Feb 27, 2014

Small Website Marketing And SEO Strategy

Hello everyone. My name is Laura Anies (view Google+ profile), and I’m a small business owner myself. I’m a professional internet marketer, as well as a fashion and beauty buff, and I run 2 popular UK-based sites that are focused mainly on product reviews.

I also regularly contribute to 305Startup.net and have recently contributed an article about small business funding tips.

I will try to lay out strategies and tactics that are actually applicable for small, one man operations. Most online guides won’t give you that, so stay tuned

This is going to be a long guide, and all of it will appear in a single page, so I advise you to use the on-page navigation menu below, and/or make a printed copy of it. Whatever you do, please make sure to give to TheCoderTips.com.

* If you want to read this review and tutorial as a PDF file, you can download it HERE.

Table of Contents

Small websites marketing and SEO strategy

Starting off: Product

Next stage – Marketing


Note: this guide covers a variety of topics, each one of them deserves a whole page, section or even a book to master. I’ve chosen to give you an overview for beginners. If you want to increase your knowledge on the topic, please refer to the different sites that I’ve included as resources.

Set of mind & How to find your niche

I’m a firm believer in the concept that everything starts in a set of mind. As Mr. Avinash Kaushik, one of the world’s most famous and successful internet marketers, says:
[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Most people focus on the do, when they should focus on the see and think“[/quote]

(Loosely rephrased from his latest MozCon lecture)

What does he mean? He means that UNLIKE in the “real world” of land-based businesses, internet marketers and entrepreneurs focus on immediate make-money streams instead of creating products which aid their potential consumers.

Most of the internet is absolute junk. It is composed of people who heard there’s money to be made online, and decided to step in and apply low-quality SEO techniques on a site that provides no value.

Why should your website be any different from what others are doing?

There’s a simple answer to that. The answer is that the online world is changing:
  • Consumers are not buying if trust isn’t established (reference). If your site, or product for that matter, isn’t top-notch, there’s very little chance the wishful trust will be established.
  • Search engines (re: Google) now scrutinize the quality of your site in many aspects. There were several quality-ensuring tweaks within the algorithm to prevent low-quality sites from ranking. The main one is the Panda update (read more), and there were other smaller ones like the page layout update.
  • Search engines (again, re: Google) are much more efficient against sites trying to game their algorithm. Penguin updates (view full list here) analyzed at many forms of artificial backlinks, and penalized sites that are applying aggressive SEO techniques. Links that are truly affective for the long term, and aren’t putting your site at risk, are links that you have received as a genuine positive reference.

So, how do you do this the right way

So, how do you do this the right way, considering you have a small newish website with a limited marketing budget?

When you change your set of mind, you start thinking outside the box. Until now, if your business was solely internet-based, you thought of ways to game Google and prove them that your site has superior qualities over other sites in the same niche.

How about thinking like a REAL business owner would? Wil Reynolds from SEER interactive coined a phrase named RCS – Real Company Stuff (read more). It basically says that you if you want to be regarded as an authoritative resource by Google and users, you should do things big serious company do, but on a lower scale.

When REAL business owners want to start a business, they start off by thinking about the product. Up until now when you wanted to start a website you’d do it by performing a keyword research. Are you still doing that? That is SO 2008 .

Think of the theme of your site

Is it something you can provide an added value in? Either because you’re an expert on the topic, you have someone who is an expert on the topic, you can think of better UX than other sites, you have better products or cheaper products, or there something innovative others aren’t offering.

Think of a marketing strategy

A good marketing strategy is one that leverages your product rather than being independent of it. Do you know these catchy commercials that stick into your brain and won’t let go, but you don’t really recall what they advertise? This is what I’m talking about. If you get your name heard in the wrong places, or your site linked to from the wrong places – you are both doomed for an unsuccessful marketing campaign, as well as an unsuccessful SEO campaign.

When the marketing / SEO aspects COMES from within your product – targeting the real target audience, and sharing content which is worth sharing, the whole process becomes much easier. You don’t have to be an SEO expert and calculate the location, placement and anchor of your links – you can present your site and let other site owners decide this for you. When links are constructed as a result of an outreach campaign, they are risk-free, and tend to be more powerful than links supplied by solicitation requests.

