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The SBC Small Business Newsletter

presented by the Peak Small Business Center

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June 13, 2002

Table of Contents

 

Welcome

Quote of the Week

Administrative Stuff - SUBSCRIBER DEALS

Featured Resource - KEYWORD MINER

Staff Article - USING CONTENT TO ENHANCE SEARCH ENGINE PERFORMANCE
Marketing Tip of the Week

Staff Article 2 -  CREATE AN ADVISORY BOARD TO ENERGIZE YOUR BUSINESS
Parting Comments

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Welcome

Thank you for subscribing to the Peak Small Business Center Small Business Newsletter!

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Quote of the Week

You have power over your mind - not outside events.

Realize this, and you will find strength.

- Marcus Aurelius

 


Administrative Stuff

Subscriber Offers - Removed
 


Featured Resource

KEYWORD MINER

Keyword Miner is a FREE Windows software tools for finding the perfect set of keywords for your web pages. It also helps you measure your success by comparing your traffic with that of your competitors! There are no nag screens, no advertisements, no registrations and no payments required. Get yours here:

http://www.engineready.com/downloads/index.html

(They have several other excellent free and trial products on this page also, such as Top Dog and Domain Name Analyzer).
 


Staff Article

USING CONTENT TO ENHANCE SEARCH ENGINE PERFORMANCE

by: Cary Christian
 

We've talked a good bit the last few weeks about search engine optimization and the power of including powerful keywords in the content of your website.

No matter what you sell, whether it's software, kitchen appliances, sports equipment, books, candy or services, content is difficult to write well. Even writing compelling descriptions of your products is often difficult. Worse, it may often be copied straight from your distributor's site, thus guaranteeing you have the same content as anyone else selling your products.

You would all probably agree with me that writing copy for your website that

a) makes it stand out from the crowd, and

b) that is rich in keywords

would help you sell more by attracting more visitors and generating more interest when they actually get there. I want to give you two ideas on how to do this.


LOOK AT YOUR PRODUCTS THROUGH YOUR CUSTOMER'S EYES

Why do your customer's buy your product? Is it because your software has more features than the next guy's? Or is it because your software makes it easier for them to get their work done faster and get home to the kids at a decent hour? Which reason would make you want to buy?

You may already be familiar with the concept of selling benefits rather than features. It's a rather common concept in marketing because it works. But it is surprising how many people ignore the effect of this concept on the keywords they choose to emphasize when it comes to search engine positioning.

Look at the descriptions of your products or services. First, make sure you are emphasizing benefits over features. Look at the sites of your competitors and you'll probably find most of them are concentrating on features. If you need to rewrite your descriptions to make them benefit rich, do so. This is not easy, but take the time to do it to the best of your abilities.

Now look carefully at your new descriptions that emphasize benefits. Look at what keywords jump out at you now. Compare those to the keywords you THOUGHT were the best descriptors of this particular web page. Are they different? In most cases they will be worlds apart.

Perform some searches using these new keywords and see what kind of results you get. Use Overture's search term suggestion tool to see how many searches per month these new keywords produce.  http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/

Should these new keywords completely replace those you would normally use to describe your site?  Maybe, but probably not. More than likely you will have found additional keywords that provide you with the following benefits:

1. You will be competing on keywords your competitors are likely overlooking,

2. You will find that keyword-rich content is easier to write and that your writing "flows" better when you're concentrating on benefits rather than features,

3. Your content will be more pleasing to your visitors than the often cold and boring lists of features that most sites provide, and

4. It will be easier for you to include and repeat your best keywords when you're writing content based on benefits. (Even the feature-based keywords will become easier to use).


ADD ARTICLES TO YOUR WEBSITE

Again, no matter what you're selling, you can produce or find articles to add to your website. The more the better. Why?

Articles related to your products or services will be rich in the keywords that people search for when they are looking for your products! The search engines will periodically spider the pages of your site and index these articles as you add them. They will produce traffic. Sometimes a LOT of traffic.

When you visit our site, you will find lots of articles. Sure, they are there primarily because we are an informational site, but their effect on search engine results weighed heavily in our deciding to include them and in our making a commitment to add and modify articles frequently. In fact, we are way behind in adding articles in my opinion. Look for that to change very shortly. We get a lot of traffic from the search engines just by having these articles on our website.

This traffic also highlights what people are really looking for when they find our site. If it's something we do not provide but could, be sure we will add that product or service when we see the search engine traffic building. For example, we have noticed a TON of traffic drawn to a simple article on a particular tax issue. We will be producing an entire ebook on that subject soon. And all because we saw the number of people searching for information on that issue.

We can also use this traffic information to help us develop better pay-per-click search engine strategies.

So adding articles to your website has the potential of doing three very important things for you:

1. It will make your site more keyword rich with less effort,

2. It will help you identify keywords people use to find your products that you might not think of on your own, and

3. It will make it easier to create an effective pay-per-click campaign if you desire to do so.

It is important to note that you do not have to personally write all the articles you use on your site. There are many content sites on the web where you can pick up articles to use that relate to your products. You can even use news stories and press releases.

It is also a good idea to write some articles on how your products can be used to realize the benefits you are trying to sell. A sales page often can do no more than highlight particular benefits of using your products. Use articles to explore these benefits in detail. Aim to produce an article for every benefit you're trying to sell.

