This page offers some basic website promotion and SEO considerations to help business owners and website developers think about best practices that can produce their desired outcomes.
You Become The Search Engine
The term SEO refers to search engine optimization, but rather than focusing too heavily on the mechanics of SEO, it may be a better use of time and energy to study the needs of your current and future customers. That’s really the more difficult aspect of creating a useful and discoverable website.
Over time, as you learn more about what your customers want, you can better provide content that serves their needs. The content can be organized and given titles that make discovering it easy.
Once a customer has found your site, then you become the search engine. Is the content on your site easy for people to find once they are on your site? Is it well organized for browsing?
Not only does a site need to be easily discovered by search engines, but the content needs to be easily discovered by a person already on your site searching for some topic. This can be achieved through well organized navigation, accurate post titles, and an easy to find site search feature.
Become Your Site’s Most Frequent User
Create a site that you, yourself, would use. Have content on the site you might refer back to and find useful. Become your web site’s greatest fan and most frequent user.
Think of it not as a marketing tool, but a very valuable resource central to your daily workflow.
Tools and Techniques
- COFFEE SHOP — Over many years, Capital One Bank saw a decline in walk-in business at bank branches. This was initially due to the introduction of automated teller machines. [see Wikipedia] Increased use of credit cards, online banking, and tap-to pay with smartphones made banking more automated. Check deposits with banking apps, as well as services like PayPal, Square, and Venmo, replaced the need for making traditional deposits at the bank. Because of the reduced need for physical banks, Capital One established the Capital One Café to provide banking services with other services. Every business can learn from this example. It’s important to throw a wider net into the waters for a greater catch. What other services can your business be offering? What other services are likely to be needed by your customers?
- FORUMS — Having a presence on forums can be helpful, but the time invested should be carefully measured. Websites like Quora.com offer answers from a broad user community on many topics.
- JOURNALS — If you can have articles submitted to journals, magazines, or newspapers this can help raise public awareness and help raise your site’s ranking.
- LINKEDIN — As an online hub for professionals, LinkedIn is a good way to reach people interested in what you have to offer. Getting established there with contacts and sharing content can be helpful.
- MAILING LISTS — An engaged audience of readers who have chosen to opt-in and subscribe to a newsletter on specific topic will be more likely to read and act on the information shared. It’s essential not to overwhelm subscribers with too much quantity of content, and also avoid too much frequency. Even content on a subject of interest will feel overwhelming if there is too much of it. Having information organized with headers and bulleted lists helps the reader quickly skim and get a summary view of the landscape before committing to a deeper dive into the subject matter. If you can have a segmented mailing list, allowing people to signup for news of selected sub-topics that can help.
- NEWSWORTHY — If you can do something newsworthy, it will help raise awareness about your business. If there are links from major news websites to your website, that helps increase your site rank.
- PARTNERSHIPS — Having a good relationship with other website operators and social media leaders can be helpful. Perhaps you can have them share important announcements with their network of contacts.
- PUBLIC INTEREST — Consider what public interest work your company can be engaged in. That public interest work is a way to give back to communities and spread awareness about what you do. It could be in the form of public workshops related to your industry, or donations to local organizations and charities.
- REFERENCE SITES — Dedicated reference sites can gain ranking and reputation if they revolve around a specific topic and are developed over a period of time. If you develop a reference site, even a simple one, providing information and articles on topics related to your industry, that site can point people to your primary business site. It can become a site people refer to often.
- SEARCH FOCUS DOMAIN — Your website address probably has your business name in it, or a variation of your business name. People typically are not doing a Google search on your business name. They are instead doing a Google search on what your business does. Consider creating a simple website with the name of that site being the words people search on to find what you do. Under the heading below “A Lesson from the Yellow Pages” some insights are offered regarding the benefit of multiple listings.
- WORKFLOW-DRIVEN CONTENT — Regardless of size or age, most businesses have something to write about in the normal flow of a workday. A topic that you’ve needed to research, or an email you need to respond to can be the basis for a post. Rather than thinking of SEO as a separate task, instead, write content that answers the most common questions you’re getting. You know you’ll have an audience for that content. At a minimum, you’ll be serving your existing customers.
