Over the last few months I’ve seen an interesting cross section of startups to large brands and marketers to developers that are all running businesses. There has been one thing that ties all of these people together, and that is gaining traction and visibility to your website or business online.
If you are a large brand, you already have that visibility, but it is hard to continue to be nimble and build quickly, therefore, you are typically left behind. While startups run into a different kind of problem, they are able to create cool cutting edge products, but, does anyone see these products? Many times, they are not visible and have no traction. I’ve talked to a number of developers, product guys, and “startup dudes” that all run into that problem. The reason being:
People don’t realize that just building a great product is not going to bring you buzz, traffic, or growth, it doesn’t work without visibility.
So, what do you do to solve this problem? There are a few things that you can do if you are a startup or your just a humble guy trying to make a living off a website that you own.
SEO seemed like such a 4 letter word a few years ago. And, lately I’ve had interesting conversations around getting traffic in general, where I’ve been the SEO Evangelist, talking about how targeted and the high ROI of Search Traffic. It’s been exciting talking people and businesses that understand or are beginning to understand the importance for Search Visibility.
Creating Search Visibility is created by building Search Friendly websites that are authoritative to a given Search Engine.
How do I know what people are looking for?
A lot of people jump into SEO and try to build sites and throw popular phrases into h1’s, titles, etc. It’s important to understand the industry you are in and do the research that is required to know what it is people are searching for, this is called keyword research. For example, the knowing that people search for “cars” rather than “automobile.” (yes, I know that’s a crude example, but, you get the point!). SEOBook has a Free Keyword Research Tool to do this for you.
What is a Search Friendly Website?
A search friendly website is a website that is built so that a Search Engine will index and crawl their content, while adding importance, relevance, and authority to that sites content. Many times organizations will make mistakes by building a flash site or an Ajax site that is entirely unable to be indexed or crawled by a “search engine spider.” There are tips and tricks on on how to build Ajax SEO Friendly websites out there.
Creating authority is the key to visibility!
At the end of the day, no matter how much you’ve researched the keywords and how great you’ve built out your site so it is search friendly, you need external links. Without links to your site from external resources, you will not rank nor get search traffic, bottom line. Getting links isn’t an easy job either, it is the crux of the SEO problem. (i.e. It’s why we get paid the big bucks!)
Building links is an interesting mix of many different cross-functional skills. Whether it is the sales pitch to websites asking for links, the biz dev angle of partnering with other sites or buying links (while, I would NEVER condone that, wink wink!), or the art of building buzz around your content, product, or service through the Social Web.
Social Media Visibility
Ah, Social Media, the buzzword amongst all buzzwords across the web now at days, it’s amazing how much it is talked about. Amazingly enough, Social Media has become a part of the general web presence and we are moving away from it being a piece of the business, so to speak, but rather, the a fully conversational and connected Social Web.
Okay okay, I’ll get to the point: Getting visibility via the Social Web is done by being conversational, engaging, and invoking emotions.
Social Media news sites like Digg
Creating content that creates a conversation around a particular topic, whether it is hilarious, sad, resourceful, etc. Creating content like this is all about invoking the emotions. You want to create content that a user is going to want to Digg. You want to have a page that is going to make someone stop while “stumbling” through your site. But, it doesn’t stop there is still another really important factor of gaining visibility:
If influencers within the Social Media space do not know about your content, then guess what, it is not going to be made visible. People and the masses follow the influencers (and I’m not just talking about twitter) by watching them and seeing what they are talking about, they create the “water cooler conversations.” It is similar to Search in that you need to build a site that the search engines can not only see, but is authoritative.
Create conversations and engagement about your brand
Remember those conversations that I talked about, well, pay attention, because the conversations are happening all across the Social Web. But, you can do things to create those conversations and create engagement that is tied to your brand or your site.
Be insightful, engaging, and provocative when creating a conversation
Don’t be a feed, creating a twitter account and throwing your RSS feed is not participating in the Social Web, it’s a feed and nothing else. You want to create a conversation, think of ways that you can create conversations about your brand. If you are a sports site, talk about upcoming events, like the NBA Draft. If you are a political opinions site, then you might want to ask questions on the Social Web about legislation and elections.
When you create conversations and people are engaging with you and your brand, then you are essentially creating visibility.
The Visibility of Trends
Since moving more into the Publishing and Media side of the business from E-Commerce and Product Centric websites, I’ve learned a ton around insights around trends. Understanding trends gives you insight into the topics that are “buzzing” around a certain category or vertical. You can use a tool like Google Insights to give you that knowledge.
So, you’re sitting there going, “great, who cares what is buzzing!?”…fine
, you probably aren’t. That said, this is extremely important to understand, because, creating content around these trends can create the Search and Social Media Visibility needed to grow your business.
Don’t be good, be GREAT!
Remember, your product or content will not survive on it’s sheer awesomeness (even though I’m sure it is!). Make sure that you are considering the visibility of your product and content: ONLY THEN, can your Product and Content be truly considered GREAT!
Super post! You have 87 Diggs as of this comment but no on-site comments. This fantastic post has been retweeted all day!
People, Tony is reminding you/us of how important it is to enter into the conversation. Sometimes a great post like this gets more viral votes and retweets when it deserves some UGC!
I really like the reminder about the importance of creating content that evokes emotion. And, I broke out in laughter with your “auto” vs “car” example – been there and been doing just that on those terms of late. 🙂
Thanks for reminding us of what it takes to create buzz – be Great! You’re setting that example!
great post ,
I also think that is important to check similar sites for your site in website like SimilarSites.com can be very helpfull
Very good summery of the situation today, one of the best I have read. great work!
This is the first time I read your blog and this post makes sure it is not the last.
This exact post would be great to have a follow up on in 1 year time. I would love to read an updated version in 2010 to get your take on the situation then.
Dana brings up an interesting point in her comment. You have a decent number of diggs and this was on the front page of sphinn, and yet you only have a tiny handful of comments. This seems to often be the case with social sites, and I often wonder if its better to have lots of people commenting off site than on (commenting on the social news site instead of the site the article lies). What do you think?
Good starting article on the necessity of keyword research. I’ve seen too many sites built without proper relevant keyword searches or Flash designs without static content to where there is zero usability to be indexed by the SERPS.
I’ve written a few articles about proper white hat seo techniques on my blog that are simple yet effective. I’ll stay tuned to your future posts.
You’re right about authority. Search engines want to rank sites that are respected and considered authorities on for this keyword or that keyword. I think that developing yourself as an authority can do much more for your site than any H1 or Meta Tag.
Great article! Keyword research is so important in SEO today. It took me forever and a day to get my keywords for my search marketing local project, but with a bit of time and effort it will all pay off in the end. Thanks for a great read!
That's a great article on SEO. And it really gives a lot of great information in layman's terms. Thank you!