My previous article, Why your website is your most important business asset, was a call to channel partners to pay attention to their websites.The next question is often – “Okay I get it, I need a website, but how do I get to the top of Google / bing / Yahoo?” – Good question!
This meme went viral a few years back, but I think you get the point.
Whenever someone is physically in your sales territory and searching for a product that you sell, your site needs to be on page one of the search engine results pages (SERPs) and preferably near the top.
What search engine should you prioritize?
The simple answer to this is Google. According to NETMARKETSHARE Google is the number one search engine globally, with over 66 percent market share for Desktop devices in 2015, and a staggering 92% market share on mobile and tablets for the same period. Bing and Yahoo are also important, but each only accounts for about 10 percent of market share.
Is Google – your new homepage?
Given the overwhelming dominance of Google, I speculated in my last article that perhaps you should think of Google as your new home page. This perspective shift is a key first step into making your business more discoverable by prospects.
Anatomy of a results page and why organic matters
If you run a Google search on “multifunction printer”, the results page could contain up to four main sections:
- Paid search listings – up to three ads in the top-left slots of the page
- Organic search results – the items below the left hand paid listings that connect users to rich content on the web
- Product listing ads (PLAs)– up to eight product ads in the upper right-hand corner
- Additional paid search listings – up to eight ad slots in the lower-right quadrant
Google only shows PLAs when it believes that the search term is likely to be an online purchase. They may also change this up, so those top ads will go to the bottom, or they may not show any additional paid search ads. Worst case, up to three-quarters of the first page could be flooded with ads.
That is why it is essential to take the right steps to get your website to rise to the top of the organic search results and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the key.
The SEO silver bullet
There are reputedly over 200 “signals” affecting Google’s decision algorithm, and only Google knows the secret formula – and by the way, they are experimenting with constantly (see note above about ad positioning). If you are looking for an SEO silver bullet, you are going to be disappointed.
Think of it this way. The quality of the organic search results is where Google earns audience trust. That’s why they try hard to ensure that those organic search results are the most appropriate.
They do this by prioritizing high-value, interesting “organic” content over keyword “stuffing”. More on this below in bullet 1 below.
Four ways to position your site for SEO success
1) Start with “natural” language keywords and phrases
Effective websites speak to prospects and customers using their language. So start with keyword research for your specific market. Google provides free tools to help you.
- Google Trends helps you find out what’s trending on Google at the moment.
- Google Adwords Keyword Planner is helpful for get performance insights and see keyword ideas.
These are great, but your knowledge about how prospects and clients describe your products is equally valuable.
Example: multifunction printer vs multifunction system vs all-in-one printer vs copier-printer.
Aim to use phrases and terms that people use in your region to describe your products and services. Use the terms in your pages as often as you can whilst remaining natural. Avoid trying to “trick” search engines into prioritizing your page simply by repeating key words in the same sentence, or any other “hot” tactic. Bottom line – always write your pages for your audience, never write your pages for a search engine.
2) Get other sites to link to your website
This is known as inbound links. When other websites link to your website, it acts as a vote of confidence. Not all sites are the same though. Getting your Aunty Margerie to add a link from her crocheting site to your home page is not as valuable as getting your vendor to link from their “Where to Buy section”. Please don’t tell Aunty Margerie I said that!
3) Optimize for mobile
Mobile devices, including tablets and smart phones, are fast becoming the preferred tool for web surfing—even for business users. Both Google and bing now give higher priority to mobile-optimized sites for searches from mobile devices.
Check if your website is mobile-friendly by visiting Google’s checker:
If your site isn’t built for mobile or doesn’t use a responsive design, you really need to build this into your future plans.
4) Add a blog and update it regularly
I wrote about why blogging needs to be part of your marketing strategy and why it has become an essential tactic for any business looking to improve their search ranking. Essentially, by creating regular articles about topics your audience cares about, you are sending the right signals to the search engines.
Ask your vendors for help
Getting to grips with SEO can be a challenge for channel partners with limited marketing resources. Ask the vendors you work with for any of the following:
- Online training modules – that can quickly explain the principles of SEO
- Access to in-depth guides – written by search engine experts such as WebCertain
- A list of third party agencies – that can provide sound advice and help
- A list of high ranking keywords for their products – that you can quickly review to make sure you include them on your pages
- Inbound links from their website – so you can benefit from their “vote of confidence”
- Inbound links from their blog posts – If your vendor blogs about your business and links to your site this acts as a further “vote of confidence”
It is a marathon, not a sprint
Whilst there is no silver bullet to getting a high “organic” search ranking, there are steps that you can take to set off on the right foot. Steer clear of anyone telling you that they have the secret to getting to the top of Google, but perhaps consider working closer with vendors that can be your support team and help you along the journey.
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Great article Andy, think this will be very useful for channel partners.
Thanks Rachel, and just to prove the point that Google is always experimenting (and changing things), five hours after I posted this article I got news that Google has announced that by February 24 they will make changes to how they serve paid ads on desktop and tablet devices.
Essentially they are moving from three top-level paid to four with the sidebar ads falling away. This makes it that little bit harder for organic search listings – especially for highly commercial terms.
How about getting your vendors to link to the case studies on your site that use their products? Make sure it’s to a web page though, not just a PDF, so the prospect can explore.
An excellent suggestion Alan – thanks!
No vendors want to drive their visitors to page that promotes their competitors products! So vendors that have a ‘find a partner’ capability will want to link to a page that promotes your capability with their products.
If you’re a multi-brand channel partner, it’s best to create a page for each vendor to enable this. Not only does that provide a joined up experience for the visitor, it will also help your site rank for searches that contain that vendor’s brand term.
Good point and a good suggestion for multi-brand partners.
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