Image by PhotoJonny via Flickr
by Tim Peter
How much of your traffic comes from search engines? How much from Google? If you’re like most businesses, you probably get a fair bit of your traffic from the Big G. But, what if it all went away? What if you walked in tomorrow and all your search traffic dried up? Can’t imagine it? Well, Google changes its search algorithm hundreds of times each year, on average more than once a day. And, they’re facing increasing regulatory challenges overseas and here in the US. If their next algorithm update—or a future regulatory-mandated change—knocked you out of their index, would your business survive? Here are a few handy tips to help you cope in such a scenario—and help you grow your business whether Google continues sending you lots of traffic or not.
- Go where the customers are. Search has become such a popular marketing channel because almost everyone uses search. But “everyone” also uses email, social media and mobile phones, too. Selling business-to-business? Look at how you use LinkedIn. Want more press? Try HARO (HelpAReporter.com). Sure, search engines and social sites like Google and Facebook aggregate loads of people. But maybe the right marketing channel for you is one that attracts a more narrow (i.e., more targeted) audience.
- Set your objectives. You’ve identified where your customers are? OK, now clearly define what you expect to get from each of these sources. In a perfect world, you’d outline your objectives in terms of profits, though with new marketing channels, you may not have enough information yet to know what’s available. Don’t be afraid to rethink your marketing channels if you discover the best objective you can hope to achieve isn’t worth your time.
- Improve your Web presence – Note, I didn’t say fix your Web site. Your Web presence is the sum of everything about you that your customers interact with online. And while your Web site is a cornerstone of your Web presence—and might well need fixing—it’s not the whole enchilada. Make sure any pages you have on social and review sites like Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and LinkedIn show accurate, up-to-date, and, where possible, brand-relevant information. As much as possible, you want any place your customers can find you to answer their questions and direct them to you with a minimal amount of fuss.
- Continue to grow your opt-in contact list. As with your Web presence, note that I didn’t say “e-mail list.” Find out how your customers want to be contacted and use those tools to communicate. Most consumers are overwhelmed with information. Improve your chances of getting through by reaching them where they want to be reached.
- Think about blogging. Yes, I’m still bullish on blogging, at least when it’s done well. Loads of keyword-rich content will help you rank in the search engines—and possibly avoid the nightmare scenario I outlined above—while valuable news and information can help your customers learn more about your business. It might even give them a reason to stay connected between purchases. And that’s a very good thing. As above, if blogging doesn’t meet your objectives, then don’t add it to your list. But don’t discount blogging without considering how it might help your business.
- Explore additional media. Everyone knows display advertising doesn’t work, right? Well, activities like remarketing actually make display work well for many businesses. E-mail retargeting and affiliate marketing are also often underused techniques that can drive incremental business.
- And explore additional media models. How do you pay for marketing? Historically, most businesses have paid for media in terms of cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM). And Google’s AdWords is likely the most famous cost-per-click (CPC) service out there. But don’t forget cost-per-action/acquisition (CPA). Maybe you don’t have the resources to do all of the above. Can you find freelancers who will take on some of these tasks in exchange for a revenue share?
Many businesses operate with the mantra to “fish where the fishing is good.” And, for a long time, Google has been a great way to fish for new business. But as you plan ahead for 2011, are you looking at every avenue available to your business and creating plans for how to increase traffic, sales and profits—with or without Google? Don’t get me wrong. It’s unlikely they’re going away anytime soon. But how much better off will you be if it doesn’t matter one way or the other?