Remember The Field of Dreams? This 1989 fantasy movie featured an Iowa corn farmer who heard voices in his head telling him to construct a baseball stadium. He obliged and the players banned for cheating in the 1919 World Series showed up to play.
It’s been a while since I have seen the film but I remember it as a bit schmaltzy, but pleasant enough. One famous line did come out of the film, however, which I am sure you remember…
“If you build it, he will come.”
Now why, you may ask, am I reminiscing about a film made over 3 decades ago and how pray to tell, does this have anything to do with digital marketing? Well, it’s mostly that people still suffer from what I call “The Field of Dreams Fallacy” when it comes to their online marketing efforts.
You simply CAN NOT stand up a website and expect people to just “show up” for business.
When building a new online property, there is a veritable laundry list of activities that one needs to accomplish to ensure that the site gets launched. THEN you need to keep working to ensure that it can actually be found.
Many people think that their work is done after they write the copy, take beautiful photographs, secure a domain name and hosting, and build the site. Yes, those are the initial steps, but there is a lot more that goes into producing a successful web presence. And letting people know where it can be found in the next step.
There are quite a few activities in which one can engage to help ensure that your new property is discoverable online. Here are a few items that sometimes get overlooked in the mad rush to get your website up and running:
1. Base SEO: We call our foundational SEO program “GetFound” because that’s really what it’s for. Just doing the bare minimum to ensure that your site can be found for a branded search (a search for your business name) takes time and effort.
We have a whole list of activities (some of which are broken out in more detail as you read on), but ultimately they are focused in three categories:
- On-page SEO like keyword research, density exercises, metadata creation, and alt-tagging your images
- Letting the search engines know you exist (see below for more on this)
- Technical adjustments to ensure your site works well on all devices and that it meets or beats base-level coding standards and metrics.
2. Make sure your site can be indexed by the search engines. This step is usually as simple as making sure the search engines are not discouraged from indexing your site. In WordPress, this is toggled in Settings>Reading via a checkbox that needs to be unchecked titled “Search Engine Visibility”.
We recommend turning this ON while your site is in development, then unchecking the box once you are open for business. It’s occasionally overlooked, however, and isn’t particularly intuitive in its placement within this area of WP.
3. Make sure to tell the major engines where to find your site. The next step is to actively go out and inform the engines on how to find your site and that you are open for business. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways and we’ll touch on a couple here.
The first method is to manually go to the top engines (then more minor search engines and portals) to tell them about your site. Google, Bing, and Yahoo! are the top three (at the time this post was written), and all require a sitemap.xml file to be supplied to help them with indexing your site.
Yes, they will eventually (probably) find your site just through regular internet crawls, but going and telling them is a more effective way to accomplish this. We use the Yoast SEO plugin to create the XML file(s) and then push those to Google and Bing/Yahoo! via Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. If you want to learn more about sitemaps, here’s a great resource: sitemaps.org.
Another way is to leverage the power of a 3rd-party service to help do this for you. Services like Yext, MozLocal, Bright Local, and WhiteSpark Local can help you set up your profile and then distribute your site information to a large list of engines and portals.
4. Get on Google My Business: And optimize your listing.
These activities will help flip the “we’re open for business” switch on your new site exposing you to traffic opportunities and laying the groundwork for more opportunities to come.
The fun and games of online marketing don’t end there, but these will get things started and ensure that players can find you when they are ready to hop in the game.
Want to learn more about how to get your business or organization found online? Give us a shout.