Finding Customers - Part 2

Returning again to our list of targeted websites let’s look at some more options for finding potential customers or website visitors.

SBA - The U.S. Small Business Administration provides a significant amount of resources on their website as well as at a local level with their small business development centers. However, it doesn’t appear that there is much room for introducing the FSM services on their website. We did have the idea of contacting several local SBDCs and offering their clients the opportunity to submit websites for the next FSM project. This could also be extended to other business plan contests such as The Humboldt County Student Business Challenge.

Business Info Guide - BIG is charging for all of their links. Since we do our makeover projects for free we will pass on paid advertising with BIG.

JumpUp.com - The Place to Start a BusinessIntuit’s JumpUp - JumpUp has a lot of great resources for new businesses. We started in their Forums by responding to a user’s question, “Need some exposure for your small business product or service?” Yes. That would be FSM.

We also noticed that they have a business spotlight feature that we might look at in the future.

SCORE LogoSCORE | Counselors to America’s Small Business - The SCORE website includes a section with links to free business resources. To be added to this resource they asked that we send a two-sentence description of the FSM website along with the URL to their webmaster. We’ve done this and are awaiting the results. Here is a clip of our short email.

Thank you for the great resources you have available on your website. We noticed that you give instructions in your Linking section for being listed under the Free Resource List on your website. As per those instructions, we are sending you this email.

Description: Every couple of months FSM selects a website in need of search engine marketing and optimization and provides a free makeover. Website owners can submit their site or just follow along as we publish each marketing step we take in our blog.

URL: http://www.freesemmakeover.com/

Please let us know if you have any additional questions for us.

Thanks.

Small Business Ideas - HowToStartup.com is a small site with no interactive content or features. The best we could do is send an email to the administrator to discuss adding a link to their article on Small Business Websites. Based on what we see we are not going to make this a priority right now.

Finding Customers - Part 1

Continuing our follow-up of websites returned by our query for “startup business website help” let’s take a look at the first website on the list. Our hope is to find future visitors to the FSM website. Although FSM is a free service, many of you are looking for customers so we will refer to potential customers and website visitors synonymously. These are website owners who have just started a business and created a website and need some help furthering their search engine marketing and optimization. We will attempt to get a link or some kind of announcement to some of the users of these websites if those website offer such an opportunity.

Business Nation appears to be an automated site with a significant amount of advertising, especially for a certain printing business. The format and design seem less than optimal. So what does this site have to offer FSM?

Well, the site is ranking #1 in our sample search results and therefore it is expected that at least some traffic is reaching their site. It’s a good guess that most of these people are looking for help getting their business going. So let’s give it a try.

After digging for some time on the site we finally come across a few sections that may be helpful to us.

  • Forums - This would have been a good place to start but after drilling down into the forums a bit you see this message: “Note: This message board is no longer active. For business advice, try [advertising removed]“.
  • Articles - They have a subcategory of articles for Marketing. This is definitely a possibility so we will get started on an article to submit to their article directory.
  • Polls - You apparently can create your own polls. This may have been a viable option but the link is broken on their website.

So after looking deeper there’s not much there but we will see where the article submission goes.

Where are the people?

If people from your target market are not visiting your website yet, ask yourself “where are they”? This question will help you realize where you can go for links, advertising, partnerships and other announcements.

FSM’s audience is not going to be high-end corporate website owners with lots of marketing dollars. Instead, the smaller startup companies are a better fit for information and services FSM has to offer. So where do small business owners with brand new websites go on the Internet.

First, let’s do a quick search on the following keywords “startup business website help”. Here are the top ten websites/URLs that are returned:

  1. www.businessnation.com
  2. www.startupnation.com
  3. www.sba.gov/smallbusinessplanner/index.html
  4. businessinfoguide.com
  5. jumpup.intuit.com
  6. www.score.org
  7. www.howtostartup.com
  8. www.startupbizcast.com
  9. www.tannedfeet.com
  10. www.inc.com/guides/start_biz/

At a brief glance it looks like most of these websites would be a great place to make mention of FSM’s services. People are at these websites because they are starting their own businesses. Many of them will have new websites and are likely to need help in the SEM/SEO area. We’ll try the forums and blogs of these websites first. It may also be worthwhile to contact the website owners or administrators and ask for advice on where it would be most appropriate to make mention of the FSM services. We will try to look at each of these in more detail shortly.

Who Needs Links?

It should be rather obvious why you would want other websites to link to your website. Remember, if there are no links to your website then your site doesn’t exist to the rest of the world. At least as far as the Internet goes. Outside of the Internet there are business cards, matchbook covers, company vehicles, billboards, digital media and a whole host of other ways to spread the news about your business, it’s website and it’s URL(s). It’s the Internet, however, that allows someone to click on that hyperlink with their mouse and arrive at your website.

There is another reason why these links are important. Some search engines use complicated formulas to determine a websites value or pertinence to a set of keywords. The numbers used in these formulas influence a webistes ranking in search results. One of the numbers used by some search engines is the number of external websites/pages that are linking to your website/page.

So increasing the number of links to your website can increase the number of doorways to you website (whether they are used or not) and it can increase the position or rank of your website in search results returned for certain keywords.

