20 years ago, people would discover machine shops by word-of-mouth, or a physical directory that showed up in their mailbox. As a kid, I remember flipping through the gigantic Yellow Pages and White Pages books.
I can guarantee that no one is using those today.
Instead, they head to Google and type what they need in the search bar. Search engine optimization (SEO) is what determines if your machine shop shows up in those search results.
I started learning about SEO in 2018, and I’ve learned a lot in the past few years. SEO, similar to machining, is always moving forward. There are new tools and resources to take advantage of. Since 2018, I’ve seen how a good SEO strategy can impact the growth trajectory of a business, and how ignoring SEO hides your website from the world.
The primary purpose of SEO is to reach more customers.
In this guide, I’ll explain the basics of SEO, and how SEO can help your machine shop reach more paying customers.
I remember trying to figure out what SEO was for weeks, maybe even months. I heard people mention SEO on podcasts and saw it on social media, but I couldn’t wrap my head around it.
In simple terms, SEO is the practice of getting a website to the first page of Google results.
Since most people never visit the second page of results, being on the first page is what really matters, and what will bring you new customers.
There are various aspects and stages in the SEO process. It typically involves improving the experience people have while visiting your website, and creating content related to the services you provide and products you sell.
Let’s take a look at a real-world example:
When I search “CNC machine shop in Chicago” there are about 2.5 million results. Since no one is going to visit all of those pages, Google needs to sort them and decide which website page is the best to show people. When people are happy with the results Google shows them, they’ll continue to use Google which means more money for Google.
The first few results you’ll see are Google ads. You might think that ads have the advantage because they show up at the top, but most people will scroll past the ads to the organic results. People don’t like being sold to, they want to explore and find the best solution on their own.
SEO is also better because as soon as the money flow is shut off, these ads disappear. You can invest in SEO and stay on the first page for months and years after you stop paying for the services.
The next thing you’ll see is three Google My Business listings. These show up for local businesses, and provide a quick overview of the business, including the location, contact info, and customer reviews.
Even if there are 25 machine shops in Chicago, only 3 shops will show up in the Google My Business results, so those 3 will get most of the search traffic. Part of SEO for your machine shop is optimizing the GMB listing, to get into the top 3 results.
Next, you’ll see the top organic results. Again, being in the top three results here is important. A study by Backlinko found that the top 3 Google search results get 75.1% of all clicks.
It’s still beneficial to have your website on the first page, which has 10 websites. Being on the 2nd, 3rd, or 14th page won’t get you more customers.
The benefits of SEO are huge if it’s done properly. There are millions of people using Google every second of every day, and many of them are searching for products and services.
That means there are hundreds or thousands of people searching for machine shops every month. That means there’s an opportunity to connect with people who need the services your machine shop provides.
There’s a good chance that you have a website for your machine shop. But, there’s a huge difference between having a website that looks nice, versus a website that fuels business. If you don’t pay attention to SEO, not many people will find your site. I had a website for years that no one ever visited outside of a few clicks from sharing it on social media.
Without SEO, your website is just a digital magazine. It’s not discoverable to people, unless you’re delivering it to their front door. SEO gives you the opportunity to show up in some of the 5.4+ billion daily Google searches.
Like I mentioned earlier, no one is flipping through physical books when they need to find a machine shop. So, you have two options: ignore SEO and don’t grow your business, or invest in SEO.
I have some good news: you don’t need to be an SEO expert to avoid some common website mistakes. Avoiding these SEO mistakes will help get your site to the first page of Google.
It’s easy to think that once your website is finished and live the job is done. A well-built website can rank in Google, but the potential is limited. If you’re not adding new content and updating the content on your website, you’re limiting your growth.
I’ve looked at hundreds of websites that haven’t been touched in 5 or 10 years. They paid a web designer to build a website, and then left it to sit, hoping for something to happen. Adding content to your website shows Google that your website is active and relevant. New content also increases your chances of ranking for more keywords.
Adding quality content to your website is the best way to increase organic traffic to your website.
Your content should answer questions that your customers are typing into their Google search bar. Content should describe different parts you’re making, materials you use, the industries you work with, and the machining processes you use.
I use Ahrefs and Answer The Public to create a strategic content strategy for machine shops.
Plugins are how most people add features to their website. There are plugins for just about anything, and even though they can add some cool and necessary features, they can also slow down your site.
One big piece of SEO is giving your website visitors a great experience. Waiting 10 seconds for a website to load feels like an eternity. You’ll lose most of your website visitors with a slow site, so they won’t even see all of your plugins.
One of the first steps I take when working with a client is to review the site speed.
Different plugins have weight to them, and they all take time to load. In short, the more plugins you have running, the longer your website visitors will be waiting, and the more often they’ll leave your site and head to your competitors.
I use Google PageSpeed Insights to review website speed.
You may have thought that your website shows up because Google reads the words on your site. That’s partially true, but it doesn’t tell the full story.
Let’s go back to my “cnc machine shop in Chicago” Google search. There might be 10 different ways to search for the same thing. I could search “Chicago cnc shop” “Chicago machine shop” “Best machine shop in Chicago” or “cnc shop near me”. You get the point.
All of those searches will yield the same results. This is good news because you don’t need to include every variation of what someone might search for. Including similar terms over and over and over and over again on your website is called keyword stuffing. You’re trying to stuff a bunch of keywords on every page of your site.
When you search “Best computer for college” the top results don’t include that exact term. In fact, the top result doesn’t even include the word “computer” at all.
This is because Google is smart enough to know what people are searching for.
Keyword stuffing won’t help you rank in Google, and it gives your website visitors a poor experience.
Now that you know what not to do, here’s what you should do to improve SEO for your machine shop.
1. Setup The Google Search Console – GSC will show you the keywords your site is ranking for, estimated traffic to your site, and help identify errors.
2. Setup Bing Webmaster Tools – this is Bing’s version of Google Search Console.
3. Install an SSL Certificate – this is one of the easiest mistakes to fix. An SSL certificate moves your website from “http” to “https” and if you don’t have one installed, Google warns visitors that your site isn’t secure. You can get a free SSL from Let’s Encrypt.
4. Identify broken links – neither people nor Google like broken links. When people click a button, they expect to go to another page of your website. Ahrefs has a free Broken Link Checker to help with this.
5. Check your website structure – your website needs to be easy for people to navigate. This means it’s easy to click from page to page, and move from learning about your business and capabilities, to getting connected with the right people.
6. Clean up your URL structure – the URLs for your website pages and posts should be short, and not include dates or numbers.
7. Write and optimize meta descriptions – this is the description that shows up in Google results, and will influence whether people click on your website or not.
8. Analyze your competitors – you need to know what your competitors are doing. Take a look at the main pages of their website, and see if they have a content strategy.
9. Create a list of content ideas – this can include your machine shop’s specific capabilities, info about industries you serve, a tour of your shop, and materials you work with.
10. Fix your images – images that aren’t optimized can make your website extremely slow. It’s also important to add alt text so people with visual impairments can understand your site better.
Bonus: hire me to help you with your machine shop SEO.
If this SEO Guide helped you, feel free to share this with your co-workers, and start implementing the tips. As always, if you need some extra help, send me an email here: firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out the form below.