By Scott 'Gears'
Let's face it, the Internet is a crowded place... and it's becoming even more crowded as you read this.
Your business can't stand still online, and you can't afford to look backwards. Qualified, targeted traffic generation is what we all desire. Owning your category online goes a long way in providing just that.
It's not about just looking forward, but moving forward and taking some ownership. Every business online today is worried about being found in the Top 10 Search Engines and Directories for their products or services - and they should be! Statistics still make them (search engines) the number one stop for all surfers.
So, just for a moment let's imagine that these search engines and directories provide the most relevant results. That's right, let's just say for the sake of this article, that they all work extremely well. O.K?
Now, since we believe that our products or services are way more relevant than those companies listed above us in (today's) search engines results - we have to admit something is wrong... but remember, the search engines are perfect.
We all know you can buy your keywords in Google™ and Overture™ right? Does that make you the best? (not.) Do surfers know this? (Yes.) Does it make your business (your website) any more relevant? (No.) It does put businesses with a larger budget at the top of the pile again, that's all. Is this why many of us don't click on sponsored links? (Ahem...)
If the search engines were (are) perfect, then let's get back to something else being wrong. Hmmm, my website must be broken! Wow, somebody is actually staying with me here.. My website must be broken?
Why else would all those "other" websites be showing up ahead of my business when people search for my products/services/information?
Don't these people know we are the experts? (nope.) Don't they know our products are superior? (nope.) Can't they see the skill we employ and our dedication to employee and customer service? (nope.) Haven't they read the reviews? (probably...)
So, in an effort to help you "own your category online", here's some suggestions to assist your business in getting ahead of those "other" websites and putting your business where it rightly belongs! If you already employ all these practices, we commend you. But if you find yourself behind, these tips can help your company without having to become a Webmaster or a Search Engine Marketing Professional. Pass these on to your Marketing Team and get better results and recognition starting today!
DO: Research the search terms (keywords) that people would use in seeking out your offerings. You can start with Wordtracker™ and the search terms you first come up with. Wordtracker™ will help you locate terms that are similar to your terms in meaning and search.
It is a tool that gives you an *idea of what the general terms people are using, and how many searches are taking place on these terms... * that's another book though. This is a great starting point and the trial really is free!
Tip: Do not just 'look-up' your company name, - prospective customers or vendors or partners are not looking you up by your 'company name' in Google™ - they don't know it yet...?
Surfer's have become quite good at 'searching'. Be specific and general. You will also learn who you have to beat online! - Who's kicking your butt when people search for your product or service online? That first page of results is your market share online!
Do: Make sure you have a *keyword specific "Title" for every webpage that's relevant to the content on that page (*keyword specific, not keyword stuffed).
Page Title; Top of the screen, blue 'title' bar (in explorer). I still see thousands of websites with "Homepage" in the title bar, or "MyOneHotBusiness.com" and just that phrase or 'Title' is repeated throughout every page on their website!
Each page in your website is (content) unique - make it's 'Title' unique too! Or call your webmaster with new "titles" for each of your website pages. Different values are placed on this "page title" from the different search engines and directories.
Tip: Add "Chicago, Chicagoland, Illinois" to the end of your Title (your city, state). This helps in regional search queries.
Do: Have at least 200 words of (content specific) text on the pages of importance (homepage, category pages, etc.).
This is what the engines and directories DO read, these words and links are how the engines interpret what's on this page. Images or pictures of words or "ads" are not "read" so-to-speak. Make this text content highly relevant to the topic (product or service) on this page.
Tip: Put your fancy Flash commercial on a link from your homepage and put up a content relevant page of your best text instead! Visitors will still look at your commercial if you tell us it's cool, but don't force us to watch it! - That's not what we came for. This Flash file does almost nothing for search engines and directories.
Do: Have yourself or your professional staff write articles on their specific area of expertise in product or service. Make these articles a webpage with relevant links to the product or service directly.
Short of hiring a Search Engine Marketing Consultant or a Professional Copywriter, these detailed articles if rich and full of relevant content, are the exact pages that will generate you the most qualified and targeted visitor to your business! Once these 'article pages' are crawled (indexed) by the search engines you will be pleasantly surprised to see that (now) you are a more relevant search result.
(Not to be confused with 'links' or 'reciprocal linking programs' - your (article) webpages are much more "read" and effective in sending the reader to your site, or keeping them there, not to mention the branding opportunities)
These articles not only show your business as an authority, they prove it in words and information for the reader, me, a human. These concise type articles are an excellent way to gain exposure, recognition (branding), traffic, and yes, even sales. You said you were an authority, now prove it.
Tip: Submit these articles to other online and offline publications and Ezine's. You make them available to other websites just for leaving your Author and link intact. There are businesses craving this type of content for their website's success!
Your business website will begin receiving quality traffic from every website that posts your company's article(s)! Now there's a strong statement.
Do: Include your URL (www.) in every piece of material you print - every piece of traditional advertising you already pay for!
Every week I read through different newspapers and magazines - I can't believe how many businesses forget to put their web address in that Advertisement they paid for. You pay big bucks for a quarter page ad or whatever, and then never mention your website!?! Which is open 24/7/365 - and that Tribune is just around for two days! Start your marketing return on investment right there!
Tip: Offer a "website only" promotion or coupon special in your Ads to generate further interest and traffic to your specific offer web pages!
Do: Ask visitors to "Bookmark your site" or "Tell a friend" or "Send this article to a friend"...
Your visitors don't always think of it, so just ask them? Bookmarks not only increase return visitors, but they also give you a vote of confidence in providing something worthwhile... even if that's a return trip! This does not have to be bold and obnoxious either, a simple button saying "Bookmark Us" will do on any business website.
Do: Be Patient. All search engines and directories have different timeframes for updates, changes and new submissions.
After making changes or additions to your site, allow 90 days after initial submission for realistic results to begin showing in the major search engines and search directories.
Owning your category online is more than just a few keywords. Don't just say you do all these things!
Do: Go and check!
Tip: Go and check again!
Because if you do your best with these few suggestions - your website will show up higher in the search results for those relevant terms you selected. You'll be hundreds of websites ahead, and getting more qualified visitors too. There's much more to owning your category online, but every business should be employing these "level one" marketing concepts.
There, now we can stop imagining that the search engines are perfect.
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