Last Thursday I did a presentation at the Seattle Tech Startups meeting called, “Bootstrap Web Marketing: SEO, SMM, & Viral Marketing”. I spoke for about an hour and a half and was peppered with great questions throughout. For me, it was a valuable experience. Not only was it fun to chat about this stuff with a room full of smart people, but I think the act of presenting always makes me a helluva lot smarter about the topic.
If you want the PowerPoint deck, here it is. Please note: I wasn’t getting paid for this speaking engagement, so I didn’t go to great lengths to make a snazzy PowerPoint presentation.
Because people can only absorb so much information in one sitting, I thought it might be valuable to organize my core points and resources in one post. I broke these out into three areas: Keyword Research, SEO, SMM, and Viral Marketing.
Keyword Research Keyword research is the first step to good SEO, SMM, and Viral marketing. In short, keyword research is an effort to understand how your target users search so that you can optimize for their behaviors. Keyword research also consists of an analysis of competitiveness around a particular keyword. If the most important keyword for your space is brutally contested (from an SEO perspective), you might be better off gunning for a few related (but slightly less popular) keywords.
Keyword research is also incredibly valuable for sites with vast seas of content. For example, for a low-cost e-commerce site (with thousands of product pages), do users search for “cheap”, “best price”, or “lowest price” more? Which phrase is most competitive? Do users search for singular or plural in your space? In addition, you’ll want to know the best places to focus your link building campaigns for large sites. Because deep-linking (linking to your content pages vs. your home page) is preferred, it’s valuable to know which pages in your vast sea of content are searched for more when deciding which pages/areas to focus your link building efforts on.
Keyword Research Resources:
SEO Research Labs: (forgive the cheesy design) $99 and most of your work is done for you– a great option if SEO is not core to what you’re doing. You provide a description to what kind of site you have and a few core keywords. They provide a 6-sheet spreadsheet with information about up to 500 keywords, including estimated search volume, competitiveness of the keyword space, and more. Note that their data source is DogPile and MetaCrawler, which means that (depending on your market) the data might not be representative.
Google Adwords (Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator Tool): Google Adwords provides some excellent tools to for adwords that also happen to be great (but not perfect) for SEO. The obvious benefit is that the data source is Google. The drawback is that the data is less-than-perfect for niche keywords. The keyword tool will give you a list of suggested/related keywords. Microsoft and Yahoo both have similar tools for their search ad offerings.
WordTracker: WordTracker is a suite of keyword research tools which also uses DogPile and MetaCrawler data. You can get an account for $8/day or opt for monthly/annual plans that are a little more cost-effective. Either way, it’s a good deal.
Google Trends: Google Trends (a labs/beta product) is a nice quick and dirty way to compare up to 5 keywords (here’s a comparison of shoes, footwear, and sneakers). Not ideal for heavy lifting, but it’s kind of fun and braindead easy. It also provides a stack ranked list of top regions/cities, which is interesting data for targeting purposes.
SEO is, simply put, the best, most important, and often most efficient marketing investment a web company can make. There are two main components to SEO; optimizing your pages to map directly to one or more target keywords, and building a large “net” of content-rich pages. For some businesses, building this large net is a secondary concern. For example, Picnik (a glorious online photo editor) probably shouldn’t initially focus on casting a wide net via content pages, but should instead invest in Social Media Marketing (which they have, via Facebook– and it’s paid off).
The core of SEO rankng factors is a combination of page markup/structure and links (to pages on your site from other sites as well as your own).
When immersing yourself in the world of SEO, it’s critical to realize that the ultimate goal is to have someone click on your link on a search result page. As hard as SEO ranking is, remember that you have to structure your pages so that what people see on those pages inspires them to click. What they see is the first 65 characters of the page title tag, the first 165 characters of the meta-description, and the (preferably short) URL.
