Can you imagine how many businesses today still haven’t invested in social media marketing, search engine optimization, or even content creation? Many brick and mortars are struggling to handle their online presence and frankly, it’s hurting them more than ever before. This isn’t the 80’s where not purchasing a newspaper ad would lessen your grip on the market. The internet is an overwhelming force to deal with and most business owners aren’t equipped to handle it. I am 37 years old and one of the first of my generation to connect via dialup. Taking that into consideration, many business owners are much older than myself and probably don’t spend their days learning about SMM & SEO like I do. I don’t blame them because they have a business to run.
I won’t call myself an expert and this is not my job day in and day out. My focus is always content creation first and worry about the rest later. Normally, if I create high-quality content upfront then the only thing left to tend to is minor social marketing. Assuming I do content and social right, I never ever have to even think about search. Though I might not do all of these each day as an agency would, I certainly study it and have done it in the past for my businesses. I grew my first big business leveraging search before social was even a thing. This is an area I am very comfortable writing and talking about.
Before moving on, I feel I should expand on why I never worry about search if I have created high-value content and minor social media marketing. Search is important to a lot of websites, and it still brings in huge amount of traffic. I don’t deny this. My issue with search is that it’s highly competitive (expensive), and takes a lot of time or money to pay someone else to do it for you. The time I could be buying links, writing press releases, and other activities is much better spent in creating content that people will love and naturally share. When people share, they build links for me and help me organically grow. Some websites don’t have this built in and therefore search is 70% of their concerns. I get that. For me, it’s not that way.
Search Engine Optimization
Let’s talk about search first since it will probably be the easiest to digest and apply. There are things that can affect your ranking in Google’s search results that will drive a considerable amount of traffic to your site. Whether it converts into money or not is entirely another story that I won’t discuss in this post. You can manipulate search by doing keyword research on what words people are using to find websites like your’s. There are tools that will help you find the right ones for you to target audience. In any campaign, you might want to establish 5-7 keywords and phrases to go after so your efforts look natural. Looking natural and managing your growth in Google’s eyes month over month is key to not being called out like Rap Genius did.
How can you manipulate search? Simply by getting your anchor text linked to your website from another website (this is the most basic way to put it). That anchor text is your keyword. This is why having multiple keywords is important because if you buy 1,000 links that are all the same keyword or phrase then it’s going to look REALLY suspiscious. Suspicious manipulation tends to get a website deindexed or at least a manual penalty applied by Google’s team. You don’t want those as a large or even medium sized company. Something like that for a small-sized company could spell serious disaster.
What kind of links can you build and where can you get them? These questions can be challenging to get right. Going out to purchase thousands of links is dangerous and can sink you fast. You need to focus on quality links and you can either buy them outright or attract them through content creation. While I won’t cover content creation, I will dabble in content marketing in regards to getting links. Content marketing is leveraging what content you have by getting people to repost it, reblog it, spread it around, or at least sharing it. You are literally marketing your content to another potential place to consume it. “Here, take my content and use it!”
Buying links has turned into renting more often than not. Most website owners have gotten away from permanent links in favor of monthly subscriptions. I can’t blame them when there are plenty of businesses that are willing to support than method. You need to research these sites that are relevant to your niche. If you are selling baseball gloves then you want links from sites that have something to do with baseball and perhaps a larger pool being sports in general. You do not want links from say cooking websites or ones that are about music. Not only does it not make sense, but it’s also something Google probably takes into consideration when looking for unnatural link building.
You can find these links by simply searching websites that offer adverts, links, or sponsorship. Just type in “baseball gloves” to find related sites that are in the same niche as you and expand your search to other keywords as necessary. You can find forums that are all about selling links too like Digital Point and Warrior Forum. Still not enough? Check out Google Plus and facebook groups for people who are wheeling and dealing. Here is a list of how to get links and where to go:
- Buying Links Outright: Visit forums like Digital Point and Warrior forum. People will sell you links on a month to month basis. Ensure you are getting strong links such as PR4 and higher at least 60% of the time. You need to show a mixture still so don’t get cocky.
