Several years ago one of the main ways to promote a website in the Internet, especially for small businesses, was SEO (search engine optimization). Often it included so called “black hat” techniques that were aimed to manipulate Google’s search results: mass link buying, spam (in the blog comments, social networks, emails, etc.), onsite keyword spamming, hidden texts, and so forth. In many cases such SEO was quite effective. That is the reason why many website owners usually defined the key goal of their websites as “We need Position 1-3 in Google” and relied mainly on SEO firms.
But nowadays many specialists in the field of website promotion have been removing the word ‘SEO’ from their business names and ads (saying about “inbound marketing” instead) because “black and grey hat” techniques are blamed and actively (and increasingly successfully) eradicated by Google. Today the first position on Google is still desired and useful but it doesn’t guarantee that the website’s life will be unclouded, at least for the long term, because Google changes its rules very often, and no one is safe from dropping deep down into the dark at any moment.
Table I: Web Programming vs. Today’s SEO – Predictable Stability vs. Uncontrolled Volatility
|Programming||if a=1, b=2, c=a+b
|if a=1, b=2, c=a+b
|if a=1, b=2, c=a+b
Guest articles are good
Result in Google:
|Guest articles are overused
Position goes down
|What will the next instructions be ?
Position – Anywhere in the universe?
What Is the Way Out?
So, what is the way out? The answer is that now it’s a good time to recall the principle “Don’t put all eggs in one basket” and that traffic (and clients) can be achieved in different ways, not only from Positions 1-5 in Google for the main keywords of the website Home page.
Google recommends to focus on creating great unique content on a continuous basis because that is the best way to get natural links from other websites. To facilitate your website promotion also use corresponding HTML tags to explain the main topic of your content to Google: the <title> tag, meta description tag, suitable keywords (but don’t spam), and so on. If you have no time / money / skills / desire to create and promote your content, welcome to Google Adwords.
But creating good content is not a cheap thing. Does it mean that small businesses have no future in the Internet?
What Do You Need: Positions in Google or Clients?
Usually businesses need clients, rather than just high positions. Clients are converted from visitors. So, you should
- Attract the target audience to your website (with both online and offline methods). Don’t confuse the target audience with accidental or paid visitors: you need those who are really interested in your products or services and may buy them.
- Effectively convert them into clients. The larger the conversion rate of your website is, the less visitors you need in order to get a given number of clients.
How to solve these two tasks? Here are some recommendations.
1. Check out the technical background of your website
Some of the questions below may be too technical for an ordinary website owner but if you know what to ask it’s much easier to speak to website admins, hosting providers or web developers.
- The file robots.txt: Is it accurate and accessible?
- The tag <meta name=”robots”>: Is it set up correctly (if it is present on a page)?
- Sitemaps, at least an .xml version: Are they present?
- Absence of duplicate content (including http://website.com and http://www.website.com versions of the website, Google considers them as two different websites)
- Absence of broken links
- Correct treatment of the 404 error (“Page not found”)
- Do forms and payment gateways work correctly?
- Is the website load time short enough?
- Semantic and clear HTML/CSS code
- For local businesses: set up your country in the Google Webmaster Tools, for example:
Slow websites or forms with ‘bugs’ are among the common reasons of the high bounce rate and low conversion rate. An obsolete website design may scare away visitors too but technical problems are much more crucial. Moreover, without a proper technical background websites may be not indexed by search engines or have very understated positions in the search results. The duplicate content may essentially decrease the website ranking.
2. Onsite “white hat” SEO
- Unique and descriptive <title> tag for each page
- Unique meta description tags
- Suitable headings and subheadings <h1> – <h6>
- Optimized images with descriptive alt attributes
- Lists and quotes
- Reasonable keyword mention in content
This will help search engines and visitors fast and easy to understand what your content is exactly all about.
Attracting the Target Audience
1. Blogging on your website
Blogging allows you to get on a regular basis:
- Fresh content that is interesting for visitors to read and reshare
- Good “long tail” keyword ranking in Google and other search engines
- Natural links to your website from other websites and corresponding traffic from them
2. Social networking, niche communities, and video hubs
- Account profiles that represent your company and popularize your products or services
- Natural opportunity to promote your new content
- Reputation of an open and client-oriented company
Nowadays social network accounts and profiles in communities can be ranked as high as corporate websites. Therefore, they can be a good way to get additional traffic or even clients directly.
3. Commenting on reputed websites with substantial traffic (sure, no spam)
- Attract attention to your company
- Enhance your reputation as an expert
- Promotion of your content
- Links to your content
4. Onsite news and external press releases distribution
- Regular news about your products and company (your achievements, awards, enhancements, etc.) is important and interesting for your clients and helps build a positive image of your company
- Possible appearance in News section on Google
5. Wise article marketing
- Guest blogging on reputed resources with good traffic
- Articles on popular niche and professional resources (online and print)
- Articles in the local newspapers
Note: Don’t repeat one and the same article on many resources, always use unique and valuable content that emphasizes your expertise.
6. Registration on reputed resources
- Websites of the main niche organizations
- Key business catalogs
- Reputed local websites (Yellow Pages, etc.)
This technique may attract good attention to your products or services.
7. Pay per click (PPC) ads
PPC can be really effective but it requires some experience in setting up and data collecting.
8. Online ads
- Banners on related websites, niche organization resources, etc. Use indirect links or ones with the attribute rel=”nofollow”.
- Ads in the social networks
- Ads on local resources (craigslist.com, and so forth)
9. Traditional marketing and advertisement (in press, TV, radio), etc.
Improvement of the Website Conversion
1. Conversion from search engines
Make sure that <title> and meta description tags are sufficiently engaging and persuasive in order to refer visitors from search engine (SE) results to your website. Note that often SEs use information from just these tags in order to generate a search result snippet for the webpage:
2. Onsite user experience (UX) and conversion optimization
The top of the webpage (above the fold) usually should include:
- Clear and engaging statement of what is offered
- Easy to understand advantages and core benefits of your products or services
- Reasonable number of suitable photos (but don’t use sliders)
- Clear Call to Action (CTA)
- Testimonials and/or other kinds of social proof
- Such words as “free trial”, “no obligations”, “money back guarantee”, “trusted by”, “discount”, “we promise not to spam you”, “get instant access”, and so on
- Clear and simple navigation
Below the fold:
- Details of your product functionality
- Photos or screenshots of your products
- Expertise and photos of your team
- Clear CTA and contact information
Google is a company that was organized to make a profit, and their interests not always agree with your interests and goals. So, don’t completely rely on Google because you cannot control them. Be many-sided, flexible and creative in promotion of your website and constantly try to find techniques and approaches that really work in your business niche. That is the main secret of today’s marketing.