If Your SEO Only Consists of Trying to Rank Keywords.. There Will Be Trouble Ahead.
SEO has changed a lot over the past few years. Actually, it has been changing dramatically since the very beginning. If you really want to get technical, it’s Google that is changing. They are getting much smarter and their algorithm is moving in a direction to accomplish two things:
1. Eliminate spam from the picture: Like it or not, Google is doing a good job at cleaning up the SERP results. Very rarely will you ever see a single page site or a gateway page ranking on top. The top results are all authority websites that Google knows are trustworthy. This makes it harder for “the little guy” but overall it is helping Google accomplish what they set out to do, which is to clean up the results and rid them of spam.
2. Force businesses to pay to play: We all know that the AdWords placements on top and on the right sidebar are all paid ads. Most people know this and some people avoid them all together and some will only click on paid ads because they feel if a company is spending money to be there they must offer superior information. But look at the local results. The local listings are now a 3 pack, which caused a lot of discussion within the SEO community. But, now there is something brewing that will be an even bigger shakeup. Google is now testing sponsored local listings. There are a few screen shots floating around and they are testing it in some markets. I believe they rolled out the initial test in San Francisco, California. This is huge news because now any local business will be able to rank on the top, as long as they are willing to pay to play.
Because Google is constantly changing, SEO is constantly changing. The days of spamming and ranking keywords are long gone. Yes, it can still be done and there are plenty of blackhat SEOs that I know who are still making money this way. But it gets harder every day. We are kidding ourselves if we don’t think that Google will eventually phase out spammers and make the SERP results paid.
So, what is an SEO to do?
You better start exploring other ways to get traffic other than Google search results. Here are some things you need to start doing, if you aren’t already.
Become Highly Active on Social Media
I think a lot of SEOs just look at social media as another automation tool. I can tell you that pumping out a bunch of automated posts and tweets isn’t going to do much. You might get a few clicks here and there but the traffic isn’t going to convert. If you really want to take advantage of social media, you need to become involved.
When you post new content make sure you stay engaged with the people that share or provide you with feedback. It’s similar to blog comments. If someone takes the time to leave a comment on your blog you are going to take two seconds to thank them, right? It shows them that you care and they are then likely to revisit your blog, make a purchase or even share your content on social media.
Keep up with news related to your business and if a hashtag that is related to your business starts to trend get in on that conversation. This is a great way to suck in great traffic and also grow your social media following.
Encourage Reviews & Constantly Optimize Your Local Profiles
When people are looking for a business these days they are turning to sites like Yelp just as much as they are turning to Google. It’s important that you not only optimize these local listings to help your business show up, but make sure your customers are leaving reviews. If there are two similar listings next to each other the customer is going to naturally click on the one with the most reviews and the higher rating. It has always been that way, but now with more people going to third party sites to find businesses it’s time that you take it seriously.
If you aren’t sure what local sites you need to go after or if you need help completing the profiles use Moz local to help audit and manage your listings. Think of ways that you can encourage your customers to leave reviews without asking them. Comment cards, emails or messages on your receipts are all easy ways to direct them to a page of your website that has links to all of your local listings. Something simple like “We appreciate your business. Please let us know how we are doing!” is enough to get the reviews to pour in.
Start a Vlog
YouTube is the second largest search engine and while it’s more of a branding play, it’s still possible to pull traffic. A lot of people will try to make videos and use them to monetize via ads. This is a complete waste. Ads piss people off that are looking for an answer. Do you really need to make an extra $100 a year from ads? The chances of your videos going viral are slim to none. Use it as a form of promotion, and don’t try to make money from it.
I hear so many business owners say they can’t use YouTube. There isn’t a single business that is excluded. You just need to get creative and think of an angle to use. The more unique the better. Are you a plumber? Then start a Vlog that goes over simple do it yourself tips to fix simple things like a clogged sink or review common liquid drain cleaners. By providing this type of information you become more trustworthy and the next time that person has a serious issue they will call you. Have a link to your blog in the video description and invite viewers to join your email list.
Start a Podcast
Podcasts are growing very fast and quickly becoming a promotional tool that a lot of businesses are taking more seriously. They are great for brand awareness, but if you build up a loyal following you can see a nice spike in your website traffic as well. If listeners find your podcast interesting don’t you think they are going to want more? They will go to your website, join your list and buy your products.
