Discovering The Hidden Marketing Gems of the World Wide Web

Issue: 
March-April 2011

Part I: Breaking Barriers Through Social Media (January/February 2011 Ontario Arborist)

FOR A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER in the arboricultural industry, creating a company website that remains up-to-date with new product developments and evolving service trends may seem like a gargantuous task – without the added responsibility of having to consider how to market it effectively. Once a strategy has been outlined and the parameters of it set, it is often at the implementation stage that most small businesses fall short. But, much can be achieved by using the organic makeup of the web combined with a strict online marketing campaign. After all, having a website that features the most prolific content and the most revolutionary and/or professional arborist products and services mean very little unless that website is discoverable at the most basic level – by search engines.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most cost-effective, semi-permanent investments small business owners can make to enhance their website’s relevance and boost its organic search results so that potential customers can find it in the quickest, easiest way possible. SEO guru and acclaimed author of The Four Layers of the SEO Model, Steve Wiideman puts it simply: “SEO requires a combination of quality content, (and) inbound links (to ensure) being chosen more frequently than competitors in search results, and keeping the searcher on your website and away from returning to Google to find another result (excerpt from e-book SEO in a Day by Steve Wiideman).”

Search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask.com are the metaphorical “gatekeepers” of the web. They are the first point of contact with the internet for most users and determine the most relevant set of information that matches the user’s query by means of specialised algorithms (which, in Google’s case, include over 200 factors).

This query is usually a keyword (one or more words which contains the basis of what the user is enquiring about). For example, when searching for a company providing arboricultural services in the Toronto region, a user may enter the phrase, “tree care in Toronto,” or more specifically, “tree pest treatment in Toronto, pruning arborist in Toronto, or tree bylaws in Toronto.”

Keyword research using useful programs like Wordtracker and Keywordtracker.com will assist you in finding the most-searched-for keywords for your company’s website in order to lead the user away from more general search results and towards your specialised product or service. In order to optimize your website, these keywords must be incorporated into the site’s title tag, meta tags, meta descriptions, domain name, headings and all its site content. In layman’s terms, SEO is essentially an online public relations management system that manipulates a website’s natural structure, content and functionality in a way that will increase traffic to the site and provide ease of navigation for potential customers.

The job of an SEO marketer or small business owner does not end onsite with strategically placed keywords and keyword-rich content, but rather extends to offsite optimization techniques such as link building with websites that offer similar or related products or services. According to Jim Degerstrom, small business SEO advisor and online tutor, “The backlinks are like votes, so for each vote a search engine finds, the ranking of your site may be improved (excerpt from CMS Web Design and DIY Search Engine Optimization by Jim Degerstrom).”

Other offsite optimization techniques include listings on web directories such as the online yellow pages and Merchantcircle.com – which have dedicated webpages for groups of specific product and service providers in a geographical area. At the forefront of offpage SEO are methods like emailed press releases, regularly updated blog articles, social media posts and social bookmarking – fundamentally, any method by which a small business owner can increase the popularity of his/her product or service. To the emerging arborist who dreams of becoming the world’s next Johnny Appleseed, the technical jargon of online marketing may be daunting, but since electronic publishing’s earliest beginnings around 1975, modern Content Management Systems have made web management an absolute breeze.

A Web Content Management System (WCMS, or simply, CMS), is a software system that provides the small business owner with a “digital template” for the entering and editing of a site’s content, administrative details and images without requiring an understanding of programming or markup language. Popular systems of this nature, such as Wordpress and Joomla, are used by bloggers, governmental organizations, corporate bodies and NGOs to power some of the most highly ranked websites to date. The most rewarding feature of using CMSs is their adaptability to incorporate SEO objectives. The most relevant keywords can be incorporated into every aspect and individual page of your website to ensure that it is search-engine friendly and optimized for the maximum amount of web traffic.

