Making effective use of the visitors to a page or web site, in terms of completing a desired action. Goals vary and can range from filling out a newsletter subscription (leads), purchasing $1000s of dollars in merchandise (sales), or simply reading a second page (engagement). However you define success, Conversion Rate Optimization is about improving the frequency of that success. Combine marketing increases with a steadily increasing conversion rate and your amount of success will be exponential.
Social Media Optimization (SMO) is the practice of increasing visibility for a company on social media channels, such as social networks, social shopping portals, and social bookmarking directories, with the goal of engaging customers.
If they’re big and you’re little, then you’re mobile and they’re slow. You’re hidden and they’re exposed. You fight only the battles you know you can win.
- Gene Hackman, Enemy of the State
Branding is more important than ever, with every link and mention, tweet and +1 being consumed, digested and weighed toward search engine rankings. Offline reputation bleeds over to some extent, giving the older, standby brands an edge in the online marketplace. All too often, however, fear of new media or the futility of red tape prevents these big brands from adopting ”new-fangled” technologies right away. That adoption delay is becoming an easy litmus test for the small, agile brands who are paying attention.
Old Site, New Target
For small brands in an industry where the key players have long adoption delays, it can be fairly easy to take the lead online. While it is rare nowadays that larger brands do not have a web site, your first step is to examine their technology. Most web sites more than 2-3 years old will likely have outdated optimization efforts (if any). By building your website with an already SEO-friendly, widget-based software, like WordPress or Magento, you can give yourself a significant, ongoing SEO advantage over older, poorly optimized platforms. Not to mention you should be able to stay up-to-date on new best practices with a little light reading instead of thousands of dollars in site overhauls. Note: Even with a low budget, choosing the cheapest possible hosting environment is not a good idea for reasons I’ll discuss a little later.
Out Firefox the Fox & Optimize for the Prize
Once you have your site up and running, take advantage of free SEO newsletters and add-ons for Firefox or Chrome to ensure that every page is well optimized. If your big brand target has a normal adoption delay any larger than 6 months, it is likely they have not done up-to-date keyword research in over a year and might have some decent holes in their optimization efforts that you can exploit quickly. Start out by going after the keywords they are missing in order to get sales in the door. Then turn around and use your profits from your new traffic to help fund the work you will need to do to tackle the larger, competitive terms. By not slowing down at your first success, you prevent yourself from turning into the kind of marketer you’re hoping to replace.
Get Social, Go Viral
While straight site optimization and link building takes time and some minor financial resources, the Internet also offers creative small businesses the opportunity for huge reputation bumps. The onset of blogs, YouTube and social media allows even the smallest budget to turn their good ideas into creative gold. The right video or clever infographic, that goes at all viral, can garner huge amounts of traffic you need to expect from the start. This is where your hosting situation comes into play. Receiving unexpected amounts of traffic has the potential to cripple your hosting environment if you went cheaper than you should have. While it’s true, you shouldn’t plan on millions of visitors at one time if your average traffic is closer to 100 visitors a day, ensuring that you can handle a traffic spike around 5-10 times your normal daily visitor count at a single point in the day is a good early benchmark. Ask your hosting provider about traffic tolerances if you are unsure. As you grow, you should also be able to move quickly from one plan to another, with little to no hassle from your provider (a good thing to know ahead of time).
Getting a blog article, video or social campaign to go viral can cause a huge lift in traffic, get people talking about your brand, linking to your site, blog, etc. and in general making you very popular overnight. However, the effects are often temporary, and you need to learn the best way to turn that huge traffic spike into a decent chunk of returning visitors, fans, followers, etc.
King of the Hill, Top of the Hit List
If you are able to take quick action, in an industry led by competitors with a large adoption delay, you have an opportunity to put yourself in the thought leadership role online. By becoming an influencer in your niche, you can gain the kind of clout that the big brands have offline in traditional media marketing channels. However, one thing about Internet marketing, SEO in particular, is that once you climb the pack, reach the top, and get where you want to be…you also paint a target on your back. The big brands will not like getting upstaged by a younger, smaller company. They will begin to improve their adoption delay, if only to take you down. Once you have the lead, though, if you keep doing what you’re doing, adopting new technologies early on and connecting with your audience, it will be really hard to catch you.
Tick, Tick, Tick…
One word of warning as you begin your meteoric rise to online fame and fortune… before you play the social media game, be sure to wade in carefully and figure out the mostly unwritten rules to each community. While rising above your offline competitors with a creative, witty presence is entirely possible, offending your audience and causing severe harm to your own brand is equally possible. In the movie, Gene Hackman ends up blowing up his own house all because Will Smith makes a phone call. And while the underdog still wins in the movies, even there, the setback almost costs them everything.
With an awesome weekend behind me, it was somewhat disappointing to come back to an overloaded Monday. I couldn’t quite find the time to put on my blogging hat yesterday.
As it turns out, that was exactly what I needed. Eric Lander posted a very good article yesterday afternoon about some of the posers in our industry, creating a new word for those SEOs who possess necessary, technical SEO knowledge: Dinocorns (old-fashioned and becoming rare). He made up the word, but I think it fits perfectly.
As I said in my comment on his article, as well as a previous post about SEO training, I have been guilty of not fully educating my team in the past. In an effort to get projects done, often I played to individual strengths and only taught what was needed for the project at hand. That mindset caused me a few issues in the past and, if prevalent, could have a negative effect on the search engine optimization industry at large.
Just to be clear, a professional SEO is someone whose sole occupation is providing SEO services for clients. Unfortunately, as Mr. Lander points out, some of the folks who claim to be SEOs do not have a solid foundation. Things in search engine optimization change too fast to claim to know it all…but the need for on-page optimization is just as important as it was a decade ago.
Search engine optimization at a professional level requires a degree of constant learning. New rules, tactics, tips and myths seem to come out of the woodwork. An accomplished SEO not only works for clients, but somehow manages to always have a few tests running to verify things for themselves and keep abreast of the latest news from search engines and a few of the more influential folks in the industry. Guys like Danny Sullivan and Rand Fishkin have spent years providing quality advice and wise counsel. They are considered experts by several in the SEO industry, but you don’t hear them claim the moniker for themselves very often. And for that, I tend to respect them even more.
So, if you are looking for a professional SEO to help you promote your site, learn some of the basics on your own in order to make an educated decision. And for those looking to become a professional SEO, start with the basics and be a Dinocorn. The industry will be better for it in the long run.