- Sponsoring Blogs and Themes: You can find blogs covering your niche and most will allow you to sponsor them. In addition to this, you can find people who create themes and sponsor those themes. They will sell you a footer link for $XXX. Finding these are fairly straight forward with a quick search of “theme sponsorship”.
- Manual Directory Submissions: They are mostly dead, but they are cheap so why not? Do NOT buy a 6,000 link package or anything large like that. Find a nice “100 manual link submission” listing to quality directories and be done with it. Seriously, don’t sweat this one so much.
- Blog Commenting: This is one I prefer doing myself since my native tongue is English and I know how to not be spammy. Leave thoughtful and quality comments and you will snag some great links. They don’t count as much as other links, but done right, it could add some really good value.
- Contextual Links: I used to belong to V7N which was an SEO community and they sold contextual links for $20 per link back in the 2007 range. A blogger would sell words in a post and you could purchase them and they would link to your site. You could snag some great links this way although I don’t know how many still do this. If you can find them then buy them. It’s basically native marketing at it’s finest. Anything better and you would have it on a site like Buzzfeed.
- Signature Links: While holding little to no value, it does give it an alternative to blatant linking. Go to a forum which allows signature links at the bottom of each post a user creates and see if you can purchase it and have your link in it. It’s all about switching it up and looking well balanced. Try to get related forums and not random ones.
- Forums: If you can find forums about your topic then this can be very useful. Simply register and contribute like a normal member and include a link to your page from time to time. This is one that is nearly impossible for businesses to pull off in the short term. Good forum moderators know what SPAM looks like.
- Listings: Submitting links to listing sites like Craigslist and Backlink is still something that is done, but understand that these aren’t going to last long. You may or may not benefit from this strategy at all.
That list is no where exhaustive in nature. You can certainly turn to ideas like Guerilla Marketing and others to find unique solutions to getting backlinks to your site and growing your organic search results. If you have no idea how to do this, then please hire someone that does. The worse thing a business can do is try to take this activity on themselves without any knowledge in search optimization. It would be akin to shooting yourself in the foot.
If you haven’t been doing these things already then you are severely behind the curve. Don’t even think about doing a dramatic turn and try coming back in 1 month. You need to stay natural and grow your SEO gradually. If you don’t churn out content then SEO is your only choice unless you are going to develop a strong SMM persona overnight. Also, don’t think you are going to get an SEO professional that is top-notch for less than thousands per month. Most businesses that set up a website, and just hoped it would naturally build traffic on it’s own are going to experience sticker shock when they realize how bad off they are. Better late than never…
Social Media Marketing
Social is something that has grown into some kind of Godzilla-like force for online businesses. It’s a bit different in nature because unlike a search result going viral, a post on facebook or YouTube could. The issue with social is understanding it, how it works, what content works and how to measure ROI. You might hear about dark posts as well, which is when someone emails or messages a link to someone else and the activity happens outside of a measurable click or impression. There is just so much to digest that it can be challenging to know how to go from not having a presence to having one!
Getting your brand turned around and moving in the right direction can be tough. Not knowing where to start can be daunting and the last thing you want to do before you start is to give up. If you focus and use social as a positive for growth, you can limit your need for search engine optimization. I want to break this section up a bit because social is different than just link building. It’s an entirely different mindset but not completely different as far as content goes.
Return on Investment
Unlike SEO, social doesn’t have an ROI that is obvious beyond numbers in a dashboard. Each social platform gives you statistics and you can even use URL shorteners to help identify where people are coming from and what content drove them. My concern isn’t that you can’t find numbers in your dashboard. The problem social has always had is defining what the real ROI is. Your dashboard might say that you reached 10,000 people, but the reality is that you could have reach 500 that cared to even look or 100,000 people because someone reshared it to a huge audience outside of the platform. Most businesses are driven by likes, followers, or subscribers. What value do those activities have?
