Once you have a website, you have to push people to go to it. When your site first goes live, if you haven’t done any form of marketing, don’t be surprised if you are getting less than 20 visitors per day. This is totally normal. It’s simply because the world doesn’t know that your site exists. You have to begin the web marketing process to get people to visit. Over time you will see those numbers go up, you will see more users engaging with you, and hopefully you’ll see your organization begin to thrive.
The fastest and easiest way to get people to go to your site is through advertising. You can buy Google Adwords, Facebook ads (which are great!), and other ads that will send people to your site. Usually, people want to start here first, but this is an easy way to burn through a lot of money in little time. If you have a budget for web based advertising, and your web site is ready for visitors, go for. The problem is, if you don’t think through a conversion strategy, the traffic may not be worth the money. To be successful with paid traffic you have to devise a funnel that will capture people then carry them through a conversion process. If you don’t have that strategy planned out yet, then I’d avoid burning through that cash. Instead, try the inexpensive methods first and then focus on building a strategy around paid ads.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a very loaded term. Most people think that you can hire an SEO firm and a few months later your site will showing up on the first page of Google. It doesn’t work this way.
First, let’s define what Search Engine Optimization is. When the majority of the world wants to learn about something new, they go online, visit Google.com, and type in a term that is related to the topic. Google returns millions of results and they are ordered by the most relevant first. For example, let’s say a user wants to buy a new kayak. They may go to Google.com and search for “kayaks for sale”. If you are in the business of selling kayak’s and your website is in the first three sites listed, then there is a good chance that you are about to make a sale.
The problem is that showing up in the first three search results on Google is hard. It takes a lot of work and a lot of knowledge about how Google works. This is why SEO companies have been thriving for the last few years.
Currently, if you do a search for the term “kayaks for sales” the first page of results are links to major brands like Dicks Sporting Goods and REI. If you own a small eCommerce site that sells outdoorsman equipment it is going to be very hard for you to compete with these large institutions for that term. That said, it’s not impossible.
Here is a quick synopsis of how Google works. The theory behind Google’s indexing is based on the method of an academic articles references. When you are reading an article in a science journal (or other academic publication) all facts are backed up by other articles. The author will associate a subscript number that references content in the footer. The content in the footer is the name of the referenced article, the author, and other information about the article (like the date it was published). In the academic worlds, an authors notoriety is based on the number of times his articles are referenced. If an author is referenced a few times by other articles then their notoriety is simply mediocre. However, if an author is referenced regularly and often then the academic world perceives that author as very knowledgable and established in that industry. In addition to this, if an author is referenced by other authors that are perceived as knowledgable and established, then the notoriety of this author will go up as well. AKA… if smart people think this person is smart enough to reference them, then they must be smart.
Google’s search algorithm works in a very similar manner, but it pays attention to how many times a website is linked to, the notoriety of the sites that are linking to it, and how much traffic the site is getting.
The links that lead to your site from other websites are like “votes” for the quality of your content. Every time Google see’s that another site is linking to your site, they increase the value of your site. Additionally, if a highly reputable site is linking to your, you get extra “votes”. Eventually, as your “votes” increase you start showing up on higher search engine results pages (SERPs).
This is why sites like Dicks Sporting Goods and REI are showing up so high in the SERPs. You can only imagine how many websites link to these highly regarded brands. Beating these big companies at this game is not easy.
So, if you are a smaller brand and you want to show up higher in the SERPs you have to take certain actions.
Also, when you are working with competitive keywords, don’t expect results over night. The majority of projects that I’ve worked on see results in about 6 months. There are plenty of SEO websites and videos that exist online that will offer “tricks” for getting on the first page of Google in a short amount of time, but usually you’ll find those guys referencing terms with low competition. Patience is important when working with SEO. You have to put in a lot of effort up front, then wait to see your work pay off.
Now, one of the first thing you might be thinking is, “Well, I just need to start placing links to my site all over the internet, where ever I can.” That’s a great idea, but you have to be careful about how you do it. Throughout the last decade, this is a tactic that SEO firms have practicing for clients. They would simply create “backlinks” to their clients site from hundreds/thousands of other websites.
