10-rules-visionary-business-book

10 Rules of
VISIONARY BUSINESS

How to Grow your Business as if Google Search Never Existed

grow your businessThey say that in life there are two things that are sure things: death and taxes.

However, in my business, I’d argue that there is a third: change. The internet is a constantly evolving thing – and Google is a huge part of that change and evolution.

Google constantly changes its algorithms – and when it does, the tactics that websites use to direct traffic must also change. Those algorithm changes have had devastating effects, causing some sites to lose all of their directing traffic overnight.

That said, it isn’t as though Google updates come with a manual. This means that SEO strategists and website owners are constantly left scrambling in an effort to find out how to get their content in the search rankings.

After all, without those rankings, our sites aren’t found. And if they aren’t found, it’s like they don’t exist; and what good does that do? The good news is that there are ways to grow your business without relying on Google search at all.

Living the Evolution

My site, WebHostingSecretRevealed.com (WHSR), is a perfect example of how Google’s search algorithm evolves, and how that change can affect things. My site was quite successful – I had a loyal audience, a great SEO strategy that was BFFs with Google and other search engines, and content that kept flowing. It was on a great path… and then Google Penguin came along.

The Google Penguin algorithm released in 2012 made drastic changes to how websites “scored” within Google, particularly hitting hard linking techniques, among other things. Needless to say, Google’s algorithm updates spur change to SEO strategists’ techniques, and following Penguin’s release, sites everywhere required quite an update – and my site was no exception.

In the aftermath of Penguin, I reworked everything from scratch, creating my new domain, WebHostingSecretRevealed.net. Since launching my new domain, I have been consistently finding new out of the box ways to pull in targeted traffic beyond those that rely on Google search.

After all, Google can be great and is admittedly important – but it is also fickle. By thinking outside of the box, we have been able to consistently build our site traffic without putting all of our eggs in one basket, as they say.

There are tons of ways out there to make your site a success – even if Google didn’t exist.

Ways to Build Web Traffic and Grow your Business

Comment on Blogs

Your business always comes from the people who trust you, so being a part of the conversation is always a good idea. Commenting on blogs give you the chance to develop that trust with your ideal clients and prospects.

But wait, there’s more! Making a connection and building rapport with your prospects is good, but it’s even better if you can find a way to drop a link to your site or reference your brand, IF it’s relevant to the discussion.

For example, if you sell Brand A of cameras, you might comment back on a camera review something to the effect of, “I agree – I’ve also had issues with Brand B cameras and found that “______.” We sell Brand A, and have had great feedback from customers. If you’re interested in taking a look, here’s the link. I’d be very happy to provide specific recommendations here or by email if you’re not sure what’s going to be the best fit for you.”

Since you’re simply introducing the topic and opening it up to other feedback, you are able to draw attention to your knowledge without making false representation. Commenting can also a great way to learn more about what clients honestly think.

Q&A Platforms

People love to talk, which makes forums another great way to join that conversation. The trick to successfully engaging your clients on forums is to monitor the dialogue in your niche on an ongoing basis. This way, you can chime in whenever you have something to say, adding value to the conversation with your comments or your blog posts (if they’re relevant).

Consider building custom content to fit into a conversation on a hot topic with lots of interest. For example, if someone asks about how to do something with .htaccess code, you might write a simple tutorial on your blog, then answer the question on the Q&A site and include a link to your blog for the person who asked the question to get the actual codes and demos.

After all, if one person has the question, odds are that others do, too. By providing custom answers, you can position yourself as a true resource and expert in your space.

In my experience, I’ve found Quora, Klout, and Yahoo! Q&A to be the three best general Q&A platforms to draw website traffic. If you happen to be a publisher selling programing books, check out StackOverflow – or at least ask your writers to stay active at the site! For those in the travel space, Trip Advisor is invaluable.

2014-07-21 - Jerry Low - stackoverflow sample

This is a thread at Stack Overflow with more than 600k+ views. A link is added as additional resource in one of the answers. On a 0.5% CTR basis, that link would have bring in 3,000 targeted visitors (Java learners) to the site.

Newsjacking

Growing your business with this strategy takes a bit of prowess, since it requires being the first (or among the first) to blog and comment on the latest news. Generally speaking, the first to write about a hot topic or news story have a better chance of being quoted as a “source.” That said, you need a way to find out the news before everyone else does – Twitter won’t cut it here.

Crowd Sourcing Posts

Crowd sourcing is a way to use content marketing to leverage the reach of a given crowd or group. You might invite bloggers, customers, or other business owners who could benefit from cross-promotion or even a simple link-back from your website to publish their opinions or tips. Their popularity and notoriety helps to draw their followers to your page, gaining new traffic to your site. It also the underlying strategy behind guest-posting.

