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Can you increase your site’s popularity?

For whatever reason, I seem to be running into people lately who are unhappy with their Internet marketing results. They’ve been trying a lot of things, but they are getting tired. They tell me that “a small business can’t break into the game anymore” or “my industry has already picked the winners and losers” or some other rationalization that explains why they can’t change their company’s trajectory. I think they are wrong.


I’m not saying it’s easy to increase your site’s popularity. I’m just saying it’s possible. (Remember, too, that popularity is rarely the end goal—you want to increase your sales.)
It is undeniably true that it is harder to enter the market on the Internet than it was just a few years ago. Just as in any other maturing tactic, as more people start to do it, it becomes harder to stand out. Where a little work in 2002 got you noticed, you might need to do a lot more work now.
But it’s still possible. Yes, companies are much more entrenched at the top of your industry now, but you can dislodge them. Look at what Progressive has been doing in the insurance industry. They have an interesting and different take on what customer-friendly means: showing quotes from other companies—and they’ve used that to get attention they’d have never gotten with a more traditional message.
To rise above the clutter, you need more than tactics. You need to be different. Let’s look at where the competition is the toughest to prove the point: at the very top, at the most popular sites on the Internet.
Matt Tatham of Hitwise kindly provided these numbers to me. Look them over and see if you notice something. Who broke through in 2006?

Looks like MySpace. Why did they break through when others did not? Because they were doing something very different. Social networking was a powerful way to break through the clutter and get noticed. Suppose we compare 2006 to 2007? What do we see then?

This time it’s Facebook. They didn’t have a radically new idea from MySpace, but they have begun to execute it better. Both of these companies broke through in the most competitive arena possible.
Your company can break through in the less competitive bounds of your industry. Start thinking about how you can act differently than the competition or execute better. Tell a better story and follow through. There’s always a way to stand out, and it’s usually not about marketing tactics. It’s about being different, like Seth Godin’s Purple Cow.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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