Everything You Need to Know about SEO as a Solar Company Owner

Everyone is talking about SEO
SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization”. If you’re reading this article, chances are that you have heard about SEO. You are wondering if SEO can really bring you more to your solar power business. Well, let’s dive deep into this fundamental aspect of digital marketing: SEO.

What is SEO?
If your basic understanding of SEO is probably “ranking higher in Google”, you’re half right. Since Google dominates the search engine market by any measurement, SEO is oftentimes about driving the desired traffic from Google to your website. According to Wikipedia, Search Engine Optimization is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine’s unpaid results—often referred to as “natural”, “organic”, or “earned” results”, as opposed to “paid search”, i.e. “Google Ads”. Note that SEO can also refer to ”SEO specialist” or “search engine optimizer”.
What’s the difference between organic vs. paid results? 
Organic search results are the Web page listings that most closely match the user’s search query (keywords that you type in Google). Organic search results are ranked by the famous Google Algorithm—“Google ranking system” if you will. You can NOT pay Google to rank your website higher in organic results. However, you can pay Google to rank your site in paid search. Paid search is basically advertisements triggered by a certain group of search terms (also known as keywords) that can be set up by you.
How Does Google Search Works?
Since the organic search results are ranked by Google Algorithm, SEO would probably make more sense to you if you have a basic understanding of this “Google’s ranking system”. Here’s Matt Cutts, the former head of the anti-spam team at Google, explaining how Google search works:

Simply put, Google’s mission is to help users to find the desired information that they are looking for as easy as possible. With years of constant improving, they are doing an incredibly good job on this, which was how Google surpassed Bing and Yahoo. Think about this: when was the last time when you had to use Google’s second page to find what you need? To accomplish that, Google would score your website based on your web content quality, keywords, speed, quality of backlinks and over 200 ranking factors! ( Backlink is the URL on authoritative sites links back to your site)

(LinkedIn: To be continued…..)

How does SEO work traditionally?
Nowadays, despite that you can easily find decent up-to-date information about SEO, there are still countless myths surrounding this industry. one of the reasons for which is that Google doesn’t officially reveal all of the ranking factors and they update the algorithm constantly. Sub-consequently, what ranked your site well a few years ago doesn’t effectively work this year. The sad thing is: some of the outdated SEO and SEO beginners still think that Search Engine Optimization is all about keywords and the number of backlinks!
Old SEO Process
(Image from Moz.com

Traditionally, based on all the well-known ranking factors,  SEO specialist would set out to orderly conduct  Research; Structure; On-site SEO; Link Building; Keep Improving; Analyze Ranking and Traffic; Repeat (details are shown on the illustration).

The problems with traditional SEO approaches

To sum up the problems with traditional approaches, they are doing things mostly from a technical perspective. Since the Panda Algorithm update in 2011, Google started to show the favour for unique and high-quality contents more and more obvious.  Additionally, quality of backlinks, branded search and social signals seem to weight more and more over years. Google always evolves. “Old SEO” is fundamentally different from “New SEO”. That’s why as an SEO, keeping up with the trends is so important.

