I recently sent an email to all of my awesome blog subscribers that asked a single question: what is the one thing that will help your business the most? I've received a number of great responses, and wanted to take today to begin to answer one of them.
As a side note, the question I asked falls into the “people know what they don't know” view of people rather than the “people don't know what they want until they're shown” view – something I'll be talking about in posts to come.
With that digression out of the way, here is the question I received back:
As for now, after Penguin, I'd like to read about easy (referring to the time needed) ways to get traffic beyond Google. We as bloggers can't remain at the mercy of something like big G who always push big dogs, Adwords, G+ and everything that make it money nuking small websites. It's their business politics but we must find a way to overcome this kind of web-racket, imho.
[name removed for privacy reasons]
A fantastic question, and one that is on the mind of many marketers as Google continues to pollute its search results with G+ posts in a misguided effort to get people to join G+ and provide “personalized” search results.
In case you're not familiar with the recent Google updated dubbed “Penguin” it's an update on Google's effort to clean up it's search results and reward “high-quality” sites while making life even tougher for web spammers. For more on the update see this post on the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog (as mosts posts I've read offer no real analysis whatsoever, as does this one).
In the face of Pandas, Penguins, and whatever animal Google decides to name its next algorithm update after one thing is abundantly clear – if you don't want to be beholden to Google you need to diversify where your visitors come from, and the two places they hold no dominion are social media and IRL (in real life – not the Internet).
It All Begins With Your Ideal Customer
All talk of branding aside, the first thing you MUST know for your business to succeed is who your ideal customer is. Write the description of this person in painstaking detail and then create a computer wallpaper and put it there, print it out and put it where you'll see it all day everyday, and before you do any marketing or writing read the description again.
Knowing exactly who you can best help is immensely empowering. It means you can safely ignore everyone else. And that's a really good thing to do.
Connecting With Customers In Real Life
By “real life” I mean not on the Internet. That includes networking events, phone conversations, Skype (even though yes it does use the Internet), trade shows, magazines, direct mail, etc. Google doesn't dominate here, and these channels are well established.
Connecting With People on Social Media
By “social media” I mean anywhere you can interact with people outside of your blog. This includes all the biggies – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora, Pinterest, and whatever else marketers determine is the latest flavor of the month.
The key here is to know whether these locations are worth your time, meaning are your ideal customers there? Sites like Quantast and Alexa provide some demographic information, however if the site owners can tell you for realz that's even better. Keep in mind that there are MANY niche forums that could be of immense help.
Once you identify the sites where your ideal customers hang out start a conversation. The relationship may begin as shallow – a tweet here, a mention there, a +1 over there – and later, once you actually talk with people, become much deeper. And if they don't that's okay too – keep at it.
Your Blog + Email Subscription = Awesome
Let's not forget your own business and your email subscribers. Make it as easy as possible for the people you connect with (who in turn are connecting with people you aren't connected to) can share your content. Invite them to ask questions of their own or on behalf of their friends. Hold webinars and ask them to invite a friend. Create a hangout on Google+. Hold a group Q&A using a telephone conference service, and again ask them to invite a friend.
The Key Is Focus
Let me say that again – the key is focus. Focus on your ideal customer. Think of this person as you write your posts. Keep this person in mind as you do searches to find niche forums. Bring the image of this person to the forefront of your mind when you go to events and talk with people.
This is a long-term growth strategy – not a “quick fix” or “get rich quick” type of scheme. If you're serious about building a business that grows over the years and provides you the money, happiness and freedom you want think long-term. Relationships, be they online or offline, take time. Don't forget that, and act accordingly. In the end not only will your business last longer than most, it will sustain you and your clients for life.