The problem here is that the Google (EVIL) Panda Algorithm Update essentially rewards technically-savvy web sites that lack creativity, heart, and innovation. As UberGizmo so effectively illustrated, someone can take original content, not even crediting the source, and out-rank the originator. WTF?
I already had plans to ramp-up my creative efforts and create greater urgency for my fellow writers, marketers, and entrepreneurs but now we REALLY have to motivate! With these new rules in play, what can small businesses, bloggers, and innovators do? I have a few ideas…
Build Referrals On-Page (Internally)
You may have noticed plug-ins, widgets, and applets that automatically generate “related links”. These links can be on-page and off-page sources alike. On WordPress.com, you’re limited and have to do these manually. Categories help but in-line updates to your most popular content will help generate links and, by extension, clicks to other areas of your sites. With every client I work with, the most referrals come from their own site (at least in the beginning of our SEO/SMO efforts).
Make Friends: Build Partnerships And Affiliations
Don’t be afraid to share link juice or support similar efforts. Team up with other small sites and/or businesses to make your collective voices heard amidst all the noise on the Internet. Simple affiliations can function as alliances to help flesh out ideas, cross-promote, and more. Better yet, some of these friends can become partners, work-out buddies and collaborators with interest fully-vested in your success as a team.
Approaching projects as a team is something I’m working more on because, even though I’ve built a vast network of friends and fellow geeks, my DIY (Do It Yourself) mentality often has me going solo on projects, mainly because I am protective of my babies (my ideas). Once you realize every idea has been thought of but few have been executed properly or put in front of the right people, it eases the process a lot more!
Re-Use And Recycle: Timeless Topics CAN Beat Trending Topics
I’ll be re-visiting the subject of what makes content timeless but, for now, suffice to say that some things are good out of the period they were released in and others are not. If you have content that will always be relevant or interesting, keep promoting it. Some of the more aggressive bloggers re-tweet and broadcast their most popular blogs every day. That’s a bit much.
You don’t want arthur erosion to take place by creating junk or spamming, but getting your stuff out there often keeps traffic flowing in. Beware of trending topics as they are often what I call “flavors of the moment” and won’t stand the test of time.
Put Social Media And Communication Tools To Real Work
You may feel like you do all the right things whenever you write, release a product, or offer a new service: you Tweet about it, update your Facebook fan page, and maybe even use social bookmarking and/or directory sites. These work but they don’t do all the work for you.
Social media and communication is only as good as your captive audience and, these days, that group can change on a whim. Your best bet is to sprinkle in promotions, contests, and freebies to cultivate and engage your community (more on that in a bit). More importantly, use tools like Quora, Yahoo Answers, Wikipedia, and Squidoo to keep conversations going. Using guest bloggers works too because it “edifies” your guests and further establishes authority and credibility. You’ll have to reach out to people individually for the best results since most people tune out broadcasts these days; after all, we are living in age where DVRs, downloadable content, and online streaming help people keep the interruptions down to a minimum while getting quick fixes at their convenience.
Be Persistent And Consistent With Site Updates And Tweaks
Frequent site updates still matter and always will. An active web site tells search engines to come back often to index new pages and archive updated content. Using a site map, breadcrumbs, and text-only links will help search engines get all the right stuff off your site while creating further ease-of-use for your visitors. Even the slightest tweak will count but I say go in every day with specific optimizations in mind. This is where good “housekeeping” comes into play…
Do Some Housekeeping: Clean Up Content For Faster Load Times And Ease Of Use
I love widgets and I love giving my audience different ways to consume and digest my content; however, even I know too much stuff going on can be a bad thing! Large images, overloaded sidebars, and massive applets can slow down site load times unless you’re clever with scripting and have mastered progressive loading tricks. Even so, try to find the things that visitors don’t really use and see if they should be removed or relocated.
The things you definitely want site-wide are your top article links (5-10 should suffice), subscription buttons, and a “Home” button, of course. Other things I recommend are categories (if you manage them better than I have here on Y3B LOL) and/or tag clouds (if you’re consistent with your tags). Affiliate links are good but avoid huge banners. Just remember: what attracts YOU when you visit a site and what turns you off? If you’re a techie like me, fighting the urge to install something merely due to the coolness factor is tough but necessary! I know I will be redoing my categories, widgets, tags, and backlinks for months to come – there’s just no getting around the need for housekeeping!
