Why a website is often a waste of money

26 Jul 2011

The reality is that the vast majority of small business websites do not see significant lead generation from the search engines.As the search engines shift to listing only websites with unique and popular content, most small business websites miss out on first page rankings, except in highly niche, local or business name searches.

Most business owners do not have the time, resources or commitment to online content creation; most are far too busy running their business! Without this content and a fan-base linking to this content from other websites and social media, search rankings are hit and miss for the majority of businesses.

You cannot depend on Search engine rankings

The regular updates to the Google search engine algorithm can be a significant business risk, as rankings can suddenly and dramatically change after an algorithm update. The recent panda update affected a massive 12% of search engine results, pushing many sites off the first page of google. Building your marketing strategy solely around the activities of one other company (e.g. Google) is a huge business risk.

Online competition is fierce

If you want search engine rankings for a new website but don't have original and popular content to spread, you may never achieve first page rankings for keywords that actually produce leads for your business. In most cases you need to be in the top 5 searches to obtain significant traffic. For a website with no traffic, links or social media presence, rankings often fall to factors such as website age, and search engines don't trust new websites. One alternative, building rankings via wide spread link building campaigns without quality, original content is now even less effective with the recent search engine updates.

The Hard Solution "A great product markets itself"

The hard solution is to create "remarkable" content, products, services, experiences or brands that people can't help but talk about online. If you are a market leader in your niche, online will love you and your website will automatically attract links, rankings and traffic. This is why big brands seem to magically obtain rankings as soon as they go online – they already have a fan-base ready to promote their online presence!

Most businesses are still searching for the magic bullet, or operate in a mature market. So in the mean-time, while you are thinking of how to radically change your industry or innovate a revolutionary new product or business model, I recommend the following "must-do" action item.

What to do while working on your master plan!

While you are still coming up with your plan for online domination, take care of the following action items. When you don't have one big idea, best to take a diversified approach!

Offline Action Items (do these first!)

If you have a website with no search engine rankings, most of your traffic will come from offline sources. This means you need to make sure your web address is plastered everywhere! This includes your business cards, letter-heads, offline advertising, brochures, presentations and signs. Train your staff to direct phone enquiries to your website if important content is listed there. Make sure you include your website address in your elevator pitch.

Success online seems to be most easily achieved when you use online and offline approaches together. Our best ideas for online are given below.

Online Action Items

1. Get your free listing on google maps. Get your loyal customers to review your business so you move up the free listing rankings to the first page of google. Incentise these recommendations with a free offer.

2. If you are in a service business, take advantage of every Australian review website in your niche e.g. truelocal, urbanspoon (food), wotif (hotels), etc. Many of the younger generations will check online rankings before visiting any new service or venue.

3. If you are selling small products that can be delivered at low cost, list your products on ebay and etzy. Once you get a customer, get their email address so you can market to them directly and offer special discounts for buying direct from your website.

4. Build a database of email addresses (with permission!). Collect emails on your website via a form and also offline by adding these manually to your database. Send a regular email (without too much marketing gush) to build repeat customers. Expect 20% of your database to open your emails and 1% to 2% to enquire. Make generous offers to your subscribers that actually make them into fans! You don't need to use a coupon website like groupon if you have your own database of fans!

5. Make your website amazing and beautiful. Make the most of the visitors that do find your website and make it very easy for them to contact you or request a brochure / catalogue / consultation / free offer. Provide testimonials on your website as social proof. Start producing great authoritative content on your website, and then repurpose this content in your newsletters.

6. Setup google adwords and get listed on your important keywords. Not as many people click on adwords as natural search results, but at least you can immediately setup your campaign and get listed, potentially generating new leads that you can measure the ROI on.

7. Social media – get listed on the big four – facebook, youtube, linkedin and twitter. If you are in B2B, start using linkedin proactively to connect and source new leads. If you are in B2C, create a facebook group and start building a following. If you have videos relating to your business, products and services, use youtube to list these and then embed these videos on your website. If you figure out how to monitise twitter for your business, please let me know how!

These simple action items can get you some traction for your website without too much sunken time or cost. Once you get the ball rolling your website may turn out to be an important lead generator for your business. So until you find your million dollar idea or industry shaping innovation, don't neglect these straight-forward approaches to promoting your website!

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