Think of the competition in the niche

Think of your competitors’ budgets and reputation. Are you able to cope with them? You don’t necessarily need to spend as much money as the guy next to you, but realistically you won’t establish a new company form the ground up with 10% of the funding of your competitors. 50% is somewhat realistic if you think they overspent, but 10% of your competitors’ budget, will almost never end in you surpassing them. Aiming for being the second or third best thing around, ’cause there are sites you cannot be a match to, is the line of thinking a loser would stick to.

Smaller businesses think SUB NICHE. Did you consider opening your running shoes store, and sticking it to all the big stores? Think again. When you come up with a sub-niche you are also getting closer to finding your USP (Unique Selling Point).

Sub-niche is also the window to SEO success. In a world of titans who have reputation and funding that you cannot replicate, there’s still some room for the little guys. Google has a lot of respect for sites that are extremely comprehensive and are niche leaders. These are the type of sites that have gained more and more visibility over the course of the past years. These are the type of sites that rank for heavy generic keywords like “marketing”, “SEO”, “running shoes” or even compose about 80% of the front page results for a term like Indonesian chicken curry.

Let’s focus on that Indonesian example for moment. Search results are volatile, and I cannot predict what this query will yield in the future, but I’m guessing that at any point in time you’ll be searching, that 20 percent portion of the search results which isn’t composed of big well-known websites will include niche leaders for Asian cooking.

It is impossible (or close to it), to create a site that will cover different types of dishes from all around the world in a better way than food.com or about.com, as I mentioned before. Yet, it is much more up the alley of a small-time entrepreneur to create a niche site for Asian foods, or better yet Indonesian food. The DEPTH of the sub-niche will depend on how much you would be willing to invest upon the establishment of the site.  If you are on a really tight budget, and your aim is to rank, you can also launch a site dedicated specifically for Indonesian Chicken recopies. It’s all up to you.

When you think of a niche you need to start thinking monetization. That is, of course, if you want to make money out of your website, rather than make a hobby site. There are countless ways to monetize your website (here are 24 of them) and you need to find where the business center in what you do is.

Incorporating the business aspect should help you focus, and moreover help you formulate a business plan, which should match with your product and marketing plans.  It might be a good time for you to discover that the ROI of your project isn’t what you anticipated it to be.

Starting off: Product

As I have explicitly mentioned in the previous section of this guide, the key to good marketing is a good product. This should be your starting point rather than your SEO strategy. I will go over mostly technical things here, but make sure you read previous section to ensure you have the right set of mind.

After we have a niche in mind, we will dive into preliminary market research.
-          See what the target audience likes, wants and needs. Interview people who are relevant for this research, find online contacts who can give a hand, read surveys, dive into forums, start reading relevant blogs and do whatever is in your power to understand your demographic.
-          See what other sites that are popular and well-ranked in Google offer. This can give you an idea of what should you cover, and what can you do better than them.
-          See how much money can you make – choose your way of monetization, and see how lucrative your target audience is to advertisers. The Google adwords (http://www.google.com/adwords/) tool can give you initial insights, but also look for NICHE-specific advertising to maximize your profits. If you’re into baby diapers for example, search for baby diapers advertising, baby diapers affiliate programs and so on.

Envision how you want the products to look like

Before you move into the technical stages of keywords research and content creation, SEO-friendly structure or marketing, you have to stick to #RCS. A big part of RCS is putting different types of effort into your product – the type real companies would do when they launch their product.

Make a list of the articles you want in your site, what is the hierarchy between them (which ones are ought to become more popular), and how the website would look.

You can make a preliminary sketch with things like MS-Word, MS-Paint, or more professional tools that are actually mock up software (Smash magazine lists  a bunch of them here – http://mashable.com/2012/06/07/mockup-tools/).

Applying SEO – Start with Keyword research

Keyword research is not only made to discover which keywords should appear in your website to attract traffic, not at all. By understanding which queries users are using to find the information, you can also understand what type of information you should provide.

