February 5th, 2012 by Shawn Kerr
Internet Marketing Weekly: Don’t Cede Your Website’s Branding to Promote the Brand of a Paid Membership
Your website is your property (heck, even the place it is kept is called your domain). As a business, your website is the primary place to market your business online. Anyone who reaches it, whether by search engine or referring site, should be enticed to stay there and learn more about your company, not given every opportunity to be sent off to another website before they can get to know more about your services or products.
If a paid membership website asks you for advertising space on your website, which many do, be careful about how far you go in promoting your membership in, and association with, that organization.
We received word recently of a paid membership organization – which we’ll call “X Directory” – offering a “marketing tip” it ostensibly received from one of its members advising each member to add the X Directory name to the “Title line” of their website home page.
This “tip” is recommending that you promote your membership in X Directory on the Title tag of home page: the most important page of your website. The Title tag of a website is the primary tag search engines use to determine validity of your website for keyword placement. The first 65 characters of the Title tag are all that you have to promote whatever keywords you want to be most competitive for on that page.
Also important to note is that the title is also what shows up as the link in search engine query results.
By giving prominent title positioning for the name of X Directory on your home page, you are telling the search engines that this name is important to this website. Yet, it’s not your business name, nor is it related to you in any way accept that you pay X Directory for membership; membership that’s supposed to promote your business. If X Directory is advising you to promote theirs in such an invasive and aggressive way, you have to ask yourself if X Directory has your marketing interests in mind.
Whose Brand Are You Promoting?
We’ve also heard requests from paid membership directories advising members to add their directory’s logo and link placement “above the fold” in the header section of the layout on a member website’s home page (or, in some cases, all pages). As with ceding space on your title tag, giving prime page layout “real estate” to an external link is not recommended from an website marketing point of view. This is especially true now that a Google Page Layout Algorithm Improvement is, as of January 19, penalizing websites that have too much advertising or other “non-content” located “above the fold” of a web page.
The first thing we recommend you do when you see advice like this is check the value of the source. When it comes to a paid listing on an online directory this is easy to do in Google Analytics.
If you have Ecommerce tracking set up, it’s a matter of tracking the that referring site (and any affiliated sites) as sources of transactions. If you pay X Directory $1,200 per year to be listed on the X Directory website and affiliates Y Directory and Z Directory, you would look at those Ecommerce transaction sources to see what your $1,200 bought you in terms of online revenue and take that into account as as a major part of evaluating your membership with X Directory.
If you don’t have Ecommerce tracking in place, you can still evaluate your paid online directories with Google Analytics by looking at visit quantity and, most especially, quality from those sources of website traffic.
Bottom Line: “Membership Has Its Privileges” is the slogan of American Express. Of course, membership also has its price. When it comes to paid directory listings, a reasonable price might include a reciprocal logo link with the logo given correct alternate text and placed “below the fold”. It may even require home page placement of that link. From a website and search marketing perspective, it should never include the requirement or even suggestion to surrender valuable space in your home page title tag or the “above the fold” content of your website pages.