Building brands is a long term process but it pays rich dividends over the long term. Think of celebrities (movie stars or sports persons) who are able to charge top dollar to act as brand ambassadors. But even celebrities do clever marketing usually handled by their PR agencies to increase their brand recognition value which will justify the fat fees they charge to appear in an ad.
Any brand needs and depends on marketing — including the most recognized brands in the world such as Sony or Coca Cola or McDonalds. To get eyeballs from online visitors, you need to invest in online marketing. This is the domain of SEO, SEM and online marketing professionals.
If small businesses want their websites to get more visitors, they’ve to resort to marketing. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a key part of that process. The simple old days of SEO which was about creating a bunch of backlinks is long past. Today, SEO comprises a range of skills and techniques. And SEO is best handled by experienced SEO professionals — just as cardiac surgery is best left to experienced cardiac surgeons or rocket science is best left to rocket scientists.
Let us look at a few facets of what an SEO will do for your business website:
- First off the bat, the internet levels the playing field for the largest online businesses (Amazon, eBay) and the smallest venture by an individual operating out of a rented property. With SEO, you have a very cost effective way to highlight your business
- SEO will even let you expand your business to new markets domestically or internationally.
- SEO professionals use tools such as Google Analytics to analyze visitors to your website as well as to your competitors’ websites. This will give you invaluable insights about what you are doing right and what aspects you might wish to improve.
- Remember that unlike traditional advertising, investment in SEO keeps paying in the long term. Once your search engine rank improves thanks to SEO, it will continue to do well in search results.
Let’s look at a couple of areas in detail that SEOs deal with.
1. Social Media Marketing
This is the age of Social Media where no one can afford to be absent from platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. There is a bewildering variety of social media options and each social media platform has a dedicated fan following and appeals to certain kinds of demographic or users. Facebook is more for connecting with one’s circle of friends or family while Twitter has users who are perhaps more drawn to current and breaking news and events.
Brands have learned to use these free social media platforms to their advantage. Every major movie or sports star, every major politician and organization, every major news organization, is on Twitter and/or Facebook. A Twitter ban in Turkey is big news just as Ellen DeGeneres and her record-breaking Oscar selfie was.
Brands come up with clever promotional campaigns designed specifically for Twitter. Any online business that wants to create brand awareness about itself should think of running a Twitter campaign where it needs to offer a few gifts (a smartphone, an iPad, iPhone or iMac) and in return it may get to see its hashtag related to its business “trend” on Twitter which will let millions of Twitter users become more aware about the company or the specific happening.
From a search engine optimization perspective, the best social media platform is Google+. This is the one that Google loves the most. How to benefit from Google+? You have to create a dedicated Google+ page for your business. When you share links on that page and Google+ users ‘+1’ those links, this helps your site in Google search results.
You business website should be listed on Google+ Local with its address, contact information and other details. When users search for local businesses, this information is displayed prominently. You can search for any local business, say ‘Starbucks,’ and you will see the results where Google displays businesses in your local area. If a business has a Google+ page, then Google will also show the total number of reviews for that business posted by customers and the average rating for the business.
All this more is best handled by SEO and online marketing professionals.
2. Content Marketing
In the hyper-connected world of today, people’s impressions about brands is moulded via a variety of inputs: product ads, social media feedback, product review and other websites, feedback from friends and family, etc.
Since there is a constant barrage of information that people are always exposed to, it’s more likely that a brand will stand out when it has good recall value. You can create a positive impression about your brand using content marketing.
Even when people are not actively seeking to make a purchase, it’s good if customers are aware of your brand so that when they decide to actually make a purchase decision, your brand will be able to leap-frog the competitor brands.
Content marketing can take a variety of forms including articles, blog posts, email campaigns, infographics, photos, videos, tutorials, FAQs and e-books.
Content marketing helps your website maintain high ranking in search results. This is the latest change to Google’s search algorithms where Google seeks to highlight fresh and useful content. When you upload such content to your website, search engines such as Google index that content. When content is uploaded frequently, this signals to Google to visit your site more frequently. This in turn helps your site get better ranks.
Having good content on your website ensures that you get lots of visitors who read and share that content on social media. This in turn helps improve the search ranking of your website which will attract more visitors to your site. This is a virtuous cycle that can be accomplished with search engine optimization.
Finally, remember that SEO should not be an afterthought but an integral part of any website. If you are in the process of designing a new website for your company, it would make sense to involve SEO professionals from the beginning. You’ll get the best results for your website if you keep the SEO perspective in mind as you choose a CMS or decide the URL structure for your website.
Even offline businesses cannot neglect the importance of a website. Often, people conduct online research to zero-in on an offline business establishment with which they interact offline. All in all, SEO is a powerful and key weapon in the online marketing battle.