Let’s start this with a question: What do you want your website to do? Make money would be the answer most people come up with, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. You want it to make more money than you invest, and you want it to support your other efforts. You see, a properly designed website can be both a sales & a marketing tool and is always the front & center of your brand.
There was a time, not so long ago, when for most companies the website was simply something you needed to have, maybe for reasons you might not even be sure of. Websites rank for importance at about the equivalent of a business card or brochure in the minds of most people.
In those days, if you did any amount of SEO and basic on-page optimization, chances are you would do reasonably well in the search engines. Not necessarily because you had a great site, or great content, simply because most of your competitors ignored SEO and online marketing. I am not talking about the 90’s here, but more like 2008 – 2009, a lifetime ago in the Googleverse.
I’d have to check the exact number, but in just the last 2 years Google is believed to have released over 20 major updates (including the major Penguin and Panda updates you have heard about) to their search engine algorithms, designed specifically to make sense of search engine results so that the pages that come back in search results are the most likely matches for what the person entering the search wanted. “Give the people what they want” was taken, otherwise I am sure that Google would have grabbed that slogan and not “Don’t be evil”.
These changes, the rise of social media, ever more capable & complex websites have changed the game, and made it vastly more complex to have a highly ranked & functional website. It’s also created an environment that like any other professional field, has gotten very complex and requires a team approach with multiple skill sets to properly solve. A great technical SEO consultant may not be any good at writing copy (content), and a skilled copywriter might have no idea about building good quality links or optimizing conversion rates on your site.
If you want your website to win in today’s environment, it’s going to take a lot more than it did even 5 years ago. You may not want to hear that, or even agree (and I would love to hear good arguments from those who don’t), but there are some hard truths that people need to hear.
For whatever reason, I frequently find these are points that even smart and skilled business people seem to willfully ignore in their rush to riches. I can’t tell you these are absolute truths, because for every one of them there are exceptions or cases where ignoring such truths worked well, at least for a time. I can tell you that having worked on hundreds and hundreds of sites, these point hold up.
So for what it is worth, there are 4 truisms of internet marketing you can ignore at your peril:
It never really was and despite all the spammy ads offering winning link building or SEO or thousands of loving social media followers for $99 per month or whatever; and it is not free now either. Doing good online marketing takes talent, it takes resources, it takes a balanced strategy, and it takes time and all of those take money! I am not saying this to be mean or scare you, I am simply pointing out that if you want your online sites to make you thousands or millions or what ever, you need to invest. A rule of thumb used to be that marketing should be 15% of your budget, but if you also sell on your website that might be too low.
If you are just starting a site against well established competitors, you may need more; if you want to get some place in a hurry, you will need more… you see the trend here right? To me it’s amazing how often we end up saying no to potential customers because they simply are not realistic about the work that needs to be done and the costs of having skilled labor to do that work.
There are things you might do yourself to save cash (but at the cost of your valuable time) but there are no real shortcuts to hard work, skill, investment, and time! Plan accordingly and don’t assume because your cousin’s kid made a really neat website for their high school science project that they can make you into the next great web wonder (Mark Zuckerberg and similar overnight success stories represent 1 in 100 MILLION). If that is your strategy, pack in the website marketing and buy lottery tickets; at least you can have fun once a week!
Have a REALISTIC starting budget! If you want to make $100K in sales it’s not happening for free !
This is really the 2nd part of the above truth. If you have built yourself a money making machine (website) and its doing well by you, then you need to keep plowing back in some of the proceeds to keep growing. Unless you are running at full capacity and can’t use more leads or more customers, then you can always improve how well your web properties are working. Develop more content, develop videos, clean up broken links, expand your social media, upgrade your site’s look at feel, do A-B testing to see what improves your conversion rate, build more links, and add e-commerce…. The list is virtually endless provided the actions you take are improving your bottom line then they are worth doing.
You have bought yourself a winning horse, give it the food, training, and care it needs to win more and better races!
Truly, there was a time when you could create a site, do good basic SEO, do some decent content and set it on its way and it probably would do fairly well. That time is dead. On average, you launch a new site (with decent SEO and content etc.) and Google will give it a brief honey moon. They over-subscribe it to get a larger sample of people looking at it and they see how people react. Then they drop it back to its rightful place and see what you do.
