Manipulating organic rankings on Google has become much harder in the last 10 years. And, I’m glad it did. It used to be that all you had to do to rank #1 on Google was to put a bunch of keywords at the bottom of your pages and in your meta keywords tag. As people figure out ways to game the system, Google figures out ways to avoid falling in these traps. And again, I’m glad they do, because otherwise Google’s results wouldn’t be relevant.
Now, let’s be realistic: black-hat techniques do work. But for a short period of time. I have a lot of websites myself that I use for experiments, but I’d never do anything risky for any of my clients or my main websites. You have to know when it makes sense to use black-hat techniques, when to use white-hat techniques and when to be somewhere in the middle.
My advice for 99.9% of you is: provide exceptional value to your users and Google will reward you for that. You’ll get a lot of organic links, social shares and Google +1s, which are crucial things you need to rank #1 on Google.
The Most Important Question You Should Ask Yourself You know you’re doing things right when you can answer “yes” to this question, “if someone at Google saw this, would they think it’s a good thing?” Do all your SEO with that question in mind.
Google +1 and Social Signals In 2011 Google used tweets as a ranking factor, meaning that if you had a lot of tweets pointing to a page on your site, that was helping you rank better. Now tweets and Facebook likes/shares don’t seem to have a direct impact on rankings but they do help you a lot with your rankings. This is because when people share your content, more people see it and more people link to it. In addition to this, I strongly believe that social shares will be playing a major role in SEO rankings in the future.
Another huge thing is getting +1s. Google launched their +1 button in 2011. You can see it on Google SERPs and on websites where people install the button:
So, what should you do about this?
Install social sharing buttons on your website (I highly recommend ShareThis).
Promote your content on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus.
Make sure you have a lot of Twitter followers, Facebook friends/fans, LinkedIn connections and Google Plus circles so a lot of people share your content. You can do Facebook ads to get fans. You can strategically follow the right people on Twitter to get a lot of followers. Growing your circles on Google Plus is very easy. Just make sure you’re actually building connections and not just adding people for the sake of having more followers. Also, keep in mind that people love free stuff, so giveaways and contests are great ways to get more followers.
Make sure your content is amazing! Nobody likes sharing low-quality content.
Link Building Here are some link building tips for 2012:
Don’t keyword-stuff your anchor texts. Make sure that at least 70% of your links’ anchor texts are “click here”, “learn more”, “www.yoursite.com”, “your company make”, “check this out”, etc. This makes your links look much more natural.
Direct 70% of your links to your home page and 30% of your links to internal pages.
Quality is much more important than quantity. Do great PR and hire great writers so you get editorial links from influential websites.
Panda Update Here are a few tips to make sure your content ranks well:
Decrease the ad-to-content ratio as much as possible.
Create useful, unique content that adds value to the web. Don’t just say what everyone else is saying using different words. There are many ways to create great content. Here are a few examples: this website created a list of the best Internet marketing posts of 2011. It’s not unique content but it’s extremely useful. Rand Fishkin created Whiteboard Fridays over at SEOmoz blog, which is a unique way to present information in a world where everyone blogs but very few people use whiteboards to get their points across.
Design matters. Having a professional website makes all the difference. This is mostly because people tend to share content from beautiful websites much more than content from ugly ones.
Questions? What questions do you have about doing SEO in 2012? I’ll be happy to answer them for you.
Be Where Your Customers Are Don’t do whatever is “hot” now. Different experts recommend different (sometimes opposed) tactics. Think about this: “gurus” don’t know more than you; they’re just better at marketing themselves and positioning themselves as experts. If you’re a mildly successful small business owner, you’re making more money than 85% of the “gurus” out there.
Instead of blindly doing what experts recommend, be where your customers are. Advertise in the magazines they read, the TV shows they watch and the radio shows they listen to. Join groups and Meetups where they get together. Participate in the blogs they read. If they’re using Google to find companies like yours, do search engine optimization to rank at the top of Google. Be where your customers are.
Be Where the Money Is I think the main reason a lot of small business owners don’t make as much money as they want is that they never stopped to think about this universal truth:
Revenue = Number of sales X Average order amount.
In other words, if you sell t-shirts or any other low-ticket products, you’ll need volume in order to make a lot of money. On the other hand, if you sell very expensive products, you can get away with making fewer sales.
A lot of businesses sell $10-$100 products but don’t sell millions of them, so the math just doesn’t work out. So here are three ideas for you:
Start selling more expensive items
Sell a product that creates recurring revenue for your company (monthly retainer, subscription, etc.)
