Beyond Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
The problem with SEO
Whilst you can ‘do all the right things’ to your website to make it search engine friendly, in practice you are at the mercy of search engine algorithms that are famously secret. This means that energy expended on search engine optimisation (SEO) cannot reliably bring about top rank results because if Google or Bing decide that you are not worthy of a high listing, you’ve had it – and you’ll never know why.
So while you should devote some resources to SEO, in particular dealing with the negatives like duplicate page titles, you should look at some other ways of promoting your business. Although the intention will probably be to lead people to your website, it’s not mandatory – we’re aware of businesses that prefer phone calls to call centres.
Here are some of the alternative marketing possibilities:
- all of the old fashioned ways of print advertising
- search engine and social media marketing
- videos on YouTube, Vimeo or similar
- exhibitions and conferences
Some of these items may require others, for example if you have an exhibition stand, you will need printed material and possibly videos.
Old-fashioned print advertising
Depending on your ambitions, this can include:
- business cards
- leaflets – have them distributed in lucrative places
- newspapers and magazines – local and national
In some quarters, swapping business cards is still all the rage with the result that piles of them get dumped in a box when the recipient gets back to the office where they are quietly ignored.
You can do better than that!
- think about what you are trying to achieve with your card from first principles – you are handing somebody something small that they can put in their wallet or purse
- think about the expected lifetime of the card before it gets binned or forgotten
- you don’t have to follow convention and just put your contact details on it, you can make it a mini-ad
- if it’s pretty, it will tend to hang around in a more visible location on the recipient’s desk
Don’t forget to put your web and email addresses on them. You may even want to put a specific web address on them if (say) you are handing them out from an exhibition stand. This gives you the ability to tailor your message and also target the effectiveness using web analytics.
…is your friend. There is no need to get hundreds of cards printed at once, you can get 8 or so on an A4 page and it’s OK to get a couple of pages printed at a time until you get it ‘right’. This also means that you can tailor different cards/mini-ads for different occasions, even for particular meetings.
Consider where they are going to go before you decide on a format. You don’t want to be turning up with A5 leaflets to a stand that can only take DL size or vice-versa. Your distribution agency should be able to get you up to speed on this.
Newspapers and magazines
The reach is greater but the initial cost is higher. Business cards and leaflets can be relatively low cost even if you hire a designer (usually a good plan), but with larger format advertising in newspapers and magazines you should definitely use a professional designer, perhaps even a marketing specialist, and also work with the publisher to get your result.
The choice of ad varies from classifieds, semi-display (ie smallish ads) to full-page colour. There can be remarkable flexibility in pricing for quarter-page, half-page and full-page advertising in magazines, but you do have to ask somewhat determinedly. The best prices are usually close to the time the magazine is put to bed.
Obviously there is no one-size-fits-all approach to this kind of advertising, but here are a few tips:
- If you don’t like the design the pro has produced, don’t go ahead with the advert. OK, so you’ve spent some money but don’t compound the problem. And if need be, change designers.
- Test the ad on a variety of people before publishing – and preferably not friends who are going to be nice to you – to see how they react. They may pick up on something that you hadn’t thought about.
- Work out the essential ingredients that you have to have in the ad to allow the general public to make a decision eg for an event it’s: date, time, place, price, website address for booking. This should become your mantra when checking any advertising material.
- Think in terms of a campaign even if you are only planning a short one. Newspapers sometimes only have a shelf life of a few hours – particularly if free – whereas magazines can sometimes hang around for ages – think dentists’ waiting rooms. How does this fit with your timescale?
- Ask the publisher where they are proposing to put your advert. Most advertisers don’t seem to ask this question, so it can be quite easy to get a top right page position towards the front.
Search Engine and Social Media Marketing
In essence, search engine marketing (SEM) is advertising on search engine results pages and social media marketing (SMM) is advertising on social media websites. It’s not a hard concept to grasp because you will probably have spotted advertising sidebars when using Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc searches, browsing Facebook or visiting one of the myriad sites with advertising splattered all over them.
Each search engine company has their own system for SEM and this is not the right place for detail, so what follows are some things to consider.
Since SEM will cost money you need to consider a timed campaign and look at the results and whether or not you have got a return on your investment.
SEM does require particular attention to be paid to the keywords that you are using to draw in people. In practice, this means that you will need to devote time to tuning during the campaign period. You will have to be interested in it, get skilled in it and also have the time to do the tuning. Of course you can outsource it, but you will still need to set objectives and expectations.
