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The Top Five SEO Tips for Professional Services Firms for Q4 2014 and Beyond

Google_SEOGetting website pages and other forms of content, including blogs and videos, ranked highly on Google is usually on the top of any firm’s marketing wish list.  And for good reason:  approximately 33% of all clicks happen in the first position and 18% in the second position.  So let me give you some insight.  Are you listening closely?  IT’S SUPER HARD.  That’s the theme that runs throughout today’s post.  There’s no short-cut to achieving those coveted top positions.  The fitness mantra ‘-no pain, no gain’ (or increased rankings in this case) – seems to apply to SEO now and into 2015.  But, if you’re willing to sweat a little, sacrifice some billable hours and invest in your digital marketing, read on!

1.  Vacuum-Packed SEO Will Not Work

It used to be that professional services firms could throw money at a random “SEO Dude” to ‘optimize’ their site and perform ‘link building’ and rankings would magically appear.  This strategy does not work.  SEO cannot be put in a vacuum and become successful.  Onsite SEO only accounts for a tiny portion of search engine rankings and is largely considered a price to play.  Link building is a dangerous game.  If Google catches a company trying to boost rankings by building unearned links, it will be penalized and will likely never rank again.  SEO is no longer a stand alone function.

2.  Thin is Not In — Thick Content is a Must

Chocolate cake is being served for desert tonight and you can pick between two pieces of cake (in this example, the calories are the same in each).  The first piece being offered is a mere sliver.  The second piece is a huge hunk of triple chocolate layer cake.  Which would you choose?  Of course, you are going to dig into the thicker slice! When a firm produces content that is less than 250 words, Google feels that it is offering only a sliver of cake, giving readers barely enough to whet their appetites. If your web pages and posts are ‘thin,’ you risk losing credibility and may get penalized by Google.  The Internet’s “Almighty” considers this content to not have enough value.

Google’s Panda update specifically addressed thin content and hit some members of the digital marketing community particularly hard – online eCommerce giant eBay lost about 75 % of its organic rankings literally overnight. Ranking penalties may either result from an algorithm update or could come in the form of a manual penalty. However if the penalty hits your site, you can kiss a significant portion of traffic and potential profits goodbye.  How Thin Content Hurts Your Website provides additional information on this important topic.

3.  Broken Link:  Dial 301 Redirect!

Google’s search engine crawls website pages and other forms of content, indexes them and then uses its secret algorithm to decide how to rank the information for keyword or long tail search queries.  Occasionally, Google stumbles across a page that has been laid to rest.  There are many good reasons for eliminating content pages such as a website relaunch or the information has become stale and outdated.  A problem arises when there is no marker on the grave, producing the dreaded 404 error.

Google is all about providing a user-friendly experience, which includes protecting users against websites with broken links.  If you want to rank well with Google, fix your excess broken links.  Redirecting visitors to a new page, called a 301 redirect, is an easy way to mend your problem.  Your web developer should be able to run a report showing all 404 errors on your site and offer a plan of action for fixing the broken links.

4.  Pogo Sticking Will Get You Stuck

Have you ever typed in a Google query, clicked on a result, found it wasn’t what you were looking for and bounced off quickly?  That is what Google calls pogo sticking and it actually is a signal to Google that a website or piece of content is not a good fit for that particular search query.  If the bounce rate is high on your site, then you are likely getting penalized for pogo sticking.  So that’s the problem.  What’s the fix?  Here are some remedies:

  • Elimate thin content on your site
  • Ensure the navigation is intuitive and visitors can easily find what they’re looking for
  • Create content that is focused and use long-tail keyword phrases.
    • Long-tail keyword phrases have a lower search volume but are much more likely to result in a serious buyer seeking specific information.

For more information on the pogo sticking phenomenon, check out Solving the Pogo Stick Problem by MOZ.

5.  As Much as You’d Like to, Don’t Ignore Google+

There are so many social media platforms out there and honesty, Google+ seems like a bother!  But there is one very strong reason why Google+ should not be ignored.  It’s the only platform that sends direct signals to Google about the relevance of your content.  For example, if you are connected with someone on Google+ with a lot of social clout (influence) and he/she likes or shares your content, that’s the equivalent of a vote of confidence in Google’s world.  It listens to these social cues but ONLY from Google+.

Now, don’t go ditching LinkedIn or Twitter though!  These social media platforms are beneficial in many ways and do have an indirect impact on search rankings.   Let’s say someone in your LinkedIn network thinks your latest blog post is brilliant and decides to include a link to that piece of content in their latest post.  That’s an inbound link directly back to your blog.  Inbound links, or otherwise known as offpage SEO, are very important in Google’s ranking algorithm.

The best sources for the latest and greatest information on SEO are MOZ (Rand Fishkin) and Search Engine Land.  Staying abreast of the latest developments in SEO is pretty difficult so if you’re an in-house marketer, be sure to partner with a highly credible source.  I would love to hear your SEO tips and resources that you find helpful in keeping up with the ever changing world of Google.

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If you’re interested in learning more about Modern Marketing, check our guide for CEOs. 

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