Not so long ago, simply having a clean, attractive web site that promoted your brand, made it easy to buy your product or service, or get information about your company was good enough.
Your web site was an arm of your marketing collaterals – nothing more, nothing less.
But as Ray Comstock, senior search engine optimization (SEO) consultant for BusinessOnLine quickly points out, it’s no longer realistic to view your particular site as just one entry in a large Yellow Pages directory.
Today, your web site has a competitive advantage if you use virtual tools, blogs, video and other communication features that go well beyond the capabilities of collateral marketing so that it’s easy for anyone to interact with you. You’ve probably seen this referred to as Web 2.0.
The problem is, given the thousands of search opportunities on the web, what can you do to make your virtual self truly visible? What can you do to get a target customer to step up to your plate?
Getting people to your site
When people search on Google, Yahoo, or MSN, you need to be on the first page of the search results. For that to happen, these engines need to “see” you. Here are six techniques to increase that likelihood:
2. Create new content on an ongoing basis. It gives you a place to incorporate your keywords and sets you apart as a content expert.
3. A rule of thumb is 30 pages of content. They should be refreshed weekly.
4. Unique titles on each content page is important.
5. Incorporating keywords in the titles is even better. Your web administrator should insert meta descriptions. These should appear on each page. For example, a “CEO’s guide to improved leadership” is how we describe the archives for TEC (The Executive Committee). A different meta description should appear on each page.
6. Invite the reader to submit product reviews on each content page. Search engines pick up on this. This opportunity for feedback greatly enhances prospective customer acceptance and appreciation of your offerings.
Try putting yourself in the minds of your customers and how they search for your product or service online. Internet search engines reward people who search using specific keywords. But if people search using terms that are too general, the search results are ambiguous.
Using a customer focus group can be a big help. Simply ask, “When you think of our company, what words or phrases come to mind?” Also, it’s helpful to study your competitors’ keywords. What better search result than to have your Web site URL pop up on the same page as theirs during a search?
Regardless of the technique you use to bring keyword visibility to your company, the bottom line is that you want a multitude of search keywords that lead to identical search results.
Linking: How people (and spiders) locate you
This has probably happened to you. You visit one Web site and find yourself clicking on a link to another one which, in turn, takes you yet to another site, and so on.
The search engines are more or less “spidering” from one site to the next, and doing so based upon keywords in the URL and in the linked words or phrases. It’s important that a visitor at your site is taken to a link that is going to benefit you, not someone else. So once again, don’t ignore the importance of using specific keywords.
To ensure that your links are doing what you want them to do, have your administrator illustrate your site map (if you don’t have one, get one) and link it from the footer on your home page. This will show the architecture of your site, as well as how the spiders navigate for information to identify your site.
Good keywords will pave the way. For example, instead of a section that says “about us,” TEC would use the phrase “about TEC CEOs.”
Also, ask your key stakeholders to link to your site from theirs. This further increases your visibility within your industry.
Let your voice be heard
Comstock said that at the marketing summit he attended in Southern California recently, all of the presenters agreed that you need to have a consistent strategy for including relevant keywords in your content, so people searching for those keywords will find you.
A good way to do this is to use an outside source to write tips for you, including corporate blog content that can provide “insider” information about new product development or existing product innovations. Also regularly post on your site anything that’s newsworthy such as trade show participation, awards you’ve received, new partnerships, and so on
More and more people are using social media sites like these, and the numbers are increasing daily:
• Social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook.
• Professional networking sites like LinkedIn and Xing.
• Filesharing (photos, drawings, architectural plans, etc.) on sites such as Flikr, YouTube, and Wikipedia.
• Opinion sharing through online surveys, blog feedback and online forums.
The idea is to become virtually available to your customers anywhere and everywhere you can. Here are three simple ways to do that:
1. Maintain a dedicated e-mail form or address.
2. Pay attention to what people are saying about you by creating a “Google Alert” or by using a search engine like Technorati.com to search for your company’s name or keywords in the blogosphere.
3. Think about creating ongoing forums or a corporate blog that permits comments on your products and services, even if the comments are not always favorable.
Let’s face it. The Internet has proven to be an invaluable tool for strengthening business relationships. But visibility is the key. Until next month, here’s to a great virtual leap into these information highway opportunities.