|Online Success without Google|
In a different thread, someone said, "I keep wishing someone would start a thread on "how to succeed without Google." That is like saying I wish someone would start a thread on how to succeed without broadcast TV.
The problem is that most of you grew up with Google, or barely remember Lycos, Alta Vista, or the Yahoo days. Your world view is skewed by the fact that all you know or remember is Google. Take a moment to imagine a world without Google. In a world that didn't or does not have Google, what would you do to attract traffic?
I believe that the answer lies in viewing what you do as your "voice" or "influence". The more credible or influential your voice is, the more people will listen and thus buy your product or service.
I am a latecomer to the internet world. I only started 2 years ago. I, like most of you, focused on getting Google rankings. It was great for the year it lasted but like most of you, my site lost favor for no apparent reason and I even got a response from Matt Cutts letting me know that the problem was not manual but algorithmic. So I stepped back and evaluated how to survive and thrive without Google since I am not a brainiac who understands how algorithms work and how to fix things other than do a site redesign.
So I asked myself this question. Where do people hang out and go that are interested in or use "chartreuse widgets". I then went and hung out with those people and worked on expanding my voice and influence. Here is what I did.
1. Listened first and talked later. Ever been at a meeting or party where 1 guy dominated the conversation? They interrupt, talk over people ect. Those types of people do not influence people, they irritate people.
2. Brought value to the conversation. When I did speak, I did not just repeat or rehash what others have already said. I made sure that what I was saying was a new perspective or a fresh creative idea. I shared something that others had possibly not considered. You cannot do that if all you are doing is talking. You have to pay attention.
3.I drew from deeper wells of resources. I spent my time getting my ideas and facts from well established and authoritative leaders in my niche rather than follow the latest craze. I spent time for my own personal growth in my niche so that I grew in my own authority. People will start listening to you when you have ideas that are unique and worth listening to.
4.I learned to really listen. Many people when they are in a conversation are to busy thinking about the next thing they are going to say or how to impress others with what they say. Because of this they do not hear what is really being said. When I started listening, I realized that I was hearing a "need" on a regular basis with people who were using a popular social network. I decided to try and fill that need and the result has been awesome. It is totally Google independant, growing by word of mouth, and the only "authority" that it started with was the authority I brought to the table.
5. I realized that it really isn't about me. People will smell self interest a mile away. When you realize that it isn't about you and you switch from self interest to really being interested in others, it will change your influence and voice in a big way. Zig Ziglar put it this way.
|“You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.” |
In my off-line career, we put it this way. Don't use people to build your ministry, use your ministry to build up people.
That is how you become a success without Google.
1. Replaced lost traffic from Google
2. Became syndicated on 2 PR5 websites on a weekly basis with 2 more PR7 and PR6 in the works.
3. Created a second website with 1600 members in 3 months.
4. Total page views 4 times what I started with between the 2 sites.
5. Double the income.
[edited by: tedster at 2:42 pm (utc) on Apr 25, 2013]
[edit reason] moved from another location [/edit]
There's so good general ideas in this thread too:
A useful topic. One thing I would add is "make the most of the Google traffic you do get." This means, first of all, to be grateful for ALL your traffic and treat those people well. How do you know that you're treating them well? If you are selling something, a good number of the people will actually convert. Conversion optimization is one of the most fruitful places to put your attention... the results roll directly to your bottom line.
Uf your site is informational and supported by advertising rather than by direct sales, a conversion may be something like an email sign-up, something to generate direct traffic whenever you publish a new article. It still pays to optimize your conversions. I know that my favorite sites all have ways to get my repeat traffic, rather than depending on me finding them accidentally through some kind of nearly random search topic.
I totally agree Tedster. My second site gets most of it's traffic from email notifications. The first site has a newsletter now.
We've actually had this conversation a LOT over the years, and every time we do, a bunch of ideas get put forth and a bunch of people come along and say they can't because they can't spend the money or they can't spend the time or they don't have the knowledge, or whatever.
If the first reaction is always gonna be "can't", the search engines aren't the problem.
Well nothing I posted cost any money other than the hosting and domain name for the second website.
Let's just refuse to get bogged down in "can't." Probably none of us will be able to take advantage of every single tactic mentioned in this thread, but surely everyone can take away at least one tactic they can use.
Taberstruth started with a virtually "free" way to market - by marketing yourself, your voice, your credibility. This takes some time, but it does work if you do it the way Taberstruth describes.
Let's discuss one limitation with this approach, and how to overcome it. I operate several informational websites (which don't sell anything) which are unrelated and which I don't connect in any way (it might muddle the "brands"). Years ago, it was okay to use a totally silly avatar name, or just your first name - no one expected you to reveal your legal name, address and phone number to all the potential stalkers of the world. This was actually one of the draws of starting an online business. But now, there seems to be a growing expectation - driven by Facebook - that you should use your real legal name or you are a bad, naughty person who is up to something. (This is distressing to me both as a web visitor and a website owner, but that's a whole other topic.)