SEO Ranking Factors (SEOMoz) – This is the mac daddy of SEO resources. Rand & crew (fellow Seattleites!) have turned the SEO world on it’s ear by giving away reams of information about SEO that a few years back everyone was trying to sell via some cheezy ebook. Their ranking factors page is a list of categorized factors that matter in SEO. They asked a pile of SEO experts to rate these factors on importance and then present them to you stack-ranked in their category. If you read one page in this list, this should be it.
WebmasterWorld – WebmasterWorld is a HUGE forum. The discussions around SEO are often useful, but the signal-to-noise ratio isn’t ideal and there is plenty of misinformation to be had here, so take it with a grain of salt. It’s a fabulous place to ask questions if you can’t otherwise find an answer.
Matt Cutts – Matt is the voice of SEO from Google. His blog is a wealth of information about SEO, but you should recognize that Google has an agenda (a relatively level SEO playing field), so he’ll be less forthcoming about tricks that might give you a competitive advantage.
SearchEngineWatch – A great resource. There is plenty of content that you have to pay for, but there’s lots of free content too. Be careful when searching for content here– this resource is old. SEO advice from 2002 is probably not as authoritative as a more current article.
Social Media Marketing (SMM)
Social Media Marketing is the new low cost darling in the marketing world (and also has a lot of legs in the SEO world). In short, Social Media Marketing is the act of getting social sites (blogs, forums, social bookmarking sites, and social news sites) to link to you. These links have can drive tremendous traffic and have significant SEO effects. Getting the attention of social media is challenging, and can be painfully so if your subject matter doesn’t cater to the linkerati (the elite few who actually link to web sites). Ideally, your content should either be funny, useful, or controversial for this unique audience. To get a gestalt understanding of what people are linking to, take a look at the top page at Digg, Reddit, and Del.icio.us (you can see all three at once by going to popurls.com).
Ideally, the content of your website is unique and constantly refreshed content that is either funny (youtube), useful (lifehacker.com), or controversial (Huffington Post). Many sites don’t have this luxury, and need to overtly try to create linkbait (a page or post whose title and content is specifically designed to get links). One of the keys to linkbaiting (beyond being funny, useful, or controversial) is crafting the title/headline. Give Popurls.com another look and see if you see any commonalities among the headlines.
Guide to Linkbaiting – A slightly irreverent guide to the art of linkbaiting.
30 Social Media Venues – A list and description for 30 of the top social media venues. Each one is unique!
SocialPoster – A bookmarklet that lets you easily cross-post your content.
NoFollow Attribute (wikipedia) – A description of the nofollow attribute ( an HTML attribute that essentially removes SEO juice from a link). Nofollow was a response to SEO spam (comment spam in blogs being the prime example). You definitely want to have an understanding of this before you seriously engage in a concerted linkbuiding campaign.
To be honest, viral marketing is the topic I have the least experience about and the least confidence in. In my opinion, if your business isn’t inherently viral (the act of using your product is, by definition, marketing that product to other people), it’s very challenging (and often embarrassing) to overtly try to be viral. That being said, virtually EVERY product has some virality to it (it’s called “word of mouth”), and it makes sense to make that easy when it’s going to happen naturally.
One of the most exciting things about the Facebook platform (which, for the record, I’m a bit of a curmudgeon about) is that it allows apps to be viral when, without the platform, they wouldn’t otherwise remotely be so.
At the end of the day, I encourage people to think hard about their viral loop (see the link below) and not get sucked in by the idea that by adding a “tell a friend” boxor a hotmail address book inviting tool on their site is going to make you go viral.
Viral Marketing Resources
Viral Marketing is not a Marketing Strategy – Great blog post summing up my thoughts on trying to be overtly viral with a non-viral product.
What’s your Viral Loop – Great post on the “engine of adoption” concept by the same author as the above article (Andrew Chen).
That’s it! If anyone has any resources that they think are valuable for any of these three topics, please drop ’em in the comments.