On June 29th I met with two friends who work in the web design field in addition to being talented musicians.
We talked about SEO and marketing until midnight and my head is still high on all the good topics that came up from the discussion.
The topics break down like this:
- Old SEO Practices and the New Google
- Good Old Socials Gone – What Now?
- Marketing Without Google
Let's see them all, one by one.
1. Old SEO Practices and the New Google
“We could exchange links, find partners,” said one of my friends, “Or can you write a post on your blog to help our client?”.
I'm afraid that SEO is long gone for Google. And the second would be risky for the client, because I'd have to disclose the sponsored relationship behind the post.
I told my friends that the new Google is about earning links, not building them. They looked back at me in bewilderment.
Heh. I know.
If you want to build relationships with other webmasters through link exchange, don't do it for SEO.
Do it for the wealth of ideas, connections and the human exchange you would get from the practice, disregarding Google altogether (hence, not minding the penalties) or using nofollow tags to keep your website in the search engines' good book.
Are there link building methods that still work for SEO?
Yep! And they are—
2. Good Old Socials Gone – What Now?
Some old, good socials don't exist anymore or have been replaced by different services, and the new ones may be gone tomorrow, too.
“How to keep results over time when you don't know tomorrow?”
Good question, my friend. One idea is to not focus on a single solution. Whether you choose to work with mainstream social, little known social networks or a mix of those, don't just use Facebook or Twitter or Google+.
Find 3-4 platforms you really like — and where you know your audience will hang out on the most — and get in touch with users.
Most of all, be friendly and helpful, because when a social network closes down, people will still remember you for who you are— and they will follow you elsewhere.
3. Marketing Without Google
“Our client can't get to place their site in Google,” one of my friends said (and reiterated recently), “What to do?”
Since they didn't know how, they asked me if I'd take their client up for a consultation about non-Google marketing.
“Sure,” I said, “as soon as I have an opening in my schedule.”
I visited their client's website and I know why Google isn't impressed— unless the owners add more helpful copy and maybe an interview and a backgrounder, their site falls under what Google defines “thin content”.
My friend's client may use better website copy and good calls to action to motivate prospective buyers, but since the business is of a kind (artistic furniture) where you don't need a lot of copy, it won't work unless you play it smart… and that's not easy.
All in all, I thought this business is better off without Google— and with Social Media Marketing, instead. It would be easier for them to find buyers and brand ambassadors, because there are people who love eccentric furniture on social– perhaps even more than they would get from search.
How can this business market without Google?
- Get a Social Media presence. As I mentioned above, social is the best bet for this kind of business, because users express strong interests in groups and on fan pages (hence, many opportunities for branding and selling of custom furniture).
- Produce videos and webinars that would attract (and motivate) their target audience. Funny furniture geared for happy lovers of fun-looking furniture makes good material for funny videos. A certain, little-known technique for designing custom furniture may be what you need to produce an educational video or a webinar. Educate and sell.
- Get Sponsored. By friends and family members (if they have a blog) and by influencers (behind payment). The more sponsorships you get a year, the more you keep your business name circulating. Also, see the next section in this article.
- Advertise (in the right places). Websites, yellow pages, magazines and blogs. The right places, where you know your target audience spends most of her online time. Analytics, engagement and social analysis will help you in this sense much more than SEO.
- Speak at industry conferences. Bring your brand in front of influencers, professionals and amateurs in your industry. Industry conferences have the “right people” for your brand— if you want buzz and new customers, you'll find them there.
Our Jerry Low recently published an enlightening post at TwelveSkip on how to grow your blog traffic without Google. If you're like my friends' client, you may want to read it (even if you don't have a blog).
Who's afraid of sponsored links?
My friends were when they learned that some advertising practices are surefire ways to Google ban. Unless you consider the ways I listed under “Marketing without Google”, you can use sponsored links only with a rel=nofollow attached if you want to remain in Google's good book.
But, you can get creative with sponsorships!
- You can give away booklets that will go viral — Every time your booklet gets reshared, you up your chances to make a sale or build your subscribers list, because the booklet contains your promotional call to action at the end.
- You can give a special discount on your services to current customers who are willing to promote you. — Fair exchange, after all. :)
- You can hire bloggers to write about you… even without links. — You can use infographics, banners, or offer the blogger to interview you. As long as you get the word out about your business, it's all fair game. You don't need link-based SEO (besides, a brand mention still comes up in SERPs for brand or industry search if you use your keywords well).
Ultimately, my friends' client has the last word about what they want for their website – but they will have to accept the limitations (and the lack of guarantees) of optimizing for Google.
As for my friends, I think they now know this isn't going to be an easy job. I'll try to help them along the way, if they need.
Do you only optimize for Google or do you try to distribute your eggs in more baskets?
Share your story in comments. ;)