2) Started writing interesting content. Truly good content is a PITA and you need to be a decent writer to make something compelling, but our first good article got us more traffic than the entire site with over 100 content pages.
3) New tools. everything linked together to see where our sales were coming from. Phone system, website, live chat, in person. All of our leads funneled into one system. We could see what was getting people and what wasn't
4) Online advertising. Locally first, expand AD reach as campaign becomes more nationally competitive. Make sure all the tools you setup continue to track where all these leads are coming from
5) Better "convincing" of clients that we're legit. Company T-Shirts and swag. Hotel-type exaggerated pictures of our team and office. Meet the team page. Professional website like I mentioned earlier. FB, google maps, yellowpages, wherever we could get a free listing. Automated scheduling systems for client meetings, phone tree for calls, tons of previous work repurposed as marketing material for clients to see. Listing our bigger clients on our website. 800 phone #. All the hallmarks of a big successful business even though we weren't exactly gave clients a much bigger confidence in our abilities and enabled us to charge more.
6) Marketing toward high value targets-- we needed to get the ear of C level and VP's. Concentrating on the fact that we were a US company without outsourcing. Marketing to wealthy areas "doctorville" we called it. Targeted marketing to business corridors. We went deep, going as far as checking the AS of your IP address and whether any services were running on it. A surprising amount of the time would could link an IP back to a company, so we could quietly market to your company just from you visiting our site.
7) competitive research. Found our biggest local competitors. Quietly outbid them on all their ad keywords. Even more quietly made sure we had all the backlinks they did on search. Got a list of their clients one way or another, marketed directly to their clients already knowing their weaknesses from our clients who previously worked with those competitors. One competitor hosted their own servers, so I figured out who owned the IP and tracked ownership of the company through their email server. Another put their email address at the bottom of all public sites they wrote, a simple targeted google search returned all/most of their clients' sites. Another had a "client login" page setup on all of their sites that had a redirect to their main page. Searching for backlinks using SEO tools revealed most of these client sites.
Lots more. It took a lot of creative thinking and some failures :)
What was different with that piece of content? Was it only the content or did you also promote/tailor that content to new channels?
The difference was that the rest of our content was bland marketspeak whitewash garbage stuff. "Expand your client list 5x TODAY" type bs. Also useless PDF whitepapers on project we completed. Pro tip, nobody reads PDF unless it's the only content available, and on Google that's rarely true :).
The new articles were all focused on specific issues that our clients would have. Some favorites:
"TWC business modem speed up"
"AdWords tracking conversions"
"Choosing the right software development company"
"Pros and cons of outsourcing development"
"Online marketing for small businesses
"AdWords overview for CEOs and VP s"
"How to hire AdWords expert"
"Company outing locations in (cityx)"
"Most popular CMS for company websites"
"Small business tax audit guide"
Articles with a clear purpose and tailored to what our kind of client, and person, would be searching for. Admittedly this takes some really creative thinking but the results can be amazing.
Not all of our articles were related to what we did at all. They were built so that our target customers would search for them. Business owners, especially local. People looking for custom software even if it's not what they initially have in mind.
Our only channel for these articles was google search. In all, about 95% of our traffic went to new articles straight from Google. We trailered content mainly to our location, and this is probably a wise choice for any small business.
The content raised Google's opinion of how good our site was, even when the article wasn't bringing in sales. Most of the time they would be first page for targeted keywords, about 40% of the time the first result. Some of them are years old now and still first on Google, if that gives you an idea of how powerful well written pieces can be.
Writing the actual content: make sure the article is long and well written. The times/WSJ/new yorker should be a guide for what kind of writing google likes. Long form and extremely focused on a subject. Pictures help too.
Google looks at how many people view your article, for how long, and whether they go back to search afterwords if it wasn't what they wanted. They track future searches related to the article they just brought you to, to see if it has stimulated the person to read more into whatever your article was talking about. So for example the best CMS article. Did the user that read your article end up checking out the CMS you mentioned? They track how often users return to the same article, and probably whether they bookmark it. They even know how deep your knowledge is by comparing the distribution of uncommon words in your article to more trusted sources like journals and high quality books on the same subject. This is all admittedly speculation but google is extremely good at rating the quality of your content. The new AI processing google uses probably doesn't even know why an article is good, it just knows that it is.
The thing that helped me most writing the good articles was a deep background in the subject. For things I didn't know as much about, like managing the business, I would pick the brain of somebody that did know a lot for an hour or two then put it to writing.
If you don't have much knowledge about the things you should be writing about you need to find a decent writer that does.
If you don't want to deal with all that just pay google money for ads, and get really good at "the game". AdWords is extremely competitive and you need somebody with the drive to win at any cost, because the road from the start of your first campaign to something profitable will be expensive and hard.
Channels are overrated IMO :) you can reach around 90% of all web users on Google alone, and close to 100% on Google+fb. To start out at least, just pick a few very pervasive platforms and get really good at using them
Google is my main traffic driver and I never had much luck with content shared through social media or any other channels. For me, it's 90% Google as well and some articles are there for 8 years already. 3-5 articles out of a hundred or so drive 80% of new signups.
I treat my articles like shopping windows: I revisit and refine them whenever I see fit. I write new content mostly to show Google that something is happening on my website. I lost rankings on some articles, because I didn't publish a lot through 2016.
Anyways, your comment is a good description on how one can succeed by making their customers' problems their main SEO/traffic strategy.
I feel like a lot of these strategies could be used with small bootstrapped businesses with some tweaking. Especially #5, appearing legit is too often ignored in smaller businesses.
#5 is a killer for so many places, maybe the most common big mistake. This is one place where "fake it till you make it" is absolutely mandatory for success. Selling yourself as a "freelancer" devalues everything you do. Selling yourself as a startup is similarly dangerous. Having the cutesy small business/startup vibe might sound appealing to customers and the valley but it makes you look disorganized and unstable to big successful businesses. These are the very customers willing and able to throw lots of money around.
I cringed at GitLab's unnecessary transparency recently because it makes their vulnerability and management missteps all more apparent. Their mistake is the kind of shit where the better choice from a business perspective is to be reasonably honest then give all your customers a free month or two so they stop talking about it. Their absolutely transparency exposes a lot of internal politics and missteps, especially mentioning people by name, A HUGE no-no in any kind of big business. If I was fortune 500, hell even INC 500, I would run away as fast as possible.
Love your no-nonsense pragmatic attitude :)
1) Modern website with seo
2) produce compelling content
3) reduce redundant tools and streamline processes
4) advertise your product
5) advertise your business
6) knowing your customers and decision makers and advertising appropriately
7) understanding your competition
What I got reading the groovehq blog post that was posted here was that you should be spending little bit of time on multiple strategies until you find one that sticks.
More importantly keeping experiments cheap, fast and not so time consuming to put out in the wild. I liked that <10hr approach from the other HN comment.