Online marketing information can change quickly This article is 10 years and 140 days old, and the facts and opinions contained in it may be out of date.
Why are you always retrofitting and re-optimizing? Your CEO (or other decision maker) didn’t ask the right questions. You need to know how to build and promote a website from the ground up to be successful. Picture your perfect web presence. Visualize web 2.0 Zen. Now work backwards and apply these principles to your website among various time, budget, legacy technology, and personal ego obstacles of varying degrees in the way of your quest towards website enlightement. Welcome to the world of SEO.
There’s a big difference between an “ideal website” built in a vacuum with an unlimited budget and no competition versus retrofitting, optimizing, and improving and existing website. These are the questions your CEO forgot to ask. Make sure they get asked. If you understand the IDEAL website and the value of each component that would go into it – you can understand how to balance financial and time budgets for the highest ROI on a project, and overcome the normal hurdles that every company faces. These are the top questions your CEO forgot to ask.
1. Do we have a brandable domain?
I have always underestimated the power of a brandable domain. No longer. Once you reach critical mass – branding puts you over the top. Save a spot in your users mind, and traditional advertising might still work for you. As the saying goes, it’s much cheaper to keep a customer (or user) than to attract a new one. It’s easy to lose users with .net’s, dashed domains, and typos if it’s their first or second time to your site.
- Choosing a domain – V7n
- Choosing a brandable domain – WMW
- Choosing a domain name – Darren Rowse
- How to name a web based business – Rand Fishkin
There’s nearly nothing worst than doing a great job marketing – seeing the website get hammered with traffic, and feeling your stomach sink as you realize you blew it with crappy hosting. Don’t skimp out on hosting if your planning something big. At minimum – plan to scale and learn how to implement proper caching when necessary.
If you’re starting a site from scratch – pretty urls should be a priority – if you have an existing site, you need to weigh the benefit of the increased usability (and positive “SEO side effects”) against the time it takes to retrofit them with existing systems. Sometimes the cost jusitifes the change – sometimes not. Doing it right from the start is ALWAYS good practice, and it’s a lot easier than trying to fix this issue later (it turns real tricky real quick to retrofit this one).
- 11 Best practices for Urls
- Cool URI’s don’t change
- How to fix bad Urls
- Modrewrite beginner’s guide
- To subdomain or not to subdomain
- Subdomains vs. subdirectories
If you haven’t asked yourself this yet – you better hope you have a whole lot of visitors and sell before the web 2.0 bubble bursts. Just because myspace didn’t need one, doesn’t mean you’ll get away with just having a good idea, and a lot of eyeballs. Even if you have an AWESOME idea – you should develop ideas for an advertising or subscription revenue model or some fundamentals of it.
Don’t get sucked into being the web world’s equivalent of a hypebeast.
- Website business models – how to appraise a website’s value
- Website business models
- Top 10 underserved web 2.0 markets – Richard MacManus
- How to be creative
I currently have a client whose target market are mainly alpha computer geeks. I’m hoping we can make the website one that Nick Burns would love. Know whom you are writing too, their personality type, and how they read and learn.
"If your target audience isn’t listening, it’s not their fault, it’s yours." – Seth Godin
There needs to be balance between information architecture for usability and keyword information architecture for findability (SEO). IA is definitely one of the most underappreciated aspects of good search optimization as well as usability.
- Information 101 – organize your website
- Search engine theme pyramids
- IA at wikipedia
- Clickdistance matters – SEOblackhat
- SEO siloing
- Keyword tools – from SEObook
- Best keyword tool
- Woz’s keyword tools
- Mr. Ploppy’s keyword tools
- Edge Diagrammer
- Download.com – flowchart software
7.Which platform should we use?
Your platform is going to be heavily dependant upon your staff and their strengths. You need to decide early on if you’re going to be a windows shop or an open source bunch of commies. I’m a LAMP fan myself, but I’ve always heard great things about MS SQL server for powering large DB’s. With Windows, you’ll probably get better support, with open source you’ll get less licensing fees. There are many other considerations including security, scalability, reliability, labor costs, add on licensing fees, availability of add ons, and much more.
There’s no underestimating the power of a strong design. Design is one of the very strong indicators of trust and credibility in most users minds. It’s true that ugly sells – but sexy sells better. Don’t move backwards – create a CSS driven site that can be redesigned easily in a year, and separate the site form and function.
- Top 10 web design mistakes – Jakob Nielsen
- Web Pages that Suck
- CSS Reboot – Thanks to Mike
- Open source web design – Thanks to Justilien
You need to maintain your credibility. With ANY business or organization you are only as good as your word. Prove your credibility and make it apparent – don’t make your users wonder about it.
- 21 Tips for increased website credibility
- Stanford web credibility project
- Web credibility destroyers
Why beg for links when you can convince people to give them to you naturally? Learn how to attract people’s attention and their link love.
Search Rankings = Content * Links * Time
- How to attract links and increase traffic – Brian Clark
- 10 ways to attract an .edu link
- How do I get my website into digg?
