A website serves as the base of operations for talking with your target audience and building trust.
Though it has never been disclosed exactly how social media plays a role in SEO, we do know on-page Likes, Tweets, Shares etc are acknowledged by Google’s algorithm. We also know Google are now indexing Twitter tweets. Regardless of easy or difficult it is to rank in a search engine, your first priority should be to please the people who visit your website by making it excellent.
Think of it like this: if your website is a wasteland, what is the point in getting web traffic in the first place? Some people spend a fortune on Adwords campaigns but do not even have conversion landing pages set up.
Allow your digital marketing to become a sort of long term conversation, not a fly-by-night attempt to separate people from their money. Trust me, they’ll know.
Visibility, Familiarity, Reputation
You should pay attention to long term, legitimate methods of web promo. Instead of broadcasting your products and services at people, take the approach where you talk to people. Choose a specific cross section of people you know you can help and serve and get busy communicating that mission.
- When you meet customers face to face, give them a business card with your website URL.
- If you talk on the phone direct them to your social media channels as a way to stay connected.
- Frequently update your website with rich, helpful, generous content with a good amount of personality.
The point is that you should actively engage with people on a level that corporations or large businesses cannot.
Because of logistical constraints, the bigger businesses are not going to have the freedom you have.
Don’t think of yourself as a small business, but a flexible business.
Corporations spend months in the boardroom locked in discussion before they’ll try a new approach because of the cost of changing their marketing from the top down. Even then, under pressure from shareholders, companies might get a new CEO every few years and change strategies.
“Small businesses are nimble and bold and can often teach much larger companies a thing or two about innovations that can change entire industries.”
– Richard Branson
As a smaller business, you have the opportunity to be flexible, creative, pragmatic and willing to take small risks. Investing time and effort in marketing to a specific audience long term is better than spending money on wish washy advertising that nobody cares about.
An excellent approach to marketing is to teach your customers about your product so they know what they’re paying for. Setting expectations ahead of the money transaction is your chance to show off your expertise, knowledge and approach to business.
Produce articles, videos, audio and presentations and PROVE you are what you say you are.
If you’re any good at what you do, you shouldn’t find it difficult to come up with something resembling a white paper, or perhaps a recorded audio interview (podcast) where you provide sound answers to questions your audience have.
Cure people’s concerns by going to the effort to show them how good you are. It really is worth educating your customers because you’re building a reputation among them.
Have a look at some of these ideas for content.
I’ve met small businesses owners who feel disillusioned with the internet (or have been mislead by bad info). They do not believe the online world will help them or add value to their business.
More often than not, it is lack of patience or absence of a strategy. Without any real ideas of how to corner their market they are like magpies, hopping from one technology solution to the next and not putting in the work required.
Putting an advert in the paper and crossing your fingers is NOT a strategy. That is like putting money in fruit machine and hoping something good happens. If you do place classified ads, at least use the ad to promote the content on your website, thereby funneling traffic to your virtual shop window.
Before you spend money on any ads, do some research. Talk to people, Ask questions. Find out what is broken and how you can fix it.
This is marketing.
Search Engines are Overrated
What always confuses me is why a website owner places so much importance on rankings. Surely business growth is what they want?
Being in the top results of a set of search engine results doesn’t mean you’re going to benefit from it. If your website is crap it won’t be long before it drops out of the top results.
People vote with mouse clicks. If your site is no good, they’ll leave the site and pick a different one. Search engines measure this kind of user activity and know if your website is not getting real traction.
The Search Engine Problem
I’ve read thousands of stories about individuals who paid large sums of cash to try and get high ranking search engine positions for a website.
While we should allocate a decent marketing budget to our businesses, throwing money at short sighted short term search engine tactics is not a strategy. (Try saying that after a few drinks!)
It is easy to fall foul of Google’s search engine algorithm updates. The mathematical formula Google uses to calculate search engine positions is beginning to lean on social media. On page shares/likes are playing a greater role because it’s harder to fake genuine human interaction.
Every time Google updates their algorithm, webmasters who have implemented keyword stuffing or built low quality backlinks will see their quick and dirty techniques come undone. These techniques give a bad name to the legitimate SEO and does nothing to improve Wild West snake oil salesman perception of those who offer genuine internet consulting services.
Search engine traffic is nice to have. If it is there, I’ll take it, but it is earned, not guaranteed. If you build a business off the back off a high ranking, you’re in for a rude awakening if a competitor website enters the market and knocks you off your perch.