This worked great for a long time, but in the last few years Google adjusted it’s algorithm to recognize what kinds of sites were linking to you. For instance, if your website was in the business of selling kayaks, and a heavily read outdoorsman blog linked to your site, that would be a positive “vote”. But, if a website about baby diapers was linking to your site about kayaks, Google we see this as a “fake” link that was simply bought through a SEO firm and they would see this as a red flag. These days, sites with too many red flags are simply being punished. I’ve met plenty of website owners that paid good money to have all these backlinks placed for their site throughout the internet and now they don’t even show up in the first 100 SERPs. Google sees this approach as cheating. You don’t want to cheat on Google.
The better approach is to create content that people want to link to. If you own a website that sells kayaks, the best thing you can do is to create a terrific blog about kayaks, kayaking, kayaking safety, kayaking accessories, and all other things kayaking. This would give the world a great reason to visit your site and also a great reason for other sites to link to you. In a sense, this is an authentic and real approach to getting backlinks, and that is exactly what Google wants you to do. Another approach is to contact other website owners that own websites that discuss your particular topic and ask them to write an article about your site with links back to your site.
One last tip, make sure that the actual text that is linked to your site includes keywords that are important for your brand. It’s not a good idea to simply show www.DOMAIN.com as the link back to your site. The URL doesn’t mean anything to Google. It’s just a URL. Instead, make the keyword the actual link. For instance, if we stay with the kayak theme, the term “affordable kayaks” or “best kayaks” or “whitewater kayaks” would be the link pointing to the kayak eComm shop.
So, if we know that Google search engine results are one of the best ways to get traffic on your site, it’s a good idea to know what your audience is searching for. Google offers this great tool for keyword planning at [https://adwords.google.com] (you must have a google account to access this tool). It allows you to enter a general search term that is related to your industry. It will then return hundreds of search terms that are closely related to your general term and it’ll tell you how many people are searching for it each month and how heavy the competition is.
For instance, say you enter the term “Kayaks for sale”. The keyword tool returns about 500 related terms like “Used Kayaks for Sale”, “Fishing Kayaks for Sale”, and “Cheap Kayaks for sale”. The results include the number of times each month that the terms are searched for, and how much competition there is for those terms. Competition relates to how many other sites are associated with this keyword. High competition means that a lot of sites are included as a result when a user searches for this term. Low competition means that there are not many sites that are results of this term.
Your goal is to find keywords that are related to your site that have high monthly searches and low competition. You then want to use those keywords in as many places as possible (when appropriate) on your site. By having this content on your site in several locations, Google will mark your site as a valid result for users that search for this term. Additionally, if outside websites are linking to your site with content that uses these keywords, your SERPs will be even better.
Ok, these are great ideas, but how do you put them into practice.
Blogging and Content Marketing
Blogging and Content Marketing is a great way to create useful resources for your audience that are filled with your keywords. Once you have a list of all those keyword suggestions that Google offered you with their keyword planner, start writing blog articles that are related to each term. For instance, if one of the suggested keywords is “Used Kayaks for Sale”, write an article about the advantages and disadvantages of buying a used kayak. Include information about what to look for in a used kayak, how much a used kayak should cost, and where to find used kayaks. This is helpful, relevant content that users will find resourceful and other sites may link too. And be sure to use the term “Used Kayaks for Sale” about 6 times in the article.
Cross blog posting
As I mentioned before, it’s important that other reputable sites link to your website. A well known secret in the web marketing world is that bloggers are always looking for articles. Surprisingly, you can reach out to bloggers with your articles and ask them to post those articles on their blog. If you are trying to increase your kayak sales, perhaps you take your “Used Kayaks for Sale” article and present it to the maintainer of an outdoorsman’s blog. They may be happy to post your article on their blog. Remember to ensure that your article is filled with your important keywords and that there are plenty of links back to your site. If their blog is generating hundreds of hits a day, you have just been exposed to hundreds of new readers/potential customers, and you have properly planted links back to your site from a reputable site.
It’s important that you find a dozen or so popular blogs that are in your industry and build a good relationship with the owner. This is no different than building a relationship with the media or with a publication. Blogs that get a lot of traffic are comparable to magazines that have a strong readership. However, getting an article posted on another person’s blog is much easier than getting an article in a magazine. Just start emailing people. Don’t be forceful or demanding, just develop a relationship over time. Be respectful of the fact that the blogger must agree in seeing a mutually beneficial relationship. Once you have your foot in the door, keep sending keyword rich articles. You’ll find that for the blogger, this can be a win-win situation.
