The best parts of this world...were fashioned by those who dared to look hard at their wishes and gave them horses to ride." - Richard N. Bolles (author of What Colour is Your Parachute?)
I had originally planned a different topic for this post (the first in some time!) - but it seemed just too on the nose to avoid speaking about one of the big factors that found me making time for this blog today - so I switched gears.
Let's talk about... marrrrrketing.
Or, somewhat more accurately, marketing in the age of social media.
As a blog once dedicated to the books I read about food - it likely doesn't shock that I acquired a lot of business books prior to beginning C&Q. One of my favourites was written in the mid-80s (and no, not the Parachute) Sure, their examples are hilariously outdated but the advice as a general rule is sound. Except for one particular thing. The advice related to marketings suggests the following list as an example of the most important steps to a successful campaign:
1. Get some branded freebies (pens, magnets, etc. for 'promotional giveaways')
2. Take out at least a quarter page ad in the Yellow Pages
3. Purchase a list of buyers and cold-call them (use the word 'Sample' aggressively)
I'll go ahead and assume that you are sniggering at this list as much as I was. When I put together a list of my own a few months ago, it looked more like this:
1. Design some carrybags & 'cool' flyers that double as art statements (branded freebies)
2. Make sure the website has good Google rankings
3. Build a thriving account on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter - throw in a couple of obscure new sites (Foodstand, Frilip, Vine, Medium) - try to build relationships and surreptitiously offer samples "just for funsies" *
I'm sure that Señor Ninteen-Eighties' list was plenty difficult at the time - but it didn't require the same kind of emotional commitment that today's list does. You have to give a genuine part of yourself to Twitter in order for it to work successfully. And frankly, today's items could be subdivided into about a thousand other tiny categories that carry their own lists. Taxing doesn't cover it. Especially item #2.
Google just doesn't make it easy for you! Nor should they, of course... The whole reason their brand is now a verb is because the results of a search seem fairly objective. Or well, the general public has at least bought into the fact that the whole google indexing/algorithm/thingamajig (mostly) only throws up appropriately applicable results. And whether it's blind trust, or the results are truly accurate, Google reigns supreme.**
I will be the first to admit that, when starting out on this journey, I held tight to the naive belief that a product of good quality would be sufficient to ensure a successful business. I won't say that I have completely changed my tune on that - but I've come to accept that a business needs more than that to survive. I use the word 'survive' deliberately... Eventually, you might thrive, but you'll need more than good products to make it to the point where good products only are sufficient. I have a fantastic example of that, by the by. Open up a new tab and do a quick google search for 'British Cheese'. Notice anything missing? Yup. Neal's Yard Dairy only shows up on the 2nd page! How about them apples?! *drops mic, walks away.
Not all of us can be NYD though, so I've spent many weeks fiddling with html, changing domains (you might notice that we're not technically eating.literally anymore?), and using words like 'crawl', 'seo' and 'robot.txt'*** And huzzah! http://curedmeats.london is now on the 1st page!
In the interests of helpfulness, here are the few tips I've gleaned in the process:
Get as much content as you can connected and/or pointed at your domain.
Basically, if you've got a blog (*coughs knowingly), you'll want to make as many high-quality, well-clicked posts as you can, and make sure that the blog domain will feed into Google's read on whichever site you're focusing on
Also, yeah, some press wouldn't hurt.
Plus, if you're proactive and snapped up more than one suffix (.com/.co.uk), those should all be feeding into one ultimate domain as well. Otherwise you're just splintering your results.
Pay attention to what you've got down in the subtext of your site
If you aren't the web-savvy who built the site, make sure that you get thems who did to show you how to look at and adjust the index text files. These are the behind-the-curtain files that form the background of your website. Again, too fancy for this post (or my brain, frankly), but all the images you see when you bring up your url are controlled and placed via words. The internet is the truest, most opposite, expression of 'a picture is worth a 1000 words'. A load of those words can't be seen except when for when you're looking at the index text files but Google takes all of them into account when gauging your site for search results. So you'll want to adjust the title and the meta-tags to make sure they contain all the keywords you expect people to be googling. Again, ask those savvies to show you where these live in the text file and you're good to go.
Pretend that Google wants to help you... No, seriously.
Well.. They kinda do! As I said, Google has a vested interest in ensuring that their search results are representative and accurate. So if they aren't including you, but they should be, they do want to know about it. And as such they have two apps that you can make pretty awesome use of. Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics. The former is particularly helpful. Once you've included those words I mentioned, you can ask that Google 'crawl' your site... Which is rather as it sounds. They'll send sneaky internet spiders**** to rummage all over your site and check out the keywords. And behold... you're suddenly showing up in the searches for those words.
And Don't Be Afraid!
It will feel extremely intimidating when you first start. You heard it here first. No puns intended, but the internet is a language onto itself. So googling "How to improve your Google results" (how meta is that?!) will most often lead you to sites earnestly helpful and just as earnestly confusing as f*ck. But push though it and some day you'll get to be half-way down the first page rankings just like a certain successful cured meats business I know! (Also, read this. Reading always makes things better).
NEXT TIME: I'll try and cover the other two items on my list before I update you with where we are now...
*It's beyond the scope of this particular post but I do urge you to note that if you distill each item on both lists down to their key elements - marketing hasn't really changed that much. But let's avoid looking at the man behind the curtain for the moment, shall we?
**'Course, it must be a reasonably safe assumption, because if you were forever getting recipes for delicious desserts when you typed in 3.14, or if you turned up images of Canada's majestic when you typed in mousse, Google would have long ago gone the way of Dogpile and AskJeeves. And yes, if you're curious, I googled food homonyms before I wrote that last bit.
***Not a word.
****Spiders crawling the web. Get it? Yeah. I agree... It's pretty creepy. But there you are.