Recommendations for Cape Cod Businesses Assessing Their Search Marketing Strategy This Offseason

With the holiday weekend past us, dogs are once again allowed on Nauset Beach and most of the seasonal businesses on Cape Cod are assessing the success (or failure) of another tourist season on the Cape. Late fall and winter probably will get filled up with the obligations we’ve missed or delayed, preparation for the holidays and some time for business development. In addition to everything you’ll be doing offline, here are some recommendations for what you can do online, as it relates to the building your search engine marketing success for the Summer of 2008.

Get Listed Locally
If you’re business is not listed in Google Maps, make certain that you spend the 15 – 20 minutes it takes to submit your business (for free) and potentially get it listed when users search for local information, products and services. Here are two articles written on how to submit to Google Maps and the steps to take if you’re already using this service and want to modify a Google Maps listing.

Evaluate Your PPC Performance
Are you really getting the most out of your PPC budgets? It surprises me that many business owners are simply satisfied with the fact that they got visitors to their website, instead how effectively they actually converted those visitors. Grab your keyword reports from AdWords and take a look at things like:

  • What keywords users clicked the most.
  • The percentage of clicks in relation to the impressions make (your click-thru-rate).
  • How much it cost you per click.
  • If those clicks actually turned into sales or leads.

And if you don’t know how to do this…

Spend Some Time With Analytics
If you’re serious about succeeding online, then you should seriously invest in decent web analytics software. While I tend to like IndexTools given the reasonable cost and depth of information, you can’t really beat Google Analytics when it comes to cost and capability (particularly if you are using Google AdWords). Start paying attention to some of these particular variables:

  • What pages your visitors tend to leave quickly on, spend the most time on, visit frequently.
  • What keywords drive the most traffic organically.
  • What keywords that drive traffic also tend to resonate with your visitors – meaning, they stay longer and visit more pages.
  • What websites (besides search engines) tend to send you traffic and referrals. And then think about why they send you that traffic in the first place.

Also make certain to set up some goals for conversions (contact forms, submission forms etc), so that you can track the success of PPC campaigns and/or general search engine traffic.

Evaluate Your SEO Strengths
Matt McGee has a 60 minute SEO checklist of what he may check for when performing an SEO audit; see how your site performs using his checklist. If you want to get a bit more indepth, take a look at SEOmoz.org’s search engine ranking factors or reference my article on building search engine friendly websites. Use these resources to determine where you may be able to make quick improvements and/or set up plan of action if it’s going to take a bit more time and resources.

But before you go crazy and determine you need a complete redesign, you need to evaluate the impact of changing “something” and if there is really a need. One of the ways to evaluate how important some sort of change may be is to…

Take a Look At Your Competitors
I felt bad when I left a recent SEO Meetup with some high level ideas on what/how I evaluate each keyword strategy. I wanted to offer more but every situation is unique and it’s difficult to make quality recommendations (that aren’t high level) to an audience with radically different website objectives and subject matter. That being said, I’ll reiterate how I would traditionally go about handling any keyword strategy that I would want to rank well for:

  • Take a look at the websites that appear in the top 10 for the keyword I want to rank for.
  • Evaluate all of their SEO ranking factors as indicated in the bullet above.
  • Evaluate the content in each of these websites so I can build a strategy for creating “better” content.
  • Take a look at all (or most) of the inbound links that each website has (using traditional inbound link reporting strategies)
  • Get a handle on how important/valuable each of those websites are, organize the links by topical relevance and understand how/why each website is linking to my competitor.

I know that it sounds long, tedious and painful. While there are definitely ways to automate some of this work and there are tactics and skills we as SEO’s come to grow strong in, this is really what the process is (for me). Perhaps I’m an idiot for working this way, but I’ve been relatively successful thus far using this strategy, tailored to an individual situation.

Content, Content, Content Generation
Now that you know what types of content you need, create a plan of action to create that content. If you’re really dragging your wheels on this, start with a couple quick hits (FAQ pages, glossaries, how-to guides) in order to get the ideas flowing.

If you’re really pressed for ideas, why not send out an email to your customer list, asking for feedback on how you can improve the website experience, or what types of information they may find valuable or to be included. And get in touch with people you respect and value, in order to get suggestions and ideas.

Remember that creating search engine friendly content is not always about what makes the most sense exclusively for your business. It’s about creating content that your users and potential website visitors will find of value.

One possible idea:

  • Create a Free Newsletter
    If you don’t have the ability to email your customers (perhaps you are not recording this information) and need someway to generate content, create a free newsletter and newsletter registration. Offer periodic tips and helpful information related to your industry, which users can subscribe to by email or obtain via RSS.

    Just make certain to keep up your end of the commitment and commit to writing the newsletter based on whatever cycle makes the most sense for your business obligations and time commitments.

Make a Few Connections
Sometimes your offline business development tactics can lead to online marketing initiatives. Take link building as an example. If you’re website has significant regional relevance it can get difficult to obtain high quality links once the traditional directories and yellow page listings are exhausted.

One way to gain more links is to take notice of what sites appear for region-specific search results and target those editors and website owners for link building opportunities. You’d be doing the same thing if you’re looking to establish partnerships in your community or town, your just expanding the idea to creating that online relationship as well.

  • Some quick ideas: sponsor or actively participate in a local event, volunteer to speak at an organization’s meeting, take someone out to lunch and find out about their business and what the two of you can do to create a mutually beneficial relationship.

Surf a Couple Online Communities
One of the simplest ways to find content and gain exposure (and maybe a couple links) is to participate in a couple online communities, where you know users will be asking questions, having discussions or bookmarking information specific to your industry and business.

Yahoo Answers provides an easy way to field small business questions related to your industry and del.icio.us can be used to research popular keyword-based information or organize material for future content development. Take note of a couple industry specific forums or message boards and participate in the discussion that you find there as well.

In all of these cases what’s important to remember is that you are actively conversing with people and organizations interested in what you provide and in your expertise. As the Internet becomes a much more collaborative environment, these may be the people that help spread your message further or evangelize your message; particularly when you’re truly giving back to these communities and networks.

Wrapping It Up
Okay, so you’re probably not going to do all these things, but perhaps a couple of them make sense and/or are ideas that can be handled in coordination with your other commitments this fall and winter. Some of these recommendations can be done quickly and some may be more complicated or involve more time and/or financial investment.

The important thing to remember is that being successful in search engine optimization means being more committed to your overall online marketing strategy, adopting specific SEO related strategies into what you’ve been doing already. That is, trying to figure out how to generate traffic, leads and sales through your small business website this past summer and each season before that.

Do you have questions or comments in regards to these recommendations? What ideas have worked for you or have become problematic? Your thoughts and opinions are sincerely appreciated and I check my email and comments regularly.


Comments

2 Responses to “Recommendations for Cape Cod Businesses Assessing Their Search Marketing Strategy This Offseason”

  1. Kristen Hilley on October 9th, 2007 5:40 pm

    These are all really great suggestions! For businesses who can afford it, I might recommend they seek the assistance of a company or firm who specializes in search engine optimization. I might add that for Cape Cod businesses, people consider looking at local websites where they can promote and advertise their business. Another suggestion is to extend your online marketing in the off-line world. For example, make sure that you are promoting your web site on literature that you hand out, such as letterhead or business cards. If you run an advertisement in a local newspaper or magazine, be sure to mention your web site there!

  2. Derek Edmond on October 10th, 2007 8:46 am

    great additions Kristen – I appreciate your comments!

    I really feel that when you’re looking for local search visibility, it’s even more important to take advantage of the traditional, community based relationships you (and your business) have already created.