Many site owners are complaining of lost business through loss of traffic. Do you have a strategy in place for your web marketing when you have lost your rank? Maybe rethinking your content can help.
On each Monday, I study my analytics. I look at my analytics more often than that, but I do a more in depth analysis to guide my plans for the week on that day. Last Monday, I saw one of my sites drop significantly for keywords that I was targeting, while new sites popped up on my radar. By now everyone is aware that Google changed the method for how they obtain their search results, and you may see many sites upset about their loss of traffic. I had a different experience.Although my rank went way down, my traffic soared up. This is due to a strategy that I have maintained for a while, which I will describe below, but the real story may be a bit bigger: we cannot rely on a search engine to help our business grow, and I want to deal with that idea first.
When you first publish your first web page, you will not be finding massive traffic from a search engine right away. We have to work towards that goal. Most industries tracking consumer behavior will inform you of a survey that states that our clients are going on line first before buying a product. They do their research, and then they may go onto buy on line, but they may not. The take away for a small business is that we have to be on line. To be noticed on line, we have to be ranking well, so we become fixated on a set of keywords and our position on the list of results for that keyword. That is not a problem; the problem is that we do not look beyond that results page rank. The change in rankings last week in the Google search pages was done to improve the quality of the results for the end user; however, have you conducted a few searches lately? I am assaulted with more advertisements than results, and sometimes those ads do me no good. Furthermore, I am now being given results based upon my own social network, as well as results that are personalized to my own history. This leaves me wondering what is the significance of a ranking for a particular keyword. Many of us have a bad experience with a pay per click campaign, so we drop it. We also fail to understand where our potential clients may be lurking on the internet, so we miss opportunities. We are forgetting that marketing on the web is like any other marketing, we cannot put all of our eggs in one basket.
How did my traffic go up when my rankings went down? The answer is simple: quality content that is focused on providing the best information related to my business geared towards my local region. Let us forget about rules of how often you have to post- a good article will always bring in traffic. We should consider how to obtain local readers. I still see advocates stating that you need to discuss local events, no matter what the event is. For example, you are a plumber writing about the latest Spanish restaurant opening near your home on your blog. Hey the food was great, but what does it have to do with plumbing? A visitor coming to your blog will not return for plumbing advice; they will likely not return at all. If a new water feature opened at a park, like a new fountain, as a plumber I may write about this fountain, and I would mention how you could have a similar feature in your yard. If the event does not tie into your business, then you should not be in a rush to write about it. Many people conducting searches will want to know why something is happening to something they own in their area. Back to the plumber: why do my cold water pipes have hot water in them in Miami? (People do type in search queries like that one). The plumber could write a post about how the heat from the sun heats the ground and the attic, and this is where water pipe are located in certain houses. This Miami plumber may not have a top site for plumbing in that city, but he was discovered by the searcher who wanted to know what is effecting his water in that city. People looking for answers will type longer queries to their search input, and they often include location, since many people feel that location could play a part in their problem. Once your collection of articles dealing with specific concerns increases, and you have effectively placed references to your own community into the articles, you will find that locals will perceive your site as a resource. Hopefully, they will then use your service, but that gets into conversion optimization. I want to deal with the content that brings in traffic here.
Do not post just to be posting. I have heard rules that you should be posting once a day, four times a week, or three times a day. Nonsense. I will say that if you wish to build up an audience, you do have to post consistently. You cannot post five articles in one month, then go six months before posting another article (and the person who really did that is wondering why her site does not have more visitors). Consistency in marketing pays off. Of course, you want to go after that top position in Google for your keyword; I am not saying that you should stop trying on that front, but your site can still do well in bringing your message to your potential clients. My blog is my base. My print ads lead back to the site. I have a ppc campaign that drives traffic to that site. I advertise on different sites, which have users that could be good for my potential client base. I do email marketing, and I participate in social media. I do not try to spend too much effort on any one idea, because then I could be wasting an opportunity to gain clients. This is the easiest trap to fall into: focusing on the one big thing. For example, Twitter is big, so I need to work on building up a follower base, but really, are your clients on Twitter? The same could be said about Facebook.
