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SEO VS. SEM

Being an organization that offers both traditional and digital marketing services, but specializes in SEO and SEM, we get asked all the time by prospective and existing clients whether they need to invest in both SEO and SEM strategies. We’ll be providing an answer to that further on in our blog post. But first, we need to explain the difference between SEO and SEM.

What’s The Difference Between SEO and SEM?

SEO is the acronym for “search engine optimization.” SEO is all about employing a variety of initial/one-off/one-time tactics, as well as implementing ongoing SEO tactics, to ensure your website and other digital properties/assets — such as your Google My Business Profile, and social media profiles — rank well in search engines. And, by ranking well, we mean listings for your digital properties appear high up in search-engine results for desirable, relevant phrases that your target audience(s) enters into a search engine to find an organization like yours.

The following activities fall under the broader SEO umbrella:

  • Organic SEO tactics: these are tactics you implement on your various digital properties that you don’t pay for (except for in the cost associated with the human time and energy spent on these tactics); these tend to include activities such as writing and posting content that answers target-audiences questions and that they find helpful, and appropriately “tagging” content and “images” using meta and alt-tags (behind-the-scenes tags)
  • Technical SEO tactics: these are tactics that impact a search engine’s desire/willingness to serve your site up in search results, such as making sure your website is mobile-friendly and doesn’t have a slow load speed
  • Paid SEO tactics: unlike the two tactics outlined above where the primary cost associated with the tactics are human resource ones (either in-house marketing team or a marketing agency or marketing consultant you hire), these are tactics for which you have to pay for a media or advertising buy, in addition to the human time involved. And, as you’ll learn below, paid SEO = SEM.

SEM is the acronym for “search engine marketing.” As we mentioned above, SEM is paid SEO. Some also refer to SEM as “paid search.” It involves paying for advertising, like Google Ads or Bing Ads, so that your ad appears at the top of search-engine results for relevant, desirable search terms used by prospective customers.

When Should You Employ SEM/Paid SEO Tactics?

For many clients, we both oversee their organic SEO and their SEM/paid SEO tactics. So, why do these clients need to employ both types of tactics to appear at the top of search-engine results? These are the three key reasons.

  • The client is in a very competitive marketplace. This means there are numerous other organizations offering similar products, services and solutions in the same geography — which likely means there are numerous organizations who are employing best organic SEO tactics, too, to appear naturally at the top of search-engine results.
  • Several or many key competitors are running paid Google or Bing Ads, which means the only way the client can appear at the top of search-engine results (since those paid ads vs. organic listings will take up the first few results listings related to a particular relevant search) is by buying and running “paid search” ads themselves.
  • A page of the client’s website is being served up in search-engine results for a particular search phrase, when the client actually wants and needs a different page of their site to appear in search-engine results.

The SEO Bottom Line

So, what should you take from all of this? If you’re an organization offering products, services, and solutions in a crowded marketplace, you’ll probably want and need to employ all of the three types of tactics listed above: organic SEO, technical SEO, and paid SEO/SEM.

Reach Out To Speak With Our SEO Services Team

Our SEO team is glad to speak with you about your organization’s SEO opportunities and challenges. We can help you determine which types of SEO tactics need to be implemented in the short-term, and which make sense for the longer-term. So please reach out for a complimentary discussion with our SEO experts.

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SEO Is What?

Sure, we could have titled our blog post, “what is SEO?” (and we do answer that question in the explanation about our Boston SEO Company’s SEO services), but where’s the fun in that when we’re using an SEO tool, which we regularly recommend others use, to identify what questions are asked most often about SEO (search engine optimization). “SEO Is What?” is one of the most-asked question about SEO. So, in keeping with what we advised our readers to do to prepare for and capitalize on Google SGE, we’re going to answer that great question below.

SEO What Is It?

And, while we’re at it, we’re going to answer another very similar high-volume search question. The one in our header above. Because succeeding at “search” is all about making content understandable, we’re going to keep this really simple. SEO means employing tactics, activities, and best practices that support and lead to both your organization’s website and other digital properties, such as your Google My Business profile, or your social media presences, ranking well in Google for relevant searches.

So, what’s a relevant search? A relevant search is when individuals (likely target audience members for your product or service) enter terms into a search engine, like Google, that are relevant to the products and services your organization offers and the geography in which you offer them. These relevant search terms are known as “keywords.”

What Are SEO Tactics?

Some SEO experts break down SEO tactics into these different categories. And, quite honestly, some use the category terms differently, but this should still give you a good idea of what SEO is all about. Note that on-page and off-page SEO tactics also fall into either the “organic” SEO category or the “technical” SEO category.

What Is On-Page SEO?

This category of SEO tactics includes tactics you implement on your website pages and posts, such as incorporating high-volume, relevant search terms (keywords) in your website content, like we are doing with this blog post. And, making sure behind-the-scenes tagging capabilities, known as meta tags (available with all website platforms), are used appropriately to provide Google and other search engines with essential information about your website — and ultimately the products and service you offer, and the people you serve.

