Today’s Main Street

The Value of Being Found On Google
by Chad Parker and Scott Marshall
Cybernautic Inc.
Crystal Howard of the Bloomington-Normal Area Visitors and Convention Bureau (BNACVB) just discovered how the Internet has become the Twin Cities’ new Main Street. All of the businesses along Main Street are visible, generally well known and frequently visited. Their owners pay a little extra to get these prime locations, but it pays off. BNACVB’s website works much the same way. Paying a little extra to get their site positioned highly in Google, Yahoo and MSN, search results have rewarded them with a higher volume of site traffic and more face time with web users.

Increasingly, Americans are using search engines:
  • In a recent study, when participants were asked to indicate how they would go about making a B2B purchase, 93.2 percent said they would research the purchase online.
  • According to a 2007 report from the National Association of Realtors, 84 percent of real estate purchases started with an online search. 
  • Slightly more than four in five people using search engines find someone to give them what they’re looking for.
If your business is not found near the top of the search results, people will find what they want somewhere else. The reality is, people usually only visit the first few results shown in a search. Think about it—when was the last time you searched for something at Google and went past the first page or two of results to find what you were looking for?

It Pays to be Number One
  • The number-one search result receives 42.4% of the traffic.
  • The top three search results get over 60% of all search engine clicks.
  • Roughly 80% of search traffic goes to the first 10 results.
  • The top 30 results receive 90% of the search engine traffic.

What search engine traffic offers that Main Street can’t is lead qualification. When someone clicks on your link, they are looking for your product or service. As a result, your return on investment is far higher, because you’re acquiring relevant leads. Unfortunately, most websites are not optimized well enough to appear at the top of Google’s search results.

The Solution: Get Found Online with Search Engine Optimization
So what is SEO exactly? Search Engine Optimization is the process of getting your site highly ranked on search engines like Google so people can find your business with ease. There are two main ways to get this done: pay-per-click (PPC) and organic search results.

The major advantage of pay-per-click is that you pay to have your site ranked on the first page of search results, immediately providing instant leads and traffic. As the name suggests, you pay money every time someone clicks on your listing in the search results. In order for this to work effectively, you need a trained SEO specialist to help select keywords that your audience is most likely to use when searching for your business. Poorly chosen keywords will bring the wrong kind of traffic to your site. An SEO specialist can help you find keywords that will drive the maximum amount of highly targeted traffic to your site. PPC is perfect for people who want immediate, measurable, qualified leads.

Organic Search Results
Improving your organic search ranking requires a long-term plan, but over time, yields greater results. Once you’ve made the investment and achieved a high organic ranking, you tend to stay highly ranked and you don’t have to pay each time someone clicks on your link. There are countless factors that contribute to a successful organic campaign, but they all fit neatly into two categories:

  • On-page characteristics. This includes using keywords in the text of your website and using them often. Frequently updated content is important, as it shows Google your site content is not going stale. The quality of your website’s code is also incredibly important to Google. If the site is poorly coded or takes too long to load, your ranking will suffer significantly. Hiring a professional web design studio to build your site can often resolve on-page problems.
  • Off-page characteristics. The most important off-page characteristic is the presence of inbound links, which refers to the links on other websites pointing to your site. Think of inbound links as an online version of word-of-mouth advertising—the assumption being if other sites refer users to you, there must be something meaningful on your website. There are many other off-page factors, and it’s important to work with someone who understands the depth and importance of all of these characteristics in order to develop a successful strategy.

Coldwell Banker Heart of America Realtors utilized both an on-page and an off-page campaign after the launch of their new website. They saw an immediate 30-percent uptick in online leads, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in new sales, and their online traffic, qualified leads, and online sales conversion rates have continued to increase ever since.

Putting it All Together

  1. Find a reputable company that specializes in SEO. There are a lot of fly-by-night companies that may give you immediate results, only to have your website permanently removed from Google’s results for breaking search indexing rules.
  2. Look for a company that can examine and grade every aspect of your website and provide a report card. These reports give you a grade that will let you know how well you’re doing and what you can improve on. 
  3. Choose a company that provides web stats, an annual review of your site and a way to quantify your ROI.

Ultimately, do what Crystal Howard did—place your business on the NEW Main Street and people will find you on the web. iBi

Chad Parker is owner and CEO of Cybernautic Inc., with headquarters in Bloomington and a new office in Peoria. Scott Marshall is director of Peoria Operations for Cybernautic.