Focus on quality. Quality content, or maybe I should say content that answers the query of a search, will continue to drive visitors to your site. I need to go back to the drawing board when it comes to the keywords that I want to hit. It is a shame that so much effort seems to be wasted. On the other hand, Google is sending more traffic to my site for many related topics, and that helps to build my brand. Think about it: did someone just hand you a Kleenex or a tissue paper? There are people who still hoover instead of vacuum. So maybe you are not the top result for plumbers in Miami, but you are the plumber everyone goes to have their questions answered, and when they cannot do the job, they call you.
Is your business prepared for problems? You may think that internet attacks launched against your website may never happen, but they can be accomplished quite easily.
Last year, I experienced a rather clumsily executed denial of service attack against one of my business sites. The idea behind a denial of service attack is to keep loading a website into the browser, so that requests are sent to the server. The server becomes overloaded with requests, so the site becomes unavailable. This does not always need to be an attack though. If a major website with huge traffic linked to your site, the result can be the same. Last year, my site was loaded by a single person 5000 times in one day in the area where my local business takes place. Since this person allowed the site to load, the service was not denied, but the event caused an anomaly in my web analytics. This past week saw another more sophisticated attack launched against my site, which promoted my hosting company to limit access to my site. This kind of attack lasts usually for one day, so I was not too concerned. More annoyed than anything.
I am not sure that I will ever know the reason for this attack, and I may never be able to prevent another one in the future, so I have to think about options. If you take your business seriously, you watch your competitors to ensure that they do not outperform you. Both attacks coincide with marketing campaigns that I launched, so I think that may have something to do with it. When a competitor revealed an advertising campaign that stated you had to use his service, because it was the only way to obtain good results, I reacted by countering his claims. Others in my industry did not see his claims as a threat to their business, but this competitor was successfully convincing our market that his claims were correct. My counter to that campaign was quite effective, which did not make him happy, but that is the nature of business. I looked upon these denial of service attacks as one method to counter my marketing efforts. This is a poor means to hamper marketing, but this may have been the intent.
Our small business websites go through growing changes. We begin with a free blog or page from or industry association. Those of us who are successful with these efforts move onto having a website of our own. We obtain hosting with a company, which is probably a shared hosting account, since that is more affordable. As we continue with our success, we have to start considering semi-dedicated or dedicated hosting. More expensive, but we need the server capacity to handle more traffic. I am at the point of changing my hosting from shared to semi-dedicated, and this attack may have firmed up my plans. My marketing efforts have been paying off, causing more visits to my site. Upgrading my hosting does allow me to increase the capacity of visitors my site could handle, as well as improve load speeds. This choice is one step in a plan to deal with a future attack.
Yet upgrading my hosting may not be the only answer. For most small business owners, what happens at are hosting company is out of our hands. They have to deal with the attack, which is usually done by limiting access to the site. I thought about my marketing campaigns, particularly the newly launched effort. This advertising was on the internet, and I was having the campaign point people to my site. It was the fourth day of the ads being live, so I would be leaving a bad impression if new visitors could not even load my site. There was a solution though: redirect the ads to my local listing on Google Places. I did a study of my competitors last year, and I discovered that many did not have a listing. Of those who did, their listings were not complete. This makes sense, because we all hope that people will either call us or go to our website. I did have a complete listing (in the vague notion that Google may see my listing as more valid, which did not seem to be the case). With a complete listing, I do provide the basic information needed by a potential client, so I could redirect my campaign to this listing, until the denial of service attack ended.
This is where small businesses can fail. We focus our marketing efforts, due to our limited budgets. We try to do the right thing by having all of our marketing tie together, so we attempt to funnel the effort into having customers go through our website, come to our store, or to call us. We need to keep our options open, and we need plans in place if these funnels are closed. So what can we do when we have a denial of service attack? With internet advertising, we have a quick way to redirect traffic to another site, so a Google business listing or a business listing on another site may be a good fall back. Make sure that our marketing does give other means of communicating with our customers (ads having phone numbers as well as a link). Then it may be time to consider upgrading your hosting. We cannot really stop this kind of interruption; we can only find ways to live through it.
However, is that free item what they really want?
