Getting Found on the Net

This is a devil’s advocate post, to follow up to [yesterday’s piece]. Let’s say you don’t agree with me. Maybe you think I don’t understand your industry well enough. My own experience is that, when a new social and technological climate emerges, every industry starts out by saying that. “That’ll never work for us; that’s not how we do things; we’re different; we’re unique.” We call that the myth of exceptionalism. Yep, we might as well say we think it’s bull hockey: and in every single instance, we have watched those same people, years later, saying “we have to get involved in…” (the very thing they were saying doesn’t apply to them). So, you who are saying it now, are just wrong. Sorry, but it’s true.

But let’s say that it’s not wrong, just this once. Let’s take dynamic web sites, web 2.0, social media, and say your industry is the exception, and we don’t know what we’re talking about. It’s certain you can find someone willing to support this line of reasoning – there are companies making serious money on saying that every day (we’ll explain why, but it boils down to more money to be made by saying it takes technical wizards to do something than that anyone can do it). And let’s say you therefore don’t agree with me on the ever-diminishing value of passive marketing and the focus on “getting found” and therefore on the value of just focusing on the web site and search engine optimization. Let’s cater to that, let’s actually focus on just those things:

If the most important type of marketing for you is what I call “phone book marketing” – someone searches a search engine and they find you – a type of passive marketing, the good news is that it’s cheap:

  • Set up every free phone directory listing on the web you can (Merchant Circle, Yelp, Google Adwords) so you get found very easily. Most directories that charge you big bucks are useless – don’t spend the money. There are a couple that are sometimes worth it, like
  • Do a one-time search engine optimization on your site (we can help with this). Remember, this is a form of passive marketing.
  • Consider paying for Google Adwords, to get a higher placement in non-organic search results.

But this focus on “getting found”, which the previous article was critiquing, implies that you can do some technical wizardry, or someone can do some magic things – to your web site, to get it to the top. Except that’s relying on an outdated set of assumptions: that search engines are still easily tricked or fooled, that search engines still focus on static content primarily, and that competition is still not using dynamic content and active marketing effectively. Keep in mind, the easy way to show that myth as false is search the web – directories tend to do very well. Why? Partly because they’re dynamic – they are constantly being added to – the content is growing all the time, frequently, and the content is relevant to your search. In other words, directories are actually illustrating the web 2.0 model of marketing, albeit in a primitive way, and one focus should be on how to compete with directories for better search placement. We have clients that are doing very well against them. But let’s say you still don’t believe it.

OK, So even if we focus on just “getting found” in search engines. Let’s talk about SEO (search engine optimization). There are three kinds:

  • the old kind of SEO – back-end SEO – the one time things a technical wizard, an SEO guru, does to the back-end of your web site – that’s a set it and forget it, we’re done, see ya, approach. This is still somewhat effective and should be done, but it’s not as effective as it once was. Ever since Google stopped reading keywords (that’s right – you didn’t know that? yep – all that hype you hear SEO guys say about keywords – it’s horse manure – sure, Yahoo still uses them – but my point is that they value and benefit of that kind of SEO is overrated. The value is not nothing, but it’s partly hype. Ever since then, and ever since Google bought, and started ranking dynamic web sites higher, by using artificial intelligence to actually read the content of web sites and blogs, the same way humans do, things have changed. And that has led to…
  • the new kind of SEO – front-end SEO – this is really a misnomer, because by calling it “SEO”, a lot of technical gurus can make a LOT of money convincing you that it’s something technical gurus do. Nope, it’s something anyone who can write an e-mail can do. In fact, the most highly trafficked bloggers in the world have said, “If all you did was write daily about something in your niche, a fresh, original, committed piece of content, and didn’t focus at all on any back-end SEO, you’d do better than the best site with the best technical wizards on staff, and you’d never look back.” Of course, they acknowledge, that’s not passive marketing, and it takes time and consistency, which is really what most people don’t invest. That’s why it works. It works, because most people don’t do it. But let’s return to our passive marketing approach, sort of:
  • SEM (just a new jargonesque acronym for “Search Engine Marketing”) – sometimes these terms really just pad the wallets of technical wizards rather than really add something new. Search engine marketing refers to having a presence outside your web site, in other web sites. At it’s most primitive level, it’s about back links – though at the most primitive level, it would be hard to call it a form of marketing. Often, it’s just a way to try to trick search engines into believing your web site is more popular than it is. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The new web 2.0 form of SEM is about the things we always talk about.

So what are the highest value things we can do in each of these categories – SEO and SEM?

Key to SEO #1: Dynamic Site (the single highest value thing you can do for your SEO)

  1. Google ranks dynamic sites higher. Meaning the best thing for search engine placement is dynamic content on your site.
  2. Dynamic content means blogging, in some form or another. There are other types of dynamic content, but they all boil down, for simplicity, to some form of ‘blogging’. It just may be that blogging is a broader set of activities than most business owners realize.
  3. Dynamic content means continually adding wholly original (never copied), frequently updated (consistent and prolonged), relevant material (to your industry and locale). It’s not just dumping some ‘crap’ into your blog, as someone put it.
  4. Obviously, you must blog about something in particular. So what is that content? Well, it’s value added content. In other words, the same stuff that appeals to human visitors. Not selling – not tons of posts about “pick me, pick me” and “I offer this, and this, and this” but real, value added content. Your advice, expertise, knowledge, thoughts, etc.

