Grow Your Online Business Without Depending Exclusively on Google
Join us at Entrepreneur magazine's Growth Conference, Dec. 15 in Long Beach, Calif. for a day of fresh ideas, business mentoring and networking. Register here for exclusive pricing, available only for a limited time.
We hear a lot of scary stories about businesses going (almost) bankrupt after losing Google traffic. Some publishers are also voicing concerns over their dependence on Google. But how easy is it to not depend on it?
When Google traffic starts coming, it often monopolizes your traffic sources. Search traffic converts better than any other type of traffic, thanks to intent. People search for exactly what they want to read or buy. It usually flows in on a continuous basis without you having to necessarily do anything to drive people in on a daily basis.
Related: Did Google Stop Sending You Traffic?
I've seen businesses that were forced to expand once Google traffic started coming. That put them into Google dependency mode. However, even if we put Google penalty arguments aside (you are not supposed to be hit unless you've done something wrong, right?), depending on one source of traffic is neither reliable nor wise overall.
Is there a way not to rely on Google traffic while still growing your business online? The answer is mostly "it depends" but one thing is clear. It's time that we all started to diversify our online efforts:
1. Discover more traffic sources. Google traffic used to be quite easy and fast to earn: It spoiled us. Achieving top positions in Google has been a major digital marketing objective for too long. Now it's time to get back to basics: You should never put all eggs into one basket.
These alternative traffic sources can vary depending on the niche. Yes, you need to get creative but opportunities are endless. Here are quite a few ways to build traffic (some of them can be applied to almost any industry such as becoming a case study or getting interviewed). There are lots of other ways.
Pinterest has proved to be one of the best-converting traffic sources especially in food, travel, home improvement, DIY and related industries. SlideShare is an efficient traffic source in the marketing and technology niches. Investing in Facebook advertising is really effective in most niches.
Here's one quick recipe from someone who has decided not to depend on Google traffic from day one. BizEpic.com is just 10 weeks old and it's now averaging around 400 visits/day. The average is rising steadily on month-to-month comparison basis. Google traffic only accounts for about six percent. The majority of traffic is coming from social media. Their tactics include:
Focus on the "interestingness" of the topic and the headlines.
They post often, about four to five posts a day and spread around the clock.
They are growing followers on their Facebook fan page.
Large, interesting images.
A focus on social media promotion in Google Plus, LinkedIn groups, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, StumpleUpon, etc
Again, there's no recipe for every website looking to diversify traffic sources but the above experiment is a good example of a possible strategy that has been proven to work.
2. One word: Balance! Telling anyone to simply break up with Google would be poor advice. You can't just absolutely ignore it but you can balance and diversify. When it comes to SEO, I think this is how it has evolved:
Before: Trying to get referral traffic from Google within three months of a site’s launch. Now: Discover different channels and possibilities, build trust and brand while doing your fundamental SEO homework and waiting for search engine traffic to start coming naturally.
Investing in your in-house assets can help you grow diverse traffic sources:
Develop high-quality content assets to attract backlinks, social media shares and traffic. Many types of traffic (word-of-mouth traffic, for example) are almost impossible unless you have great content to attract shares and re-shares.
Invest in social media advertising. In some industries social media ads out-perform Google ads. Besides, social media advertising grows your following which means it helps in the long run as well. Experimenting with newer social media solutions such as Klout Perks is a smart idea. Invest in content promotion advertising, such as StumbleUpon promoted stories and Reddit ads, if you have good content to get picked up there. Social media dashboards such as Cyfe and Sendible make monitoring results much easier.
Grow your own email list. Sending regular email newsletters can become your own independent source of traffic and conversions. Besides, it can also be used to boost your social media advertising efforts.
3. Value what you have. There's one advantage in Google traffic becoming harder to get and to keep. We are forced to value what we have. Ultimately, traffic is not such a huge issue. The important thing is how well it converts or, to put it more pro-actively, how much effort you put into converting it.
In this respect, I like this case study describing a penalized website and how the owner, thanks to the Google penalty, had to re-think its whole digital strategy to survive. This unfortunate setback taught me a valuable lesson. Relying so much on organic Google rankings was putting us entirely at the whims of a company that is beyond our control. Our only option was to focus on other areas, specifically, achieving higher conversion rates.
Additionally, we amped up loyalty marketing by implementing personalized follow-up calls and e-mails for all of our clients based on the ideal time for each one to reorder. To sum up this last point, here are some things you may want to start doing:
Build your micro-community and turn your customers into brand advocates. Developing relationships with customers is an art but one that has proved to be very rewarding!
Invest in usability assessments and stop losing visitors! A long time ago I had a very good experience with usertesting.com
Don't get fixated on only one type of conversions. Your paying customers are not the only people who matter! Collect leads and develop your relationships with anyone who has expressed interest in your site. If anyone ever shares your message or defends your reputation online, that is a priceless outcome!