The internet is changing. More sites in trying to find ways to monetize their content are charging for what they have. Users still want to find bits of information for free. Well, more than bits. For most of us who are providing a service our knowledge is what we charge for, and giving it away for free seems counterproductive. Yet, we hear stories of those who have done just that with great success for their business. I began thinking about giving away something for free, because of two incidents yesterday.
I had been on a job the week before to examine a specific job done by a contractor. In fact, the contractor was the one who hired me. While going about my work, I noticed a problem which had nothing to do with why I was there. This was a potentially dangerous issue, so I informed the contractor’s client. This nugget of free information led to the client calling me about further work. In a way that is what I do with writing a blog post. A nugget of free information may lead to further work, but how many free nuggets should I give? Does there come a point where I have given too much away? I think that is where experience comes into play. I can mention what I do, but a user may not be able to replicate it exactly, due to the experience factor.
I received an email offering me a free trial of an internet service for a month. The problem is that there is a similar site which is quite popular offering this service always for free. This caused me to consider about what we offer. Free is good, but do we offer value? If we state that we are giving away something for free, did we actually offer something? Will the user pay for it at some point? Here is where small businesses may be failing.
Marketing is hard and expensive. Blogs provide a cost effective way to do marketing which can be quite simple for some. Lets face it, writing a post does not come easy to everyone. Going back to my job where I shared a bit of data. I obtained the call back because a gave a piece of valuable information away for free which demonstrated my experience, my knowledge. Would that work on the internet? Well, in my scenario, I gave a bit of specific data which struck home with a potential client. Internet users are generally faceless though. My information could help others. If I write the blog post in a personal way, and explain the situation as I did to the client, I may touch the user with this free nugget like I did in person.
Now consider your competitors. Are they providing such free nuggets? You may be reading several internet marketing sites to find ways to improve your business. How many of those sites are giving you free information which is entirely different from what you have read on another site? I imagine that few truly are. So do you read through your competitors’ sites? You should. Being in real estate, I looked through several sites from people in the same specific real estate field. I discovered that you will see the same topic come up on various blogs with much of the same thoughts. One way to break away from your competitors is to write content on one aspect of your business. For example, you could focus on writing about new products in your field. Maybe a more specific example. Alright, you are an accountant. Maybe you specialize in tax preparation. How about writing about new laws? Just that. Not how to prepare your own taxes, or your thoughts about taxes. Laws which effect the financial market and how they may effect income, which is a factor on tax. You have a niche which no one else amongst your competitors has tackled.
Can we take this further? You have limited the topic of your blog; you are giving away free content; but you could do more. Creating ebooks or resource documents for journalists or other package for the user, you can build up word of mouth, as long as you brand the resource. Let us jump back to real estate. Everyone has a mortgage calculator on their site. Offering your own does not make you stand out. Changing the language to Spanish is a first step to being unique. However, we could offer something else. We could have a utility bill calculator, or a calculator that shows how paying more of the mortgage’s principle will effect your mortgage over time. The utility bill goes in a totally different direction which meets a current concern, while the principle mortgage calculator offers a variation to the other calculator which can be a concern for the client/user.
Free works. Study your competitors. Provide something which shows the user something that they cannot find elsewhere, and which shows that you have value. Those are the take aways from this post. At least once a month find out what your competitors have done. Also find out who your competitors are. This can quickly change on the internet. Find a niche, and exploit it. This may be your experiences on the job. The soap drama that goes on behind the scenes may be what the user needs. You have to find it.
Have you considered how you are representing your firm through this medium? May you be hurting your connections?
Let me ask you a question: if we are talking at each other, can you call it social? I noticed that more often than not social media is not really social. It is not a problem with the medium, but with the users. Most people who want to connect with you are more interested in you hearing their message than listening to you. If you are a small business, you will want to monitor what might be said about your business, but you may want to consider how you build your business through sites like Twitter, Facebook, or any other social site.
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With WordPress, you can choose when your post goes live. With planning, you can make the most of bringing users into your site.
Most of my posts publish when I am out of the office. This fact was noticed by a friend who wondered how I accomplished such a feat, but I think the reason why I scheduled a post to publish at a certain time is more interesting. This is one of those “do you know your audience” posts. You see I could post my article after writing it, but I may not obtain all of the readers that I could by that means.
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