So You Have a New Website, Now What?

The following is an article I wrote that was originally published on in July of 2012

So you have a website, now what?Getting an online presence by publishing a website is the first step in opening your business to a larger market. It takes you from a local market to a potentially global one. But, therein lies the problem. While your website may be accessible to people worldwide, it only has the “potential” to be visited by a global audience. The trick is getting people to know your website exists. This is where the real work begins. Publishing a website and putting no work into marketing it is basically the equivalent of opening a brick and mortar business on a desert island, which is isolated from the outside world and expecting to actually generate new business.

If your website sits there day after day, looking pretty, but not getting any results, and you don’t know why, here is your answer: right now your website is on such a desert island. Currently no roads or bridges lead to your site and no one in the outside world even knows your business exists. Your job is to build those roads and bridges and put up signs that not only direct people to your site, but that will also tell them why they should want to get there.

Building “Roads” to Your Business Online

Don’t worry, no concrete or asphalt is involved in building virtual roads and bridges. What you need to build are links and luckily it’s extremely easy to post links to your website and there are thousands of places to do it. If you don’t have links to your website published in various places online, the only people who are ever going to find it will be people that you give your URL to directly. Your business’ URL is the way that your customers will find you on the World Wide Web and it’s also the only way Search Engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo will be able to find your site and list it. Like with any brick and mortar store, the more people that visit your store, the more likely you are to convert your visitors to buyers, so the more bridges and roads (a.k.a. links) that lead to your store, the more visitors you’ll have and the more sales you are likely to generate.

Post links in as many places as you can think of. Your social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any others should have links to your website. If you are not involved in social media, get involved. Do some online research to learn how to best go about this and you’ll be glad you did. Other ways to get links to your website include article marketing, publishing press releases, guest blogging and joining clubs, forums or other membership sites where your target market will likely visit. You can also respond to forum and blog posts using a signature that includes your URL and post your link in numerous online business directories.

All of these methods have two further bonuses in addition to creating better access to your website. The first is that all of these methods optimize your website for search engines. The better optimized your site, the better you’ll rank when someone searches for keywords related to your business. The second bonus is all these options will allow you to demonstrate your expertise in your field. In other words, article marketing, social networking, guest blogging, commenting on blogs and forums and press releases are all great ways to position yourself as an expert in your field and to demonstrate to your potential audience why they should want to visit your website.  So put down your shovel and pick up your mouse. It’s time to get building!

Google’s Penguin Update: Is It Time to Google-Proof Your Business?

Google Penguin UpdateMuch to the chagrin of many website owners, in April of this year (2012) Google implemented an update of their search engine algorithm that has even Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Experts scratching their heads. The update, which according to Wikipedia, when launched was being referred to by users as “OOPs” and “Titanic”, before oddly being named after a cute little animal, the “Penguin” by Google, has stunned and dismayed website owners (not to mention penguin lovers) around the world. Many sites that have previously enjoyed a spot in the coveted page one positions of Google’s results have now been sent to search engine oblivion, and with them went their traffic and customers. The vast majority of the businesses affected negatively by the Penguin update have seen their revenues fall dramatically, and many business owners are not sure how they can possibly recover.

While these business owners scramble to make changes to their websites trying their best to conquer the dreaded Penguin update, it’s important to remember that Google isn’t trying to give penguins a bad reputation, or ruin poor unsuspecting business owners. In fact, the reason behind this update was to reduce the amount of “webspam.” In other words, it is an effort to do something good by reducing the number of sites listed that use frowned upon techniques to generate their search engine rankings. By attempting to promote high quality content, they inadvertently adversely affected some of the good guys.

