Mike Moran raised that question recently over at Search Engine Guide. He acknowledged that we’ve had the World Wide Web for more than 15 years now, and search engines of one kind or another for most of that time. So this may seem a little unrealistic to ask now. Still, you probably spend a lot of time focused on tasks like keyword research, putting out press releases, adding new content, etc. How much of that is for visitors, and how much is for the search engines? How much of it would you do if you couldn’t depend on Google sniffing by your website and bringing human visitors to it later?
There WAS a time, however brief, before search engines. And even after search engines came to be, many of them weren’t very good. Some of us can actually remember that far back. In those days – post-web but pre-Google – marketers plastered a company’s URL on everything they could think of: stationary, business cards, pens, buses, catalogs, brochures, taxis, billboards, convention swag, magazine ads, online display ads on other websites, you name it. You still see plenty of that, of course, but now there are other options.
“Right,” I can hear you saying, “there are search engines.” But we’re trying to get away from the search engines with this mental exercise. If you couldn’t depend on the search engines to pick up your content and bring you visitors, what would you do? Aside from plastering your URL everywhere, I mean.
Moran offers a good answer that you should think about carefully. “I suspect you’d spend a heckuva lot more time promoting your content. I think you’d tweet it. I think you’d blog about it to your subscribers. I think you’d post a video about it on YouTube. I think you’d mention it in your e-mail newsletter. I think you’d make very sure that you were promoting it every way you could to people you thought might be interested.”
Does that sound a little annoying? It could be – if your content isn’t worthy of being promoted. If it is, though, you need to ask yourself why you aren’t doing this already, regardless of Google.
Let me give you an example. There’s a farm about an hour or two from where I live that sends me a semi-regular newsletter to let me know what’s coming ripe there. They grow both organically and hydroponically; in addition to the fruits, vegetables, and plants, they sell supplies for hydroponic gardening and give classes out at the farm. Their newsletter is always full of information I find of interest, even when I don’t act on it right away. Therefore, I welcome it, and don’t consider it spam.
What about your content? When you post something new on your website, or blog about some new or enhanced product or service, are you sure that your readers and visitors will find it of interest? Or are you just doing it to improve your standing in the search engines, and to feed more delicious keywords to Google so it’ll reward you with a bump in your rankings? If you’re only doing it to feed Google, trust me, your visitors will know. To them, the smorgasbord you think you’re laying out will taste like gruel, and they’ll go elsewhere for a truly filling content buffet.
Now, if your content is good, and you’re truly excited to tell others about it, that will show, too. And if it is that good, you should be promoting it in the ways Moran described – because traffic is traffic, after all, and Google can see what you’re doing. “Increasingly, search engines are looking at social media activity, too, as a surrogate for page quality (just as links are),” Moran noted.
Are you still hesitant to promote your content? Why? Don’t you think it’s worth the effort? Then perhaps you’d better back up and rethink your content strategy. As Moran points out, “if you don’t think your content is worthy of that level of promotion, then that’s the first thing for you to work on, because Google probably doesn’t think much of that kind of content either.” Good luck!