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SEO Tips for Harder Economic Times

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In this month’s Target Marketing Magazine, a TopRank authored article on how small businesses can gain a competitive marketing advantage by leveraging content promotion, blogs, social media and universal search was featured.

vault-seo.jpgRecently there has been some dialog and commentary on certain SEM channels about upcoming harder economic times calling for SEO to be taken back to the basics: “Textbook SEO” as Mike Grehan would put it. I disagree with the premise that companies should stop experimenting with new tactics and stick with the fundamentals. Effective SEO in any economic environment means getting more creative, not mundane.

“As search engines evolve with features such as personalized, social and unified search, so must marketers evolve — especially those on a budget.”

What the article in Target Marketing and this post look at are creative content creation and promotion approaches to optimizing not only small business web sites, but any web site, using a holistic approach to SEO. I’ll summarize a few of the key points here:

Create a Content Promotion Plan – The base for optimization and link building is all about content. However, relying on search engines alone to find, crawl, index and rank your content in a way that will drive sales and improve brand visibility isn’t enough. More than ever, the masses are enabled to publish content on the web creating even more competition for top visibility within search. That makes it important to not only optimize your content, but to make an effort to promote it as well. Publishing great content is a waste unless you’ve developed channels of distribution outside of search engine crawlers.

Planning out content creation ahead of time much like a publisher creates an editorial calendar for a magazine will provide the search marketing team with resources in advance to creatively concept optimization, social networking and promotion ideas in advance. The effect is more robust distribution of your message to audiences that are looking as well as attracting links.

In the article at Target Marketing, there’s a practical example of this where a jewelry retailer promoted photos of their Christmas ornaments on image sharing sites to drive additional traffic as well as links.

Make It Easy to Publish and Promote New Content – One of the most common issues we run into when consulting with companies to improve their organic search marketing effectiveness is to implement a content creation and promotion plan. Many web sites are fairly static and there isn’t much “promotable content”. Even if the company wants to add content, they’re often tied down by content management system with limited functionality or having to go through an web side development firm to many any edits creating unnecessary costs.

For TopRank and it’s clients, the most effective way to add a search engine friendly content creation and management feature to a web site is to use blog software. That does not mean a blog in a journaling sense needs to be implemented, but rather leveraging blog software to manage content like an online newsroom, archiving newsletters, etc. That said, publishing a blog as we all know them is the ideal. There are additional competitive blog SEO advantages to publishing a blog as well.

The practical example given in the article references a retail fabric site that used a blog to archive its newsletters to start and then hired a person part time to write helpful tips and creative product announcements. The additional web pages and internal/inbound links generated from the blog have resulted in top 3 rankings on competitive phrases and increased sales.

“Get” Social Media – Before jumping on the bandwagon of social media promotion it’s important to understand how the various networks and communities work. Social media marketing is more about conversations and influence than it is about offers and conversions. Create accounts, make friends, comment and vote on content. See what kinds of content is going hot and getting attention and then start submitting the kind of content (others and yours) that the community responds to.

In this case, the example given from the article discussed a blog about puzzles and brain teasers that setup a Facebook group to introduce content from the blog to people who were interested in such content on Facebook. The Facebook group has grown steadily and continues to send traffic to the blog. After the article posted, a Twitter account was also set up for the puzzles site and uses it as a way to draw attention to (and links/visitors) to particularly interesting puzzles. Keep in mind, in both cases it was only people that showed some sort of interest in puzzles and that were active who were “friended”.

Unify Your Efforts With Universal Search – “Armed with a content plan, a blog to make it easier to publish search engine-friendly content and the beginning of an expanded social network, it’s now time to figure out what this all means for improved search engine visibility.” While each search engine implements the concept of universal or combined search results slightly differently and to a limited degree, the potential to gain benefit now as well as when the engines scale up the use of combined results is an opportunity.

The first step with universal search SEO is to take a step back and look at your search marketing effort from a holistic perspective. As you identify your target audience, goals and the messages to promote, take inventory of the electronic media or digital assets you have to work with. Match them up with appropriate channels of promotion. Incorporate your content promotion plan with search engine optimization efforts and implement an ongoing process of creative content creation, promotion and results measurement.

You can read the full story here: Competitive on a Budget: Promote content, socialize online and unify with universal search

If you run a small business web site or provide SEO consulting services to small businesses, what are some of the more creative online marketing tactics you’ve used? What trends do you see coming in 2008?

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SEO Tips for Harder Economic Times
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About Lee Odden
Lee Odden is CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, a digital marketing and public relations firm in Minnesota that specializes in search, social and online PR consulting and training for companies worldwide. Odden has been cited for his internet marketing expertise over the past 10 years by the Economist, Forbes and U.S. News and contributed a chapter to the book, "Online Marketing Heroes" published by Wiley. For the past 5 years he has also been the editor of TopRank's Online Marketing Blog, a Technorati 100 favorite blog and one of the top marketing blogs according to Advertising Age. WebProNews Writer
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