So you run a small business, you don’t have much money behind you, and you decide the web is a great place to increase your marketing efforts. A website is relatively inexpensive to build especially if you can carry some of the technical burden, and it provides a means by which you can reach the world.
Sounds like you have a plan…right?
Well, yes and no. While it is true that a website can be built for very little and once it is live it is accessible all over the world, the site will not generate traffic if you don’t offer something of value. Search engine optimization (SEO) can help your small business but regardless of how amazing your domain name is, and no matter how many friends you may have on your personal Facebook page, your website will do little for your business if the content is not as delicious as a ripe piece of fruit.
I say this because great content is the first step to a quality site which means it is also the first step to effective SEO. Start by writing about and discussing the topics that your readers want you to touch on and don’t compromise for the sake of a keyword. The keyword game is a vital part of search engine marketing but it is not what provides the root value on your site. I discuss this method in a more detail at How To Increase Site Traffic, For Free!.
A Tale of Two Sites
Allow me to provide you with a quick case study. This is a study of yours truly and two sites I put together.
Like most people I began my pursuit of building money making websites with the idea in mind that I could simply write some content, optimize for a few phrases, and repeat the process to create some cash flow. I started with one site, three keywords, and gave myself one month. The domain was keyword rich and I was familiar with the topic so this was going to be easy.
I laid out the plan and each day for a month I worked on a different part of the site. I set up a link wheel, commented on forums, and posted new content every chance I could. The month went by and I ranked #1 for my main keyword. I was happy.
As time went by I would occasionally return to the site to moderate a comment or add a post. Traffic inched along and AdSense revenue began to come in. At the time I remember being so pleased with what I had accomplished, as I should have been not everyone has completed such a task. However, I did not realize that the site
I had built offered little value to the readers that found it on Google. Consequently the bounce rate was quite high and the only users that came to the site were the ones who had never been there before.
As an entrepreneur I am always on the lookout for great new opportunities and one of those opportunities came in the form of a business associate’s desire to increase his business online. We agreed that I would take care of the website if he created and compiled the information. With that he began emailing me articles to put on the new site.
This individual has been involved in his industry longer than I have been alive. He has published articles in magazines, and is very familiar with the each player in his arena. In short he is a fountain of knowledge and an amazing resource of high quality pertinent information.
I leisurely formatted and posted each article until the site comprised of 50 or so entries. I did nothing in the way of keyword research or link building. The site was simply a compilation of all the information that my partner had provided.
Initially we did not see a huge spike of traffic but over the course of a few months traffic began to come in. Additional articles were added and a few videos were posted to keep the site growing. Each article was quite lengthy and covered topics I wouldn’t have even known to have touched on if I was building the site by myself.
The result? Site B currently out performs site A in all regards. Site B brings in twice as much traffic, has a lower bounce rate, and boasts repeat visitors. Consequently it has also received more external links. People actually want to visit site B, the visitors to site A were more or less tricked into stopping by.
What you can take away from this is that no amount of “gaming the system” will outperform true value. Take the effort you want to invest into the latest technique and put it towards establishing value for your target market. If you do this you will build the foundation for something that will not be affected by the change of an algorithm, or fall to a change in technology. Site A is not a spammy site that tricks its visitors but it does rely heavily on how Google’s bot indexes it into the SERPs. If Google change the algorithm the site could lose all of its traffic. Site B on the other hand gets a portion of its traffic from people setting out to find specifically that site. They know it exists and they want to visit.
In term of sales if you can create something of true value not only will it sell better, people will voluntarily sell it for you. How many ads do you see for extremely high quality products? The products that make up the majority of the ad space are the ones that have stiff competition and need the marketing to push buyers in their direction. Companies with a solid competitive advantage need not worry about playing of the emotions of their customer base, the product speaks for itself.
I don’t want to bash SEO because I believe it is a hugely powerful tool but I do want to emphasize that it is only part of the equation. Remember brands like Rolex or Ferrari sell on their name; they don’t sell because they rank in the SERPS.