If you sell low-priced products, go for high volumes. How likely is it that your tiny website will sell a million granola bars a month? Wouldn’t it be a better idea to get your product into Whole Foods, Vitamin Cottage and other organic food stores across the country? They already have access to millions of consumers every month. This is not to say that you can’t reach end consumers as well, but keep in mind that you need a strategy to reach to millions every month, which requires very out-of-the-ordinary ideas (meaning that you have to stop being so conservative and take a chance on something crazy) or a big advertising budget (it’s really easy to reach a few million people if you’re willing to pay for it. If you don’t have the funds, look for an investor or work on creative financing solutions with your advertising partners.)
Focus on Your Core Business Every time I say this, 99.9% of people don’t believe me, until they try it for themselves. So, I don’t expect you to believe me. I invite you to give it a shot.
Make a list of all your customers and customer segments, and then figure out which are the most profitable ones. Make a list of all the products and services you offer and find the ones that make your company the most money. Do this analysis with everything you do: marketing tactics, products/services, customers, etc. You’ll find that some things you’re doing are extremely profitable and some aren’t. Get rid of the latter immediately.
You might be wondering, “Won’t I not make any money if I turn down business?” Yes, initially, but I’m willing to bet you can double your profits by focusing your efforts. Here’s why:
You’ll be saving a lot of time that you can spend doing the things that work best for you.
You’ll become a specialist in a product/service and a industry/customer type, which will help you increase your perceived value (which means more customers and higher revenue per customer.)
You’ll become a market leader in one area instead of being “just another company” in ten different areas.
Think Big I’ve never seen a company planning to make $250,000 and actually making $10M+. This is because the plan that will get you to $10M+ is very different from the one that will get you to $250,000. You won’t believe this either, but aiming for a goal 10 times bigger takes 25% more work, not 10 times more.
Again, don’t just believe me. Try this for yourself. Go big. You’ll find that because so few people aim high, the competition at the top of the food chain is much less than at the bottom of it.
Step Away from Your Computer I love technology, but real business deals happen when you actually meet with people (and sometimes over the phone). There’s nothing wrong with using email or social media to complement the communication with business partners, but don’t make it the sole communication channel.
The reason is that social media and email are very crowded spaces. Think about this:
How many tweets/Facebook posts/emails have you seen last week? How many people have you met in person?
When you meet with people, you have their full attention, whereas when you send people tweets or emails, they’re competing against all the other tweets/emails for your recipient’s attention.
Once again: I’m pro-technology. I have every gadget you can imagine. But, you need to know when and how to use it.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone Growing is not comfortable because you’re doing something you’ve never done before, and that’s scary. In my opinion, however, it’s good to be scared. You’re either scared or stuck.
I remember the first time I spoke at a marketing seminar. It was horrible. I was nervous the whole time and I thought my presentation was awful. That was, until everyone told me how helpful it was for them. The second time I was a little less nervous, and the third time was better than the second time. Now I have no problem speaking in front of thousands of people. As with everything else, you have to acknowledge the fear, accept that new things are scary and do it anyway.
The fear will eventually fade away and you’ll get much better at whatever you decide to do.
Be Persistent Entrepreneurs these days have ADD. They start doing something, two weeks later they find something more interesting, and two weeks after that they switch to something else.
Most businesses take two or three years to become profitable and pay their founders well. This is because at first you’re learning about your industry, your customers, the effectiveness of different marketing strategies, etc. Don’t give up too soon. Learn from your mistakes and improve your business constantly. And don’t forget to work your ass off; it’s the only way to success.
Idea #1: Don’t Avoid ConflictTrying to avoid conflict is part of being human. However, conflict is a good thing. Conflict is standing up for yourself and saying, “I won’t put up with this anymore.” Tell your boss, partner and spouse how you really feel about them. Conflict will arise. When a conflict is resolved, then your relationship with that person will be much stronger and healthier for you.Just to be clear, speaking up doesn’t mean yelling or calling people names. Just say how you feel and what you want in a gentle tone.Idea #2: Learn to ReceiveI bet you’re very generous: you truly enjoy helping people. And, I bet you have a hard time accepting what other people give you. You probably say things like, “I don’t want to impose” or “Thank you, but I can’t accept it.” Why not? When someone wants to give you something, say “thank you” and accept the gift. When someone wants to buy you lunch, let them and make sure you pay next time.People feel good helping you and giving you things; accept what others give you.Idea #3: Finish What You StartIn business, sports and any other space, you can find two groups of people: those who try a bunch of different things and those who really commit to one thing.Some people do yoga for a month, Pilates for three weeks, they take six months off and then start something new. This is even worse in the world of business: ADD is everywhere! People start a business and two months later they leave that to start a new company (which they’ll abandon for the next “hot thing”).When it comes to business, use common sense. Think “where are my customers? What magazines do they read? What websites do they visit? What networking events do they attend?” Be where they are; don’t let trends decide what you should focus your time on. Stop listening to the so-called gurus. Stop buying those programs that promise you’ll make easy money. Stop copying what’s working for others (or what they’re claiming is working for them, even if it’s not.)Start going to where your customers are.
