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SEO Expert Guide - Proposition Development (part 2/10)
It is literally amazing how many people start their online business presence by buying a domain name (close to their business name) and building a brochure-ware page. Only later do they turn their mind to optimizing their site for (i) their audience and (ii) the way their audience find them. Fewer still take a long, hard look at what their competitors are doing first.
Take it from me, the best way to succeed in search engine optimization is to build it into your business development strategy from the very outset. For this reason - before we turn to optimization techniques - my guide consides first those fundamental questions of what, who and where:
(a) What are you selling?
The first and most obvious question in this sequence is whether you are selling a product or a service and the degree to which you can fulfill this online.
To illustrate the thinking involved, I will use (throughout the guide) the (mythical) example of Doug Chalmers, a purveyor of restored antique doors, brass door fittings and accessories, based in Windsor in the United Kingdom.
Doug makes his money from selling doors (20% of total profit), selling door handles and knockers (25%), selling door bells or pulls (25%) and fitting services (30%). He has sold the bells, pulls, handles and knockers across the United Kingdom (and once or twice overseas, through word of mouth recommendation) but only does fitting within a 20 mile radius and rarely sells doors to people who are not local.
When forced to consider his proposition more carefully, Doug admits that he has no desire - or capability - to sell fitting services outside of his immediate locale (due to capacity and travel considerations). However, he can see a big market worldwide for his brass fittings and accessories.
I know what you are thinking, but don't laugh. Doug may well be right and (after all) knows his business better than you or I. He gets quite a lot of business from American and French tourists that drop into his shop after a visit to Windsor castle. Many take his business card. Initially, they almost always want to see brass door knockers, but often leave with several small items.
Doug has heard the stories about other local businesses who have been successful online. The Teddington Cheese, for example, sells British and European cheeses across the globe and was a winner of the UK eCommerce Awards in 1999. Who would have thought that cheese was a winner online? Well, Teddington Cheese did and have been reaping the rewards ever since!
There are actually a number of key things about Doug's proposition that we will revisit in subsequent parts of the guide. However, the key point for now is that simply putting up a brochure of all Doug's products and services is unlikely to be the best strategy. He has some specific and focused aims - and by thinking about them now (and refining them) he stands a much better chance of success online.
(b) Who are your audience?
Segmenting your audience is a key part of any marketing or PR strategy and make no mistake, search engine optimization is essentially a marketing and PR activity (albeit somewhat different to some of the more traditional parts of this field).
Doug generally agrees that he is targeting socio-economic class A/B for his services. These people are typically affluent, professional, white-collar workers living in leafy suburbs. He is in luck there, as such people are disproportionately represented in internet usage worldwide!
Having thought about it, he can readily segment his customers into three types; (1) local-full-replacement, (2) diy-refurbishment and (3) fitted-refurbishment. The first group are local people, looking to replace a whole door which has broken or is drafty. They are generally cost-conscious on the overall package (comprised of products and fitting services). The second group are interested in specific product items (which they are happy to fit themselves). They want advice on how to fit it but don't want the labour costs. However, they are the least price sensitive group on the product cost and often buy the very best. The third group buy product but want it professionally fitted and finished. They are prepared to pay for quality but are more price sensitive than the DIYers. Where they are not local (which happens) they want a referral from him to someone who can fit locally in their area.
Doug makes the most revenue today (in order) from groups 1, 3, 2. However, he makes the biggest profit margin per sale (in order) from groups 2, 3, 1 - the exact reverse! His own time (and that of his fitters network) is the biggest constraint in his business. If only he could grow the DIY segment, he could substantially improve his overall business profitability.
Hopefully, the point here is obvious. At the very least, Doug's website should address (perhaps separately) the needs of these three different groups. Ideally, the site will focus it's firepower on that second group (where the opportunity for unconstrained growth is greatest). Finally, the site needs a local and a global face (to reflect the different geographies of his customers).
(c) Where are your competitors?
No proposition development is complete without an honest assessment of what your competitors are up to. If you are in a locally-based mortar-and-clicks business like Doug, your assessment should take into account both your local and your global competition.