- VOLUNTEERS — In addition to offering great pay and benefits to regular employees, every business and organization should have a mechanism whereby enthusiastic fans and customers can be part of a volunteer group guided by the business. This group can work toward the public interest efforts you’ve identified. The group could also help you with marketing efforts or assist with tabling at events. Having a spirit of volunteerism helps set as good tone. When you have news to share, your fans and volunteers can help spread that news. Have a business that is so inspiring, people will want to help promote your work.
Guide to Creating Posts
There will be endless lists of suggestions on how to write your posts so as to achieve the best search engine favorability. Instead, you may want to have your readers and customers in mind when creating content.
Let’s say an article written to serve search engines will be a certain length. Yet, you feel that the information can be presented very concisely. You may want to write a short post that goes against SEO best practices. It will serve your audience better, even if the audience is slightly smaller.
Perhaps you have an article that deserves more length than is generally considered acceptable. Think of a typical article on the The Atlantic website. It would take 15 to 20 pages or more to print a typical post from that site. Should The Atlantic produce shorter articles to serve SEO goals? Or, should the articles be longer so as to fully cover the topics being addressed?
Imagine how boring and ineffective the web would be if all websites had articles of similar length, each fighting to get the best search positioning. Simple subjects would be covered with too much text. Complicated stories would be over simplified.
The world is better, and readers are better served, if content is written with the reader’s best interest in mind.
WRITING TO BOOST AD REVENUE
Another technique that seeks to serve SEO goals as well as generate advertising revenue, is the practice of having a lengthy multi-segment story spread across many pages. Each time the reader clicks on the “Next Page” link, a new page loads, with more ads loading, thus generating more advertising revenue for the site owner. This again is an example where the content was created to serve some other goal than what best serves the site visitor.
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
Content creators on YouTube and those producing daily podcasts continue to create material to help maintain a consistent revenue source. YouTube favors those who post regular content. As a result, people begin to create videos on just about any subject, even on topics that they aren’t passionate about.
Those who write articles for posts might find themselves in a similar situation of producing so much quantity that the quality of the content is compromised.
Let’s say you commit to writing a poem a day, or a song a day, or a daily painting. Whatever you are creating, it’s important to find the right balance so the process is smooth and your natural passion propels you forward. If you set goals that are too high, the work becomes a burden and the quality suffers.
If you think you can compose one song per day, then set a goal for one song per week. With writing, start with a list of 12 possible subjects, and from that list choose perhaps 3 topics to write on based on your interest and the demand for the material.
For purposes of SEO, you would want to have many articles on the same topic, but written slightly differently. This creates more opportunity for search engines to consider your site an authoritative source on certain topics, and you would always have something relatively new on a topic. For some topics, search engines give preference to new content over older content. However, here again, we are falling into the trap of serving SEO goals rather than creating an organized, concise, simple website that best serves the needs of the customer. The customer only needs a single article on a certain topic. Additional articles create confusion and clutter on the site.
Example: Business Coaching Services
Let’s say you have a business that could be described as offering business coaching services. When someone does a Google search for “business coaching services” (without quotes), there are 2.9 billion results. You’ll need to be creative to stand out in a crowd of almost 3 billion.
Here’s what the Google search results include on page one:
- ADS — The top three results are typically paid ads.
- You can consider purchasing Google ads to help you appear in search results. You can also purchase Google ads to appear on websites related to your industry or have ads appear in articles related to a topic relevant to your business.
- LOCAL — Under the ads, Google offers a few featured local businesses with a link to see more. Many people will seek out a local business or firm to work with.
- You may want to consider establishing a satellite office in different markets. Alternatively, it is possible to create a landing page for a certain city or market and advertise that page in Google search results. See ad examples below.
- DOG PILE — The next 9 or 10 results on page one will be a collection of links to businesses and articles related to the search topic. These are going to be from well-established sites. Depending on the IP address of the person searching, they may see a link from Upwork: “11 Best Business Coaches For Hire In [your state here]” the state of the person will be shown.
- It would be difficult and perhaps impossible to get to page one in a list of 3 billion results. However, if you have a website named ChicagoBusinessCoaching.com (already taken) you can rise to the top fairly quickly in a search for that area. A group called Midwest Business Consulting has already purchased that domain, and it forwards to their main business website.
