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Let’s face it. The economy is the worst it’s been in years. Businesses are scrambling to maintain viability. Some (unfortunately) are simply not making it.

And of course, we are subjected to daily doses of economic doom and gloom from multiple avenues.

SEO to help weather the storm

I agree, the economy is tough for some. Not so bad for others. I happen to work in a field where there is high demand. Why? Simple enough. When things get tough, businesses revisit every single expenditure. The smart ones look long and hard at their marketing budget. All of a sudden a business’ website takes on an even higher level of importance. After all, your competitors have all discovered how to leverage the Internet to their advantage. It is the defacto starting point for most people who are looking for your product or service. And when they hit the Internet, they use a Search Engine (the KISS principle).

All of a sudden getting found in a web search has gained an even greater level of importance. Budgets have been slashed. The first thing to hit the chopping block is usually print media. Why? Because it is usually a one time occurrence while your website is out there working for you 24-7, 365 days a year.

Enter SEO. It has never been more important to get found in an Internet Search. In fact, it is more critical then ever.

Doubtful? Here’s an excerpt from a recent Tech Crunch article: Fear Kills Businesses, Dead.

In a down economy, tomorrow’s leaders are born today. It takes vision, focus, and a hyper-connected sense of what customers are seeking, why, and where.

The reality is that there are hard costs tied to customer acquisition and retention. The key is to observe and listen to your customers to ascertain the most active and direct channels to reach and engage them.

Here are several, targeted and affordable suggestions:

1. SEO – Customers actively use search engines to find relevant solutions. Keyword and organic search optimization is an inexpensive and effective means for gaining strategic presence.

2. Blog Relations – It’s not just about news and pitching the A-List, creating a consistent and visible brand requires the inclusion of the authoritative, peer-to-peer blogs that your customers and influencers read for information, help and perspective. Oh, and be wise about using embargoes.

3. Media/Analysts – Reporters and analysts cover your space and by simply writing about your company or product, they can position you as an option among your customers; especially when they’re researching options to validate decisions.

4. Direct Sales – Some of the most successful companies right now are concentrating on direct outreach to the decision makers instead of hoping to influence them from the sidelines.

5. CRM – Building a customer-focused business saves money and increases revenue. Focusing on customers and empowering them improves business processes, product development, and also offsets marketing expenses as “involved and participatory” customers transform from a cost-center into an active surrogate sales force.

6. Participate
– Social networks are much more than mere time killers. Participating across the social communities where you’re customers and prospects are active and vocal provides a looking glass into their thoughts, requests, opinions, dislikes, and recommendations. It also provides you with priceless opportunities to combat negative perceptions while also positioning your company as a resource.

7. Thought Leadership – One of the best ways to demonstrate thought leadership is to actively share your thoughts where they count. Contributing articles and posts to industry publications, forums, and blogs increases visibility and unobtrusively contributes to your sales strategy by helping customers find you.

8. Blog and Blog Comments
– It may seem trite or perhaps even worthless, but I can guarantee that finding the time to host and contribute to a blog that demonstrates the expertise of you and your team is priceless. People are looking for information and direction, not just from your blog but others as well. Go where they are and offer counsel, contribute to the dialogue and establish trust and authority in the process. Why wouldn’t you position yourself as a resource for your customers or prospects? Too busy you say? Empower your staff. Contract outside experts to contribute to creating a one-stop-shop for insight and direction—just be transparent about their involvement. It costs less than you think to build a community around your product, or at least what it stands for.

9. Network in the Real World – Participation isn’t solely relegated to online networks. Opportunities to meet and cultivate relationships in the real world are abundant. Meetups, industry events, groups, unofficial lobbycons associated with your favorite events are continuous and more valuable with your involvement.

10. Involve Your Community – Save money and time by involving your customers in the development process of your new and iterative products as well as your go to market strategy. Alpha customers are often ready to assist with the validation of your business model and also the honest feedback associated with your product benefits and features.

11. Websites are not Just Web Pages – Your Website must make an emotional connection with visitors, while also conveying stories and value propositions that specifically capture the attention of your customers – otherwise, all of your hard work and investment of time and money in sales and marketing campaigns will generate traffic, but lead to a dramatically reduced conversation ratios.

12. Innovate – Always learn and improve everything in order to stay relevant.

Did you note the first item on the list? SEO.

Search Engine Optimization should be number 1 on your list for 2009!