Master Promotions: Offer Freebies As Link Bait And Retention Tools
As much as the Internet has changed, people still like free stuff and bargains. Contests, promotions, sweepstakes, and giveaways are all things folks actively search for. Us little guys don’t always have big-budget dollars to spare (especially if we’re trying to stay indie) but there’s almost always something you can give for free. Consider offering the following:
- Something cool you no longer need or want, like a video game or electronic device.
- A free natural link in the form of a review, feature, or recommendation, assuming you’ve built up enough authority and/or PageRank.
- Transferrable tickets to an event you likely will end up skipping/missing.
- A guest spot on your blog, show, podcast, magazine, or ezine.
- A free lesson in the form of one-on-one training, Q&A sessions, e-mail consultation, and/or handbooks or “cheat sheets”.
- Reusable code or applets/widgets with built-in backlinks pointing to the original site (yours).
- A free download that aligns with your current offerings and projects.
The last item is the real winner here. Depending on your primary industry, you may be positioned to offer a video game, white paper, webinar, web-based service, or other item that otherwise is sold to your customers. This in turn creates WOMM (word of mouth marketing) opportunites and generates referrals. It’s also good PR!
The trick here is to create value and get your audience excited about what you’re offering. In exchange, all they have to do is leave a thoughtful comment, link back to your site, create the winning banner/logo.. You get the idea. This stuff will all drive traffic to your site and function as link bait.
I know a lot of writers and service providers publish white papers, e-books, “cheat sheets”, and quick-start guides to show their audience some of what they can get for a premium, whether it’s a subscription-based service or one-time fee. That has seen great success for many small and start-up sites alike. Applets and widgets such as counters, news tickers, calculators, and the like are also gold in our business so long as you always plug your site somehow.
Remember Seth Godin’s words: DO NOT departmentalize marketing. Promoting your “thing” is the job of all those involved!
Go Public: Broadcast And Bookmark Key Content And Projects Using Social Tools
All the updates, perks, and offerings in the world mean nothing if people don’t know about them so go public! Again, put those social platforms and communication tools to good work. Being diligent with our roles as marketers means becoming master promoters. Learn what excites your audience most and keep giving them more. This will ensure you have a good balance of new and return visits. It’ll also help you reduce bounce rates if you promote and manage expectations properly. That means no false advertisements, folks!
Content Marketing: Syndicate, Share, And Sell Your Content
Everyone’s content is worth something because, somewhere out there, people are looking for what you are offering! The only way to find those folks is to get your content out there in other communities. Placing more concise versions of your most popular content on discussion boards (a.k.a. forums), social sites, article databases, and the like helps bring in new visitors while adding value to those sites as well. It’s what they refer to as “equivalent exchange” on Full Metal Alchemist (great Anime, BTW) and it works!
Our Next Steps As Online Marketers And Bloggers
First and foremost, I plan to visit more blogs, Tweeters, and Squidoo lenses to meet more like-minded geeks. Be sure to bookmark, comment, subscribe, and follow, as appropriate. Not everyone will return the favor but it’s a good place to start! At the very least, we’ll see what others out there are doing and maybe get some good ideas.
I have to seriously tweak my categories. You see, I launched this blog about 5 years ago before tags were implemented. Now I have all this clutter and it’s driving me nuts. Chances are you don’t use tags and categories consistently either. It’s probably driving our audience nuts too.
As such, consolidating redundant keywords will be important while establishing continuity. To do this, I will change keywords so that they appear throughout related posts. I will also use proper titles to denote articles as part of a series (i.e. “Work From Home Success” and “Gaming Industry Talk”). This will and should be an ongoing project for both of us (you and I are in this For The Win, are we not?) – it’s a long, arduous road again!
We should also look more closely at our site stats and analytics. Review the top content for the month versus the year and all time. Look at the keywords that are performing the best for your blog and how you currently rank on Google. Interesting stuff, eh? We have a lot of work to do, my friend!
You’ll hear folks talking about bounce rate. This is an important performance metric. Basically, a high bounce rate means that people are leaving your site quickly, likely because your content doesn’t match what they seek or isn’t interesting enough. We have to work on this too!
With Google’s new algorithm, quality content is more important than ever but you can no longer forego good SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SMO (Social Media Optimization) practice.
Call To Action: What are your site/blog plans now that Google has upped the stakes once again? How can we help each other? Comment below and let’s discuss!