Panoptic’s typical client is the small business owner who has either just launched a new website or is contemplating building a new one. Business owners have been hearing about SEO for a few years now — and they are starting to understand that it’s a crucial component of their online marketing – but they still don’t understand exactly what it is or how to determine if it’s being done correctly (or at all) by their developer, designer or webmaster.
In defense of the developers, designers and webmasters: SEO is not their job. Your developer and designer are the people who build your website and your webmaster maintains it. The skills sets required by each are different, and although there may be some overlap and cross-responsibilities between the roles, SEO is a completely different discipline from any of them.
SEO is the art and science of getting your website in front of the right eyes. An SEO consultant or agency, like Panoptic, will often enlist the help of developers, designers and webmasters to accomplish the goal: making sure our clients’ potential customers find their websites through organic search. Though it requires a bit of technical knowledge to implement, SEO is more a marketing function than a design, development or IT function, so it makes sense for the small business owner to look for outside help when tackling SEO – at least initially.
Panoptic offers an SEO Starter Package which is designed to introduce business owners to the process and practices of good SEO. Many of them don’t know that SEO is an on-going process — not a one-time “set and forget” operation. Our SEO Starter takes about four to six weeks to implement and by the time we are finished our clients have a much better understanding of what is required in order to succeed at the online marketing game. We never pressure anyone to sign up for retainer services, but we do try and stress the importance of keeping on top of their SEO.
We begin with thorough keyword research to discover what our clients’ customers are searching for. You’d be surprised how often the business owner doesn’t know this themselves. Frequently, the terms that the business uses to describe itself or its offerings are not the same as what their customers are searching for. An example of this is one of our marina clients who liked to refer to the used boats they broker as “pre-enjoyed.” It never occurred to them that nobody seeking to purchase a used boat would enter “pre-enjoyed boat” as a search term in Google or Bing!
While identifying keywords most likely to bring traffic to our clients’ websites, we also do a bit of competitive research to determine which sites our clients are trying to outrank. Clients, especially those with long-standing local rivalries, are sometimes slow to recognize that the people they are competing with in the real world are not always the same as their online competition.
Panoptic works with Starter SEO Package clients to correct any glaring on-site issues that may be preventing the site from ranking well in searches and getting the clients the exposure they seek for their products or services. What kinds of things? It can vary, depending upon how the website has been constructed. Panoptic might help re-work the home page to feature a stronger call to action or integrate an email newsletter sign-up; we might help make the site more user-friendly by simplifying the navigation; we always assist with tightening up the copy. It’s important that the content on each and every page offer something useful, valuable or interesting to the visitor.
There are technical details to attend to as well: how does the site look on mobile devices (like tablets and smartphones)? Do all the page titles and meta descriptions include keyword phrases and is Google indexing them properly? Have XML sitemaps been prepared and submitted to the major search engines and an HTML version made available to visitors? As we work through these details, clients learn more about SEO, what it is and why it is important.
The SEO Starter Package includes a client debriefing where we discuss the work performed and provide “best practices” guidelines for going forward. We believe our approach provides the small business owner with two clear benefits; clients come away with (1) a website that is well-optimized for both users and search engines; and (2) an understanding of the process, so they can make a well-informed decision about whether they want to engage Panoptic (or another SEO vendor) for further work or take it on themselves in house.