Posted October 30, 2006 10:30 am by with 32 comments

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By Joost de Valk

Running your sites like you'd run a pub

What would you think your townsmen would consider the best pubs in your town? What do you base that on? I bet you thought of a pub immediately when you read that question, and that you don't know the answer to the second question that fast.

Now you should really get to know what makes a pub popular. It matters because what makes things popular doesn’t really different between the online and the offline world. It’s all about creating a buzz, making people talk about you (or link to you, the online equivalent) and making them feel something is happening that they shouldn’t miss.

You know what drives you out of a pub, don’t you? Consider some of the things that might:

  • It’s empty.
  • The music is not to your taste.
  • The service is bad.

Let’s translate these things into a "things you should not do"-list for site owners:

Now that was easy, and you could probably come up with a lot more of those if you tried. You should also consider the other end though: how do pubs get people into their place?

Some of the stuff I’ve seen pubs do:

  • Give away free beer / other drinks at certain (unannounced) times.
  • Arrange special happenings, like concerts, game nights, etc.
  • Have so called "proppers", people hired to get people into a pub or disco, talk people into getting in, usually with incentives like free entrance and/or free drinks.

Now let’s translate these things into marketing actions you could do for your site:

Now of course this is a thought experiment, but experiments like these should help you to do what any good SEO should do: think outside the box. The technical side of SEO is a necessary "evil", but in the end he who gains the highest amount of links is the one who wins any battle in the SERPs.

The only way to gain a lot of links naturally is being creative. Make people enthusiastic about what you're doing. This doesn’t mean you have to create a full fledged community for each site you’re building. You do have to create some buzz though, and give people a reason to link to you. Even in the most competitive of SERPs that allows you to win by being creative, instead of spending large amounts of money on buying links.

And if you’re wondering where the free beer is? Well it’s at SES Chicago for all the judges if this article wins the contest πŸ˜‰

[The above article is a submission for Marketing PilgrimÒ€ℒs Search Engine Marketing Scholarship Contest. Each Monday in October, entries will be published and the most popular article of the week will qualify for the $5,000 grand prize. If youÒ€ℒd like to submit an entry, please view the contest entry-requirements and guidelines.]

  • We always give away free beer to customers who come to pick up their orders. Have always done it, and will continue to do it πŸ˜€

    Or did you mean something else πŸ˜‰

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  • Hehe Richard, it’s a start πŸ˜‰

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  • Excellent article with very helpful tips. You might want to add: create exciting titles like “Free Beer Inside!”

  • very helpful – i didn’t think of webmastering in the same way as you mentioned – i.e. analogy with pubs!!! πŸ˜€

  • Meria

    the combination of happy hours with websites that have something to sell is a new one for me

    interesting thought; you could generate a buzz with this for selling, for example, ringtones and stuff like that

    now i come to think about it, i did see something like this on some torrent site; you can only register on a specific time of the week

  • Aviva: You’re right, i should have πŸ™‚

    Hakon: glad you liked it πŸ™‚

    Meria: you can do all sorts of cool stuff with that πŸ™‚

  • That’s a very interested way of looking at it Joost, very true as well.

    I can add a little to it, using your analogy. Offer choice. When I go to a pub and there’s only one choice of beer (often the case in Holland) and I happen to not like that brand, that already dents my perception of the place.

    Similarly on my e-commerce sites, if I rank high for ‘inflatable widget’ and I get some decent traffic, I make sure I also sell ‘foam widgets’ and ‘designer widgets’ so I increase the chance of visitors finding something of their liking.

  • Johan: very, very true, but that’s “just” the longtail isn’t it? πŸ™‚

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  • Great title and a great metaphor, but then I would like it. I’m a saloonkeeper’s daughter. Perhaps when you were over visit you caught a glimpse of my blogging goal. It’s proof I agree with you. πŸ™‚

    My Blogging Goal: My FatherÒ€ℒs Saloon Ò€” A Blogging Story


  • Hi Liz,
    cool, I’ll read it now πŸ™‚
    Thx for your comment!

  • […]post met een leuk perspectief: Ò€œWat als je je site als een kroeg ziet?Ò€? Welke lessen kunnen we trekken uit de horeca die van belang kunnen zijn op onze websites?[…]

    As I argue in my post
    I find it important that the bartender gives me some special attention, for example by simply having a short chat or a joke. This special attention is just what can make a difference on your website. Show the visitor that you care about him/her! That is a far more better investment then to hire “propper’s”. A recommendation from a friend about a nice pub is a one hundred times more valuable to me then one from a propper. πŸ˜‰

  • Nick: you’re very right! I see you’ve been thinking about it, which is exactly what I was trying to reach with my post πŸ™‚

  • Rose

    Funny article, nice thoughts. Only thing I miss is friends, mates to meet and drink with. Isn’t that making half the good times?
    So, how to stimulate this online.. Maybe a simple place for chatting? Or, yeah maybe msn is taking care for this aspect… Well anyway, well done Joost πŸ™‚

  • Hi Rose, thx for the compliment πŸ™‚ The “easiest” way of providing a way for people to chat is a forum, especially since this get’s you extra “free” content.

  • hey you dudes, wassup ? need web hosting? If you where a girl youd make a bad girl.. hehe

  • Hehe i must be doing well if my thread even get’s spammed πŸ˜›

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  • He Joost πŸ™‚

    ** Pay people to blog about your site and create the buzz you need **

    mmm, so does that mean i can buy a blogpost on to promote ????

    ciao deejay

  • Ey deejay, if that were true, which it isn’t, i wouldn’t tell here ofcourse πŸ™‚

  • so i just wasted my chance πŸ™ πŸ™‚

  • Very nice stuff here, will add it to my favourites πŸ™‚

  • Great post! And a good chance…
    I always wanted to be an innkeeper. πŸ™‚

  • thx csikszem and Christian, glad you liked it πŸ™‚

  • Nice Reading….glad I found it!

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  • Like a pub you could offer different color labels of beer. Or beer tasting nights. Active you could change a certian page on wednesday lets say offering free pages or SEO of a page. The imagination is limitless. Great post..

  • nice job…

  • nice tips, actually i like the point of making the site fully fit before the launch, that helps in developing long term and frequently re-visiting users, after all no one wants to join a newly started or stagnant website!

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