“If people don’t talk about you, you are better off dead”
The web sites that get the most hits, the key words that get the most search queries, the things people want to know about…there is no surer way to score high in the SERPs than providing people with what they want to know about. No SEO can beat content when it comes to these indices. Writers have always known it, that is why it is all they write about. Talk shows get huge ratings because of it. It is so basic, but few web sites use it. The only ones that use it effectively are search engines. What is it that people want to know about? It is people.
Users want to know about people, they want information about people. They want to hear about people. Yes, users search for information about products and prices, but when it comes to the majority of sites that get mentioned, they are the news sites that talk about people.
Donald Trump built a billion dollar business around his name. Steve Jobs brought Apple computers back with the iPod. Every day, the biggest news and queries online are about people. Celebrities routinely get hundreds of thousands of search queries. On the Internet, Jeff Bezos is inexorably linked to Amazon, Yang to Yahoo, and Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt to Google.
What does that have to do with SEO?
The sequence is inescapable. People do not hear about people online first; they hear about them in offline media, mostly television, or in the papers. Curiosity now drives the user to the Internet; s/he loads Google and types in a search query related to a name.
It is not advertising. Most of the offline news is just that, news, free publicity. And anybody can generate publicity. The Americans even have a saying about it, "everyone is famous for fifteen minutes." Your “fifteen minutes” can translate into not hundreds, not thousands, but hundreds of thousands of hits daily. How do I know this? Yahoo lists the top searches for the day; these are queries that run into the hundreds of thousands. What are the searches about? People who were in the news that day, or the day before, or the week before. These are celebrities and personalities who got free publicity.
How do you generate huge amounts of free publicity in such a way that you attract thousands of your target user profile? If you are not celebrity or a politician, what else can you do to get yourself in the news? And how do you get yourself in the news for free, without having to pay millions for a slot during the Super Bowl?
Be considered an expert in your field
This transcends advertising, and enters into the realm of public relations and web site branding. As a web site owner, or web site marketing manager, you must be considered an expert in the market your website occupies. If your web site sells DVDs on self-defense, then you must be considered an expert on self-defense in your locale. You must be the person the local radio station calls for an opinion when they are talking about how citizens should defend themselves in the face of the rising crime wave. This can be done simply by sending publicity kits about yourself (and your web site) to talk shows, radio stations, newspapers and magazines statewide and even countrywide.
This works for every field and industry, whether it is products or services. News organizations are always looking for experts to speak on special topics.
You will see the results the day after your first interviews, when your web site receives huge amounts of traffic, with or without search engine optimization. An illustration of this is Mr. Pike, who that speaks as a security and weapons expert for CNN. His site http://www.globalsecurity.org/ seems to be the only place that has information on the Hezbollah Rockets. It actually is not, but it is the first place you will go if you want to know about the Middle Eastern weaponry (that is if you watch CNN).
Give freebies and sponsor programs
Giving prizes out on television and radio shows (especially morning programs) is a good way of getting free publicity for your product. Another way is to organize games; make sure that they have to go your website to apply for the prizes.
Sponsor a program; offer unbelievable benefits in the sections that are given to you to advertise your products. Write compelling copy. People like feeling like they will get a bargain, so offer discount prices if they buy from your web site.
Give seminars (not necessarily free) on the topics that are relevant to your target market. I once participated in a seminar given on learning web design. After the designers spoke on web design (and sold HTML editing software), hand bills were given out with a web site address which the participants were encouraged to go to, where we could find information relating to web hosting.
Given that it was a small meeting (less than 50 people), we were surprised when, for the next week, there were double-digit figures every day recorded as hits by the server. This was a seminar that the only publicity done was by word of mouth. The materials used by the participants were photocopies (which they bought) and the venue used was free. The hits were in all slightly less than a hundred, but you must realize that the only reason the seminar was organized was for free publicity, not for traffic. All the people that came to the seminar registered to receive free information through e-mail.
I know those statistics are miserly, but now we have seminars every weekend, we have more publicity done for the seminars, and sometimes draw a few hundred people per seminar. All these people leave their email addresses as part of the registration procedure. These people will go out and talk about the seminars, and give out the hand bills to other people, who out of curiosity will come to the web site. With a well positioned register button, you can keep a reasonable percentage of these hits; the numbers work.
And registering subscribers offline will help you to build up a massive opt-in list in a relatively quick time, instead of just depending on your web site to build up your opt-in email. Businesses do it; they collect the email addresses of their customers, and then they send emails to them informing them of new products or product updates.
Your points of contact
Check your points of contact, your complimentary cards, your brochures, and your presentations. Is your website address printed on them? As with your flyers and your handbills, putting your web site on your points of contact increases the amount of people that see the address, and gives your site free publicity.
Write a real book
Not an ebook, but a book in print, and get it published. This is a surefire way to get hits, especially if you write a good book. It seems like a large project, but look at Robert Kiyosaki’s http://www.richdad.com/. The only reason I have ever visited the site was because he offered a free download on it in his book. The site was mediocre at best, but I even registered to receive information (which I have gotten only once in three years). If only ten percent of the people that buy his book take advantage of the free offer (and people really like free offers) that’s like a hundred thousand hits. If ten percent register to receive emails, that’s ten thousand addresses in his opt-in database. That is a lot of leads generated off one book.
If you are an expert in your field, writing a book will only take time, and this time is well spent. A book will help in your branding process, as people start to identify you (and your website) as the unique and only solution to a particular problem. You have taken up a position in their minds that will have very profitable long-term benefits.
Let your site be identified with a personality, a real personality. It may be you; it may be someone else. Companies are sometimes associates with people; in the same way, websites can be associated with people. Sometimes companies hire people onto the board simply because of their personalities; they bring nothing else to the table except their personality, or their credibility.
An individual that has done this is the owner of http://www.cleancodes.com/ and www.eketonline.com. Companies advertise on his sites simply because of his personality; he gets adverts like a magazine. He is considered an Internet expert, and when people hear his name, they immediately have faith in the web site; his alias is now “Clean codes.” He has expanded from a website owner to a small business owner, and he has done it all from branding his site with himself, and speaking in public.
If you lack the credibility for branding your site, you can look for an individual who can do it for you. And you can offer such an individual part of your equity (future revenue from products sold or adverts).
After all is said and done
Have an opt-in database, so that you can continue pre-selling yourself to individuals who do not do your desired action the first time. The importance of this is worth repeating. An effective email strategy will assure you of the possibility of selling your products forever, and a large opt-in database improves the worth of your online business.
Offline publicity is a must
To free yourself from dependence on the search engines and their peccadilloes, you must brand your site; this is not optional. Without branding your site in the minds of your users, there will come a day that you will feel a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, as you go from page one to page two or three of the SERPs, or worse.
Offline publicity to brand your site is a reality; you must start facing up to it, for the sake of long-term survival and prosperity.