Stop the Madness!!! Let’s Settle Down and Focus on the Basics

There is a ton of hype around search engine optimization and social media marketing these days. Every time I turn around I trip over an article that focuses on short term tactics to “get found online.” I have one word of advice for businesses of all sizes (ok, well maybe three).

Stop the Madness!!!!

That’s right, I’m suggesting that everyone take a step back, take a deep breath, and re-focus. Sometimes I think my head is going to explode if I read one more tip on whether or not Facebook is good for B2B, how many times a week one has to blog to be successful, or my favorite – the latest reason that SEO has been declared dead once again.

I’m tired of Google bashing, SEO “professionals” whining, and business owners not taking ownership of their online presence. Let’s face it folks, if there was an easy way to build an on-line business everyone would be doing it. Developing a business and a loyal customer base is hard work – it always has been and it always will be.

Short cuts may work when you’re trying to get from one physical location to another, but they’ve never proven valuable when it comes to the things that are really important in life such as relationships – and building a business is about relationships with people not search engine algorithms or social network platforms.

Many of the SEO tactics that have been deemed ‘acceptable’ over the past few years are now being penalized and people are left scratching their head and wondering why. I want to shout Duh! at the top of my lungs.

One of my favorite conversations that illustrates what’s wrong with many of these tactics goes something like this:

“One of the complaints I have about my current SEO agency is that they write really horrible content. It’s full of grammatical errors, doesn’t really tell a story, and doesn’t read well.”

To which I respond, ” I can see how that would be frustrating, do you end up re-writing the content?”

“Oh no – they’re publishing it on websites that none of my prospective customers would every visit. So I figure if no one sees it it doesn’t matter if the content is bad and the great thing is that my website is getting the link juice from the inbound link.”

Face Palm!!!  Head Slap!!!

In my opinion, this is so wrong on so many levels I can’t even begin to describe it. I get it – they were told (and I understand why) that inbound links are a ‘vote’ for your website and the more you have the better. What was omitted or maybe ignored begs the question – “Why would you want to have content published on a website that none of your prospective customers will ever see?”

So let me take a step back before this becomes just a rant without helpful information.

Here’s what’s important to succeeding online:

  • Have a solid website – please don’t have your nephew or next door neighbor’s son build it because they “know computers.” Find a professional who can help you build a well organized site that helps your visitors find what they need.
  • Create and publish content that answers questions and provides value – people want to find the experts and resources they can trust. Be genuine and share your knowledge and experiences. Use your content as a way to differentiate yourself from your competitors and maybe more importantly as a way to help people get to know you.
  • Do what comes naturally -ask yourself, “If search engines didn’t exist, would I still do this?” If the answer is no – don’t do it.
  • Think about behavior not keyword – get into the head of your current and prospective customers and think about why they are searching, not what keywords they’re using. Use that information to create content that is useful to them rather than promotional for you.
  • Optimize the important elements of your web pages – I know this sounds dangerously like SEO talk, but it’s an important topic – use the page title, meta description and headings to tell readers (and search engines) what your page is about or it will remain a mystery and you’ll never be found.
  • Create and nurture relationships – your customers are people not statistics. They don’t want to be treated like a number and neither do you.

These are the basics. Let’s focus on them and the rest will come naturally.