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That’s something of a wild idea… the complete package! So, what would a quality SEO service for Borders businesses look like? It’s an important question given the diversity of businesses in Cumbria. I like to think I’m the top SEO service in Carlisle, but I am sure my delusion could be easily shattered. 🙂

The reality is that a complete service for one business may be very different to another. And in these tense times that “complete” may change quite suddenly.

Note: This article was written with the help of ChatGPT, as I was curious about what it would come up with as a “complete service”. 

Alston is a business hub outside Carlisle. Small businesses predominate.

The Importance of SEO in the New Counties of Cumberland and Westmoreland & Furness

Digital marketing doesn’t exist in it’s own vacuum bubble. The geopolitical landscape is evolving. With Putin’s Russia making war and disrupting commerce there are real repercussions for business. Closer to home there has been some slightly insane and unnecessary disruption caused by politicians deciding to split Cumbria in half.

The digital marketing world isn’t immune to the resulting carnage. At least one digital platform I use has had their offices in Ukraine completely disrupted. And closer to home, the uptake of the reborn “Cumberland” in people’s search behaviour seems to be very slow. Cumbria search terms still dominate the data.

Standing out in a crowded online marketplace continues to become more complex and competitive. The current cost of living crisis is reducing the amount of spending on even life’s essentials. Harnessing the power of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) becomes more testing by the day it seems. Staying on top of search results isn’t just an incidental benefit of being online. It is absolutely vital for businesses aiming to survive these tricky times.

A Reminder of What SEO Actually Is!

In a nutshell, SEO involves optimising your online content. I like to picture it more as “tuning” your content… to the wants and needs of people who are searching. They will be looking for products, services or solutions to problems online. Your aim is to be the one result they see that’s most in tune with their “ask”.


A chimpanzee piano tuner is the Deep AI answer to a search in Carlisle. (only kidding)

The search engines claim to show the top answers to those queries. How on earth do they come up with the best answer to your question? You might need a piano tuner in Carlisle, hopefully you’ll have better luck than Deep AI’s answer to your problem. 😉

Online searches fall into patterns. In the past we’ve focussed strongly on particular keywords as the label for those wants of the searcher.

We’ve tried to build our content and calls to action around those phrases while addressing what the searcher is looking for. As Google Bing and the other search engines have learned more about our search habits, they have integrated that knowledge with ever more powerful Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Machine learning has been steadily training Google’s and Open AI’s enormous banks of computers to develop enormous language models. Google search is now built around semantic units and entities (freaky!). Essentially that’s concepts and things.

Generative search has gone beyond just matching the concepts and things with phrases and close synonyms. Those damn chips can now recognise quite subtle variations in context of searches and create human like responses. As well as that it’s beginning to interpret searches more “intuitively” and serve up more diverse “best” answers.

It could all sound rather scary and impenetrable for us mortals of limited and aging brain power. Some days it really does! However the bottom line of any SEO strategy and the service that implements it, is to to serve up a bloody good solution on your page! It’s not optional and it’s going to be a crucial pillar supporting the visibility and success of businesses globally, helping the savvy ones attain sustained visibility and growth.

The Multifaceted Nature of SEO in Cumbria and the Borderlands

SEO isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s a complex discipline that intertwines multiple digital marketing strategies. Too often those strategies are delivered in isolation. Even more damaging is when the digital marketing, SEO and social media work is executed without understanding the business’ over arching marketing strategy and goals.

A bit of blogging by one department might be delivered by a badly briefed freelancer. Some cheap nasty link building might have been done at the start of the project. Citation work might be delivered through a platform in the Phillipines by the marketing manager: when he spots one particular hole in his local visibility.

For businesses in Carlisle, Cumbria, and the wider Borders region, that’s not a coherent way to get a head start on your competitors.

Multi faceted skills of the digital marketer

Where Should Your SEO Consultant or SEO Company be Steering You For Long Term Success?

Understanding the Market You are Immersed In

  • What Everyone Wants: You aren’t trying to satisfy everyone’s desires. Your business is trying to attract a tiny slice of the thousands of people online. Are you clear what that buyer persona looks like and what is hurting them enough to make them search for what you offer?
  • Patterns and Words: Have you or your digital marketing support unpicked how those personas search for what you offer online? The way they ask in search engines is different to the way they ask face to face when they walk in to your premises. That’s where keyword research becomes very important. Finding the important phrases and the hidden hooks that people use when they are keen to buy.
  • Devices and Technology: That search language is different again when they search via Alexa or conversationally with Google’s Search Generative Experience. It’s different again on Tiktok and Youtube!
  • Pesky Competition: In Carlisle and out in the Scottish Borders you may not be up against huge competition. However it is important to understand what competitors strengths and vulnerabilities are. This helps you to understand the kind of effort and investment you will need to make, to be seen locally.

Copywriting & Content Creation for Local or Wider markets

  • The Power of Words: Quality content is the backbone of SEO. For businesses in Carlisle, this means creating content that resonates with the local audience while also appealing to those in Cumbria and the Borders. And what is this quality content? Is it an informative blog or a sales page that needs to convert visitors to buyers within 7 seconds of landing?
  • Blogging & Content Marketing: Regularly publishing fresh, unique articles or videos can significantly boost your website traffic. This not only helps in ranking for a plethora of keywords but also positions your business as a thought leader in the region. More and more it’s becoming essential to make sure that that content is helpful to people and not just fluff.

