Often times when I speak to MSP owners and the topic of MSP SEO comes up, I hear the same trope over and over: SEO for MSPs is impossible. It’s a fight that is not worth fighting. MSP owners tell me that because of the massive amount of competition in any one city for the top keywords like “IT Support Boston” or “IT Services Toronto,” any attempt at breaking into the first page in Google, let alone the top 2 or 3 results where the majority of the clicks come from, would be an attempt in vain.
The funny thing is, as the owner of an MSP marketing agency that focuses a good portion of our efforts on MSP SEO, I see MSPs all across North America generating great leads from SEO, month-in and month-out.
In this article, I am going to show you that without a doubt, it IS possible for MSPs to use SEO to their advantage – to generate leads and grow their business using search engine optimization.
Follow along for everything you need to know about MSP SEO.
What is MSP SEO?
MSP SEO is the act of leveraging Google, or any other search engine, to drive targeted traffic to your MSPs website.
One thing to keep in mind is that I specifically mentioned targeted traffic, as your goal here is to not just send any old web surfer to your website, your goal is to get your website in front of local business leaders who are in a position to purchase managed IT services.
Ultimately, you want those targeted to visitors to fill out your contact form and to enter your sales process, and you want to do it WITHOUT paying for ads. That is what MSP SEO is all about.
How MSP SEO has changed through the years
Another common misconception that I hear from MSP business owners about SEO is that involves some type of black-hat wizardry – that there is some type of technical secret or magic that will get you to the top of Google. And that might have been true as recently as 10 years ago, where there were ways to pay your way to top of Google buy purchasing large amounts of backlinks from link farms, or by stuffing your meta description with keywords.
But the truth is that for the past decade or so, Google has cracked down on the grey areas of SEO. In their own guidance, Google has made it abundantly clear: do things right and you will get rewarded.
I view this as a fantastic opportunity for MSPs. Google has evened the playing field, and if you take an authentic approach to your MSP SEO, you can now see the best results without needing the biggest budget.
The difference between SEO and PPC for MSPs
There is also a fair amount of confusion among MSPs over the differences between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC.) This point of confusion is fair enough, as both SEO and PPC leverage Google to drive targeted traffic to your MSPs website. However, the distinction between them is pretty clear: SEO is all about leveraging the “organic” or free listings on Google, and PPC is all about leveraging the paid listings or ads which appear at the top of the search results page.
Both SEO for MSPs and PPC marketing are part of a comprehensive MSP marketing platform, but they function differently. It’s important to understand when SEO and PPC need to be used, how they interact with each other, and the benefits and drawbacks of each.
MSP SEO is great because you don’t have to pay each time someone clicks towards your site, however that is not to say that gaining visibility won’t take an investment, as gaining visibility in the organic listings can often take time and effort. PPC for MSPs takes much less effort, and you can see results right away, but as you are leveraging money for exposure, it can get very expensive very quickly.
Although PPC is a great topic to explore for MSPs, this article focuses on MSP SEO.
On-site SEO vs Off-site SEO for MSPs
At its core, MSP SEO is broken down into on-site and off-site SEO.
On-site SEO refers to all the factors that are controlled on your MSPs own website. Yes, there are the technical factors like loading speed, meta information, and schema-markup, but even more importantly, on-site SEO for MSPs involves building out and optimize compelling content that will be consumed, linked to, and clearly explain to Google what your business is all about.
Off-site SEO refers to everything that is happening from an SEO perspective that is NOT on your website. It is basically Google’s view of your MSP from a credibility and trustworthiness perspective.
The relationship between on-site SEO and off-site SEO is complementary, and you can’t have one without the other. For example, if you run an MSP in Chicago, there are literally dozens of MSPs who have all done a great job with their on-site SEO and optimized their sites for the major keyword “IT Support Chicago” – but only one can land at the top of the search engine results page. So, when all on-site factors are equal, how does Google decide on who ranks above who? They look to off-site SEO.
Both on-site and off-site SEO for MSPs will be discussed in further detail in the next section of this article.
SEO Strategies for MSPs
1) Keyword Selection for MSPs
One of the first things you need to when beginning your SEO strategy as an MSP is answer this basic, but incredibly nuanced question: what keywords do I want to rank for? When someone searches in Google, for what search terms do I want my website to show up?
When deciding on your keywords, I recommend looking at four different factors:
- Search volume: the number of searches that are being performed monthly for each particular keyword. This data is readily available through Google’s own Keyword Planning Tool or most any 3rd party SEO research tool.
- Competition: the quantity and quality of competitors who are targeting the same keyword. This data can also be found on Google’s Keyword Planning Tool, or by doing the search and analyzing the results yourself.
- Relevancy: How relevant is this keyword to your particular service offering. Only you will be able to answer this for your MSP.
- Profitability: Is this a search terms that is going to lead to a new managed services customer for you?
The big mistake that I’ve seen MSPs make is focusing on keywords that have high search volume, low competition, are highly relevant, but lack profitability.
