I was just reading the 2011 Ranking Factors Guide that SEOMoz just published. Yes, that is how I spent my Friday night. I realize how that looks. Anyway, there wasn’t anything that really surprised me, I think it makes sense that Google and Bing are heading in the direction they are in. At the end, I was reading comments and one caught my attention, “the tricksters continue to lose ground while honest marketing and engagement efforts gain ground…” I feel the same way.
The internet is more and more mimicking real-life. Just like we engage more with the people that we find the most interesting, search engines will rank sites higher based on what people find interesting by retweeting, sharing or linking. Isn’t this the way it’s supposed to be?
Now I’ve really put the pressure on you, huh? When I am introducing businesses to social media, there is always a fear of content. What do I post?
I have yet to meet a client who doesn’t have a lot to say about their business or their industry. In fact, most business owners have similar characteristics in that their passion is magnetic. Some more than others, but if they have an opportunity to talk about their business, they can open up and capture everyone’s attention. It really is beautiful to see and it is one of my favorite things about my job. I usually say, “If you can speak, you can blog.” But I guess I’ve only said that to people who are passionate about their business and industry. They have a lot to say and they know a great deal. That is why I believe they can learn to post well. You have to post passionately.
Relevant content isn’t just about social media, it’s website content too. And, it will be all internet engagement, including writing reviews, commenting on blogs, pictures and videos you post, everything. It all matters. When it comes to the internet, your opinion matters. And that is the best thing about online marketing.
I won’t be changing what I teach very much. There may be a few details to consider, but the overall concept is still the same. Content rules!
Your business has a website and it looks great (or at least you think so). Customers say they like it as well. What is with this optimization thing? Why should I optimize my business website? It all starts with what you want your website to achieve. Local business websites generally fall into two categories:
The website that serves existing customers.
The first requires little or no optimization. Existng customers know the business, they probably already have the website address from a business card or email. Generally the lack of competition for the search phrase that is a business name means that a “search by name” will bring up the business website. A website that serves existing customers is both easy to maintain and unrewarding.
The website that serves existing customers and generates new customers.
This type of website is different. It takes understanding and consistent effort. To understand some of what it takes you can review the lesson content in our online marketing training. In January 2007 there 106,875,138 websites on the internet. In January 2011 there were 273,301,445 websites. That is 156% growth in just four years. This growth makes it more difficult than ever to get found online by people looking for your products or services. The need to optimize is greater than ever and optimization is getting more complex.
Optimizing your website is essential for driving new customers. When a search is conducted for anything online, it causes the search engine of choice to query the database of billions of web style documents. In truth it is similar to a standard database query just extremely more complex. From this query the search engines want to focus on three areas:
The search engines use these matrix to return results that are relevant or useful to the searcher’s query, The results are ranked in order of importance. It is all three components that the process of search engine optimization is designed to influence.
If you want to gain new customers search engine optimization is a critical component of any local business marketing plan.
A recent study by the Pew Research Institute showed that 92% of Americans use the internet for a search of some sort, 92% also use email and 65% use it for social networking. Daily search engine and email use is at 60%. The graph below provides very interesting insights into the progress of the digital age. Search and email usage have been in the 80-90% range for nearly a decade and social networking has grown to 65% from 15% in 4 years. This growth has not negatively impacted search engine or email use and the social network “rate of growth” has slowed a little. Pew also released a different study showing that 35% of Americans now own a smartphone. To explain: 83% of U.S. adults have a cell phone of some kind and 42% of them own a smartphone. That translates into 35% of all adults have a smart phone.
Online Marketing – a no-brainer for business?
Given all this information you would think every business leader, from a Fortune 500 CEO to the owner of corner shop would embrace every aspect of online marketing. Not true in our experience. There is a strange fear that exists for most. Similar to a child confronting something entirely new, attracted by the gaudy shine, reaching out delicately with fingers outstretched and body arched away. The child knows it wants the trinket, yet there is such a fear of the consequences of complete commitment that the object of desire is never fully embraced.
What drives the fear?
There are all sorts of theories about why this is happening:
- The generation gap between the age of business leaders and those leading development of digital media.
- The recession is keeping heads in the sand.
- It is a completely new discipline that requires a new understanding.
- It takes a lot of time and effort to do properly.
All of these probably have an impact. Our belief though is that the core reason runs deeper. Its more tied to a fear of change. Business has operated in very similar fashion for a generation. Broadcast and print advertising were the best options. Pushing out a message to potential customers. Even better the business controlled the message. Now things have changed. The customer controls the message.
How to close the gap
The bad news is it can be a significant gap, the good news is, it doesn’t all have to be done at once. The first step is understanding what Online Marketing really is and how to utilize it for your business. There is a wealth of information online if you have the time to research and verify the source you can educate yourself. Our Online Marketing Training programs provide up to date and comprehensive training modules centered around your business. Once you understand how online marketing works and how it can fit with your business; then choose your strategy. Implement your strategy with energy and long term commitment. Most importantly:
Start and complete the process of changing your company culture to embrace the new age. Develop an open and mutual communication with your customers. Openly engage and empower them. The unfortunate truth is if you are frightened of what your customers will say then you are doing something wrong. Worse they are probably already saying it somewhere online. The digital age is about open communication: if you are not in the conversation it is still happening. So join the conversation.