Social Media: All Fur Coat And No Knickers?

  • Have You Got a Voice: Does Your brand exist beyond a few landing pages? Social signals of engagement, those shares and likes, do play a role in Google’s ranking algorithm. (When the platforms are on speaking terms) A strong social media presence can seed and amplify your SEO efforts.
  • Sowing the SEED: Social can be that first point of contact. It probably doesn’t generate a sale straight away but implants the seed of your brand in someone’s thoughts. It’s especially useful when targeting a broader audience across Carlisle, Cumbria, and the Borders.

Website Design and Technical SEO

  • The Master Plan: A good brief to your designer based on a well thought out user journey prevents many issues before your new site is built.
  • Website Health: A fast-loading, mobile-optimised, and secure website is favoured by search engines and people. Constant vigilance on the live website can quickly identify and rectify technical glitches that might hamper customers ability to use the website or depress your rankings.
  • UX – The Unexploded Bomb: How visitors feel when they visit your website is part of the User Experience (UX). It’s enormously important in influencing their willingness to buy from you. This is where planning and testing attributes from headlines to colours of buttons can make a massive difference. And that of course leads into…
  • Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO): Driving traffic is one part of the equation. Ensuring your website effectively converts this traffic into leads or sales is equally crucial. That’s why knowing your market is so crucial. A well-optimised site will provide a seamless user experience, nudging visitors towards the desired action.

It’s More Than Just Your Own Website

  • Local SEO Citations: some of the most straight forward backlinks come from the dozens of directories that you can sign up to. Names like Google Business Profile, Yell and Yelp are familiar to many but there are over 200 possibilities in the UK. Names like Bing Places, Brownbook, Foursquare, Cylex, Opendi, Scoot and Central Index are listings to get familiar with. Many of these, once free, sites are monetising – so get in quick.
  • Backlink Bonanza: Backlinks are the web. They let people jump from another website onto yours and the search engines follow these pathways too. They are always going to be influential… if they are relevant. Beware cheap backlink offers on Fiverr.com! Good backlinks take time and relationships to build.
  • When PR and SEO Collide: Getting mentioned on big websites or news channels is brilliant for your brand. Digital PR is in large part about turning that mention into a backlink which can send you visitors. Google loves that vote of confidence for you too. So get out there and try to stand on the shoulders of giants!

Beyond Just Rankings

  • Holistic Approach: SEO is much more than just one piece of the digital marketing puzzle. SEO affects many aspects of digital marketing. Incorporating other strategies like Google Ads, email marketing, and display advertising creates a well rounded online strategy.
  • Measurement & Tracking: It’s essential to monitor the results of your SEO efforts. Tools can track every enquiry, phone call, or transaction, helping businesses understand which strategies are bearing fruit. 

Local SEO Matters for Carlisle, Cumbria, and the Borders

  • Tailored Strategies: While Carlisle remains the primary focus, expanding your reach to Cumbria and the Borders can open up new opportunities. Local SEO is great for visibility in your own backyard. It takes significantly more effort to ensure you’re visible to customers in the wider area.
  • Community Engagement: Engaging with local events, charities, or news can boost your local SEO efforts.  It’s about being an active participant in the communities you serve. The benefits come from word of mouth, social media mentions and locally relevant backlinks.

The Bigger Picture

The bigger picture takes us back to the beginning of the marketing cycle. Understanding your market and how your offer satisfies it, is always the most important aspect of getting your marketing right. 

  • Continuous Learning: The digital landscape is ever-evolving. Staying calmly updated with the latest SEO trends and algorithm changes is vital.
  • Partnership with Experts: Collaborating with an experienced SEO agency can provide clarity and direction. They bring expertise, tools, and strategies to your table. They keep your business ahead of the curve, while allowing you to focus on running it. To digital marketers themselves collaboration is key as none of has all the skills at the right level of fluency to do everything ourselves.
Carlisle SEO Services get businesses found by the right eyes!

In conclusion, a complete SEO service for businesses in Carlisle, Cumbria, and the Borders is not just about rankings. It’s about working with someone or an agency which understands the intricate web of dependencies within the digital marketing strategies and tactics that you often read about. It’s about leaning in on each aspect just enough to create a robust online presence. In these challenging times, having a comprehensive SEO strategy built into your wider marketing plan can be the difference between merely surviving and actually thriving.

And a note about writing with Chat GPT. It can come up with some hilarious takes on what a complete SEO service might look like. It probably led me down some completely daft alleyways and at times it felt like I was wasting time. BUT… I was also stalled for ages on how to turn a piece that is basically written for nabbing some online real estate, into something that would either be useful, or at least amusing. Chat GPT did give me a couple of slightly different ideas for headings than I might have come up with otherwise. But it did churn out some completely disingenuous ideas that I couldn’t really use because the language form that came out was just not me. In total there are possibly 3 or 4 sentences in this piece that are courtesy of the LLM and its AI. Some of the illustrations are AI produced too. Can you tell? Course you can. I dabbled with DallE2 but the results were awful. The chimp and the cyberpunk freelancer are courtesy of several increasingly weird prompts to DeepAI.org. The photos are my own though. So Ai and LLMs are going to be part of our work in marketing, but they are not going to be taking anyone’s job yet! The learning curve to make best use of them is steep.