I meet business owners every day across many different industries and fields and in every single instance they all want one thing from their websites; more money!
That could come in the form of new prospects that filled out a form on a website or called to inquire about a service. It could be creating new inefficiencies in their business via their website that saves them thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In the end, every website for a business serves a purpose and I’ve yet to meet a business owner who’s website didn’t serve a purpose of either making or saving them money at the core.
In late 2014 we have a new situation arising that is forcing those on the cutting edge of marketing to evaluate and re-evaluate how they reach their prospects. Things are changing and they are changing fast!
While in Dallas, TX last week I had the opportunity to speak with Harry, an entrepreneur of nearly 20 years. He made a very, very interesting comment to me. He said;
“Don, over the years I’ve spent a lot of money on SEO and what I’m noticing is every year it’s getting harder and harder to make money from it.”
That is a common refrain I’m hearing more and more from business owners who have had previous successes with search engines like Google. Does that mean it’s happening to them all? No, it doesn’t. But there does appear to be a trend. Search Engine Optimization has evolved rapidly over the last thirty six months and with it so has the need for many businesses to keep up with Google, Yahoo! and Bing. It’s expensive, exhausting and frustrating!
Does that mean seo is not important?
Not at all, but what it does mean is that I’ve had a fundamental shift in how I market and sell through the online experience and seo is just one small piece of a larger puzzle.
I will share with you four reasons I don’t worry about search engine optimization anymore and a few common sense practices that I do follow that are staples of SEO.
Four Reasons I Don’t Worry About Google
#1 – The Rules of SEO Constantly Change
Since 2012 Google alone has changed their rules dramatically through various major updates to their search engine. These changes were all good and much needed. You might have heard of Penguin, Panda, and Hummingbird?
It’s a lot to keep up with. In 2012 when Google launched Panda to combat spam online I know of many highly reputable businesses that were hurt by the update. Some never recovered and their businesses closed and others are still struggling to this day. Let’s be honest, seo used to be a lot easier if you had the resources.
The point is that the rules can and will constantly change. Sometimes it’s in your favor and sometimes against you. In either case it can cost a lot in time and money if you’re a small business.
There is one rule that is constant in my opinion: Write over the top, helpful, compelling content that solves someone’s problem(s) and you won’t have to worry about Google for the long-term. I’ll explain what I mean by this as the article comes to a conclusion, so stay with me.
#2 – I Understand What Business I’m Really In
What business are you really in? That’s one of my all time favorite questions. On the surface it seems so easy. Yet, it’s so hard for most of us figure out.
The key to understanding how to answer this question is to ask your business partners, strategy partners, networking partners and customers how they perceive your business.
They will actually tell you what business they think you’re really in.
For example, I have a client in graphic design that is a start-up company and I asked him this question. In essence, he did what most of us do. He told me what he does.
I’m not looking to hear what he does. As I probed him, he learned to communicate that he is in the business of changing how the world see’s and perceives his clients visually.
It’s simple but profound!
When you understand what business you’re really in it allows you to gain clarity and focus in your messaging and it keeps you from straying into areas that don’t benefit your readers and those you are marketing to. That kind of specificity and clarity is really helpful to a search engine. You will organically be easily understood and that’s powerful!
Search engines know what to do with clarity and so do your site visitors. Remember, Google cares about providing the best experience possible for their site visitors. Confusion and chaos is not helpful.
#3 – I understand My Audience
Business owners are busy and the time they have to give me is very short. So, I have to make the most of it in my marketing. So how do I reach them?
Unless there is a pressing problem or issue they are not likely searching for a business like mine on Google. They probably are not yours either. But they might be searching for articles or ideas that can help them. That’s why I write detailed, informative, educational articles that can make a difference for their business.
Unfortunately, as I said most don’t search. In fact, according to Google trends the most searched content is for:
- Retail shopping
- Health topics
- Location searches
Notice it’s not for services or business-to-business reasons.
I wonder why?
I have a theory: Business owners are busy and don’t have time to search and read blog after blog after blog. While many want business from the web, they don’t feel they understand it so they will tend to not take the time to learn about it when they have bids, proposals, sales, production and administrative things to keep track of.
So how do they find someone like me?
Generally it will be through networking and referrals. Yep, through the time tested method of relationship building.
If they have time to be online, I will meet them through someone mentioning me on their blog or social media. Again, think of being online as a networking and referral network. If you’re good at networking offline then doing it online ought to be easy. But, it can be time consuming.
Every day I get a mention from someone on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Google Plus. But more powerful they come through other influential bloggers that I network with.
Here are some articles where I’ve recently been mentioned or featured:
Do you realize that my site has literally had over 5,000 new visitors in the last month because of these links and that has turned into significant business? This is how you build an organic community that will help you meet new readers and influencers who will connect with you and open you up to their audience as you open them up to yours. As you grow your influencers you also grow your backlinks organically for search engines.
Did I do anything special for Google? No!
What I did was build an opportunity to network with others online by commenting on their blogs, including their blogs in my articles, sharing on social media and working to be their Google (yep, that’s right you can be their Google – check out the article).
This is why I don’t worry about Google. When I take the initiative to be proactive and build my community the right way, guess what will happen with Google? You got it! They will reactively follow and start pushing up my articles in their index.
But again, most of my business will come from both online and offline networking and referrals not search engines. When someone does from Google it’s just icing on the cake.