A business leader wants to know what return they will have for each dollar they invest. That problem is what forced social platforms like facebook to actually build dashboards so they can attract advertising buys. Expectations have to be managed. Brands have to expect that social isn’t going to be an overnight success. Ads on Twitter or facebook may not resonate with customers. Sometimes, the ROI is awareness, funneling visitors to goals, building profile engagement, and those are some of the great activities we want to happen. You can track many of those items, but you can’t track those things like dark posts with ease.
The ROI of social is high if done right. What does “done right” actually mean though? It means creating content that is engaging, calls for an action, is funny and viral, or consistently great in nature. You can always have that 1 in a 1,000,000 viral ad, but it’s the consistency in messaging and speaking the language of the platform that drives “done right”. Your content game has to be on point.
Platform of Choice
This isn’t the first time I say choose 1-2 platforms you can master that reflects your niche. If your industry is very visual, then find a visual platform. While matching your platform with your audience, ensure that you consider the medium. If you don’t have the tools to be on YouTube then it doesn’t make sense for you to choose to start there. Let’s run through each social platform that you might select upfront.
- Facebook: Running a Page on facebook requires multiple high-quality posts each day to stay relevant and engaging. A second-rate run on content will minimize your results. These days, the reach is severely limited and only the Pages that have money to burn will see wins. Groups is one of the last positive grounds. If you are comfortable running a community that is complementary to your brand then this is a great opportunity to connect. The platform is still huge and brands are winning, but it’s in the form of people talking about you with friends. Breaking into these conversations can be challenging for many. I give this platform a 5/10 these days.
- Pinterest: A very visual platform that is capturing more men these days. You need to be active and engaging day in and day out with beautiful imagery. If you can find a way to have wonderful images, infographics, and a consistent pinning strategy then this is a great place to set up shop. You can expect to pin/repin 25-50 items per day and engage with users and content. Making friends and getting your content right can yield big results over a few months of getting started. Pinterest is a 6.5 for me because I don’t have the time to invest.
- Twitter: Fast paced content and engagement is the name of the game. This is currently my biggest platform with major wins and traffic. Twitter just opened Periscope (Meerkat killer) and is gaining decent attention. This also includes Vine, and they just started allowing images and video which makes this probably the hottest social platform that I could recommend right now. Get someone churning out content and engagement and you will see some serious results. It’s a 8/10 for me.
- Soundcloud: If you are into music then this is the spot as well as Myspace believe it or not. Audioheads will find a lot of love there and you have to work a bit harder to establish yourself through engagement on tracks and favoriting items. Soundcloud can be challenging to see results at first, but if you keep at it, it’s great for music and podcasting. This has a mid-size cost to enter, but it could be a big pay off. I give Soundcloud a 5/10.
- Google Plus: Practically dead, but people are still there and engaging on it. Beautiful images and GIFs live here. You are going to have to put in 2-3 times the effort for half the return of a platform like Twitter. It’s a 1/10 for me.
- Reddit: Reddit isn’t seen as a social platform in the same sense as the others are, but it absolutely is. The community will gladly reach in and grab their pitchforks out if you disregard their intelligence and run the same game. You have to be a part of the community and live their Redditiquette. If you choose to run here, then be prepared for a challenge. I give this a 9/10 because done right it can be awesome!
- Ello and Tsu: I feel obligated to mention them, but they are honestly an unknow to me. This includes others like Tribbr. I will keep this a ?/10.
- Instagram: Everyone says it’s the hottest thing on the market right now, but I am not feeling it. I am not an expert on Instagram yet so I would be wrong to pretend to be. It’s visual and if you have the chops to hashtag, use Crowdfire to follow and unfollow people, and post some serious content, then give this a serious look. I am going to reserve my grading until after the summer so I can get much more familiar with it. No grade…yet.
- Snapchat: Last I heard it’s worth around $3B and growing. I have been actively using it and if you feel like you have reached a stage where engagement is easy, then this is a great place to connect to smaller circles. I don’t recommend this for a starter. This is a platform you expand into. I would give this a 4/10 at the moment.