What Is Off-Page SEO?

These are SEO tactics that happen “off” your website, but impact SEO results and being found on Google. A great example of off-page SEO is soliciting backlinks (links on other external sites back to your site) from organizations with whom you partner, collaborate, are a member of, etc. Another great example is making sure you establish and maintain an effective Google My Business Profile.

What Is Organic SEO?

Tactics that fall in this SEO category are tactics that focus on making sure your content is helpful and addresses target audiences’ needs and questions, and tactics that ensure Google and other search engines can easily crawl your site and know what your content is about (via the meta tags we talked about above), your location, and the location you serve.

What Is Technical SEO?

This last category of SEO tactics is often overseen by a web developer or requires a web developer’s help. It’s all about making sure your website is mobile-friendly, and can, therefore, be read by mobile devices like cell phones and tablets that access it. And, that your site loads quickly.

What Is Paid SEO?

Paid SEO means buying advertising from search engines like Google to support an ad with a link to your website appearing at the top of search engine results for desirable keywords for the geography you serve. Since Google is still used by 92% of internet searchers conducting an online search, we equate Paid SEO to Google Ads.

Need Help Ensuring Your Site Is Optimized For Search In 2024?

Schedule a complimentary 1/2 hour Zoom call with our team of SEO experts to discuss your organization’s SEO opportunities and challenges.

Make 2024 the year your website and other online presences/profiles get found!

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Why Combining Keyword Research With An SEO Audit Is A Recipe For SEO Success

Anyone who knows me well, knows I love watching cooking shows on Food Network, particularly ones where competitors have to combine ingredients that are given to them to make a dish that is appealing to both the tongues and the eyes of the particular show’s judges. Yeah, I’ll admit it, I’m watched pretty much every episode of “Beat Bobby Flay,” and countless episodes of “Chopped.”

So, what does food have to do with me, my company, and search engine optimization (SEO)? While my digital marketing agency isn’t just an SEO company, we’ve definitely gotten to be known, particularly in the last five years, for helping organizations (both for-profit and non-profit) in the Greater Boston area and beyond be found better and rank better on Google. Due to more than 10 years of being responsible for how websites rank in Google and other search engines, I’ve learned thru hands-on experience what combination of ingredients, i.e., what SEO tactics/activities, make for a winning SEO recipe!

Keyword Research: Your First and Most Important SEO Ingredient

I’ve given to, or shared with, Massachusetts chambers of commerce and SCORE chapters, as well as existing and prospective clients, a number of SEO presentations about the importance of keyword research. I’ve also written blog posts about it, and have a Word doc I’d be glad to share with you if you reach out to me to ask for it (hey, we don’t want to give out all the secret ingredients in our special SEO sauce too easily!) As we’ve shared in all the aforementioned documents and activities, keyword research ALWAYS needs to be a first step or ingredient in implementing an effective SEO strategy and recipe.

Even if you believe you already know what search terms (known as keywords) your various target audiences are entering into Google’s search engine to identify an organization or individual that offers the products, services, or solutions to problems you do, you should still make the time to confirm your intuitions about target audience’s search behaviors are accurate for these two key reasons:

  • you may be ranking well or trying to rank well for terms that target audiences are truly searching on, but are you missing out on terms that audiences are searching even more frequently on (high-volume search terms), and therefore, missing out on being found for desirable, relevant search terms because you don’t include those in your website content, page headers, meta tags, or other SEO real estate?
  • while you believed prior to keyword research completion that individuals were actively/regularly searching to identify an organization that offers the products, services, and solutions you do, your keyword research ends up indicating that the number of people entering relevant terms into Google is very low or negligible. The aforementioned scenario means all the SEO tactics in the world aren’t going to solve an immediate challenge of wanting and needing to generate more sales and leads for your organization since a “push” vs. “pull” strategy is warranted. You’re not going to drive a lot of “organic search” (search engine) traffic to your site, so traffic to your site will need to come from clicks on social media posts, display ads, links/banner ads on other external sites, e-blasts, and other marketing activities that put the idea of your products, services, and solutions in the minds of relevant target audiences who aren’t actively searching to find you.

Keyword research allows you to take a preliminary set of keywords/search terms you believe your audiences are searching on, and generate a much larger list of relevant search terms and the average # of times a month someone is entering that particular term into Google, for a particular geography. By reviewing this research, organizations can identify the keywords for which they most want to be found, and then make sure, as explained above, that those terms are included in SEO tactics/activities such as meta tags and public-facing website content and headers.

SEO Audit: An Ingredient That Adds Depth To Your SEO Recipe and Strategy

My Greater Boston SEO company employs a paid vs. free SEO audit tool to accurately determine for which of the keywords/search terms our clients most want to rank in a particular geography (identified thru the keyword research process above) they already rank well. We used to conduct SEO site audits for clients manually, but as our client list grew and the number of terms for which clients wanted to rank grew, we knew we needed to, and did invest in, a more cost- and time-efficient way to conduct SEO audits.

