Diversify and Thrive: Avoiding the Pitfalls of a One-Eyed Web Strategy
Some webmasters aspire to a number one ranking in Google like a teenager yearns for a front row seat at a One Direction concert. Whether that’s because of the traffic increase a high ranking can yield or because of the boost to their ego, who knows? But the myopic belief that Search Engine Optimisation and Google rankings are all that matter in online marketing is dangerously becoming ubiquitous with business owners.
Search engine algorithms can be fickle and changes can wreak havoc across the web, as illustrated by Google’s Panda Update in early 2011. Algorithm adjustments can force you to turn your SEO tactics upside down, so basing your online marketing on Google rankings is like spending your life savings on stock in a single company. Each website (including yours!) is just a minor speck in the web-cosmos and search monoliths will not hesitate to make changes that benefit their customers (the advertisers) regardless of the effect this has on your meticulous SEO handiwork.
Like a smart investor will diversify their portfolio over a range of investment products, a smart webmaster should look to drive traffic from a variety of sources including (but not limited to) social media, website referrals, email, paid advertising and of course your garden variety search engine traffic (otherwise known as organic traffic). Funnily enough, diversifying will usually increase total web traffic and the strategies used to achieve this will also help your SEO.
The moral of the story is that all website owners should diversify their traffic sources to mitigate the risk of ranking reductions and open their brand up to a new array of web visitors.
Tips to Diversify your Traffic Sources
- Learn how ad networks can target your customers. For example, search engine ads are targeted by keyword (e.g., searching for woman’s business shoes in Google), whereas social networks usually offer demographic targeting (e.g., you might only display your woman’s business shoes ad to middle-aged women who live in the area of your shoe store).
- Trial a range of paid and affiliate channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Adwords, Microsoft Adcenter, Commission Junction and display ads or advertorials (look in online newspapers/blogs). Some may offer targeting that suits your business better than others. During the trials ensure you customise, test and optimise your landing pages, track conversions and cut networks that are not performing.
- If you do business internationally, consider country specific channels such as Baidu (China), Daum (Korea), Orkut (Brazil), and Yandex (Russia). You can also hire translators at reasonable rates from websites like ODesk or Freelancer. Again, don’t forget to track, test and optimise to ensure your marketing dollars are well spent.
- As you would with paid advertising, consider using a range of social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, Digg, Pinterest or Google Plus.
- Start a blog and write informative articles targeted at your market. Share these through your social media accounts and encourage people to subscribe to your RSS feed and email updates.
- Find other blogs that are related to your market and engage with the writer by posting informed comments on selected posts. You might even ask to trade guest posts with these bloggers to help increase referral traffic and open you up to a new readership group.
- “Listen” to what your customers are saying about you with social media monitoring tools such as Hootsuite, Radian6 or Tweetdeck. Use the data gathered to respond and further engage your customers. Secret squirrel tip: you can also use the same tools to see what people are saying about your competitors.
- Build an opt-in email list through your social networks, face-to-face customers, RSS subscribers or online email signup forms, and then send regular updates to your list.
- Offer up high-quality, rich content for people to use on their website, provided they give you credit. Consider videos, infographics, cartoons, industry data, something humorous or anything that people might want to share in return for a backlink.
- Encourage offline buyers to engage online through targeted print advertising (try using coupon codes or custom shortlinks to track advert success), feature a customer that visited your business in a blog post/email campaign, collect leads at promotional events or ask existing customers to review your products online.
Get creative with your traffic generation approaches. Break your sources down into groups such as paid, social, organic, referral and other (sources such as email or offline), then look at each category individually and monitor conversions and revenue. Finally, don’t be sucked into the search engine rankings vortex. Take a holistic approach to your online marketing, broaden your reach and don’t put all your eggs in one basket.