Walt Disney's belief was "Yes, if . . ." is the language of a creator, whereas the language of a defeatist is "No, because."

Is Every Idea a Perfect One?

Of course not. That's where the power of brainstorming comes in. One person has an idea, which spawns the additional thoughts of another person, which creates more input from another person, and so forth. Maybe the original idea needs a little more work to make it doable. Maybe the best time for the idea is next year, rather than next month. To make the idea work, maybe an additional staff member will need to be hired. Maybe several obstacles will need to be tackled before the idea is possible.

One thing is certain:

You'll never succeed if you give up too soon.

There are no brick walls in search engine marketing. If you run up against a brick wall, it's time to think creatively.

Does Every Idea Work?

Nope. Some ideas fail. But if you don't try, you'll never know what will work and what will have the potential to make you a bundle of money. If an idea fails, step back and review. Can you make some changes to the project to make it work better? Can you add a twist to turn things around? Is your thinking stagnant do you need a different perspective? Is it time for a brainstorming session?

Don't take what might look like a failure and "assume" that's what it is at face value.

Never assume!

Time to Look at Some Examples

Example #1: Travel Web Site

(Note: These examples can apply to almost any industry. Use your imagination and make them work! Also, there are many things we don't know about the sites, since we can't visually see them.)

You sell vacation packages going to Walt Disney World. Competition is fierce in your industry. You've done everything you can from an SEO standpoint to optimize your database-driven site. Every page is found in the engines, and every page has a unique title, description, heading, and content. Your rankings are fairly good but could use improvement. However, your conversions could be better, and so could your link popularity.

Another problem is how to differentiate yourself from your competition. In other words, you need a USP (Unique Selling Proposition).

At the end of this article, I'll give you some possible solutions, but the purpose of this article is to get YOU to think creatively.

Ask Yourself These Questions:

Is there a way that you could get your happy customers to link to your Web site in order to build your link popularity? Are you giving them a reason to link to your Web site?

Is your site "sticky," meaning are you giving new and past customers a reason to come back to your site over and over again? Do you have a lot of repeat customers?

What exactly makes a site sticky? Why do you go back to sites again and again?

What could you do on your site that would make your customers tell others about your site?

Let's say that I'm your customer. Why would I want to come back to your site again and again? Why would I want to tell others about your site?

Re-read the description about the site. Remember what the strengths and weaknesses are.

Why would I want to buy from YOU instead of your competitor? That is your USP your Unique Selling Proposition. The USP differentiates you from your competition. Every business needs a USP. What is yours?

30-Minute USP Brainstorming Exercise

1. Try brainstorming with friends or associates who know and understand your business. For these exercises, try to work with at least one other person.

2. Try setting a specific time limit of just 10 minutes per exercise. When the time is up, stop - unless you are really on a roll. Never stop a "creative roll"!

3. There is nothing wrong with any idea. List every one whether it is good, bad, silly, or indifferent.

4. Make sure not to allow "negatives" or "negative attitudes" to destroy the atmosphere of creativity. If a brainstorming partner always seems to think negatively about ideas, it's time to find a new brainstorming partner.

(Important: These exercises will only work if you actually do them!)

Exercise One:
In 10 minutes, make a list on paper of every service that you provide that is common to your specific industry overall.

  • This list includes everything that most businesses in your industry provide in common.
  • Throw in absolutely everything that you can think of that is common.
  • Let your mind suggest anything in any kind of order as it occurs to you.
  • Once you have completed this, cut it off after 10 minutes (remember this is an exercise.)

Exercise Two:
In 10 minutes, make a list on another sheet of paper of every service that you provide that is uncommon to your competitors.

  • This list includes every way that separates you from your competitor.
  • Focus on why you are different than a competitor, not better than a competitor.
  • Do not feel that you have to think logically or in order. Write ideas as they are tossed out.
  • No idea is a bad idea or not worth listing. Be sure to include everything without question.
  • Once you have completed this, cut it off after 10 minutes - unless you are on a roll.

Exercise Three:
In 10 minutes, make a list on another sheet of paper of every service that is not or cannot be provided by anyone (but you wish could be provided.)

  • This list can be as zany or crazy as you like with no logic at all.
  • Don't let anything prevent you from listing EVERY idea regardless of how crazy it is. If someone suggests "free insurance" or "paying the customer" or something even more outlandish, still list it.
  • Avoid using your logical senses and have some fun with this.
  • There is no such thing as a "dumb suggestion."
  • You are purposely thinking of radical ideas that may not ever happen.
  • Once you have completed this, cut it off after 10 minutes exactly - unless you are on a roll.

Once you are done creating your three lists, lay them out side by side and begin to think about your unique selling proposition. Have you noticed any new and original ideas popping into your mind yet? There is something wonderful about brainstorming combined with the action of writing things down that is very therapeutic. Sometimes it's when we are in our most illogical state of thinking, just having fun, away from the stress, that truly brilliant ideas and concepts will emerge.

In part 3, I'll share my own list of possible solutions for Example 1 (the travel site). That will give you plenty of time to complete the exercises yourself.

Tip: Creativity is like SEO. You have to work at learning and building the skills. Do the exercises. You'll be amazed at how you'll feel and what you'll learn. Trust me on this.

Example #2: Online Retail Store

(Note: Many of the same solutions can apply to this example, but we're going to brainstorm for others as well.)

You have an online retail store, and you sell a multitude of different products. You have 300 static pages, and you don't want to switch to a database. Your rankings are good, but your click throughs need help. (Tip: Be sure to check your log files and analyze your traffic. You don't want to change anything until you know for sure that your rankings/keywords aren't bringing you traffic.)

You have no real "identity" online. The name of your Web site is "GJL Retail," but that doesn't tell shoppers what your site is about and has proven lousy as far as branding is concerned.

You sell everything from clay clocks to building blocks for kids. People who visit rave about your product lines, the ease in navigation, the design of the site, and the friendliness of your staff. Your conversion to sales is good, once you get the customer on your site.

The main problem is that visitors aren't finding your site through organic listings. You're spending a fortune on the PPCs. Without them, you'd be toast.

Ask Yourself These Questions:

First off, let's think about the click throughs. You have good rankings, but why aren't those rankings translating to click throughs?

(Tip: Again, be sure to check your log files and analyze your traffic. You don't want to change anything until you know for sure that your rankings/keywords aren't bringing you traffic.)

In search engine "optimization," we strive for top rankings. But all of the top rankings in the world won't matter if they don't convert to sales. In order for those rankings to convert to sales, they have to convert to click throughs. So what does that mean to you?

Your problem with click through rates could mean two things:

1. Your titles and descriptions aren't captivating and designed to drag your potential customers by the neck, kicking and screaming, to YOUR Web site.

2. You've optimized your pages for keyword phrases that few people are searching for.

In part three, we'll continue with our exercises, including one designed to improve your click throughs and one designed to increase traffic.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.

April 25, 2006

Robin Nobles is the Co-Director of Training of Search Engine Workshops, where they teach "hands on" search engine marketing workshops in locations across the globe. They also provide a networking community for SEOs called The World Resource Center for Search Engine Marketers and have expanded their workshops to Europe with Search Engine Workshops UK.

Search Engine Guide > Robin Nobles > The Missing Element in Search Engine Marketing - Part 2