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Can Google find you in your online store?

With a little technical skill, it’s cheap and easy to build a self-running, autonomous, online store. And then, it’s cheap and easy to build a hundred more. Since eCommerce doesn’t demand a personal touch, the overhead can be low since there are ways of doing business without maintaining a personal inventory. Online, you can become a broker. Online, you can be a middle man. If you were smart, you’d reinvent some of your money into SEO and some into ads. Over time, you would spend that SEO money on link-buying, link-farming, and reciprocal linking strategies. Maybe you’d become part of a powerful private blog network.pixabay-purchasing-online-shopping689442_1280

What About People, What About Service?

All that money being spent on building the perfect store needs to be shifted some. No longer will the spoils go to the sites with the best links and optimization, it’ll go to the sites that are most engaged with their communities, and it’ll go to the sites that keep up with the march of technology and trends.

Google Prefers Sites with Esprit de Corps

pixabay-donuts-690281_1280I was sitting in the Dunkin’ Donuts on Duke Street in Alexandria, Virginia, and a handsome, well-dressed, middle aged African American gentleman came into the store and did a slow walkabout. I recognized him immediately as the franchise owner. Soon, he noticed that a bulb was out in the lamp above my table. He carefully swapped out a new bulb. The store is impeccable. Even the driveway and the outdoor cafe tables are spotless. This man feels personal pride in his store and makes sure his team lives out that pride. Sure, in a perfect world, that bulb should never have burnt out and not been replaced in the first place, but working somewhere is a different sort of pride than actually owning something.

Google wants to see websites that don’t have burnt out bulbs, dirty toilets, un-bussed tables, overflowing garbage bins, or blacked out, burnt out, letters on your company signage.  For Google, this means broken links, broken pages, ten-year-old templates.

Consider Google to be in the middle of actively upgrading its search index from local strip mall to an upscale three-level super-regional mall.

Tysons Galleria, here in Northern Virginia, is one such mall. None of the stores there appear to be going to seed, even if their Corporate is going through tough times. There is an expectation that you’re putting aside, in your annual store budget, enough talent, time, and treasure to assure every visitor there that you’re having the best possible experience.

pixabay-the-borse-231590_1280That when you go to the Beauty Bar Nail Salon the experience is seamless with the experience someone has when they drop by Saks Fifth Avenue.  The closer you want to be to the anchor stores, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, or Saks Fifth Avenue, they you need to spend the most money, the most time, the most attention, and the most effort on the store you place into the most primo real estate at Tysons 2.

Your Online Store is Your Flagship Store

Google be like: “why do you treat your website like a free ride? Why do you not close your stupid brick and mortar store, break your stupid office lease, go completely virtual, and spend all that money you saved hiring Jason Seigel over at bluetext to build you a world-class Flagship store? Why don’t you fire all those salespeople for minimum wage in your provincial town in your flyover state and put all that money into competing on a global scale by hiring some seasoned social media marketers, some influencer marketers, and some content marketers to help you — yes you — start to treat the opportunity you have to make the most profit possible at a Global level with the lowest overhead possible with the sort of seriousness and respect it deserves.”

And you be like: “I am a small business and I can’t afford it.”

pixabay-mac-google-459196_1280And Google be like: “how much do you spend a month on insurance, taxes, salaries, health, training, inventory, security, theft, rent, advertising (newspaper, newsletter, radio, television), local sponsorships (5ks, little league, local schools), and all that?”

And you be like: “well, those are essential expenses, the website is just nice to have — we never get any sales from there.”

And Google be like: “that’s because you suck at it, and I don’t want you in my Google Flagship Mall until you shop half-assing this whole thing. You could still be a contender and all you are is a bum.”

A Commitment to Web Demands a Commitment to Community

Don’t get Google wrong. It wants you to have that staff, those salespeople, those employees you’ll never forget and who make you want to spend all your money only there, but Google feels like that’s what social media’s for. That’s what the blogosphere is for.

That’s what a forum is for. Google’s not being like: replace your amazing brick and mortar store with a sterile mobile-friendly, search-optimized, web property on a generic eCommerce platform with an icon of a shopping cart and fire all of those loving and wonderful people who have spent the last 30-years building your brand and company to what it is today (or, more likely, what it was before the ubiquitous Internet).

pixabay-shopping-mall-509536_1280What Google’s saying is: if you want to survive the Internet, you’d better put one foot — 50% of your weight — online and be ready for your brick and mortar to fail and then be in a position to move completely over to the Internet before you go bankrupt and blame everyone else for what you just did to yourself, your family, your brand, your legacy, and your employees.

No, you can’t blame it on Barack Obama, George W. Bush, or even Al Gore, who invented the Internet. Sorry, it’s all you. You should have been on top of this since 1996, silly.

The technology is actually cheap and easy. On the high end you have bluetext and Unison, on the lower-but-good end, you have Squarespace, which only offers responsive, SEO-optimized websites for like $8-$24/month.  You can afford that as a start, can’t you?