Press Releases are another appropriate way to display your content, keywords, and backlinks on outside websites. In the past, press releases were simply short articles that introduced publications to you, your organization and positive accomplishments that you were making. Marketers would send the press releases with the hopes that the publication would either run the article or would contact you to write a unique article. These days, organizations use web based tools like PRWeb to send out press releases to thousands of web site owners.
Here’s how it works. You write a press release article that is about a topic that is important to your industry, about your organization, or is resourceful information. Your strategy is the same as with blogs; keyword rich and full of backlinks. You submit your press release to a system like PRWeb, pay a fee, then your press release is sent to thousands of publications and blogs. The publications and blog owners receive your content and decide whether or not to post the article on their site or reach out to you for an interview.
If these publications post your keyword reach article, you will benefit from the content existing on outside sites, and the backlinks (from an appropriate site) will help you gain more Google “votes”.
There are rules about how this works though. Your press releases should be journalistic in nature. They should have content that is either educational or shares a success story that is something that others will want to read. Just like with the external bloggers, publications aren’t interested in publishing an article that is simply an advertisement for your organization. You have to have a “story” to make this a successful strategy.
Page Titles and other META data
META Data is the description information that is associated with each page of your site. If you look at the code of any of your websites pages, you will see in the header of the code there are references to Page Title, Keywords, and Descriptions. In the past, Google used these meta data fields to establish an understanding of what your site was about. However, over the last decade SEO firms have used this to their advantage. They would simply fill these fields with keywords that we heavily searched for (whether the keyword had anything to do with the content or not).
I once heard an example where a SEO firm inserted words like “Angelina Jolie” in the keywords simply because that is a term that a lot of people search for. However, the actual site was about something totally different than famous actresses (a topic like motorcycles, or baby products). In the past, it didn’t matter… if the keyword was there, the site would be included in the SERPs, and people would go to the site. Google caught onto this strategy, and it now cares less about these fields.
That said, the Page Title field is still important. The Page Title field is the text that appears in the title bar of the browser when someone is on your page. This is also the text that appears as a link on Google SERPs. Make sure your Page Titles are descriptive and include keywords that relate to that pages content. Also, make sure that every page has a unique Page Title. If all you page titles are simply the name of your site, you will have negative results.
Most CMS systems manage this for you by entering the name of the page in the Page Title. For instance, if you write an article and the title of the article is “Tips for buying a used kayak”, that is what will show up in the Page Title. Most CMS systems also let you override this text and put in what you think best represents the topic of the page. One thing to keep in mind; don’t let the Page Title exceed 160 characters. Google doesn’t index anything beyond 160 characters, and very long Page Titles lead to negative results.
Display ads (more info)
As I mentioned before, one of the fastest ways to drive traffic to your site is by buying ads. This approach though should be reserved for last if everything else isn’t working. Additionally, you should have a strategy behind your advertising approach. If you buy an ad that says, “Used Kayaks for Sale”, when a user clicks that link they should go to a page that is full of used kayaks that are for purchase, or to an article about used kayaks. A mistake that some users make is by simply pointing people to their homepage after clicking on the ad. This is wrong for reasons.
– This isn’t want the user is expecting. They don’t want to go to your homepage, they want to go to a page that is related to the topic they are interested in. It’s a waste of money to pay for a click when there is a chance that the user will immediately leave after visiting your page.
– It’s easier to track how well your ads are doing if they point to unique pages.
– Because you have control over the keywords, you will have a slight understanding of what your user is searching for. Send them to a page that will give them what they are looking for and there is a greater chance that you will convert them to a customer.
Tracking your results
There are tools like SEOMoz that are great for tracking your search engine results and backlinks. Their tools will even show you information about your competition and other sites in that are in your industry. SEOMoz will run you about $99/month for a full subscription, but go to their site and check out all the free tools they have. They offer a lot of tools to help you get a lot of great information about your site (and your competitors site) without signing up for the subscription.
As I mentioned before, it’s important to be patient when trying to rank on Google. Do your research, continue the act of optimizing your content, get your name out there and continue tracking your results.
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