- MORE ADS — There may be a few more paid ads at the end of the list. With a popular search like “business coaching services” (without quotes), and 3 billion results, there are going to be many people paying to randomly appear in the results.
- The more you pay, the more frequently your website will show up. Getting a position at the top of the page one search results will be more costly than showing up at the bottom of the page.
- SUGGESTED — Some related searches and suggested alternate searches will be listed. These are likely based on the search engine trending analysis, based on data exclusive to Google. So, the results are valuable and probably quite accurate.
- This is a good list to review for considering how people may be searching to find your services.
If the singular goal of search engine optimization is to appear on page one of the Google results, based on the above points you can see that goal is probably not attainable.
Better results can only be achieved when you create multiple sites with specific domain names that are regionally specific and perhaps related to relevant search topics.
That strategy, combined with slowly building out your site and related content over time, and using the techniques listed at the top of this article can help.
Facebook Ads — “Monks on Bikes”
Someone approached me with an interesting request. They wanted to advertise to a certain group of people on bicycles in Iowa during a week-long bicycle ride across Iowa. [see Wikipedia] I’ll refer to them as Monks, but they were people of a very specific religious group.
They wanted to have a welcome table with free food and refreshments for members of their religious group. The table would be open to the public, but they wanted to make sure to reach those belonging to their broader faith group.
We setup a simple single-page website as a landing page with the basic information about the welcoming table and some additional events.
I used Facebook advertising to create an ad campaign. For the ad, I specified people of that religious group, physically in Iowa, regardless of their permanent home address, interested in bicycle riding.
The website stats, when mapped out using the position of site visitors, showed the RAGBRAI route map. When the day came for the event table, many people showed up and knew where to find the table. The marketing campaign was effective and everyone was very surprised with the results.
So, from this lesson, we need to ask these questions:
- Who are your potential customers?
- Where are your potential customers?
- What phrases and topics might your potential customers be searching on?
A Facebook ad targeting every Facebook user in the United States will be very inefficient and very expensive. If you prequalify the audience of your ads, the advertising is much more effective. The example given above reached thousands of people for a few dollars. Think about how you can narrow down your potential audience for advertising. This will make your efforts effective and impactful.
A Lesson from the Yellow Pages
Regarding having a web presence, there’s an important lesson to be learned from a very old marketing tool that no longer exists, called the Yellow Pages. [see Wikipedia]
A long time ago, there were telephones that plugged into a wall outlet. These telephones initially had something called a rotary dial, then later touch tone push button phones were developed. In order to use the phone, you needed a large book called a “phone book.” This phone book was broken down into an alphabetical listing with black text printed on white pages in the front half of the book. This contained residential phone numbers listed by each person’s name.
In the back half of the book were yellow pages with black text. If you had a business, a sales person would call you and ask if you’d like to purchase an ad in the Yellow Pages. You could choose what section of the Yellow Pages you wanted to appear in. Some businesses would purchase ads in different sections to increase the chances of being discovered. For example, an automotive shop might have an ad under tires but also under mufflers and maybe another under oil changes. Whatever someone was searching for, they would find that automotive shop listed.
A new book would be printed once per year. So, businesses had an opportunity to buy ads based on the performance from the previous year.
This relates to business promotion in the following way — a business can establish several websites to promote their services. Those websites can be named and have addresses based on common search phrases.
Practices to Avoid
These are some practices to avoid when promoting a website:
- CLEVER TITLES — The title you choose for a post is important. It is considered by search engines and given significant weight. A clearly understood title can help readers quickly identify the subject of the article. A clear, accurate, and concise title is easy to identify. If the title text appears in the URL for the post, any significant keywords used in the title will help with searches.
- GUEST POSTS — A popular trend right now is for a website owner to pay an agency to create guests posts submitted on different websites that point back to the website being promoted. These tactics can backfire if a site is perceived to be creating an artificial level of links. Search engines desire natural organic content, paid content is typically a violation of terms for search engines and could be considered a violation of Federal Trade Commission laws regarding paid advertising disclosure.
- PAID LINKS — Some marketing agencies will use a method of promotion where they pay third-party website owners to create links to the site being promoted. As with guest posts, this tactic is perceived to be an attempt to manipulate search engines.
Instead of paying for links to your site, earn the links organically over time.
Comments, Questions, Suggestions
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