In this post, I would like to take you through a number of ways to enhance your digital marketing strategy and increase your reach and authority, while helping secure your position by making sure not all your eggs are in the Google organic basket.
Coincidentally, this post fits in nicely behind the post written by our own Graeme Benge earlier this week entitled ‘How Long Should You Keep Focusing On Just Rankings?‘. This post helps to explain why rankings aren’t always the be-all-and-end-all most website owners think they are, and what signs to look for which may mean you should further diversify your marketing efforts.
I should point out here that I am not suggesting that you should substitute time and effort spent pleasing the Google Gods for something else; this work should complement what you are doing with Google organic results and run alongside it.
Are We Too Reliant on Google?
Yes we are. There’s no getting away from it. To ‘Google’ something became a verb in 2006; it’s in the Oxford English Dictionary. Could there be more proof of success than that?
Although it’s true that Google have seen a little dip recently in total market share, at time of writing they still currently handle 88.8% of global search queries and almost 91% of all queries here in the UK. I think it’s safe to say that most sites get the vast majority of their organic traffic via Google, and that if these sites were to fall foul of a Google penalty or the next update (you can read Emma’s predictions for the next Google update here), the vast majority of their traffic would disappear overnight.
So, what other sources of traffic have you established?
There is a camp with an alternate view of things; that Google is ripe for beating and that it is only a matter of time before they are toppled. Prior to working at Koozai, I had a conversation with a colleague who had just started in the industry about the future for Google. Initially he seemed to think that the search engine giant was destined to be king forever; I don’t think he’d given it much thought before that point. I asked him what he thought about AOL in its heyday, and Yahoo! At the time, he had thought the same. The little light came on and it looked to me as if he blew his own mind thinking about the possibility that Google may not be top dog when his grandchildren have kids.
So, what happens if you spend 99% of your time optimising for Google and then one day Google Goliath is toppled by a start-up named David?
Winners Have Alternatives
Whatever your belief in the future of Google, diversity is essentially risk reduction.
Those in the finance sector are all over this; no one would ever recommend an entire investment fund is put in just one stock. You should think of your marketing the same way.
Capture Every Window of Opportunity
Aside from the risk reduction, diversifying your traffic sources to more than just Google offers a number of fundamental benefits to your business:
• May help gain authority with Google
’May’, meaning if done correctly and kept updated. Search engines want to see you are gaining traffic naturally, which means from a number of sources. By diversifying your ‘source portfolio’ and keeping your content and communications up to date and of high quality, you will gain more traffic and please the Google Gods.
• Helps protect against ranking drop
A drop in SERPs may be a big problem for your business, especially for those in positions one to three. A drop in rankings will usually lead to a drop in traffic and conversions. By diversifying your sources you can dilute the pain, as traffic from other sources will remain unaffected.
• Helps protect against lower Google search volume
For example; if your site promotes something that is currently in fashion, but may drop out at any time, you are likely to see easy gains followed by sudden drops in your SERPs results. When your site begins to drop in SERPs you may wish to consider alternative methods of reaching your target audience.
• Promote brand awareness
Each traffic source you use exposes more new users to your brand, and confirms your authority in your space to current users.
• Increases targeted traffic
Certain sites will generate more targeted traffic, for example Pinterest; where the user has clicked on a specific image they are interested in.
• Help increase conversion rate
Ultimately improving brand awareness to new and existing users, developing targeted traffic and helping to increase overall traffic will boost conversion rates for a well maintained site.
Diversifying Your ‘Traffic Source Portfolio’; Gain More Traffic Sources Through Digital Channels
Google is the king of search engines; statistics show there is no doubt about that.
However that is not to say the other major search engines are not worth considering. According to Fresh Egg, Bing users are 49% more likely than the average UK searcher to convert after clicking, and 53% more likely than Google users to convert after clicking. Can you imagine what that could do to your advertising spend?
This SEOMoz infographic compares a number of Google and Bing statistics. While Google clearly dominates global market share, Bing’s slice of the pie is still worth 30.5% of the market share, with 6,017,000,000 queries being made every month.
Include Bing in your optimisation campaigns and you should see an increase in traffic. Bear in mind that Bing indexes pages a little slower than Google, so don’t panic of it takes a while. Bing is less worried about Flash content, so if you have plenty of Flash and struggle on Google, it’s worth investing some time optimising for Bing too. Anchor text should include keywords in some form, and backlinks from high authority TLDs are more important than large quantities of links.
Bing also have their own version of pay per click advertising, as do Google and Facebook and a few others. Bing Ads has a very similar set up to Google AWords and is very easy to use. Having merged with Yahoo, the reach of Bing has increased. It is also likely that your competition will not be utilising Bing Ads, lowering both competition and cost per click.
