By Hal Halliday, H2WMA Board Member
Most businesses spend a lot of their resources on outbound communication like email blasts, magazine ads, postcards, websites and even social media. They use these platforms to tell their story, which is an important part of building a brand. But it can be tempting to focus entirely on looking out – after all, that’s where new customers are, right? Yes and no. While your outbound messages reach many possible leads, some of the best new business prospects are searching out your website and social media platforms on their own.
These prospects that are searching you out – volunteering to hear your message – are forgotten so often that it is concerning. The company that adopts a “set it and forget it” approach to their website, for example, gives little regard to how valuable these incoming visitors can be. Not only does a tired website give the wrong impression to these potential customers, it turns off search engines as well. Google and its ilk demand that your online properties – including social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – are filled with fresh, relevant content.
In order to make your business welcoming to prospective customers, you need to first understand those customers themselves. How are they finding your web properties? What keywords are they searching for? What links do they click on? What devices are they using? What sets you apart from competitors who are asking these same questions? Once you have a clear understanding of your target audience and their routines, you can adjust your site to attract them more successfully.
The first step in creating a digital “welcome mat” is to get those keywords into your content. You might assume that everyone is searching for your product’s brand name, but what if you find out that they are also searching for a slang term for a similar product? Or the name of a process that is related to your product? People are unpredictable creatures, and doing your homework about how your customers use search engines is an important step. Then, put what you learn to good use by sprinkling those keywords throughout the text on your website and your social media posts.
Follow that up by consistently generating valuable new content (that also includes your keywords). Give humans and search engines alike a reason to periodically return to your site. If you have a blog, keep it updated, share it on social media then send those clicks back to your website. Maximizing the magnetism of your web properties is a holistic process, but it’s pretty straightforward once you get the hang of it. Note that I didn’t say ‘easy;’ I said straightforward. Generating good content takes effort, but it’s worth it when you see yourself on the top of Google’s search results.
I get the same snake oil search engine optimization emails that you do. Don’t fall for them; not because they are necessarily wrong, but because they oversimplify a process that requires a deep understanding of your company and your customers to do properly. If I’ve learned anything over the past twenty years in marketing, it’s that success on the internet doesn’t come from technology, it comes from an understanding of human nature. No automated service comprehends the necessary context to do your business justice on the internet.
Make your content count. Your web presence needs to be as welcoming as possible, and as valuable as possible at the same time. Not only do you want prospects to visit your online storefront, you want them to come away feeling like they benefited from doing so. That’s how you build a powerful brand on the internet.
In many ways, the content you show inbound web users is just as important as the messages you send out. Help those potential customers to get what they need, and you’ll be glad you did.