Any website owner or developer knows that getting a website off the ground is never easy. Coming up with the next big idea is one thing- then you have the actually doing - i.e. the development and building of your site and finally once your spangly new site is up and going, you have the bit that most if not all people have the problem with. Promotion. Its going to become harder and harder to get noticed online as the web grows – and for this reason it’s time to step up your game.
In the offline world, “periphery” business is won through building relationships, attending trade fairs and corporate lunches – this appears to be the way the web is going, with the equivalent being instant messaging, email, visiting other peoples websites – and commenting on them. Think of giving links to other people as the equivalent to “taking a client out to lunch”. Somewhere down the line, they are going to either remember you for it – or return the favour.
Like most things the hard work is in getting started. When I first heard about blogging, I was slow to react – I didn’t see the benefit, I didnt understand how people gained traffic from them, I just thought it was the online equivalent of a diary – and nothing else. I now know that its so much more than that. Im not planning on getting caught short on the takeoff of social search. Theres a great article over on Venture beat on why social search is the future.
I’ve found that things start to snowball with a website after a certain period of time, and the greatest tip I could give is that the more you put in – the more you get out. I’ve already put together a few tips previously on promoting your website in Google, so instead in this post Im going to concentrate on where search (and business) on the web is going and how to gain a competitive advantage down the line, through not links, but people.
For the sake of a catchy tagline, Im calling this People 2.0.
Join the Wisdom of Crowds.
It’s never been more difficult to game the search engines. On page optimisation is dying, and as I’ve just stated the currency of the web is moving away from link building and towards social search. We’ve already seen how much attention Google is paying to content which gets posted to Digg and Del.icio.us – with content appearing in the SERPS as little as 7 minutes from posting on one of these engines. Quite a few dollars have been pumped into Mahalo, where people contribute content in particular subject areas, and suggest relevant links. Wiki Search is another one in the pipe (currently in alpha stage).
So if you are going to win down the line, you need to start building solid relationships – with as many people as you possibly can, ideally loyal followers in the same industry as yourself, and position yourself strongly so the wisdom of crowds doesnt surpass you. Just the other day I had a great phone conversation from (Justin) one of my blog subscribers all the way from Sunny Spain. It’s when something like this comes out of the blue, that you start to realise how global the web really is, and re-affirms for me why blogging is a superb way of reaching out to people you wouldn’t otherwise had contact with.
Become the pied piper.
With business moving more and more away from the office and onto the web, bolstering offline relationships with online contact, and vice versa is a superb way to network. There are more online tools than ever before for staying in touch with both your clientbase, and your contacts in the industry. Facebook, Linked In, Digg, StumbleUpon and Delicious – to name but a few in the social space that I currently loiter around. I also actively contribute on a few different web based forums – including one on Linked In. Nate Whitehill has got a brilliant post on the benefit of social networking.
Become more accessible.
You can become more accessible to visitors from a personal point of view, and encourage conversation at every opportunity. Blog comments are great for this, and I’ve met various people from commenting on other blogs, and from people following the conversation to my own.
Help out others.
Its also a good idea to try and provide content for other people – contribute articles or blog posts if you have the time. A super tip when doing this is to put a related post on your own site around the same theme. This leads to major stickiness, because visitors following the link back from the site you contribute to, are already thinking around your subject area.
Paying close attention to these small and simple steps inevitably results in getting noticed, and overall puts you in a better position when algorithmic search is combined with social search in the next couple of years.