Once in a while, I like to see what the world outside of sustainable business and green marketing is up to. This week, I attended the Search Engine Strategies Conference, a leading search and social marketing conference that draws thousands of marketers and agency professionals from around the world who explore everything from site optimization and website usability to link building.
I know, exciting.
Interestingly enough, especially for someone who comes from the world of green business, the week-long event featured exactly zero green business-related speakers, presentations or workshops. But these conference topics have more to do with green business than you might think.
Throughout the conference marketing gurus shared insights about how to use social media, email marketing, SEO, storytelling -- and so much more -- to do one thing: draw more people to your website so they can buy your stuff.
Companies such as Google, Yahoo!, Walgreens, Reebok and CNN.com were represented at the conference. Those aren't exactly big names in the world of sustainable business. But if we listen closely to their messages, I think we can learn some tidbits of wisdom that can help green businesses build websites that appeal to more customers and get more people buying sustainable stuff.
Content Is King
During a presentation on "Developing Great Content" for websites, Wendi Sturgis, the Vice President of North America Business Development and Partnership Group at Yahoo! (say that three times), said that at the end of the day, "content is king." Companies need to create compelling online experiences for users that make them want to engage with a company's brand. Sturgis also mentioned that companies such as Purina, Proctor and Gamble and Walmart think of themselves as "publishers" because they create original content for their website in the form of blogs, articles, and videos. In other words, don't just think of your website as an electronic business card -- think of it as a communication tool.
User Generated Content is Key
Other speakers focused on the importance of including user generated content (UGC), such as costumer product reviews, start rating systems or Facebook "Like" buttons. Adding UGC to a website increases its searchability and has also been shown to increase the average order value of product pages. So remember to ask your customers to contribute to your website!
The More the Merrier
The more content on your website, the better it is for its search engine optimization. Add videos, images, maps, widgets, RSS feeds and news to your site and get those link numbers up! And of course, don't forget to engage your customers via social media: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.
Finding the right balance of all of the above is unique for each business, and for green businesses, these lessons are ever so relevant.
I asked Rand Fishkin, CEO of SEOmoz, what green businesses need to know about developing great website content and he commented, "A green business has some special advantages they can bring to the web, including a great set of core values and a unique mission. All of these can influence and guide design, content, copy and marketing decisions, but the fundamental driver of website traffic remains the same. You need to give visitors an experience they'll value and, hopefully, share with others."
That's the lesson in all of this: green businesses must develop websites that create value for customers by having content that is accessible, engaging and useful. That'll keep customers coming back for more -- and buying more green stuff.
Nayelli Gonzalez advises green startups on business strategy, marketing design and stakeholder education & communication. She is near completion of an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School, and also holds an MA in Education from Stanford University and a BA in Journalism and History from Boston University.