SEO and Government Contracting: Optimizing the Search Engine in Your Favor

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

It’s no marketing secret that content is king when it comes to your company’s brand recognition and online relevance. If you’ve ever been responsible for writing a blog post or a white paper, you know developing organic, relevant, and helpful content is hard work and time-consuming – and you also know that good content isn’t always enough to get your company noticed. Cue the magic of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)!

To discuss how you, the Government Contractor, can leverage SEO to attract federal buyers, The Pulse sat down again with Google SEO expert, Janet Waring, from ModelB, a modern digital marketing agency.

Question 1: Why is SEO important? Specifically, how can a Government Contractor use SEO to their advantage? 

What is the first thing you do when you meet someone or hear about a new business or company in your marketplace? If you are like most people, you Google them. 

Your web presence is how the world learns about your company and services and it is in your control to provide what information people consume about your company. But what about the many people who have not heard of your company, but want or need your services? How do they find you? Enter SEO. 

Federal buyers will sometimes conduct vendor and market research using the power of Google. The more your website pops up, the more credibility you are given. This is why it’s important for a Government Contractor to be a thought leader and create meaningful content for when prospective customers search for you. 

Question 2: How does SEO impact who sees (and what they see) of my website on a search engine?

Answer: SEO is the methodology of affecting the visibility of a website or web page on search engines. SEO is responsible for whether or not your website shows up on the first page of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for the key terms associated with your business. This is important for Government Contractor to be seen as 1) an available vendor for the services a federal buyer is looking for; and 2) an expert on important, relevant search terms. 

When you understand how Google finds your information and then optimize for it, you are more likely to show up on the first page of the SERP.

Lots of factors go into what search engines choose to show on the first page and it is changing almost daily. Google recently updated to a new format, which is summarized here

To demonstrate the new format, we searched a variety of Government Contracting-specific phrases and how they show up across the various elements on the SERP. 

As you can see, different types of queries yield the elements below. Now use these examples to imagine what federal buyers’ search results will find if they were to Google “federal information technology vendor or reseller” or “federal services provider”. Note: the content that populates when searching is also dependent on the searcher’s location. 

Pulse Search: “What is Government Contracting?”

SERP Element: Snippets 

Pulse Search: “What is Government Contracting?”

SERP Element: People Also Ask (PAA)

Pulse Search: “GSA”

SERP Element: Knowledge Panels

Pulse Search: “What is Government Contracting?”

SERP Element: Local Packs

Pulse Search: “What is Government Contracting?”

SERP Element: Video Boxes 

Pulse Search: “ModelB”

SERP Element: Business Listing Example

Question 3: How do search engines distinguish between valuable and “cutesy” content?

The important thing to remember is that Google is a business. Google aims to provide a valuable product to their users namely high-quality search results. To ensure a good product, Google watches user behavior and tracks how people react to the results they provide.

If users bounce off the page when clicking on your listing, then it will show Google that the content for their search term isn’t high value to searchers. Google is looking for what the searcher responds positively to and then they rank that content higher in results. If you help Google, they’ll help you. 

To keep a user from “bouncing” your page needs to answer the search query. So if you want to optimize your website for “human resource services”, but your searcher finds a page with “cutesy” or unrelated content, then said user will click off the page right away (hence the term bounce). But if the user finds helpful information about human resource services, then they will stay on your page and read more. When a page is designed well, the page will encourage the user to dive deeper into the site to learn more about your company. This could lead us into a conversation about Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), but that is a topic for another time! 

Question 4: So not all content is created equal in the eyes of SEO. What about when companies post unrelated information for holidays (including silly ones like National Donut Day). Does that really drive traffic?

It can if it’s well written and humorous and you can somehow relate it to your business. Humor is very popular for content, which means the search volume for said content is highly shared. 

If you can write a blog post that shows your company culture around National Donut Day – go for it! However, it may be best to ask yourself: would that time be better spent writing about more in-depth pieces about your industry? You may be toeing the line between playing the game and finding yourself in the “cutesy” zone.

Ideally, every company should have a tone messaging guide before posting on social channels. Then you can ask yourself whether posting for this holiday, season, event, etc. is part of your brand’s tone and message. 

Question 5: How does a small business continuously create relevant content and compete against firms that have a full media arm and advertising budget?

Do your research. Find out which keywords your competition is ranking for and take them on or use the suggested keywords your research identified and build content around that. Google offers a free keyword tool and Buzzsumo, Answer the Public and Google Trends are great tools for finding content ideas.   

SEO is so much more than content. 

It also consists of crawl accessibility, optimized keywords, user experience, linking to other posts, a relevant title, and additional schema markups. If you take all the factors into consideration you can compete – like David and his slingshot versus Goliath. Goliath can write the most amazing, keyword-rich content, but if search engines can’t find it then it won’t show up. Consider all of the ranking factors from Google instead of focusing solely on deep and meaningful prose. If you do this, then your content can compete. Use this simple guide below for what is important to search engines (and to help you stay competitive).

Question 6: Anything else to consider?

You can optimize your company’s page specifically for any of these elements using structured data. To learn more about optimizing for SERP pages, Search Engine Land put out an excellent article you can read here. It is also important to note that on January 22nd Google announced that if your website is the featured snippet on the SERP page, you are no longer also listed right below or anywhere on the first page. Rather, your link is listed at the bottom of the snippet. This means that your organization needs to weigh the pros and cons and optimize accordingly. 

Beyond traditional SEO, it is also becoming more and more important to optimize for voice search. We’re surrounded by devices in our cars and homes (and in our pockets) that expect searchers to, well, search vocally. How do you optimize for voice? Well, that’s a subject for another post!

If you have questions or inquiries, please contact Janet Waring at janet.waring@modelb.com.

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