Is it Time to Re-Think Your Search Strategies?

Is-it-Time-to-Re-Think-Your-Search-Strategies

 

In my seven years of owning a web design and development company I had to learn to accept that business owners sought me out for two purposes:

  1. Build them a world class website
  2. Optimize their websites for Google

 

It was ultimately #2 that drove me absolutely batty. I didn’t own a search engine optimization (SEO) company and honestly I didn’t want to take the time to learn it all for the sake of helping others.

I was good at it for myself but I realized how much work and energy went into doing it as well as learning all of the changes that kept coming at a break neck speed.

Still, and even to this day at Unveil, I get messages on Facebook or emails. Here is a sample of a real one:

fb-post

 

If you are contemplating emailing or messaging and asking for help with SEO because you’ve learned through articles on the web, videos or podcasts that this is how Google works; this is why I don’t do it. It’s a lot of work trying to convince people that Google has changed and for everyone one time I explain it there are twenty people in the industry saying something different and many times it’s misleading.

I get it; you want Google to work for you. Who doesn’t?

But Google and every other search engine (that includes Yahoo!, Bing, Facebook, Yelp and every individual specific site you can think of for a product or service (think  Amazon.com or Autotrader.com) doesn’t work on that premise any longer.

They have changed.

Google shows search results based on what’s best for the user. They don’t base it on what’s best for you as the business owner.

That means we cannot just create websites and put keywords and phrases in them and we just rank for whatever terms we want.

 

How Has the SEO Game Changed?

 

Search engine optimization is changing at an alarming rate. Gone are the days of just researching keywords, writing those keywords into your content and then somehow (however you your SEO company likes to do it) earn back links that validate the credibility of your site to help it rank high for the search terms you are after.

Let’s say it’s time for you to go shopping for a tv. Many people will head straight to Google and start doing some research.

 

google---best-tvs

 

Notice what you will discover…  They are all reviews or articles, not product pages.

 

 

Google knows and understands that I want to shop, compare and learn which product is the best for my needs.

 

What is Happening to SEO?

 

On and on it goes because Google is now an artificial intelligent system that can learn to understand a searcher’s needs and what they are looking for without allowing businesses to spam or misguide them like they were once able to do.

Google now is a position to do what Facebook has been doing and that is more heavily monitize their search engine.

While Google’s main source of revenue has been advertising via pay-per-click, that model is collapsing.

In a previous article last year titled “Transformational Changes in Online Engagement: Part 1” I said the following:

“For ten years Google’s growth was unrivaled in business history. No one had ever seen that kind of growth or profit margins so quickly.

But in 2009 a trend started to develop. Google index search had peaked.

From 2010 – 2012 studies began coming out showing that search had started to decline.

Tech Investor and innovator Roger McNamee came out with a Ted Talk and shared a graph that showed that in 2008 Google Index accounted for 90% of all searches done on the internet. But, by 2011 it was down to 50%. Some estimates today suggest it’s now down to a staggering 30%.

 

That’s still a LOT of traffic, but it’s nowhere near what it was at their peak.

 

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The rules are changing for Google, and every other tech company as well, thanks not only to changes in technology but also to thanks to the way consumers are consuming technology and content.

Google is adapting and I believe that means you may have to pay if you want your company’s website or product pages to show up in the near future on a search query.

 

More Search Competition

 

One of the things eating at Google’s search share is the increase in competition. You may not realize it but sites are creeping up all the time that competes with them.

For example:

 

  • If you’re looking for a car you may go to Autotrader.com
  • If you want to learn more about social media you might visit socialmediaexaminer.com
  • If you want to buy a specific product or a book you may go to Amazon.com
  • If it’s music you may go to Apple Music or Spotify
  • You can find any topic or news on Facebook
  • Yelp has millions of reviews on businesses
  • eBay has millions of specific items to search for you may want to buy

 

Here is the point; Google is just one of many options now. While Google is the dominant player it’s not the only one anymore.

 

What Can You Do About It?

 

In my article in SEMrush last January (it’s content that will apply forever) titled “DO YOU WANT TRAFFIC FROM GOOGLE? THEN BUILD A COMMUNITY!” I shared a few basic tips to build and optimize your web presence instead of just optimizing your website for Google.

Here is the basic premise:

 

#1 – Write incredibly helpful content that solves a problem, meets a need or fulfills a desire.

 

In a fantastic infographic by social4retail.com, they state:

  • 90% of consumers find customer content useful
  • 60% of consumers feel a company’s positivity after reading the site
  • 70% of consumers learn about a company through articles rather than ads
  • 81% of U.S. consumers trust advice and information from blogs
  • Small businesses with blogs generate 126% more leads over those who don’t blog

 

The best thing you can do for your business is to learn what business you are “really” in from the consumer’s point of view and begin to message in a way that attracts them to your content.