My solution thus far has been to use variants of my first name, which is common, and nothing else. Of course, this kicks me out of using Google+, and there's no telling what other limitations it will create for me going forward if this obsession with real names continues. How would any of you suggest developing an authoritative persona without revealing your real name? Is there a better solution than what I've been doing? Like, maybe I should incorporate or set up DBAs, so I'm using real legal entity names? (Hint: in most states, incorporating is not very expensive, and setting up DBAs is very affordable.)
And in the spirit of the thread, I would add a few elementary ideas:
--Go to hobby niches to observe how people brilliantly but accidentally market themselves. Look how they use forums, blogs and social media to spread the word about stuff just because they love it. You can get some great ideas about viral marketing from this.
--Get very creative offline. Got a site that reviews restaurants? Find a restaurant you genuinely love, give it a genuine rave review, and ask the restaurant if they would post a sign with a link to your review in the window (bonus points if you can make a great looking poster that blends with their decor). Got a site that sells something obscure, like blueprints for remodeling homes? Ask Home Depot type stores if they'd put up a poster, or just recommend you to people who wander in thinking they want to remodel but aren't sure what they want. Look to businesses and social areas where your customers are likely to be, but that aren't in direct competition with you.
--If your site is for a local business, get customers to review your site on Yelp, FB, etc. Offer a coupon if you have to.
If you are getting into online advertising, Adwords is not the only game in town. Some others are much cheaper, and will give a very decent ROI.
Consider getting a good banner ad made, if you can't do it yourself, and buy some banner ads from related small sites and blogs. You may be able to trade the ads for something other than money.
Signups isn't something we're actively trying to garner but when we "socialize" we get flooded on both the site and other social channels. The best bit of advice I've gotten that works for us in social media is the "4 in 5 ratio": post 4 items of interest to your followers/fans and one that promotes the site. Going a bit further than that, we actually only post links to ourselves once a week or less now; the site and any linked social profiles get more traffic from posting news, ideas and conversation than trying to promote a new article or feature. It's free and enjoyable.
Here's some free or inexpensive things I've done to get traffic, promote a brand, or both. Some were actually inadvertent.
1) Participate in forums or blogs related to a niche. I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT COMMENT SPAM FER CRYSAKES. But you can participate in discussions, offer your expertise, or ask intelligent questions; you don't even have to link drop. If you sound like you're worth knowing in the niche, people will come look you up.
2) Related to #1 - Go to seminars and webinars, ask intelligent questions, and engage. People noticed. I went to an advanced seminar once where mostly everyone was a beginner and I was an intermediate, so my questions to the speaker sounded like I knew what I was talking about. At one point someone asked for my email address and two entire rows wrote it down (I didn't think to bring business cards, d'oh)
3) Go where your audience is. If they're on Facebook, go there. If they're on LinkedIn, go there. If they're old school, go to the newspapers or magazines. If you can't afford ads, then offer these publications *good quality* content for free. They still need content too, just like websites. But you MUST find out where your audience is hanging out when they're not with you.
4) Partnerships with non-competitors looking to attract the same audience. One of my clients is the top reseller for a particular tiny niche of products, but it's one of those things that you never think of until you need it, and then it's pretty much too late. So he's partnering up with the manufacturer to create an informational website to raise awareness about the niche. We're going to create the site, they're going provide the content, and both companies will promote it.
5) Plan for repeat business. I think I've said this recently. If your business plan doesn't include a way to bring your customers or visitors back, and give or sell them something else - if your site is like a one night stand - you've lost half the battle. Even Google traffic likely won't fix them. Find a reason for everyone to come back and do whatever with you again, or find a new niche.
6) I shouldn't have to say this, but email is *still* one of the best channels there is, and you can build your list pretty much for free until you get into the thousands of contacts. There are tons of posts and primers about how to do it right and not spam. Seriously, if you have a good enough list, you don't give a crap about Google.
7) Make sure your stuff is easily shareable. Well first you have to give them a REASON to share it, but of course, we're all quality merchants and publishers, aren't we, so of course all our quality content is worth sharing. But put the frickin' buttons on. Your audience may not be on FB or Twitter, and of course it's not on Google+, but that doesn't mean they don't share - my largest B2B client's most used button is his "email this link" button - because people send the product to their bosses or their purchasing depts and ask for it to be bought. Your sharing buttons can just be email / print / PDF; it's worth it.
|Make sure your stuff is easily shareable. Well first you have to give them a REASON to share it, but of course, we're all quality merchants and publishers, aren't we, so of course all our quality content is worth sharing. |
Actually, social is a great way to determine whether your content is worth sharing. So is a modest PPC campaign (again - not necessarily with Adwords).
