February 3, 2004
Search engine marketing success comes from good research. By applying research to understand your competition and target audience, your optimization efforts will succeed. Remember when homework from school often required some research on your part to complete? It is much the same scenario for search engine marketing: you need to apply yourself by researching in order to understand your competition and target audience. Your visitors need to relate to you and understand your message and what you want them to do.
You must spend time understanding the industry you are trying to make a profit from. If you sell widgets, know everything you can about widgets: where they come from, how they are typically sold, why people need them, etc. You can learn a great deal from your competitors. Research using industry communications such as online magazines, forums, newsletters and blogs. Read articles written by industry leaders and keep up on the latest news about your industry. The more you know, the better your basis for building an authoritative website.
Ok, so you've got this product you want to sell online. What are you saying to your audience? Make sure you write in a clear, concise way so your message does not get lost in the process. Just because everyone in your company understands your message doesn't mean the visitors to your site will. Have a few test scenarios set up; ask a few objective readers what they understand from your website and see just how much your message is getting across. You'd be surprised that what may be obvious to you is not necessarily obvious to your website visitors. If you are having trouble creating a clear message for your website, consider hiring a copywriter to convey what you want to say.
Who buys your product and why? Who needs the information you have on your website? Who would you like to have visit your website that isn't already there? Who is visiting you? Are they professionals who understand your technical terms or visitors of varying levels who all need the same information from you? What do you offer that a certain market would want from you? Take the time to get a good look at what is out there and how your competitors are presenting their information to online visitors. Use your log statistics reports to track who comes to your website. Get familiar with the keyword terms they are using in the search engines to find you. Research the domains that most visit you. Find out why visitors are clicking away from certain pages before going deeper into the content of your website. Is it a lack of information? Too many choices to click on? Is the language used or instructions given easy to understand? Don't give your visitors a reason to leave before they understand your message.
Take a good look at your top competition and see what they are offering online. Even looking at websites that are not direct competitors may give you an idea of what to offer your visitors. Think of it this way: someone put effort into creating those websites. Visit your competitor's website. Search in the major search engines for your most important keyword phrases and see if your competitors show up in the top thirty search engine results. Learn what you can and see if what they are doing is something you should be doing. It's always good to know if your competitors are using SEO, Paid Inclusion, PPC, Link Building and other means to rank well.
There's nothing worse than muddling through a website looking for what you want and clicking so much you finally give up. Use easy navigation, make sure your information or products are easily accessible to your visitors. Create written text that is easily understood in order to get your message across readily. Give your visitors plenty of written information. There's no such thing as "too much text" when it comes to search engine robots "understanding" your web pages. What's good for the visitor is often good for the search engine robots.
Research is the cornerstone to your success. The more you know about your subject, the better you will be able to inform your visitors. By informing your visitors you build trust and interest in learning more about your website. Do the math - get searching!
Daria Goetsch is the founder and Search Engine Marketing Consultant for Search Innovation Marketing, a Search Engine Optimization company serving small businesses. She has specialized in Search Engine Promotion since 1998, including three years as the Search Engine Specialist for O'Reilly Media, Inc., a technical book publishing company.
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