We’ve already established that search engines and Google in particular are more interested in giving their audience information via articles and the above points illustrate that your prospects are more interested in buying from those who can educate them versus advertise to them.

Content marketing via articles, video, podcasting, email and social media are extremely powerful when done in the right context.

I wrote my eBook to explain how marketing has transitioned from a mass marketing context of talking to everyone at an expensive price to talking to those who are able, willing and ready to buy from you.

 

get-your-copy-of-the-shift

 

#2 – Network and build organic relationships with those who serve the same audience you do but in a different way. Include them in your articles, link to them where it’s relevant and makes sense to do so and give them a reason to build that bridge back to you.

 

The point is if you are creating such valuable content and participating with others through their content and getting to know them through blog commenting and social engagement you will begin to do the very things Google loves and will eventually reward.

Be sure to check out that article I wrote on SEMrush.com for more ideas and tips.

 

Is SEO Dead?

 

Absolutely not, it’s not dead and it’s not going to die. But, it is evolving and changing and giving you less options and abilities to manipulate it. As long as people are using a search engine, they will be around.

Long gone are the days of just writing for keywords, phrases and getting links and what follows is a tremendous amount of traffic.

The truth is no one shares, engages, or links to product and service pages.

It’s all about value!

Want a simple definition of value:

 

Solve one problem, for one person, with one solution in one article

 

That’s the heart of it!

But it’s going to take you learning your business in such a way that you know what your prospects and customers think and feel and then talk to those thoughts and feelings.

As you do that, don’t optimize for Google, optimize for the web.

Remember, the following are all search engines:

 

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Amazon
  • Quora
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube
  • AutoTrader
  • eBay
  • Thousands of others…

 

As I shared about and Roger McNamee pointed out, people are less and less searching on Google for what they are looking for and instead finding what they want in specific applications.

I just recently read of a business that was moving to new location that purchased all of their office equipment and furniture through Etsy.

People are using different websites for all kinds of different purposes now.

This is my point; you cannot just rank your company website or product for whatever you want anymore.

Nearly 95% of all search traffic to my website starts with my blog and from there they begin visiting other pages on my website.

The least visited page on my site is my home page.

Is that a shocker to you?

Well, if you came directly to this page through a link on Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or by any other means then it shouldn’t be a surprise.

Content is the way it works now and Mr. and Mrs. business owner / entrepreneur you must realize that times have changed. You don’t just need a website. It’s more complicated than that now.

You must:

 

  1. Learn what business you’re “really” in from the consumer’s point of view.
  2. Offer specific solutions.
  3. To a specific person.
  4. With a specific problem

 

The internet is getting more savvy and intelligent and we have to as well. We must learn how to use all of the tools to our advantage.

But creating strategies to do that is not going to be advantageous if you don’t have a message that is relevant, consistent or compelling.

Your new site visitor will not have a reason to stay on your site, consume your content, learn more about your product or service or buy from you.

Remember, it’s your job to give them a reason to buy.

It’s time to re-think your search strategies and how you message your business in order to attract those who are able, willing and ready to buy from you.

If you want to learn how to really leverage the web for your business, please check out the “Begin Here” page and learn how all of this works together for your business.

You don’t have to waste your time and money on gimmicks, tricks and training’s that don’t help your business.

 

Do you have an opinion, thought or question about this article or video, please leave it below in the comments and let’s engage.

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Don Purdum

Don Purdum

Don works with businesses to help them discover who their customers are and what business they are "really" in. He is an award-winning blogger and branding / marketing consultant.
Don Purdum
  • Hi Don,

    Build a freaking community indeed. Your advice is spot on because Google is returning – thank goodness – to solid fundamentals. Meaning, creating value and building bonds can lead to increased search results.

    I have never much paid attention to search traffic and have done OK. Why? My value and community has Google proofed me. Now, those qualities have shifted from Google proofing me to making my blog more attractive to Google. What a lovely shift. What a fabulous way to be rewarded for keeping things simple.

    For way too long, people tried to game the system known as Google. A handful of folks were successful too, using techniques – black hat included – to nail down Page 1 results. This eventually blew up in Google’s face, for when really crappy, low energy, garbage sites regularly made Page 1 it hurt the Big G’s credibility and it also showed that any old bum could reach Page 1. Google learned its lesson by keeping things simple; if you want to succeed in reaching page 1, over deliver with value, promote other folks, make a ton of friends, and you’ll be well on your way.

