It's time to give up the SEO dream. You know, the one where you rank in the first position on Google and Bing for every conceivable keyword and phrase related to your product, service or published material. But if search engines didn't exist, would your enterprise? Yes. And here's how.
SEO isn't dead, but it is dying. The trouble with SEO is that there are no rules - and if you've ever played a game without rules (or a game with vague and ever-changing rules, just like those put forth by the search engines) then you know how futile any attempt at "winning" can be. One minute you're in - the next you're out (sigh). Your business should not exist in a commercial landscape like that. The SEO Dream, frequently postulated by those with worse rankings than you in many instances, leads us to believe that with a little planning and commitment - and of course, one more tweak here and there - SEO is easy. In some instances, it is, but as you likely know, there's often a whole lot more involved.
Struggling? You're Not Alone.
You've performed the keyword research, written thought-provoking content on numerous topics related to your website and even earned a few links in the process, with little more than a trickle of users coming in to show for all of it. It's discouraging, disheartening and downright displeasing to see all of your work sit idle and provide no benefit to your business. It does not have to be that way.
First, Some Bubble Bursting
Here comes a cold, harsh reality: the years you've spent "optimizing" your website have been wasted, and it's time to admit it. There's no hope for your website (particularly in competitive verticals), so stop your SEO campaign/efforts right now because there's a much better way to raise awareness, increase website traffic and, finally, start improving the bottom line. In what some might call a "back to basics" approach, let's explore the three C's of digital marketing today - content, community and collaboration.
If you're finally ready to give up the SEO dream, you'll need a plan of action, right? Of course you do, and the following provides just that. When "SEO" is effectively dropped from your marketing vocabulary and your energy is refocused on being useful, helpful and supportive, you'll be impressed just how quickly your digital marketing fortunes change.
The THREE C's of DIGITAL MARKETING
Content, Community & Collaboration
Search engine optimization boils down to but a handful of essential components, particularly content and links. While links (in all their various forms, from directory links to authoritative citations from other websites) likely matter most to search engines (there's little supporting evidence to show otherwise), it is content that garners those coveted links/citations your website needs to move up the search results. But that's not all; if search engines didn't exist, you would also need a community around the content developed to consume it and a dedication to collaborate with others to make sure your enterprise enjoys the awareness necessary to stay top of mind.
Using these three C's, you can give up the SEO dream without giving up on your website entirely, because you can circumvent the traditional practice of SEO (and the dastardly regulations implemented - and frequently changed - by Google and Bing) and still bring traffic to your website. You could even increase it, if you play your cards right and work hard.
Content: Enterprises the Web over recognize that content is the most important element of search engine optimization because it is what is consumed by readers. But creating content with high "find-ability," "share-ability," and "respectability" is no easy feat. To make sure that you're meeting the needs and demands of both website visitors and the search engines, there are some fundamentals to address in every piece of content produced.
Any writing project for the purpose of increasing awareness and, ultimately, sales should of course begin with a keyword research session, but there's much more to consider. The title of articles (arguably the most important SEO element), the length of articles (more in-depth is better), the use of headers and font bolding (in order to guide users through the article), image use (same reason) and, lest we forget, a call to action, are all mandatory in essence. But, it's mostly about the structure of content and how users interact with a website on the SERPs. Developing content should also address the needs of users. Content should satisfy a user's need to be educated, informed and entertained.
If you're looking for some guidance related to content development and marketing, here it is: create more "evergreen" content. Evergreen content is content that stands the test of time - epic sized resources for example (such as our collection of master lists of various software solutions, from SEO to CRM) that can't and won't be ignored by your potential audience. They attract links by their very nature and will be shared (and found) more often.
Community: If the social media phenomenon has taught us anything, it's that community most certainly matters to the success of a digital enterprise. We have collectively moved from a push-based marketing style to a push-and-pull style where the audiences' participation is as important as our own (as a website owner/marketer). When you analyze the most popular digital destinations in your vertical, it will be common to find a few things, such as robust, highly active forums and email lists. Let that be your first step.
The reason that forums and email are vital components to your website success is relatively straightforward. Forums enable users to produce content on your behalf (which relates directly to their own needs), and email provides a measurable way to bring your audience to content published on your site. Fostering a community isn't easy, but when done well, the rewards can be immense.
If you're looking to ramp up your community efforts, explore your existing content management system or weblog platform to determine if there is a forum component that can be enabled. Email marketing, which Email Experience, is another valuable tactic/technique in the Three C's of digital marketing, and fortunately there is no shortage of vendors from which to choose.
Collaboration: The final element of our replacement for SEO is collaboration - it's also the most complicated.
On today's Web, the opportunities to participate in conversations and contribute to the success of others (while simultaneously helping ourselves) have never been greater. There are social networks (of a professional nature, such as LinkedIn, and a hybrids like Twitter, Facebook and Google+) on which you can engage your existing audience and potential visitors. There is both an art and a science to social collaboration, but in the end it boils down to contributing something meaningful to the conversation.
Collaboration, however, extends far beyond social networks. For example, the millions of weblogs on the 'Net are often in great demand for content (perfect for contributed articles/guest posts) and welcome comments on the content they produce. Not collaborating by guest posting and commenting in this fashion could be the reason you're not yet achieving the results you are likely expecting.
The End Result
Very few Web professionals I speak with regularly would ever dare giving up their SEO dreams. The promises made (and mind you they are attractive) are simply too appealing. But what if Google and Bing didn't exist? How would you gain the website traffic you need to keep your website afloat? I think you'll find that you'll still need to create content, definitely need to foster a community and work to collaborate with others.