Shady Online Neighborhoods

There are some products that can be hard to sell online, because they have a rough history with the internet. A few years ago, alternative health searches on Google plunged users into a mess of spammy websites with keyword stuffed pages. Link requests from respectable health and beauty companies were routinely refused. Seth Godin’s Squidoo (now part of Hubpages) refused to allow any lenses on pharmaceuticals, herbal remedies, and so forth. There were just too many people misbehaving.

Now, the situation is different — but still problematic. Searches for herbal remedies or natural oils present WebMD and the Mayo Clinic, not the companies that manufacture and sell those products.

It’s an improvement from the searcher’s point of view, but it still treats the companies that make natural health and beauty products as though they were purveyors of snake oil.

There are other fields that face the same problem, and if you’re in one of them, you know what I’m talking about. Work at home jobs, weight loss, investment advice — there are plenty of fields in which there are bona fide companies that have to cope with the legacy of spam and scams from ne’er-do-wells in their space.

What can you do?

  • Be squeaky clean. Resist the temptation to try the shady tactics being used by sneaky competitors. “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” doesn’t apply here. Anything that makes you look like the practitioners who’ve caused the problem in your field will be harmful to your online presence. One of our clients sells a product that is often marketed with pseudo-scientific cure-all sales pitches. Our client, a chemist, could beat the others at that game, but instead is absolutely scrupulous about his products and how they’re presented. He never makes claims that can’t be completely supported by fact. This makes him stand out from his competitors.
  • Reframe your product. When we write about this client’s products, we treat them like the high-quality beauty products they are, with fun social media presentations tailored to a number of shopper personas… not high pressure sales pitches focusing on magical cures. Can your weight loss clinic show up in fitness? Can your investment opportunities hang out with regulated industries instead of gambling? Sometimes you can simply move out of that shady neighborhood with well-chosen content.
  • Seize the day. Our client’s competitors often look shady, so he has a strong opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. By adding a blog to his e-commerce website, our client gets a platform that he controls, where we can write posts that turn up in the search results when people are looking for basic information. The posts also link to his products, so people can find those products when they’re ready to buy. Since his competitors aren’t producing quality content on a regular basis, he has an advantage in search, as well as a step up in providing value to his customers. You can improve your performance at the Zero Moment of Truth and leave poor quality competitors in the dust.

Having goods and services that hang out in a shady neighborhood online can be an obstacle to overcome, but it’s not impossible.


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