A classic example of this is the keyword “Business Continuity.” Yes, as an MSP, you most definitely provide business continuity to your customers, but is that the term that business owners are searching for when they look for an MSP? In my experience, a keyword like “3rd party IT provider” is something much closer inline to what they may be thinking when they begin their search for a new MSP.
2) On-site SEO for MSPs
On-site MSP SEO relates to the search engine optimization that occurs on a company’s own website.
As mentioned above, there are the technical on-site SEO factors that MSPs must pay attention to, but they all come down to making sure that your site provides an optimal experience for its visitors. In my experience, the most important factors to pay attention to are:
- Page speed: make sure that your website loads quickly and accurately on all devices. As an extra measure, make sure your site passes Google’s page speed test.
- Local schema: this refers to extra markup that you put in your website’s HTML to make it easier for Google to understand what type of business you run and the services you provide.
- Robots.txt: your robots.txt file tells Google exactly which pages should be scanned for content and which should not.
- Broken links: as a best practice for user experience, you want to make sure that every link on your website works and that there are no “404 not found” errors.
- Orphaned pages: you also want to make sure that every page that has content worth indexing can be found on your website. If there are no links from your own menu system to a particular page, then it will be hard for Google or any user to find.
But more importantly for on-site SEO strategy is ensuring that your keywords appear in the right places. In terms of keyword placement, I’ve found it most important to ensure that your focus keyword for any single page includes keywords in the following areas:
- Title tag: the title of your website is the title is displayed on the search results page. This is possible the most important factor of onsite SEO and should absolutely include your top keyword.
- Meta Description: this is the description that is displayed under the title on the search results page. This should also include your main keywords.
- Headings: each of your web pages should have heading tags: <h1>, <h2>, etc. It’s important that these tags are ordered logically and also include your keywords.
- Image alt tags: any images on your pages should be relevant to your content and the “alt” tag should have a relevant and keyword rich description.
- Keyword density: finally you need to make sure that the topic of your website is clear by making sure your main keywords are repeated enough to be 1% – 5% of the content on the page.
3) Off-site SEO for MSPs
As mentioned earlier, off-site SEO is what happens off the MSP’s site to build credibility with Google. Often, this comes down to things like guest posts. Guest posts are blog posts that posted on another site entirely and link to your MSP’s website. This boosts the ranking of your MSP’s own site because the link coming from a third party (and hopefully high authority) site, acts a badge of credibility for Google and establishes that your own trustworthiness.
Other factors to consider with off-site SEO are directory listings. As many local directories like Yelp and Clutch themselves rank very highly for IT support related keywords, MSPs that rank highly within those directories can then gain the same visibility transitively. Think of it this way: if Clutch’s directory page ranks #1 in Google for “IT Companies Miami” and you rank #1 on that page, guess what? You’ve just gained major visibility in Google.
I recommend listing your MSP in as many relevant directories as possible, and obtaining as many positive and accurate reviews to gain as much as visibility as possible in said directories.
4) Google Maps for MSPs
The Maps listings in Google are an especially important part of any MSP SEO strategy, as many of the keywords that business use to find managed services providers produce a search results page with a prevalent “maps” listing.
The maps listings in Google display the relevant results to a search in the form of a map. These results are based off the keywords on the website, but also the location relative to the user making the search.
To optimize your MSP website for the Google maps listings, the key is to make sure that your Google My Business profile is accurate and up-to-date and keyword rich, as Google uses its Google My Business platform to populate these results.
Now, you be tempted to try to use an address for your Google My Business profile that is closer to your ideal customer than your actual office location. While this is a clever workaround, it is explicitly against Google’s terms of service, so we can’t recommend trying that one.
5) Blogging for MSPs
The first thing to understand about your MSP’s blogging strategy is that search engines have a single primary goal: delivering results that are most relevant to the user. Your blog posts should be written with that thought in mind.
When looking for an MSP, customers may be interested in:
- Learning how much an MSP costs.
- Learning which services are best for their company.
- Learning how to identify a good MSP or a bad MSP.
- Learning how to integrate the MSP with their existing processes.
Because MSP SEO is targeted often to key decision makers that are not necessarily in IT, it becomes even more important to make sure that the SEO really reaches out to those who aren’t necessarily within the industry. At the same time, the information does have to be technically valuable, because there are times when companies do engage with their own IT professionals to find the right source.
Use your blogging strategy to become an authority on the topics that business owners have about IT support, and answer the key questions surrounding that topic – if you do that, your MSP blogging strategy will be a success.
MSP SEO Takes Commitment
MSP SEO is constantly evolving and changing. Part of this is that the MSP industry is simply inherently competitive – in any single geographic market, there are dozens of MSPs competing over a few valuable positions in the Google search results.
SEO is also a tactic that is reliant on Google. Google has changed it’s algorithm in the past, and they will do it in the future. I can’t recommend that any MSP use SEO as their one and only tactic for gaining new customers – rather SEO should be a part of a holistic marketing plan.
Is SEO the right move for your MSP? I’m happy help you find out. Apply for a one-on-one strategy call with us at Tech Pro Marketing, and we’ll figure out what the next move is for your MSP.