It’s very easy to say something you didn’t mean. The designer Aubrey Kurlansky spotted this notice on a door in an office block: “Toilet out of order, please use floor below”. Moral: Always get someone to check your copy.
You have direct control over some simple factors that have a massive effect on your website’s search engine rankings.
Websites don’t appear high in search engine rankings by magic. If you know the basics of search engine optimisation, you’ll know this and you can look away now. I’m writing this post because a lot of people in small businesses are unaware that they could be making a huge difference to the success of their websites by making some simple changes. Some factors in search engine success such as links to your site depend on otehrs but I’m talking about matters you have direct control over.
You’ve probably been relying on your website designer. Don’t. My experience is that just because they’re good at producing a nice looking site but that won’t butter any parsnips with Google. To see whether your website is doing the basics of search engine optimisation right, there are three simple checks.
Go to your home page and right click. You’ll see a drop down menu- click View Page Source. What will appear will be a whole bunch of words in computer language. Look for <title>. This Title is not the heading that you see on the webpage but the one that appears at the top of the screen. this is the number one source of information for search engines so it should contain the key words that your customers will be searching for. For example, when you visit Your Life Your Style, you’ll see ‘Special Gifts & Accessories from Your Life Your Style of Winchester’. I looked at a friend of mine’s business website the other day. The title was ‘Home Page’!
. This is not the Title that appears on your page but the one that you can see at the very top of the screen and it’s this that is the number one thing that Google and other search engines look at. I looked at a friend’s business website the other day andNext in importance are Header Tags. you’ll see these in the page source as <h1>, <h2> etc. On the page you normally see, these will usually appear as headings or in bold. Again they should reflect the words that your customers will be searching for.
Finally, look at the text on the page and make sure that your key words are repeated regularly. Google and other search engines vary in how many repetitions they look for to tell them that this what the site is about and how many constitute overloading the site to manipulate the rankings. Six repetitions of each key word seems to be a good target but it helps if the copy is long enough for them not to be too obvious.
One other thing, check what the <meta name=”description” says. This is what appears under your name in the search results and describes to the search engines and your potential customers what you are all about. It’s your best opportunity to sell. Your Life Your Style ‘description’ is ‘Your Life Your Style offers gifts and accessories as special as you from our shop in Winchester including Dora Designs, Steiff, Ashleigh & Burwood, Dartington Crystal and many products handmade in the UK’.
If your site doesn’t conform to these basic standards, get your designer to change it right now (because changes can take three months to have an effect) and then change your designer. Not necessarily in that order.
This is an entry that appeared a few weeks ago in my Southern Daily Echo blog:
Don Draper would never approve of burning copies of the Koran. You can tell that from the way, in the first episode of the new series of Mad Men, he gave short shrift to Peggy for mounting a publicity stunt to promote sales of one of their products. To Don, advertising is pure, setting up fake events is somehow dirty. So you can see how he wouldn’t agree with burning books to generate publicity.
This kind of PR been going on a lot longer than the 1960s. In their Top 50 publicity stunts, Taylor Herring include The Boston Tea Party where a group of American rebels threw British tea into Boston harbour to publicise the cause of American independence. The site also points out that carrying the Olympic torch through various countries started as a stunt to publicise the Games and the Tour de France began as an event to publicise a sports magazine.
Controversy is an easy way to attract publicity, like the splendid Be Stupid campaign by Diesel that was recently banned by the Advertising Standards Authority or Wonderbra’s ‘Hello Boys’ or Ryan Air pretty well every day. Pastor Terry Jones’ Koran burning proposal has certainly gained a disproportionate amount of fame for a church with only 50 members.
But the best stunts are ones which are news in themselves and enhance the product at the same time. So, on Mad Men, two women fighting over a branded tin of ham was newsworthy, and Don’s concern was only what would happen if it emerged that they had been paid to do it. I guess nowadays we’re not that surprised if an apparently spontaneous event that generates publicity for a business turns out to be a stunt. Remember Enimen’s apparent shock and disgust when a nearly naked ‘Borat’ abseiled down onto his face at a music awards event. After the massive publicity died down, it was revealed he was in on it from the start.
My favourite stunt from my own days as a publicist was when my theatre needed to check seats for wear and tear. I decided we should advertise for someone to do the job and suggested that their bottom would form part of the qualification. Straightaway, my own backside made the front page of the Echo. Then South Today filmed me opening the job applications which I arranged to include one from someone who’d included a photo of their bum. It was publicity but it also showed we cared about the comfort of our patrons.
This was similar in style, if not scale, to the greatest PR stunt of recent years- the estimated £35 million worth of publicity gained for Queensland Tourism when a simple vacancy as ‘caretaker’ of an island there became ‘the best job in the world’ in the hands of a PR agency. I think the key to good PR, that is a stunt that won’t backfire, is that it should come out of truth- in these cases, the need for a seat tester or an island caretaker.