Five Common SEO Practices I Do Follow
I hope you noticed the title of this article. I said I don’t worry about SEO. I didn’t say I ignore it. Search engines are evolving and changing rapidly. Search Engine Land recently posted a great article titled “Expert Insights On The Future Of SEO, Part 2.” In it, one expert really stood out to me. Ann Smarty said this as we look into the near future of seo;
“We are not-so-slowly but surely moving away from the “free search traffic” phenomenon. It was pretty stupid to guarantee rankings in the past — it will be impossible to do so in the future.”
In light of Ann’s quote, I recently wrote why Google has lost 70% of indexed search and what that means for your business. I encourage you to click here to check it out.
So what are some best practices I follow? Here are a few ideas to help you be proactive, remember Google is reactive. If you have more I would love to see them in the comments section below:
#1 – Write great content for your audience
In the end people want to know you’re competent in the business-to-business environment. Do you really know what you’re doing or what you’re talking about?
I recommend writing at least a 1,500 word blog article once a week or more if you can. Don’t be afraid to share what you know and how you do things. So what if it’s free? Did you learn something from me today? Do you think you may be more inclined to contact me or do business with me because you learned how I think and might be able to help you?
It doesn’t matter if people like you if they don’t believe you’re competent. It all starts there and it ends there as well. You gain and lose business based on competency. If you cost a company money or you don’t deliver I can assure you that they won’t keep you around very long. In fact guarantee it!
Your content is a way to expose them to you and demonstrate that you can really help them. Take advantage of those opportunities when they come and then keep them by exposing them to other ways you can help them. Blogs can be very powerful in this way!
#2 – Solve a person or businesses problems
Too many people when networking both online and offline make it about themselves. Stop doing that! It isn’t about you.
Just a word of exhortation, if you go to networking events you have probably been given thirty or sixty seconds to share your business. Don’t, I repeat don’t tell them what you do or offer. Instead think through what problems one person in that room may have and identify with him or her by identifying the problem and then offering a solution.
It’s the same thing online in reality. Remember, no one really cares what you do. Only you care about that. Your prospects do not. They care about themselves and their issues. If you can help them then they are much more open.
When you take the time to tell them about how you solve their problems they are much, much, much more interested in what you have to say. And, you’ll really stand out from everyone else as well and we all know how important that is, right?
#3 – Upload your sitemap with every new page or blog article to Google Webmaster Tools
This one is pretty simple. Every website like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or Concrete5 has the fast ability to update the sitemap. All an xml sitemap really does is show the search engine what pages exist on the website and how they relate to one another.
It has zero bearing on where you show up on Google, but it’s still a good practice to update it and let Google know so that they can at least index it faster without having to wait on them finding your new page or article.
Google Webmaster Tools is also helpful so that you can gain some understanding of how your website is performing for the search engine.
#4 – Link to other articles in your website that relate to the article you’re writing
Linking to other articles you’ve already written is critical to the long-term success of your website and search engine performance. You’ll notice I’ve done that once or twice in this article. It’s called on-page optimization.
On-page optimization is helpful for search engines to see how your articles relate and interact with one another and that you’re thoughtful about your content. It’s also helpful for your site visitors as it gives them reasons to read other articles that will be of help to them possible.
One word of advice, make sure when they click the link it opens in another tab or window so that they don’t lose where they are at in the article they are reading. It can be frustrating if I want to read another article and I click it and then I lose where I was at.
#5 – Include quotes from influential writers and bloggers and link to them or an article that inspired you
I will tell you upfront that this gives you no search engine benefits. However, it gives you credibility with your readers and influencers. When done right and over a period of time, you will not only gain the attention of an influencer but you will also earn an opportunity for discussion on social media and in other environments with them.
My friend Ryan Biddulph at Blogging from Paradise is a great example. He used similar strategies I’m referring to here in order to get to know New Times Best Selling Author Chris Brogan. Ryan eventually got his attention so much so that they had email conversations back and forth with one another. Chris recently endorsed both of Ryan’s new ebooks. That’s powerful!!!!!!!!
As influencers like what you have to say, they will start sharing you with their audience. Now, you are getting backlinks organically and for the right reasons.
Relationships are powerful and those that have been involved in online marketing and content marketing for any length of time know that we need others to help us grow our online presence.
People that come from other blog sites tend to stick around longer, read more, and become loyal readers. Most search engine readers find what they are looking for and leave your site. That’s a statistical truth for most websites.
That’s why it’s better to build a community. How do you know when a community is coming together?
Look at the comments on the blog or articles. Those comments will tell you all you need to know about someone’s ability to network, build a business online, and grow. Now, I say that with some trepidation as it’s not always true… but generally speaking it is true. I think blog comments in this way are more powerful and validating than social media. They are simply harder to get and have to be earned.
Google is ultimately looking for authoritative websites within a genre or niche to match up with those doing searches. Your authority will be based in part on the quality of your articles, backlinks, comments and engagement.
That’s a very simplified view but if you stick to the basics you will find that over time the search engine will catch up with your proactive work.
I don’t worry about Google and seo because I don’t have to worry about them. My business is built on the same principles both online and offline of networking and referrals from reputable sources. Over time, Google just becomes a natural thing that happens because I’m not forcing the issue with them.
I realize there will be some, maybe many, who don’t agree. I’m good with that. However, in four or five months I’ve been blessed to build a blog that works for me 24/7 and isn’t dependent upon Google and their changes. When they change what they are doing, I don’t have to change what I’m doing.
Isn’t that the way it really should be? I’m always evaluating my strategies, goals and objectives and tossing what doesn’t work and coming up with new ones. But, each one is predicated on the principles of networking which are timeless.
What do you think? Agree or disagree? I would love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below and let’s get the conversation going.