Benjamin Riggnor wants to move his small coin collecting shop (don't bother looking this up, you won't find it) to the Web, so he can reach a global audience, rather than just people in McLean Co., Illinois. On a limited budget he hires a web designer and ends up with three webpages:
- Welcome page which also tells about his business
- A list of 60 coins he feels would be of wider interest
- An order form
He advertises his website to the basic search engines, and after a few weeks, if he searches hard, he can find Riggnor Coins under the words "coin collector". He gets a few hits, sells a few coins. But mainly he wonders: What's wrong? The answer is found in a word: Content.
To differentiate yourself from the hundreds, perhaps thousands of competitors, you somehow need to develop compelling content -- information -- which will draw the coin collectors of the world to your website. There are several options, most of which could be adapted to your particular business, and all of which take some work.
Developing Content One Page at a Time
Benjamin, why don't you develop a photo gallery of rare coins with a brief history of each specimen. Why don't you call it "100 Rare Coins of the World for Serious Collecting." What a mouthful, you say. Purposely. Web search engines will index on words in a title as well as other words on a page. What words might someone type in to a search engine to find coins? Rare, coins, collecting. You get the idea. If you don't have 100 yet, do what you can and tell people you are working toward your goal of 100 by next summer, and then keep at it.
Now you begin to develop this one webpage for each coin. Make sure your web designer creates a template page you can use to create new, similar pages yourself with an HTML editor such as Microsoft FrontPage.
One hundred Web pages is a lot, you protest. Yes, but it increases dramatically your chance being seen on Google under "coin collecting." It becomes an increasingly valuable resource which is both visual and written. While you're doing this, why don't you begin a free e-mail newsletter your Web visitors can sign up for. Each week or two you include the text of your latest Rare Coins, plus a list of coins for sale. Now your work is doing double duty: it is will increase your sales as well as attracting new coin collectors to your site.
Riggnor is giving too much away, you say. Yes, but he's attracting a growing stream of people who never would have noticed him before, people who have a strong interest in what he is selling.
This kind of plan takes a while to execute, but once you develop some momentum, you find that more and more people come to visit. There's a great line about patience in the classic film "Casablanca" where Humphrey Bogart says to Ingrid Bergman: "Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life." That's the way you have to look at building content. You may not see the results today or tomorrow, but ....
Create a Center
Years ago Richard Soos created the "Electronic Money Tree," a marketing e-zine created entirely from free articles written by marketers who get exposure for their services on his site. Mention in Yahoo Magazine and others brings lots of traffic -- and people return to read the next issues, since he renewed content monthly and reminded former visitors via e-mail.
Nancy Bargine, President of Impressa, targeted business people who are also do-it-yourself webpage developers. She has assembled a variety of tools and information for promoting a website.
- Articles she had written
- Links to websites offering related software tools
- Lists of linking sites on the Web
- A new, reasonably-priced software tool which enables small business people to do ongoing website promotion from their desktop.
Her carefully-built "center" attracted increasing numbers of visitors. Note that she gave a lot away. That is what brings visitors. She also sold a product related to the content which she was giving away, but adding to it.
What should you offer in your center? First, define demographically who are the best customers for your products or services. Then ask yourself, what do these people enjoy? What do they do with their spare time? What do they need which I could provide them? The better handle you have on your prospective customers, the better you can design content to attract them. Note: content does not have to be closely related to your product, but to your prospective customers' needs and desires.
Why don't you set a goal to build a "center" designed to attract increasing numbers to your website. Hey! If it can work for Benjamin Riggnor, it can work for you.