Growing in this era of stiff competition, where everyone is vying for attention is indeed a tough task. And this is true, irrespective of the field in which you operate. The journey from no one to some one to a known entity involves a lot of methodical preparation, planning and execution. People and companies falter at different levels and due to different reasons. There is no universal factor that makes one successful; the lines are blurring and mind-share is getting limited.
Let us share some strategies and techniques that we religiously followed, with you, which have made our company a well known website design, web development and SEO company. When we started our business almost a decade back, search engine optimization (SEO) was still in its infancy and terms like search engine marketing and social media optimization were not yet conceived. In a layman’s language, the above mentioned terms are just an extension of search engine optimization yet represent an influential medium. I hope that in sharing of our story of discovering and utilizing the power of SEO, SEM and SMO, you can shorten your own learning curve.
We were not savoir-faire e-marketers, but by reading blogs, books/e-books, by participating in forum discussions and by experimenting, we started our learning process. As each day passed on, we always wished if someone could have guided us. The team longed for simple, step-by-step everyday language guidance. It is the reason behind the birth of this piece of writing, i.e. helping others who are struggling with understanding the nitty-gritty of online marketing. The coming definitions and suggestions shall help everyone wishing to establish a presence online in getting the required exposure and mindshare. Let us share some of our learning with small businesses who wish to make a mark on the web without spending a fortune.
To start off, a few quick definitions:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – An ingenious set of strategies to position the website at the top of search engine results page for the relevant terms. When someone queries the terms targeted by you, the search engines will show your website on the first page, which under favorable circumstances can be the top position.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – It is a form of online marketing that is directed to promote the websites on search engines and other traffic bringing portals through the use of paid advertising, contextual placement and paid inclusion.
Social Media Optimization (SMO) – Also known as Social Media Marketing (SMM), is the social interaction with the online population via social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other platforms in order to build rapport and transmit the personal and business messages of diverse nature.
Viral Marketing – It is a clever marketing technique to increase the brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives via existing networks. It is a self replicating viral process enhanced by network effect of the Internet. In the bricks and mortar business it is also known as word-of-mouth. Viral promotions can take the form of any communicating media such as video clips, images, flash games, utility software, images or even text messages. The only problem with this form of marketing campaign is its sustainability i.e. it can’t sustain for long, neither can be measured.
I know you must be scratching your head and thinking why to care about social media websites, after all they are the places to interact and have fun and not do business. Well you are correct but not absolutely (seriously no offence). According to Social Media Statistics, “39 million unique visitors logged into Facebook last September and the upstart social network continued to narrow the gap on MySpace. In early January, more than 10 billion photos appeared on Facebook and photo traffic peaked at more than 300,000 images served per second.” Late last year, using somewhat dated figures, experts estimated that 20 percent of Canada’s population was on Facebook. I am pretty much sure that the above stated figures by now might have changed your mind to think on doing little bit of social media marketing. But first, I’ll retrace my steps:
1. The first step is to get a domain name registered for the company or self. There are numerous domain registrars in the market and the most popular one’s are GoDadday, eNom, Tucows, Network Solutions and many more. Spend few bucks and get a relevant or related domain name for your business. Remember, a domain name is a web property for you and your online identification.
2. Use tools such as Dreamweaver, photoshop or any other to create a basic website. If you want to get relieved of pain of designing and coding the website, using WordPress will be the right choice. It is one of the most famous open source web frameworks. It can give you all the tools and widgets you can ever require. Also, it can be customized and optimized for users and search engines pretty easily and quickly. If you have no flair or time for design or are a non-techy type, contact the best website design company for creating a classy experience for your business.
3. Now when you have a site up and running, your all efforts will be directed towards bringing in the visitors. We started searching for our website on Google, Yahoo! and MSN, and that was it, with a thud, a big fall. Although, we were present somewhere, it wasn’t too encouraging. We were lagging far behind where none of the online users ever even surged. It is a well known fact that online users rarely go beyond the second page of search engine listing page. I knew SEO was the answer. It has all the strategies, techniques, and tactics for driving the business to the top of the search engine results page.
