Here are some of the steps I go through to improve my customer's online presence
When I'm meeting a prospective customer, I like to find out what advertising mechanisms they are currently using. Its fairly common that they are using newspaper advertising, yellow pages and other traditional print media. I always ask what kind of tracking mechanism they have in place to measure the effectiveness of their advertising. Unfortunately, there is usually very little tracking done unless they included a coupon or incentive of some kind in their advertising.
I then continue our discussion by asking the business owner how he or she goes about finding a business when they have a need. The answer is pretty universal. Almost all of the business owners I have spoken with search for businesses on the internet. The obvious question is, "If this is where you look for businesses you intend to purchase from, can your potential customers find your business on the internet?" I can't describe to you the downfallen looks I have gotten from business owners when they hear this question. I always ask their permission to see how they can be found. I start by bringing up Google and asking them what a potential customer might enter into a search engine if they were looking for the business. We decide on a keyword and look at the search results. I have yet to sit down with a business owner who was pleased about where there business showed up, if they showed up at all.
While we are examining the search results, I let my prospect know that the website ranked #1 will get around 40% of the click volume, #2 will get around 20% and #3 will get around 10%. The other websites receive a very low percentage of the available traffic.
I know this might seem cruel, but it is an important educational point for the business owner. Potential customers do not look for the business name when they search online, they express their need, i.e. "I need a plumber". This requires us to change how we approach everything in establishing our marketing presence, even the selection of our domain name. If we include a good search phrase such as "I need a plumber" in the domain name we will get noticed more quickly and will draw more traffic. This exercise introduces the business owner to the concept of keywords. When it comes to the internet, keywords are what we live by.
What is a keyword?
A keyword is just the term used for a search phrase. It may be all or part of the the search phrase entered in by a search engine user. The search phrase "I need a plumber in Chicago" contains several possible keywords: plumber; I need a plumber; plumber in Chicago; I need a plumber in Chicago. When examined, each of these keywords will receive some amount of monthly search volumes.
What keywords should I focus on?
When we looked at the keyword suggested by the business owner, we saw a list of websites who have obviously done something right. That's how they got ranked so highly. The logical step is to take a look at the keywords used by those websites. With the right tools, one can enter in the URL and get a complete list of the keywords that a website is focusing on. However, we may not be able to compete initially with an existing website on all of the keywords. It will take time to build up enough content and reviews to become competitive. What I do for my customers is to use internet marketing tools to find the keywords which do not have a ton of competition but still have a decent search volume. We start with those and get ranked on the easy keywords while we are working to get noticed on the more competitive keywords. This does two things. It helps generate traffic for the business owner's website and gives them some confidence that they can use the internet to bring new customers into their business.
Ok, I have my keywords, now what?
The internet thrives on content, so the next step we need to take is to create some content. We need to create content which I call "personal branding" content, and content which will draw the interest of visitors to the business' website. We need personal branding content to help our visitors know who we are. Customers purchase from people they feel comfortable with and from those they view as authorities. The rest of our content should be seeded with keywords to help the search engines rate us and to provide valuable information to the websites visitors.
However, just putting content on a website won't do enough to draw visitors. We also need to get the content out and visible to the rest of the world. In order to do that, we create accounts on numerous article directories, video directories and business directories. Every piece of content published on a website should also be distributed as many places as possible with links back to the main website. These links are called "back-links" and are one of the primary criteria used by search engines to establish website rankings. Even getting articles published isn't enough. We must also arrange for "reviews" of these articles to be written so that the search engines know that the content being published is valuable and in demand.
Some of the best types of content we can produce are "how to" lists or "top 10" lists. These draw attention more than most types of content. Videos have become incredibly important in getting ranked and are now easy to produce as well.
We must also create listings for the business in business directories. These tools are repositories of businesses and invariably have high rankings on the internet. We must take the testimonials that the business has received and publish these on the business' website and all of the business directories.
Each search engine also maintains a directory of businesses in specific niches. These are frequently the easiest places to get noticed. In combination with the listings and testimonials, this may be the first place where a business can get ranked well in a search engine.
The basic steps we have discussed in this article are:
1) Find out what customers are searching for (keyword research)
2) Create content (branding and general keyword rich content in the form of articles and videos)
3) Publish content on the website and across the internet in various directories
4) Generate reviews of the published content
5) Create listings for the business in the noted business directories
6) Create "local" listings for the business
7) Publish testimonials for business on website and business directories
Repeat process for more keywords
None of these steps are especially difficult, they just require time, knowledge and the correct tools.