Many of the companies I speak with are looking for the same thing – a silver bullet. In the SEO world, there really aren't many silver bullets to be found, however, the concepts to succeed are pretty straight-forward. One of them is to differentiate yourself from your competition. I wanted to share with you one of the more creative ways we've seen this done and to explain why it works.
Nottawasaga Mechanical, located in Wasaga Beach, Ontario, came to us with an idea about two years ago. They wanted to host a charity vote on their website, called Nottawasaga Gives Back. Now, you may be thinking, "Okay… other than showing people how nice of a company we are, what does that do for my business?" To answer that question, consider the following.
Notttawasaga Mechanical reaches out to a handful of charities in their area. They ask that each charity back-link over to their website and encourage their patrons to go to the website and vote. At the end of three months, they announce the winner of the charity vote and award them a donation of $1,000. The cycle then repeats itself.
This is marketing genius. Firstly, from an SEO perspective – you're getting high quality links from .org websites in which Google places a high value of trust (FYI, .edu websites are up there, too). Additionally, you're getting traffic funneling into your website from these highly trusted websites. Just as a reference, Nottawasaga averages at least 1,000 votes per 3 month cycle. This helps their site show up more prominently in search by virtue of Google showing favoritism in quality links. So, when you're doing charity work, and they want to give you that plaque, let them know that's there's something less expensive that would do more to show their appreciation – providing a back link and keeping it.
Secondly, from a human perspective – customers like doing business with people they like, trust and to whom they can relate. Jacob Carr (Nottawasaga Mechanical's Marketing Director) and his team implemented this Charity Vote as part of an effort to overhaul their marketing. They started getting customer reviews with Nearby Now. They started sponsoring little league teams. They cut back on a lot of the things they were being told by marketers to do and instead focused on their community. This Charity Vote communicates to their customer base that they are invested in their community – they care! Never lose sight of the human aspect – people buy air conditioners, website rankings don't.
Let's bring it home now and say I'm one of your customers. It's sweltering inside my house and I'm not sure who to call, so I go to trusty Google. I see a list of companies and review sites. I'm not in my comfort zone, so I'm looking for something familiar and I come across your name. I recall being encouraged to vote on your site when I adopted my dog from the local animal shelter and you sponsor my niece's youth soccer team. This is what makes me want to choose you over your competitors.
Here's what Jacob has to say about it:
The NGB campaign is not a revenue generator that we can track, but it has been a great way for us to get involved within the community. Obviously, the cost is very minimal ($4000 annual plus cost of a custom form creation tool). It is, by far, the best $4000 spent on advertising. We have our techs promote it in the customers' homes and the charities will add a link on their web sites and post on their social media pages, etc. Plus, we get to present the money to a worthwhile cause within our community.
We have been getting 1000-2200 additional visits to our site in each 3 month campaign period. A lot of them are not unique visits, but are still traffic to the site. It is easy to spend money on advertising, and we have spent a lot in a number of different forms, but we have taken a step back and are looking at a more grassroots approach and that takes the form of giving back to the community that supports us. We sponsor 12 local sports teams, 1 local stock car, multiple charity golf tournaments, we send 4 kids to a local camp each year and we have started 2 scholarships for graduating students who are getting into the trades at our local high schools. We feel these are things that our community appreciates.