SEOh!

Fine-tuning your SEO strategy

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“Oh, so you can take me off Google?’ is something I get asked so often when someone hears that I manage reputations, automatically assuming that reputation management is online reputation management. Yes, and no. Online reputation management is an important component of managing your reputation, however, the offline component is just as important, if not more so.

I was fortunate enough to be a speaker at the recent Yoast Conference (YoastCon) hosted in Nijmegen in the Netherlands. Yoast is a brilliant plugin used in most websites and blogs to help with search engine optimisation (SEO), in other words, when someone is looking for your particular product or service on Google, through the use of algorithms behind the scenes on your website, your company is listed towards the top of the search engine page.

I will be the first to admit that the SEO space is a technical one that I know very little about and in some of the sessions at YoastCon, I felt like I was back in my higher grade algebra matric class realising that I desperately need to sign up for extra maths classes. Fortunately, there are SEO experts out there, so extra classes aren’t necessary.

Companies are often so focused on their website ranking well on search engines, that they tend to invest a ton of money on designing delightful websites, and forget the offline side of things. I’ve always found it rather bizarre and quite fascinating that there always seems to be budget available for marketing initiatives, but rarely any available for introspection. If your value system, leadership style or employees are not up to scratch, then no amount of a marketing budget is going to help your public image.

Introspection might just be what saves your organisation. Understanding your reputation, what is contributing to it positively and what is negatively impacting it will help you to build a much closer relationship with each of your stakeholder groups. Different aspects of the business will be important to different stakeholders, the way in which you communicate to them will also differ from audience to audience; it’s never a good idea to assume you know your stakeholders. Understanding this will help you to identify keywords that are important to your audience, which you can then use as part of your SEO strategy.

Rand Fishkin, the founder of SEOMoz, was also a speaker at YoastCon. He is a leader in the field of SEO tools and was named among the 30 Best Young Tech Entrepreneurs Under 30 by BusinessWeek, he’s been written about it in the Seattle Times, Newsweek and the New York Times, to mention a few. I was thrilled to meet him and also get a copy of his book, Lost and Founder. He is very honest and does not beat about the bush about the trials of his entrepreneurial journey; even though he started the business in Seattle thousands of miles away from South Africa, there are so many similarities that entrepreneurs are also faced with here. It is in those beginning years where you lay the foundation of your reputation.

When we measure a reputation, there are 10 different aspects of a business to consider when it comes to ‘offline’ reputation. Sometimes, it is difficult to know exactly where to start, so we always encourage our clients to first focus on two or three critical areas and very often, the other issues fall into place when the key issues are addressed. In Rand’s book, the three things that really resonated with me, and what we often see to be key components of any reputation are vision, values and finances.

The first thing is the importance of being focused, this will help you to direct your energy into one specific thing and become a specialist in that area. Trying to juggle too many things becomes messy and detracts from your core business. Focus on what you do, and do it well. What is your vision, and is your entire team fluent in it?

Secondly, the importance of values—this helps to make decisions in terms of who you want to do business with and who to get on board as a team member. It really is a guiding system for ‘how we do things around here’. It is particularly important for when there are seemingly challenging decisions to be made. If you use your values as a barometer for whether to pursue something or not, it becomes a lot easier to decide which route to take.

The third was around finances. He is incredibly open and bares his soul about the role of money, especially the challenges around it; if you can be open and transparent with your team about the finances, the lifeblood of any business, it helps to build a stronger relationship with them as well. It’s quite difficult to put yourself out there but I have introduced monthly financial meetings with my team, and it has definitely made them feel a lot more included in the business and become a lot more fluent in the value offering.

I also believe that sharing the financials links to our values of respecting my team, continuously being authentic in what we do as well as celebrating growth.

Annually, we do our own reputation research survey. By doing this, we know what is important to which stakeholder group from an ‘offline’ perspective. This has helped us to mould our messages online, be it our website, blogs or social media pages.

How aligned is your offline reputation to your online one?

To find out how your reputation measures up and how to become a business that people want to do business with, visit www.reputationmatters.co.za, email: research@reputationmatters.co.za or call +27 21 790 0208. Reputation Matters is also on Facebook www.facebook.com/yourreputationmatters and Twitter @ReputationIsKey.

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