I consider an organization to rank particularly well for a particular keyword in Google if a listing with a link to its website or its Google My Business Profile/Google Search & Maps listing appears in the first 10 – 12 listings (for a particular geography) that Google serves up for the high-volume keyword in-question, i.e., appears on the first page of Google search results. I consider an organization to rank well, versus particularly well, if a listing with a link to its website or Google My Business Profile/Google Search and Maps appears within the first 25 listings Google serves up for desirable search terms, i.e., on the first two pages of Google Search results.

Identifying the intersection of relevant high-volume search terms and ranking on Google on pages BEYOND the first two (in positions 26 or higher in Google, and depending on the nature of an organization’s products and services, it may be critical to rank in position 1 – 12 in search results) allows us to know where there are areas for SEO improvement — therefore, areas where our client could be experiencing sweeter SEO success and for what terms we need to apply our secret SEO sauce to support ranking better in the future for those important keywords. The aforementioned secret sauce includes, but is not limited to, applying tactics such as employing the high-volume keywords in meta tags, page headers, and page content.

Why You’ll Want and Need To Repeat Your SEO Audit

Once you’ve set up your initial SEO audit, you’ll want to repeat it monthly to see if and how your organization ranks for the high-volume keywords regarding which you’re applying a lot of your SEO energy. Repeating this SEO audit will allow you to continue to tweak your SEO strategy and where you spend your SEO time, so that you continue to rank better and better for the keywords that are most important to the success of your organization and to your target audiences. Read why SEO is not a one and done marketing activity.

Why You Need This Winning SEO Ingredient Combo

Why does combining keyword research with an SEO audit make for a winning SEO recipe? Why spend time trying to rank well in Google for relevant, high-volume terms you’re already ranking well for? Sure, SEO is not a one and done marketing tactic and you should continue to employ appropriate-to-the-page-or-post-in-question content, headers, and page title tags that include those keywords for which you already rank well, but why not put the majority of your SEO energy into trying to rank well for high-volume search terms your organization currently isn’t ranking well for so you’re not missing out on important opportunities to reach your various target audiences?

Here’s an example from my own business. Two high-volume keywords I want my own site to rank well for are “digital marketing agency Boston” (average monthly search volume whole U.S. = 480/month), and “Boston SEO company” (average monthly search volume whole U.S. also = 480/month) since both of the aforementioned keywords have the highest average monthly search volumes among keywords/search terms that are relevant to the products, services, and solutions to problems we offer. Based on an audit we conducted today, we learned that we rank better for the term “digital marketing agency Boston” than we do for “Boston SEO company” — hey, Boston is fortunate to be a place that a very large number of SEO experts call home, so we are always competing with the best of the best SEO experts to rank for relevant terms. Anyhow, given the aforementioned audit information, while we’ll want to continue our efforts at ranking for “digital marketing agency Boston,” we’ll put extra effort into tactics to rank for “Boston SEO company (for the time being anyhow since rankings constantly change and shift depending on your marketplace and competition to be served up for certain keywords.)

Continuing with our food metaphor, we know this was a lot to “digest,” We’d be glad to walk you thru a recent case study we put together about the above winning combo, so please don’t hesitate to use our calendar app to schedule a time to chat https://calendly.com/gail-moraski.

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Our Favorite Marketing Blogs and E-Newsletters

Note: This post was updated on July 15, 2022 to also incorporate favorite marketing podcasts, and also on November 25, 2022 to incorporate key places to obtain information on the new G4 Google Analytics property type (vs. UA/Universal Google Analytics property type).

Anyone who provides digital marketing services, like our digital marketing agency, or has a role at a organization where they are responsible for the planning, execution, monitoring, and reporting on of digital marketing tactics, knows that the landscape keeps changing. New social media platforms get introduced. The interfaces or management tools you use to execute activities or monitor results change regularly. It can all have your head spinning.

To help you “keep calm and carry on,” we thought we’d share a list of some of the organizations whose websites we go to when we are in need of answers and help or whose e-newsletters we read to stay on top of all things digital marketing and e-commerce. Since Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) are two of our Greater-Boston-Area digital marketing agency’s specialties — we love any digital marketing work that is technical or analytical — you’ll see a number of websites that focus on those topics below. Note: use the scroll bar underneath the table below to see right-most columns.

Cheerful, Pretty Woman Reading A Book Related To List Of Best Digital Marketing Blogs and E-newsletters

We hope the below makes your life as a digital marketer easier and welcome ideas for organizations we should add. We expect to continue to update this list as we discover more digital marketing experts to learn from. We’re all in this together as the digisphere continues to evolve! Note: use the scroll bar underneath the table below to see right-most columns.

