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Monday, April 23, 2012

Online Marketing For Small Business

As I've said many times, and feel like I need to reiterate, I would encourage you to take a good long look at your online marketing efforts that you are currently using. Really evaluate if your small business is getting the results you want, or if something needs to be changed or added.

One of the things to keep in mind is WHO are you marketing to, which should always be the forefront of your mind when you are considering a new marketing venture for your web sites.

In other words, if you were fishing, which of the two photos below would you hope would represent YOU after a day of fishing:





That is actually a pretty good analogy because if you only fish where the little ones are, all you're going to get is going to be sushi wannabe catches, but if you are looking for the BIG fish, you need to fish where the big catches hang out, and that is NOT in the local retention ponds or drainage ditches.

But don't spin your wheels on things you cannot control. Instead, focus and concentrate on the things you CAN control. That means fishing where the big fish are and using the bait that attracts the kind of fish you want to catch. That is done with KEYWORDS and BACKLINKS, both of why contribute heavily to the kind of bait you are using on your hooks and which waters your cast lands you in.

One of the inevitable truths of virtually ANYTHING you do, especially when it comes to producing revenue, is that:
"Hobby-sized efforts will produce hobby-sized income"

And it really can't be said more succinctly than that. So are you looking for hobby-sized income where all your efforts to do marketing effectively may gain you enough to buy a pack of gum at the end of the month, or are you serious about it where you are looking for income that can make your car payment, house payment, or fatten up your 401K at the end of the month, or even more?

There is a saying that "the one thing that determines if you are a winner or a loser is whether or not you take action". Have you taken action? Have you taken positive action consistently? Or do you just THINK about things you could or should be doing every now and then but haven't implemented much of anything so far? Nothing happens if ACTION is not taken. Nothing.

So at the end of it, it comes down to which road you want to travel, where your options can be depicted as shown in the following picture:



Hey, we are ALL busy, no issues there, I've been a charter founding member of that club for many years. Spouse, kids, church, yard work, social commitments, so much more, I understand. But what do you do in your spare time? Or if you don't think you have spare time, where can you CREATE some spare time? Did you really need to watch NCIS or Glee last night when you know it's being recorded on your DVR anyway? Did you really need to spend 3 hours a few nights ago reading other people's posts on Facebook? Did you really need to spend a whole evening last week reorganizing your paper clip collection? You know what I'm saying, because if you examine the things you MUST get done (and YOU are in charge of defining "must"), I don't believe that you are busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest. And as sobering as that might be, the choice of what you spend your time doing is entirely in your hands.

So again, keywords and backlinks.

Digging Into Keywords

You could be selling new Lexus cars for cheaper than dirt but if nobody knows about it, especially people who are actively LOOKING for a great price on a new Lexus, you could be GIVING them away and it would not make a difference. So how do you let people who are looking for what you have to offer that you have something they should stop and take a look at?

That is done via the right keywords, plain and simple. Simple? Yes simple when you consider where these people hang out and what they are searching for that you can easily get your web sites RANKED FOR in the search engines. In fact, that is simpler than you probably think. To avoid giving you the whole enchilada on a silver platter, I'm going to use the keyword of "dogs" but hopefully you can catch my drift here.

So you have a web site that is specifically geared towards "dog collars". You sell various different makes and models of dog collars and have super prices from the leading makers of dog collars. That's good, but at that point, how do you get the word out? So you add some content to your web page about dog collars and how great they are, taking care to use your keyword phrase in that content at the 2-3% level (to avoid venalities of "keyword stuffing") and you include include phrasing in that content to include what the search engines would see as "LSI" phrases, or "Latent Symantic Indexing", or in other words, things that may not specifically SAY "dog collars" but are known to be related to that topic. This is unique content you have written, not simply snarfed of someone else's page and pasted verbatim on your page. So when the search engine spiders come around and read your page, they understand what your site is all about.

But this is a huge market! How do you get your site ranked for dog collars so that your rank in the SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages) isn't on page 2,763 which people will never find?

You dig deeper. You look for keywords for the dog collar industry where you may have 4000 competing pages instead of 40 million competing pages! For example, if I do a search in Google for "dog collars", I find that there are 9.1 million search results. Yowsers, how do you compete against that? So you revise your site to talk specifically (with content) about "red dog collars", because you see in a Google search that there are only 2.1 million results for the term "red dog collars". Ok, you've eliminated about 75% of your competition but that is still a pretty hefty number to compete against.

Dig deeper still. You add more content to your page to talk specifically about "golden retriever dog collars", because you note in a Google search for "golden retriever dog collars" that now you have only 215K competing pages. NOW we're getting somewhere with a term that is MUCH easier to rank for! You could dig even deeper and lessen that but you get the idea.

To find the real shoppers instead of the people just doing their college term paper on the topic of dog collars, maybe you want to check the results for "buy dog collars" or "install dog collars" or "discount dog collars" or "quality dog collars", etc. Yes, it's a bit of manual tabor with checking and re-checking, but at the same time, doing this research hasn't cost you a cent.

Let Google Help You

Did you know that Google is more than happy to help you? But did you also know that Google will give you exactly what you asked for and not provide insights into better ways to ask? Let me example.