A useful tool to use is the so-called SWOT analysis, where you draw four boxes in a 2x2 table for each competitor. In the first box, you note the strengths of the competitor, in the second their weaknesses, in the third their opportunities and in the fourth their threats. Strengths and weakness are things inherent to their business as it operates today (and generally internal). Opportunities and threats are things external to the business and generally forward looking.
Look at each website objectively and minded like your customers. Consider whether the website was easy to find in the search engine. How many different search words did you try? Do you like the look of the website? Does it address each customer group separately, focus on one segment or try to be all things at once? Was it easy to get information and do business?
Leave space in the boxes to return to later in the guide (as we will frequently refer back to what your competitors are doing right or wrong).
Navigate the guide
David Viney (email@example.com) is the author of the Intranet Portal Guide; 31 pages of advice, tools and downloads covering the period before, during and after an Intranet Portal implementation.
Monitor Your Visibility in Google, MSN, and Yahoo with these DIY SEO Tools
This is the second part of an article series in which you'll find many tools that you can use to monitor your site's search engine position and see how your do-it-yourself search engine optimization efforts are coming along. The following tools are for monitoring your search results in the three major search engines. It isn't an all-inclusive list, but rather a highlight of some of the tools you can use. (I'll point you to one of the master lists when we get into more general tools in part three.) Using Your Google Site Information Page I've covered this in an earlier article, but just in case you missed it, we'll go over it again briefly here. (If you need more help following along, you can listen to one of my recent podcasts for a convenient audio walkthrough.) Open up your browser and go to Google's home page. Type in info:yoursitenameandsuffix. So if your site was ExactSeek.com you'd type info:exactseek.com. You can also use site:yoursitenameandsuffix to find out which pages have been indexed by Google's search engine spider. This search will tell you pages that Google considers similar to yours. It will also show sites that it considered linked to you, and show sites that carry your full url, hyperlinked or not. It's not 100% accurate as far as telling you all the sites that are linked back to yours, but what you can learn from this is which backlinks matter. From here you can also see the last day Google spidered your home page. To see this in action, click on the first group of information links, "Show Google's cache of yoursitename.com" If you look next to the word "cached" one the first line, the date is expressed also. Sometimes it seems that the cached time for yoursitename.com and www.yoursitename.com are different, so be sure and check both. Finding Information About Your Site In Yahoo http://help.yahoo.com/help/us/ysearch/tips/tips-08.html This document will tell you how to find out what sites are linking to you, give you the results for how many pages of your site are in Yahoo, and more. Once you get to the results page, you'll be able to view your cached pages, etc. Discovering Your Site's Status on MSN http://search.msn.com/docs/siteowner.aspx As the page in the help section states, you can use site:www.yoursitehere.com to find out if a document at your site has been indexed. The results page will also give you the date of last caching. Google Rankings http://www.googlerankings.com You'll need a free Google API key for this one, and the site has the direct link telling you where to get one. You'll have to enter this key in order to query the site for information on Google. With Google Rankings, you'll be able to see where you rank within the top 40-1000 results in Google for a given keyword. I recently noticed that it also displays results for MSN and Yahoo, with links to each search engine. They also have some other tools that will track your keywords over time, as well as one they call the "Ultimate SEO Tool" that will measure your site's keyword density. Google Backlinks Checker http://lilengine.com/tools/backlinks-tool.php LilEngine.com's Backlink Checker will measure the number of links you have pointing back to your site against competing sites. Handy if you just want a quick comparison of how many links you have versus others, though how much getting more links back will help varies, depending on other factors. Yahoo Search Rankings http://www.yahoosearchrankings.com/ From the same folks who brought you Google Rankings, using Yahoo Search Rankings, you'll be able to see where you rank within the top 1000 results in Yahoo for a given keyword. If you just want to see your Yahoo rankings, it's quite helpful. You can find more Yahoo tools that use the Yahoo Web API at their developer's site : http://developer.yahoo.net/wiki/index.cgi?ApplicationList.. In the next part of the article, we'll take a closer look at other tools that give you more specific information about the links pointing back to your site, keyword research, and more.
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