Ok, what was the first thing that came to your mind with that name? Was is all the Olympic gold medals? Was it the world records? Was it the years of hard work and training? Was it countless endorsement deals? Or was is a photo of a guy getting caught smoking pot?
It doesn’t take much to pollute a reputation. It also doesn’t take much for your reputation in Google to get polluted either. While all the good stuff still pulls up in Google for Michael Phelps, a person searching on his name has to weed through (no pun intended) numerous listings related to his negative behavior. His personal brand has been damaged, by his own actions of course, but none the less damaged.
As an example, consider if a high profile employee of your company gets arrested for a DUI or gets caught embezzling money. Those negative news stories will quickly populate Google results for searches on your company name. A former disgruntled employee or client decides to start a blog talking about how bad you suck. That is going to be pollution in your Google search result stream.
How do you combat these negatives so you are always putting your best foot forward in the search results? Simple. Create content. Everywhere you can. Blogs, social networking profiles, Twitter posts, news releases, article sites, leave comments on other websites, guest posts on other blogs, get interviewed, upload videos, photos, basically, wherever you can put content, do so. Of course, it needs to be good and useful content and that requires some work, but they don’t use the word “management” in brand and reputation management for nothing.
So, you’re still thinking this whole blogging thing is silly? Yet you want your website to rank well and bring a lot of visitors to your website?
If these two statements apply to you, then truth be told, you’d be silly not to consider a blog.
Think of it this way – if you have an average sized website, say 10 content pages, then you have 10 pages that have a chance of being ranked in the search engines. Now, it is difficult for any page to effectively be optimized for more than a few keyword phrases – 3 is reasonable, although some would argue that even that number is high. That give us 10 pages and 30 keyword phrases. Now, add in the fact that the search engines like active websites, so if your site is static (only updated once every year or two), then your site is not keeping the search engine bots interested.
Now, let’s take those 10 static pages and 30 keyword phrases and add in a blog that you update only once a week with a new post. This adds 52 new pages over the course of a year and 156 keyword phrases that can populate the search engines. Plus, as an actively updated blog, the search engines will be eager to visit it on a regular basis and quick list any new content that you post. When you launch a new product, service, sale, coupon, marketing campaign, promotion, job listing, new office location, event or other news worthy item, your blog post about it will show up immediately in the search engines for searchers to find it. If your site has been static for a year, and you update the site to reflect a special sale coming up next week, it might not make it to the search engines in time – whereas, it may only take an hour for the blog to get listed.
Blogs are a “force multiplier”, to borrow a military term. Use all the artillery available to help you succeed with your business online.
There is a book in our office that has been required reading for all staff members for the last 3 years. This book is called “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug. The book is about usability of website design and how you don’t want to have your site visitors have to think when they visit your website. There should be a clear purpose to the site that spells out to the site visitor what you want them to do next, whether it is to fill out a contact form, buy a product, pick up the phone and call you, request a quote now, search for a dealer in their area, refer your site to a friend or apply now.
The book is deceptively simple and most of the information in it seems so straight forward and obvious, because… well, it is. It is a clear message that doesn’t require thought and offers examples of how to enact better usability on your website, or websites you produce.
It is easy to get caught up in the message of your site without thinking about how that message is being received by others. Sure a 5,000 word dissertation on what your product does can be informative, but it can also be overkill, or even boring and not worth the time of a busy internet suffer who is just trying to determine if your product can provide the particular benefit they are looking for.
When you are the provider of a product or service it is easy to be too close to the message – too “in-the-know” to be able to see how the site is coming across to others who are not “in-the-know” on your product or service. Maybe usability testing is something you should consider. This is basically a test audience who does not know your company and it’s products or services. Let them navigate your site and see if they get it as quickly as you think they will.
Usability studies can be as simple as inviting a trusted friend over to try out your site and give feedback to doing a full fledged study with hired testers, video taped sessions, surveys and reporting. However you do it, do at least something so you have good, third-party feedback on your site.
Most importantly, think of your call-to-action – that clear purpose to the site that spells out to the site visitor what you want them to do next. Make sure your call to action is ever-present, on every page, reminding your visitors what you expect them to do next. Sometimes a little redundancy is ok.