Enough already with those darn search engines!
by Jim Hague, CEO, CrystalDI Web Design (www.crystaldiwebdesign.com)
So you’re concerned about search engine rankings?
You’ve read books, listened to so-called expert advice, and urged your Webmaster to add the correct Meta tags. You’ve established a monthly budget for a pay-per-click campaign only to realize you could have used those same dollars to pay ‘other’ bills. Some of you paid SEO companies who promised results only to fall short of the glory. End result: Your website’s search engine placement is less than satisfactory.
Enough of those ‘darn’ search engines! Obtaining high a ranking is too competitive to rely on traditional search submissions. Why? Because everyone is doing it!
Let’s take an example of a profession that’s very competitive on the search engine scene, divorce attorneys. Their websites may have Meta tags such as: divorce, child support, visitation rights, property settlements, restraining orders, family law, and whatever else makes divorce attorneys…divorce attorneys. As we all know, there are too many divorce attorneys! Just ask the marriage counselors.
So the question is, if all competitors in the same profession use similar tags embedded into their code, how does a business get ahead in the search rankings?
The easy (and costly) answer is to utilize a Pay Per Click system like Ad Words. Set a budget and see how you fair against your competitors. The more you pay, the higher up you are ranked. That leads to another question. Regardless of your site’s ranking, how many visitors end up as clients? What is your Return of Investment?
The other ‘easy’ (and less expensive) answer to get results is to diversify your e-marketing strategy by not just playing the search engine game, but by ‘building your own audience.’
Place an Email Opt-in on each page of your site
We all know of the old real estate cliché that the value of a home depends on three factors: location, location, and location. The value of a website depends on database, database, and database. Build a database with as many names and emails as possible. The website, ‘ivillage.com’ sold to NBC for $50 million because they managed to collect a number of names and emails almost equal to the price tag. If your website depends on advertisement revenues, you’ll want high numbers in your database and ‘constant’ communication with those on the database in the form of mass e-mailings. Major advertisers won’t even consider advertisement on your website unless your ranking is high up on the ‘www.alexa.com’ scale. Even local ‘small town’ businesses have their standards.
Have your Webmaster add a ‘name / email opt-in’ somewhere on the website, usually the upper right hand corner of a page. Have the data transferred via email (where it can be collected and stored using a tool like Microsoft Excel) or database.
There are third party programs that can generate code to add to your website so that once a name or email is entered, the data is stored within that program’s database. Just Google ‘mass email’ and you’ll find many websites such as ‘ConstantContact.com’ and ‘icontact.com’ that offers this service for a monthly fee.
Web Page Referral Links
Any sales or marketing professional will tell you that referrals are the best source for closing deals on prospective clients. Add a “Refer this Page” function on all pages of your website. When clicked on, this “Refer this Page” link leads to a page with at least four fields: (1) Sender’s Name (2) Sender’s Email (3) Recipient’s Name (4) Recipient’s Name. In addition, the full web address of the referring page should be displayed. Once submitted, the recipient will receive the email as it was sent from the ‘sender’ and not the website!
This strategy is less intrusive, more personable, and works better than blindly sending out email as if you are spamming!
For an example of the “Refer this page” functionality, go to http://www.crystaldiwebdesign.com and view the top menu. If interested in obtaining files to create the “Refer this Page’ function, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to send you the files for your Webmaster to install.
Social Networking Integration
Create a company profile within the major social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Why? It allows you to (1) build a ‘friends’ list and build it big! (2) Notifications about your business can be instantly seen by the members of your friend’s list without the need to send emails. (3) If you wish to send emails, these sites have features for sending mass emails easily. And best of all, (4) these social networking sites are FREE.
Which Social Networking site is right for you? Depends on your target audience. If a business caters to a younger audience (selling T-Shirts, ski gears, iPods, bubble gum, computer parts) then My Space profile should be established. If a business caters to other businesses or a mature crowd, then Face Book should be the focused social networking site.
Twittering? Do you like being followed via cell phone text messaging? That’s what Twittering is all about. The service does not necessarily cater to businesses, but great if you’re an entertainer, coach, teacher, or just keeping touch with friends. Better than the paparazzi.
Social Networking for your own site
Yes, you can establish social networking within on your own site, allowing your audience to build a friend’s list, upload videos, exchange pictures, instant message, and everything else FaceBook or MySpace offers…all under your own web address! This is great idea for sites catering to like-minded people sharing a hobby or passion. For example, if your website represents a non-profit for animal rights, creating a social networking platform allows for a gathering of animal lovers to share stories about the pets they’ve rescued and the hunters they’ve scared off. Being that this is part of your website you set the rules, decide who comes in and who is banned. You can create the topics of discussion as well. Most important, it’s a traffic generator and search engines will reward you for it.
Marketplace Integration: Google it? No, Ebay it!
If you are selling products online, you should have a shopping cart established. Many owners of websites which sell products online seem to be very focused search results and rightly so. However, it’s important to note that most people browsing Google and Yahoo are there for mainly research, or the ‘just looking’ crowd that walk in a store and then walk out.
Focus on placing products where the customers are ready pull out their credit cards.
Add your products on Ebay, Amazon, Shop.com, PriceGrabber, Yahoo Shopping, etc. This is where the shoppers are. More money is exchanged through online marketplaces in a year than the stock exchange! The money is flowing on these sites, use it and offer discounts.
Blogging, Discussion Boards, and Chat
Allowing people to discuss topics amongst themselves is a major attraction. People love to express their opinions and writing online is the best way to just that. Blogging usually begins with an author writing an article within a blog application and promoting it for discussion. Visit a website for a major news organization (like abcnews.com) and see for yourself. Discussion Boards are similar only that it does not require an article, just simple discussion. Chat rooms are great for live interactions on a topic.
Many of these applications can be searched on Google and can be installed free.
If a healthy exchange is maintained, the audience keeps coming back.
The Video Phenomenon
The future of the web (and it probably already here) is video and audio. If you can decrease the amount of verbiage within your site and just allow people to listen or watch, that’s as user friendly as you can get. Create a mini-infomercial about your products or services and place them on YouTube, FaceBook, or MySpace. Include them within a video blog software for your audience to view and comment.
Studies show that people read content on web pages 20% slower then on print. Your audience will appreciate you saving their sore eyes from scanning words by installing good videos!
Build your audience and the search engine rankings will follow.
If I can answer any questions to you, email me at email@example.com.
Visit my website at http://www.crystaldiwebdesign.com.