I had an email exchange with a client about SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Social Media and other such topics. He’s in a service industry that customers only call on a few times a year.
Here are my comments…
There are two kinds of users on the net, Hunters and Gatherers. Hunters know what they’re looking for, they search for it, go to it and get it. Gatherers web-surf, follow links, wander, browse, and discover things they weren’t necessarily looking for. Most of the common wisdom about SEO and increasing traffic focuses on getting more Gatherers. Largely this is a relic from the old TV and newspaper model, the broadcast approach, the idea that if a million people see your page, a certain percentage are going to buy from you, so it makes sense to get in front of as many people as possible.
Entertainment sites and online shops selling impulse items depend largely on the Gatherers; a service business is going to do better by making sure the Hunters can find them. Nobody buys these things on a whim. Getting a lot of visitors to the site won’t do much good if they’re the wrong visitors. “Showing up in the listings” depends a lot on what listings you’re interested in showing up in. A funny cat video will greatly increase your traffic, but it won’t necessarily increase your sales.
What you need is targeted SEO; getting seen by the people who are already looking for what you have to offer. You need Hunters.
This determines the verbiage on your main page. The people coming to your site are looking for information and they want to find it fast. The easier it is to find out who you are, where you are, and what you offer, and the easier it is for them to contact you, the more business you’re going to get. So we should put the information they’re looking for right where they can see it. Make it short and to the point, but also inviting and friendly. You don’t want a lot of verbiage on the landing page, but you do want it to be the right verbiage. And a big, bold button for them to contact and buy.
The philosophy of advertising has changed considerably in the last 20 years; I worked on a campaign for Catalina Marketing in 1995; they run the grocery store loyalty programs, but their real business is harvesting and analyzing of demographic information. Since the advent of the internet, it’s now possible (and in fact more efficient) to find and target your audience before you advertise to them. For example, an ad on Facebook can be tailored to be seen only by males in Southern California who are 18-35, or just college students or any other criteria. This is a lot cheaper than advertising to everybody. The trick is figuring out who you want to reach and how to define them.
Social media marketing is vital for some businesses, irrelevant for others. It’s one tool in the box, not a magic wand. Businesses that depend on a lot of repeat traffic (restaurants, for example) find it effective. Businesses that people visit once a year, maybe not so much.
Beyond that, most businesses don’t understand the nature of social media marketing; if more than 20% of your Facebook posts, Tweets, and message board comments are directly selling your service, you’re doing it wrong, and in a way that can hurt your business. The fundamental truth of social media is that it’s about building relationships; chatting with people, getting known as an expert, socializing, creating an air of good will around you and your company. 80% of the time, that’s talking about things that have nothing to do with business, at least not directly. You can answer questions and provide information about the industry, give links to informative and interesting resources, but only directly mention your company and offer your services less than 1 out of 5 messages, and never a hard sell or push. People online don’t want to be sold, they want to be informed about where to buy.
If you’re in a business that does not depend on a lot of repeat traffic, some social media will help a lot: Yelp, Foursquare, and a few others; services that tell people where you are and what you do. Twitter is not going to do much for these businesses. Facebook is helpful primarily because its pages place so high in Google searches. Make sure your info page and profile have complete and detailed information about your business, with a link to your site. That, more than anything you ever post on Facebook, will help your business.
The other thing you can do with your Facebook is use it as an alternative or adjunct to a company newsletter, to maintain contact and relationship with your customers, even though you know you’ll only see them every few months or less.