Google AdWords is the default pay per click platform for most of us, in the same way as Google is the default search engine; though as we talked about earlier Bing Ads should not be overlooked. If you would like to find out more about Google AdWords and pay per click marketing then instead of going over ground we at Koozai have recently covered, here’s a few links to get you started:
What many companies overlook is the opportunity for remarketing. Remarketing is the facility to show adverts to users who have previously visited your site as they visit sites on the Google Display Network. By adding a tag to pages of your site you can build remarketing lists and target users to a higher degree.
For example, you may create lists for visitors who went to the ‘blue widget’ page and ‘red widget’ page of your site but did not buy anything. You could then show an advert with 10% off of blue widgets to those who had visited the blue widget page, and an advert with 10% off of red widgets to those who had visited that specific page.
If your organic rankings were to drop, remarketing via the AdWords platform will target traffic which has previously visited the site and will be unaffected by this. Remarketing can be highly targeted and though it will inevitably have a low click through rate, it is also much cheaper than traditional pay per click, and often increases conversions significantly.
I could write for hours about how to best use YouTube as a source of traffic to your site, but instead I will direct you to a great post by our own Dean Marsden entitled How To Create a YouTube Channel which explains everything you need to know.
You can communicate with new customers using Facebook’s advertising platform, and with existing customers using it for its original purpose; as a social platform.
Helpfully, Facebook now have a US and UK marketing page designed to “share news and best practices for successful business marketing on Facebook” which will no doubt be invaluable to many business owners drifting lost and lonely in the new world of social media advertising and business building.
Facebook advertising is their own pay per click system similar in many ways to Google AdWords, Bing AdCenter, and others. Businesses can use a simple step by step process to create a page (that’s where the social bit comes in), build an audience, then create adverts which take the user either to the Facebook page or away from Facebook and to a website. eMarketer recently reported that Facebook have a 14% share of online display ad space, second only to Google, in 2011.
Recently Facebook added Promoted Posts to its advertising options. This means you can opt to highlight a particular post on your wall to be seen by more people, kind of a paid mix between standard adverts and natural listings. They are added to a targeted user’s News Feed and can be a great way to test new format and new types of content.
Facebook Business Pages have been around for quite a while now, and having your own page is a must for many businesses. These pages provide a social space for you to communicate news and information to users who have opted to ‘Like’ you; and a space for you to engage with them, and they with you. This second part can be a fantastic customer service tool if used correctly, and the downfall of your reputation if you get it wrong. If you are unsure Google ‘Joanna Jones Easy Jet’, learn the lesson, and proceed with caution.
A well maintained business page can lead to large numbers of followers, increased brand awareness, and an increase in brand loyalty as customers are able to communicate with you easily and socially. Please be aware – simply asking people to ‘Like My Page’ over and over will not gain you followers, and will certainly not gain you any new business. Look at Facebook pages such as Fanta, Captain Morgan’s Rum, and Old Spice for great examples by large corporations, or Legendary Whitetails, Chat Noir Books, and Chocolate for Breakfast for great examples by smaller companies.
Twitter is a very different platform to Facebook, though still allows a great deal of communication with users (both to and from) and the same rules apply regarding customer service and proceeding with caution. Examples to Google this time being ‘McDonald’s #McDStories’, ‘Vodafone homophobic tweet’ and ‘Kenneth Cole #Cairo’.
As Twitter is limited to 140 characters you may want to use it as a way to promote special offers and news. Twitter is also frequently used as a customer service tool, and it is likely that prospects and current customers will use it to communicate with you.
There are a number of tools available to help you automate and organise your Twitter account such as Tweetdeck and Hootsuite. From these you can schedule tweets to go out at a predetermined time when you are not at work, as well as monitor brand mentions, messages, and other Twitter users.
Complete your profile with a suitable bio and photo or logo, and update regularly. How often you update depends on the type of business you have, but bear in mind that one sure-fire way to lose followers is to inundate them with updates. When you have something to say, say it. When you don’t, don’t.
By creating a business page which reflects the tone of your company and actively engaging with current and potential clients Twitter can lead to better customer retention, and new leads.
The Twitter account below has easily cost me £150 in the last year or so…
LinkedIn is described by Wikipedia as a ‘…business-orientated social networking site.’ Originally it was used for networking (of sorts) with others in your industry and for job hunting. It has grown since its inception in 2003 to become a successful platform with 106.2 million users globally according to Quantcast. There are also over 2 million business pages on the site which users can follow and engage with. There is both a free and paid version; the free account should be fine for most businesses.
Create a professional looking profile and fill in every section fully and carefully, thinking about the kind of keywords prospects might use to find businesses like yours. Make sure the link to your website and contact details are clear. Next, do some serious networking both within and outside of LinkedIn to build your audience. By serious I mean high quality – not copious amounts of. Start with connections you already have by allowing LinkedIn to check your email account for contacts. Invite contacts who do not use LinkedIn to join.