    It’s almost like Google just woke up recently, obeying the business building fundamentals which benefited offline businesses and the non Google obsessed crowd like myself. People are learning that to get, you must give, and Google finally seems to be vibing with these simple, powerful timeless fundamentals.

    Now, you need to try less, and to give more, to even sniff Page 1, and you need to be super patient too. Again, a step in the right direction for Google and for us online business owners. Thank goodness i haven’t needed to re-think search much because I’ve been focused on the fundamentals largely over the past 4 to 5 years.

    Don, fabulous post. You teach simple search, and so many more folks need to revisit this message.

    Keep up the inspired work. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Ryan

  • Hi Ryan,

    Absolutely right my friend! Instead of trying to manipulate Google we ought to be seeking to build our communities and do what we normally do offline – and then Google will respond in kind.

    To me, it’s such common sense now that the technologies ability has caught up to us. For many who have tried for so long to just keyword their way to success – those days are gone and are never coming back. Thank God!

    I really believe for years they knew there was a problem – but their problem was that the technology wasn’t there yet. Now that it has evolved and grown they can do some very common sense things.

    I so appreciate you comments as always Ryan. I hope you’re having a great time in Central America – I love the idea of a “jungle home”, lol…

    ~ Don

  • Hi Don,

    Excellent advice as always! Build a community and everything will be done for you! As long as you are out there commenting and sharing.

    You know, Don, I never got the SEO thing. When it was popular, reading a post stuffed with SEO was impossible to retain. Right away I knew this person is trying to climb Google instead of giving me some information. It went way beyond common sense to me.

    So I went on my merry way, giving content and especially visiting others – commenting and sharing on social sites. Yes…I’ve been on the first page of Google about 2 years back and it was nothing but a headache to me. It was a post whereby there was loads of people coming, but tooting their own horn. Was there any interest in me and my business…absolutely not.

    This is why as you always say…”Solve a problem for one person with one solution in one article” I’ve been doing that and it does create interest. Some more than others, but that’s how I can really define what I need to do more or less of.

    In today’s world, more people are reading blogs about something specific they need answered. All we have to do as bloggers is keep that in mind.

    You knocked it out of the ball park once again!

    -Donna

    P.S. Hope you are feeling better 🙂

  • Hi Don,

    Excellent topic, and I feel that anyone reading this will understand once for all where SEO Stands and why Google is changing.

    As a matter of fact, I don’t think that it’s a good thing that Google is no long the Almighty, because I feel that it makes things more fair for everyone, and I think that therefore search results are more sense while more honest as well.

    I’m not even sure what is my most visited page at the moment. I have to go check that out. I’ve never really been a data fan kind of person.

    Great info.
    ~Sylviane

  • Hi Donna,

    As you know, my community has been immensely helpful to me and has blessed me on several times beyond measure as I know yours has as well.

    I still get so many messages from people asking about help with Google and getting traffic from them through keywords.

    I get it, I really do. We have been trained for years to think that way.

    But, times are changing rapidly and for the better in my honest opinion.

    Thanks so much for your kind words. I so appreciate you!

    I am feeling better – but I’m really sore in my rib cage and stomach. I’m not sure if it was a stomach bug or food poisoning. Whatever it was, I don’t wish it upon anyone.

    Have a great week Donna.

    ~ Don

  • Hi Sylviane,

    Times are indeed changing and for the better. In some ways those changes are helping and they are hurting.

    What do I mean?

    It’s helping give us a chance to compete on content when our content is that good and deserves it. The downside is by paying for the access it has become expensive competing with large companies willing to pay more money for the access on the pay-per-click advertising side.

    So, I believe that means we have to get really clear and specific if our content is going to thrive!!!!

    Thank so much for your comment Sylviane!!!!

    Have a great week.

    ~ Don

  • Sherman Smith

    Hey Don,

    This was an epic post and it’s very true how SEO has changed through the years as well as the many changes with Google just within the last 4 years.

    You definitely want to figure out what business you’re really in, what message you want to get across, write quality content to your specific audience, and above all network.

    Speaking of Google being used less and less, I don’t use Google as much as I did when it was in it’s peak. So many other sites have put themselves on the map for our convenience which of course gives us more options.

    There are too many sites that are more specific to our interest and it’s wise to not put all of your efforts just to please Google. You don’t want to put all of your eggs in one basket because you don’t know if they’ll drop and break.

    Thanks for sharing Don! Have a good one!

  • Hi Sherman,

    As I was reading your first paragraph I was thinking to myself what the next four years is going to look like and to be honest… I’m not sure anyone can say with any certainty.

