3: Tips for Novice DIY SEOptimisers on Growing their Small Business Website: Pt 3
Part 1: Writing Copy, Selecting Keywords and Keyword Strings, and Backlinking.
Part 2: Google PageRank, Submission to Search Engines, Sitemaps & Stats.
This final part will look at additional ways to promote your website. I'll present a combination of old-school and new-school techniques. Its weird to call them old-school, as we're only talking about 5 years ago, but all these methods are currently working for me, so I'll try and provide some insight into all of them.
Some have predicted that 2009 will mark a change in the way people search for products and services on the internet, so don't get left behind when you can jump on very new bandwagons right now.
Become a Pillar of the Community
This is perhaps one of the most rewarding and enjoyable ways I've found of promoting my website and my business. Find yourself a relevant discussion forum in your field of business, preferably one that your prospective clients will be seeking help on. If the forum rules allow professionals to post, and better still to leave links and post links in signatures, then you're on to a winner.
There you have a targeted audience who are actively seeking your product or service and they are looking for answers to questions. Give them those answers, but do it in a manner that is not in any way spammy, pushy, or grossly self-promoting. Suggest things, give your prospective customers ideas and be helpful but manage your online presence as though you are not at all after their business. You will not believe your site stats when you see the number of click-throughs from the well-placed links in your signature.
But please bear in mind that I'm NOT suggesting this as any form of artificial backlink building (most forums employ the no-follow attribute anyway meaning that a link from your signature file, for example, will not help the page rank of the linked page at all). I'm suggesting it as a sure-fire way to connect DIRECTLY with your prospective customers.
A final word of warning on this. Be very careful when you first go in to the forum. If you're new and appear to be touting your business around without having earnt the right to do so first, you will be shot-down in flames by the forum and by the moderators. See this very recent example. Its a difficult relationship that takes time to cultivate. But it will pay dividends so give it time. Have I used that phrase before somewhere?
How Are Your Social Skills?
It used to be that business networking involved going to tradeshows and conferences and rubbing shoulders with your piers and customers. Nowadays and particularly in 2009, it looks like Social Media is the way forward.
Rob Jones from searchenginewatch.com sums the current state of affairs with social media nicely. He divides the options into four categories, Social News, like Digg, Social Sharing, like Flickr and YouTube, Social Networks like Facebook and Twitter and Social Bookmarking like Stumbleupon and Delicious.
For the small business owner here in the UK it very much depends on your particular line of business as to whether any of these new portals are going to work for you.
It would seem that there is a very real chance that by the end of 2009, we could see a significant change in the way people search for products or services online. Let's face it - what would influence you more? A Friend's recommendation on a service they've used - or a Google search and finding the website's testimonials page? Surely your mate, as you know they have first hand experience and you presumably trust them (otherwise they wouldn't be your friend?).
For this reason, Facebook Company pages and Facebook groups appear to rocketing in popularity as you can build a fanbase which spreads virally. People can see what groups their friends are joining directly from their facebook page and do the same. Its all a new way of reaching out to people and you should exploit it. Again, don't be spammy to your fans or followers. They'll quickly dump you. The same rules as forums apply.
Twitter is an interesting new phenomenon. It's basically the same principle as the facebook status message ("Tony is blogging right now"), the difference being that you can look at what everyone is doing without having to apply to be their friend. You can follow any individual including the celebrities that are signed up meaning that you get regular updates on what they are doing right now. Its initially quite hard to see how this might benefit small businesses. However, when you consider that you are allowed to post links in "tweets", you can begin to see that relevant content to interested parties could be disseminated quite easily. I've tried simply tweeting the URL of pages on my website to my followers and it has indeed generated traffic according to my stats.
I've even gone so far as offering discounts to prospective clients who get in contact through one of these social networking sites in an effort to garner more followers. Time will tell whether this actually works.
Stumbleupon allows you to rate (give a thumbs up or down) to pages that you come across on the internet. Surfers can then literally stumble across your page by hitting a "Stumble" button on the site. If you manage to get pages of your website or blog stumbled, then you have a good source of new traffic. If your website is good of course, as the more high ratings a site has, the more it will turn up when one "stumbles". I've found that this site tends to be biased towards outrageous, comedy or reality-type material as opposed to products and services.
You can also very easily add a link to any of your pages that allows a user to submit your page or pages to any of these sites. The addthis button appears to be the most popular and its the one that I've added to my site. You can track what people are bookmarking or stumbling and so on.
The downside of social media is that it can be a huge time-suck. Twitter can be addictive, facebook can be annoying, with people popping up to chat when you're otherwise busy, Stumbleupon can be hard to get good results on. But social media is not a flash in the pan. It is here to stay and exciting part is that it is in its infancy right now. Start jumping on board the bandwagons and who knows what you and your business' social standing might be a few years down the line. As I write, I've just made my first contact with a fellow-tweeter in the wedding business and we've traded details with a view to doing business in the future. Proof that it can and does work.
Don't Overlook Conventional Ways to Promote Your Site
With all the new ways to tout your business' online presence it can be easy to overlook the more traditional methods.
- Related Directories. Find some search directories that are related to your business and list on them. Similarly local search directories such as FreeIndex.co.uk may help you. I say 'related' as Google can penalise multiple entries on link farms. Make sure the directories are geared towards your industry.
- Well-respected General Directories such as DMOZ - bear in mind that it can be REALLY difficult to get listed here. Make sure your site conforms to the rules.
- Paper Advertising. Yes, it can still work! Magazines, Newspapers, Trade Magazines, Newsletters.
- Make an Email Template. If you create an html email template you can automatically have your most important links at the fingertips of any recipient of your emails without faffing about each time you send a mail. Don't spam!
- Blogging. Hipocritically, I'm late jumping on this particular bandwagon, so perhaps this is a good experiment to see how it can benefit my small business. I've written a series of articles on SEO, which is not at all related to my line of business but something that I'm interested in and think can help others. If I manage to get the Blog respected and linked to, who knows, perhaps it will drive up my traffic and pageranks and then what? All I do know is that Blogging will be very high on most professional SEO's list of things you can do to promote your site.
- Word of Mouth. Your collegues can help, but more importantly your satisfied customers can help too. Its so satisfying to hear that someone found you because their friend, a previous client had sent them the link to your website. This all boils down to an outstanding product or service though, which brings us back to where we started in part 1 of this blog series.
I hope this series of blogs has managed an introduction to some of the principles you should be looking at if you're looking into some DIY SEO on your website. We've looked at everything from decent content for a quality product, through keywords, Google and pagerank and finally ended up looking at the new social media and other ways to promote your site.
I've not intended this as a full list of every SEO technique available. There are no doubt many many more ways of boosting your traffic. What these elements will do for you, however, is get your foot on the first rung of the SEO ladder. If you're anything like me, then these principles will inspire you to get on with your own research in a manner that's perhaps targeted more specifically to your particular market.
I welcome comments below if you found the information useful, or if you've anything further to add to the techniques discussed above. Please - I don't want to be lambasted for being too simplistic or too general. That's exactly what is intended with this blog series - to act as a simple introduction to this vast subject.
- Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses on searchenginewatch.com
- Twitter and Linkedin followup to the article above
- Alternative Comment on Twitter
- Social Media Marketing 101 from searchenginewatch.com