*Note: This post first appeared on the Australian Businesswomen’s Network blog. Read it here.
I made the trek to Sydney last Thursday week to attend the Traffic & Conversion Summit by the team over at Digital Marketer from Houston, Texas to learn all about the latest in SEO for small business.
I didn’t go with any expectations — I even thought about cancelling because I was so busy with other things — but I dragged my two Simons along (my partner and our Digital Marketing Manager, Simon Phillips) in the hope I might learn at least one new thing.
Ohhh emmm geee.
Can I just say, the first day was worth 1,000 times what it cost us to go. Our heads were spinning. We were like kids in a candy store, Cheshire cats with ear to ear grins pondering all the new opportunities we’d just been exposed to.
The world is changing fast and we were immersed in some of the greatest marketing and entrepreneurial talent of all time.
Some of the most amazing technology and marketing ideas were being presented before us and the venue was buzzing.
Like the adaptable ear plugs that block out certain noises like a baby crying on a plane (wish I had that a few weeks ago on my treacherous 36-hour Cancun flight), or the sirens screaming down below your inner city office building when you’re trying to pump out a blog. (Shut the ef up, would you?)
Or the device you can stick to your neck and forehead to change your mood in 5 minutes.
Or the fearless 21-year old guys who will have invented drone space planes by the end of 2016. Can you just imagine what the two-year-olds of today will be like in 20 years?
It was utterly mind-boggling and we were on the edge of our seats with excitement.
But aside from all the cool gadgets we’ll soon see in stores, my biggest lesson and most profound insight was what’s happening with SEO.
We knew a fair bit about SEO already but the T&C Summit just connected the dots for us and confirmed a lot of what we were feeling. It is so much more than just SEO – it’s a whole other ball game now and can achieve amazing authentic results… for anyone!
It’s as though SEO & PPC like Facebook Ads and Google Adwords is morphing into a beautiful butterfly and giving small businesses a set of wings.
SEO as we know it is being replaced by something much more complex, more intricate, but more powerful.
A lot of these concepts are quite new and no doubt overwhelming for most small business owners just like you, which is why…
I wanted to share my non-techy translation of what’s in store for SEO for small business and what it means for you.
If you still want to be in business in the next 2-3 years I suggest you grab a cuppa and pull up a pew.
This stuff is important.
Insight #1: The days of free traffic are
over — you either buy it or earn it, but you’re paying either way whether it be in money or time.
Jeff Deutsch explains the crash of free traffic, and link building more particularly, in his post titled ‘ Confessions of a Google Spammer’. Before he became an inbound marketer, he used to make $50k per month working just 10 hours a week spamming Google for his SEO clients.
That was just 3 years ago.
Here’s what can happen when someone tries to game Google:
Google is the most advanced company of our time. What we can barely imagine, they’re already working on.
So it’s just naive to think that we can outsmart them by changing some onsite metrics and building a few links around the web. That’s still valuable so long as they’re quality contextual links of course, but it’s now only about 20% of the success equation. It’s much more sophisticated than it once was not long ago and it’s only going to get more complex.
There is no such thing as free traffic anymore so you better just get used to it. 😉
You can however make it a slightly easier pill to swallow if you think of your traffic as an‘investment’ rather than a cost.
Remember, everyone has to pay for traffic — not just you. So it’s time to get serious about it.
Insight #2: ‘Entertainment’ versus ‘information’ and why you should turn your business into a Disneyland experience
Great businesses exist to serve a market.
What market do you serve?
Your job as an entrepreneur is to deliver value to your market but it’s also about delivering an experience.
They give you the experience of a lifetime and then make you walk through the gift shop on the way out.
It’s a fact that ‘Entertainers’ make more money than people who publish ‘Information’ so the key insight here is to become an entertainer.
- How can you make doing business with you fun?
- How can you make it entertaining?
- How can you build a Disneyland for your clients?
Figure that out and your business will explode.
Insight #3: Small businesses must become ‘media.’ Full stop.
Following on from investing in your traffic, think about your business like a media company designed to find as many readers as possible to build your audience.
Because from readers, you can create buyers. And buyers, readers.
You can even then splinter off audiences and multiply your interests by creating different niche sites, either related or not, to who you currently serve.
Digital Marketer used the example of their Survival Life website; a site designed for extreme people who want to go it alone in the middle of a desert for a month — with nothing more than a half full water bottle and piece of plastic cord.
They surveyed their audience and surprisingly found they had a lot of women on their list so they started a Home DIY & craft project type site for their female audience, then invited them to join.
From that they created a DIY home gardening site for extreme gardeners and from there? A makeup tutorial site — each now producing huge revenues for Digital Marketer.
Who would have thought you could create a makeup tutorial website off the back of a Macgyver style survival site?
So don’t lock yourself in your little bubble of what you do now. Digital is moving so fast and it’s your duty as a business owner to keep up.
Open your eyes to the limitless opportunities that the digital world has created for us — they’re ripe and keen for the picking.
Insight #4: The power lies with the small business entrepreneur — not the Walmart giants.
I really enjoyed being part of an army of enthusiastic, passionate small business entrepreneurs. The comradery was electric and this common theme of ‘small business is where it’s at’ really made me proud.
The lesson here is not to be intimidated by your big competitors and their even bigger budgets.
Together, the small business community can power massive online audiences, create global movements and contribute hugely to society AND the economy on
many different levels.
So play big.
The digital world and technology is making tsunami waves and it’s up to you to decide which one to catch. Limitless opportunity awaits us all; it’s a level playing field. We just need to adopt a fearless mentality and dive in for the ride.
Insight #5: Epic content will win the race so become a content aggregator.
