It’s going to be OK... Google promises! But what does that mean to the small- to medium-sized business owner? Especially the ones who do everything by the "Google book" only to fearfully watch Google web visits plummet with every ruthless update.
Launched last week, the Google Penguin update is designed to get rid of spammy websites and businesses Google has identified as trying to cheat the system. The algorithm change is said to promote high quality content and penalize webspam while impacting about 3 percent of search queries.
Google: Doing The Right Thing, Not Always The Right Way
Contrary to popular belief, Google says the Penguin intent is to help the overall search experience versus put legitimate businesses in jeopardy of losing precious web traffic and bottom line sales. Unfortunately, innocent bystanders report they are taking a hit with little defense against Google, the largest search engine boasting 66.4 percent of the search market share and not to be ignored.
How can a business protect itself from the potential crush of Penguin or the next Google algorithm change? There is something to be said for not putting all your SEO eggs in Google's basket.
Deep SEO Inhale... Long Social Media Exhale
There is life beyond Google for gaining online visibility. The opportunities are greater than ever to take part in some healthy SEO living from other organic marketing sources in places like social media networks. Read on advice from veteran online marketers.
5 SEO Experts Share How to Optimize Outside of Google
Will Scott, online marketer and founder of Search Influence, offered four strategies for websites looking for fresh, non-Google alternatives:
- Socialize content: Create informative, shareable content and socialize through Twitter, Facebook and other relevant sharing sites.
- Blog post exchange: Connect with like-minded businesses and contribute blog posts, opinion to one-another's blogs.
- Facebook cross-pollination: Reach out to other relevant businesses on their Facebook page and interact on a regular basis.
- Buy social ads: Target demographic and complementary brands/services on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Cody Swann, CEO CEO/Gunner Technology, offered two pieces of advice:
- Think like a magazine, cut Google out of the picture: Magazines focus on quality and spin multitudes of content out of their main piece. Go the extra mile and create sidebar stories, photo galleries, podcasts, video interviews, infographics and top 10 lists. Increase the chance of existing customers to share your content and cut Google out of the picture.
- Hang out on other websites: Business owners who want a successful website should be spending about five times more time on other websites than they do on their own. And this doesn't mean Facebook and Twitter (although those are good). Find industry blogs, message boards and forums. Lurk on them for about one to four weeks and learn the community ethics and guidelines. Then start responding and paying it forward with help. Finally, you can start subtly promoting your own website, once again, cutting out Google and bringing traffic directly from the source.
- Invest more time and resources in social media: Consumer behavior has changed in the past couple of years. People don't rely just on Google search anymore but more on their friends and network to make recommendations and see what products or services they like.
- Blog more and blog regularly: Writing content that is useful for end users will not just increase your reader base but force search engines to crawl, index, and rank your site. After all, engines need good content just as badly (to be relevant to their searchers) just as you need their "free" traffic.
- Create more videos: Any business can educate their prospects through video and videos don't need to be high cost studio material. YouTube can be a great source of traffic. Also, video creates a one-on-one engagement with your audience which can be huge for SMBs. YouTube's new ad formats can work well for SMB's.
Jason Yormark, senior VP of marketing and social media at ShowPony, also shared some social media marketing ideas:
- Get serious about Twitter: Use a resource like Listorious to identify categories that relate to your industry and connect with these folks. The nice thing about this resource is that lists are manually curated by users, so it's much more likely the folks you identify are real people who are engaged.
- Join Triberr: It's free, and an easy way for businesses that blog to increase their reach to a wider audience.
- Turbo charge your Facebook page: Use free apps from Involver to encourage increased engagement. You can import your RSS feed from your blog, bring in your Twitter stream, display your YouTube channel, along with a few other free options. Make your Facebook page more of a destination then just window dressing for your brand.
- Completely fill out and optimize social media profiles: Start with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Be prepared to publish just enough updates to keep it feeling fresh and active. This is the baseline social media minimum. Those profiles will appear in Google/Bing's organic search engine results. Link to them on important keywords from a non-landing page/funnel entry page as high up on your main website as possible. Ask partner businesses to link too.
- Be famous locally: Target to a small, hyper-local radius using Facebook and LinkedIn ads. Even massive deployment to small populations won't cost very much media spend at all. There is no reason for you local brand to be invisible.
- Do noteworthy (newsworthy) things: From charity to true thought leadership. Notable actions are covered by the local newspaper, trumpeted by bloggers and spawn notable buzz. Google is all about trying to radiate the actual sampling of human inquiry. The number one SEO ranking factor is creating inquiries!
- Create a Google+ page: Optimize it and push content out. Although hardly anyone who is actually "social" is using Google+, heaps of people use it. Why? Because Google pays unnatural interest in Google+ when ranking content, authors, and users in SERPs. Google+ gives away the store in an attempt to get Google users to go social!
Life Beyond Google: Is it Pinning?
If you're thinking, "Google drives all my traffic, now I'm screwed!”. You’re not.
One new avenue to generate traffic to your website is via Pinterest – now the third most-popular social network in the U.S. behind Facebook and Twitter, according to Experian Hitwise. Pinterest drives more referral traffic than Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube combined.
As has been stated numerous times, Google is one marketing channel. Why limit yourself? Empower the influence of social media and public relations in your marketing mix. Make the news and be the news.