A great place to go to get keyword/phrase information is Google itself. Hey, go right to the horse's mouth! But there are some things you need to know. First of all, the Google External Keyword URL is:
https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

Bookmark that URL, put it on your browser favourites task bar, just keep track of it because this can be ONE (not the only) of your best friends. You can enter a keyword or phrase there and find out how many searches are done for it and how many competing pages you have for it, but like I said earlier, Google only provides answers what you ask, and there are some things Google won't tell you to get better results from this tool.

First of all, if you don't have Google account (like gmail), get one. (It's free). Then when you go to the URL above, click the "Log in" link in the upper right to log into your Google or Gmail account FIRST and THEN do your keyword research. Why? Two reasons: (1) if you are logged in, Google gives you more and allegedly better results. I haven't been able to confirm or deny that but several SEO experts have mentioned that, so since there is no harm in doing so, it is a good idea; and (2) after you enter your search phrase, if you are logged in, then Google won't ask you for the "captcha" before it works its magic, which is that funky phrase in graphics that you need to enter just right before Google will display any results.

The default, if you don't change it, is BROAD match. That means that Google will show results based on many variations of the search term you entered, many of which may have little to no bearing on the type of traffic you are really looking for. This can be changed on the left side of that page by clicking the search type box.

Another type of search is PHRASE match. This will match the exact PHRASE that you entered as your search term and is the type of search that I personally do myself most of the time.

The last type is EXACT match, which means that. This is the most specific type of search and means that your specified search term MUST be contained within the results that come back. You will notice that there are significant discrepancies in the numbers coming back from each of these query types so it helps to understand what the different types mean.

After you get your results page, you probably want to filter it using the link on that page (only shown AFTER you've done a search) titled "Advanced Options and Filters". You should only be look at the US since almost all of our carriers need to have at least one circuit end in the US, even if they have international locations where they also want a circuit. You can also click the title of the Monthly Searches column to sort them in order by ascending or descending, since as they are initially displayed, there does not appear to be an order (as it relates to number of searches).

Many of the people that spend a lot of time doing keyword research correlate the Google keyword results with results from other programs that may also include Yahoo and Bing search volume numbers. There are many of them out there, too many to list, but one that I have used (they have a free version) is called Traffic Travis, which will also show the competitiveness of each keyword shown in the results in terms of your ability to rank well for that term based on the competition. The "Cadillac" of keyword research is arguably the Market Samurai software, which is not free but provides tremendous insight into keyword and each keyword's relative competition.

Implementation

So how do you utilize those holy grail keywords you were able to uncover? Go back to previous articles here at Small Business Resources Cafe about backlinks. Create a blog about them, which points to your small business site! You could create a Wordpress blog for free at wordpress.org -- in fact, create say 3 off them, one targeting red dog collars, one targeting labrador dog collars, and one targeting spiked dog collars, where each of them would point back to your main dog collars web site. Then create another set of blogs at blogger.com that targets blue dog collars, diamond dog collars and leather dog collars, again all pointing back to your main dog collar site.

What you've just done from the 6 blogs above is to create 6 different keywords, all of which provide a one-way link back to your main dog collar site. And it hasn't cost you a cent! Now rinse and repeat -- create blogs at some of the other "Web 2.0" sites like Tumblr, OnSugar, Zimbio, Gather, WorldVillage, Xanga. LiveJournal, Thoughts and/or so many more and target the heck out of keyword phrases that you want to rank for, because from EACH of these sites, you are creating a one-way link back to your main dog collar site.

Oh and by the way, do you have a Facebook account? Chances are high that you do. Is your small business site listed in your Facebook profile as one of your favorite sites? If not, it should be because Facebook links are valuable and noteworthy to the search engines.

Summary

I hope these articals are helpful to you, giving you ideas, generating some brain juice, or perhaps just providing a necessary kick in the pants. Maybe you are already more than happy with your level of income and getting more just means more headaches for you with your tax return and the IRS, in which case I salute and envy you.

There is a saying that I learned at the airport when I go out flying that says: "Never let your airplane get somewhere that your brain didn't get to about 5 minutes earlier". The words of wisdom there are that your brain needs to be at least 5 minutes ahead of the plane, and you need to be fully aware ("situational awareness") of where you are, where you are going, and how you are going to get there, having a viable and workable plan already in place. Waiting until you actually get there to figure it out is your worst possible option because you may actually be headed in the wrong direction, or when you DO get there, you are going to have other duties to contend with that you need to be prepared for.

The same is true of your marketing efforts. You need to be every bit as aware of where you want to get to as well as how you are going to get there. "More money" is not a sufficient direction, any more than "up" is sufficient when I am flying. Simply submitting your web site to the search engines is not sufficient to get you where you presumably want to go, especially since you are then competing with a SEVEN FIGURE number of people taking that same very lax approach.

2 comments:

johnston said...

Very Nice website. I just finished mine and i was looking for some ideas and your website gave me some.

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Audrey Freeman said...

Making strategic business decisions about where to allocate limited funds is a day-to-day dilemma for small business owners. For most, the budget doesn’t allow for the services of an online marketing firm. However, you are also savvy enough to know marketing can’t be ignored. Most likely, competitors are taking advantage of one or more marketing channels.