- A diggable list of how to get dugg – Esoos Bobnar
- Make it easy to link to you with a best posts page
- How to write magnetic headlines
- Title Ideas from Dan Kennedy
- 78 content topics
- Content planning for search – Bill Slawski
- 50 tools to help your writing
- 63 questions to ask before creating content – **WMW supporter’s forum
Shameless plug: My new Linkbaiting service
11. If we can’t create great bait, how do we buy, barter, and beg for links?
Sometimes you just have to know the value of a link and how to ask for it. Even if you’re the best in your business, you should still spend SOME time asking for links. Only arrogant wankers think they are are too good to ask for links. Be prepared to offer something of value in return. As Mike Grehan has said, "asking for a link is like asking to do business".
- My musings on link development
- 101 ways to build link pop – Aaron Wall and Andy Hagans
- 12 different types of links and how to get them
- Link development vs. traffic development – Rae
Pay-per-click, banner ads, print, radio, flyers, direct mail, television, billboards and even bathroom stalls are all options. I like stuff I can track for improving later. Okay, I’ll admit I suck at traditional media – but when I need help in the area, I can certainly find the right places to look. I am certainly biased to online media because of the ROI I know it can demonstrate. There is still a multitude of opportunity with other traditional advertising – just be SURE to leverage your online presence (include and plug your url as well as special tracking urls like redirected domains) when doing your more traditional advertising.
13.What will we use for tracking and analysis?
Which stats package is right for you? The one that tracks the needs of you and your customers and most cheaply and easily integrates to the rest of the web systems you’ve put in place. If you’re not doing tracking and analysis of your users with something more than free software – your company deserves to go out of business because of your hungry new upstart competitor.
The beauty of online marketing is that you can track – and when you’re tracking, it’s all about the actions. You should strive to reduce your CPA (cost per action) through thorough testing and tracking to better understand your user’s behavior. Do you really think Google bought Urchin because of their intense desire to help webmasters by giving it away free?? It’s all about conversion.
Do a search for your company name. Do a search for your key employee names. Do you really want someone else ranking there? If no, it’s time to start getting
- Tips for controlling the top 10 – Michael Gray
- Reputation management beginner’s guide – Andy Beal
- Reputation management and monitoring – Ben Pfeffier coverage of SES
- SEO speedwagon on Rep. mgt. – John Lustina and Erik Dafforn
- Reputation management at wikipedia
- Poor man’s reputation management – John Rhodes
- Fighting off negative publicity in the serps
In case you haven’t realized, “content is king” is cliche for a reason. Are YOU really gonna create ALL the content it takes? Is you’re company so full of itself that you only participate in monologues instead of dialogues?
- Get on the Cluetrain – Doc Searls, Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, David Weinberger
- You haven’t done your marketing – Hugh Macleod
- New rules for social media optimization – Lee Odden
- Rules for SMO – Rohit Bhargava
- SMO blog
- Pronet on SMO – Cameron Olthuis and Neil Patel
- 25 tips for optimizing your blog
- 21 tips for increasing blog traffic
- Problogger’s best work
- How to make a post that grows legs – martinibuster
- ABC’s of a successful forum
- WMW community building library
- Lee Dodd on Netincome – Webmasterradio
The CEO should not be answering customer service e-mails. The strategist should not be doing link requests. The CTO should not be writing copy. It’s good to have cross discipline experience, but there is something to be said for sticking with specialized expertise. There are a lot of considerations that go into a website as you can see – If you specialize and organize your team you will get much better results. As the saying goes, "a cup of prevention is worth a pound of cure". Plan for your growth, and how time and resources will be allocated to scale properly.
Summary – (Ask yourself, your CEO, or your SEO and get back to work)
- Do we have a brandable domain?
- Who should we host with that will be reliable?
- Do we need pretty urls and will you use subdomains?
- What is our website’s business model and how are we unique?
- Who is our target demographic and what will they search for?
- What will the information architecture be like? What are the important top level keywords?
- Which platform should we use?
- How do we create a professional design?
- How do we prove high credibility?
- What ideas can we use for linkbait?
- If we can’t create great bait, how do we buy, barter, and beg for links?
- Where else can we advertise?
- What will we use for tracking and analysis?
- What will help increase conversions and/or actions and how can we provide users incentives to stay or return?
- How will we keep administration simple for the entire staff to use?
- How can we manage our reputation?
- Is our model sustainable? (if you have a lead gen model like Quinstreet
- How do we make the site “cluetrain friendly” and build a strong community environment?
- How do we scale and specialize for effective use of time?
I got through the whole list with nearly no specific mention of SEO – that’s because SEO IS all these things – sure we could nitpick titles and internal anchor text, and there is certainly some value in that. There’s even more value in balancing the things mentioned above that impact search, and leaving the nitpicking to those who spend all their time in forums, and doing no actual work. I don’t care about the diminishing effectiveness of reciprocal links and h1’s – I care if our product is selling.
SEO is understanding the fundamentals of strong web presence principles, and being able to implement them within the constraints of a given project. SEO is not meta tags and keyword stuffing. You won’t get the right answers and results until you ask the right questions.
This is my list – What’s Yours?