When my web host literally lost my big fancy, mobile-unfriendly WordPress website, I said “frack it” and moved everything to Squarespace: lives.

Now, you’re not getting off that cheap. You still need to maintain a staff; or, if you’re a one-man-band, you’ll surely need to invest those same hours, 10AM to 10PM, building your brand in a real, personal, and persistent way.

Blog your life, your love, your business, your passion. Show people what your daily life is. Share your expertise and how you got there. Give a behind-the-scenes view of your business and its processes. Let people get to know you, get to know your staff, your products, and the people who buy and use them.

YouTube should be de rigueur as it’s the most personal and immediate way of connecting with people face-to-face. And it’s also the best way pander to Google as YouTube is a Google property. Plus, you’ll get Google+ in the bargain. Use it. If you’re going to pander to Google, pander to both both their children: YouTube, the popular, beautiful one, and Google+, the red-headed step-child.

Facebook is a two-way-street and all you’re doing is dropping links and talking, talking, talking — though many of you are absentee parents.  Sorry, earned media isn’t enough on Facebook. Paying is important in order for you to move through the noise.  Boost, I tell you, boost!

pixabay-myeongdong-326137_1280Maybe Pinterest, maybe Instagram, maybe Foursquare, maybe Vine, maybe SnapChat but I can’t tell you which and how many. If you sell beautiful things, then Pinterest is mandatory, if you maintain a proper real estate store, Foursquare might still make sense.

Don’t forget Amazon, Ebay, Etsy (and maybe Craigslist) if you want to broaden your brand and increase your brand reach. Where are people searching? Where are people buying? Where are your type of people going first? Go there, sell there, be there.

Message boards and forums may well be your silver bullet, especially if you have a lot of time and want to spend your money wisely. In the last four years, I have gotten into both motorcycles and the shooting sports and the money that holster-makers and gunsmiths and armorers and local gunshops spend on gun forums is money well-spent; money spent by niche machinists, rim-straighteners, gear-builders, customizers, tankbag-makers, leathersmiths, and the lot on motorcycle forums is money well spent. And, to those canny entrepreneurs who actually spend their time and talent (and years of experience) being super-generous (and not shady) on online community forums (and on YouTube) are constantly being rewarded in spades.

What I Am Talking About is Winning Google Search

While you should (and should have) be doing these things just as part of your online business plan and online business strategy, you’re not. You’re bitching and pissing and moaning. You’re pleading poormouth (come on, mortgage your home for this, dip into your retirement, fire your shiftless son off the payroll — you can afford this) and you’re losing all your base. You’re losing your shirt. You’re messing the bed.

pixabay-dining-court-347314_1280And you’re still crying foul, blaming Google, blaming Obama, blaming Mexican immigrants, and even blaming the Pacific Trade Agreement for your failure as a parent, as a business person, as a leader, as an entrepreneur.

You’re blaming the decline of America and our entire culture. You’re wasting a lot of energy protesting too much.

By investing in making your website as modern, accessible, and Google-compliant as possible (read fast, quick, always up, mobile-native, and even ADA-compliant) and by making sure you “fill” your online store with living, breathing customer support, brand evangelists, online community managers, and real-live snapshots of you and the cult of your personality and the culture and humanness of your company and its people, the more you are really and truly optimizing your site to dominate the first page of 21st century Google.

Now, do it! Go git ’em, Tiger!


Chris Abraham

Chris Abraham, digital strategist and technologist, is a leading expert in digital: search engine optimization (SEO), online relationship management (ORM), Internet privacy, Wikipedia curationsocial media strategy, and online public relations with a focus on blogger outreachinfluencer engagement, and Internet crisis response, with the digital PR and social media marketing agency Gerris digital. [Feel free to self-schedule a 15-minute call, a 30-minute call, or a 60-minute call with me] A pioneer in online social networks and publishing, with a natural facility for anticipating the next big thing, Chris is an Internet analyst, web strategy consultant and adviser to the industries' leading firms. Chris Abraham specializes in web technologies, including content marketing, online collaboration, blogging, and consumer generated media.  Chris Abraham was named a Top 50 Social Media Power Influencer by Forbes, #1 PR2.0 Influencer by Traackr, and top-10 social media influencers by Marketwire; and, for what it’s worth, Chris has a Klout of 79 the last time he looked. Chris Abraham started doing web development back in 1994, SEO in 1998, blogging in 1999, influencer engagement in 2003, social media strategy in 2005, blogger outreach in 2006, and Wikipedia curation in 2007. Feel free to self-schedule a 15-minute call, a 30-minute call, or a 60-minute call. If you want to know the services that Chris offers check out Services If you want to work with Chris use the Contact Form You're welcome to follow me via Social Media You can learn more about Chris over in About Chris writes a lot so check out the Blog Chris offers webinars so check Events

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