Best Digital Marketing Blogs and E-newsletters

Publication/URLSearch Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM/Google Ads)Social MediaE-mail MarketingOther
https://searchengineland.com/X
https://www.emarketer.com/XE-commerce, Retail
https://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/X
https://www.searchenginewatch.com/X
https://iab.comBranding, Consumer Goods Research
https://thirddoormedia.com/
XIncludes A Variety of Brands That Address Marketing Technology and Conferences
https://www.hootsuite.com/X
https://www.marketingprofs.com/Marketing events and Training
https://corp.smartbrief.com/Industry Updates, Including: Small business, Food, Finance, Healthcare, Education
https://www.smarketingconnect.com/XXXMarketing & Sales Podcasts and Training, Opportunities To Meet and Collaborate With Other Marketing Professionals
https://npdigital.com/XXX
https://www.seoblog.com/
X
https://ahrefs.com/XContent Creation & Marketing
https://seo-hacker.com/X
Favorite Digital Marketing Blogs & E-newsletters

Since we shared the info. above, we’ve come across some other very helpful and informative sites, including the following:

Digital Marketing Podcasts:

https://www.linkedin.com/company/bwg-strategy-llc/

SEO Guide For Lawyers:

https://www.camginc.com/services/seo-lawyers-personal-injury/

G4 Analytics/GA4 Analytics Info. Straight From Google:

Google Analytics Official Blog

https://blog.google/products/marketingplatform/analytics/

Google Analytics Help Center

https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/9164320

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Spring Clean Your Online Presence to Support Both Sales and SEO — Part I

A JOINT BLOG POST BY GAIL SNOW MORASKI AND RYAN BRUDER

As you do related to your personal life and home, it’s important to do a deep cleaning and decluttering of your organization’s online presence once in a while. So, why not tackle it while you’re already in spring cleaning mode? We’ve outlined, by digital marketing vehicle, various marketing elements you should revisit — and may need to address — as part of your spring tune-up!

Your Website

  • SSL Certificate – We’ve discussed this in many of our SEO blog posts, such as this oldie but goodie, but if you’re still using an http:// vs. https:// address, and therefore, don’t have a security certificate associated with your website, you are hurting yourself from both a marketing and SEO standpoint. Chrome or other browsers may remind visitors your site isn’t secure — making prospective visitors afraid to visit. Plus, Google is less likely to serve an organization’s site up high in search results for relevant terms if the organization’s site isn’t secure.
  • Social Media Icons – Be sure that you house icons on your site (normally this is done in the footer or at the top of a website page) with associated links to each of the platforms on which you have a social media presence. If you no longer maintain a social media presence on certain sites, remove the icon from your site. Driving website visitors to an inactive social media profile won’t serve you well from a marketing standpoint.
  • Broken Links – As with the SSL certificate, broken links are irritating to both website visitors and Google. Google will ding you from an SEO standpoint, and visitors will wonder about the quality of products and services they’ll receive from you, if it appears you aren’t giving attention to and taking care of your website.
  • Blog Posts – If you maintain a blog section/page on your site, haven’t blogged in a while, and don’t plan to do so in the next few months, consider hiding that section of the site. As with broken links, maintaining a blog section that you don’t keep current can make website visitors think less favorably about your organization.
  • Outdated Event/Fundraising Info. – Ditto what we said about broken links and blog posts. Having outdated community events and fundraising events on your website just speaks to negligence, and not making & taking the time to keep your site current.

Your Social Media

  • About/Bio – You should revisit the About/Bio or other section of a social media profile that provides general/overview information about your organization to make sure it’s accurate and current. We’ve often seen organizations leave old phone numbers, URLs, or physical address info. up in these About/Bio type sections of their social media profiles. And, if you don’t have a link to your website included in the About/Bio section, you should add one — on any social media platform that allows for it — as a call-to-action (CTA) to visit your website.
  • Hashtags – As part of spring cleaning the above-mentioned sections of your social media profiles, make sure they include hashtags for which you’d like your profiles to be found. It may just be a matter of putting a hashtag in front of certain words that are already in the About/Bio section of your social media profile.
  • Following – Check to see who you’ve followed in the past, and determine which individuals and organizations it still makes sense to follow, based on how your organization has evolved. Since social media platforms limit the # of organizations you can follow, you might free your organization up to follow some new and more-relevant individuals and organizations by discontinuing following irrelevant ones.
  • Branding Elements – Be sure that all your profiles are using your updated branding elements, such as an updated logo and other images.
  • Pinned Post – Check to see if any posts that you’ve “pinned” (so that they appear first when anyone views your profile) still make sense to be a pinned post. As with broken website links and outdated event info., leaving outdated pinned posts up speaks to your organization not minding its shop closely enough.
  • Story Opportunities – Make this spring the time you give some thought to whether, and how, you should be taking advantage of “story” capabilities. A feature that many social media profiles have available are “stories”, or a snapshot that is featured on a user’s social media home page/newsfeed (and your profile) that disappears after 24 hours. With this tool, you can post a picture or video that contains messaging that you deem super important, so your followers will see it up-front/highlighted all day. This is a great tool to use if you are running a promotion or have a big announcement of some sort to make, such as the roll-out of a new product line or service. What we love about this related to Instagram is that, within the stories capability, there is a feature where you can include a link to a website page. Employing this opportunity will help drive additional traffic to your site — something that standard Instagram posts can’t do since you can’t include a hyperlink to your site in them.
  • Abandoned Social Media Presences – If your organization made the decision to no longer be active on a social media platform on which you previously had a presence, remove the profile, if possible. If you can’t, add a post that indicates you are no longer posting to that particular platform, but asking profile visitors to “please join us on x,y,z social media platform(s),” and provide links to your profile on those social media platforms.

