Before I proceed, I wanted to mention that the battle for Net Neutrality rages on. Subscribe to the Free Press newsletter to see why this matters. In a few words, privatizing the Internet (going against Net Neutrality) will make it harder for us little guys to stay competitive and making a living. That puts this article into perspective because SEO/SEM and SMO help people with little or no budget dollars get their “thing” discovered.
There are plenty of quacks out there and it only feeds into the whole vibe that online marketing, especially SEO and SMO, is a black art. Truth be told, the non-technical part of SEO and SMO alike are where you want to focus anyway. Nowadays, we see a paradigm shift whereas search engines are rewarding quality content and natural promotions as opposed to ranking keyword-crammed, hacked-up junk high.A few years back, SMO as we know it was not really a thought in the minds of most. SEO was more about on-page updates such as headers, meta tags, keyword density, and the like. This stuff has value still but search engines are trying to reward unique content and authentic experiences more. Of course, there’s the matter of the Google Panda Algorithm Update and how that creates greater urgency for those of us with remarkable content to step things up.
Before I go into my usual rant, I’ll tackle the reality of SEO and SMO as a bullet point list. Here are the myths and truths of online marketing and advertising:
- You need lots of money to be competitive online. False. While paid services and software can help, it’s best to master the mundane of SEO of SMO first and keep it simple.
- You need special software to do SEO and SMO. False. Tools help, as always, but you still need to do the legwork.
- If I convey my belief and passion, my content will have more value. True. This is part of building an authentic experience.
- If I tell a good story, people will come (and return). True. There’s more to it than that but there is definitely more value in telling good stories and getting “intimate” with your audience. You don’t need to be a coding master or an awesome writer, though that doesn’t hurt!
- You can spam links to rank up fast. False. There is a shift towards quality over quantity, especially now. Natural links by way of reviews and in-line citations carry more value than site-wide links and mass-blasted links.
- All I need to do is jump on a niche or popular trend from the beginning to attain a massive audience. False. Keeping your focus small helps but jumping on the bandwagon can hurt your long-term growth.
- Social media does not end with viral videos. True. Social media revolves around user-generated content and warm connections so any opportunity to empower your audience and put a face to your top supporters counts!
The list can go on and on but here’s the take-away: SEO is about building quality content and creating quality, natural links to that content. SMO is about sharing that content and cultivating your community. Together, SEO and SMO is all about boosting visibility and loyalty.
Building Value Into Your Content Without Spending Money
Be wary of people with their success stories touting their $200 software as a tool that automates everything for you. No such solution exists. Ultimately, you just have to give your audience reasons to care and, as Seth Godin says, be sure to include a “Free Prize Inside”. The technical stuff helps but leave that to the professionals; otherwise, you can actually get your web pages buried rather than ranked up.
A “free prize” is anything that can have great value for the right person. Your content itself can be the prize or reward, which is the case with Wikis/knowledgebases, how-to, and DIY sites. These sites get a ton of traffic but don’t dismiss lifestyle web sites, which often focus on personal life stories and anecdotes. Any opportunity to get your audience to relate to you creates great value for your intellectual property.
Where Do You Start With SEO And SMO?
I can go step-by-step on what I do for clients to launch their businesses and creative works but, really, the basic process is simple: see what sites are similar to yours and copy what they do. Figure out who links or mention their most popular, highest-ranking pages. See what keywords and search terms they rank highest on. Chances are they’re getting lots of free advertising. This is especially true for more specific topics and long-tail keywords.
No matter how much algorithms and underlying rules change, it all comes back to building remarkable content and getting people excited about it. As you’ll often find me saying, focus on organic traffic by building quality legs; that is, more places and ways for people to find your content (when they’re not on your site). You absolutely must get your audience involved too. Give them reasons to want to share your content with others (this is where you have to get creative).
I’ve been able to double and triple Y3B traffic through a few simple methods: regular site updates, sending updates via social sites, and optimizing categories and tags on new and old content. Social bookmarks are awesome. I particularly like StumbleUpon because it is very organic in itself. Whatever tools you use, remember to balance on-page and off-page promotion and optimization efforts. You want to create compelling content, establish “two-way relevancy”, and announce major updates and efforts.
Consider this real-life example as a metaphor: you own the coolest little cafe where people can use free Wi-Fi while they wait for their electronic gadgets to be repaired. People love your place and you have no local competition but you’re just not getting enough new customers. Word-of-mouth marketing helps but you’re not announcing and advertising what you’re doing so it’s almost like you don’t exist. The same applies on the Internet. Go public with your efforts – buzz starts with you (then your avid supporters, your community)!
Why You Should Care About Online Promotion
The dawn of social media has made it easier for small businesses, freelancers, bloggers, and independent talents to get noticed. The competitive landscape is more level than it has been in over a decade, I’d say. If you truly love what you do, why NOT making a living out of it? I used to think that monetizing your creative efforts ruined the authenticity and purity of your content but that doesn’t have to be the case. Just be honest and forthcoming with your intentions. When your audience sees the reasons, principles, and vision driving your life’s work, they will appreciate you more.
Now that we’ve established that SEO and SMO are not so elusive after all, maybe we can have more fun with online marketing and promotion of our content. I can’t wait to launch my next site and blog and I hope you are more excited now too. You can do it! Of course, if you need assistance, I know a competent person that can do it “on the cheap” (namely, yours truly). *wink-wink, nudge-nudge*
What plans do you have now for your creative work? I’d like to hear what your experience with online marketing has been. Do you see the value in building up collaboration and community? How much of your online work do you outsource? Please comment and we’ll discuss further!