Web Marketing Parallels to Bricks and Mortar

I recently went through a pre-launch design study with a client. The client is launching a new division of an existing company and after hearing me speak at a local business group, wanted to be sure he was starting with the right stuff.

First let me say this is a great approach. Its much easier to fix problems on the front end than to try and undo mistakes that have your site identified for the wrong things. However, when you work on an existing design you do have some history of what is working and what’s not. When starting from scratch, it can be difficult to evaluate the words and phrases you will need. If there are other business in the same space you can examine what they are doing, but in this case a head-to-head competitor didn’t really exist.

So I started reading through the companies marketing materials, technical papers, et cetera, making a list of industry specific phrases. Then I took that list and began googling each phrase to see which ones returned results for businesses in a similar vein. The problem was virtually none of the phrases I was working with were getting my anything but research papers of .edu sites (can you hear the crickets?).

So what’s the problem, you say??

People research before they buy, getting more and more specific with their searches as they become more educated to the jargon of the industry and the desirable features and functions of the items they are researching.  Anyone searching on these phrases will quickly find this company and be set – right?

I don’t think so, if prospects are googling and not finding what they are looking for, they alter their search.  To use a “bricks and mortar” analogy, this is why restaurants successfully locate next to other restaurants, car dealers reside next to other car dealers and so on.

Like the bricks and mortar world, when people are searching the internet for goods and services you want be where the traffic is. However, you need to be near the right kind of traffic. You don’t want to locate your paint store next to a research institute. If you cater to the home owner, your paint store would be better off near a Home Depot, or if you cater to contractors, in an industrial area where where contractors go for building materials.

And yes, you do need to educate buyers and incorporate technical content and jargon into the content of your site, but if your selling paint, I wouldn’t create the structure of site around the petrochemical phrases used to produce it.

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2 thoughts on “Web Marketing Parallels to Bricks and Mortar

  1. jtrigsby says:

    Ok, so you lost me here with the brick & mortar analogy. Why wouldn’t you want to be the only web site with a buying keyword for a given product? If everyone who searched for “Dave’s Fab Widgets” got .edu papers…except for your site that happens to be #1 in the SERPS, why is that bad? Or are buying keywords and #1 bad assumptions?

    SERPS are far more closely related to convenience stores than specialty stores. Searchers click on the first result 91% of the time…without even looking at number 2 or 3 or…etc. Searchers will take convenience over specificity, well 91% of the time.

  2. John says:

    The problem is, to be found you have to be where people are looking. To do that you have to know what people are searching for. If the phrases you rank on means you are only showing up in SERPs for research papers then you are on the fringe of the traffic. You will only get a small percentage of people who are actually *shopping* for the product.

    Another problem is that unless you are Dow Chemical, you are going to have a hard time getting on the first page of SERPs against the Institutes that do the research (.edus have more clout in the engines than .coms).

    Could a tiny percentage of folks looking through the techno-babble in research articles be interested in you product, sure they could and it’s a good idea to have articles on .edu sites mention or reference your company to catch those folks.

    So, my point? Stick to the main street of serach terms for your buyer.

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