Most non-nominal expenditures in business are made with the expectation of generating revenue for the company. Corporate websites take a lot of time to develop and are expensive. Businesses know intuitively that if prospects can’t find their website, the site won’t ROI for them. Yet, businesses might not know that without a search engine marketing strategy, search engine invisibility is almost certain and the corporate website won’t likely generate enough revenue to support its cost of creation. But, by spending an additional sum that is only a fraction of the total website development cost to optimize the website for the search engines, the corporate website can become a workhorse for sales instead of a cash flow drain.

Here are some statistics from a recent B to B Survey:

93.4% of respondents use the internet to research a B to B purchase decision.
63.9% of respondents go to the search engine as the first step in the buying process.
54.6% of the people are 1-3 months away from making a buying decision. 89.7% of the people are 2 weeks to 6 months away from making a buying decision.
36.8% researched and bought online; 27.3% researched online and bought offline; only 7.9% didn’t find what they were looking for.
76.7% of Google users used the natural search links.
The top 3 organic listings accounted for 59.6% of the click-thrus.
(Source: Enquiro Search Solutions Inc.)

The evidence is overwhelming: If a business website isn’t ranked as one of the top natural search results in the prospect’s search, the company won’t likely be part of the buying decision. Without search engine optimization, it is extremely unlikely that the site will rank well enough to be found naturally by potential prospects.

SEO is easy…all I need to do is write good meta-tags for my company website, right?

While many Search Engine Optimizer novices might even know---or think they know---a few basic SEO rules, it’s unlikely they’ll be equipped with enough knowledge to effectively compete with SEO’s in the B to B marketplace. With few exceptions, B to B websites in well-trafficked online niches, without a professional search engine optimization effort, won’t achieve high enough natural search rankings to make more than a very modest number of sales.

OK, you convinced me. What will an SEO actually do for my company?

An SEO campaign consists of two primary tasks: 1)Optimizing the website content / creating new optimized content, and 2)Building inbound links to the website.

Before an SEO can work with the site’s content, he/she must perform a detailed website keyword analysis. They need to determine what keywords a prospective customer could use to find the business online. From this list, they must make a determination as to which keywords / groups of pertinent keywords they can reasonably expect to achieve high rankings for the client…for it makes no sense to waste effort on keywords where success is remote. Then, the SEO must map the targeted keywords to the page(s) on the website where they most logically fit. The most critical keywords on the list need to map to the index page because the index page possesses the most search engine “strength” of any website page. If there are keywords that can’t logically map to any existing area of the site, the SEO might want to rely on the services of a copywriter to add website content.

The SEO then “massages” the website text, working the targeted keywords into the existing content with dual goals:

1) Achieving optimum keyword density and optimum page length.
2) Making the text read as naturally as possible.

Building inbound links is also a critical part of SEO. Many business websites will naturally attract inbound links over time—however, few websites achieve enough natural link strength to exclude a targeted link-building campaign as a component of their SEO efforts. SEO professionals need to acquire inbound links…usually a significant number of them…in order to achieve the desired search engine results for the client.

I don’t need a SEO to trade links for my company…I’ll just send out a bunch of e-mails to people in my network and I’ll get all the links I need for my corporate SEO effort.

Similar to SEO novices, some professional SEO’s still research and contact webmasters of relevant websites one-by-one to ask for a link exchange. This is frequently a slow, inefficient process that likely will achieve underwhelming results and can even subject the SEO to spam complaints. Recently, many link-trading networks have evolved whereby a webmaster can easily and quickly contact large numbers of relevant webmasters who know the value of link-trading and who are receptive to link exchanges. Over time, an SEO can acquire large numbers of targeted inbound links through networks…however, an SEO must be carefully not to acquire too many inbound links too quickly as that can be construed as search engine spam.

Link text (the text that someone uses to link to you) is a critical element of link trading and SEO. The link text needs to contain the most important keywords to the SEO effort since link text is given a lot of weight in search engine algorithms. Furthermore, link text shouldn’t always be the same…it needs to be varied so as to cover the breadth of the website’s top keywords in order to achieve optimum results.

My SEO finished the textual optimization and link-trading. The process is complete, right?

Not quite. An SEO will also monitor the levels of web traffic the site is generating, as well as the search keywords/search engines used by website visitors. A business might be focused on the rankings the website is receiving for their top keywords…of more value to the SEO is reading their web stats to see how site visitors are actually finding the website. Armed with the necessary information, the SEO will tweak the website text over time to achieve optimum rankings and results for the client. One can see some results of the initial textual optimization relatively quickly…however, it could take 3-6 months to see the results of a link-building campaign in conjunction with optimized content. For optimum results, a link-building campaign should never really end…new inbound links should be added every month.

If 93.4% of B to B purchase decisions have an internet component, businesses that have “Internet Invisible” websites can only equally compete for 6.6% of the total market. An SEO campaign can get a company noticed by the 93.4% who go online to research and or purchase a product or service. If a company can truly understand the large number of leads and sales they are not getting by being “functionally offline”, the business case to be made for SEO is very powerful.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.
April 26, 2005

Todd Mintz is the Director of Internet Marketing & Information Systems for S.R. Clarke Inc., a Real Estate Development and Residential / Commercial Construction Executive Search / Recruiting Firm headquartered in Fairfax, VA with offices nationwide. He is also a Director & Founding Member of SEMpdx: Portland, Oregon's Search Engine Marketing Association.

Search Engine Guide > Todd Mintz > Corporate Websites: ROI or DOA?