’s network—the balloons can’t do it alone.”

Project Loon was born in Alphabet’s moonshot X division, with the aim of serving the half of the world’s population that is still without internet access. It has launched several successful pilot projects, but has yet to be deployed commercially on a wide scale. It also is embroiled in a lawsuit with Space Data, a small company accusing Alphabet of patent infringement, misappropriation of trade secrets, and breach of contract following a failed acquisition bid.

With the FCC’s special temporary license in Puerto Rico, Alphabet plans to work along the same lines as in Peru. Thirty Loon balloons will float 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) above the earth in the stratosphere, relaying communications between Alphabet’s own ground stations connected to the surviving wireless networks, and users’ handsets.

Each balloon can serve 5,000 square kilometers (1,930 square miles), so the fleet is expected to provide service over all of Puerto Rico and potentially parts of the US Virgin Islands. Alphabet said it would consult with networks in the British Virgin Islands to minimize interference there.

Another issue is that Alphabet’s technology is still set up for Peru, so some handsets in Puerto Rico may need updates to use the balloon-connected service. Alphabet says it is working on temporary over-the-air software fixes for affected devices, which could include handsets from Apple, Samsung, and LG.

With approval in hand, Alphabet will turn to launching the balloons. Alphabet could not say when it will fly or when service would begin, but a spokesperson said, “We’re sorting through a lot of possible options now and are grateful for the support we’re getting on the ground.”

Restoring voice and data communications cannot come quickly enough for some of the affected. On Tuesday, Mother Jones reported Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló as saying, “Some people, even though we’ve documented the fact… that we’ve delivered food and water, it hasn’t gotten to some of them. Now, it could be for a whole host of reasons. One of them could be that they couldn’t hear it; the information didn’t get to them.”

CORRECTION, Oct. 7, 12:05 am: Project Loon is part of Alphabet, but is not part of Alphabet’s Google subsidiary. An earlier version of this article incorrectly called Loon a Google project.

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