When your website performs well in search results, it’s easier for potential new customers to find you. But a lot of small shop owners don’t invest in optimization because they think it requires a full-time marketing manager or search engine optimization (SEO) agency. It doesn’t!
“Ignore those emails you get from companies promising to get you to the top of search results,” counsels Andrea Ferguson, president and senior project manager of AndiSites Inc., a web design and development company. “SEO nowadays is less about gaming the system with keywords and metatags and more about making sure your site is conversational, speedy, and has a great user experience -- a lot of which you can do yourself.”
What do you need to add SEO to your B2B manufacturing marketing strategy? Let's take a look at 5 ways to make your shop’s website a more effective marketing tool.
Prospective customers use search to find partners who can solve their problems. To understand how customers might find you, you can do a simple Google search to see the exact topics and solutions people are searching for. For example, type "CNC machining" into the Google search field, and it automatically makes suggestions based on frequent activity. Note down any of these search terms that make sense for your business. Scroll down the page to the "People Also Ask" section — a great place to get ideas for blog post titles or page headers and subheads that can increase your discoverability. Finally, go all the way to the bottom of the page to see Searches Related to "CNC Manufacturing" for additional ideas on topics and words to include on your site.
Rinse and repeat this process for any of the services and capabilities you offer at your shop — whether those are sheet metal, laser cutting, 3D printing. engineering services, CMM services, etc. — and collect all of those related search terms and ideas into one spreadsheet. This is your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) hit list: the terms and phrases you want to make sure you include on your website to make it easier for Google to find you when a prospective customer conducts a related search.
Including these search terms on your website can take on many different forms. The most straightforward is to include a robust list of all of your shop's capabilities, processes, materials, services, and machines in one place. This not only serves as a good way to let prospective customers know what you're capable of but also helps Google know that your shop is a potential solution to someone's question. If your shop maintains a blog or other type of helpful content on your website, the search terms from your SEO hit list are a perfect place to start for writing new blogs or helpful pieces of content. Always be sure to include the search term somewhere in the blog and, if it makes sense, in the title and URL of the blog page.
Visual content — videos, animations, photos — shows your shop in action and highlights finished products, and are a great way for prospective customers to get to know your business. When adding images to your website, take advantage of alt-text to describe the images on the screen. Most modern website management solutions such as WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, etc. will have this field built-in when adding photos so it's easy to edit. It tells site visitors about the image when it doesn’t load, and tells search engines what the visual depicts so they can index it correctly.
You know how frustrating it is when sites take forever to load or don’t function correctly on your tablet or phone. Prospects and search engines don’t like that, either. “Use free tools like GTmetrix and Google’s PageSpeed Insights to make sure your web pages are loading quickly,” Andrea says. “Some recommended optimizations may require a developer's help or advice, but there are plenty of things you can do yourself to speed your site up like removing extraneous content, reducing image file sizes, and/or getting a better web host.” Make sure your site is built on a content management platform that’s mobile-enabled or “responsive” so it automatically adjusts to work well on any device.
There are a lot of site-building tools out there, and Ferguson says the key is choosing one that’s effective, SEO-friendly, and easy-to-use for you. (She recommends WordPress.) Other great and easy-to-use options include Wix and Squarespace. Many content management systems provide automatic updates that keep your site current and more visible to search engines. A site that isn’t updated regularly doesn’t serve your prospects or search marketing. They also include widgets to automate or easily implement other optimization tactics such as alt-text for images.
Though not related to your site, this simple task does improve your shop's discoverability in Google search results. First, it ensures your shop shows up when nearby prospects search for “CNC shops near me” or other topics related to CNC machining. As larger companies begin to localize their supply chains, you want them to know you’re in the area. Second, it puts your business on the map that appears near the top of the search results. Learn more about the free Google My Business program.
You don’t need to be a web developer or digital marketing pro to optimize your site. Anybody can use these SEO basics for manufacturing to improve site search performance and help customers find you.