Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Online marketing

Lately I've been reading a lot on Search Engine Optimization and marketing your business online. In Heather Frahm's blog "Localized Search: A Threat to SEM" she touches on how Google and other big names are starting to make searching for businesses smarter: by developing "local and personal search capabilities." This allows users to search for businesses within a specific region or by personalized characteristics as opposed to traditional search engines which search primarily by "what" and return results from all over the globe. This is an interesting phenomenon and I think it should be paid very closely attention to. Why? Because if you're a company that has more than one geographical area, you risk losing ranking spots on search engines unless you revamp your SEO strategy.

I wanted to share some tips on this blog that I learned from Heather Frahm as well as Kathleen Packard, owner of KathodeRay, which develops interactive educational experiences and corporate communications. She recently spoke at a seminar in New Paltz about marketing your business online.

First of all, Google looks for certain factors when deciding who is going to receive a top listing on their search page. You want to make sure that whatever keyword your company wants consumers to find you with is listed in your URL, title on your homepage, and your metatag/header. You can find out where your page ranks at www.microsoft-watch.org/cgi-bin/nbms.cgi.

Another important thing you want to look at is your page ranking. This basically means how many links you have on other sites vs. how many links to other sites you have on yours. You want to have more people link to you, bottom line. The best way to do this? Simply ask other companies to do it. Many are willing to.

Some other useful tips for search engine optimization are:

- Make sure every page on your website has your company name, address, and contact information.

- Sign up for mapping services like Google Maps, Yahoo Local and MSN Live Local.

- Get listed in local-specific search engines like Yellowpages.com, Verizon Superpages, Citysearch.com and AOL's City Guide.

- Sign up for local online outlets such as your local town's online newspaper and the local chamber of commerce.

- Look for B2B and/or B2C portals to sign up with that come up as top listings on Google.

Another great way to market your online business is through social networking. Make a blog that is informative and concise. Sign up for Myspace. If you're an author, specialist or notable, sign up for Wiki.

If you have the time and resources, Youtube is a great way to market. According to a study by The Kelsey Group, nearly six in 10 web users (59%) have watched online video ads. Of 296 respondents who had viewed a video ad, 43% said they then clicked on the website.

You can also start a newsletter. Mix promoting your business with interesting articles, facts, and information about things that will be relevant to your readers. Just make sure they are not too long and are entertaining and informative. A good way to build an email database is simply by asking site visitors to give you their email address. You can ask them to sign up for the newsletter or just do a contest and give something away for free.

The last thing I want to touch on is monitoring your reporting. Sign up for Google Analytics and keep track of where your site visitors are coming from, how many pages they are visiting, how many hits your site is getting a day, etc.

Remember the statistic I talked about last time? How 70% of consumers are now looking online for products and services? Remember that when you are deciding how much time to work on SEO and online marketing. Research also shows that local searchers are more READY to buy than broad searchers. Reason enough to make sure your company is working hard to get noticed online.

Laura Schutz

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