Use tools like Google keyword tool, Google suggest, Google trends, Yoast.com/suggest/, and type in as many related keywords as you find (if you started off doing the stages properly you must have an idea of the needs and wants of your audience by now).

Go to competitors’ site and identify their keywords by listing their articles, looking through their meta keywords & meta title fields and seeing which keywords have most focus and son.

The next part is just to take the vision and adjust it accordingly:
-          Incorporate a main keyword and secondary keywords target for each field.
-          Use keywords that don’t match your content help you discover more areas of what to write about.
-          Understand search volumes for each intent (group of keywords) and understand what your potential visitors want to see MOST (this will dictate your hierarchy and design later on).

Plan a site hierarchy

The site’s hierarchy is the way your website is built. Which content appears on the homepage, how does the navigation looks, what type of elements will you have on the center of the page, which elements will you have on your sidebar, and how the user funnel would look like.

This is very site specific and design specific, but the main idea is to take the intents/pages that you have identified in your research, and make sure it’s easily accessible. Take other content which is not as important, and include it in the site in a way it would be accessible to whomever want to access it.

Here’s an example showing how a page is structured, there are many possible pages to proceed to, but the ones with higher popularity are more highlighted.

The shit starts off with a navigation menu that includes some of the most popular continuation-pages for the users entering this page, but more highlighted than everything is the recommended action for the user (BUY NOW or TRY FOR FREE, kind of thing).

In the less visible parts of the page, below the fold (read this interesting debate about i http://ogrshows.com/shows/podcasts/uxthis-podcasts/547), you have to link to more pages that can be interesting for both the users, and search engines (relevant pages that can get the power of the linking page and its relevancy).

Here’s a basic layout of a page: (pardon the quality – click to enlarge it):

You have to apply the same type of sense to your overall site structure.
-          Popular pages are easy to find and navigate to (in most cases linked throughout the site and not from a specific section).
-          It’s easy to understand what is the main thing you should do in each page
-          All pages in the site could be found within 2 click away from homepage
-          Relevant internal links from each page (for example, if you have a “Burgers page” you should link to you “McDonald’s critique” page, but not so much to your “Children’s book” page).

Execution of product

After you have an idea of the different building blocks of the site, how to place them, and what do you want written there, it’s the time to convey your ideas and turn your dream into reality.

The best way your product will look, is the way you want it, is if you build it from the ground up. This requires a very wide set of skills, design/UX, programming/advanced webmaster skills and content writing skills. Most people are good at either one of the three, while some are just strong with the business and administrative skills and cannot perform either task.

I don’t feel this is the place to tell you where and how to recruit these people, but as part of REAL COMPANY STUFF approach, it is advised you’d find the person perfectly fit for this work and not “a person who can design/program/write”.

When you work with either one of these it’s important to be as detailed as possible with your requests. Even if you cannot design, you can make a preliminary mock-up, if you cannot write you can write pointers of things to include in the text, if you cannot program make some research on the platform you’d like to use. For beginners it’s easiest to use one of the all-in-one website builder as suggested in the homepage of this site, like Webs, Weebly or Wix.

As any business owners realized – unless you are the pushing force behind your business, the business will collapse. Don’t put your trust in a stranger’s hand assuming “this guy knows how to work since he did THIS or THAT in the past”.

Execution of product – SEO

After the content is written in a user-friendly way, and the site is structured like that, there is not much to do on the on-page SEO. Upload the pages making sure the URLs fit the purpose of the page (short and to the point), upload meta title that describe what can be found in the page (in an attractive way), upload meta descriptions that provide even more information.

Don’t use old school SEO tricks like keyword stuffing, and don’t be over optimized (repeat the main intent of the page more than once in meta title, create H1 for the page which is similar to the meta title) – just go with the flow and make sure that the main keywords of the page are included in it.

Next stage – Marketing

You’d be relieved to know that even though this is the main theme of the article, by following the previous steps you are already 99% there.
If you followed my advice, by now you should have a:
-          High quality product with a unique selling point.
-          Well structured site which is easy to use.
-          Content that covers all the important aspects needed to be covered.

