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Will SEO Really Help Your Economic Development Agency?


Ninety-three percent of online experiences begin with a search engine- Ninety. Three. Percent.  That alone is enough to prove that when you think about your organization's future marketing plans, search should instantly come to mind. Optimizing your economic development website for search is nothing short of imperative when deciding your 2015 marketing plan.
But what is it? Search Engine Optimization is the process of building your website with search engines in mind. It involves creating high quality pages that readers will find useful, blogging, sharing content and planning your website so search engines can match your pages to the people searching for what you offer.
While there are hundreds of different marketing practices for businesses, it’s especially important to focus some of your energy on search engine optimization. Now I can’t speak for all, but many of the economic development organizations I've had contact with don’t have a huge staff at their disposal.  The work is overwhelming as it is and very few employees are looking to add another job to the pile. The truth is, SEO is one thing economic development organizations need to focus on. The benefits of a successful SEO strategy can outweigh most of your other marketing practices.
SEO and Economic Development
When you think about it, it’s pretty obvious why SEO can help your economic development agency so much. You’re essentially telling the internet what type of people you’re looking to reach. You’re able to segment your targets into people only searching for the information you can provide. The problem is, most economic development organizations don’t have people on hand that know the ins and outs of Search Engine Optimization. The good news is, learning the principals really isn’t that difficult. Here are a few tips we at Penn’s Northeast can share to how we’ve created a strong and successful SEO strategy for our economic development website.


Take a week and really learn what’s important in search engine optimization. At the very core, search engine optimization helps identify the high quality websites on topics people are searching. Learn what the experts suggest  and  use the Google Keyword Planner Tool to learn what words you should be optimizing for your specific pages.


So many companies trying to handle their own SEO strategy just go into it blindly. They read a couple articles and dive head first into writing blogs, optimizing content and building links. Normally, these people are the ones who also forget about their SEO strategy once they get busy with their other projects. Make a plan and stick to it. When I optimized the content for Penn’s Northeast , I created my “Top 10 Lists.” They were lists of the 10 industries and locations I wanted to target with my keywords. Once you decide those it’s easy to create keyword phrases and content calendars.


Make sure to plan a time when you can review your SEO strategy. Review what’s working and what needs to be tweaked. You can use free tools such as Google Web Master Tools and Google Keyword Planner to help you measure your campaigns’ success. You also want to make sure you’re adhering to all the guidelines. An easy way to monitor your page for accurate set up is to run it through a SEO checker, we use FeedtheBot


New content is one of the most important parts of SEO. The more new, viable content you add to your site regularly, the more likely it is for search bots to find your content.  Make sure the content is high quality, well written and optimized for your targets.  And remember, just because you put up a blog once a week doesn’t mean you’re going to get thousands of page views, you need to promote your economic development content- and promote it to the right people. Honestly would you rather 250 views from people who have no interest in your region or five views from industry professionals and potential leads?

SEO may be time consuming, you may have to rewrite a majority of your web content, restructure your pages and spend some time a week writing a few blogs to add to your site, but it’s going to be worth it. Leads acquired by SEO have a 14.6% close rate. Compare that to outbound leads (direct mailing, print advertising, cold calling) which have a 1.7% close rate. So in reality, while it may be time consuming, SEO lead generation will actually save you time since more of these leads you’re pouring energy into will actually develop into a project or sale.
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