But here’s the thing, if you’ve been affected and are now scrambling to make changes to your website to regain your ranking, while you may very well accomplish what you set out to do, who’s to say what the next algorithm update will bring, or even when it will happen? So, instead of toiling away, trying to beat the system, why not come up with some more creative ways of generating traffic? Here are a few ideas to get you started at Google-proofing your business:

  1. Use Social Media. Form relationships with your friends and followers and offer them value in following you. Getting people interested in you through social media is a great way to generate not only traffic to your site, but targeted traffic to your site – which is really the best kind of traffic to have.
  2. Create Press Releases. Launching a new product? Adding a new service? Lowering your prices? Announce it with a press release and publish it via online PR distribution companies. On top of publicizing some great information about your company, this also provides a great way to get out links to your website (in a way Google likes). Even better is the fact that although your site might not rank very well, many of these PR distribution companies are very well positioned in Google, and so too may your release if written well and with appropriate keywords in mind.
  3. Use Your Tribe. Building a list, or “tribe” as it’s being called these days in web speak, is one of the best possible ways to Google proof your business. If you already have a list, that is a list of email addresses generated from your website where people have given you permission, or “opted-in” to receive updates, news, or ezines, then you have a direct line to your target market. If you have a list, you need to start using it, and marketing it. If you don’t have one, then now’s the time to get started!
  4. Start Article Marketing. Like press releases, article marketing is a great way to generate links to your site. It is also a great way to position yourself as an expert in your industry. An article that is well written and distributed to popular and/or niche article banks can produce some great exposure for your business. Very popular websites often gather material for their blogs and ezines from these sites. Getting your article included on one of these sites could generate tons of traffic to your Google deprived website.
  5. Join Stuff. Okay, this sounds a little silly, but if you think about it, joining associations, groups and members only forums related to your industry is a great way to, a) get listed in their directories and get found at a place that people would frequently search for others in your industry and b) mingle with others in your industry to see what they are doing to get noticed.
  6. Get Creative. Who is your target market? Where can they be found? Is there a place that they tend to go online that you could also go and get noticed? Can you create an affiliate or referral program around your product in order to have others promote it for you? Brainstorm some creative marketing ideas and you may be pleasantly surprised what you come up with.

The ideas are endless. If you make use of your imagination and some of these suggestions, you will be ready for whatever fuzzy animal update Google comes up with next.

The Mystery Of The Website That Can’t Be Found

Search Engine Optimization for Your WebsiteSo you have a brand spanking new website. It exhibits your company’s professionalism and exceptional skill.  It’s pretty and shiny and everything you hoped it would be, so why aren’t you getting any new customers? It’s a mystery that many website owners are frequently left to contemplate once their website has been designed and published for the world to see.

The answer to the mystery is really actually quite simple. It’s SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION and if your website doesn’t have it, it will quite likely be lost in the great abyss that is the World Wide Web. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO will make your website easier for search engines like Google and Yahoo! to find. If done well, your website will rank better when someone searches for one of your keywords.

Have I lost you yet? This is one of the things that most of my clients find positively mind-numbingly boring, but it’s essential if you want your website to help you increase your bottom line. So, let’s liven things up a little by using an example.  Let’s say you own a Rodeo Clown company called “Foolish Jim’s Rodeo Clown Co.” located in Burlington, Vermont. The first step in optimizing your website would be to determine what words and/or phrases people would use to search for a company like yours on Google, Yahoo! or Bing. These phrases are called “keywords.” I personally don’t have any rodeo clown companies as clients (yet :-)), so I have never done any keyword research on the topic, but there are tools out there to help you choose which are the best keywords for which to optimize your website, such as Google’s keyword tool and Wordtracker. Some keywords that we might come up with for this company could be “Vermont Rodeo Clowns,” or “Burlington Rodeo Cowboys” for example.

Once you have determined which keywords you’d like to optimize for, the next step is on-site search engine optimization. This means that you strategically place these keywords in important places on your website so that the search engines will find your website when they are bringing up results for your keywords.  Some examples of good places to add your keywords are:

  • In your page title
  • In your page headers
  • As “alt” tags in your page images
  • Peppered strategically throughout your website’s text
  • In your meta description – (ask your web designer if you’re not sure how to access this)
  • In your URL

A blog that focuses on your area of expertise is another great way of providing the search engines with fresh content that can be optimized for SEO purposes.

The next phase of SEO is getting your site’s URL out on the worldwide web by creating links to your website from other sites. Some of my favorite ways to do this are:

  • Using Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., etc., etc.)
  • Writing and distributing online articles
  • Writing and distributing online press releases
  • Submitting your company to industry directories
  • Commenting on blogs and or forums that are related to your industry

So there you have it, mystery solved! With a little work on SEO your shiny new website can actually be all that you imagined it would be and do what it was meant to do – bring you business!