Take the long term view – stop worrying about a computer algorithm and start worrying about the people you’re supposed to be serving.
Indeed, Google Adwords has its place but once you stop spending on keywords the likelihood is for the traffic to dry up considerably. Besides, new businesses rarely have the budget for AdWords, and if they do have cash set aside for advertising a budget manager may be required.
Cheating the System… Can You Afford to Lose?
If you’re getting involved in spam or manipulation techniques as a noob, you might want to back off. Google bombing and building backlinks is a fine line and something which requires great finesse at best. Even if you are successful in gaining traffic, building a business off the back of SEO is not smart, and the guest posting and private blog networks bubble has burst.
Aggressive/bad link building tactics are being devalued and backlink clean up tools like Disavow are available for the regretful spammers or even innocent website owners who discover a bunch of bad links pointing at their site.
Basically, if anyone can implement relatively easy techniques to boost website ranking, it stands to reason Google will play catch up and ban such methods.
When Google moves the goalposts (and they do this a lot: see Authorship) your traffic can suffer. It’s easier to please people long term and have them share your site then it is to please Google and have them send you visitors.
Social Media Communities
Building a sense of community around your business is an an excellent use of your time. You might not use social websites yourself, on a personal level, but part of being in business is giving people what they want. Many of them want to use social media, so accommodate the behaviour of the market
While modern technology and techniques come and go, people remain pretty predictable by comparison.
Human nature has stood the test of time. It pretty much stays the same no matter what. Think about it – we’re all social by nature. It is wired into us.
We want to organise ourselves into tribes as we did hundreds of thousands of years ago. We still do today, whether you’re a Harley Davidson owner, a keen scuba diver or raving of Kate Bush.
Go into a pub, bar, club… whatever, and people form their own small groups based off mutual interests. We all form communities of our own because we like to belong.
How Does Your Market Behave?
I like the predictable aspects of human nature because when I make this part my strategy, I know I’m investing in behaviour. Behaviour helps me create business strategies that appeal to specific groups of people.
Technology like Facebook and Twitter hasn’t really changed our behaviour all that much. If anything, those websites were built around human behaviour, not the other way round.
Once we have food and shelter, human beings are mainly motivated by the desire for gain, the fear of loss, ego, love, sex, etc.
There are three things we all identify with:
If you want to make money, please the people who have it. Give them what they want and what they need.
This is a great long term strategy, and your website and other technology is a means to an end, not a replacement or substitute.
If it is building your website popularity or ranking that interests you, it is backlinks you need. Sure you can build these artificially but earning these links by persuading and influencing others to link to you voluntarily plays into the exact philosophy outlined in this post.
You should definitely become active in the community (both physical and virtual).
Getting on the phone and talking to people is something I’ve been doing since late 2011 when I got my own web design business moving. I needed to find what was broken so made the effort to connect with people and build long term relationships. I’ve kept a spreadsheet database of all my contacts with notes on the topics we discuss and conversations we have.
Solicitation activities are referred to as “Outreach”. I don’t know who coined this phrase for the digital space but it has stuck.
By the way: I don’t remotely consider this Outreach thing to be a fad or buzzword”. It is a realistic digital marketing strategy. If business is a mixture of war and sport, it stands to reason we always need allies, so go and find them!
Social Techniques & Tools
The following video is taken from my local web design YouTube channel. In it, I mention using social media tools and your website to communicate with your audience.
- When you talk to customers, ask them if they use social media. If they do, connect with them.
- Be sure to take advantage of the free social media widgets available for website integration.
- Consider getting a YouTube channel and find a way to use video for marketing, not just “advertising”.
- Audio podcasting is an excellent, low cost (sometimes free) method of creating meaningful conversations with an audience.
- Read some good books on modern technology, social media and human psychology. It can give you a greater understanding and competitive advantage.
- Listen to podcasts on marketing subjects. It’s a passive way of learning very rapidly.
Site Visibility Internet Marketing Podcast – I have been listening to this free podcast for years and I suggest you do the same. The tips and advice are coming a Brighton based SEO company, who understand classic consumer psychology in a digital context. I like the podcast on Effective Outreach.
Social Media Examiner Podcast – Another audio podcast offering advice (weekly) focused on the finer points of the social networks. Guests come onto the show in every episode and lots of practical tips you help can begin implementing or tweaking strategies.
Social Triggers Podcast – I heard of this podcast when the host appeared as a guest on Social Media Examiner. The show is more about modern consumer psychology but touches on social media and other modern technologies. Good for those interested in what motivates people.