It is not easy to figure out what you need to do in order to get the best results for your online marketing dollar. There are more and more techniques in addition to constant updates in the search engines and social media. That means yesterday’s “sure thing” might become tomorrow’s “oops”.
In thinking about the situation, an old joke about the two hikers and the bear comes to mind. It goes something like this:
Two hikers are in the Rockies having a great day out when they see a very large bear charging down the trail at them.
The first hiker turns and starts running, but not very fast because he is wearing hiking boots. The second hiker immediately pulls out a pair of running shoes from his pack. Seeing his friend do this, the first hiker stops turns and shouts at his friend: “What are you doing? Are you crazy, you cannot outrun a bear!” His now running-shoe-equipped friend responds as he races by him: “I don’t have to out run the bear, I only have to outrun you!”
So are there lessons in this for SEO?
First of all, you can’t predict what is going to happen, but if you can out run “your” competition you will probably be alright.
Second, you may have to be willing to drop everything and change what you do, if you want to out run your competition – try something different if the same old same old won’t help!
Third, the bears of this world (Google, Bing, Yahoo) don’t really care one way or the other about who they get, it will usually be the slowest and dumbest (those not updating techniques and using old SEO techniques that no longer is work and may even be penalized). Make sure you are not the slowest and don’t be stupid.
Life lesson: Pick your associations carefully!
The first questions here are: What are you trying to achieve and what type of business are you? The goals, requirements, success metrics, etc; of an online shoe store may be very different than a high tech start up that is 9 months away from having a sellable product but needs to create awareness.
Ask the questions: Are people searching for what you have? Do they know it exists? or Is it something new that you need to create a buzz about?
Everyone needs and is looking for shoes, and they are probably doing so through Google and Bing so having lots of high ranking keywords will get people to your site! If it’s well designed, it will “convert” a good number of visitors into customers.
If in fact you can sell them what they want when they visit your website, your path from Click to Customer can be very direct, very measurable, and traditional SEO techniques such as on page SEO, link building, PPC, and so forth can profitably be deployed. If clicks, visits, and conversions are the things you feel drive your business; and social media is too vague and indirect, then link building and core SEO are probably your focus.
Now suppose that instead of the online shoe store, you are a start-up that has invented a new kind of shoe with transformer capabilities. You have no finished products yet, so selling is a bit of a stretch, but you do want to create awareness & demand for your product so that in 9 months when boxes start arriving from China or wherever, there are lots of shoe stores just waiting to sell your shoes on their websites!
You certainly want to do the basics of standard SEO and some link building, but really you need to focus on content and social media to get a buzz going.
Links will get a lot easier to do when, for example, you have shoe stores and shoe store chains selling your shoes and providing links simply because they carry your products. For now you want to get the word out that you have an amazing new shoe and you want people talking it up.
If you want to create Brand Awareness and do broad reach marketing, then Video and blogs and social media are perfect forums to do this. There is nothing quite as effective at spreading the word as having one person send your video or article to another friend with a “got to get me some of this message” attached.
This is a really interesting area and one that we SEO’s wrestle with. Fortunately, Guaranteed SEO has a great team that is a nice mix of Jedi link building masters, SEO traditionalists, and energetic we want to try “something new” up and comers. Ironically though, a lot of our clients are of the, “Hey you made that work for me last year keep doing it” set, and that sometimes makes it hard to get new stuff in play. Is this a problem? Yes and no…
Link building and SEO are still important, and for some clients absolutely essential. However; they are “relatively” less important than they were and it’s reasonable to expect that they will be even less important (relatively) as things like social media keep developing, and new factors are added to search engine algorithms, added focus on local search, newly derived social signals, etc.
So if right now what you are doing works for you, that is great; but you would be foolish to think it will be working as well in 2 -3 years if you do not update your online marketing to reflect the changing world! Sure, if you are the only hotel in your town, then properly targeted KWs, good on-page SEO, and some quality link building will work.
If someone else builds a hotel down the street and starts doing social media, blogging, and some nice videos; well my friend, you are the character trying to run in hiking boots in the story above. The new hotel will run past you in search, social, and assuming their site is a good one, bookings!
The question you need to be pondering is both: Where does my traffic come from? and Where will it come from in a few years? Does everything come from search or do you get results from social and other channels?
If Organic Search and Adwords are generating all your traffic then great, keep it up, but at the very least start blogging regularly. Once you are blogging it costs relatively little to create a professional looking Facebook page and share your content. Ditto for creating a Google+ page which at least for Google rankings has an ever increasing importance.