I just ran a few $10 campaigns using StumbleUpon Paid Discovery, at 10 cents per view (also a 5 cent and 25 cent option), and it confirmed a number of things I'd been wondering about. You can tailor the age, gender, interests, etc., of people who will see your page and watch how different groups respond. The good news is: if your content gets much response, you'll end up with a lot more traffic than you paid for as people continue to "stumble" your page and share it with friends, so the ROI is actually pretty good. And the equally good news is: if your content gets a poor response, especially after you test it with a few different demographics, then you know that particular bit of content just isn't the bit of awesomeness you thought it was.
StumbleUpon won't be the right choice for every page. Your page of low-priced, sustainably built plumbing widgets isn't really what casual surfers are looking for. But if you build a page about how to install those widgets yourself and run a tightly focused campaign under "home improvement" or "construction", with the demographics set for people old enough to likely own homes, that might be helpful.
Once you've started doing some of the things mentioned in this thread and become successful at those, expand into another channel. That way you're diversifying your efforts, so that if one goes away or the bottom falls out, you're not similarly stuck to how so many are now with Google. You may have to hire or outsource to do it, but the goal by the point is that you'll be able to afford to do so.
We've tried the StumbleUpon route. Depending on how receptive your content is, you can get a lot of visits, but they tend to bounce at a high rate and don't spend a lot of time on the site. There are better ways.
Dymero, what better ways have you found? I'm finding about half my SU campaign visitors do NOT bounce, which I thought was a pretty good ROI (except when I'm testing a page - then if more than half of them bounce, I figure my page is the problem).
Appreciate any suggestions you have!
Its no surprise this is the top thread, google has become a hard nut to crack.
That said Facebook and Pinterest both achieved online success without Google
SU is good for testing but I haven't found it very good as a real traffic source. FB is the best source for my niche for real traffic and viral exposure. Pinterest of all things sends me a steady stream of traffic as well. Works well for my niche and because all of my articles have at least 1 picture.
The reason that FB, SU, Pinterest ect. have been successful is not because of Google but because they found something that users like to do and so users interact with their site and tell their friends about it.
+1 on taberstruths post. That's basically my answer as well. Despite their attempts to make you promote your own content with ads, Facebook has done pretty well for a free source and has had some success in converting as well (though not nearly as well as our other channels).
However, if SU is working for you, then I wouldn't ignore it. The more sources of quality traffic you can have, the better.
[edited by: Dymero at 7:42 pm (utc) on Apr 26, 2013]
IMHO the bottom line comes down to 2 most important factors:
1. Conversion optimization
2. Customer retention
Without BOTH of these seriously in play, you are doomed for failure in the online world.
BTW, a little trick that is working on FB right now is encouraging comments. They have placed more emphasis in their algo on comments than they used to.
|SU is good for testing but I haven't found it very good as a real traffic source. FB is the best source for my niche for real traffic and viral exposure. Pinterest of all things sends me a steady stream of traffic as well. Works well for my niche and because all of my articles have at least 1 picture. |
Pinterest can be really good for certain sites and niches. I've had very good luck with it on one site, and it does reasonably well on several others. Like you, I make sure every article has at least 1 photo.
Organic SU used to drive great traffic for a couple of my sites, until they changed something last year. For testing, I think their Paid Discovery is working well for me - and the ROI is pretty good, because a $10 campaign can tell you if you're moving in anything like the right direction or not.
I'll look into FB, but all I see on it are shopping ads, so I assumed it wouldn't be a great match for info sites.
|BTW, a little trick that is working on FB right now is encouraging comments. They have placed more emphasis in their algo on comments than they used to. |
Okay, that's definitely something I'm going to budget time for in the coming week. I have strong FB pages for each of my sites, but I normally just post my new articles to them instead of directly engaging people.
Thanks to everyone, by the way! This is a great thread.
Pictures, quotes and articles is a good combination on FB. I also have an informational site with 54k fans at this point. It is my #2 traffic provider after search.
There's a funny little effect that some people report. After they build a business with non-Google traffic sources, they start to see more Google Search traffic, too. Then it's just gravy, not do-or-die.
|There's a funny little effect that some people report. After they build a business with non-Google traffic sources, they start to see more Google Search traffic, too. Then it's just gravy, not do-or-die. |
Well, if you have significant traffic sources other than the Google algo, isn't that a strong indicator that you are not just an SEO or spammer out to game the algo for a quick buck? I've believed for several years that Google can somehow tell how much various sites rely on them, and they are favoring the ones that rely the least. I have no evidence, it just (a) fits a LOT of observations and (b) makes complete logical sense.
If you build an online business without google traffic it probably means you have a USP, the foundation of all successful businesses.
This is actually what Google likes. Not because google sees you don't depend on them and therefore aren't a spammer, but because it generates all the genuine signals they look for that indicate uniqueness, trust and authority.
Taberstruth started how all great businesses do, solving a problem for people. This is the best piece of SEO advice anyone can give you these days in my opinion.
One client of mine has successfully cultivated Facebook as a significant traffic source. They get more traffic some weeks from Facebook than Google. They've got 575,000 likes on their FB page, and they're really heavy on infographics (which they cross post on Tumblr and Pinterest). They sometimes get 150K-200K visits from FB in a month.