Think of the blogs you write. You put your thinking hat in the shower, do a bit of research and sit down for a couple of hours to smash out some words worthy of your audience’s attention.
You proofread it, sleep on it, proof it again in the morning then hit publish the next day. You send it out to your list, respond to a few comments and get on with business. All the while your blog sits there collecting dust. And then you do it all again next week.
But what if you approached blogging from a completely different perspective?
What if you instead wrote one blog every two months
and for those two months you poured over the web finding as much data, content, statistics, resources and videos that you could, and you created an EPIC mashup of every other resource known to man on the topic you’re writing about?
The mother of all list blogs on your specific niche linking to everyone else’s stuff and creating the ULTIMATE piece of content that people would gladly pay you for?
THAT my friend is where it’s at.
Epic content and content aggregation to create the ultimate user experience is where it’s going. Real world connections and crafting real world experiences online is the future.
Think about it.
What would you rather do as a browser?
Spend weeks trawling the net trying to seek out suitable play-dough craft projects for the kids, or land on one epic resource that has the best of the best all listed in one place?
So how can you transform the content you create into EPIC, shareworthy, evergreen content that will send droves of traffic to your site for years to come?
Insight #6: VXO is the new SEO.
I want to first preface this with an apology for the use of acronyms. If you know me already you know that I have a strict ‘No Jargon Policy’ over at Web123 but I threw this one in to pique your curiosity as you really need to be across this 100%.
So what is VXO?
As I mentioned, Google is getting smarter by the second. Not only are they ranking your site based on mobile compatability, keywords and authority links, they’ve upped the anti with factoring in onsite visitor engagement to their algorithm, making it even harder for the average small business owner to singlehandedly compete.
VXO stands for ‘Visitor Experience Optimisation’.
Kind of like Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) but for the visitor experience.
What is Google looking for exactly?
- How long people stay on your site
- Number of page views
- Type of content consumed
- Whether they scrolled or not and if so, how far
- Did they convert?
- When are where did they exit?
What does this mean for you?
You need to start optimising each and every page for the optimum visitor experience.
In our industry this is heavily tied in with UX, which is ‘User Experience’ and in theory a lot of the same principles apply.
The more boxes you tick when people arrive, and the longer you keep them engaged and exploring your site, the more traffic Google will award you.
Insight #7: The great pixel land rush.
Of course, I had to save the best for last. We were doing a lot of eyeball pops and ah-ha’s when they unleashed this baby on us.
Here’s a brilliant quote from Digital Marketer:
“The future of traffic is not about who can get the most clicks the cheapest — it’s about who has the most people pixeled.”
– Ryan Deiss, Digital Marketer #tcs2015
What on earth does being pixeled even mean?
(I knew you’d ask that!)
It comes back to retargeting, or remarketing as some call it.
You know when you visit a site and then their ads chase you around Facebook and the interwebs for days or even weeks at a time — everywhere you go, they’re there?
Well, you’ve just been pixeled.
Digital Marketer’s prediction is that the future of traffic lies in capturing as many pixels as you possibly can so you can use retargeting advertising methods to buy traffic at more competitive rates.
You can segment your pixels in all sorts of ways and get really smart with what you show them.
E.g. If I visited your site today, but didn’t opt-in to your newsletter or free lead magnet, you could show me an ad on Facebook that looks like this:
You wouldn’t know my name but it really doesn’t matter.
They are not hard to set up, you just have to think through how you would normally interact in thereal world with a real person, then craft your marketing and SEO strategy around that.
You wouldn’t talk about marriage and kids on the first date with someone would you? That would just be creepy.
You’d get to know them, buy them a drink, maybe take them out for dinner and then 6 months in maybe kids and marriage would come up in conversation.
The same rings true for digital marketing and SEO.
Smart conversion funnels that wine and dine your readers to convert them into buyers should now be front and centre for SEO companies today.
So what does all this mean for the effectiveness of your current SEO campaign?
If you’re feeling like your SEO has lost its puff, the reasons I’ve outlined in this post are most definitely why.
We’ve been refining and perfecting our own SEO packages over the last few months to incorporate a lot of these new factors and the T&C Summit really just solidified everything we’d been doing.
What we discovered was that they’re really not ‘SEO packages’ anymore.
Our Digital Marketing Manager (AKA digital Guru) Simon Phillips, used to run a reputable SEO company so he’s no idiot when it comes to this stuff but even for him, the T&C Summit really did a great job at connecting the dots, validating how the SEO landscape has changed and most importantly, providing us with a ton of intelligent strategies to harness for clients.
So much so that we’ve re-labeled our SEO packages to be “Customer Acquisition Programs”instead — because it’s so much more than just SEO.
So if you’re feeling like your SEO is stale and has lost its puff, talk to your SEO company about the latest changes and ask about:
- Heat mapping software to see exactly what people are doing
- Intelligent design hacks to get people scrolling on your site
- Killer copy to communicate your point of difference quickly and effectively
- Cutting-edge marketing tactics to get people pixeled
- Well-executed conversion funnels to automatically convert them to leads, and
- Cost effective traffic strategies to fill your funnel to the brim.
And that’s just the beginning!
I told you the Googles were smart. 😉
Just for giggles, here’s a pic of me and Simon Phillips crouching down for a photo with Ryan Deiss. Don’t ask me why we’re both standing like this, we must have felt sorry for him because he’s so short… or maybe we thought our heads wouldn’t make the shot.
And just because no conference wrap up is complete without a trusty photobomb of one of the hosts this is Richard Lindner, an extremely witty hilarious guy, a brilliant marketer and President of Digital Marketer (and two loons in the back).
Tell me, what do you make of all this SEO stuff? Does it excite you or make your head spin? Sound off in the comments!