Six Ideas to Improve SEO and Bring in New Customers

Kevin Mitchell • Webwise • February 5, 2014

If you think there are too many people in this world blabbing on the Internet, I am not going to argue with you. 

But I will tell you that blogging with links is the easiest, best way to increase your Search Engine Optimization and get that higher ranking on general searches, which is mission critical when someone who has yet to even hear of your store is searching for what you have to offer. 

Exactly how a search engine like Google ranks something can be a head-scratcher, especially for commoners like us. And it’s that way on purpose. That’s because within the belly of the beast that is Google, a team of brainiacs (presumably hopped up on Red Bull and listening to Vampire Weekend) are working hard every day to change the algorithm so no can understand the system and thus scam the system. Specifically what you’re interested in is something Google implemented about two years ago: a “freshness algorithm,” which factors in how recent information is. So having something – anything – new on your site impacts about 35 percent of searches.

I’ve learned this first hand. After writing this column for seven years, I recently finally took my own advice and redid my band’s website. When it was first launched it was fine, but that was eight years ago. I could have done it myself but I went with a professional, and while I didn’t relish the idea, I knew a blog was essential. And it’s worked. I raised my band’s SEO significantly – I’ve gone from coming up on page 10 or 11 to usually in the top three. I’m getting many more gigs, and it’s because of an easy-to-understand reason.
The more that is happening on your site – the more fluid it is, the more people are clicking on different pages, the more relevant it is deemed to be. So the good news is your blog doesn’t have to be brilliant. It for sure doesn’t need to be long. But it does need to be laced with links of keywords that your future customers would typically use to find you.

Search Like Your Customer
Think about the different customers you serve and want to serve, and put together a list of keywords that those who don’t yet know you might use to search you out. Typical word combinations might be:
“Musical instrument store Omaha.”
“Beginning classical guitar San Diego”
“St. Petersburg school band trumpet rental.”
“DJ gear Chicago.”
If you’re part of a largely populated suburb, realize that instead of “Chicago,” something like “Aurora” will likely be part of the mix.
If you’re a band and orchestra operation, on your list of keywords should be the local high schools you serve: “McKinley High.” That list you’re putting together might even include the band director, Ms. Helen Gibbs, as it’s likely that a weary mom is looking into Emily’s options at 11:00 at night with a letter from Gibbs in hand. You can anticipate the likelihood that she’s typing in some combination of “sax rental McKinley High Gibbs.”
Your list of keywords is going include a selection as rich and varied as you and your store are. It’s okay if words like “heavy metal” and “classical piano” both end up on that list because you won’t be trying to include all of them in every blog. But keep the list handy and it can be used as inspiration for what you write about.

Link Keywords to Other Sites
If your site never changes, if you don’t give people a reason to visit, Google will judge the site as not being especially relevant and bury you lower in search results. 
So a blog by J&B Band and Orchestra might look like this (Words underlined below represent hyperlinks):

From my location in Ellisville, I have the privilege of serving many high school band programs in the St. Louis area. It’s such a treat helping a young girl pick out her first flute, and then years later seeing her in a marching band at the homecoming game playing a John Philip Sousa tune!

Now what exactly do you link these seemingly random underlined words to, you ask? It almost doesn’t matter. In this case, the local Ellisville Chamber of Commerce page, the high school page, Wikipedia’s section on flutes, and a YouTube video of a Sousa performance would work. (Linking to a specific instrument manufacturer’s page is problematic as it could lead the customer down a road to leaving your page altogether.)
The value of those suggested links is that they make your website more dynamic and thus get a higher search listing.
Link to Yourself, Too
What benefits your future customer, yourself, and makes the search engines take notice is blogs with links that refer to other parts of your website. An example of this might look like:

In thinking about the history of my time in this wonderful community, I’m especially proud of the great team I get to work with. From John in the drum department, to our fabulous teachers, it’s just a privilege to come to work. The team allows me to put on the special events that we do, and that’s what makes it really fun.
These links would go to your About Us page; Ellisville city’s page; Meet the Staff page; the teacher bio page; Calendar page; and that blog from last year when you wrote about the talent show you held.

Main Blog Topics
The reality is this: No, there won’t be a ton of people following every word of every blog you write. Embrace this fact and use it to take the pressure off from trying to be especially deep, witty, and most of all – original.
There should be some main blog topics you return to again and again. Every three months you might again address how to buy the right guitar, practice tips for parents, finding the right teacher, basics on taking care of a violin, etc. Don’t copy and paste the old blog into a new spot, but you can certainly rewrite and change the wording a bit without changing the meaning or even the links. 
So you have permission to plagiarize yourself.

Secondary Blog Topics
An independent MI retail operation is tied to the community, and there’s nothing wrong with blogging about that. Write about the upcoming band concert or any upcoming or recent events – the “freshness” (recent) factor that comes with current events gets more points than if you post, say, a picture of Keith Emerson from 1977 (not that that’s not cool too).
Also give a shout-out to your band directors and how you’ve enjoyed working with them all these years. This gives you an opportunity to link to that school and maybe even information about the event. If there’s ever been a feature done on the band director that appeared in the local paper, certainly link to that and heap on the praise.
On occasion, you can even give shout-outs to those in the neighborhood – that great breakfast place, gift shop, blues bar, etc. And when you do link to them, let them know in person or via email and maybe they will return the favor at some point. 

Final Tips
These have been written about before, but they are worth repeating:
Write in first person, and keep the tone conversational and fun.
Keep it short: two to four paragraphs are ideal. If you have a lot more to say on a more complicated topic, like finding the right tube amp, then break it into parts and stretch it out over several blogs (always linking to the previous ones of course).
No matter what your passion is on social or political issues, stay far away from them here. No politics.
Commit to the blog. Don’t let it languish. Nothing is a bigger turn-off then going to a blog and seeing the last one being something from months or even years ago.
If you have the resources, you can hire a team of geniuses to fight the SEO wars every day. I know a guy in my neighborhood who does that, and he has a much bigger house than mine with a Hummer in the driveway. 
Or you can blog consistently and strategically, loading it up with references and links to recent events. This will help those who are seeking the products and services that you provide find you, and give them a reason to get away from their computer and drive to your store. 

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