I had the rare chance to sit down with a former colleague last week for the sake of comparing notes and discussing strategy in the ever evolving SEM landscape. Over coffee, he told me that there was no way to successfully market a web site without committing money to it for directory inclusion, PPC efforts and link building.
I felt badly because I knew exactly why he also complained to me that his sites were not generating any revenue for him. The bottom line is that he was guilty of sitting back and expecting things to happen for him.
It’s simply not 2002 anymore. Google is not updating every month… You can’t use forms to submit links to actively indexed pages and get a full crawl overnight. There’s no quick and easy way for inclusion that you will be told about. It’s a cutthroat industry and like most SEMs out there, I’m going to hold any tricks I know of close to the vest.
But you don’t need tricks or gimmicks to be successful. You just need a solid commitment and desire to succeed.
Case in Point, My New Blog
When I started my career I was writing articles weekly for Search Engine Guide, SEO Today and ISEDB. After taking a few years off from writing, I decided earlier this week to get back into it. I registered this domain on January 15th. In five days’ time, the site is averaging 166 unique visitors and 285 page views. This of course excludes my own traffic because I can parse my logs (more on this later). While that’s not a gold mine of traffic, it has been targeted — and often times, just one targeted visitor is all you need to be successful.
If you dedicate yourself to providing quality information — the traffic will come. The SEM industry is such that you no longer need to rely on Google as your primary source of traffic. It can and will help you — but there’s a lot more out there if you just take the time to get it’s attention.
Use Social Networking to Your Advantage
Social networking is no longer built just for bloggers and high-schoolers. There are a number of resources that professionals can use to market their content, including profiles on MySpace, MyBlogLog, and LinkedIn.
Using these sites you can find thousands of people interested in your industry. Once you have made your introduction and befriended them — don’t be shy — drop your URL in front of them and ask them to check it out.
I’ve been particularly impressed with how well you can use MyBlogLog to your advantage here. Just by clicking through I’ve come across some great sites and blogs that I never would have known about. Suddenly, my Google Reader has a bunch more feeds to parse and I’ve got a lot more to read up on… but that’s a great thing for me… which is why social networking is so important in the first place — it provides you with information you can’t find easily on the search engines.
I don’t look at other SEM bloggers as my competition — I see them as connections that I need to be successful. You need to do the same thing with others in your competitive space because they will force you to see something in a different way. Armed with a new point of view, force yourself to write another page of content. If you do this, you’re guaranteeing yourself more visitors.
(Side note… There are other sources too, from Digg to Technorati and beyond — but I’m trying to restrict this to site marketing — not blog marketing.)
Review the Sites Who Have What You Want
I know that there are SEM factors that you cannot counter as a new site. The most important of which is probably going to be the age of your domain. Unless you’ve bought and quickly re-hosted your site on an older domain — winning the battle of the SERPs can be a tremendous challenge.
Using tools like Wordtracker, get to know more about what your targeted audience is after. Then, start checking the top engines for the primary sites who are being successful where you want to be. Start an Excel spreadsheet up, and begin tracking things like:
- Google PageRank
- Alexa Ranking
- Indexed Backlinks
- Keyword Density
- Age of Domain
- Homepage Cache Dates
- Number of Pages Indexed
Aside from Alexa rankings and Google PR, keep track of the data across at least the big three (Google, Yahoo and MSN). Doing this on a weekly basis for even a dozen sites will show you where these sites are growing, where they are lacking, and how they’ve become successful.
Using that newfound knowledge to your advantage, be prepared to compete with those stats — not with the sites. Trying to bury a specific site in the SERPs leaves you with a clouded vision of success. This game isn’t about ranking for a specific term — it’s about growing your site out and marketing in such a way that you achieve maximum profitability… and fun.