The aim is not to simply create a page and leave it blank, it’s to make it an attractive and active place where your “fans” and “followers” can get updates, post feedback, and share your content with their friends. The beauty of “content” be it blogs, pictures, videos or other is that you can usually mix & match it and reuse it in many places.
By doing so, you create a vast web of touch points where people can “find” your information. Start with Google+ and Facebook, add Pinterest, post on Linked In, add some content to SumbleUpon, Tweet it. Create once and use often to get the most bang for your buck.
Be sure to keep track of what your results are from various channels. If, for example you sell shoes, it may well be that Pinterest generates more leads/visits than any other site; or maybe for you it’s your great Facebook community driving traffic.
Know your audience, know your metrics, and know where to put your dollars. After all why invest in a channel that is not producing even if you give it all that you can, particularly if you have other channels that are working!
Your analysis may reveal that you need to boost your overall domain and content awareness so that your site authority goes up. If so content marketing might work wonders for your site. In such a case you might consider a campaign using some quality videos. With the right video SEO techniques and a moderate budget, you can get a whole lot of interest from new domains and potential customers that will feed back into improved links, SEO, and domain authority.
Note that “quality” is relative term, but in a day and age where everyone sees at least a few video clips per day, its pretty important that the lighting and sound quality be good, and that there is some representative production value.
Many advocate that you can do it all on an iPhone, and for spontaneous situations that just need to be shared that may work just fine, but if you shot a “corporate” or “product” video and it looks like it is filmed by someone surfing in a mosh pit, then you probably are not getting the right impression across to the right people. The old adage about “you only get one chance at a first impression” should be in the back of your mind with any form of content you do.
You need to be able to track where your visitors come from and what they do when they find your website. Industry wide organic search is still by far the highest converting traffic when one looks at visits that turns into paying customers. There is a definite difference between someone looking for you, your products or services in a search engine, finding what they want and going to your page; and someone who is curious about the link their friend sent them of Facebook and pops in for a quick look. That said, if Social Media is driving customers to your site at a reasonable cost, then why not use it? These are customers you might not get via search engines after all.
The bottom line as all good marketers and sales people know, is that on average you need to have many many (7-11) points of contact with someone before they become your customer. There is a “brand awareness” to “brand trust” to “customer” cycle which you need to be aware of and should always be working on. Content strategy is absolutely a key part of this cycle and while the pay off may be longer term, it will happen; and you can track it, if you set up your tools and sites correctly.
One factor that is often at play but not often acknowledged, is the “we are good at this and it works, why change” attitude that some teams and companies adopt even if they do so unknowingly. Ask yourself: Are you limited by what your team (be it internal or external) is capable of? Is your SEO team open to new things? Do they really try different things or stick with “what works”?
When nothing is working, then it’s easy to take the risk and try something new. When something is working really well, it’s tempting to keep focused on it and keep doing more of what worked. The problem is that you never know when old Google Bear (they needed an updated from all those Penguins and in any case, Panda’s are sort of bears even if they are not really) is going to get ornery and come charging down your happy trail. It’s best if you have a pair of running shoes and a good ability to put them on quickly.
Perhaps more importantly, and I can say this from looking at hundreds of client’s sites that we market, those sites where we are given permission and resources to use multiple channels, do both good link building and quality content development, see improvements faster and of bigger magnitude every time than those that just keep doing more of the same old same old. What worked last year may work this year, but not as well as adding new SEO techniques to the old tried & true will work.
Encourage your team to try different things and allow them to “fail” so they learn what does not work as well as what does. By fail I am not suggesting that you allow them to do something stupid and knowing black hat that will get your search traffic wiped out if it fails, rather that they get to play and learn different things which may or may not generate lots of results.
Perhaps for example, you set up an email campaign and try it with a few thousand subscribers. You find that return was lower than expected (a small fail) so now you analyze why, make adjustments, and try again. Maybe it still does not work in which case, maybe its not the thing for your customer base, but at least you learned.
Guaranteed SEO strongly recommends that you have a broad, multi-channel marketing strategy based on using both tried & true SEO techniques and new, content focused techniques. That said if you are limited by budget, then start with fundamentals and as you see those work, add content such as blogs and additional channels such as Facebook and keep on growing. Remember at the very least, you need to be “running” faster than your competition!