It’s part art, part science and a lot of mystery.
It’s Search Engine Optimization, commonly known as SEO. And no matter what anyone tells you, there isn’t a person on the planet who knows precisely how to manipulate it. Even former Google employees who specialized in SEO offer conflicting advice to clients.
What is a radio station wanting to improve their SEO to do? Let’s start by addressing a key concern: How to fund it.
Unless you have an employee with a background in SEO and time on their hands to work extensively with your website and YouTube channel (see my last two columns), you’re going to need a specialized agency.
FIND A PARTNER
I am not advocating a big expenditure for an SEO agency.
Many towns — whether large or small — have SEO consultants who would like exposure to a greater pool of potential clients for their SEO services. You guessed it, I am suggesting you seek a full or partial trade of radio advertising in exchange for help with your radio station’s digital properties.
You’ll want to trade for the value of a monthly retainer, plus a specified number of hours. Partner with an SEO agency (or ad agency that also does quality SEO) that has already licensed a keyword search tool such as Brightedge.
While there are free keyword search tools, I recommend you select a company large enough to actually have a license with a well-known entity. A legitimate keyword search tool will enable your new agency to prioritize the most relevant keywords for you; categorize keywords to maximize the performance of your content; look for opportunities for keywords that you can “own,” and provide insight into the competitive landscape.
Why is SEO so important? Entire books have been written to answer this question but they all have the same punchline: Organic search. That is, when a user types a query into Google or another search engine, you will achieve the best possible outcome for your website.
This is because the intent of the user determines the success of your metrics. And if someone easily finds what you offer, they will stay on your website or YouTube channel longer because you’re giving them what they want.
When users don’t get what they’re looking for, the opposite occurs, with the traffic “bouncing” off the site with no continued interaction. This is why bounce rates are always so much higher for search engine marketing, when users click on an ad or paid keyword result only to find something that doesn’t match their expectations.
Regarding YouTube, it is difficult to obtain great search ranking, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Maybe you’ve got a few unique in-studio music performances that will surface in search. Make sure they are tagged appropriately and that descriptions are unique, very specific, and totally accurate.
There are several other basic but important ingredients in SEO that I’ve personally seen make a difference:
1) Getting more inbound links from authoritative websites to your website. He who gives also receives, so perhaps there are several large websites in your market with which you can create a linking agreement. Local newspaper websites, official local government sites (maybe you can get a link for aggregated school closings, or some other service you offer), local television websites, local sports team sites and any other sites that do well in your city. Tied to this idea is linking from your branded platforms like your YouTube channel and all of your other social channels.
2) Greater internal linking to your own content pieces. Although time-consuming this is easy and can be done gradually.
3) The depth of your website in terms of the number of pages matters, so don’t delete pages unless they can’t be updated. Over many years, sites grow substantially without your even realizing it.
4) Talk to your SEO company about building and submitting a site map. There is substantial disagreement about whether to submit a site map, or just wait for Google to crawl your site. Unless your SEO company is prepared to fix issues uncovered when constructing the site map, it’s probably not worth it to you. However, if your agency specializes in this, it could be effective.
5) Finally, you gotta have patience! SEO is not for short-term thinkers who want results tomorrow. This can be a challenge for radio station managers who demand immediate ratings results on a near-monthly basis. SEO takes time to work. I’ve seen results in three months, better results in six months, substantial results in a year.
Fair warning: There are no guarantees with SEO, but like so many creative endeavors, those who are willing to experiment and take chances often win the game.
Mark Lapidus is a multi-platform media, content and marketing executive, and longtime Radio World contributor. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.