As a consultant and strategist for clients of my own, I find myself in the position to educate my customers to focus a little beyond just search optimization.
If you read my last post (also my first here), you remember I left you all on a cliffhanger of sorts. I mentioned,
So you want better rankings (don’t we all?), and more traffic from search engines…what two things should you focus on more than anything?
Then in stylish fashion I said stay tuned. Clearly it worked. (Insert evil laugh.)
What really drove the need for this post is how SEO has negatively impacted the way online marketers think: once you start boiling down search optimization to link-building and keyword density or PageRank (*sigh*), you start down a slippery slope of low quality content and soon-to-follow lost rankings.
At least that’s been the experience of many before Google launched the Panda update back in February of 2011, and later the Penguin update of 2012. With the SERPs in an uproar after the two monochrome beasts had their fun, many SEO’s were left despondent and confused.
So I’d like to clear the air and simplify your business after you have your ducks in a row. Meaning – you have a website published with excellent content and market research behind it. What now?
Focus on These Two Points
1. Earn Links
Earn links like you’d work at earning respect. You can demand links, you can spam links, you can manufacture your own links…but if you instead earned them and worked on building a quality and evergreen resource…
Well the rest, they say, would be history. Think of the most successful blogs you read. Now think about the type of content they produce regularly compared to what mediocre blogs publish.
The ‘trick’ here is knowing how to earn links – but it starts with
great content actually with great market research. Knowing your audience and what they’re hungry for, what they share on social media, what they “like” on Facebook or re-pin at Pinterest, or like on YouTube (etc.).
Like G.I. Joe used to say, “knowing’s half the battle.” In marketing, knowledge of your audience is probably more like 60% of the battle, if not 80% of the battle. Following through with publishing that great content is the other hurdle to success, but it’s the easier part.
Another way to earn links is to publish guest posts on successful blogs in your niche: but you have to start by researching your target blogs. Worst case scenario: you get rejected but still wind up producing epic content.
Oh, well. Publish it at another blog or (gasp!) at your own blog and build links via blog commenting at those popular blogs, social platforms and forums.
Either way – knowing what your market is demanding or needing to read/watch/share is going to be the first step in earning links. The other part of earning links and traffic has more to do with the next point…
2. Build Relationships
More important than building artificial links is building genuine relationships. This may seem harder to do, but you know your niche and the talking heads in it: so build rapport with those talking heads and over time, curate the relationship by co-sharing traffic.
Send your readers their way and over time, you’ll get some readers back from the bigger blogs in your market. Call it “blogger’s karma” or what you will: but building relationships (strategically) is going to pay off bigger dividends than chasing links.
(Especially if you build smart relationships with people that have existing networks you can tap into over time: but don’t be a schmuck about it. People can see right through a thinly-veiled attempt at self-promotion. Be genuine, or prepare for rejection.)
Finally: treat your customers/readers as another “relationship” to focus on.
Talk to your readers. Comment back (speaking of which: give me some comment love below). Share their ideas in your next blog post, that sort of thing – like a monthly F.A.Q. if you have enough material.
And if you haven’t yet: engage your readers in your email list. If you don’t have one yet: build one. Then actually use it (I’m not the best example of this, but people like Pat Flynn and Ana Hoffman and others do it well).
This shouldn’t be read as an over-simplification (I hate bad advice, much more being the author of it): follow up on best practices (proper markup, design, market research, statistical analysis and content development to name a few things) – but focus on the points I mentioned above and the rest should fall into place.
Prioritize your business endeavors and you’ll see much more ROI than if you were to spin your wheels wondering how to create a fanpage on every social media outlet making headlines.
By focusing on building great content that is meant to be shared and useful to readers, and by focusing on building relationships (I’d say more so than building links), you’ll earn links and traffic.
What do YOU think?
Am I off the deep end here suggesting these 2 tips for rankings and traffic improvements? Did I over-simplify? Do you have any pointers or other ideas I missed?
Leave your comments below and let’s chat about it. Who knows – you may earn yourself a link!