Your Google My Business/Google Maps Profile

  • Outdated Posts – Google My Business (GMB) allows you to post COVID updates, event info., offers and more. It’s a great service, but you need to make sure that you remove or change any outdated information as part of spring and ongoing cleaning efforts!
  • Capitalizing on All Categories, Such as Women in Business – GMB allows you to identify your organization as one that is woman-led, veteran-led, or Black-owned. If your organization identifies as one of these, be sure to complete this info. in the Info. section of the GMB dashboard. As you’ll see, we did this with our own GMB profile to capitalize on the fact that we are a woman-owned/woman-led business.
  • Locations – If you have more than one storefront/physical location that customers and prospective customers can visit, consider taking ownership and managing a GMB account for each of your locations to make sure you don’t miss out on any local search opportunities, therefore, prospective clients searching on “x,y,z near me.”
  • Info. From The Business – The “info. from the business” statement (that you can enter via the Info. section of the GMB dashboard) provides 750 characters to tell prospective customers what your organization is all about. If you’re not already taking advantage of this large space to promote your business, your services and products, and the solutions to problems you offer, be sure to complete this statement.

Need additional information or help related to any of the above? We are ALWAYS here to help, so please reach out.

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Making Infographics and Other Website Images Consumable by Search Engines

Infographics — images that are designed to condense and consolidate a bunch of complex information, and present that information in a fashion that makes it understandable by a variety of target audiences — have a variety of plusses, including, but not limited to, the following key ones:

  • they tend to get shared by others, whether it be in a social media post or on a website, so they have a lot of potential to go viral
  • they provide a vehicle for graphically/visually educating audiences on topics or concepts that may be hard to grasp when simply presented via text

The downside of infographics is when they are added to website pages without what’s known as “embedded text” or an “alt-tag,” they:

  • aren’t accessible to those with vision impairments or learning disabilities who use a screen reader to crawl a site and read the text aloud to them
  • can’t be crawled and indexed by search engines, so even though they may contain many high-volume search terms (keywords) for which you want target audiences to find your site, Google, Bing, and other search engines won’t know that the images contain those keywords or reward you from a search standpoint for using them

Spoon-feeding Google What It Needs To Index Your Infographic

Thankfully, there’s an easy solution to the infographic challenge described above. Regardless of what CMS (content management solution)/website platform your site resides on, your website solution should provide for the opportunity to enter an “alt-tag” or “image description” to describe to search engines or screen readers what an image is all about. This is an opportunity associated with all images used on your site, not just infographics.

How To Write An Effective Alt-tag For Website Images

So, what are some best practices for writing an alt-tag to accompany an image on your site? KEEP IN MIND THAT WITH ALT-TAGS YOU ARE BASICALLY DESCRIBING THE PICTURE TO GOOGLE’S AND OTHER SEARCH ENGINES’ SPIDERS/CRAWLERS WHO CAN’T SEE. Therefore, it’s important to adhere to the following:

  • Keep the tag simple, clean, and authentic, plus descriptive. Imagine describing the image to someone who has their eyes closed.
  • Don’t overstuff/use too many high-volume keywords. Google will ding you for that. Focus on one or two and only use them if you would fairly naturally use them in describing the image in-question.
  • You don’t need to include the terms “image of” or “photo of” in your alt tag – just by the fact that Google is crawling an alt tag, it knows it’s related to an image or photo.
  • Keep to 125 characters (including spaces) or less (you can use the “Word Count” function in MS Word to check for this.)
  • In general, only include the name of your business if you are writing an alt-tag to go with your Logo artwork/image. If you were describing a picture to someone based on what you are seeing, unless the name of the company were in the image/photo, you would not know what organization was associated with the photo and wouldn’t naturally mention it. Exceptions to this might be a photo where you described a staff member of your organization and the alt tag included a phrase like “Gail Snow Moraski of Results Communications & Research donates a check to…”

Alt-Tag Example

The below image which is found in my blog post “Defining Your Differentiator With Detail” employs an alt-tag “a bunch of white balloons with one red balloon standing out and rising above the white ones.”

a bunch of white balloons with one red balloon standing out and rising above the white ones.

