What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, a very popular marketing practice that has gained popularity in the last few years. The main goal of every organization, whether for-profit or non-profit, is to increase visibility in search engine results and, consequently, to get more “organic traffic.” This, in turn, leads to more sales or more engagement with their target audience.
Traffic is considered “organic” whenever it arrives on a website not as a consequence of paid campaigns (for more information about paid campaigns and performance marketing for MSPs, visit our guide).
This result is achieved by incorporating different search-engine-friendly practices into a page, with the intent of ranking for specific keywords. These elements include things like keywords, backlinks, quality content, and more, all of which will be explained more thoroughly below.
The working principle of SEO is based on the act of “crawling.” Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo “crawl” websites to understand the website’s goals, how authoritative the website is, and who it is designed for. After crawling, search engines “index” pages of the website in a specific order. This is what will be shown to the consumer in search results.
It is important to bear in mind that the goal should never be just to get more people on your website, but rather to do it in a smart way by targeting an audience that will find your content useful, increasing the likelihood that they will use the company’s services.
Why is SEO Important for Managed Service Providers (MSPs)?
Like many other businesses, managed service providers, or MSPs, can benefit incredibly from incorporating SEO techniques in their marketing strategy. SEO allows companies to build up an audience without having to pursue expensive performance marketing campaigns.
SEO, if set up correctly, can be a valuable source of income that is maintenance free. Creating two or three articles that target the right keywords could be enough to produce your target number of leads on a monthly basis.
Managed Service Providers, specifically, have a higher margin compared to other types of businesses. This means that every lead acquired “organically” represents a huge surplus for the business. Another advantage for MSPs is that they can target multiple different types of consumers, especially if they have a wide portfolio of services. The more services offered, the wider the range of businesses that can be targeted, because every consumer could be interested in outsourcing one or multiple services to an MSP.
Now, let’s dive into how an MSP can successfully implement an SEO strategy.
Understanding Your Target Audience and Search Intent
As mentioned before, MSPs have many different possibilities in terms of focusing on a target audience: it could range from a company that produces toys to an access control company. The one thing most modern companies have in common is the need to outsource IT maintenance.
Keeping this in mind, it’s important to try to understand what moves a company to choose you as an MSP and other characteristics of your target audience. Having this information will highly increase your chances of producing content that can attract qualified traffic, and therefore, that will convert. We can get more information by asking ourselves simple questions about our audience:
- Background – What kind of job? Industry?
- Demographics – Age? Gender?
- Goals – Grow business? Save time? Temporary solution?
- Challenges – Growing too fast? Lack of knowledge? Need to move fast?
- Objections – Price? Scalability? Flexibility?
Keywords are the heart and soul of search engine optimization, and, in terms of online presence, you should consider them carefully in the development of your managed service strategy. Keywords are how consumers find your page. Depending on which keywords you decide to target, you will get different outcomes in terms of traffic and leads.
Finding your ideal keywords can be achieved in many different ways and with many different tools. Here are some techniques you can use to target the right keywords.
Start with Search Intent
Before targeting the right keywords and starting to experiment with the tools and techniques explained below, try to sit down and brainstorm—maybe with a couple of colleagues—on what the thought process is for someone looking for an MSP on a search engine. What are the queries that he or she might enter on Google or Bing? In simpler words, what is the search intent of your consumers?
Always keep this in mind before you start your keyword research, as well as while you do it. Always ask yourself, “are these keywords entered by people that need a managed service provider?”
Use the Google Search Features
Even without using any paid or free tool for keyword research, Google can offer you some help. Just by typing some keywords into the search box, the search engine provides you a list of related keywords that might be interesting to target. Let’s try to look for “managed service provider” and see what Google tells us:
As you can see, Google already gives a list of “suggested keywords” that you can eventually use to create some content or to update the content that you already have. This step of the analysis is useful to get some ideas about which directions you can go with your keyword research. The same happens once you enter your query. Google will suggest other related queries at the bottom of the page. Here’s that list with our keyword “managed service provider”:
These are all ideas that you can use, after having reviewed the possible search intent, for creating new content or updating your existing pages. The next step is to know how many people look for those queries on a monthly basis so that you can take your list of keywords and prioritize them.
Tools for MSP Keyword Research
Depending on your budget and needs, the market offers a wide range of keyword research tools that vary in accuracy and extra features, from free keyword research tools to complete SEO software. Let’s dive into five of the best solutions, while keeping an eye on their extra features and their price tag.
Answer The Public and Keyword Tool
Let’s start with two free tools, Answer the Public and Keyword Tool. These two tools have a price tag of $0 and can be very useful in your keyword research process. Answer the Public allows you to look for all the related searches and keyword suggestions for a specific query. Basically, that’s what Google does, but on steroids. What is holding Answer the Public back from being one of the best keyword research tools on the market is the lack of search volume, which is how many people look for a specific query per month.
Keyword Tool, on the other hand, works very similarly and has a search volume feature. The tool works smoothly and only occasionally lacks accuracy.
Keywords Everywhere is a Chrome plugin that works beautifully by itself or integrated with many SEO tools. It basically adds search volume and keyword difficulty index to existing Google features . The only thing you have to do is launch it and type a query in the search box. The results will appear directly on the right part of the screen and will look something like this:
As you can see, with our query “managed service provider”, these are the related queries with info about how many people looked for this query on a monthly average, what the cost per click would be (see our guide on PPC for MSPs), and competition. This tool also integrates nicely with Google Search Console.
