Attracting Customers on a Small SEO Budget

Online sales have continued to grow throughout the recession and the upturn. Everyone wants to benefit, but in these times of uncertainty, no-one has money to burn? With that in mind, SellerDeck’s online marketing specialist, Bruce Townsend, shows how you can promote your business online without risking a big financial investment.

Get visible

Search engines are the top source of new web site visitors. And according to Hitwise, 89% of UK searches go through Google. So getting ranked well on Google is a key goal for most commercial web sites.

The best way to submit your site to Google is through the Webmaster Tools, or through Google following links from other sites to yours. Don’t use automated submission tools or join “Link farms”. They can get your site demoted.

Find a keyword niche

When people search, they type a ‘keyword’ or ‘key phrase’ into the search box. Identifying the most popular ones in your market is the most important first step. You can find them using Google’s own Keywords Tool, or an independent service such as Wordtracker. Enter a few relevant key phrases, and the system will tell you how popular they are, and offer other suggestions as well.

Look for terms that attract many searches but return fewer than average results. Tools like Wordtracker give these with a high ‘KEI’ index. This indicates a niche where there are plenty of potential customers, but not too much competition.

Optimise your site

In deciding how relevant a web page is for a particular search, Google attaches more importance to some elements of the page than others. For a page to rank well on Google for a particular phrase, it is particularly important to include that phrase in the page Title. That’s the text that appears in the top of the browser when you view the page. In the HTML code, it is the text between the <TITLE> and </TITLE> tags.

Next, Google considers how many times the phrase appears in the body of the page; where it appears (near the top is better than near the bottom); and whether occurrences of the phrase are spread out, or concentrated in one place. Work your key phrases naturally into the text of the page, starting from the top. Phrases should also appear in heading tags, <H1>, <H2> or <H3>, or in bold or italic; and in image Alt tags. Good ecommerce packages do most of this automatically.

Be well connected

The quantity and quality of links to your site will have more influence on your Google rankings than anything else. Google regards each link as a vote of confidence in your site. Text links containing the relevant key words are the most valuable of all.

To attract links, fill your site with as much useful, relevant content as you can. Such material can act as ‘link bait’ – attracting links naturally from other sources. You can also post links to these articles in relevant forum threads, on social bookmarking and networking sites, as comments to relevant blog articles, and on Twitter. Be careful to avoid spamming or overt self-promotion, though. Give value and provide useful answers to genuine questions.

Links don’t just help search optimisation, either. They generate traffic in their own right, and increase your site’s profile on the internet in general. Developing links with other complementary and relevant sites must be a key part of your online marketing strategy.

Spread out

Gaining good rankings in natural search takes time. Fortunately there are other ways to drive business to your site.

You can get listed in the paid search results almost immediately. This can be a great method for quickly drumming up new business, and also for testing the effectiveness of different search phrases in delivering site visitors and generating sales.

Email marketing can be particularly effective because a response is only one click away. You can email your own customers and prospects unless they specifically ask you not to. But if you buy an email list, it must include a ‘third party opt-in’.

And a blog can attract visitors and promote your business – provided you have something interesting to say, not just product announcements and self-promotional waffle!

Tune up

Online marketing and search engine optimisation need not cost much financially, but it takes time and effort. Use a web analytics tool such as the free Google Analytics to monitor where your visitors and your sales are coming from. Then you can track results, increase your efforts in the most activities that are most effective, and ease up on the ones that are not.

About the author:

Bruce Townsend knows a thing or two about SEO as he has built up and maintained SellerDeck’s, and previously Actinic’s, search rankings on all the major engines for many years.

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