If you follow their guidelines and add good content, work your social media, interact with customers, work to get people linking to your site, and show relevance by having people return to your site and interact well with your site’s pages; then you can expect growth. However; Google is constantly trying to make their search results more valuable to their customers (they have competitors too) and to do that they are constantly developing and changing the way they rank pages in search results. When they change their algorithms you might get a drop in your KW rankings (less likely if you were on top of doing things right, and had kept the site updated) and a drop in traffic and that means less business so it hurts.
Some say online marketing is a marathon, I would say it’s a decathlon of many events that you need to do well in to win a medal! No one says it’s a sprint. Keep at it until you win or drop from exhaustion!
I had to laugh recently when I was reading a blog post which pointed out that email marketing was far more effective at customer acquisition than social media marketing. That is probably true for most businesses that are looking at absolute numbers of customer generated, but the ironic thing was that the graph used also showed that SEO (getting found in Google or Bing or Yahoo searches) was at least twice as effective as email. In fact SEO done right will generate you more leads than anything else. If it’s not then you have not done it right! Furthermore, over the long term, SEO will have a lower cost per acquired customer than anything else you can use…but you have to invest!
SEO is a team sport, be a team player!
First of all, so what if they could! That is like saying I can win you one skirmish in WWII, good luck with the rest of it. You want to win the war, not put all your hopes on one little battle. more to the point, if “they” really could, then everyone would be using “them” and paying millions, not $99 per KW per month or whatever their offer is!
IF they can get you found for anything, it will probably be for a KW that has no traffic or for which those searching have no interest in your products or services. Don’t get suckered, any 1 KW seldom matters, relevant traffic from as many KW as you can rank for is much more achievable and works!
No, SEO has changed and is much more work than it used to be! In fact as I indicated above, just the traditional realm of SEO (namely organic search results) remains the single most effective technique for customer acquisition.
SEO did not die because search engines have not died, but SEO does now include a lot of things that did not exist just a few years ago. Social media for example is now a very real part of any SEO agency’s tool set. If you don’t work your Facebook and Google+ accounts (Twitter, Pinterest, Linked in Etc.) then you are not doing good SEO. Video, content marketing, and link building (as in doing the hard work to get real links not the old link farms of a few years ago) are all part of SEO. SEO is and always has being the job of getting the most customers/clients/patrons/interested parties to your site as possible as cost effectively as possible. Get it right and it’s the marketing tool of your dreams; ignore it or do only half and it’s a frustrating and confusing mess of conflicting claims and snake oil sales people.
If this were true we could fire our talented team and subcontract out to the $99 per month wonder companies! SEO and good marketing are about talent and doing the hard work.
Talent costs money and doing the hard work it takes to win requires committed people and time. I leave you to do your own math, but if you only want a few hours of work on your site per month then how do you think it will do when a competitor invests 20 hours per month in their site. Even in some magical far off land of outsourcing, you won’t get good talent for very many hours for that kind of money.
No you can’t, not anymore! You want your traffic to grow or even just stay the same, and then you need to work to keep the relative quality of your site higher than your competitors AND in compliance with the search engines. You can die because you break the rules or because your competitors do a better job of marketing, but surely you will die if you don’t keep working it!
To an extent the above points are so obvious, that any SEO firm that offered or suggested such ideas to you would automatically stand out as a firm to avoid. That said, I am constantly surprised by the number of SEO firms and online marketing agencies etc. who are happy to take the clients’ money, do some work (maybe even some good work) and yet don’t think that providing clear professional reporting is important.
If they suggest you can figure it out yourself by looking at Google Analytics or send you a hacked up Excel spread sheet they are not giving you their A game.
Why? because if you are not looking monthly or even weekly at what is happening to your website then you are not maximizing your investment.
I mean come on, would you drive your car around without a working fuel gauge and speedometer (yes, we all owned that beloved Junker when we were 20 something, but no one wants to trade back to that do they). If your SEO team or SEO company is not providing you with easy to read quality reporting, and if they are not willing and or able to discuss it then get a new company! The corollary to that is that if they are sending you reports and you are not even looking at them (I don’t care how busy you are make the time!!!) then you are cheating yourself or your employer.
Hey, I’ll be the first to admit its not always fun to look at a report and see traffic is going down for the third month in a row, but at least with that knowledge and a good reporting tool I can dig in and figure out why, and what I need to do to correct it. Knowledge is power! The power to improve . Ignorance is just that, ignorance!
Have you got some of your own observations and hard won knowledge. share it with our readers and leave some comments below.