And even if you top the organic search results, given the increasing number of paid ads taking over the prime spots on listing pages, you may still find your details near the bottom of the page.
If this is your experience, it is something you need to address.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) increases your company’s online visibility with your target audience. To achieve SEO, you need an effective search marketing strategy, including optimisation techniques and successful keyword strategies; a mobile-friendly website that is technically well-designed; and a constant flow of relevant, engaging content.
Why is SEO so important for MSPs?
It’s important because prospective customers begin their purchase process with an online information gathering exercise. To ensure search engines like Google direct them to your managed services website, you need to leave a clear ‘digital breadcrumb trail’.
And you have to be visible in all the places your target audience may look.
The search engine sets the rules; what can I do?
While Google keeps its search algorithms secret and changes them periodically, the general principles of how they work are known; and the good news is that you can influence them in a number of different ways.
‘Old school’ SEO did this using on-page ‘keyword stuffing’ and title tags to attract search engine attention. This generally resulted in a poor user experience.
Now, with Google trying to provide users with answers rather than just links, a content-rich, easy to navigate website that is optimised for mobile can result in both an improved experience for your visitors and better organic search performance for you.
If your audience is not currently reaching your website perhaps it’s time to take another look at your SEO strategy, bearing in mind the following six pointers.
1. Make sure your SEO strategy is designed for people not machines
The ultimate consumers of your information are people not search engines. You need to know who your typical buyers are and what is driving them.
In their early information gathering stages, they are probably not specifically looking for your company by name – they are likely searching for solutions to problems.
You need to be clear on what these problems are, so you can create interesting, relevant content around them.
Blogs are a great forum for debating current pain points and suggesting how these can be resolved (in generic terms, rather than by giving a sales pitch!). They can also help SEO.
2. Review the primary keywords you are using
You need to be sure that you are talking the same ‘language’ as your target audience and that the content you create uses this same terminology: if prospective customers are searching on ‘preventing cybercrime’ but your primary keyword is ‘Security as a Service’ – you may not meet up.
This means identifying the specific words/terms/phrases your prospective customers are using when they search for your services. Are they searching on IT Service Desk, IT support, network support or something else entirely? And if you operate internationally, these terms can often vary with country: ‘IT Service Provider’ is a more common term than Managed Services Provider in the US, for example.
You will undoubtedly already have carried out a keyword analysis when setting up your website – but don’t regard this as being cast in stone. Revisit your keyword strategy regularly to ensure it remains current and incorporates any new terms relevant to your audience.
A specialist SEO firm can do this for you – or you can carry out a simple analysis yourself, using some of the free tools available:
- Google Adwords Keyword Tool will take your list of targeted keywords, suggest related phrases and provide data on word ‘popularity’ (i.e. how many people have searched for it in the last month) as well as on how many other sites may be using it. It can also help you to identify new keyword opportunities and keep up with trending keywords.
- Google Analytics can help you to identify the keywords that are most successful in driving the appropriate people to your website.
And, of course, you can ask customers and partners what search terms they would use, as well as checking out what competitors are using.
3. Address the ‘volume versus quality’ results conundrum using ‘long-tail keywords’
Broad-brush keywords like managed services, IT support, IT service provider and network support are relevant terms and will attract high-volume search results. Unfortunately they will be too generic to put you in the higher rankings – and they may be too general to be of interest to potential customers looking for a specific type of IT support.
Increasingly, MSPs are turning to more specialised descriptors (‘long-tail keywords’) to refine search results and draw in a higher quality audience. Examples might include: highest SLA rated NOC Services; 24/7 IT Service Desk; or HIPAA compliant managed services. They may refer to a specific vertical sector if that is your focus: IT services for legal firms; or managed services for healthcare, for example. And a location can also be a useful ‘long-tail’, for example, ‘San Diego-based’ or ‘serving SMBs in Hampshire’.
4. Make sure your website is user friendly
If potential customers find you, you want them to linger. Reducing your bounce rate (i.e. the percentage of visitors who leave your site after just viewing one page) is something you can use to improve SEO.
Apart from ensuring there is a wealth of relevant content to hold visitors on your site, make sure it is easy to navigate and that visitors are guided clearly from page to page.
Check also that your home page is not so slow in loading that visitors get bored and move on to another MSP’s site.
Also make sure calls to action (CTAs) are clear and that visitors aren’t inundated by too many. For the same reason, avoid overloading pages with pop-ups and chat suggestions.
5. Make sure your content is relevant and regular.
Content is a really important factor in SEO.
Search engines take content into account for decisions on the best places to direct users to get answers to their questions: both in terms of the value of the content (how often is it accessed, shared, linked to other sites…) and its age – new content is rapidly indexed and ranks higher in the search lists than older pieces.
Regular blogs and social media entries are great ways of keeping your online presence fresh and attractive to search engines.
6. But don’t forget the machines altogether
I stressed earlier the importance of designing your SEO strategy with humans in mind. But we can’t forget about those pesky search engines altogether.
Consider these five tips to make your website more search-engine friendly:
- Be present on all the social media sites used by your target audience; they are really important for a strong SEO strategy. Facebook and LinkedIn send out strong signals to search engines – and reviews are particularly important.
- Be present on all relevant listings such as Google My Business, Yelp, business associations and all directories likely to be consulted by your target market. As well as appearing for name searches, your company will also be included in generic results.Results are displayed prominently. To benefit fully, however, you need to make sure your listing stands out on the page. By this I mean including all relevant information – images, maps, contact details and links.
- Ensure your site is mobile-friendly: this will give you preferential treatment from Google.
- Ensure all meta descriptions and ‘alt text’ (for images) give a clear idea of content and its relevance to searchers.
- Fix any dead pages or 404 errors.
Once you have performed your SEO audit and resolved any issues identified, be patient: improving SEO won’t happen overnight. Track progress closely, using the analytical tools mentioned earlier and if you don’t see any improvement, be prepared to adapt your strategy.
SEO is a complex area and time-consuming.
Get it wrong, and your business will not be visible to prospective managed services customers; get it right, and you could be their first port of call.
Look out for our next blog: Is email marketing delivering for your MSP business?
Discover twelve things you should be doing to ensure you send marketing emails that people want to read not delete.
And catch up on the first blog in our sales and marketing series: We all talk about digital marketing but is it delivering for your MSP business?