In days gone by, companies hired Web and search engine optimization firms to help them “reach the top of page 1 on Google.” The methods employed to achieve this helped many brands earn rankings in Google, Yahoo and Bing so that when something related to their product offering was searched for, their site would come up. However, with the advent of social media, micro-blogging and smarter algorithms by Google and Bing, the search engine ranking game has changed significantly and the old tools and rules no longer work or apply.
I won’t dive too deep into the complex search engine ranking world where terms like Panda, Penguin, and EMD hold significance. Rather, I’ll try to give a layman’s overview of what is important for companies today to rank well in search engines, and ultimately to be found online. In addition, I’ll cover the new world of search and what companies need to consider in the year ahead in order to be found online.
The old days
In the “old days” (three to four years ago!) a company would simply focus on its website rank and its own web page structure. Things like title tags, H1 tags and links from other sites were of utmost value. As well, the company website was the only company online presence. Today, however, a smart and comprehensive plan for a company needs to include multiple online assets including a website, a company blog and also important social networking sites. These social sites for a company can include items such as a Facebook Page, YouTube Channel, LinkedIn Company Page and a Twitter Account. These serve as additional, inter-related online presence points that together serve to strengthen an overall company presence online. So many people spend time on Facebook, for instance, that it is important to have your company actively represented there. There can be other social networks that are relevant particularly by industry and some of these could include having a company presence on Google+ with a Brand Page, as well as a Pinterest company page and perhaps an Instagram account. Some of these tools vary by industry in terms of relevance and of course the list grows and changes each year.
Links or social icon buttons from the company website to these other social destinations where the company is represented are important to help visitors connect with the company on these other platforms. As well, simply having a presence on the other platforms is not enough. It must be an active presence, as this is how social media works. Being social drives more social. Social is traffic and traffic can ultimately lead to your website and more sales opportunities. Together all of these online assets noted are places where the company can educate, share content, showcase products and services, and inform visitors.
Content marketing via blogging
For example, creating content blog posts regularly for the company blog and then linking to that content from a company Facebook page can help the company by showcasing the expertise and knowledge they have, and the social commenting, likes, and shares on a platform such as Facebook help the content spread farther, reach more people, and it also provides more links back to the company blog and ultimately website. So a user might follow the blog and read the content, or a Facebook fan might see the post leading to the blog post and therefore read the post. Offering multiple means to get to the content is important nowadays.
Creating a sales funnel
The active use of a blog and social network presence and communication ultimately leads to more awareness and a stronger online footprint. This increased footprint and ability to reach a potential customer in multiple ways online can drive them to the next level of qualification such as the visitor registering for a webinar, whitepaper download, catalog, or free sample. This step can be accessible via a landing web page with a simple form that captures the name, e-mail address and a bit of demographic information of value. This ultimately moves the user from an observer to a potential customer and enables a company to then market to that person via e-mail marketing and offer target marketing based on the demographic information that has been collected. The goal is that this funnel and intelligent online marketing strategy using the opportunities of a website, blog and social networks together leads to increased sales and a solid return on the time and cost investment.
With search engines getting “social” by showing social media results, and social networks like Facebook becoming “search engines,” the means of being discovered are expanding and changing. The one constant is content. If you are not adding new content and sharing content on social networks your company is getting left behind. Evaluate today your company content footprint and strategy online!
Mike Gingerich leads the Social Application division of web design company, Digital Hill Multimedia (http://www.DigitalHill.com). He is a co-founder of TabSite.com, a leader in Facebook fan page tools for businesses. TabSite offers brands the power to boost Facebook marketing with contests and promotions. For more information on TabSite, please visit www.tabsite.com.