How to Build an Online Business from the Ground Up
The challenges of building an online business from the ground up are really no different than the challenges of building any kind of business from the ground up.
The primary question you have to ask is: how am I going to reach my customers?
In the world of online business, the way to attract eyeballs (for free) — and to convert the owners of those eyeballs to leads for you sales team — is through collaborative search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing strategies.
Strictly speaking, your SEO and content strategies are going to unfold on separate tracks, but in practice they’re going to have a symbiotic relationship: one reinforces the other, and vice versa.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
SEO is, to put it simply, the practice of making sure the people who want to find you can find you. When you type a search term into, say, Google, a list of results comes up.
Have you ever thought about how that list is compiled, and what factors are used to order the results?
The results are presented in order of relevance, which is determined by how closely they’re related to the term the user searched for.
The key to SEO, then, is to make sure that when potential customers search for terms related to your business, you appear as far up on that list of results as possible.
How do you do that? The key is, well, keywords. Through keyword research, you can figure out and anticipate what customers are searching for.
You then use those keywords to craft compelling, informative content. That content will, in turn, build the authority of your site as it attracts more visitors, further boosting you up the ranks of search results.
SEO Gets People on Your Site — Great Content and Messaging Seals the Deal
Which brings us to the second phase of the holistic SEO/content strategy — the content itself.
Once you’ve used a well-crafted SEO strategy to attract potential customers to your website, you need to convert those visitors to leads by using your content.
But what kind of content is compelling enough to convert those eyeballs to leads?
The answer to that question can be revealed by answering a different, but related, question — what kind of content is not compelling? Content that is not compelling is, quite often, content that’s too single-mindedly focused on selling.
This approach might work on the occasional customer who’s completely ready to buy, but to visitors in earlier phases of the marketing funnel, it can be a turnoff. Poor content can also be vague, uninformative, outdated, or simply boring. Poor content doesn’t attract; it repels.
Think about the terms you type into Google when you’re trying to solve a problem – not every problem revolves around your product or service. People come to Google looking for solutions to their problems, and your website’s job is to answer any questions they might have during their customer journey.
So What Makes Content “Great?”
So what kind of content builds trust and relationships with potential leads? To put it simply: content that demonstrates and offers value.
Your content needs to show expertise and to provide potential customers with valuable information that they can use to make their purchasing decisions.
A truly holistic SEO/content strategy doesn’t just merge SEO and content goals; it also acknowledges that your interests and the customer’s must be equally served.
Your content, then, should be less about pushing a one-sided transaction, and more about a mutual exchange of value.
That means you have to produce content that’s richly informative and well-written — and then use a well-honed SEO strategy to make that content visible to potential customers.
A Real-World Example
Let’s jump into a real-world example from the Clever Real Estate Blog. Our keyword research has shown that our target customers often search for terms like “alternatives to flat-fee MLS listings.” By creating a piece of content around flat fee mls listing alternatives, we’re able to address exactly the problems they’re trying to solve.
Visitors land on this page, which explains in very clear terms the advantages and disadvantages of a flat-fee MLS listing.
People who are considering a flat-fee MLS listing — which, as the name implies, simply lists a home for a flat fee as opposed to a traditional commission — are often so focused on the potential savings that they don’t consider the downside.
That’s where our content comes in. We acknowledge that, yes, the savings on a flat-fee MLS listing can be significant. (Step one in building a trust relationship is honesty.)
We then go on to explain the drawbacks. For example, many of our visitors may not know that they aren’t getting out of the full 6% commission; they’re only eliminating the listing agent’s cut, and will still be on the hook for the buyer’s agent commission.
They also may not have considered all they’d be giving up if they went for the flat fee approach; a full service agent’s expertise in things like home staging, photography, marketing, and outreach. If you’re only saving half as much as you thought, and you’re going to be spending weekends stapling fliers of your home to telephone poles, is a flat fee listing really that great of a deal?
With these premises established, we can then make a soft sell for Clever as a legitimate alternative.
Make sure to include calls-to-action throughout the page — in headers and sidebars, as well as clickable links — that makes it easy to convert these visitors into actionable leads (name, email, phone number, etc.). These calls-to-action should focus on your core value propositions and gather all the information your sales team needs.
When SEO and content marketing work together, it leads to real, measurable revenue for businesses. Everything can be traced back to individual blog posts that rank in Google and convert visitors into leads by offering useful, relevant content.
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