Going back to our software example, write an article showing how John Doe at XYZ Company uses your product to save four hours per day in processing time.

If you run a service business, include articles that clearly demonstrate how your services produce quantifiable improvements in results. Provide case studies if you have them.

You should have a good number of "independent" articles on your site for maximum drawing power, but there is nothing wrong with including articles that specifically deal with your products and services and how you deliver them. These articles are designed to sell and there is nothing at all wrong with that.


IN SUMMARY

1. Write about benefits, not features, and

2. Add targeted articles to your site.

Keep these two recommendations in mind and filling your site with rich content will be far easier than you realize.
 



Copyright (c) 2002


Marketing Tip of the Week

This week's tip is more of a warning really. You've probably all seen those programs where you pay $12 or so, set up your ad and it gets mailed out to millions of safelist members over the course of a year. Sounds good on paper. You get lots of exposure and just set your ad and forget about it unless you want to change it at some point.

As part of our general testing regimen, we decided to try them out. The results so far show that the same ad will fare much, much better when you join individual safelists than when you join these "mega" lists. In fact, more than a month into the testing we are still waiting for our very first hit! During the same time period, we have averaged 25 hits per day from regular posting to a group of 40 "normal" safelists as a free member. Beware the hype out there. There's certainly plenty of it to go around!

 


Staff Article 2

CREATE AN ADVISORY BOARD TO ENERGIZE YOUR BUSINESS

by: Cary Christian

Most small businesses have a board of directors composed of several of the shareholders of the company. This board usually doesn't meet formally and serves little purpose other than to rubber stamp corporate resolutions that are required periodically.

Small businesses cannot usually afford to have an outside board of directors that includes "big name" executives like their larger counterparts do. But smaller companies can still create a board that will provide valuable input and new ideas to the business. I'm talking about an advisory board.

An advisory board is not the same as a board of directors. It does not exercise any authority over the business. Its findings and recommendations are not binding on the business owner. But it can provide strategic resources that are simply not available to the business on a day-to-day basis.


THE MAKEUP OF AN ADVISORY BOARD

To create your advisory board you want to find individuals from different disciplines that complement your own internal industry expertise. For example, you might have a representative from your largest vendor, a marketing consultant, your accountant, a systems person, a representative from your largest customer, and so forth.

You do not want to include anyone in this group that will tend to restrain the free flow of information, so you'll have to be careful with the inclusion of certain types of individuals.

For example, you may be uncomfortable including a representative from your largest customer. You may not want this customer to know so much about your business. On the other hand, this is your opportunity to get inside your customer's head and learn more about what they're looking for in a relationship and what their views of the market are. It will also tend to make your relationship stronger.

Another example might be your attorney, who will probably be the first to tell you that he or she should NOT be a member of the group. The presence of an attorney will tend to change the dynamics of your meetings in a negative way.

You want to think about every major area of concern in your business, and particularly those where you think you are weak, and attempt to place someone on this board that is an expert in that area.


WHAT'S IN IT FOR THEM?

The big question is how you get appropriate people to want to participate on your board. It's actually easier than you would think.

Your major vendor will probably jump at the chance to provide you with a representative because you are an important customer. It provides a way for them to cement their relationship with you. The same is true of marketing consultants, accountants and other professionals who have an existing relationship with you, and probably even more true of such professionals who do not have a relationship with your business BUT WOULD LIKE TO.

Pick out the people you want and approach them with the idea of participation on your advisory board. You'll probably get the people you want. If you include people who currently provide services to your company, make sure they understand that participation on this board is NOT BILLABLE TIME.


THE MEETINGS

You should meet at least once per quarter, and possibly once per month. Be prepared to discuss how your business is doing financially, your goals and any particular strategic problems you need to have the board address.

Prepare a complete agenda and have handouts available that provide all the information your board will need to evaluate the issues before them. Run the meeting professionally and strictly adhere to any time constraints of the participants. Arrange a nice lunch for the participants at your cost.

These meetings will not substitute for professional consultation that some of the participants would normally provide to you for a fee. Do not try to use it for this purpose. You should be concentrating solely on the overall strategy of your company and how specific issues and decisions you have tentatively made will affect your ability to execute that strategy.

For example, you may have been considering selling a lower end version of one of your products to increase sales to people who cannot afford your existing products. Your board may tell you that you will be cheapening your image and that such a move will hurt sales overall. Then again, depending on your industry and how you are viewed in that industry, it may be a tremendous idea. The discussion among the members of the board will provide you with outstanding feedback on these types of issues.


A WORD ABOUT HOME BUSINESSES

Even home businesses can form an advisory board. It probably won't be as sophisticated or formal, but it can still be useful. Find friends and contacts who have the special skills you need and buy them lunch every month or so. Spend an hour learning from them ways to make your business more efficient and profitable.


IN SUMMARY

An advisory board can provide terrific benefits to any small business. Use it to supplement your knowledge in areas where you are weak and to keep your fingers on the pulse of your markets. With the right composition, it might become one of your most important business assets and a source of advantage over your competitors!


Copyright (c) 2002
 


Parting Comments

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