Many small businesses are still severely rattled by Google’s aggressive moves in the spring of 2012.
Many webmasters received the dreaded backlink warning emails directly from Google Webmaster Tools. And the Google PR machine got to many more who did not get direct notifications, which has sent them trying to figure out what the latest search algorithm updates really mean and what new marketing ideas they need to adopt to earn Google’s trust back.
Diversify Your SEO - But How?
The overall message is clear. You need to diversify your SEO strategies – a 2012 upgrade to your link building, if you will. An SEM realignment, reorientation, and for some, total reinvention.
The message wasn't subtle, Google is using their megaphone to show that tactics once considered light gray have been re-cast a few shades darker in 2012.
While most get the message, there is still confusion about how to change. Perhaps this is old-fashioned resistance to anything new or perhaps they just don’t see that it’s possible.
My Small Business is Too Boring for a Fancy SEM Strategy
I used to sympathize with the idea that some businesses just can’t be creative. While large Fortune 100 companies (with complex products and deep pockets) seem to always have interesting things going on, little businesses operate with much smaller margins for error. And some products just aren't exciting to talk about online. Those fun online marketing ideas won’t work for the average boring small business, right?
Exhibit A: Even Magnets Can be Fun
A recent interview with Rochester Magnet opened my eyes to the notion that even super-boring manufacturing businesses have opportunity for SEM creativity. Andrew Carpentier, former Dell employee and now CEO of Rochester Magnet, was originally convinced that magnets had no place in social media.
“My perception is that magnets are not dynamic enough that people are looking to blogs or Twitter for that latest and greatest thing. I’m not sure there would be much payoff. Often in the B2B world, I see blogs with the latest post dated 2010 giving me the impression it didn’t work and was abandoned. That looks really bad!”
Post-Penguin, Rochester Magnet has reconsidered their position. In June, they plan to launch a social media campaign with the hopes of community engagement, link baiting and fun. They are using tactics such as “show us the funniest magnet you’ve ever seen” and “the most bizarre invention that includes a magnet”.
Some will say that the direct backlink utility of these activities is lower than traditional SEO link building. But in a post-Penguin world, these are incredibly legitimizing marketing ideas that leave the backlink footprint any small business would admire.
Exhibit B: Rockin’ the Church Bus
Selling and servicing small and medium buses for churches is a fairly mundane business as well. Dominic Menard, Director of Communications at Carpenter Bus, shared Carpentier’s initial resistance to creative SEM campaigns in 2011. But in a recent discussion he revealed that views have evolved on the topic and why social media is now more appealing.
“The value in social for us is that it’s a new way to get to decision makers using channels that didn’t used to exist,” Menard said. “We are starting to see in 2012 that even our brand can benefit by corralling online activity that’s already there. We now recognize an intrinsic value in these online communities that we didn’t see before.”
Carpenter Bus, no stranger to charitable giving, has decided to donate church bus rental time to youth groups this year. But here’s the twist: Unlike previous charity giveaways, they figured out that the entire donation can (and should) be run through social media in an effort to generate more buzz online, positive social media press for the firm, and backlinks.
Youth groups, due to their age, are active in social media, and very much need transportation. Why not tie this activity into a creative SEM campaign?
Google has spoken loudly in the first half of 2012. Link building tactics once considered reasonable – or at least not black hat – are clearly on the wrong side of the line now. Small business is struggling to digest this and figure out exactly what new marketing ideas are needed in their SEM strategies.
The first alignment may well be in how owners view themselves. Small business needs to embrace the new SEM reality just as Rochester Magnet and Carpenter Bus have, digging deep with interesting marketing ideas that provide new online venues for visibility. This should include educating more than marketing, recognizing that content marketing has evolved, and bringing your small business SEM strategy up-to-code in post-Penguin 2012.