4. Driving traffic to the website was one major task but how to ascertain the results produced by the efforts being put in? Web analytics was the answer. There are many other free and paid analytics tools but our favorite is Google Analytics. And that too not for some pretty obvious reasons – it is comprehensive and it is FREE. The user can install Google Analytics in minutes; it costs nothing and yet provides a wide array of important data. We were previously using some other analytics software but switched to Google’s in mid 2006 when it was made fully available to all the online users. When I started seeing the data in my analytics software I felt comforted and was reassured that people were visiting the website. But still I didn’t have corroborating data as only few signed contacted us. I had the data of those who communicated us but what about them who just stumbled (link) upon us. After bit research on users’ behavior, I added contact form on all the pages of them website and seamlessly integrated them with the context of the page. This allowed our visitors to contact us with any queries in their mind. The biggest advantage of doing so was that we started receiving very specific queries.
5. It was not viable to frequently change the content or to write about some industry news or other latest developments on the brand website so we decided to start off with a blog. If you have a passion for writing and can do it consistently, do start a blog. But before you do so, it is very important to decide what you want to achieve with your blog. Do you want to generate leads or just readers, monetize it via advertising or anything else? The best part is that in very time you end up uploading loads of content on the blog and if it is written carefully with proper usage of keywords, you will begin attracting visitors which in turn may greatly help your branding efforts. There are two ways in which you can start a blog – either use a free hosting platform such as WordPress, Blogger etc or host your own blog. In almost all the cases it is better to host your own blog. We also did the same thing and in no time our visitors increased with longer duration of stay. This in turn also helped to develop an authority in the online world.
6. Now comes the turn of utilizing the power of social media sites. First thing to do is to get your business name registered on these sites before they get hijacked. This is also known as name-jacking i.e. someone else gets an account registered on these sites for your business name. Once you get registered, start connecting to people on these sites. It not only gives you a platform to connect and update your near and dear ones about yourself but it is also a powerful tool for updating the world about your business. When you create a profile on the social media sites, try developing them in way so as to entice the other users especially if you are doing it for your business. If you have a portfolio, showcase it to the world. Project your products, services and accomplishments to your potential customers. The best part is that these social media sites allow you to post pictures which make your portfolio visually appealing.
7. Don’t just blindly surf social media sites and go on posting the content of your choice. Instead, be helpful and provide tips and other useful information if someone asks for. I picked up another valuable tip from the News channels. They run comments in a crawl at the bottom of the screen, and when I read viewers’ comments, I see the feedback almost instantly which gives it a real time touch. Twitter gives you such functionality. Simply keep your tweets fresh and keep on searching for the relevant tweets via search box to ask and answer the queries. Twitter is a very strong tool to perform word-of-mouth promotions online.
8. Updating or redesigning the existing website is useful only when you are going to include enticing features. The word-of-mouth is good but isn’t effective if you don’t have any sensational thing to speak about. Nobody wants to know what you are doing right now. Therefore, I found myself back to square one and wondering how to create something interesting and useful. After much deliberation, video seemed the answer to me. There are nice tools available that can help you to create a video in no time. Try Animoto, JingProject, ScreeToaster and simply upload the video to YouTube. These tools are quite powerful to create new videos of your desktop tutorials, presentations and personal videos. No wonder YouTube became the next marketing destination for us.
9. Make sure to provide excellent customer service. When we started the business, we pledged to maintain the emphasis on quality service. We made sure to listen more than we talk, be empathetic, respond quickly to requests and finally to do after sales follow up. This helped us to develop ever lasting relationship with our customers who in turn directed many people with business queries to us and thus we earned many references.
Although, Internet has given us numerous sophisticated tools for inviting and engaging the visitors, but all the technological sophistication should never carry us away from the basics: users still and will always want good products and quality services at a fair price delivered by trustworthy people.