Can you feel the nervousness in the business community? I sure can. SES Chairman Kevin Ryan recently wrote about it in "A Gloomy Searchonomic Forecast."
Even search -- the golden child of marketing -- has been getting pushed around by the market. People are starting to look extra hard at the bottom line, asking, "How much did this cost me for what I got in return?"
Today's economic turbulence reminds me of the 2001 recession in an evolved form. At the end of the dot-com bubble, investors -- and online advertisers -- asked for the first time, "What am I getting for the money I'm spending?"
Until then, companies were online because "they had to be." Everyone wanted to be a "first mover" and put down stakes in the hottest online real estate they could find.
There was no concern for making a return on investment. A dot-com funded with $100 million told me the money was literally endless.
Web 1.0 Wake-up Call Results in PPC World
One day, everyone woke up and realized it would all end. The revelation was a dunk in an ice bath. People sobered up real quick, went back to their Web developers, and asked some hard questions.
Looking back, it was clearly for the better. As much as you'd like to, you simply can't indefinitely exist in a drunken dream world. You need to wake up and stare reality in the face for a while.
For the last couple years, I've seen a strong dedication to paid search. Marketers love the control, tracking, and relative ease the PPC (define) world has offered them. I've heard more discomfort recently about the high cost of PPC than ever before.
I'm seeing a greater interest in CPA (define) models where the company only pays for the lead or sale generated. Companies look closely at how much a lead or sale costs and wonder if they can get it cheaper from somewhere else.
SEO and CPA
You simply won't find a lower CPA than through SEO (define). Of course, there are risks. There's no guarantee if, how, or when a search engine will rank your site for a particular key phrase.
Even if your site is doing well now for a particular ranking, there's no guarantee high rankings will last. These are the major reasons people often forgo SEO in favor of paid search. If the lowest CPA is your goal, then SEO needs a serious review.
The secret to SEO is simple: Have more -- and better -- content and links than the people you're competing with for organic search listings. The links must follow the content. The content is the horse and the links are the cart of the metaphorical cart and horse.
Once you've developed a strategy of creating interesting, ongoing content, then you're off to get your links.
Think of Links as Referrals
If you're like many businesses, referrals are a major part of your new business funnel. New customers are referred to you by happy existing, or previous, customers.
Links work the same way. If you want to get links, you must build up online networks of friends and associates (Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, etc.). There are many discussion forums teeming with people who'd enjoy the content on your site.
Just as you go to your local chamber of commerce and other networking groups, you want to find online groups to become involved with. And as with your offline networking groups, you get your best results by being an active member over time. You'll want to pick a couple and commit some time.
The 3 Don'ts of Link Building
A word of warning: have you seen first-time visitors to networking groups asking as many people as they can possibly corner, "So, who does your payroll?"
You hate that person, right?
- Don't be that person online.
- Don't plow into an online community and start begging for links.
- Don't throw heavy-handed spammy links around the community.
Become a good member. Participate. Have fun. You'll know when the time comes to put a link out or to ask for some link love.
Just as offline networks will help you ride out rough financial times, online social networks will help you glide right through the choppy seas of the recession-ridden market place.