What is the more effective process to carry out an SEO campaign for your solar installation business?
Gradually, SEO specialists start to understand that SEO shouldn’t be just about ranking higher. They realize that they need to make your solar webpages well presented within Search Engine Result Pages too. As a result, business goals, buyer personas, branding, content strategy, social media marketing should be well taken into consideration. To get the highest leverage of SEO now,  you have to be a digital strategist, social media marketer, a content strategist, conversion rate optimizer, and a PR person in some degrees. A new approach that integrates and prioritizes all factors above would have a much higher ROI than traditional approaches do.
  1. Opportunity Discovery: This is the plan&prioritize stage.  A seasoned SEO should strategically align business goals, branding, buyer personas (are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers) with typically SEO process like website’s SEO Audit, Competitor Analysis, Keyword Research. A Content Audit is absolutely necessary as well before any content creation. In the process, you might find that Local Citation needs to be consolidated first; or you might find good keyword opportunities to rank. Let’s face it, you will always find endless things to do or fix! So, to wrap up Opportunity Discovery before any implementation, SEOs need to prioritize tasks, especially when time and resources are limited.
  2. Content Implementation: Content marketing has become such an inseparable aspect of SEO. Creating high quality and unique contents is no doubt a building block of a successful SEO campaign. This process would consist of Content Planning, Content Creation, Content Distribution. (Depending on the “priorities list” that is made in Opportunity Discovery, some of Technical SEO tasks might need be done first).
  3. Technical SEO: Yeah yeah yeah, the boring but critical stuff like indexation, site speed, submitting site XML maps…
  4. Social Marketing Implementation:  Social media have a staggering number of 2.5 billion users according to Statista. No markers can ignore a marketing channel like that. The impact of social media marketing goes beyond pushing social profiles on the first page of Search Engine Result Pages. It also distributes your contents, captures external links and increases brand awareness.
  5. Measurement & Analysis: When it comes to digital marketing, you can easily track almost everything. If you haven’t used website monitoring tools like Google Analytics yet, you need to have it set up (It’s a FREE tool!). Along with Google Search Console, it not only allows you to track and analyze traffic’s sources, visitor’s behaviour and browser’s language, but also search terms that visitors use to find your web pages.  The report can be incredibly detailed. At this point(usually 5-7 months after SEO campaign started), you would probably have collected a sizeable data during the SEO campaign that enables meaningly analysis.
  6. Optimization: It’s time to make data-driven changes. SEO should continue on Conversion Rate Optimization (conversing more visitors into leads), Content Repurposing( re-formatting existing contents ), Content republishing and etc.
How long does it take to see results from SEO?
Long answer, it depends on “On-the-page Factors” such as your current on your website and “Off-the-page Factors” backlink profiles and many other factors. Short answer, it would usually take at least 4-12 months.
Google Ranking Factors by SearchEngineLand(image from SearchEngineLand)
Is SEO worth the money?
To know whether SEO is worth the money, you need to calculate the ROI (Return On Investment). Authoritative SEO industry news site Search Engine Watch posted a valuable article on how to do so. To distill it down,  you should evaluate the Lifetime Value per client instead of a one-time purchase. Let’s make a very conservative assumption that SEO campaign only brings you 10 new clients per month; each new client would only place 5 orders in his/her lifetime; you only make $100 net profit on each order. That’s 10/monthX5X$100 = $5000/month. Here’s the math is broken down.
Number of new retailers acquired via organic search in a given month 10
Average net income (profit) per order $100
Total profits from new organic search customers in a given month (10X$100/customer) $1,000
The average number of orders per customer over a “lifetime” 5
Total average lifetime profit $5,000
Monthly marketing budget (expense) $2,500
Average lifetime profits from new customers ($5,000) divided by monthly organic marketing spend ($2,500) ROI = 200%

And the best part, if most of your competitors aren’t doing SEO, the website doesn’t stop bringing you new clients immediately even after the SEO campaign is over. The ugly fact most SEO companies won’t tell you is that: even if you pause SEO for 3-6 months after a long period of time( 12-18 months) of proper SEO works, your ranking would most likely not drop. It’s pretty much like guitar practising. If you skip two and three sessions, you can get back to where you were fairly easy. But if stop practising for too long, obviously it gets harder to get back.

Benefits of a well-architected and well-executed SEO campaign also includes:

  • Brand awareness;
  • Lead generation: Social Media following;
  • Growing Email list;
  • Incoming calls or online purchases;
How much does SEO service cost? 
As the decision maker of the company, whether you’re a CMO or the owner, you probably shouldn’t be the one to roll up sleeves and excuse the daily SEO tasks. So there are essentially two ways to bring in SEO talent to your company: Hiring in-house and outsourcing.
  • Hiring in-house: If your company is big enough to hire a full-time, then here’s some statics, the national average annual salary for hiring an in-house SEO is  C$46,000 and U$42,862 in Canada and USA respectively. Another way to find out is to go Indeed comparing how much are other companies are willing to pay;
  • Outsourcing: Hiring a digital agency is another option. Digital agencies and consultants usually provide SEO related services for website owners, including Technical SEO; Content strategy and development; Expertise in specific markets and geographies and even SEO training. Because SEO campaign’s success also requires expertise in Content Marketing and Social Media Marketing as mentioned before, they usually bundle up the services and charge a monthly fee(usually $ 1000-5000/month). Here’s what I can say: a great SEO will never charge low prices. If you’re hunting for a discount, chances are you’ll end up with an SEO who cuts corners and hurts your site in the long run.
How To Interview SEOs for your Solar Installation Business?
Choosing the right SEO is prerequisite for a successful SEO campaign. That’s usually where things go wrong. We all hear about the story of hiring SEOs from UpWork.com for $400-600/month and not getting any results. It even led to the saying “SEO is dead”. Yet there are so many businesses I personally know of have grown into what they are today almost exclusively because of SEO. What you need to know when hiring SEOs is that shoddy and old SEO technics are dead! That’s why hiring SEO professionals with updated knowledge and ethical integrity is crucial. Thankfully, Google even put on an official video about how to hire component SEOs, which clarifies a lot of myth for people outside of SEO field.

I will write more details about “How to Choose the Right SEOs for your Solar Installation Business?” in another post.

What are the key takeaways if you don’t want to read the whole article:

  • Google’s mission is to help users to find the desired information that they looking for as easy as possible.
  • It takes at least 4-6 months before you see SEO
  • Google updates its algorithm constantly, what worked last year doesn’t always work today. Therefore SEO need to keep up with the changes.
  • Nowadays, SEO must align with your business goals, buyer personas, branding, content creation, social media
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Willie Jiang

Willie Jiang is an experienced SEO manager with a demonstrated history of success with content marketing. He's passionate about popularizing content marketing in the solar industry.

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