This is the type of sites both search engines and users love, so you are expected:
  1. To rank better without the need for as many links as your competitors who apply low quality techniques.
  2. Rank easily on a variety of longtails – the more unique your content is and the more topics it deals with that other don’t – it’ll “find its way”. Longtails compose more than 70% of the internet searches, so that alone can give you most of the traffic you were aiming for.
  3. Becomes easily shared (socially) and linked to, without any special efforts.
Even considering the above what you truly need at this stage is a kick-start to get your name recognized in the right places. This strategy is a low-budget one, add more marketing things like PR companies the more budget you have, but this is the basic:
  1. Create a G+ user and make it an Author of your content. Connect with people on Google plus who are in the same line of business and share similar interest and gently advise them to have a look at your site. If you contact more site owners, you have a better chance of linkage.
  1. Create relevant business pages and personal user profile,  who will be kept up to date and publish the content of your site (another MEDIA to reach TRAFFIC and also get LINKS).
Try to be active wherever you can:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google +
  • Intagram
  • Pinterest
  • Vine
  • Local networks
  • Professional networks
  • Q&A sites like Yahoo!Answers
  • Forums on the relevant topic
Don’t SPAM there, publish USEFUL information – from either your OWN site or ANOTHER site. Help other people, comment on their threads, statuses, offer as much advice as you can and try to solve their problems. They will trust you and become your followers if they think you’re an expert.
  1. Link to as many good resources as you can from your content, and notify their owners about that. Maybe they would like to link back (yes reciprocal link exchange aren’t favored by Google but these type of two very relevant and good sites type of link-backs aren’t an issue).
  2. Guest post on another blogs. Don’t guest posts on sites that take whoever they can find to guest post, but aim high for blogs like ones listed on Techcrunch and maintain very high quality throughout the articles. Don’t link to your content artificially but rather write on a topic that DEMANDS the link to your site for more information.
  3. Make a real press release to your new content or product. Approach relevant industry news sites and big time magazines and offer them different re-writes of your story. DON’T just publish your story via automated PR feeds like PRWire.
  4. Search for specific queries that you provide the best information on. For example if you provide explanations on how to run a marathon, search for each and every query that deals with the topic. Contact each GOOD site (site that is up to date, good content, and good Google ranks for the relevant queries) and simply tell them you have relevant content (specify for which pages and which are your relevant pages). Tell them a link can be nice but don’t be pushy about that. Try to be friendly and interact, the more they feel friendly with you – the higher the odds you’ll get a link from it.
  5.  Do branding based campaigns – co-citations (how many times your brand is mentioned over the web) is also super important. Sites like YouTube let you upload a branding video – make a good catchy one and get people familiar with your brand. Youtube is just one option, how about replying with your brand name in relevant big time blogs comment section (people read those like crazy!). It’s not the comment link that matters, it doesn’t, but the fact people will get curious about who you are and eventually look for you.
** Both searches for brand name, and co-citations are really helpful for SEO, but more than that – when people know your brand, they are more likely to buy or register **


I hope you enjoyed this guide as I most certainly did.
If we have to summarize the process described here into a list of pointers, I would say:
  • It begins with the proper set of mind.
  • That proper set of mind thinks USERS and PRODUCT before marketing aspects.
  • Don’t jump into product creation before you envision it, and understand exactly which purpose it serves.
  • Analyze your set of skills and strong points and make sure you understand what the advantage this product has over others products.
  • Look at competitors and do preliminary keywords research to understand what the audience wants to see. Have a complete list of pages to include at this stage.
  • Structure pages starting with the most common or desired intent and let users choose from a variety of things to proceed to.
  • Important pages should be more highlighted and get more links within the site.
  • Write to the people who help you build the site a very detailed overview of what you are looking for
  • After product is done – marketing is a joke. Create presence in the most relevant places like forums, blogs, social networks, add people and help them as much as you can – connect with them, and they are likely to link to you or share your content.
  • Add some blog posting to the mix in extreme high quality blogs.
  • Brand your site on top of getting links, as co-citations on the web & brand searches will aid your SEO
Good luck and thanks for reading through these 3811 words 

1 comment:

  1. Incredible rundown! I generally propose that customers push their site from various perspectives other than SEO to have a balanced web promoting methodology.