Bill Kopatich, an Online Media Strategist based in Charlotte, NC, helps small businesses and professionals in medical, legal, accounting, real estate and financial services become the logical choice among their competition when consumers or other businesses are looking for a service provider. He is President of Local Marketing Solutions, a marketing agency that specializes in helping professional service providers become the recognized authorities and experts in their field and local area.
We took a recent opportunity to interview Bill on his views about online marketing beyond just being found at the top of the search engines.
Bill, you were recently featured on CNN.com in a piece about marketing beyond the top of the search engines. We would like to go a little deeper on this topic. Isn’t being on the top of Google when prospects are searching for your business type the main goal for online marketing?
Bill Kopatich: Clearly having your professional service business show up at the top of the search engine results on Google, Bing or Yahoo is a key factor in generating potential prospect traffic for many professional service businesses. But many of these businesses showing up at the top are not satisfied in their actual results and are not seeing the customer flow they had expected.
What kind of money have professional service businesses been spending to be on the top of the online search results?
Bill Kopatich: It totally depends on the size of the geographic area and competitiveness of the industry. For smaller local markets and less competitive industries a relatively small investment of up to a few hundred dollars per month in SEO investment is going to be adequate to be on top of the organic search results, and it can happen rapidly. When you are talking about larger population markets and especially with competitive and high-value services like plastic surgeons or personal injury attorneys, you may need to spend thousands per month and it takes several months to reach the top. It’s pretty much a matter of who spends the most to over-power the competitors.
What about PPC? Isn’t that a low cost way to be found online?
Bill Kopatich: Here we are generally talking about Google AdWords, the most popular Pay Per Click network. Again, it depends. In a small market and especially in less competitive industries, a few dollars per click will get you to show up on the first page. But when we consider the larger population markets and competitive service industries like I mentioned before, the costs can be high – up to as much as $50.00 to $75.00 per click. One good benefit of PPC is that you can reach the first page within twenty-four hours if you bid the proper amount for your clicks.
You mentioned that many businesses have not been satisfied with their results from SEO. Why are they dissatisfied?
Bill Kopatich: Online marketing companies and SEO experts pitched the popular concept of getting businesses ranked high on the search engines through SEO or by using PPC, and they succeeded. What the business owners thought they had purchased was getting more customers. Unfortunately being at the top of the search engine results hasn’t always translated into getting more customers.
Why do you think businesses ranking high on the search engines are not getting more customers?
Bill Kopatich: Consumers today are more sophisticated with online search. They don’t just click on a high-ranking result and call to do business, especially with high price-tag services. They are going to be doing more research on several of the businesses they find before they even make one call. For a high-value service like plastic surgery, the prospective patient will do more research on at least three to five of the surgeons found in the search results before calling even one of them. They will Google the name of several surgeons they found to see what else they can find about the surgeons. What they typically find is a web site, a LinkedIn profile, a directory listing and maybe a few reviews. All of these plastic surgeons ranking at the top have spent considerable sums getting there, they all appear to be competent, but they probably all appear similar. The real challenge for the surgeons is how to stand out among the five to ten competitors that show up on the first page so the prospective patient picks them over the others.
What can professional services businesses do beyond getting ranked high in the search results so they stand out?
Bill Kopatich: What you want to do is to have a lot of activity going on online, so that when prospects Google your name they see you are showing up beyond the website and LinkedIn profile. One effective step is to claim and optimize the Google Plus Local listing for the business. This is a free service from Google and it provides for basic business information, ten photos and five videos relating to your business. It’s amazing to me is how few medical and other professionals are using this free service. Another step is to claim listings on multiple online service and business directories, especially for businesses focusing on local clients. This also is generally free or very low cost.
What else do you recommend to stand out and get recognized?
Bill Kopatich: One of the most powerful ways to stand out is by being featured as the industry expert through quotes, interviews and articles in the news media. By this I mean in newspapers, online news sites, TV and radio as well as in other new media such as podcasts and internet radio. Think about the credibility you have when third parties, especially the news media, are talking about you as the expert and authority in your field. Many professionals declare themselves an expert, but contrast that with credible third parties saying that you are the expert.
Another high-impact way to stand out is to be a published author, a best-selling author. That is easier than ever now with self-publishing platforms such as Amazon Kindle. Online press releases about what the business is up, even about community service projects you are involved in, keeps you showing up for the good things that you are doing.
So, how does this get more customers?
Bill Kopatich: Let’s again use the example of a consumer, an interested buyer, looking for a plastic surgeon in the local area. The consumer does an online search and immediately finds ten plastic surgeons on page one of the search results. The consumer clicks on each of the ten to visit the surgeons’ web sites. Remember that some of these clicks will have a cost to the surgeons if they are using PPC. The consumer picks six of the ten for more research and does an online search on their names to find more information. Five of the six searches result in the typical – the web site shows up, a LinkedIn profile shows up and maybe one or two directory listings show up.
But the search results for the sixth surgeon shows an indication of an expert and an authority in his industry. In addition to the web site and LinkedIn profile, the consumer sees this surgeon quoted in newspapers, a news article about the surgeon’s leading-edge techniques and links to online news sites featuring articles about the surgeon. There are also some reports of the surgeon’s community service activities. This surgeon has credible third parties, the news media, talking about him as the trusted expert and authority in his field. It’s clear which of the six plastic surgeons is likely to get the most prospective patients calling him.
Thanks for sharing this information today. To wrap this up, what final piece of advice do you have for professional service businesses that want to increase their business?
Bill Kopatich: It’s important to be positioned at the top of the search engine results to get more potential client or patient traffic, but that traffic alone doesn’t necessarily lead to more business. You have likely spent a lot of marketing dollars getting the traffic, but if you put in a bit of extra effort to position yourself as the trusted expert and authority in your industry, you can double or even triple your business.