I personally have had success with this method. For example, I previously asked 30 bloggers/ Web developers about their web hosting choices. The response to their input was overwhelming and resulted in hundreds of social shares and followers – at no cost and without relying on Google.

Sponsor or Speak at an Event

Events are a great way to get your name out there and grow your business, while also getting in front of your audience. Not only do events give their sponsors and speakers great publicity, making events an effective marketing channel, but they extend your reach for your online business into the offline world.

Be sure to let your audience know where and how to keep up with you, including accessing your presentation slides, finding your blog, following your Pinterest boards, and more. Not only will you find new visitors at the events, but you will maintain them through your online channels after the event is over.

Freebies Marketing

Who doesn’t love free stuff? From my end, they are a great way to draw people’s attention.

For instance, my core business at WHSR is to promote hosting services as an affiliate. However, I’ve found that rather than squeezing into the crowded Google search engine results page, I have better odds of success when I target web designers and bloggers who might have an interest in my hosting advice.

As such, I give out tons of valuable icons for free. Yes, these icons do not come cheap (time + effort = money!), but they pay off in dividends on the back end. /Giving out these free icons bring me 1,000+ new visits monthly via social sharing and back links (see image).

Furthermore, if I were to use these free icons to build an email list, these freebies could work as the key to open the door between me and my prospects. It’s permission marketing – get your prospects to find you and you’ll have the permission to keep communicating with them.

2014-07-21 - Jerry Low - icons

Our free icon sets got featured in lots of other designers’ posts.

2014-07-21 - Jerry Low - google stats (600)

Web statistics – extra 1,296 visits and 6 goal completion for the past 30 days.

 What’s next?

Getting traffic is a great first step towards growing your business, but isn’t the end game – you also need to keep that traffic coming back. This is where it’s really important to start building relationships before they get to your website. That way, you can focus on the conversion when your prospects arrive on your page, then continue building the relationship by offering them more value and more opportunities to work with you.

In reality, Google is likely to stay important and SEO will likely remain a key strategy for many business. However, there are plenty of other ways to make your site successful and to drive traffic without optimizing your content for the search giant.

Your Turn

Now, couple of questions for you folks here.

How has Google updates affect your business in the past? What have you been doing to hack growth outside Google? How has inbound and content marketing strategies changed your life and your business?

I would love to hear your thoughts, comments, or questions in the comment section.

About Jerry Low

Jerry Low is a geek dad who is passionate about SEO and blogging. His website Web Hosting Secret Revealed (WHSR) features dozens of helpful hosting reviews and blogging tips. You can also get more from him on Google+.

21 comments

  1. I think a blog is an excellent way to target more traffic, and ultimately grow your business. Blogging is huge! You just have to know how to tap into it…

    I started a blog in the “cooking” niche less than six months ago. I’ll admit, my first couple months weren’t as successful as I’d like them to be..luckily, I stuck with it, and stumbled upon a “blogging success” blueprint, so to speak. Now within three months of finding that, and a few hours a week, i’m in the $300+ per day range. That’s without any of my own products.

    Great article! I’ll be subscribing.

  2. Thanks to your helpful feedback, this post has been edited to clarify what was, in hindsight, a badly worded example that is not in line with what we teach or believe. Thank you to our conscientious commenters and community for pointing it out, and for offering helpful suggestions and clarification. 🙂

  3. Like others, I’m deeply uncomfortable with the commenting suggestion and example. I don’t have a problem with someone mentioning their own product or website if it’s relevant to the discussion, but wording it as though you’re a disinterested third-party is disingenuous at best.

    Firepole folks, I agree with Amy that including this tip with no editor’s note or other disclaimer reflects badly on you.

    Here’s how you might re-do the middle two paragraphs of that section. (If this suits, please feel free to use it and no need to attribute it to me!)

    ******

    But wait, there’s more! Making a connection and building rapport with your prospects is good, but it’s even better if you can find a way to drop a link to your site or reference your brand, IF it’s relevant to the discussion.

    For example, if you sell Brand A of cameras, you might comment back on a camera review something to the effect of, “I agree – I’ve also had issues with Brand B cameras and found that “______.” We sell Brand A, and have had great feedback from customers. If you’re interested in taking a look, here’s the link. I’d be very happy to provide specific recommendations here or by email if you’re not sure what’s going to be the best fit for you.”

    ******

    The rest of the tips are good, practical ones. With “newsjacking”, I always thought the term referred to inserting your own ideas/brand into a current story (e.g. the Oreo tweet during the Superbowl blackout). The description here, though, makes it sound more like it’s about breaking a story on your site before others get to it.

