In This Issue
- Success: What Is SEO and Why Do I Need It?
- Get Known: What Do We Look For?
- You Said?: What Can I Do To Make My Site Better?
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What if you could add 10 new clients to your business - this week?
Growing your business can be exciting, rewarding, exhilarating - and scary at the same time.
While you may have found new business at your local networking function, there is a new way to find business. It's called online networking, and its growing every day.
In fact, over 67 percent of all people head online before making a purchase. They do research, compare you to competitors and other options, and even spend time chatting with others about your industry, your product, and the best options.
Are you using every tool available to you in the online world? Do you know what can help you grow your online business faster than you ever imagined?
Gaining new clients is easy - if you understand how to utilize the Internet to your advantage. And only a few businesses will catch on and ride this wave to the top.
- Lori Osterberg
What Is SEO and Why Do I Need It?
SEO, short for search engine optimization, is the process of increasing the amount of visitors to a website by ranking high in the search results of a search engine. Because Google commands over 50 percent of the market share, and feeds a healthy share of other search engines, the emphasis is usually placed on getting into Google, realizing the rest will fall in line.
Think about your own search strategies. The last time you went to Google or any other search engine and typed in a key phrase, what did you do? Chances are you looked at the results on that first page, maybe moved to the second, clicked through to a few sites and abandoned that particular search.
The higher a website ranks in the results of a search, the greater the chance that site will be visited by the user. Just like your own results, most users will not click page after page of search results. They want information, and they want it fast. So where a site ranks in a search is essential for directing more traffic toward the site.
SEO or online marketing is the process of getting your website into those rankings.
Your site will not be listed if you simply put up a site and leave it sit there.
It takes work. And it takes continual work. It's something you must be willing to work at again and again, week after week, month after month.
Think about your traditional marketing methods. You don't send out one postcard and expect several years' worth of clients. You send postcards month after month, and combine that with other strategies like networking and advertising.
The same applies to online marketing. You need to continually add content to your site to help feed people into your site. You need to grow by connecting up with referral sources. You need to have people find you online by running across recommendations by other sources. The more you do, the greater the impact.
You should be gaining leads from weekly contact, such as emails and ezines.
- You should be gaining leads every week from people finding you in the search engines.
You should be gaining leads every week from referral sources.
You should be gaining leads every week from good quality content.
Remember, just like traditional marketing takes time and commitment, so to does your online marketing. The difference is it allows you to connect with people from anywhere in the world, which expands your target market to a whole new level.
What Do We Look For?
When Andrew and I originally decided to start the VPS Award, we wanted to award those photographers that were going beyond just putting up a website. We wanted to look for people that made their website into a marketing tool, and understood that it was more than a portfolio. We wanted people that made changes on a regular basis, and looked for ways to get their information out into the online world, and draw in leads from online sources.
We wanted it to be on a monthly basis, to share a variety of sites with our own members. We wanted to be able to show people a variety of sites, and share with them what makes a website and an online marketing strategy good.
Every month we put out a call for entries. We realize we may only get a few entries, or we could get several dozen, as was the case this past month. Each month, we go through each site one by one, and apply our own list of factors to it. Which ever ranks the highest becomes our winner.
Let me share with you what we look at.
1. The overall website appearance.
We look at the site just like your visitor would. Does it motivate us to want to learn more? Is it professionally designed, or does it look homemade?
2. The navigation of the site.
The site has to be easy to navigate from page to page, and remain similarly designed. We look to make sure a visitor won't get "lost" and back out feeling like the site is confusing.
3. The site programming.
We verify how the site was created. Flash sites don't attract search engines, so we look at the coding. We also take a look at your keywords, meta tags, titles and other search engine friendly characteristics.
We search online and see how long your site has been in operation. Have you made strides in the online world? Are you connected with other key players?
5. Does Google like you?
Based on your keywords and the type of client you are trying to attract, how does Google view you? If I can find you listed on Google in the first 100 listings, you're on your way. That doesn't mean there isn't room for growth - just that you have a great start.
6. Are others referring you?
We look at how many other sites online like your site, and create a link back to your site. Links are vitally important to your online strategy.
7. Do you have ongoing growth?
We look for sites that understand it takes continual growth to succeed online. Based on the month's submissions, we look for the best site applying time and energy to the site. Keep in mind any business can grow faster if they dedicate more time to their online marketing strategies. We look for one that at least has a basic understanding of this process.
Our winning sites succeeded in each of the above areas above the other sites entered. Over time, I expect our winning sites will continue to improve, and we'll have a phenomenal portfolio for people to review and gain ideas from . This is your start. I look forward to seeing what you can do in the future.
And remember, you can't win if you don't enter.
Enter your site today >>
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Would YOU Take The Easy Street
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I'll show you how to do it in an easy, step by step way!
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- Lori Osterberg
After all your talk on Flash, I was surprised to see this months winner. Why do you support this site with Flash, yet constantly talk about how bad it is?
Great question. Yes, I do talk down Flash a lot, and I'm glad you noticed. Flash programming is a great way to add some pizzazz to your site, but like anything, too much of a good thing isn't good.
Some designers create websites entirely in Flash programming. This means that each page on your website is created in Flash. While your visitors may like the galleries and the movement, the search engines don't. Because they see each page of your site as a graphic, they can't rank it, and move on. In essence, they treat it like it doesn't exist.
The winning site this month uses Flash, but also uses a great deal of html programming to capture the SEO side.
The sites that have won over the past few months are very different. Should I be emulating each of them?
Each month I ask for submissions to the contest. We choose the winner from those submitted sites. So if we only have 10 people enter, we must choose 1 from those 10. We look at each site, rank it on the factors I've mentioned in my above article, and choose the winner by looking to see who has the best site based on those factors.
Keep in mind that the winners can still make huge strides in their online marketing strategies. The winner is chosen based on comparison to the submissions, not the best site online.
As a photographer, look at the winners and see what they are doing. You may like some things and choose to incorporate that idea into your own site. Likewise look at a variety of sites online, not just photographers. If you find interesting ideas, add them into your design. Your site should never sit still - it should move and grow with you.
I put up a site two years ago, and it just isn't doing anything for me. My site has some of the features I see in the winners sites, so I'm just not sure what I'm doing wrong. What should I do?
You are doing what 90 percent of all small business owners do - you're looking at the site as a visitor would look at your site. That's important, but remember you site has two parts to it. You have the graphics and text that your visitors look at; and you have the programming and content management part that the search engines look at.
I believe your website is your sales tool. It's not just your portfolio; after all, you wouldn't just show your prospects a book of your photos and send them out the door. You connect with them. That means your graphics and copy have to sell your visitors.
And you have to be using online optimization techniques to get the people into your site in the first place. With over 8 billion pages connected into Google, you have to stand out from the crowd. The goal with your business is to get prospects to call you. The same with your website - you have to be generating leads. And that takes work on a monthly basis, just as you continually work from a traditional marketing standpoint.
- Lori Osterberg