- As ever, look at what metrics you can use to judge the success of your campaign. More traffic may be helpful but it's more sales that pay for the campaign (and your salary).
- You must be sanguine with these forms of marketing. The providers are keen to point to success stories but somehow you never get to hear about the abject failures.
Videos on YouTube, Vimeo or similar
So you want to take on the cat videos!
It’s likely that the kind of video that you would be creating for YouTube/Vimeo will be backing up your website content eg
- advertising an event
- showing how one of your products should be used
- offering some training
If you’re thinking in terms of national terrestrial TV advertising, then you are in a whole different league though we could still point you in the right direction.
Questions to ask yourself and some possible answers
What will the visitor take away from your video?
If they are using your products/services, they should have a better idea of how to use them. If it’s an event, then they may have a better idea of what they are letting themselves in for.
How will you benefit from the visitor watching the video?
It can cut down on support calls, or make support calls quicker if you can just send the person a link to your video. If it solves a customer’s problem, they are more likely to stay with you.
How are the visitors going to get to your video?
Most likely because you’ve embedded it into your website though it may still turn up in search engine results on the host’s (YouTube, Vimeo) website. This is important because that’s not your website and you don’t know what ads they might append to it. If you want to guarantee no advertising near your video, you’ll have to host it yourself. This is not an unreasonable proposition subject to certain constraints.
How are you going to keep the visitor on your website after they’ve watched the video?
If you’ve embedded the video in your website, then they haven’t left.
Are you going to use a video production house?
The result will almost certainly be better than something you can produce in-house but given that many people are now used to seeing low-grade but effective videos on YouTube, you may not need broadcast quality and its commensurate expense.
The decision will rest on what you’re trying to do: if it’s just a question of showing off some part of the operation of a tractor power take off (PTO) driveshaft in 15 seconds, then DIY is probably just fine; one the other hand, if it’s a medical procedure demo or a trailer for a computer game, then going pro might be better.
You should storyboard your concept, even if you are using a production house. This involves dividing up a paper page into rectangles and sketching the scenes or shots in your video to give you an idea of what’s involved. Sketching is cheap and, in the first instance, only you have to understand your scratchings. Throwing away sketches is way easier than trying to change a production mid-stream.
When it’s clear enough in your head, you can then ask a production house for a treatment. This will show how they propose to approach your video. If you pay for this, you are likely to get a more considered result.
At some point you have to decide if you are going to use a voiceover or have someone talking to camera – finding someone with TV presentation skills without the help of a production house can be hard so use a voiceover if you have any doubt.
Following this there will be a spot of scriptwriting to do to make sure all the points you want to make are made. Scriptwriting can make things expensive eg Scene: The Bahamas.
A lot of low-cost cameras can produce HD quality movies and that’s what you need to be uploading particularly if there is fine detail that a visitor might want to see.
You may get away with the built-in camera mic but if you find you’re getting too much extraneous sound, you will have to source an external mic and have someone hold it near the presenter.
If lighting is needed, then good lighting is essential. You can rent or buy depending on how many videos you are likely to be making.
If you are using a presenter outside, then reflectors to get soft light on their face might be important. You can buy reflectors that fold up to do this.
We’ve rather assumed that if you are going down the video route, you already know how to edit movies or know someone who does.
The one thing worth mentioning is that if you are doing a voice over, keep the voice light. Don’t let it descend into a turgid gloom.
Exhibitions and conferences
The great thing about these is that your target market is walking past. The whole art and science of exhibitions is too great to go into here, but there are some things you can do in web terms:
- Have a web page for the exhibition so that people can get to a relevant page from your card – display the address and put it on exhibition-specific literature.
- Consider having a QR code on your stand to allow people to scan it and get to your website via their smartphone. This could be ‘stickier’ than a business card.
- Use your website as a repository of reference material that you may need to call upon whilst on the stand. These pages do not have to be linked to your website, though you would need to bookmark the address so you can find them quickly on the day. Remember that anything on a website, linked or not, should be treated as public so don’t put confidential information there.
SEO still has its place and it’s relatively easy to do, so do it. After that you need to look at what strategy suits your time available and your pocket. And the bigger the budget, the sooner you should be calling in the professionals – they should be able to save you from unfortunate mistakes.
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