    I think the technology will be so refined and so advanced that it will fully understand our intentions and be looking to offer sites that are really in line with what people are looking for such that you will never see another site, article, video, etc. that is out of line with the search query.

    It may even go way beyond that as more and more artificial intelligent services write more and more content. I was just watching a video the other day on how the Associated Press used to publish 1,300 articles from real journalists. Now that number is 300 – but they are still producing 1,300 articles with the difference coming from AI.

    You can always tell the difference because the articles not written by people don’t have bylines.

    And, I think Google will see increased competition from niche sites that can help the consumer more than they can.

    Stay tuned, it’s about to get interesting, lol…

    Have a great week Sherman.

    ~ Don

  • Hey Don,

    Well you definitely know that I agree with you when it comes to this topic. I referenced this very thing in my own post but of course not in as much detail.

    I recently read a few blog posts from people who used to work with SEO companies and who also did things the “old” way that got them a heck of a lot of traffic to their sites. Then Google got smart and realized that we were getting very dissatisfied because the information we were coming across when doing searches was junk. We started taking our searches to other sites which is why there are so many out there now that can be considered the new search engines.

    People want to research things before they buy and what better information to find then our blog posts. If we’re not specifically targeting our particular audience then all you’re really doing is spinning your wheels and you’ll quickly get frustrated because you’re not getting your desired results. It will just take you even longer but what you have to understand that it’s going to take you awhile anyway before you start getting on people’s radars. The longer you ignore how to do this properly the longer it will take you. Most people don’t have that kind of patience so they just quit. If you want to build your business online you better be blogging and you better be doing it right.

    Bravo Don for another great post on this topic and I do hope that people will come to realize just how darn important this all really is.

    Glad you’re on the mend and hope you feel much better soon.

    ~Adrienne

  • Hi Adrienne,

    What actually inspired this post was one of my friends who owned a highly successful SEO firm for nearly 10 years is in the process of closing it because of the changes at Google and their clients have been highly unhappy with the results.

    That, and I keep getting these messages to help people with SEO. Where have I ever said I do SEO? LOL…

    You are so right, we are right back to the reality that people now have the power to choose for themselves instead of keyword choosing the options for them.

    What I mean is we have the ability to create communities, networks and opportunities through the best content we can create and provide and give people a reason to buy from us.

    As you know, it takes on average 10.4 pieces of content before someone is ready to reach out to us. We have to make the most of that.

    In my opinion the traffic I get from Google is not often someone who is ready to buy or will ever buy. I get my sales through my blog, videos and social media and the community that is being built around me over the last 18 months.

    That is primarily thanks to my blog and those I’ve gotten to know such as yourself through it as well as through your own blog.

    It’s phenomenal and I love it!!!

    Anything that comes from a search engine is just gravy.

    Thanks so much for sharing such a great comment Adrienne.

    Have an awesome week!

    ~ Don

  • Hey Don,

    Great post, I agree with most of what you are saying. I do however have lots of clients that don’t fit this bracket. I have worked with a furniture company for 2 and a half years, our google search traffic has gone from 4,000 per month to 19,000 per month CPC average in this industry is £1.20. This is in a time that all the changes have happened. I then have other local clients who rank very well on Google with very little SEO effort apart from a well built website. Good old content, keywords and a great website structure.

    I agree that Google dominance is on the demise, but there is still lots of gold in them hills 🙂

    I also agree that content marketing in most industries is the way forward, for smaller companies it may not be the most cost effective route. But certainly the best for most industries.

    Just to expand on your point regarding Etsy and other stores, whats happening is large companies with a better strategy than smaller companies are coming over the top of industries. Pay per lead is a prime example, If you think about it for a moment the Pay Per Lead companies will get better CTR than a small company because they will bend the truth to get the click. Google then rewards them for this strategy, its not in the best interested of its searchers but its a way to play the PPC system and push out the smaller companies.

    Thank you for writing this post Don, I rarely ever communicate, this post has made me 🙂

    Many thanks,

    Jeremy

  • Hi Jeremy,

    I’m so glad you chose to comment and add some great value to the post! The fact I “made” you is a blessing to both me and my visitors and greatly value and appreciate your comment.

    I hear what you are saying and I love your point. But, I do think those kind of results are very case specific. The overall point I was making and didn’t just come out and say it is why depend on Google and be at their mercy. Of course I did say that in my SEMrush article that is linked to in the article.

    While some may get the opportunity you outlined, the majority do not. From what I’ve seen of small business success in search right now it seems to be determined by the amount of local competition and overall competition as to where they rank. As we all know, a niche is always to our advantage over being broad and the less the competition the better the better the results.

