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The Experts Up Close
Joel Comm is a teacher, speaker and author of the New York Times best-seller The Adsense Code
Scott Fox is a Web entrepreneur, e-business coach and author of the best-sellers e-Riches 2.0: Next Generation Marketing Strategies and Internet Riches.
Joan Stewart is a media consultant, speaker, former newspaper editor and publicity expert. She writes The Publicity Hound’s Tips of the Week, a free online newsletter.
How can I get more traffic from search engines?
Scott Fox: To increase your search engine ranking, don’t play the games that many search engine optimization (SEO) consultants try to sell. Focus on producing interesting, targeted and timely information for your customers. That will attract site visitors and also help you attract better search engine rankings.
Search engines can’t read. So, on your Web site you need to optimize your content to display key words and phrases that highlight your company’s product focus. This helps the search engines categorize your Web site appropriately and display it in search results to visitors searching for Web sites like yours. (You can determine the best key words for your products using free online tools like Google’s Traffic Estimator.
Even more important for SEO is the number and quality of sites that link to your Web site. Links to your Web site are the No. 1 factor that most search engines use to determine search engine ranking today. So it’s best to receive links from sites that are authoritative in your field.
Joan Stewart: The most effective and quickest way to get traffic is to create and use videos. With an inexpensive Flip Video Camcorder (about $150) and editing software like Sony Vegas Movie Studio, you can create short videos and post them to video-sharing sites like YouTube. When you post them, you also “tag” them, which means you assign specific keywords to the video so that people searching for those keywords will find the video. You can also create videos for your Web site. For example, you can create a video that shows you greeting visitors at your site and explaining what they can find there. Or you can create a video in which you explain the benefits of a certain product.
Many of the top Internet marketers have tested the effectiveness of video on their sites. Their conclusion? Simply adding video to a Web site or to a video-sharing site can start pulling in traffic that day! It can also result in an increase, on average, of 5 to 800 percent in sales. The sweet spot for video is about 2 1/2 minutes, anything longer than that and you risk losing viewers. So start producing videos right now.
Joel Comm: Organic traffic from the search engines has long been my greatest source of traffic. Free is better than paid any day of the week. Many agonize over finding ways to click the search engine charts, when the truth is that a few simple actions and some common sense go a long way.
Google and the other large search engines prefer to index content that is natural. If you are preparing your content properly, your article header and body text are going to naturally contain keywords relevant to your topic. Be sure that your meta tags and title tag reflect the keyword content accurately, as well.
The search engines will give you higher rankings if you do two additional things: First, be sure to add content on a regular basis. Fresh, original content will give you a boost. Also, seek inbound links from related sites. Link farms may get your listings punished, but links from recognized sites that already have good rankings will help move your listings higher.
What’s the top piece of advice you can give to people who are just getting started online?
Scott Fox: Get started now. It’s not too late to be very successful online. My books and blog are full of real people making money and growing their businesses online today. The audience keeps growing, and the tools continue to get cheaper and easier to use. More important for online success than venture capital or technology training is passion for your topic or products. Millions of customers are online, searching for information, entertainment and solutions to their problems 24/7/365. Any niche product or personal interest can likely be turned into an online business, because the Internet audience of 1.4 billion people is so large that many other “someones,” somewhere share your enthusiasm.
Anything—selling scrapbooking supplies, covering local, amateur sports, reviewing specialized insurance products, or buying guides for fancy bathroom fixtures or new home-care products— offers you opportunity. You can use the cost-effective, worldwide reach of online tools like e-mail, blogs and social networks to build new, niche-focused communities around almost any topic, product or business interest. This means new audiences of potential customers and word-of-mouth evangelists for your products.
Joel Comm: Don’t get trapped by IOS, “Information Overload Syndrome.” I see it happen time and again. There are so many ways to make money online and so many tools you can use to make it happen, that people get spread too thin to actually accomplish anything. Focus on the basics and become a master at them before biting off more than you can chew. Great site design and regularly updated quality content are foundational keys for success. Make sure you are building an e-mail list of prospects and customers so you can contact them when you have something to share.
One other piece of advice that I didn’t figure out for years is to play to your strengths and outsource your weaknesses. I can’t design or program my way out of a paper bag, so it makes no sense for me to spend valuable time learning how to do it. It is far more practical to hire out these tasks to people who are talented in those skills, and spend my time doing what plays to my own skills and talents. It might cost you a bit more upfront, but it will pay off in the long run.
If I have a Web site already, do I need a blog?
Scott Fox: If you never really have anything interesting to say about your products, industry or customers, then a blog may not be necessary. But if that’s the case, you probably don’t have much of a business because your sales effort is already failing. So I recommend that every business operate a blog.
Why? Because a blog is a great promotional platform for communicating with customers and increasing your search engine ranking. Your traditional Web site can showcase your products, and the blog can supplement it the way that my “E-Commerce Success Blog” is part of ScottFox.com, for example.
Updating your blog with a short, informative article just once a week will help you attract targeted and pre-sold customers. It will also help improve your search engine ranking and traffic because search engines like the regularly updated content that blogs offer.
(Tip: Even if you don’t start a blog of your own, you can get free publicity and attract Web site traffic by leaving informative comments on other blogs.)
Sixty-nine percent of customers research purchases online today, even if they buy offline. Use a blog to give them more info and close more sales.
Joan Stewart: Absolutely.
Your blog is the place where you comment on a regular basis, preferably at least three times a week, on topics that your target audience cares about. It’s an interactive place where visitors can join in the conversation by commenting.
People update their blogs much more frequently than they update their Web sites. That’s why the search engines love blogs.
Within your blog posts, you can then link to the free articles at your Web site, and even to product pages. You can also offer an RSS feed from your blog, which means people can subscribe to your blog content and read it in their RSS readers. Some small-business people are reluctant to blog because “I can’t think of anything to say.” All you have to do is identify the key problems your audience faces and write about solutions.
Joel Comm: The first thing to understand is that a blog is a Web site. A blog is simply a site that is easily managed through an administrative tool, which allows the publisher to create content and have it appear online instantly.
The blog format is useful for a few reasons. Blogs are instantaneous. The moment you finish composing your article or piece of news, it is made public to the entire world. There’s nothing better for managing new content on a daily (or many times a day) basis. Due to this “freshness factor,” the search engines also are known to give some degree of preference to sites that are blogs.
If you already have a site that describes your products or services, why not consider adding a blog to provide case studies, answer questions from customers or post additional content in your area of expertise? Blogging is a great way to connect with your user base and turn them from customers to raving fans!*Image provided by Michael Sauers