  4. Jerry – this is an excellent and informative post.

    So far, I’ve relied on commenting and guest posting alone. I’m asked constantly on me ‘SEO strategy’ and people are surprised when I say I don’t have one. Cue: looks of confusion.

    I’d much rather rely on different methods of marketing, and not businesses like Facebook and Google who can change whenever they like.

    Thank you for the suggestions on forums – I’ll check them out !

    – Razwana

  5. hi
    Commenting on blog is a good idea, i spend good time of the day reading content in my niche and commenting with my views.

    There are few sites that get me traffic from comment that comes and give good time on my blog and at the same time there are comments that give me bounce. I am learning it the hard way, is there a way to spot and have a method in the whole thing.

  6. Encouraging people to lie in blog comments is an example of the worst kind of marketing tactics. That instantly put me on edge, and I see from the other comments that I’m not the only one.
    Bad form by your guest blogger, Jerry Low, that reflects poorly on this site as a whole. The other suggestions are better, but I didn’t pay much attention after his first recommendation was deception. Sorry guys – this one was a swing and a miss.

  7. In my last biz/blog I was hell bent on getting to #1 on Google – with the help of a few exceptional plugins and it worked! Bounce rate was around 25% which wasn’t bad really….but now my new biz/blog bounce rate is around 3% and I don’t focus on keywords and battling to get on Google #1. Now, for me it’s about driving valuable and targeted specific traffic who want to engage.

  8. I have to agree with Howard above – why would you pretend not to know much about the product you are selling? Rather, to make blog commenting really effective, position yourself as an expert – talk about all the benefits of brand A, and then direct them to your site.

    But I like your suggestion about crowd-sourcing posts. I’ve participated in these before but never done one myself – perhaps it’s time to try it out.

    1. The problem with positioning yourself as the expert and talk about all the benefits of brand A on others’ blog makes you look like a spammer instantly in most cases.

      What I wanted to say is that – instead of hard-selling your products or your blogs; the smart way to leverage the power of blog commenting is by starting a conversation. Yes – the example I used in the article is not the best; but I disagree and do not recommend ‘push marketing’ on others’ blog.

      One additional tip on crowd-sourcing – HARO comes extremely handy when you need to reach out a huge crowd in the shortest time.

  9. Well, we all *should* actually be focusing on growing our online business as if Google doesn’t exist. Although search engine traffic is important, we cannot afford to build a (stable) business that depends on something that changes often – the changes are NOT small but the tables do turn with each change 🙂

    Guest blogging worked great for me in the past. I was able to drive lots of (high quality, sticky) traffic via my guest posts. Even now, after I’ve stopped actively guest blogging for over a year now, certain guest posts are giving me regular traffic 🙂

    Now, I concentrate on building rapport via blog commenting and I enjoy it very much. Since I am also seeing positive changes in my business and the connections I make, (this is the most exciting part) I guess I will stick to this strategy for a while 🙂

  10. I disagree about the specific technique you suggest for commenting on blogs.

    In your example you said you sell camera “A”, but then suggest a comment (“I’ve heard that Brand A has been a good replacement, but don’t know much about it”) that is not just self-serving but is completely untrue.

    I don’t think the path to a good long term relationship with a customer is well built if it has deceit as a foundation.

    1. Howard – Apparently I picked a bad example to illustrate what I wanted to say about blog commenting. My idea is to make a response and start a conversation smartly instead of hard-selling your products.

      1. Jerry, I get that. Everything else was spot on. We all make mistakes in our wording and/or actions from time to time (I know I certainly do) and I appreciate your clarification. Thanks.

  11. Great post!

    Word-of-mouth advertising still works. If you do a great job for your clients, they’ll be more than happy to refer you to their colleagues. While you don’t want to ignore the internet, you do want to take advantage of speaking with people face-to-face. Sometimes, it’s easier to make a connection in person, especially if you’re not a Wordsmith online. 🙂

    1. I totally agree that word of mouth is a very powerful still but you’ll have to consider what industry and niche you are in. If you are primarily a blog or information site than the best way to build word of mouth is to have an easy url link that is focused on the problem at hand that someone would perform word of mouth for.

      For example. domain.com/problem

      but it is much harder to get someone to convert from word of mouth to internet. Smartphones have helped this but it’s still a minority as opposed to a majority.

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10 Rules of
VISIONARY BUSINESS

10 Rules of Visionary Business Book

(Plus 10 lessons learned growing to 60,000+ subscribers, $2M+ revenues, and 25+ team members, without losing our values, or selling our soul.)

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