Get recommendations and endorsements from your clients where possible; this helps validate your business and skills to those who may wish to find out more about you. Give recommendations too, this will encourage reciprocity.
Join LinkedIn groups within your industry to gain access to even more connections, as well as to find out the latest happenings and opportunities you may not have been aware of. You can also post in these groups; be it just the odd comment, news flash, or a full article. Remember who your audience is in groups and be mindful of the content you share – it is a reflection of you and your business.
Follow other companies, especially though you may wish to have as a client. Keep an eye on their activity and engage with them where you can be of help.
LinkedIn can be a great potential source of business when used correctly, showing authority in your field and an openness to communicate.
Social Media Automation
Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook can be automated so that what you post on one will appear on the others. Be aware that each has its own format and layout so posts will not appear the same in each. I would advise you not to automate using Twitter as a starting point as it has the least detail and can leave a barren and unprofessional looking Facebook or LinkedIn post.
Pinterest is a relatively new player in the online marketing field. It is a free to use image based ‘virtual Pinboard’ as the site describes itself. It goes on to say ‘Pinterest allows you to organise and share all the beautiful things you find on the web…’ Though it was not originally intended as a sales tool, marketers quickly hopped on board and began using Pinterest to sell.
According to eConsultancy the site has seen a 786% increase in UK users and a 15x increase in users in the USA between September 2011 to September 2012.
If you sell a product which can broadly be classed as an emotional purchase, Pinterest could see your sales increase in a short space of time. Popular subjects of Pinterest boards are home décor, fashion, art and crafts, food, holidays, travel, kids and of course cats. It is also a great traffic driver for blogs and magazine style sites.
Be sensible with Pinterest, this is more niche than some other platforms. For example, if you run a drainage or tarmac business this is probably not for you. If you do use it, don’t spam your users, keep text short, and make sure each image links to the most highly targeted landing page on your site, don’t link them all to the home page.
80% of all pins are repins, meaning the images have been taken from the original pinboard and shared between boards; this has the potential for massive reach. Following that, it has been said that pins with prices attached get 36% more likes than those which don’t, and the average order placed via Pinterest is around $80. The site saw more than 23 million unique visitors in July 2012 alone, and is now jostling with Facebook for best new customer and sales stats from a social network.
Aside from the marketing potential, the Google+ Business is likely to have an effect on rankings as time goes on, plus you have the ability to add a G+ button to your site which operates in much the same way as the Facebook ‘Like’ button but for Google.
By creating a Google+ business page you can create events and invite anyone whether they are a Google+ user or not via personalised invitations which could help increase attendance at any event to organise. After the event, the Party Mode allows invitees to upload photos and video, as well as leave comments. This could make for great testimonial and credibility material to help gain more clients.
Search Google+ for relevant users to connect with, and groups to join. In many industries you will find ‘shared circles’, the ultimate list of which you can find here. These shared circles are essentially directories of Google+ users listed by industry, which can be added straight into your own. By adding the relevant circles to yours you increase your network and reach. Target others in your field to assist with networking, and search for companies you would like to have as clients and others similar to them. You may wish to start following some of the people they do, to create more links around them. This helps to build a familiarity with your company and make you more recognisable to potential clients.
Post often and answer questions, treating Google+ in much the same way as you would LinkedIn. The search facility allows you to be found, and to find others, +1 other pages and companies, as well as save your searched and monitor brand mentions. By managing your Google+ account properly you can boost brand awareness and authority, plus it is likely that Google+ will become a ranking factor with Google in the future; so get in there early and start building up your authority.
Blogs and Increased Site Content
Blogs are a great way to keep your clients and prospects up to date with the latest news in your industry as well as your company, increasing brand awareness and perceived authority in your field as you go.
If managed correctly, a well written and frequently updated blog should help you spring to mind when your product or service is required. You can increase your number of blog readers by creating an RSS feed, allowing your readers to easily stay informed of your latest updates. If you would like to create an RSS feed for your site this post by Danny Sullivan can help.
You can link your blog to social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, so that each is updated with your latest news which then becomes immediately accessible to all your followers.
Blog posts give you another opportunity to engage with your audience, answer their questions or spark up a (lighthearted, friendly) debate. This can help to build relationships with potential and existing clients, further enhancing loyalty and affinity with your brand. Users are far more likely to convert through a site they feel they have a relationship with than one they have not, so each blog post is a business card, and an opportunity to promote your company.
Each new blog post also has the opportunity to rank, so react quickly to industry updates, promote special offers, and get your site ranking highly and developing more traffic.
You can find more information on all of the subjects covered above in the Koozai blog.
I hope this post has given you some ideas for diversifying your online traffic sources, and I’m sure there are many others both online and offline that I have not included. What other means do you use to drive traffic?
Diversity Image courtesy of BigStock Photo