The advantages of creating a CMS powered company website are extensive, especially for small business owners. Some CMSs are obtainable free of charge such as Drupal, Wordpress and Joomla; while others are available at affordable subscription rates. Either way, using a CMS will incur much less of a cost than hiring specialist web developers to build a website from scratch and maintain it on an ongoing basis. CMS themes, which determine the layout, colour, presentation and visual aspect of your website are often provided free of charge or at a marginal cost. Furthermore, no technical skills or knowledge of computer programming are required in order to make use of it. In fact, using a CMS is very similar to using a basic word processor like Microsoft Word. Additional “plugins” (optional software components that enhance the functionality of a website), such as a basic SEO plugin, can help you to choose the most relevant keywords upon which to centre blog posts, tags and updated content. More than one user can edit information in a CMS website at one time, which makes the delegation of tasks and uploading of images and new content faster and more manageable.

Search Engine Optimization requires ongoing maintenance and investment as search engines constantly change the way they index and rank information. The key to effective web marketing is working hard, but also “working smart” and using the organic structure of a webpage and the innate way in which the internet functions to your company’s advantage. The Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO) forecasts that this particular industry will reach up to $26.1 billion by the year 2013. With a potential investment of that size, more small businesses are wisening up and using SEO initiatives as rungs up the stepladder of online commercial success. If there were ever an opportune moment for arboriculture companies to follow suit, there would be no better time than the present.

Supercharge Your Online Presence
Using Key Words & Content Management Website Systems

Develop your entire website content with key word searches in the back of your mind. And, if you don’t want to rely on web developers on a daily basis, investigate a CMS solution.

SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION TIP #1
Plan ahead and write your website content with search words in mind. Place yourself in the shoes of the customer and strategize on how you think they might search for you. Take the list you create and make those words redundant, bold them and use them in page or module titles..

SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION TIP #2
When choosing your domain, identify your target market. If it is geographically specific, a .ca domain name will likely be preferential. Search engines such as Google or Bing will classify your .ca site with Canadian specific searches. Alternatively, if you would like to promote your site at a gobal level, a .com site would be ideal.

CMS ALTERNATIVE #1: WORDPRESS
WordPress began as a platform for quick and easy blogs, available free of cost to the masses. Today it has progressed to a standardized CMS with many useful built-in features. Comment sections, multiuser profiles and the availability of copious free modules (installed at the press of a button), are all pros. WordPress is easy to install, free, simple to use, and excellent for sharing views in a sequential manner. On the downside, its customizability is limited and may prove to be a headache, depending on your website requirements. Additionally, WordPress upgrades are renown for being buggy and can cause incompatibility issues with plugins, modules and components you may be using. If you feel confident in your technical ability, at least moderately, this is likely not the best CMS option.

CMS ALTERNATIVE #2: JOOMLA!
Joomla! means “all together” in Swahili and true to its name, offers a well rounded CMS solution to developers, designers and administrators equally. Joomla! is easily customizable and has a large capacity for development. It may not be as flexible as Drupal, in terms of coding, however it is fairly easy to override the core setup. Similarly to WordPress, there is a large pool of free add-ons available to anyone with an internet connection, not to mention its extensive support community. If you are having a problem troubleshooting a Joomla site, the likelihood of someone sharing your issue is nearly certain. Joomla’s shortcomings include user-friendliness when compared to WordPress and the lack of scalability and power compared to Drupal. However, Joomla! is one of the easiest ways to quickly design and create your own website. I commend this open-source system and would highly recommend Joomla! to small business owners.

The Authors
Brianna is the founder of Cherry Media (www.cherry-media.ca), a digital media company specializing in web development, graphic design and search engine optimization (SEO) – with a social edge. She recently finished her Masters in Environmental Studies and holds a Bachelor degree in Computer Science. Brianna loves everything digital and has even branched off into video production. When she is not in front of the computer, you will find her dreaming of her next adventure.

Renee Fortune, a sworn “pen-to-paper” writer, experienced the plethora of universal opportunities to be gained from the online world six years ago and since then has discovered that the keyboard is indeed, “mightier than the sword.” With a natural aptitude for sales and marketing, it seemed almost inevitable that she would encounter the cornerstone of organic online marketing: Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Her endeavours have thus extended from creative writing and magazine features to online content writing where the requirements of SEO form a solid foundation. According to Renee: “Every writer wants to ensure that that writing is seen and SEO is the way to make that happen.”

At 23, she continues to do extensive research on the magic of SEO and has had a hand in building successful online projects by implementing its numerous techniques. After having learnt the basics, and taken a deeper look at how SEO functions in showcasing a website, she is convinced that it is the way forward – convinced enough to build a career on its sheer brilliance.

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