When starting your own business there are many new disciplines you need to master, not least of which nowadays is digital marketing. For someone from a traditional bricks and mortar retail background the benefits of targeted email communication, engaging web content and enticing social media strategy are obvious. What's not so obvious is how to crack the smoke and mirrors world of search engine optimisation. Recently we spoke to the wonderful Jennifer Welford at Antelope, a local marketing agency in Brighton, who shed some much needed light on the dark arts practised by Google et al.
Design Over Function
As a creative agency our website is our shop window. We chose to build our own site using Squarespace. They offer some great templates that are easy to use and customise, giving your website a unique and professional look. There are plenty of options, from flexible gallery layouts (perfect for photographers like us) to the latest e-commerce functionality. We kept our site clean, letting the imagery do the talking. The design looked slick, but didn't work for search engines. As Jen explained, we needed to incorporate more targeted keywords in our content to have any chance of appearing near the top of searches for those terms.
Getting The Balance Right
So we had to go back to the drawing board. Jen told us that it wasn't about loading each page with keywords as search engines have become savvy to this. Instead her advice was to just write good copy. By listing what we do, our services and location, in essence all the information that visitors to our website will find useful, all of the keywords we're likely to be searched for will appear naturally in the text. This finally started to make sense and gave us the framework for our new homepage design. There's more to do behind the scenes by intelligently labelling our images and incorporating relevant Google Adwords in the code on each page, but for now we were leaps ahead of where we were before.
Expanding Your Presence
Now that our website was more search engine friendly we could focus on our broader web presence. Links from other sites are key to this, but nowadays search engines will only rate ones that appear bonafide and relevant. There are dozens of business index sites out there that offer free listings and allow you to include your web address. One of the obvious ones is Yell.com but we had completely overlooked them when starting out. Review sites, such as Trust Pilot, and business resources such as LinkedIn are also great for linking back to your homepage as well as spreading your profile.
Fresh Content Is Key
The final piece of advice we were given was to keep our web content fresh and post regularly to our Facebook and Instagram accounts. This obviously includes continually writing new blog posts, so what's the ideal frequency we asked. As often as you can was Jen's answer, but don't force it. Aim for four a month but don't publish anything just for the sake of it, wait until you have something worthwhile to say. Sounds like good advice for life not just for blogging.
There are a lot of companies out there promising to get your website to No.1 on Google searches for a small fee. Do some research and you realise those promises are pretty hollow and that fee is never that small, especially for a fledgling start-up like ours. Do some research online and you'll find plenty of tips and advice on how you can do a lot of what they're offering yourself and for free. Luckily our business means we're always creating new visual content to share. When it comes to words we're never short of a thing or two to say, so we'll try and keep it interesting and to the point.
Greg & Justin
P.S. Get in touch with Jen here for any help with your digital marketing strategy and content management. She's great.