Posted: Tue 28th Nov 2017
Apart from the chocolate (which was exquisite and perfect for the oncoming winter) the conversation turned to search engine optimisation (SEO).
For those unfamiliar with the term, it is the steps you can take with your website to increase your chances of being found.
Now there is a lot of mystery surrounding SEO and its practice has changed hugely from the 'black hat' days when sites got on the front page of Google by gaming the system. Today it is much more about content.
The consensus in Bristol was that you need an expert, but I want to put forward a slightly different view.
Two recent conversations with Enterprise Nation members shape my thinking.
In Bristol was a lady that sold unique beauty products. She took pride in doing almost the opposite of what the industry as a whole did.
I wanted to avoid a technical discussion about H2 tags and keyword research (yawn!) so I asked her what her customers loved about the products. She thought for a moment and gave me a synthetic reply. She used her own words not those of her customers.
I tried again.
"But what do your customers actually say? And is this on your website?"
The group was getting restless. What, they were thinking, has this got to do with SEO?
My next conversation was with Tony from Ebb Tides.
Tony is one of only two people in the UK licensed to harvest seaweed. Quite a specialist market. We were talking about how to increase his customer numbers and encourage new people to try seaweed.
We discussed writing educational content showing different things you can do with seaweed, but how would we attract the audience?
The challenge for Tony was how to attract people who had no idea they wanted seaweed to a site about seaweed. Time to pop the question again.
"What do your customers love about your products?"
Apart from the health benefits, some praised the bacon flavour of one variety, especially those who love bacon but cannot eat it.
Well now there is an interesting market to explore. Armed with a few more thoughts, Tony agreed to try and market them. But he also promised to listen more intently to what his customers actually said.
Here is the thing. SEO is about getting found, but by the right people.
The greatest asset of many small businesses is their authenticity. It is something that customers really prize.
So let us not sacrifice that authenticity on the altar of common clickbait.
Besides, reputable SEO professionals infinitely prefer it if you really know what your best customers love and the tighter you can define it the better.
And if that wasn’t enough, the latest research I have seen shows that Google prizes sites that people enjoy spending time on over those riddled with conspicuous keywords.
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The next Bristol meet-up is a Christmas-themed event on 15 December. Who knows what conversation you'll have if you attend!