Search engine optimization (SEO) has been around for a few decades, dating back to the mid-1990s. However, SEO takes on more importance in a digital-first world where it’s critical for your data center provider’s websites to get found by the right people, in the right places, at the right time, and in the right context.
SEO is also very much a moving target. Think about Google, with hundreds of millions of website pages to constantly index, evaluate, decide what makes it to page one of search engine results pages (SERPs), what gets pushed back, and what gets buried in oblivion, Google is constantly tweaking their algorithms.
Winning in a Zero-Sum Game, Battling for Visibility
And it’s very much a zero-sum game. In order for a data center provider to break into the prime real estate of page one of a search engine results page (SERP), by definition one of their competitors will need to be demoted off of page one.
So how can data center providers -- especially those that are small- to mid-sized businesses -- use SEO to outmaneuver their competition?
In a digital-first world, colocation and wholesale data center providers need to be a lot more realistic about their competition. Most are not ready to confront competitive realities.
Mainstream adoption of search engines, social media, and mobile computing brings tremendous opportunities for small businesses to grow beyond their borders.
Understanding the True Competition That Most Data Center Provider Face
But the rise of search engines, social media, and mobile computing also brings entirely new categories of competition. Every company in the data center, cloud services, and mission critical industry needs to be thinking about
- Direct Competition -- Direct competitors are the obvious competitors that you run into all the time at the tail end of the buyer's journey.
- Indirect Competition -- Indirect competitors sell similar products and services to your company. But indirect competitors are either a lot larger or a lot smaller than your company. Or they’re not quite as graphically relevant as your company.
- Non-Business Model Competition -- Non-business model competition is a completely different animal that people very rarely think about -- and that’s a big mistake. Non-business model competitors are companies that create educational, thought leadership content on a regular basis about the products and services and the problems that you solve.
To outsmart their larger competitors, data center providers must do a better job of focusing on
- a particular buyer persona
- a particular stage of the buyer's journey (that buyer persona is at)
- a specific call to action for a lead-generation goal
- easy social media sharing
There are two broad types of SEO that data center sales and marketing professionals should be aware of: On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO
This is SEO that has to do with the actual content that is on your website pages.
The good news: this is content that you can influence. If you're talking about text-based content, on-page SEO includes the actual words, the copywriting.
If you're talking about multimedia content, on-page SEO takes into account how good your videos are, how valuable your podcasts are, and how powerful your webinars are.
If you're a thought leader in your space and you're sharing helpful educational content that your buyer personas find useful most of the time, you’re likely already halfway to doing a good job with on-page SEO.
So on-page SEO is all about content.
Now, there are certain elements on the page that still have to be optimized:
- the Title tag
- meta description
- H1 tag
- choosing good filenames for both the website pages and the images that appear on the website pages
- Alt Text that’s text associated with images
For the most part, on-page SEO is about the quality of your content and how well you optimize that content. And yes on-page SEO is important, but unfortunately, the majority of your success with search engine optimization isn't determined by on-page factors that you can control.
The majority of a data center provider’s success with search engine optimization -- with getting found by the right people, in the right places, at the right time, and in the right context -- has to do with off-page SEO.
Off-page SEO is all the factors that are essentially votes or links from other websites. It’s all about the earned links, the earned votes, that your website accrues from relevant, authoritative websites.
Off-page SEO is largely believed to be the majority of what influences your website's ability to rank for the topics, for the keywords, that you want to rank for.
In other words, you can stand on your nose and create fantastic content. And yes that's important. But at the end of the day, it's even more important when Google and Microsoft evaluate where your website ranks as one of the potentially 10 best pieces of content on a particular topic, it's going to take into account the quality and the quantity of the links -- not only into your website in general -- but into specific pages.
So off-page SEO considers the relevance of that website and that content to your website and the content that's actually being linked to.
Don’t Just Optimize for Search Engines
A word of caution:
Sales and marketing professionals, and even CEOs, often use SEO as an umbrella term for anything and everything that has to do with their website. The reality?
SEO is only one of a dozen or two dozen different factors that are critical to making sure that your website actually achieves the goals that you're looking for it to achieve. But SEO is really just one piece of the puzzle.
Make sure you put into perspective that SEO is just one consideration, one factor, that influences your company’s ability to attract new ideal fit clients and grow new sources of revenue.
So that’s the oversimplification of SEO -- mistakenly thinking that SEO is synonymous with full-funnel digital marketing.
The reality: no business decides to invest in SEO just for the sake of doing SEO. You’re investing in SEO because SEO supports your small business’ SMART goals -- your goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
The Two-Pronged Emotional Reaction That Data Center Providers Truly Need from Website Visitors
Another big thing that colocation and wholesale data center providers need to pay attention to is the fact that SEO requires content -- remarkable content that evokes an emotional reaction:
- "Wow! This stuff is amazing. I can't believe I finally found the answer to my question. I've been looking for something just like this for hours, for days. I can’t believe that I finally found this."
- "Who are these folks? What do they do? What else do they have to say? Oh cool, there's an eBook that goes into this in more detail."
If you get those two emotional reactions from your content, a lot of your SEO challenges will solve themselves on their own.
The Bottom Line
The buyer's journey for data center-related products and services is vastly different than it was as recently as five years ago. Today it is very common to find that as much as 70% or more of decision-making is happening before a data center provider’s sales team is even involved in exploratory conversations.
So in order to remain relevant to the criteria that a prospect uses to ultimately decide where to make their purchase, it’s critical for a data center provider to get found well before that 70% point.
As a result, data center providers need to get good enough at search engine optimization so that their companies are discovered when prospective clients are doing early-stage research.
Digitally-savvy sales and marketing professionals at data center-related companies should use the insight and best practices in this article as a starting point for improving how they go about attracting the best clients to their companies.
Does your company use search engine optimization another digital strategies to outmaneuver your competition? Let us know in the Comments box below.
And if you want to be the first to know about new reports, events, podcasts, and blog posts like this, subscribe to the Data Center Sales & Marketing (DCSMI) Update Newsletter.
Image credit: Ryderwear