- YouTube: It’s the #2 search engine in the world and everyone is consuming video at a rate never seen before. If you have the equipment, people, and ability to create content for this platform then this is your #1 choice over all others. A strong YouTube strategy is a huge win if you think you have the chops. I give this a 10/10 when coupled with audience, Patreon, and content.
- Tumblr: I had 4 accounts previously and I lost complete interest after Yahoo bought it. I just didn’t like spending time there resharing or liking content. It’s basically a blog platform for whatever content you want to post. It always felt like a younger crowd, very emo in nature and mostly for GIFs, porn, and sad shares. I could be wrong on this, but I don’t care about the platform and don’t actively recommend it. I never saw any conversions, but I didn’t try hard either. I personally give this platform a 0/10, but for a business on their GIF game, this could be a 4+/10.
If I missed one just let me know. Also, if you feel differently about any of my comments then feel free to have a conversation with me in the comments. We all have our passions so I don’t expect to be taken at face value. This is one of the hardest things to establish upfront when you are trying to take back your business by leveraging social media. Get this right and go all in if you want to be relevant in the future. Social or Bust!
Your Content Marketing Game
Content is an animal all it’s own, but it deserves to be a part of this conversation. Each platform speaks it’s own language and getting it right will make a huge difference between no engagement and having an audience that loves and shares you. An example of this is you wouldn’t put audio only on a video platform such as YouTube or Vimeo. If you just mentally thought that you should, then this post is directed at you. You wouldn’t put a wall of text on facebook when it would have been better served on Medium or Blogger. You need to realize that your message has to equal your audience’s expectations. Going onto facebook with an ad and a link to your ” 90% off socks sale” would be like speaking louder in English to someone who only speaks Spanish. They expect to be entertained or engaged on a completely different level. No one on facebook cares about your sock sale when they are trying to connect with friends and family.
Let’s just talk about content for a moment as a medium. There are a few types of content: Text, Images, Audio, and Video. Your images should be colorful, professional, and catch the target audience from scrolling right past. You have to tell them about your business in each post without actually promoting yourself. Additionally, posting the same content over and over again and expecting a different result is madness. You don’t have to pitch to them each time. You can just have a conversation with them without the sales pitch. It turns people off and that’s why car salesmen are loathed.
An example of doing this right is instead of posting your sales art for socks, you tell them about different types of socks or a funny meme about socks instead. They know who you are and they will come and see you when they are ready. You are allowed to post your sale artwork once you have earned it through regular engagement.
Your content needs to be shareable. That’s it. When you create the post you have to make sure that someone would think that it is worthy of their circle of friends. If they think their circle would disagree then you just wasted your time. Those qualities are what hurt so many businesses because they think this is something simple when the reality is complex. How do you pick the right meme, post, podcast segment, video, or whatever it is that you want to put out to the socialspere? You study what already works from other businesses that get it right and own social.
I didn’t originally set out to write 4,000 words on this topic, but it ended up that way. Businesses are constantly looking to cut corners, outsource vital pieces of their business, and maximize the bottom line for investors. I understand this all to well. I have outsourced as much as I can, but I quickly learned what not to outsource and what is OK to. If you are a business that struggled to get your online game on par with your offline one, then there is still hope. It’s going to either cost you a lot of time or a lot of money and time. You have to take inventory on which horse you want to bet on and what fits your business. It’s either SEO or SMM. You can have both, but that is a huge commitment and you have to bring down your barriers when people tell you how much it’s going to cost you to do things right.
The payoff is big, but the ROI can be blurry. Dig in and listen to experts as they tell you what strategy should be applied, and don’t just think things are fine and you don’t need eCommerce in your portfolio. I would agree that you don’t if you enjoy leaving money on the table while your competitors enjoy the frictionless sales they are conducting with your customers.
If you are already online and lost on how to make it work for you then keep reading and learn more about what you can do to improve your bottom line. I know it’s not easy, but I will try to continue writing my thoughts on dealing with our digital world.