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My Adventures In The Land of SEO

It's been a year now since I started working on an SEO project with one of my regular clients, an electrical contractor that provides a variety of services (both residential and commercial) to the Toronto market.

Over the years I have handled a variety of tasks for his company and have grown to be their marketing supplier of choice. My client saw the light last June and wants to make a concerted effort at garnering more exposure and business from the web.

A step back...

I put up a site for my client a couple of years ago...and believe me it is extremely bare bones. A placeholder to be re-visited at a later time.

My client approached me in June of 2009 to see what we could do to generate more traffic and leads on the internet. He knows that he should be on the first page of search engine listings and wants me to help him get there. My client's marketing style of choice up to this point has been the publishing of ads in the Yellow Pages. The costs are phenomenal - more than 500.00 a month for a 2x3 ad. The end result of this expenditure? Two or three calls every four weeks.

And now the Yellow Pages wants to charge him separately for ads in each neighbourhood that he wants to target. To say that he was angry (and feeling a bit ripped off) by Yellow Pages is an understatement. When he ponders the return on his investment ($167.00 per call) the economical costs of an Internet campaign is an easy sell.

The Pitch

When he calms down, I suggest a concerted Internet based marketing strategy that utilizes SEO technique on the site and a concerted Google AdWords campaign. He questions me about getting high rankings on other browsers (i.e. Yahoo, Microsoft, Bing) but I say we should focus on Google because it is the search engine of choice (Alexa consistently ranks it at #1).

When I tell him he will only pay for the hits on his site (from the Google Ad Words) he is overjoyed.

In the beginning

I review the site to make sure it is in its best state as far as SEO is concerned. I address a few "tag" issues, include a sitemap, and even start writing some pertinent keyword oriented articles to appease the Google Bot.

My first steps are to establish the Adwords account, write several Haikuesque ads and then put in a minimum bid for keywords. The results are almost immediate. Within a couple of hours of putting up the ad we get our first hits.

I proudly send my client an email to tell him of the progress.

The First Roadblock

Uh oh.

He wants to know why we are on the side of the screen and not in the regular results listing. I explain to him patiently (as I had done when proposing the campaign) that this is the way AdWords works. He is disappointed but agrees to continue with the campaign.

The Second Roadblock

My client is not a big fan of the computer age. He sees it as most in business these days as a necessary evil.

He is old school and does most of his business on the phone. He does not want to spend time answering emails. This sort of defeats the purpose of a Google AdWords campaign (i.e, an email of enquiry which creates a lead - I don't even want to talk to him about conversions) I suggest a unique 1-800 number so that we can track the conversions. My client nixes this suggestion.

I do however make sure that his phone number is featured prominently on each page along with the info@ link.

The campaign has been a moderate success. Since establishing it in June of 2009 we have had 900 unique clicks on our ads. Though it probably doesn't compare "clickwise" with other campaigns, in a business where a limited amount of customers can generate a lot of profit, I consider this a major success.

Here's what I have learned so far:

1. Make sure the client knows the difference between "paid for" listing and "Adwords" listings.

The key to understanding Google is that they do not accept payment for main page listings. The process is allegedly scientific, and democratic. If you can figure out how Google determines consistent first page landings, let me know.

Google AdWords, quite simply is a way of paying to make sure your ad appears on the first page (albeit on the side column) by paying for it.

3. Pick the right words

Know what you're selling, make sure you have chosen keywords that truthfully advertise what you are selling. The keywords must appear in the content of the website. Stuck for a words? Utilize the Google interface that allows you to find the best keywords for your particular business.

Delete the non-performing words and find new ones.

And most of all, change those ads. If you have created a few ads for your campaign, find out which ones are generating the clicks, eliminate the other ones.

4. Try to convince your client that daily monitoring is absolutely essential.

After his Yellow Pages experience, my client has a love hate relationship with marketing campaigns. He'd rather spend his money elsewhere. If you leave it for more than a couple of days you get outbid and have to go back to the drawing boards.

5. Don't cry for help...

As Google gets bigger and commands such a captive audience, they feel less and less need to allow human contact. i.e their customer service sucks. I had a live operator once, but could never find the link again. You must navigate Google's "Illusion of Help" interface to try and find answers to your questions.

6. If you can try to keep your client away from the Google interface

The interface is dense, and daunting. My client, a slightly reformed luddite doesn't let a computer run his life. In other words, he does not enjoy the complications of the computer age...

But that being said...

7. Sit them down one day and show them what you have to do to maintain the Ad Words account.

Nothing is more impressive than showing a client how much time it takes to maintain the bids on the Ad Words interface. Since showing him how much effort it takes to maintain the account, he no longer thinks it is done by magic.

8. Paper em' to death

It's an old adage, but a proven one. I provide my client with weekly updates showing them an executive summary of the Google interface. That way I am disseminating information that they might otherwise find overwhelming.

9. Time to redesign

We still live in a world of appearances. Try and convince them to upgrade the site. If the site isn't compelling or hold enough info, the user will not stay around. You also have to make sure that your content conforms with the SEO/Search Word game.

10. Utilize another web tracker

Though Google has an excellent keyword performance tracker, for the sake of comparison I use Statcounter to track visits to the site. It is simple and affordable. You can use it to find new words to add to your keywords list.

A few months later...

My client (in an austerity move) has eliminated the need for me to maintain a daily/weekly or monthly maintenance of the account.

However, before he eliminated my services, I convinced him to add his second company, a fire supply company, to the Ad Words campaign. My belief is that the fire supply company (goods) will do much better on the internet than his electrical (services).

In Conclusion

Though clunky and dense, Google Ad Words is a necessary evil in this world of "necessary evils." Combined with an agressive SEO campaign it can go a long way in garnering effective results and returns for your Internet strategy.


Writing effective meta-tags.