In my experience, the best way to grow a business is through strategic alliances. Let me give you a few examples: If you make toys for kids you should get Toys R Us to carry your products. If you’re a wedding photographer, every wedding planner in your town should know who you are and be familiar with your work.The thing is, successful people are really busy. So, how can you get their attention?Step 1: Aim HighDon’t be intimidated by high-profile people. They ARE people, just like you. And the truth is that most folks assume that CEOs and Presidents of companies are so out of reach that nobody even tries. And because nobody tries, your chances of getting the attention you want are pretty good.Step 2: Learn About ThemWhen people talk about social media, they usually talk about how to use it to market something. But, my favorite use for social media is research. You can learn a lot about people if you follow them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Yelp, Google Plus, Quora, YouTube, Flickr and FourSquare. You can learn what books and newspapers they’re reading, where they’re going next weekend, where they just had lunch and with whom, etc.Step 3: Help ThemThese are some of the ways you can help people: Retweet their blog posts or share them on Facebook. Link to one of their articles from a blog post or your newsletter. If they post they’re going to Aruba next month, send them a list of the top restaurants in Aruba. Find things in common. Let’s say she likes coffee and so do you. When they post “the Sumatra Blend they’re serving at Starbucks is a little too strong”, comment back recommending a blend that they might like. Answer the questions they post on their blogs, Quora and Facebook if you know the answers. If you have an idea to improve their website or product, share it with them. Use the skills that make you unique. If you’re a photographer, offer to make them a portrait for free. If you’re a lawyer and you know they want to sell their business, help them with the paperwork at no cost.I don’t always feel I need to help someone before approaching them with a business opportunity. If you decide to provide help first, make sure it’s genuine and you don’t expect anything in exchange. Doing things so others owe you doesn’t work. They might feel obligated to help you, but they’ll find a way to get away as soon as they can.Step 4: Email ThemWrite a short email and get to the point. Rookies write four-paragraph emails because they want to be more persuasive. Busy people don’t have the time for this. This is an example of an email I sent last week:Subject: I have an ideaHi Mike,Great blog post today. It was time for someone to speak up about the privacy issues with Facebook.I have a business idea I think you’re going to like. Are you available for a phone call on Thursday at 4pm PST?ZekeNotice how I go straight to the point and how specific my request is.Step 5: Call Them or Meet with ThemI love the Internet, but business happens offline. Meet with people if you can or talk to them on the phone if you can’t meet them. Use email only to set up the appointment.This is the approach that works for me. What works for you?
When you come to think about it, it looks like a lot of short-term goals are opposed to some long-term ones. For example: This morning I felt like sleeping in, but if I had, I wouldn’t have made a few important calls that will help one of my businesses grow. I love cookies, but I also like having a six-pack. I don’t feel like doing yoga today, but if I don’t my back will start hurting soon. One of my friends was complaining the other day that she didn’t have a job, but she decided to spend all her day reading a book than looking for a job.But, let me make a very important point: I’m not saying that you should always do what’s good for the long-term. I love eating cookies and sleeping in eventually. I think that if you always do what you should instead of what you want, you’ll be very unhappy because you’ll never allow yourself to enjoy anything. At the same time, if you always do what you want instead of what you should, you’ll eventually be unhappy when you realize that you’re not accomplishing anything, you’re out of shape and out of health.So, what’s the right thing to do? There’s no right answer. But here’s my takeaway: Be aware that every action you take has a consequence. When I’m about to eat a cookie I make a conscious decision: I can either eat the cookie and accept I’m putting crap (and deliciousness) into my body, or I can have neither the calories nor the deliciousness. Indulging yourself moderately is very important; the problem is when you neglect the consequences of your actions. Or even worse, when you eat cookies and then complain about how fat you are.If you think about it, every problem in the world has a very simple solution: Are you overweight? Eat less, better and exercise more. Do you want to improve the relationship with your wife? Spend more time with her, listen to her more, get her presents, take her on more dates and have more/better sex with her instead of working so much. Do you not have a job? Put together a killer resume, look for wanted ads, learn about the companies you’re applying to work for, send them a customized cover letter, be charming and win people over with solutions to the company’s problems.I’m not claiming that these are EASY solutions; I’m saying they’re SIMPLE. What I mean is that it’s pretty obvious what to do to fix a problem, but sometimes we lack the discipline to do what we know we need to do. In any situation keep in mind that you have two options: you can do what it takes to fix a problem or you can not do it. Either option is OK, as long as you’re aware of the consequences of your actions.You’re probably about to write your resolutions for 2012. You’ll have two options: you can work every day to make your resolutions happen, or you can give up around February when you realize how difficult they are. Let me close by repeating a very important point: I don’t think that long-term goals are more important than short-term ones. We all need cookies, sleeping in and being a little lazy once in a while (or whatever your indulgences are). The key, as always, is balance.