Day twelve saw the start of a sudden rush of traffic from a few solid links, gave me a true appreciation for just how generous Search Engine Guide readers can be and showed just how powerful Google rankings are. If I was learning anything from this experience it was the importance of creating a business that sparks people's interest. If I'd started up a business that sold something common like books or scrapbooking equipment, people likely wouldn't have paid much attention other than to say that the experiment was interesting. It's the uniqueness of the product line that has sparked such an interest and such interaction with readers. That's a powerful lesson to learn for people looking to start up a new business online.
(If you're just catching up with this series of articles, be sure to swing into the ongoing discussion thread at the Small Business Ideas forum. You'll be able to link to each day's article and participate in the discussion going along with it.)
Google Rankings Start to Send Serious Traffic
On day eleven, I write about my excitement at being indexed by Google and seeing my first search referrals start to come in from the Google site. By day twelve, Google had already managed to bypass MSN as my biggest source of search engine traffic, showing just how powerful Google is when it comes to search share. The fact that my rankings had shown up in MSN almost a full week prior to showing up in Google but could still be passed in terms of traffic volume in a single day means that Bill Gates and company still have a long way to go before their engine is making a serious threat to Google's title as King of Search.
I've mentioned the "keyword long tail" in articles earlier in the series, but at this point it's probably a good idea to expand on the idea a little bit to help non search geeks understand the importance of ranking for these phrases.
The keyword long tail is the name given to all the keyword phrases that a web site tends to rank for without the owner ever consciously optimizing for them. For example, while I've actively tried to target phrases like "breastfeeding shirts" and "breastfeeding advocacy" I'm also finding that I rank (and get traffic from) other phrases like "breastfeeding advocacy t shirts," "breastfeeding humor" and "breastfeeding bibs." The long tail is named as such because when you look at the log files for a web site, it's fairly common to find that the phrases that each send two or three visitors a month tend to add up and send far more traffic than the top ten, twenty or even thirty phrases combined.
For more on the keyword long tail, check out Matt Bailey's excellent article about incorporating the long tail into your keyword strategy. For a quick example of the impact of the long tail, check out this line from his article:
However, when looking at sales generated by search terms, 18.6% of conversions were from top 10 keywords. Conversely, 81.2% of the conversions were from hundreds of other search terms outside of the top 10.
My experience thus far with The Lactivist has been no different. Yes, there are power phrases like "breastfeeding clothes" and "breastfeeding children" that send strong numbers of traffic, but it's those surprising little phrases like "breastfeeding tote bag" that add up to give me some real solid numbers in the search referral column.
Cafe Press and T-Shirt Countdown Boost Traffic
One of the problems with the focus on link building in the search marketing world is that so much emphasis is put on links for the sake of boosting search engine rankings. What many site owners fail to understand is the power of a link when it comes to sending traffic. It's pretty common for site owners to put all their focus on seeking out high PR sites where they might stake a claim on a link that could give a slight ranking boost, but is unlikely to provide any customers. Instead, site owners need to work on link strategies that seek aim to create links that will send customers to their site.
Much has been made in a couple of discussion forums over the supposed unfairness of The Lactivist project from a linking standpoint. The argument being made is that I'm well known enough to generate tons of links simply on the basis of the articles I'm writing. Critics say that this makes my experiment unrealistic. These critics are missing the boat on two points...
First, the majority of link-love that's being generated from these articles is aimed at the Search Engine Guide site and the Small Business Ideas forum. Thus, my "name" has served me well for generating publicity and interest for the Search Engine Guide brand, but it hasn't done much of anything when it comes to sending customers to The Lactivist Store.
Two, even when you count the incoming links to the The Lactivist Store, it's not the ones from the search and small business marketing blogs that are generating revenue. Traffic yes, but all the traffic in the world doesn't do you a lick of good if no one is buying. It's links from places like The Charlotte Mommies forum, the Just Mommies Board and Craigslist that are sending in my target audience in droves. These links are coming from people that have no idea who I am, proving that the real gems in link building come from the people that choose to evangelize about your products on their own.
It's getting those links in just the right spot that is the true gem in online marketing and that point was driven home on day twelve. All of a sudden I saw a sharp rise in traffic coming from the CafePress Wire. Apparently, the CafePress team had selected The Lactivist Store as one of their Top Ten Shops and listed it on the Wire site. That one link has already sent more than 100 visitors to the site, roughly 5% of my total traffic since stats were put in place.
I had also started to see a huge influx of traffic from T-Shirt Countdown. Back on day one when I was first putting products on the site, Robert suggested that I submit the "milk jugs" shirt to the site for their "Top 100 T-Shirts" countdown. The site works by tabulating reader votes and ranking shirts based on popularity. By day twelve my shirt had risen to #21 on the "Funny T-Shirts" list and to #56 on the overall list. Those two listings had send more than 50 visitors to my site and were likely responsible for some of the posts showing up on discussion sites like Craigslist.
It's links from spots like the CafePress Wire and T-Shirt Countdown that not only send potential customers to your site, but also generate the type of buzz that can lead to even more links from blogs and discussion boards. That's what makes these links valuable, not the slight boost that they may give to a search ranking, but their potential to send actual visitors to your web site. That's an important point to keep in mind when you are working on a linking strategy for a new business.
Thanksgiving Turkey Sparks Inspiration
Another valuable lesson learned on day twelve was the power of group brainstorming. While I'd already been able to put up some excellent shirt ideas for Search Engine Guide readers and can't discount my husband's idea of the "milk jugs" shirt that started it all, it was Thanksgiving that saw tryptophan-induced creativity reining supreme.
If You Create a Cause, Help Will Come
I've written on previous days about the generous offers of free or discounted services that have come from companies like Trellian and MorDesigns, not to mention the generous offer of public relations help from Marc Cowlin, the PR Manager for CafePress. Day twelve however, saw me becoming buried in an outpouring of generosity from Search Engine Guide readers inspired by the cause.
The offers started with Dan Mowry, a work-at-home dad that runs TheTShirtZone, a CafePress store that features a wide variety of shirt designs. Dan kindly offered up his graphic design skills in case I was looking to add anything other than text based designs to the site. His email was followed up with one from Mike Chipman, a former Urchin and Google employee that now runs Xooni Inc. and who offered to help me setup Google Analytics services for The Lactivist site.
Just as I was starting to contemplate how I might take Dan and Mike up on their offers, I noticed that I had messages waiting for me in several forums. In our own Small Business Ideas forums, search engine copywriting guru Karon Thackston dropped me a note offering up a free copywriting review for the project. Since I'm not a copywriter, this offer was like gold. I also had a message from Lisa Stewart, a HighRankings forum member that runs several parenting and home schooling sites and wanted to talk about becoming an affiliate for my store.
Coming up on day thirteen, I finally find my way back into Google AdWords to tweak my campaigns, I work on figuring out what to do with all the offers of help and I get back to my roots with even more keyword research and search engine optimization work.
Jump to Day thirteen.
(Want to read the entire 30 Day article series at once? Download the free 30 Day ebook!)
November 29, 2005
Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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