Me: “This is William of SEO Ireland. How can I help you?”
Caller: “I need someone to do some SEO on my website. I've been on a digital marketing course, so I know a fair bit about SEO already. But I just don't have the time to look after my website. I've done some research and there are just 5 keywords I want to get ranked for. Can you do that, how much will you charge and what guarantee can you provide?”
OK, so you may be thinking, that all seems fair. Here's a busy guy who wants to generate more business through his website, and wants to bring in an expert to help him do that.
I asked a few simple questions to find out more about his business. He was a recently qualified solicitor, starting up a small law firm on the outskirts of Dublin. He was a one-man band, offering various types of legal services. I learnt that he had a very basic site built recently in WordPress which had four pages. He had planned to write a blog but hadn't yet got round to publishing any posts.
To gauge his expectations, I asked:
“So, what are the five keywords you want your website to rank top for?”
Here's what he said:
- solicitors dublin
- law firm dublin
- legal advice dublin
- lawyer dublin
- legal help dublin
You gotta be kidding me!
Let me just tackle a few misconceptions here about SEO and what exactly it involves.
SEO is not a list of push-button tasks
There's a perception that SEO is a specific action or set of secretive tasks performed by someone in a darkened room. That this mystic thing called “SEO” has a start and finish, with lots of mysterious things being done in between.
The reality is very different. While it's correct that SEO is a series of tasks and actions, every website is different and therefore every set of tasks is unique. There is no clear template that can be used across multiple sites. What works for one site, may have no impact on another.
To do SEO successfully, you have to understand the one hard & fast rule:
Google wants to provide the optimal search experience for users, which means connecting them quickly with the content that answers their needs. (source)
This statement is a clue to how to get your website in Google's top search results.
It's nothing to do with secret “coding” or buying links from some geezer on Fiverr. It's about filling your site with content that addresses the searcher's needs.
Going back to my original caller, I was starting to feel a little frustrated. After all, this was a clever guy who'd graduated from Law School and had opened his own business. No mean achievement. But exactly what was going through his head?
I needed to understand his mindset, so I asked him the big question:
“Why does your website deserve to rank top in Google when there are so many big law firms out there competing with you?”
Quick as a flash he replied:
“I have no idea. That's why I' want to hire someone like you.”
Fair enough. But how much was this guy prepared to pay for the expertise that would get his site ranked above all other law firms in Dublin? Here's what he said…
“I've had loads of emails from companies offering to do my SEO for €199 a month. I don't really want to pay that much, but I will if you can guarantee me you'll get the top spot for all 5 keywords.”
Wow! My jaw dropped. The silence must have been a little uncomfortable because his next words were:
“Hello, are you still there?”
I was. But I wouldn't be for much longer.
I declined his offer and told him he wouldn't be hiring me. Here's why…
Be realistic when setting your SEO goals
I'm all for setting high aspirational goals. This is what drives most people to succeed in life. But setting unrealistic goals is just setting yourself up for failure before you get off the ground.
With SEO, you need to recalibrate the way you set goals. Too often, companies set a target of getting top ranking for particular keywords. They think that if they can get ranked top in Google for a particular phrase, that will drive all the customer traffic they need.
The reality is often very different.
Let's look again at the keywords my solicitor friend wanted to rank for:
- solicitors dublin
- law firm dublin
- legal advice dublin
- lawyer dublin
- legal help dublin
The most popular keyword in that list is “solicitors dublin” which gets around 1,000 searches per month. But, as you would guess, it's a competitive term, with search results dominated by some big law firms, directories and national newspaper stories.
The only way to get guaranteed SEO rankings
If you're determined to be on the top of the Google search results for a particular keyword, you'll have to buy your way there through pay-per-click platforms like Google Adwords or Bing Ads. Just go ahead, set up an Adwords account and bid higher than anyone else for those exact terms.
But even if your website does get top ranking in Google, will it bring in new customers?
There is a host of reasons why someone would search for “solicitors dublin”. Students looking for work experience, directory companies looking for potential listings or maybe software companies looking to sell legal software. My point is, why put lots of energy and resources into optimising for such a competitive keyword when it may not even generate new business?
Optimise your Google Local SEO visibility first
If you run a law firm in an area of Dublin with an established office address, the first thing you should do is adopt some “Local SEO” tactics to get your site visible in Google. The search results for someone based in Ballsbridge, for example, will differ from someone searching in Lucan.
This is what you need to do:
- Build a high-quality Google My Business Profile
- Get relevant, high authority local citations
- Find an efficient way of capturing customer reviews
But if you plan on hiring an SEO consultant to do all this for you, be prepared to pay significantly more than €199 per month!
Lateral thinking is crucial to SEO success
Instead of focusing on high competition keywords that won't necessarily bring in customers, you need to get your head around searcher intent.
The exact term “divorce in Ireland who gets the house” is searched 200 times per month in Google. The searcher's intent is to find out more about the implications of divorce. What better way to prove that you are an authority on the subject of divorce than by publishing a detailed, informative (and, of course, legally accurate) blog post covering this topic?
There are lots of websites and forums where this is discussed so getting some backlinks and shares shouldn't be too difficult. If you're a solicitor offering family law services, getting to the top of Google for this search phrase will drive good quality traffic to your website. And, if your visitors find your article useful and informative, there's a good chance they will consider hiring your services.
To do SEO well, you first need to understand your business & customers
When starting out in any business, you need to know what you can offer your target audience that others can't. In other words, why should someone choose to hire you when there are other options available?
You should think of SEO in a similar way, and ask yourself these three questions:
- What problems are my target audience looking to solve, and what information can I provide to help them?
- What unique benefits does my service offer (your unique selling proposition)?
- How can I convince my visitors that hiring me is the right choice?
You're the expert in your business. Expecting an outside agency to come up with answers to these questions is crazy. If you don't understand your customer's motivations or reasons for buying, you'll have no idea how to “sell” to them. After all, getting the traffic is just one part of the SEO equation.
If you don't understand your customer's motivations or reasons for buying, you'll have no idea how to:
- Produce content that will interest and engage your prospects.
- Get other sites to recognise the value of your content offers and link to it or share it with their readers.
- Clearly communicate what's unique about the services you offer and why you're the best option available.
- Show proof that you have successfully solved the problems of others who've been in the same position.
Don't abdicate responsibility for your website SEO
You might think this is an odd statement to make for an SEO consultant. But in my experience, the most successful SEO projects are ones where I work alongside my clients with a shared goal. I provide the expertise and plan, but the execution is a joint responsibility.
You know more about your business and your customers than I ever will. You have years of experience and knowledge, much of which is largely untapped. My role is to prise that information out of you and use it to build a customer-driven experience that:
- Drives new organic traffic through keyword-rich content.
- Understands where the visitor is in the buying cycle and delivers relevant content accordingly.
- Converts the visitor to a prospect and builds a relationship through email marketing so he eventually becomes a customer.
Sounds easy when explained like that doesn't it? But anyone who knows their SEO onions will know just how much work is involved to do this right.
Ultimately, the only metric that matters is sales. If you're serious about growing your sales, then you need to be just as serious about the way you do your SEO. Otherwise, you're heading straight for failure.
If you want to avoid making the same SEO mistakes most companies make, the first step is to get in touch with me so I can find out more about you and your business.