As you can imagine, this will be an important part of the search engine marketing process.

Keywords are Key

As we discussed earlier, keywords are an important part of marketing your website to search engines (and ultimately to people). Keywords represent the content. Here is the rough list of keywords that we suggested before may potentially match or represent the content found on the FSM website:

  • sem
  • “search engine marketing”
  • seo
  • “search engine optimization”
  • “internet marketing”
  • “web marketing”

There are other keywords that we can and will consider but let’s start here for now.

First, we would like to get a general idea of what we are up against. After doing a quick search on Google using the term “search engine marketing” we see that there are about 9,310,000 results returned.

The term “web marketing” returns about 10,400,000 results.

If the FSM website wants to be found in the top ten search results of either of the two queries above their URL would potentially be competing against many millions of other URLs for that position. Of course this is possible but could be a very difficult task. Before we discuss how to promote your URL up through the millions of other pages found in the results let’s consider an alternative.

Let’s go to the WordTracker Keyword Tool and look at some possible alternative keywords.

A quick search on the term “search engine optimization marketing” shows there are about 219,000 results. Significantly less than our first search term. It will likely be an easier task to compete in some of these more specific keywords. Let’s make some adjustments to our list.

As we continue to refine our keyword list we will also want to look at search engine optimization (seo) of the FSM website. What this means is we want to refine and improve our content to match the specific keywords we are targeting. If we move from the keyword “search engine marketing” to “search engine optimization marketing” then we need to do some work to include valuable content related to “optimization” or “search engine optimization”. We will take a closer look at this in the near future.

Search Engine Submissions Hold Little Value!

Search engine submissions hold little value in and of themselves. Well, considering the fact that we’ve spent the last week submitting the FSM project website to various popular search engines this may be a surprising statement. Submitting your site to a search engine is really only the starting line for your search engine marketing. All it means is that we can now type in the words “free sem makeover” into Google and the FSM website shows up in the results. Yeah, it’s cool if that’s your first website, but if you are looking for traffic, and most websites are, then you’ve got a lot more work ahead of you.

When you first create a website, nobody knows it’s there. No computers. No people. You tell other people about it by sharing your link or domain name. That’s all you’re doing when you submit your site to a search engine. So what happens next?

spiderWell, the search engine often places your website link or URL into a queue. Later, when it’s your website’s turn, the search engine calls your website using a small program often referred to as a robot or spider. The robot goes through your entire site and collects information about the structure and content of the site. This is called indexing.

Ok. So next comes one of the most important parts of the process. The search engine analyzes the content found in your site and identifies certain keywords that it considers best describe the content of your site.key Remember keywords are key. When someone goes to the website of a search engine and types a few words into their search form the search engine matchs those words with websites who have the same keywords in their content and then returns that list to the user.

So in the case of the FSM project it really wouldn’t do much good if the website was somehow associated with the keywords “ugly orange telephone poles”. The people who arrived at our website, if they made it that far at all, would probably not be interested in the subject matter they would find.

Instead, if the FSM project were associated with the keywords “search engine marketing” it might be a better match for the searchers/surfers who eventually ended up at the website.

NOTE: In search engine speak, a single keyword can sometimes refer to an entire phrase and is therefore is sometimes referred to as a keyphrase. So “search engine marketing” could be consider one keyword to a search engine.

Here is an example of search keywords that might be relevant to the freesemmakeover.com website:

  • sem
  • “search engine marketing”
  • seo
  • “search engine optimization”
  • “internet marketing”
  • “web marketing”

This list of keywords will be the subject of much discussion in the near future.

Another subject we will discuss in the future is how search engines rank results. This has everything to do with the fact that currently a search on Google for “search engine marketing” yields 9,310,000 results.

Submit FSM to Ask.com

We are still waiting to get the freesemmakeover.com website listed on Ask.com.

It appears that the best way to get your site listed is to submit a sitemap.

Your best bet is to follow the open-format Sitemaps protocol, which Ask.com supports. Once you have prepared a sitemap for your site, add the sitemap auto-discovery directive to robots.txt, or submit the sitemap file directly to us via the ping URL. (For more information on this process, see Does Ask.com support sitemaps?) Please note that sitemap submissions do not guarantee the indexing of URLs.
http://static.wc.ask.com/en/docs/about/webmasters.shtml#18

Since the sitemap protocol includes blog feeds we will just use the url of our blog feed to submit the website using their ping API. Here is an example URL submission: http://submissions.ask.com/ping?sitemap=http%3A//www.the URL of your sitemap here.xml.

Make sure you give the name of a file rather than a directory redirect which will result in failure.
Ask.com Sitemap Ping Failure

Submit FSM to Google Blog Search

We manually submitted the FSM website/blog to Google Blog Search Ping Service.

Submit FSM to Live.com

Live Search has has not yet picked up the freesemmakeover.com website.

We used the following URL to submit the website to Live.com: http://search.msn.com/docs/submit.aspx?FORM=WHWL.

Feedburner

Redirected the FSM feed links to Feedburner, a service that, among other things, tracks the number of subscriptions the FSM feed has aquired. This will help us measure the success of our feed and, in part, our marketing efforts.

As expected, FSM currently has no subscribers.