For more help on writing alt tags, visit https://www.cincopa.com/blog/the-dos-and-donts-of-writing-image-alt-tags/

An Additional Opportunity To Increase The Positive SEO Impact Of An Image

When and where appropriate, consider hyperlinking your images, so that when a visitor clicks on the image, it will take them to another page on your site. Google rewards sites from an SEO standpoint that effectively use “internal links” to support a good user experience (note that user experience is expected to be a key component of Google’s search algorithm in 2021). That said, don’t “link” just for the sake of linking. Only include links when image clicks take site visitors to appropriate content.

Help Implementing Alt-Tags and Other Organic/Technical SEO Tactics

Our team is always here to either train your team on implementing organic SEO tactics, such as those that are the subject of this post, or implement such tactics on your organization’s behalf. So, don’t hesitate to reach out. We adore a good SEO challenge!

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Clearly & Regularly Communicate Solutions and How You Address Client Pain Points to Succeed at SEO

As I am and my team at Results Communications & Research, a Greater Boston SEO Company, have observed and demonstrated, succeeding at SEO goes far beyond incorporating high-volume search terms (keywords) that are the synonyms, or the exact phrases your organization employs in your digital content, for your various products and services.

Regardless of the nature of your organization, if you want to be found on Google, i.e., rank well in organic search engine results, you need to metaphorically borrow your clients’ boots and sneakers, and walk in their shoes. Why? Because often target audience members don’t enter the common/standard term for a particular product or service that you offer into a search engine like Google, including ones that your organization uses on your website or in other digital marketing materials or activities. Instead, they search for insight on how to solve a problem — whether it be a consumer/personal problem or a business one.

Let’s say you offer nutrition services that provide a number of benefits and support a number of positive outcomes and goal achievements, including helping individuals lose weight or have more energy. Your target audiences may not search on terms like “nutritionist near me” to find you. Instead, they may be putting terms like “how to lose weight” or “how to have more energy” into a search engine, such as Google.

How To Be Viewed As Part Of The Solution, Not The Problem!

As an SEO agency that has been helping clients move the SEO needle since 2014, we suggest you adhere to the following game plan to support being found in Google and other search engines for the solutions and benefits you offer:

  1. gather a cross-sectional group of individuals who interact with customers or prospective customers on a regular basis, such as customer service representatives, account managers, salespeople, and marketing staff to brainstorm and document what your customers’ pain points are:
    • what ongoing challenges do they face in their daily life or in their professional life/business role that purchasing your product or engaging you for your service can help address or eliminate, or reduce the impact of?
    • what problems or solutions to problems are current or prospective clients searching on, e.g., how to improve project tracking, how to maximize my marketing budget, how to keep ice dams from forming on my roof, help for anxiety, best way to create a cohesive team. You get the picture. If you can’t gather a team — even via a video chat or conference call, consider creating an online survey to gather team members’ feedback — something we can help you with. Regardless of how you gather the info., you may want to share our “Defining Your Differentiator with Detail” blog post with individuals from whom you welcome insights. It may spark some great ideas about your target audience’s pain points and how you lessen and erase your clients’ discomforts.
  2. using the list resulting from the above brainstorm activity, use a keyword planner tool or engage an SEO expert to conduct keyword research for you, to:
    • determine which of the phrases/search terms you and your team identified are being entered most in search engines by your target audiences
    • identify high-volume (frequently used) phrases/search terms that are similar to the ones your team identified, but different from them, and therefore, additions to your list
  3. begin employing the terms that your keyword research reveals are the most frequently used ones (as long as you believe they are relevant to both the solutions to problems you offer and clients are searching on) in:
    • social media posts, profiles and hashtags
    • website content and behind-the-scene tags, known as meta tags
    • other digital and traditional marketing materials and activities to support your sales proposition and reinforce value

Need help executing the SEO game plan outlined above? We’re here to help with any of your SEO challenges, so please reach out!

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SEM and SEO: Understanding the Difference and When to Employ Each Digital Marketing Tactic

As the owner of a digital marketing agency whose primary focus is to serve as an SEO company (a firm that helps organizations be found on Google and rank as high as possible in search engine results listings for desirable terms in appropriate geographies), I have a great passion for helping both for-profits and non-profits determine when they need to employ SEO tactics, when they need to employ SEM tactics, and when they need to employ both.

What Is SEO?

So what is SEO? SEO is the acronym for “search engine optimization.” In general, when someone employs the term SEO, they are referring to non-paid-advertising tactics that are executed to support a listing with a link to an organization’s website appearing on the first two pages of Google or other search engine results for search terms that are relevant to the products, services, and solutions to problems that their organization offers. Sometimes, SEO will be modified by the terms “organic” or “technical” to indicate a large variety and number of tactics that can be implemented to support an organization ranking well “organically” in search engine results. These include, but are not limited to:

  • incorporation of high-volume search terms, known as keywords, in website content and behind-the-scenes website tags, known as meta tags
  • establishment of a Google My Business profile to support ranking well in “local search”
  • saving image/photos with file names relevant to an organization’s products, services and solutions that Google or other search engines can crawl/index

While SEO does not involve paying for advertising, there are manpower costs related to implementing one-time and ongoing organic/technical tactics, and depending on your organization’s staffing level and digital marketing expertise, you may need to hire an SEO agency, such as Results Communications & Research.

