If you've been online for more than 10 minutes, you have no doubt heard the term “SEO“, which stands for “Search Engine Optimization”. It's a term that has been around one nanosecond less time than the search engines themselves.
Some really smart people quickly figured out that if you could rank #1 on the most popular search engine at the time (currently Google), you could take in the lion's share of traffic–that is, people searching for a given keyword phrase usually look at only the first few results on the first page of Google and then they click one of them.
There became a cottage industry of “SEO's” who specialized in getting web sites ranked at the top of the search engines. They were highly-paid and highly-respected and sought after.
How did they rank these sites near the top of the SE's? The SEO business has evolved over the past couple of decades; what worked in 1996 doesn't work nearly as well today–if at all.
White hat or black hat?
Basically, all the SEO methods boiled down to tactical schemes that ranged from “white hat SEO” to the blackest of “black hat SEO“. I won't go into a long diatribe about what those methods were or what constituted the difference between whitehat SEO and blackhat SEO. It's immaterial at this time.
But I will say this – Google has gotten very good at 2 things:
- Figuring out who is trying to game the system
- Providing really good results in most cases
There will always be exceptions, of course. Google often takes seemingly forever to discern when somebody is playing games with SEO schemes (mostly in getting “backlinks”); on the other hand, they are known to overreact and not really care about the collateral damage they inflict when they do.
Panda and Penguin are two very good examples of that.
Google, being the 800 pound gorilla in the search engine world, is the leader. They throw their weight around. And most SEO's who were successful in building out their own sites as well as customer sites are gone. They vanished. Left the building. Google drove them out of town. A lot left kicking and screaming.
No doubt because they saw their golden eggs get cracked alongside the murder of their goose. SEO work was big money (still is).
But none of that mattered then and it really doesn't matter now. Sure, there are SEO gurus who can rank anything at the top of Google. They have the private blog networks, the outreach, and the SEO chops to get it done.
You don't (probably).
SEO has always been a game to me. The real business is in getting traffic to your site and then converting that traffic to customers or subscribers (who then become customers). That's the end game–drive qualified traffic to your offers. Then convince them to buy.
It's really just that simple.
All traffic comes from one source and one source only: Referrals.
Nobody just “dreams up” your exact URL, fires up their browser, and then hits your web site. They either find your site's URL on another site, on a business card, in a directory like the phone book, on the side of a van, or they find you after doing a web search (which technically is finding your site on another site, just in this case it's Google and not “Uncle Henry's Blog About Everything” – interesting, right? That site hasn't been updated since 2009, yet it still ranks #1 for that term – goes to show if you choose “the right words” you can rank 'em!)
The first rule of internet marketing is getting traffic. Beg, borrow, or steal it–it doesn't matter. Just “get the hits”. Or in today's parlance, “get the uniques”.
I guarantee you that if you get massive traffic, you will find your site climbing the search engine rankings.
Most people think that getting to the top of the SE's gets you more traffic. And it does. But it's easier to do it the other way around: Go get the traffic and watch your rankings rise.
You can buy paid ads like Google AdWords or Facebook advertising, you can guest post for other bloggers, and you can use social media to your advantage. Marketing your business on Facebook, Google+, and YouTube may be all that you need to do to rank very highly in the search engines. Couple that with a few well-placed links on other people's sites (i.e., earned links) and you have a winner.
Converting browsers to buyers
The second and final rule of internet marketing is to convert that traffic to buyers (or subscribers, who then become buyers). In order to maximize your conversion rate, you need to do (at least) 3 things:
- Send qualified traffic to your offers
- Have compelling offers
- Write “good enough” copy
You can buy crappy traffic, but it won't do you any good if they don't convert. You may weigh less but all the weight lost will be from your pocket. And from wasting away because you don't have enough food to eat.
Like I said before, beg, borrow, or steal your traffic–but get qualified leads. You want people to arrive at your website willing to read or watch or listen to whatever you put in front of them. The last thing you need is a bunch of “tire kickers” who do nothing but visit and leave. That's not good for sales and it's not good for your SEO pursuits, either. Google uses visitor time on the site and page views as one of 200+ ranking factors.
So poor-quality traffic kills you on at least two fronts.
Once a visitor gets to your site, you have to make some sort of offer if you want to run a successful internet business. Once there, visitors are compelled more by the offer than your sales copy, even though that can count for a lot. At the end of the day, it's what you offer your browsers that converts them to customers, much more so than how you tell them about your offer.
I won't say that killer copy skills won't sell more; that would be preposterous. But all things considered, a great offer with “good enough” copy will trump a crummy offer with a mad skillz copywriter at the helm.
Obviously, putting both together is ideal. But in this world of resource constraints, put your money and time into the offer and hire a copy writer if need be.
Forget About SEO
The short story is that you really shouldn't mess with typical SEO. It's a waste of time buying or building hundreds upon hundreds of backlinks, forum profiles, article spinning, and social media shenanigans. That stuff may have worked in 2011, but it doesn't work so well today.
I won't say it doesn't help. But you could spend your time more wisely on things like building the best offer you can, recruiting affiliates, and putting together an outreach plan that will get other people to promote your web site.
All that stuff is “free” (as in no money spent). Traditional SEO can be free but to be most effective, you need to pay a pro to do it for you and even then, there are no guarantees.
However, if you concentrate on the end (sales), you can work your way backwards to a winning web site. Create a product or service that solves a problem. You do this by observing consumers in your niche. Then write some compelling copy and enlist some JV partners and affiliates. Let them send you the traffic. After all, it will be well-qualified traffic. Then watch your traffic build and your search rankings improve.
It's a simple formula. But it's done wrong 99 percent of the time. Be the one percent!
For more reading on SEO, check out some of my other posts:
And don't forget to add the Backlink Search Tool to your Chrome browser–it will help you with your own outreach program.