A Publication of WTVP

Crystal Howard of the Bloomington-Normal Area Visitors and Convention Bureau (BNACVB) just discovered how the Internet has become the Twin Cities’ new Main Street. All of the businesses along Main Street are visible, generally well known and frequently visited. Their owners pay a little extra to get these prime locations, but it pays off. BNACVB’s website works much the same way. Paying a little extra to get their site positioned highly in Google, Yahoo and MSN, search results have rewarded them with a higher volume of site traffic and more face time with web users.

Increasingly, Americans are using search engines:

If your business is not found near the top of the search results, people will find what they want somewhere else. The reality is, people usually only visit the first few results shown in a search. Think about it—when was the last time you searched for something at Google and went past the first page or two of results to find what you were looking for?

It Pays to be Number One

What search engine traffic offers that Main Street can’t is lead qualification. When someone clicks on your link, they are looking for your product or service. As a result, your return on investment is far higher, because you’re acquiring relevant leads. Unfortunately, most websites are not optimized well enough to appear at the top of Google’s search results.

The Solution: Get Found Online with Search Engine Optimization
So what is SEO exactly? Search Engine Optimization is the process of getting your site highly ranked on search engines like Google so people can find your business with ease. There are two main ways to get this done: pay-per-click (PPC) and organic search results.

The major advantage of pay-per-click is that you pay to have your site ranked on the first page of search results, immediately providing instant leads and traffic. As the name suggests, you pay money every time someone clicks on your listing in the search results. In order for this to work effectively, you need a trained SEO specialist to help select keywords that your audience is most likely to use when searching for your business. Poorly chosen keywords will bring the wrong kind of traffic to your site. An SEO specialist can help you find keywords that will drive the maximum amount of highly targeted traffic to your site. PPC is perfect for people who want immediate, measurable, qualified leads.

Organic Search Results
Improving your organic search ranking requires a long-term plan, but over time, yields greater results. Once you’ve made the investment and achieved a high organic ranking, you tend to stay highly ranked and you don’t have to pay each time someone clicks on your link. There are countless factors that contribute to a successful organic campaign, but they all fit neatly into two categories:

Coldwell Banker Heart of America Realtors utilized both an on-page and an off-page campaign after the launch of their new website. They saw an immediate 30-percent uptick in online leads, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in new sales, and their online traffic, qualified leads, and online sales conversion rates have continued to increase ever since.

Putting it All Together

  1. Find a reputable company that specializes in SEO. There are a lot of fly-by-night companies that may give you immediate results, only to have your website permanently removed from Google’s results for breaking search indexing rules.
  2. Look for a company that can examine and grade every aspect of your website and provide a report card. These reports give you a grade that will let you know how well you’re doing and what you can improve on. 
  3. Choose a company that provides web stats, an annual review of your site and a way to quantify your ROI.

Ultimately, do what Crystal Howard did—place your business on the NEW Main Street and people will find you on the web. iBi

Chad Parker is owner and CEO of Cybernautic Inc., with headquarters in Bloomington and a new office in Peoria. Scott Marshall is director of Peoria Operations for Cybernautic.