Last week I spent a day with small business owners in Glasgow (pronounced glaz-go), Scotland teaching the basics of online marketing and SEO. It was a remarkable experience to be faced with such a different crowd than what I’m used to. As a comparison, the week prior, I’d been in Mountain View presenting to the Silicon Valley Search Engine Roundtable, comprised of heads of SEO and marketing directors from Fortune 500 companies – all very savvy operators.
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The program, Online Xcellence, was sponsored by the Scottish government and organized by Brian Mathers, one of the most extraordinarily passionate people I’ve met in the search marketing world.
Rand, Brian Mathers & Mystery Guest (err… Everywhereist these days)
Brian’s inspired determination has brought online marketing to hundreds of businesses in Scotland. It was, in fact, wholly remarkable to witness the friendships and camaraderie he’d built by showing off the power of usable websites, analytics and search marketing. Even more impressive was the financial and business success he’d brought to the companies he helped, many of whom were in attendance for the Online Xcellence event.
Brian wasn’t the only wonderful host we met in Glasgow. His colleagues, Adrian Bereziuk and Yusuf Chauhdry helped to make us feel at home. In fact, one of SEOmoz’s contributors, Mintyman (aka Darren Savery, who runs the Semiconductor Directory and authored this excellent post last year) not only attended the event, but picked us up from the airport and took us out to dinner! Scotland’s legendary hospitality & outgoing friendliness were easy to find wherever we went – from shopkeepers to train passengers to taxi drivers and hotel staff.
Since the audience reading this blog likely doesn’t need a refresher course in the basics of online marketing and SEO, I though that instead, I’d share some of the biggest takeaways from my experience in talking to Scottish businesses on SEO & marketing topics, if you are looking to improve your business sales you need to get the best white label seo services
#1 – Prioritization of Marketing Tactics Drives Small Businesses Crazy
Small business owners know that there massive opportunities from web marketing, but the options and recommendations are overwhelming. PPC, SEO, social media, analytics, design, usability, email marketing – the list goes on and around every corner there’s a case study of a business that’s done remarkable things with each of these. Sometimes it’s hard to just get past the basics of “what should my website look like?” and “what information should I put on the site?”
I’d written a more advanced post on the topic of choosing the right Internet marketing channel, but this is a true struggle and one I don’t have an answer for. Maybe someone will come out with a remarkable resource that can help on this topic – it’s certainly needed.
#2 – The Myth of Great Content Pervades
For those practicing SEO, the flawed concept that “great content” will naturally attract links and rankings is a big problem. “Make great content” isn’t bad advice, it’s just not the whole picture. The site that does a great job converting visitors and providing solid information about their product will, most likely, lose out to a site with subpar material for customers that does a great job building material that appeals to the linkers of the web and marketing directly to them. Just like everything else in life, search engine rankings aren’t fair and sites don’t get what they deserve. The web rewards savvy operators who understand the psychology that drives attention, interest and links.
I wrote about this just last December – Great Content Equals Great Rankings, Right? Wrong.
#3 – Local Listings are Still a Mystery (and sometimes a thorn in a small business’ side)
I consistently point folks to David Mihm’s excellent resource on the local search ranking factors when faced with these questions, but sometimes the problems go deeper than just listings and ranking. Many business owners have third-parties that set up their local listings on Google (website developers, SEOs, etc). When it comes time to update the listings, reclaiming ownership of those accounts or correcting errors can be a nightmare, and in some cases, Google has no system to handle the situation.
The one piece of advice I can give that’s straightforward and consistently effective is to research the sources Google pulls from in the local listings (usually by examining competitors’ sources) and get listed in these. The name, address, phone number and website address (along with other details) of the business need to match exactly every time – contintuity among the listings seems to be a big ranking factor.
#4 – Multiple Sites are a Weak Link Building Strategy
I think it’s only natural that when many of us first get into SEO and find out about PageRank and the power of links, we instantly generate the brilliant idea to build dozens or hundreds of sites that all link to our main site in an attempt to bolster these metrics. It’s probably for the best that these tactics are largely useless. An island that wants to get foot traffic from the mainland can’t just build a few dozen islands around it and put bridges up between them all.
A useful resource on this topic is the post Root Domains, Subdomains vs. Subfolders and the Microsite Debate, which covers not only the weakness of the microsites as link popularity enhancers but also when microsites can be valuable. After all, we just launched one of our own with Open Site Explorer.
#5 – Last Click Attribution is Killing Analytics
None of the businesses I spoke to employed anything but last click analytics, which can tragically mask the value of all sorts of marketing channels and investments. Yes, Twitter and Facebook traffic don’t tend to convert well, but who knows if those channels are filling your conversion funnel at the top and resulting in sales 3-5 visits later (when the customer searches for your brand name in Google, thus obscuring the true path of discovery). With cookies and lifecycle attribution, you can properly distribute your success to the right channels. Even just enabling first touch tracking in Google Analytics will make you much more sophisticated and accurate.
Personally, though, I think this is something Google (and the other analytics vendors) need to build into their products by default. We shouldn’t be hacking up code and customizing to get this data. It should be right there in a tab called “conversion attribution” where you can see the channels that originally sent visitors who converted and get 2nd, 3rd, 4th visit sources prior to conversion, too.