I just survived another garage sale that my wife, Irma, has put on. That's three in the last six years. While I absolutely hate them, I do enjoy the end result which is some cash in her pocket (or
purse) and a house that is less cluttered. During this one (which I hope is out last), I started to think how a successful garage sale is a lot like a successful search marketing effort. Likewise a garage sale
that performs poorly can be compared to a search marketing effort that delivers a poor ROI.
My wife has always had very successful sales which has been the result of a lot of hard work. This includes thorough preparation, setting up the environment up so it is comfortable for customers, advertising the sale to draw people in and then properly running it. I compared my wife's sale to our neighbor's, who by complete coincidence during this last one, was having hers at the same time. It was apparent that her preparation, set up and actual running of the sale could not even compete with my wife's. However, she did benefit from our advertising efforts seeing that she was not only next door to us but the first stop on the path to our home. As far as advertising, her typical effort was to place a small box with a "garage sale" sign at the entrance to our street and then hope for a few customers to trickle in. Unfortunately, that is the way a lot of business owners conduct their online marketing efforts. They put forth very little effort and as a result, experience very little success.
The Marketing Effort
As far as getting the word out regarding our garage sale, my wife placed classified ads in both Craigslist and a very popular community forum called AnthemStuff.com. While there are certainly additional places to advertise a garage sale, these are the two top spots where people in our area would look.
I liken this to having good visibility in the organic search results of engines like Ask, Yahoo!, MSN and especially Google. This is where a vast majority of Internet users are going to search for what they are seeking. That seems like common knowledge to someone like me who has been involved with search marketing for ten plus years now. However, I still find that many small to medium sized business owners fail to see the importance of having good visibility when it comes to organic search results. If that is you, you are missing out on a lot of potential traffic.
Now, the community we live in already attracts many garage sale seekers on the weekends. It is for the most part an upscale master-planed community where people know they are going to be able to find quality items. To attract those who are not necessarily looking online for sales but rather driving around, good signage plays an active role. We use professional store bought yellow "Garage Sale" signs you can get at any Home Depot and place them not only at the entrance to our neighborhood and street we live on, but at various spots in the community where large quantities of traffic can be found. We use signs that are consistent in their look so as to not be confusing and arrows to point people in the right direction until they reach their destination.
In regards to organic search, this is likened to the way search results appear for your site. Are your titles compelling enough to attract click thrus? Are the descriptions good representations of what users will find on the page? These are important elements to not only help improve visibility in the organic search results but attract actual click-thrus once your listings are spotted.
In the paid search environment, this is likened to not only compelling ad copy that draws click-thrus but the landing pages you send visitors to. If you have ever experienced a garage sale, there is nothing more frustrating than seeing signs but not being able to locate the actual sale. The same is true when PPC ads send you to an irrelevant page, in most cases the home page. Rather a PPC ad should send the visitor to the most relevant page whether that be a specific product or service page or one especially created for the paid search campaign. They already searched once at the engine. Why make them do it all over again by not delivering exactly what they were searching for in the first place?
Site Aesthetics and Usability
Let's explore aesthetics and usability. Not that I go to many garage sales, but several things will sour the experience for me.
David Wallace is CEO and founder of SearchRank, an original search engine optimization and marketing firm based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is experienced in search engine optimization and marketing, pay per click and pay for inclusion management, directory submissions and web site design usability. David is a frequent contributor to various search engine related forums, an active editor of popular directories such as GoGuides.org, Joe Ant and Zeal and has had several articles published on industry related sites. Since 1997, David along with his company have helped hundreds of businesses both large and small increase their search engine visibility and customer acquisitions.
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