Both the local 3-pack and the organic results are “free”- although you do need to earn them with solid marketing. By having these two placements, you don’t need to pay for each click.
Let’s put that into numbers: if you get 30 clicks per day from organic search it should cost you less in marketing efforts than the Adwords cash equivalent, which could be something like $3/click which is $90/day or $2700 per month.
Savvy searchers tend to distrust ads anyways- they prefer to click on what is perceived as the more trustworthy organic results as it indicates that the business has more of a track record and has earned a top at the spot- not bought it. It signifies longevity and success.
Many marketers see the paid ads of SEM as a temporary measure before achieving a solid organic position from SEO efforts- especially for local businesses. For many local businesses, it is too costly to always pay for each click. And, even after paying for years, you’ve built no marketing assets, so if you pull the plug on the ad campaign you literally disappear from search instantly. A fixed monthly SEO commitment yields the potential for a much higher ROI- although SEO takes more time to gain traction and comes with no guarantees.
For national search, where achieving a top organic result for a popular keyword can be extremely difficult, time consuming, and expensive, many companies rely exclusively on paid positions. Others will instead organically target keywords that aren’t as competitive yet which often yield higher conversion rates.
The problem is that SEO is a zero-sum game. There are a limited amount of positions at the top and if your site rises, another one needs to fall. There is no room for kumbaya with your friendly competitors here. It is a winner(s) takes all situation. There is room at the top for a couple of you. The Local 3-Pack is exclusive real estate with room for three- no fourth allowed!
There are over 1000 active interior designers in Atlanta that maintain an online presence. And of those, there are just a few positions available at the top of search results.
So, how to reconcile this? And, what can a marketer (or interior designer, architect, or builder) do?
Our SEO approach shows that there are multiple ways to get a piece of that traffic. But first, you need to prepared for success.
Preparing for SEO Success:
The current demands of SEO isn’t just about doing specific SEO actions but rather about a holistic marketing campaign.
When we onboard new clients, their accounts go to both our marketing department and our website development department. Both analyze the website from different angles and look for required improvements.
Our website development team audits it for aesthetics, user-experience, functionality, and uses performance tools including the Google’s PageSpeed test– which helps them determine if Google is satisfied with the site’s quality in terms of layout, clean code, loading time, and responsiveness (looking good and performing well on devices of all sizes that includes mobile phones and tablets). We go through a proprietary 100-point checklist to ensure that nothing is holding you back and slowing you down- including verifying with Google that your site is free of penalties and structural errors.
A low PageSpeed score can lead to Google devaluing the site and not showing it in results for most search terms- beyond the obvious branded ones. So, this is an essential step that unfortunately is too often overlooked. And, poorly coded sites with oversized images, in particular, hurt mobile search position which is over half of the market these days.
Typically, 70/100 for the PageSpeed tests for desktop and mobile keep your site free of being devalued in search. Although everyone prefers high scores, the reality is that if you want a content-rich site and wish to utilize plugins to achieve it, you can’t reasonably expect to have scores in the 80s. So, high scores are not the goal. The goal is to not get devalued by low scores. (Just as a goal of dieting isn’t to be skinny, but to just not be fat).
Our website development team then makes suggestions to the client on how to rectify known issues. Solutions can include a code cleanup (“website optimization”), a partial redesign, or a totally new website. All development expenses are invoiced separately of the fixed monthly marketing retainer. If you haven’t read it yet, more info on our website development process can be found here.
Simultaneously, our marketing team is also auditing your website to ensure that it has solid content, an intelligent keyword strategy, optimized tags, and dozens of other factors that make it a powerful marketing tool, as compared to just being an online brochure. This is all a part of your monthly marketing budget and this is where we also include big picture strategizing to integrate your website messaging and content with your social media, digital PR, video marketing, and all other off-site marketing efforts.
Thus, the efforts we do on social media, Houzz, and in digital PR all support your search engine position. Like a tree, no branch is independent of the others.
