There are literally thousands of articles that insist that, if you want to succeed online, you have to make SEO your top priority. According to these articles, if you aren’t doing everything you can to please our Google Overlords, there is no way that anybody will ever know you exist!
Here’s what I have to say about that: Pfffft. Not really.
Look: nobody, least of all me, is going to try to convince you that SEO isn’t an important factor in your overall web success. It is important. But SEO is not the most important factor in that equation. What matters most is not pleasing the Google Overlords. What matters most is pleasing your people.
Who Are Your People?
In marketing terms, your “people” are your “target audience” or “niche” or whatever your favorite buzzword is for “people I want to endear myself to so that they buy my stuff.”
How Do I Find My People?
Kristin Eberth published a great article about this on Medium.com. Basically, if you want to know who your target audience is, you start with a big tree and then whittle it down because, according to Eberth (and she’s right) your target audience isn’t just who you want to buy your products. Your target audience is the people who actually buy your products. When you learn as much as you can about your existing customers you’ll be better able to market current and future offerings to them.
Yes, you’ll want to bring in new customers too (that’s where broad spectrum marketing comes in, which is an article for another time) but never forget the importance of word-of-mouth! This is the internet. It’s a chatty place.
How Do I Reach My People?
The more you learn about your target audience the better able you will be to target your actions to reach them “where they live.” For example, if you build gaming apps, you can submit your game to the Humble Bundle. This introduces thousands of people to your game/app for a tiny initial price but, if you’ve created something awesome, the people who bought the Bundle will likely check out your website or look for other games and apps you’ve made in their app stores.
While you’re working on narrowing your field, though, there are a few things that you can do to reach your audience, sell your wares and build a following for yourself online: blogging, social media and email marketing.
The great thing about these methods of reaching your target audience is that, sure, they’re broad ideas but they are also easy to hone. Check it out.
Blogging can be used in three ways: outward marketing via your own blog, inward marketing via guest blogging and to build a community via blog commenting.
Using Your Own Blog
There are lots of articles out there (like this one and this one and this one and this one) that will tell you why your company website needs a blog. SEO is usually among the most important reasons to start a blog. The most important reason to create a company blog is that it helps you connect with your audience. Remember, a company’s blog needs to be about more than just whatever product or service you are promoting. Your company’s blog is the avenue through which you share opinions and insight about developments within your niche or market. It’s how you tell existing and would be customers about what’s happening within your company. It is where you’re allowed to be less formal and to show some personality.
How you use your blog to target your market is going to depend upon the market you’re targeting. Whatever that market is, though, try to put the SEO gurus out of your head. Don’t think about keywords or link scores or anything like that when you’re blogging. Focus first on communicating with the humans that read that blog (and who you hope will share that blog). If the writing is good, the attention and sales will follow.
Using Other Blogs
At the start of this year, Google’s Matt Cutts made some huge waves when he declared guest blogging dead. Really, though, all he was doing was declaring guest blogging dead for SEO purposes. Guest blogging is still a great way to tap into another site’s audience and market. It’s a great way to build a reputation for yourself around the web and to send traffic to your site. It’s a fantastic way to build relationships with other bloggers and companies. Remember: the benefits of guest blogging flow both ways: you tap into that blog’s audience but you also bring your own loyal audience to that blog when you publish a link on your own site.
Obviously publishing your own posts and articles (both on and off site) is important but it is not the only aspect of blogging you should be using to drive traffic and sales. Even though feels like it has been on a steady decline since social media took off, blog commenting is still a valuable method of getting attention and potential customers for your products and services. Leaving comments on relevant and complementary blogs helps you build relationships and attract attention for your site. But leaving relevant and insightful comments isn’t enough. The page you point to is also important. If you send people to your sales page you’ll get labeled a spammer. Make sure when you fill out the comment form that you input a blog post of your own that relates to the post on which you’re commenting. You can let your own writing do the work from there.
By now you understand that you need to have Twitter and Facebook profiles. Facebook, though, is starting to make it harder for marketers to reach their audiences (unless those marketers want to pay a pretty fee). This is just one reason that you need to make sure your company has its own Google+ profile.
Google+ is becoming more popular every day. This might be because Facebook is becoming more unpopular every day. It is also probably because Google+ is the social media portal run by Google. Of course, it is going to put more weight on posts published on its own network than on posts or reputations built through others. So, while having a Google+ profile is good for SEO, it’s also good for you. If your audience is steadily moving over there, don’t you want to be there to greet them?
Niche Based Social Media
There are dozens of different social media networks you can join and more are popping up every day (or haven’t you heard of Slate’s new social media community?). Don’t neglect the smaller networks just because they are small. The benefit of smaller networks is that it is easier to get attention. The followers you collect there are going to be more attentive and probably more loyal too. It’s safe to bet that, whatever your target market may be, there is a social media network dedicated to it. Join that network and start posting!
The primary benefit of email marketing is that the people who receive your messages have asked for those messages (by signing up for your list). That alone means that what you send out is more likely to be read than something sent blindly or posted online.
Some people only send out marketing messages to their lists. If you only plan to send these messages out every couple of months, that’s probably fine. If you’re hoping to develop customer loyalty and to build your audience via email, though, you need to heed the golden ratio. If you’re constantly sending out marketing messages, you’re only going to alienate people. Remember: you’re trying to appeal to the humans reading your emails.
Here’s the thing: when you focus on people, everything else will fall into place. Remember: SEO isn’t just a numbers game anymore. The spiders want to think they’re people. So if you focus on pleasing people, you’ll please the spiders too!