What Is SEM?

SEM is the acronym for “search engine marketing” and refers to ads such as the one below that appear in the top or bottom four spots on a search engine results listing page, in Google Shopping Ads, or on other Google properties or marketing opportunities. Sometimes, you’ll hear the following terms used in lieu of SEM:

  • paid search
  • paid SEO
  • online advertising
  • search advertising
  • Google Ads or Google Search Ads (this is advertising bought related to ranking well specifically in Google’s search engine for relevant terms; you can also purchase such ads from Bing and Yahoo)
  • search text ads
  • text ads
  • PPC (pay-per-click) advertising

Organizations often employ search ads/paid search when:

  • They are in a very competitive environment, i.e., other organizations are running paid ads – causing up to four ads to appear in search engine results for desirable terms before organic search/unpaid results listings
  • They’ve only recently implemented tactics on their entire website or on a specific page of their site to rank well organically for relevant terms, and can’t wait for such tactics to impact ranking results
  • Their website or specific site pages aren’t optimized to rank well in search engine results
  • Competitor sites or other pages of an organization’s own website rank above the site page that an organization wishes to rank well for certain terms

Are There Times When It Doesn’t Make Sense To Invest In SEO or SEM?

In general, implementing technical/organic SEO tactics is a best practice. That said, the only way to know if an organization’s target audiences are actively searching to identify someone offering the services, products, and solutions that the organization offers is to conduct keyword research.

If keyword research reveals that, at least for the time-being, individuals are NOT conducting searches, relevant to an organization, then less time and money should be spent in optimizing a website to rank well organically in search results. And, it wouldn’t make any sense to invest in paid search advertising/SEM since there wouldn’t be many appropriate searchers to whom to serve up ads. In the aforementioned case, you’ll want to employ marketing tactics, such as Google Display advertising or social media advertising where you put the idea in target audiences’ heads vs. waiting for them to search for someone like you. We discussed this aforementioned strategy of creating awareness of the benefits and features of a particular product, service, or solution, known as push marketing, in our blog post “Why Keyword Research Informs So Much More Than SEO.”

As Greater Boston SEO experts, we are always here to help you identify whether SEO, SEM, or both, are the right marketing tactics for your particular organization. We assist clients in making these decisions regularly, so that they maximize marketing budgets, as well as internal marketing team’s time. And, while we never guarantee results since there are so many variables at play, we’ve helped clients, throughout the U.S., who’ve engaged our SEO agency for SEO services, appear in the top two pages of Google Search results for certain terms — when they previously hadn’t — or move from page 1 to page 2 through both SEO and SEM tactics. So, please reach out for a complimentary discussion if you need help capitalizing on SEO and SEM opportunities.

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What to Know Before You Engage Someone for SEO Services

How To Be Found on Google - Results Communications and Research

There’s two broad factors any organizations should ponder before they engage an external individual or organization to help them optimize their site to be found on Google, ideally on the first two pages of search results. These are:

  • The Reputation/Credibility of the Firm or Individual In-Question
  • The Nature of and Time Frame Associated With the Services Being Offered

How To Determine If An Individual Or Firm Offering SEO Services Is Credible?

My current clients, prospective clients, and I all regularly receive e-mailed or LinkedIn requests from individuals or organizations claiming that they can and will get our website to appear on the first page of Google search engine results for terms relevant to the services or products we offer, or to the solutions to problems we provide. In fact, these SEO vendors, sometimes use the phrase “guarantee” or “guaranteed” along with it. That’s a huge, huge red flag. Without talking to you about your organization’s objectives, the target audiences and geography you serve, and the competitiveness of your marketplace — as well as researching whether or not individuals are even searching for an organization who offers your products, services, and solutions — it is impossible for these SEO vendors to know whether or not it is feasible for a listing with a link to your website to appear on the first page of Google search results.

Being Found on Search - Results Communications and Research

Another big red flag related to ascertaining the credibility of any organization who approaches you about SEO services is whether or not their initial sales pitch to you includes selling you backlinks, i.e., links to your site that will appear on external websites and blogs. As we discussed in a previous blog post, the only external organizations you want sharing a link to your site on their own site or blog are highly regarded organizations with which you have a prior relationship or with which there are some synergies. Allowing an SEO services provider to arrange for such “spammy” backlinks on your organization’s behalf will ultimately cause a decline in how you rank in search results vs. improve how you rank.

Before you engage an individual or organization to assist your organization with being found on Google, ask for examples of the types of organizations to which they have provided SEO services, how they have analyzed and documented/demonstrated the positive implications of the services they’ve provided, and the steps/tactics they took to achieve SEO success.

