Remember the good old days when you could curl up on your company home page and wait for customers to drop by? Sure, you may have had to buy a few Google Adwords here and there, but with the right SEO and enough keyword-stuffed copy, you could get by just fine. Just point everything and everyone to the home page. Make the customer come to you.
Times have changed.
With the recent Panda update, it's apparent that Google hates hermits. From all accounts, their new metrics include a good dose of engagement factors, (e.g. the amount of time spent on site, the number of pages viewed, the number of comments posted, the amount of social interaction, your company's web "footprint" etc.) In short, your brand's ranking is an overall measure of actual human activity, involvement and interest - both on and off site.
So what does that mean for brand marketers?
More than ever it pays to treat your brand like the person that it is - dress it up, take it out, introduce it, network, say hello, return a gesture - smile! In essence, if you want to be treated like a relevant business, you have to act like one. You can't "stay at home," shut off the lights and expect customers to knock the doors down. Seems sensible enough, yet a good many companies remain complacent with static web sites, little to no social media presence and stale, outdated blogs. And if the company welcome mat is not out, Google is a lot less likely to drop by often. And that's one visitor you want to have over as frequently as possibly.
What to do?
1. Make an effort to get out more
No one says you have to be all things to all people. So pick the social site(s) that would help your company most. For B2B companies, that would most likely involve a committed presence on LinkedIn and Quora. Join industry groups there and add to the discussion. For B2C businesses, both Twitter and Facebook deserve custom branded pages to match your brand's look and feel. Consider a simple e-newsletter to your loyal fans. MailChimp provides a fun and easy service for just that purpose.
2. Integrate social elements into your web site
Consider a YouTube video on your home page for demonstrating a product or service. Include a newsletter sign up for easy updates. Enable comments on your company blog that you can moderate and respond to, as well as social media icons to easily follow your company and share your content. Consider a Twitter stream on the bottom of your page to demonstrate activity and display conversations about your company brand. Keep your conversations current and relevant. For material, create a Google email alert for topics in your industry so you can easily tweet, blog and post in real time.
3. Invite people over more often
It's not enough to offer the home page basics, e.g. an about us page, a list of services and a contact form. Add informative articles that you would want to read. Make sure to add compelling photos, adequate spacing and bulleted items to make them easy to read, forward and share. Bolden key points and summarize often. Keep the conversations short, simple and engaging. Link your awesome articles to related posts on your site to increase time spent on site. Keep the readers interest and be the perfect party host.
4. Put some action in interaction
As search engines evolve and become more intuitive and human-like in their results, company brands will need to keep pace with their message, media and momentum. They will need to behave, act and respond in a more three dimensional manner. This means meeting, greeting and engaging customers with fresh information that passes the "sniff" test. No stale sales copy. No tired mission statements. Be sure to make full use of sight, sound and emotion to connect with customers in a meaningful way.
With so many disruptive technologies in marketing, it's easy to get overwhelmed, pull down up the shades and stuff your head under the pillow. But now is not the time to put on your feety pajamas and climb into bed. Making the effort to reach out and connect in new ways will pay big dividends as web marketing becomes more integrated and intertwined. Those who adapt to these opportunities will find fresh alternatives to connect with customers, and discover new "neighbors" they never knew they had. Those who chose to do nothing will most likely find themselves "home alone."