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How to beat the SEO cowboys

17 April 2019

How to beat the SEO cowboys and get more ROI from your digital marketing

A high percentage of New Zealand businesses are wary of the search engine optimisation (SEO) and digital advertising sectors after being let down by broken promises and dismal results but, in many instances, business customers may be the architects of their own misfortune.

CEO of search marketing agency, Insight Online, Kim Voon, said that there is no question that the SEO and online advertising sector is plagued by cowboys but no more than any other industry. The only way for businesses to protect themselves is through better education and strict due diligence.

"Many business owners, even marketing managers, can find themselves out of pocket for thousands of dollars before they know it because they don't understand some of the fundamentals – very often these are simple business fundamentals applied in a digital context.

"For example, if you are a business-to-business company offering a premium service, its unlikely people will see one Google Ad and call you immediately. If you are a retail or eCommerce business, then you can stand to make bigger wins using Google Ads because it's a simpler purchase.”

Voon said it is important to understand what you're buying, because 'cowboy' digital marketers will sell anything to anybody, even when the channel is not appropriate, and that's the reason why so many businesses end up unhappy.

"SEO helps to lift a company's organic search results by working to get that company listed on page one for specific keywords. To succeed at SEO, you need good quality content published regularly, and you want rich content like blogs, video and photographs on your website. Add to that a healthy length of time and patience.

"Google Ads works best where other direct response advertising works well such as consumer goods, rental cars or when deals and specials come out. Niches with high demand and simple business-to-consumer (B2C) product offerings work.”

Voon said it doesn’t mean that sophisticated, high value B2B or B2C offerings won’t work on Google Ads but they’ll require more thought, more allowance for a longer buying cycle and customer research, which is where SEO can also help a lot.

He offered the following tips on how to avoid being let down by their digital marketing agency:

1. Don't be cheap

Marketers who shop for the best price are their own worst enemies.

"This isn't about saying spend more; it's about knowing what you're prepared to spend before you go looking for a supplier. Putting yourself out there for 'quotes' and then trying to drive the price down isn't a good start to any marketing campaign or agency relationship – base your budget off a percentage of your turnover and expect to pay for quality. You get what you pay for.

"If you're serious about generating revenue from your digital marketing efforts, be prepared to spend. Your minimum should be $2,000 - $3,000 per month," Voon said.

2. Driving demand or demand driven?

While having your website's SEO structure in place is important for all businesses, your online tactics will vary according to your type of business, product or service.

"Retail, which allows for discounts, sales and promotions is demand driven and suited to Google Ads, but it is unlikely to work by itself for business-to-business. You need to think hard about your marketing strategy, and understand how to get the most from each channel at the right time.

"If you're in a business that doesn’t have that much search volume, perhaps you need to create demand and convince people using high quality content, and then spending more on SEO as a long slow burn will be the best option in the long run."

3. Solidify your value proposition

Voon said business-to-business campaigns offering generic free consultations on Google Ads, for example, are unlikely to work no matter how much money you throw at them. Neither will huge retail discounts on stuff nobody wants.

"If your advertising isn't working, or you're just not getting the clicks via SEO, it may be because your product or service has no value proposition or it hasn't been articulated very well. The same goes for if you are overcharging, expecting more sales than your market will realistically support or your product has a bad reputation or negative association.

"Advertising and digital marketing are tough enough without trying to sell a product or service that is flawed. Don't throw good money after bad because there are people out there who will take it and run. Perhaps one of the best measures of your digital marketing partners is how honest they are with you."

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