How Do I Know What SEO Services I Need: One-time/Initial Vs. Ongoing?

As we described in this blog post, if you’ve never optimized your website for search or paid someone to do so, and particularly, if you’ve never conducted keyword research related to it, you should be starting from scratch with your SEO and engage an SEO expert to conduct an initial/one-time/one-off review of your website and execute appropriate technical/organic SEO tactics. These tactics include but are not limited to:

  • incorporating relevant high-volume keywords uncovered via keyword research within your website page content and in your behind-the-scenes/meta tags
  • help setting up and/or optimizing a Google My Business Profile, so that you rank well locally and support being found more globally on search.

Once you have completed the important SEO work outlined above, if keyword research has indeed revealed that a high volume of individuals are searching to identify someone like you, then you’ll want to continue to take actions on a regular basis — daily, monthly, or quarterly — to make sure your organization is as well-situated as possible to be found on Google for relevant terms.

Many SEO experts and SEO consultants, like us, offer ongoing (monthly or quarterly) SEO packages. Services offered via an ongoing SEO package engagement likely will vary, but at a minimum, we believe they should include:

Ongoing SEO Services Packages

  • checking to see your site has no broken internal or external links
  • testing to see that your site load speed or the responsiveness/mobile-friendliness of your site isn’t negatively impacting where your organization appears in Google search engine results
  • ensuring that any new images that are added to your site include an “alt-tag” so they will be indexed by Google
  • making sure that any new pages or blog posts that are added to your website are indexed by Google
  • writing content (that includes high-volume keywords) for blog posts, FAQs, or other site pages to support being found for those terms on Google
  • maximizing your Google My Business profile by keeping it comprehensive, current, and posting to it with the same frequency that your post to other forms of social media to support Search Engine Optimization efforts.

Reach Out With Your SEO Questions/Get Your Questions About SEO Answered

Got questions about what we shared above? Please reach out. We’re glad to talk you through all of this, and if appropriate, we’d love to present you with a proposal to provide you with one-time or ongoing SEO services.

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Why These Turbulent Times Are Ideal Ones to Optimize Your Website for Search

I’ve shared this already via some social media posts, as well as part of e-mail and phone conversations. I do believe this is the ideal time for both for-profits and non-profits to optimize their websites to be found well/rank high in search engine results for relevant searches for the following reasons.

Why You Want Your Website To Rank Well On Google For Relevant Search Terms (Keywords)

  • It’s a good way to redirect marketing $$ and energies if it doesn’t make sense to market now. Depending on the products and services your organization offers, it may come across as insensitive, irrelevant, or just plain crass, to be promoting offerings that could be viewed as too much of a luxury right now or that just don’t make sense because of their inaccessibility. Think a service or product you can’t receive or purchase virtually. Why not redirect the money and time that you planned on spending on other marketing activities to search engine optimization (SEO) efforts?
  • SEO is a no-brainer and best practice. Even if your organization’s website doesn’t currently receive a lot of organic traffic from search engine searches (this could be because your site has never been optimized for search, or simply due to the fact that individuals aren’t searching to identify someone who offers your products or services), or your industry is a referral-driven business, as many business-to-business industries are, it’s always a best practice to optimize your website to be found by searchers looking to identify an organization that offers the products and services or the solutions to problems that you do. You’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that if relevant searchers are searching, they will find your organization.
  • You’ll set yourself up for future success. As we shared early on in our current health pandemic, no-one has a crystal ball. While we all have our guesses and theories, it’s impossible to state, as of the date of this blog post, which types of organizations will be most impacted long-term by our world health scenario, and which types will rebound most quickly. But, in keeping with the bullet above this one, why not set yourself up for the best possible chance of being found by those who are searching for help and needs related to what your organization offers?
  • Your organization will save and maximize marketing $$ when $$ are particularly tight. One of the many outcomes we love about implementing technical/organic tactics to support a client organization’s appearing high up in relevant search engine searches is that it can help them avoid unnecessary spending on paid search/PPC advertising down the road. Depending on the competitiveness of an organization’s market, and whether or not searchers are indeed looking to identify someone like the organization, implementing SEO tactics may make paid search/search engine marketing (SEM) spending gratuitous in the long-term.

Check Out Our SEO Blog From SEO Experts For Posts On An Extensive List Of SEO Topics and SEO Best Practices

If you scroll through our blog at https://allintheresults.com/ponderings, you will find a large number of blog posts to get you up-to-speed on organic/technical SEO basics, and we are glad to answer any questions on those basics on a complimentary basis because of our desire to give back right now. Our SEO experts are also always here to help with some of the bigger and more complex lifts like keyword research. So, please reach out if we can help answer questions about smaller SEO tasks or help you complete larger ones.

Learn about our diverse SEO services, including one-time and ongoing SEO audit services via our SEO services page.