These two optimization processes- website optimization and initial Search Engine Optimization- form the foundation for success in driving the right traffic to your site. However, they are in themselves not enough. They are like leveling land and pouring the foundation so that housing construction can begin.
We look at your specific situation to determine your unique strengths, opportunities, and challenges. This begins by reviewing all of the current links pointing to your website from social channels, blogs, articles, and directories.
We examine them and optimize where applicable. We build relevant profiles, solicit valuable links and mentions, and create links to your site from other industry sites. This is the buzz building process and it is where you definitely want someone that specializes in your industry as we already have developed the techniques and relationships to get the interior design buzz going for you immediately. No meetings or brainstorming are necessary to determine where the opportunities lies. We’ve got clear lists of where you belong and ensure that we get you there. And, this digital buzz helps to push your site up the search engine results.
We then identify how to get search engine traffic for your company through indirect means. By examining search engine results in your area for your keywords, we see which sites we need to get you listed on and optimized for. This could include Houzz, Yelp, HomePolish, ThumbTack, HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List, HomeStars (for Canadians), professional organization directories such as ASID or IDS, etc. It all depends upon your local search results, how upmarket you are targeting, and where you have the best chances of succeeding.
Let’s return our attention to your business- as we look at the Atlanta search results, you can simultaneously look at your own local search and see how the results compare and where you fit into them (or not).
You can see in the search results above that Houzz occupies the first advertising position and the first two organic spots in Atlanta. Although we earned a position for our client Nandina Home & Design in the Local 3-Pack just above Houzz, that is not always possible- and when attained it doesn’t fully satisfy the situation’s potential.
We always want more than one position on the first page of Google results. It reinforces that we belong there and increase trust and click-through rates.
Thus, our strategy is that if a searcher goes past our client’s Local 3-Pack listing and clicks on the organic listing for Houzz that they’ll find our client there again.
Do you see the logic of this? When you can’t own a position in search results- such as the first and second position that Houzz sits in- you can at least do your best to be at the top of the Houzz page that people will be clicking to.
The bonus material is that the click-through rate on our client’s profile within Houzz will be above average because searchers tend to click on brands that have multiple results or listings. Being seen in multiple places and positions makes them look like the authorities in the field- the reliable choice, the favorite.
Houzz has organic positions #1 and #2 in Google search here- for their directory results for two areas “Atlanta, GA” and “Atlanta Metro” which includes designers in the wider metro area.
In this case, our client Nandina shows up in the #1 Houzz “Atlanta Metro” organic position:
They also appear as #1 in the second result – the one for “Atlanta, GA”:
Now you can see the value of thinking wider in terms of SEO than just one’s own website. By optimizing Nandina’s site for the Local 3-Pack and their Houzz profiles for both of the areas, we’ve got them positioned three times in the first five earned results.
The chance that someone will now click on them and immediately trust them is sky high. This has been great for their business, as you can imagine.
So, it is your turn. Go to Google and type in your business’ top keywords- but don’t use your brand name! Maybe it is New York City Interior Designer or Chicago Kitchen Remodeler. Whatever it is, google it and see what your neighborhood looks like and count how many times you appear in it.
If you see Houzz or Yelp or any other professional directory, click through to it and see if you are at the top of that page.
How do you compare to Nandina Home & Design- which shows 3 times in the first 5 positions and 4 times total for the first page of results?
If this is something you need help with, it is one part of our digital marketing packages. We refer to this aspect of marketing as inbound marketing. It is search engine optimization done in a holistic fashion (ie not just optimizing your website, but optimizing your entire online presence).
But we don’t just wait to have people find you. We also have an outbound component to all of our marketing campaigns that pushes out your brand and messaging via social media and other means. We build your brand awareness so that people begin to know, like, and trust you. Then, when they have a need arise that you can satisfy, you are likely to get the sale.