Series: How To Dominate Your Local or Niche Market
"How do I get more exposure?"
It's a question clients often ask. Given the current economic situation they also want to know how they can do it on a budget. This five-part series will show you how to achieve your goals over the next several weeks.
First, however, we have to lay down some parameters. While these ideas and techniques will work for any company, large or small, they are tailored and focused on the small to medium-sized organization that is looking to become the "Big Fish" in their local or niche market. If your niche market is small and very focused it is possible to do this on a national level. Gaia Software is a great example of this. Gaia creates a dialysis specific medical records software package. The dialysis industry is quite small. There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 1500 independent dialysis facilities. Using the techniques and methods I will layout Gaia has become the "Big Fish" in their niche market on a national level.
Second, these are but a few suggestions to get you moving towards market domination. And in this series I will only be focusing on your online presence and strategy in five specific areas:
Winning the Search Engine War
Be the Expert
Articles / Blog and White Papers
Reach Out and Touch Someone
How Sociable Are You?
Using New Media
Later I will write a series of articles about dominating your local or niche market by building your brand identity. The assumption in this series is that you have a brand strategy in place.
Win the Search Engine War: Great Beginnings
Time and time again I am amazed how little companies do to become the Big Fish online in their local market. In the past year I have taken five clients from obscurity (and in two cases they were brand new businesses) to the front page of Google in a keyword search for their particular niche. This is as much a science as it is an art, but the key thing to understand is this: your competition is really bad at what they do. Think about that. On a local and niche level most companies have not invested the time or money to create a proper online presence. Therefore, they have left the door wide open for you.
Consider this, in a search for hair salons in your local area the first page of Google results is dominated by companies that have simply been around for a long while. Their sites are not built properly, they aren't updated frequently and most likely they don't do anything to demonstrate their expertise or promote themselves. The reason why they are on the first page of Google results is that there isn't any real competition to take those spots from them.
Good salons that offer clients a wide range of experiences have reported that new client can be worth as much as $3,000 per year! According to one of my clients in the salon business, a new client is worth about $534 per year. How much better are your odds of garnering new business from the front page of Google versus being buried on page 15 of the results? It doesn't take many new clients to have your re-designed website pay for itself, does it? What if you're an attorney? A carpenter? Ask yourself this simple question: how much on an annual basis is each new customer worth to YOUR business?
So, How Do You Climb the Google Ladder?
Climbing the Google ladder takes time, but how much depends upon the market and niche you are in. A great deal of that depends upon several important factors:
The Geographical Size of Your Market
Are you focused on Las Vegas or Henderson, Nevada?
The Size of Your Industry
Are you a local Day Care provider or do you compete with national sporting goods chains?
The quality of the competition
Is your industry ahead of or behind the online curve?
Of the five companies I have taken to the front page of Google results for their industry none took more than six months to get there. While the big national companies will most likely always be listed ahead of them they still achieved front page results. They are from various industries, too: Salons, Attorneys and the above mentioned dialysis software company, Gaia Software.
Or consider this search for Denver Salon. Synergy Salon should be on page 1.
In order to win the search engine war in your niche you have to be committed to making it happen. There are two requirements that have to be met right off the bat. One, you need a custom Content Management System (CMS) that is easy to update. I use MODx in my work. It is extremely flexible and allows me to do anything I want. You and your staff, if you have one, are not web experts. Make sure it's easy to use.
The second requirement is that you have your website built to web standards. Without going into too much detail, current web design theory separates the style of the site from the content. This makes it easier for search engines to access all of the content on your site. While they may not publish it, it seems they also take this into account when rating your site versus others in your niche.
Any designer who conforms to web standards is likely to build your site with navigation that makes sense and that is easy to use. There isn't any need to go into detail here about these things.
Building your website to web standards also makes it accessible (to a degree). Accessibility basically means your site can be used by those who are visually impaired and use "readers" for browsers.
Another important feature of your ready-to-dominate site is the amount of attention that must be paid to the content. Good copy goes a long way. A good designer can help with this if you aren't comfortable writing it yourself. Quality content is one of the key ways Google rates your site. (The next article in this series deals more in-depth with content.)
Meta Data - keywords and description - according to Google, is no longer emphasized when evaluating your website. They put more weight on the actual content. However, based upon experience over the last year or so, I'm convinced it is still important at the local level. Meta Data is part of your site's structure, part of the base code of each page and can be found in the "HEAD" section of the html. It is still important to be used properly.
The bottom line is this: in order to dominate your local market online and win the search engine war you have to have a solid base from which to attack the marketplace. Google (and Yahoo! and the others) recognize and reward this. This is the most expensive part of your market domination plan, but it is also the most important. In fact, it may be the only online expense of note you deem necessary. Email marketing and Google AdWords are very inexpensive by comparison. (Some of the cost for an AdWords campaign is predicated upon the industry you are in. The t-shirt industry is very competitive - $3.00 to be first in Google, while others can be as little as 25 cents per click to land on top.)
In order to dominate your local market it is absolutely necessary to have a strong foundation. That strong foundation begins with a properly built website.
The next topic in this series is "Become the Expert - Articles, Blog and White Papers" will be posted on Thursday, April 29, 2010. Check back soon or sign up now to receive notification when it is published.
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