Listen: we need to talk. Take a seat, pour yourself a stiff drink, and put on your listening hat. Remember what your parents told you about “tough love?” Well I’m going to be dishing out plenty of it, so settle in for a bit.
Let’s get this out of the way: you have an awesome company. Your products and services are top-notch, your employees are dedicated and knowledgeable, and your leadership team is second-to-none. You’ve built an industry-leading organization that’s known for its innovation and superior customer service. And in the past few years, your web-generated leads and organic website traffic have increased steadily.
That’s all well and good; you should be proud of it. But here’s the bad news: if you don’t make some drastic changes in your online marketing strategy — and soon — this digital fortress you’ve built is going to come crashing down. The cracks are already forming . . . you just haven’t noticed them yet.
But your competitors have, believe me. And while you’re following the same antiquated strategy, they’re quietly building a digital juggernaut that’s going to smash through your gates before you realize what happened.
Okay, calm down . . . we can fix this. It’s going to require you to let go of a few habits you’ve formed over the years. You’re going to have to step outside of your comfort zone, embrace strategies that might feel a little strange, and maybe spend a little money to right the ship. But if you accept that you have a problem — and dedicate resources to fixing it — then you can get the jump on your competitors and see some pretty awesome improvements in your online-generated revenue.
So here they are: three things you need to start doing right away in order to stay relevant and stave off your brand’s digital extinction in a quickly-changing world. Don’t feel like taking me advice? That’s fine . . . you should be able to stay afloat. For a little while, anyway. Just remember: once your competitors leave you in the dust, catching up with them will be much harder than it would have been to adapt now.
1. Start Transforming Yourself Into a Media Company
Yes, you read that correctly. I don’t care what it is that you sell; in today’s digital world, you need to transform yourself into a media company to survive. You need to start creating original, useful, entertaining content for your target audiences that answers their questions and stimulates their brains.
Web users are moving away from media outlets that have traditionally provided them with news, entertainment and information . . . and are looking to well-known brands to provide that content, instead. Ritz Crackers gets it: they’re creating engaging content for people who want to learn about cheese, which isn’t even one of their products. Starbucks gets it: they just launched their own full-scale media company to serve up content that has nothing at all to do with coffee.
How does this help their bottom line? By building trust with their audiences. As their target market consumes that peripheral media that these companies produce, they become more comfortable with their brand and start trusting them more. When it’s time for people who visit CheeseRank.com to buy crackers to go with their cheddar, what brand do you think they’re going to pick? Probably Ritz, because they took the time to create that useful cheese guide and provide it to their audience for free.
So stop shoving your products and services down your audience’s throat. Instead, create original, engaging content about peripheral subjects that your target audience is interested in . . . and give it away for free. It might not lead to a immediate sales, but it will help you establish trust, get people talking about you, and create the most important kind of fans your company could have: brand advocates.
2. Turn Your Employees Into Industry Rock Stars
When it comes to websites, today’s search engines hate isolationists. But they love interventionists. That means your company needs to publish content on relevant authority sites other than your own. And you start doing it right away. Not next week, not next month. I’m talking today.
And the best way to do that — aggressively and successfully — is by making industry superstars out of your own employees. Help them identify their passions in your industry, their innovative ideas and their unique analytical voice. And give them all the assets they need to create awesome content that gets published in industry websites, blogs, magazines and newsletters.
“But why,” you might ask, “should I give my employees the spotlight instead of my company and products?” Because giving your employees the spotlight is going to help your company’s bottom line, that’s why. It’s going to help your website’s rankings, build your organization’s reputation as a place that employs thought leaders, and create advocates for your brand. That’s how to win the game, plain and simple.
Listen, I understand why you might be hesitant to let your employees get attention and represent the company. You’re afraid that these employees might get too big for their britches. Or that they might get job offers from competitors once they appear in a widely-read publication.
Trust me: the benefits to helping your employees develop their public profile as an industry expert far outweigh the risks. Your company shouldn’t have just one public face, but many. As the number of publications that your employees appear in expands, you’ll watch site rankings — and profits — increase.
3. Quit Focusing on Keywords Already
I know, I know: you still consider that sacred monthly keyword ranking report to be the most important metric for measuring your online success. You obsess over rankings like a broker watching the stock market. If one of your favorite phrases falls a few places — or, God forbid, drops off of the first page of Google results — then you’re immediately on the phone with your digital agency asking what happened and how it can be fixed.
Targeted keyword rankings are still important, don’t get me wrong. But there are plenty of other key performance indicators that are just as vital — if not more so — to your company’s digital health. Remember: the bills get paid by conversions, plain and simple. And a healthy conversion rate is generated from many different things: onsite user experience, brand trust and awareness, audience relationship building, targeted keyword rankings, and more.
In fact, the keywords you us on specific pages aren’t even the most important factor anymore when it comes to good onsite SEO. In the past, search engines would crawl your website and decide what it was about based on the keyword phrases it used throughout the page copy. Today, however, keywords have taken a backseat to the overall meaning, or “thematic feel,” that search engines get about your site. The Google algorithm is now advanced enough to decide on its own what your site and your company is all about, what services you provide and which consumers you can help most.
Rather than trying to rank for specific phrases by including them in your copy, focus instead on providing useful, relevant content that is written for human beings and helps to define you as a thought leader in your industry. Optimize your pages for a theme, not for a keyword phrase.
So stop obsessing over keywords — both those that are included on your website, and those that your website ranks for. Instead, focus on the real prize: conversions. Revenue. Money in the bank.