Key to SEM #1: High Value Back Links (the single highest value thing you can do for your SEM)

  1. Google ranks sites with more back links higher. Sometimes.
  2. It does NOT do it, unless the site with the back link is a high value site, and the link falls on a high value page, in the context of high value, highly relevant (to your locale and services) content.
  3. Forum profiles, blog profiles, and most blog comments, which is what backlink-providers who exist to part you from your money with promises, and contract to protect them when the promises aren’t fulcilled, are NOT high value back pages. The links on them, even in great volume, are virtually worthless compared to a consistently growing number of high value back links. Fewer at high value is better than many at low value.
  4. The highest value sites are dynamic (Remember, we just said that in the previous section?) e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Youtube – in other words, microblogging sites (which is another name for Social Media. Social media sites are your personal blog, outside of your web site, in addition to any other blog you might have. They are your other web pages, beyond your home page.
  5. For a back link to have high value, the textual content must be more than just the link – it has to be high value content as the context – i.e. same type of content mentioned under blogging – original, frequently updated, relevant material.
  6. So social media (including microblogging – there are actually other types of social media that are important) has the potential to generate the highest value back links.
  7. Obviously, you must “microblog” about something in particular. So what is that content? Well, it’s value added content. In other words, the same stuff that appeals to human visitors. Not selling – not tons of posts about “pick me, pick me” and “I offer this, and this, and this” but real, value added content. Your advice, expertise, knowledge, thoughts, etc. Sound familiar?

So, what’s the conclusion? Simple – this is going to sound like an oxymoron, but it isn’t: The best passive marketing is active marketing. In other words, the most effective way to focus on search engine optimization and search engine marketing for your web site and your business is the new web 2.0 type of marketing we talked about in the previous and other articles. The best way to “get found” is to stop focusing on finding your web site alone, as though people cared about web sites really, and start focusing on them finding your business. But even if you want to just focus on the web site and SEO and getting the site found, the best SEO and SEM are the new SEO and SEM – web 2.0 SEO and SEM. Ideally, you do this not frenetically and half hazardly but with a plan.

Building an Internet Marketing Plan

You have to reach your clients, so the most effective ways are to rely on BOTH proactive marketing AND passive marketing:

  • with proactive marketing being primary: (e.g. e-mail marketing, mail marketing, event marketing, online event marketing, cold calling if you’re up for it and you get good consulting to systematize it – FYI: cold calling can be coordinated with appointment setting and presentations and lots of other types of marketing). There are lots of options, all of which can be effective.
  • and even passive marketing being largely active: (e.g blogging, microblogging, vlogging, social media, other types of active internet marketing). Every other day should be the goal, not once a week etc. You can do every day if you’re up for it, but most business owners who say business is dead and that they have too much time on their hands, actually then sit on their hands most of the time, maybe throw money at passive efforts, and do little to nothing on a consistent/routine basis. That’s the bully truth. Consistency is important in this type of marketing. If I’m not working, I’m marketing to set up the next work in the pipeline. And if I am working, I make time out to market anyway, so it’s not both inconsistent work and inconsistent marketing – I take the long view.
  • truly passive marketing, where you do nothing:I’m not knocking it – I’m just saying that if it’s all you do, returns are diminished compared to what they would have been years ago, in the new climate that has emerged – web 2.0. After you’ve done basic SEO to a web site, and are done with that part: then absolutely passive marketing is either
    • a) mythological – meaning search engine placement doesn’t just grow because technical wizards keep doing things to a web site or
    • b) illusory – meaning someone else starts doing the above types of social media manamgent (though they usually do it very badly – stiffing you on value added content and focusing on just any “back links” etc. – when every time you post to social media or do something similar, if you do it correctly, it creates a back link *anyway* – so their focus is about just creating a volume of nearly worthless low value links, vs. a few very high value links with value added content that both search engines will regard higher and human beings will respond to better than crap links.
    • c) you spend some money on absolutely passive marketing but spend it wisely and prefer free stuff where appropriate: set up Google Places, Yelp, Merchant Circle, and get your paid stuff right from the search engine source itself (Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, Linkedin Ads, etc).

In all 3 cases, as you know from our other articles, the content focus is not sales lingo, fluff, “pick me pick me”, and here are my services that “I offer”, “I’m available available available” – which comes off as pathetic ad-mongering. Instead, you reach them with value added expertise, insight, community, connection, niche focus, etc.

So the thing is, we’re totally OK with someone saying “I don’t believe you. I think my industry is exceptional. I just want to build a web site, do the technical wizardry of back-end SEO, and focus on completely passive marketing.” No problem. You can always come back later to ask “how can I improve my marketing, what else can I do?” We won’t browbeat you about this stuff. When you’re new to something, it’s hard not to be skeptical. But our message is one of exploding the myths that other people sell like snake oil, hopefully counsel you to keep most of your money and spend it wisely and where it will do the most good, and help you attune to the emerging changes that are really already here, already applicable, and aren’t just one possible future anymore, but are the new web 2.0 marketing.