People love podcasts because they are mobile. They can listen to them when they are stuck in traffic and they can listen to them when they are jogging or at the gym. The same way I said any business can start a Vlog, and business can start a podcast. You don’t even need any special or expensive equipment to start.
A car dealership could start one and talk about new car models and then bring in service techs from their dealer to discuss simple maintenance tips. A restaurant can talk about cooking. A local travel agency could start a “travel the world” podcast and discuss cheap ways to see the world or discuss travel hacks. There are endless possibilities when you really start to brainstorm topics.
Guest Blog: The Right Way
I’m not talking about guest blogging for links. I’m talking about guest blogging the way that it was originally designed for. They way that Matt Cutts would approve. When you find popular websites that receive a lot of traffic that would be interested in what your business offers you can guest blog, putting your company name right in front of that traffic. A link to your site in the article or author bio will attract clicks and you get a new group of people to check out what you are offering.
Yes, the link is great, but what if you didn’t care about rankings at all. Would guest blogging still be useful?
YES! It sure would be!
What if you were in a very competitive niche and AdWords clicks would cost you $5 each to get traffic to your website. Imagine if you did a great guest post and you were able to receive 1,200 clicks from one post. That same traffic would have cost you $6,000 from Google PPC! When you look at it this way you see why guest blogging the right way is way more powerful then just going it for link building.
Pay to Play on Google (PPC)
Everyone always said that someday Google was going to force business owners to pay if they wanted to get top SERP exposure. Well, that day is coming closer, as evident by the local listing sponsored listings that Google is currently testing. If you don’t think that they will roll that out worldwide then you are crazy. They are just working out the kinks I’m sure, so get ready…soon you will need to pay if you want to be listed in the local pack.
It comes down to the first two points I mentioned in the intro of this blog post. Google wants to eliminate spam and make money. SO, by changing the local listing pack to a paid option, it eliminates the SEOs that were gaming the local results and generates a lot of money for Google. It will piss off a lot of people, but can you blame them?
If you don’t have much experience with PPC now is the time to learn. When you get really good at PPC you can really scale any business. It’s easy to see how much money you spent and how much you made. You can also figure out exactly how much every email address is costing you to capture. It is a steep learning curve, but you have to start somewhere. Get familiar with it, because the local pack is going to be all paid very soon.
Pay to Play on Social Media (Sponsored Posts)
Social media is such a great place to find customers and attract website traffic, but so many businesses do not use sponsored tweets or boosted Facebook posts. Why? Because they don’t want to pay per engagement and they think “SEO” is the key to “free” traffic.
If you aren’t using promoted social media posts you are missing out big time. Everyone is on social media. Everyone logs into Facebook multiple times a day. It also has the most advanced targeting, even more than Google. If you can’t place your product right in front of a buyer via Facebook then you are in trouble.
It takes money to test and you need to learn how to optimize ads to get the best return, but you can’t just ignore it. Want to know something? If you gave me a business that had $5,000 to spend and they sold a product, I guarantee that I could deliver them an almost instant return on that money using Facebook ads. If they wanted to spend that money trying to rank some keywords it could be months before they see anything hit.
See? It is crazy to NOT use promoted social posts!
Syndicate Your Blog Posts
You probably have a blog right? You probably share your blog posts on social media right? You probably wish more people would read and share your content right?
Simple. Syndicate your content using Outbrain and Taboola to bring new traffic to your blog. You will pay for every visitor, but it’s a great way to help build a new audience of readers. If you
have good content then they will come back. You can select what posts you want to syndicate, so you can create a killer post and push all traffic to it. This is great to do when there is something to write about that people are talking about in your niche.
The cost is anywhere from 5 cents on the very low end to a dollar and above per click. When you optimize your account it’s possible to get clicks around 25 cents each. You have to think of the overall value. That’s a cheap CPC but when you consider that the person is going to return multiple times the cost becomes watered down. Imagine if you pay 25 cents for a click and the person visits your blog 4 more times and then eventually buys something. Each visit ends up costing 5 cents.
These are just some ideas to get the gears in your head turning. The days of just trying to rank keywords are coming to an end. You might be getting by right now just doing that, but I promise you it’s just going to get harder and you will be better off if you start to drive traffic from multiple places sooner than later.
I want to hear your thoughts about this topic. Have you tried any of these strategies to increase your website traffic? Is there something you want to add? Drop a comment and let me know what you think!