    That brings me to my main point I closed with… if you learn what business you’re “really” in then you master your message and the reason content marketing and blogging is so powerful is because your message can position a business in the SERP’s due to it’s specificity in solving one problem, for one person, with one solution. But, because most businesses haven’t done the hard work they are too broad, don’t say much other than “buy me” and give no one (much less a search engine rank it high) a reason to come to a site.

    In the beginning I totally agree that content marketing may not be profitable. But, over time the opposite becomes true in my experience IF you know how to message your business and network well online.

    The other side of the story is once the visitor gets on the site what happens next?

    In the 2015 B2B Web Usability Report, nearly 50% of respondents said the #1 reason they left a website immediately was because of a lack of a message.

    As you know, what happens on site is just as important to Google.

    The final point, businesses in my opinion should not rely on Google to grow their business. When they change the rules the business is a great risk and therefore while things are good further develop your message and diversify your online presence for continued success no matter what Google chooses to do for or to you.

    Thanks so much for the dialogue and sharing. I do hope to see you again and you’re welcome any time!

    Have a great hump day!

    ~ Don

  • Hey Don,

    Thank you for your detailed response 🙂

    Its true being reliant on Google is a risky strategy, anything can happen especially if you don’t have a fall back plan. Creating a community like you have mentioned in the post Don is certainly a sure fire way of protecting yourself.

    We sing from the same hymn sheet.

    If there was a key message or value I can add to the post it would be this.

    Business owners “don’t scrimp on your website” whether you are promoting yourself socially or through search traffic a good website with a clear message and great content will get you more conversions. Time and time again we haggle with customers over website prices and its counter productive because all it means is we spend less time on the website build. We still keep inline with our margins but its the site and the businesses future business that takes a hit. This has been highlighted even further by the changes to Googles algorithms over the past few years.

    What we have seen from businesses that go with our recommendation on Budget

    *Higher search engine rankings
    *Higher conversion rates
    *More brand awareness
    *More recommendations

    This ties in with what Don is saying, get this first part right and you will have higher search engines rankings. Second any content marketing activity will then be amplified, infact in a social world content marketing is important but it also improves your search rankings if your site is built well.

    I think a great follow up post Don would be

    “Content marketing for small and medium businesses”

    This could give them a guide on how content marketing can benefit local businesses, with some basic ideas.

    Sorry if I have gone off track slightly and this may be covered in another posts somewhere.

    Great post Don, keep up the good work.

    Hump means something else in the UK 🙂

    Many thanks,

    Jeremy

  • Hi Jeremy,

    Back at you… WOW! I love your thought process and thank you for sharing such a detailed response to those who are looking to build a website and what to expect if they take the time to do it right.

    I’m not going to add anything else it’s so good!!! You really should contribute to comments more often!!!!

    Great idea for a follow-up article. I will definitely give some thought to it and have written a number of articles dealing with this topic but there is certainly a place for a fresh, unique one as a follow-up. In fact, I just got an idea. 🙂

    No reason for apology, it’s a fantastic comment.

    LOL… I guess I should have thought about that meaning something different. Of course here in the states we have a commercial using the phrase with a camel as a reference to the middle of the week. Too funny.

    ~ Don

  • Hey Don,

    It’s was my pleasure 🙂

    I’ll keep an eye out for any other posts. If you want we can have a chat sometime to discuss new posts. I have a wealth of experience and a whole host of case studies 🙂

    Thank you for your kind words, happy hump day lol

    Many thanks

    Jeremy

  • That would be great Jeremy. I would love to chat. Perhaps we can schedule a Skype video chat. Please email me at don@unveiltheweb.com and let’s get it on the calendar.

    ~ Don

  • Sounds good Don, I’ll send you an email in the morning 🙂

  • This is a terrific post Don. It makes a lot of sense. I mean Google never did reinstate their page ranking results for when you get indexed. And even Alexa ranking is difficult to stay up with because thousands of new blogs appear daily!

    I’d love to learn more about setting up a community so I will check out that link your shared. Do you have a community at Google?!

  • I look forward to it!

  • Linda Schrier

    Hi Don,

    It is time for us to rethink our strategies and what business we are really in and attract them to our content.. I think you’re right that it is all about the users today. I still use SEO.

    Enjoyed Rodger McNamee’s video and his graph about Google and where they are going. I firmly agree that creativity is on the rise and Google is no longer the only player.

    We must educate our visitors, rather than to advertise to them. We must help our visitors so they will learn to know, like and trust us enough to buy. We must give value in our content.

    I read “The Shift” and loved it. I also love the way you put together “solve one problem, for one person, with one solution, in one article”.

    Thank you for sharing, Don and you have a wonderful weekend!

    Linda