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Be a trusted source

October 22, 2014 -  By

When businesses ask me to boost their search engine optimization (SEO), I always suggest blogging, which is now known as a form of content marketing. Yet, most resist or completely reject the idea because they believe SEO is paid advertising.

Do you think people are searching the Internet for ads? People want solutions to their problems, and while some ads might provide useful information, studies show more than 70 percent of all advertising isn’t trusted. Google’s core mission is to help people find what they’re looking for—solutions to problems. Its search queries are questions looking for answers, and the information Google chooses to send them is the result of SEO. Most of us have been led to believe SEO is complicated, when it’s really a simple matter of publishing useful information online that’s relevant to the communities your business serves. Want to improve your SEO? It’s simple. Answer questions.

Before I started my landscape business in the late 1980s, I worked for a large petrochemical company for 10 years. It turned out I didn’t know much about landscaping. This was before the Internet, so I approached others in the green industry to answer my questions. What I learned was confusing because practices varied from one company to another. Advertising in the Yellow Pages was the only practice they all agreed on.

After studying telephone directory advertising, I wasn’t convinced a large and colorful ad would accomplish my goal of being the one chosen by a prospective buyer. It didn’t make sense to invest in advertising that was expensive and positioned my business on the same page with my competitors. So I chose a different marketing strategy and shared best practices with communities via educational advertorials. These were ads to the extent I paid for them, but their purpose was to help my customers become better buyers of landscape services, presumably choosing a company like ours. This practice is now known as content marketing.

My tactic before the Internet was to share helpful tips and advice, rather than holding everything back for paying customers. This approach was refreshing to many people, and it caused the phone to ring. However, this practice still seems counterintuitive to businesses that have been taught to guard their competitive advantages. It’s also why many businesses fail to achieve the social media engagement they deserve.

Embracing FAQs

These days, the Internet gives customers access to almost perfect information, so you should assume they know what you know. The only challenge is finding sound information from a trusted source. This is your opportunity for initiating a digital relationship with them.

Not long ago, my friend Ryan Hanley joined a local insurance business. One of his first suggestions as marketing director was to start a blog to attract new leads. His recommendation was rejected. In fact, he asked more than once, but the response was the same. So, he started his own personal blog. After the company learned about its success attracting leads, Ryan was asked to do the same for the company.

One of Ryan’s first projects was to survey his customers. He asked, “If you were to have me answer one question for you, what would it be?” The responses were many, but after combining similar ones, he reduced the list to 100. The approach Ryan chose was answering those 100 insurance questions in 100 days by recording a two-minute video response with his smartphone camera and posting it to YouTube. His daily time investment averaged about 20 minutes.

The brilliance of this approach is twofold. First, it’s smart to ask your customers what they want to know, as opposed to guessing. The second is packaging those responses. Each YouTube video is neatly categorized and linked to a single company Web page where Google and regular people can find them. The result of this experiment was a 500-percent increase in leads during the first few months. This response isn’t surprising when you consider at least 100 customers clicked to get the answer to their question and possibly shared it with their friends, who might have shared it with more people.

That traffic sends a signal to Google, effectively validating the source as one with authority, which earns a high search-engine ranking. It all comes down to the fact that Google wants the same thing people want—relevant answers to questions from a trusted source.

So, is your business up for the challenge? There are problems in every industry that will need to be solved for the foreseeable future, so your knowledge and experience is needed. In the green industry, these challenges include chronic problems such as mulch volcanoes and improper pruning. If your company wants to improve its SEO, answer questions and make it an ongoing practice. Better yet, consider launching your own 100 questions in 100 days experiment. Contrary to popular belief, what consistently earns the most traffic online isn’t flashy or over the top. It’s good, solid solutions that matter most to a particular group of people.


Korhan, the author of “Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business,” helps small businesses adapt their traditional sales and marketing practices to a digital, social and global environment. Reach him at

Jeff Korhan

About the Author:

Jeff Korhan is the author of Built-In Social, founder of Landscape Digital Institute, and a Duct Tape Marketing Certified consultant. Jeff works with service companies that want to drive growth and enhance their brand experience with digital platforms. Learn more at

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