The internet has seen many changes over the last 4 years since I started writing these Daily Golden Nuggets. Undoubtedly, a lot of that change was informed by Google, but really there are a lot of other factors involved.
Through the Great Recession, a lot of easier and less expensive technology emerged that now allows us to access information from anywhere at any time. You could argue that the technology companies forced fancy new mobile devices on us; or you could say that the technology development was driven by the desire for people to disconnect from their desktop computers in favor of re-discovering the real world.
Years ago, my family would ridicule me for spending, as they saw it, too much time "staring at my computer screen" and not enough time enjoying life. I'll admit that this was true for me, and I'm sure for a lot of other people. However, when you think about it, many people are still staring at their screens, except they are hand held. What's possibly worse, is that we're all walking around said real world, but looking down into our own personal communicators to maintain a connection with our cybersocieties.
It's not my intention to launch into a philosophical or sociological discussion on human behavior here; I'm simply pointing out a change in behavior so you understand how you also have to change the way you use technology in your marketing. You can still find many black-and-white photos printed in old newspapers and other periodicals, of entire trains and buses of people staring at newspapers. So I'm not here to judge anyone on their sociability!
Up until 2012, the easiest way to capture a customer's attention was through brute force SEO techniques. If you wanted to rank for the phrase "engagement rings," then you needed to include that word on your website a lot, and have a lot of links pointing to you with that phrase as the anchor text
. The highest ranking was held by the websites with the greatest number of links, and the highest keyword density.
This type of SEO was a race for how quickly you could set up those links and finagle the words on your website. In reality, it was a fight to see which company could spend the most money to achieve that high ranking.
When your business lives or dies by your Google ranking, the SEO skills to achieve that ranking were sold at a premium. The dedicated SEO professionals and agencies were making a lot of money from 2007 through 2012, but then Google began to change the nature of the SEO game.
SEO is no longer a matter of hiring a highly paid person. In fact, the number of SEO jobs is on the decline today. To understand the new method of SEO you need to go back and think about how everyone is walking around in the real work with their heads down while looking at those small screens.
Brute force SEO won't get your message into the hands of your potential clients any more. Google is fully tapping into the geo-location features of those mobile devices and returns the most relevant information at that exact moment, for that exact location.
Google's technology is not perfect yet, but it is very sophisticated. Google Maps knows a lot about the real world, but Google Search has a larger database of information about businesses. The new age of SEO is figuring out how to bridge the gap between those two services using creative marketing.
The old ways of SEO was mostly about numbers of things, like the number of words on a page, the number of links pointing to your site, the number of pages on your site, and the number of websites you had. The search winners were the people with the most of everything.
There's still a numbers game, but those numbers are the longitude and latitude as measured from a customer's GPS device (their smartphone) as compared to your business location indicated in Google Maps. The results returned through a smartphone search now need to resonate with the customer in order to catch their attention.
Personally, I'm hoping we'll start to see the good old fashion ads from the days of Madison Ave marketing agencies. I'd love to see a great photo and read amazing copy about a fedora, and I know at least one person reading this would appreciate that too.
The discussion so far today is to prepare you for the new reality of online marketing. In the "olden days," you would need to pay for a website, then pay an SEO company, then pay an SEM company, and pay for a social media management company, and pay for an email marketing service, and somehow hope that all the pieces fit together correctly.
Truthfully, all those agencies hate working with each other, and they blame everyone else when the website and online marketing doesn't perform as planned.
There are many inexpensive SEO agencies you can hire from India or the Philippines, but do you think those companies who live in different countries and in different cultures can create marketing that resonates with your target customer? Of course not. They know how to play the numbers game.
They struggle to stay in business using the same techniques they were using before 2012, and they charge less money to do it. Hiring them seems like a cost savings, but since Google doesn't use those numbers games for ranking any more, you are simply throwing your money away without results.
Savvy marketing agencies are now teaching their employees the basic concepts of SEO so it can be incorporated into their content writing techniques. This is good news for you because you can now hire a single agency to handle both your online marketing and the SEO. The cost should be a little less than hiring two different agencies, and the results should be better because you won't have the bickering that's common between two different agencies.
Extending this SEO and marketing one step further, the thriving website agencies of today are expanding into broader spectrum of services, while those who stay focused on only programming websites have to lower their prices to compete. Ultimately, it's your business that will suffer; your web programmer will probably be at odds with your marketing guy and SEO guy.
With the new shift in geo-targeted search results, hiring multiple inexpensive agencies might seem like a great way to save money, but you'll soon learn you are paying for your own expensive education.
The bottom line is that the nature of how different internet services are sold is evolving just as fast as internet technologies. Small businesses can easily compete with their biggest competitors if their online strategy is agile. Those bigger competitors usually have a longer approval process. Your small business agility only happens if your online presence is managed by a team of people who are excited to work together rather than blame one another for failure.