Although it’s not free, Keywords Everywhere is a relatively affordable $2 per month. Definitely worth it for staying on top of your SEO strategy..
With SEMrush, you will not only have a keyword research tool but a complete software that can help you with all of your SEO needs, like auditing your website and monitoring the links in your domain. It can be useful for an MSP to have this tool, as it allows you to see how many people recommend your business and link to your site.
In terms of mere keyword planning, SEMrush is a great tool. One of its features, the “Keyword Magic Tool,” allows you to type in a specific keyword and find all the queries that have similar keywords and all the searches that are broadly related. The tool then allows you to create lists of related keywords and see search volume and other useful information.
Let’s be clear: If you only need a keyword planner, SEMrush is definitely more of a luxury tool. The price tag is, at a minimum, $99.99 per month, which is on the high end for this kind of tool. However, if you need a complete SEO software, which could never hurt, SEMrush is one of the best on the market.
BONUS: Google Search Console
Google Search Console is one of the many tools offered by the search engine for search engine optimizers and marketers. It is a tool that focuses almost entirely on your search results, and it has a variety of uses. It can be considered a “bonus” because it’s not technically a keyword research tool. Its main use is to look at which keywords consumers use to arrive at your website. By doing so, you can see which queries are generating the most revenue for your business!
The tool is completely free and it is one of the most important tools for every SEO. Here at Kisi, I use it daily!
Create Qualitative Content
If you have worked in marketing for a while, you will have heard the phrase “content is king” at least once. This concept has become especially important in the last few years, as Google is trying to be less and less dependent on keywords, instead of giving more flexibility in how a specific article matches a consumer’s search intent. This does not mean that keywords are useless—in fact, you couldn’t be more wrong to assume this— but that it is not possible to have high rankings if your content is not of high quality.
Many will tell you that quality content makes all the difference in the world. While this is true, it can be hard to know exactly what quality means in an SEO context. Quality is not only correct grammar, correct usage of punctuation, and first-rate images. Quality means, broadly, that if a consumer has a question, a qualitative article on your site answers the question thoroughly.
This is why it’s very important to use keyword research to understand the questions and needs of your consumers. Then, it’s up to your content marketing team to answer them accurately.
Authority and Links
The fact that some websites always rank in very high positions in the SERP (Wikipedia, Apple, IBM) is because these websites are very authoritative. What does authoritative mean? It means that overall, a website has affirmed itself as a trustworthy source that is very useful for consumers. Search engines really value this.
Every website has some kind of authority, which can be checked through tools like Moz.com, among others. A quick way to see if your SEO strategy is working out well is to keep that metric monitored for the long term.
How can you gain authority? Well, the technical answer would be to make sure to have a lot of links to your site from other authoritative websites. A good way of achieving this could be by asking your clients to provide your link on their website or to write a blog article that people might reshare on their domain. Another way to get more authority is to have a high engagement rate for your articles. High engagement means that people that visit your website tend to stay there for a long time, looking at different pages and converting to your set goals.
Lastly, don’t forget to check your reviews on Google, Trustpilot, and similar websites. Search engines look at these things! And always make sure you have good internal linking, as well as a very good-looking and easily navigable website!
Local SEO Tips and Tricks
The last thing to keep in mind is related to local SEO, meaning SEO related to your business’s location. This is especially important for managed service providers, as one of the most common search queries is “managed service providers in + name of city”.
l The following SEO checklist for MSPs will assist in improving your local SEO.
1. Verify your company on Google Business
The verification process takes one to two days on average. After this, you'll receive a postcard with a code for activation. This process will allow your business to appear on Google Maps searches and snippets as well as on the sidebar for users looking for your brand name, as shown in the picture below.
2. Optimize your listing on Google MyBusiness
Now that the hard part has been done (getting a listing), it is time to optimize your listing. Insert pictures, a description, opening times, and a link to your website, and add some contact information so that people can reach you from the SERP page.
Google also allows you to showcase pieces of your content or events (maybe not super useful for managed service providers, but you never know!). The better you take care of this page, the more you’re going to make a good impression on your customers—and make Google’s life easier.
3. Again, focus on reviews!
Reviews are so important nowadays. You would be surprised to know how many businesses take a review profile into consideration before requesting a quote or contacting a B2B service provider. Reputation management is important for every B2B company, and MSPs are no exception. This is one of the reasons why we have created a series of pages that focus on the best IT managed service providers in the main tech hubs of the United States.
Ask your clients to leave a positive review on Google MyBusiness, and create and maintain a clean and detailed profile on Trustpilot and other platforms. As a managed service provider, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on Capterra.
Managed service providers are part of an emerging market that will get more and more attention in the coming years, as more companies seek to modernize their IT systems and maximize efficiency. For this reason, it is very important to establish yourself as an authoritative domain and to build upon this in the next few years. Target your consumers, explain what your work is about, answer the public, and get your results up in the SERP, where your clients can find you easily.
This guide is meant to help you get an idea of what you should do to build a healthy online presence for your MSP business. For the rest, there are plenty of materials that can help you with some of your more detailed problems. We have written multiple articles related to MSPs and how to grow your business. Check out our guides on:
- How to Scale/Streamline Your MSP Business
- Find the best MSP Forum
- MSP Onboarding Checklist
- PPC for MSPs