IncrediMail, an Israeli based a company that develops software to customize e-mails, has provided business owners
an incredible lesson as to why you should not place all your eggs in one basket. Last week, they discovered that their
Google AdSense privileges had been banned. This resulted in their stock dropping over 45% to a new year low. While IncrediMail does claim to generate revenue by selling software products, offering subscriptions
to their content database, and by selling paid advertising on their Web
site and e-mail client, they did admit that search revenues powered by Google's AdSense program made a significant contribution to their results in 2006 and 2007.
The lesson to be learned here by any business is to not place all of your eggs in one basket. This not only includes revenue streams but marketing tactics as well which is what I want to look at in this post.
I see this mostly occurring when small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) place too much dependence on Google's search results to drive traffic to their web sites. It is a difficult thing not to do. When I view the search engine referral traffic for our clients running search marketing campaigns, the vast majority of them receive 50% or more of their traffic from Google. In fact, Google is most often the top referring site period.
Therefore it is easy to see why so many business owners want great visibility in Google's search index. And while they should certainly work towards that goal, it is not wise to rely on it alone. Just look at the effect one company (Google) has had on another (IncrediMail) when their relationship was tainted. Not only should SMBs not place so much dependence on Google, but search engines altogether. In other words, if your only marketing strategy is to rely on organic search traffic, you have all your eggs in one basket. Should that basket be dropped, your eggs will be broken.
So while SMBs should be engaged in search marketing practices, what are some other things they can do to ensure that they stay afloat should search engine traffic suddenly disappear?
Have Paid Search Campaigns in Place
Even if you don't plan a large budget for the major paid search programs (e.g., Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing, MSN's adCenter, Ask), it may be a good idea to have small campaigns in place so that should you suddenly drop out of the natural listings, you can turn on the switch and ensure you are at least represented on the paid side.
Keep in mind that paid search campaigns can also prove to be a valuable place to test specific keywords, keyword groups and/or ad copy. You can always increase or decrease budgets or even place campaigns on pause. Having accounts in place will ensure that they are there when you just might need them.
Have an Active Company Blog
A good blog can not only attract a large number of inbound links, it can attract some pretty decent traffic as well. Most blogging platforms have RSS feeds that can be picked up by feed readers, social bookmarking sites, news sites and the like. The idea is to have a relatively active blog where you are publishing good content. Get a post bookmarked in a site like StumbeUpon or Digg, and you can see a tremendous amount of traffic come your way.
Many SMBs that I have spoken to regarding blogging make the excuse that they do not feel they would have any content to contribute to a blog and/or if they did, they have no one to actually write it. This is a poor excuse as there are so many topics they could add content for. For example, if a company runs a small e-commerce site, they could write product reviews or post testimonies from satisfied customers. They could even write posts about competing products and how their products are better. As to the second argument, if you don't have a writer, hire a ghost writer. You may even be able to hire college students who are working their way through school for very little cost.
The essential idea with a blog is that you now have the ability to "push" content rather than wait for people to come and find it. This has the potential to attract a lot of new traffic and possibly convert some of that traffic into paying customers.
Utilize Social Media Sites
Do you have any video content on your site such as product demos, educational videos and the like? Then you should be submitting those to a YouTube account. Does your site include interesting pictures whether they be for products, services or some other nature? Then you should post those at a Flickr account where you can actually link back to the original source of the picture via the description option Flickr offers. Do you offer interesting products for sale or publish content that is of a unique variety? Then why not develop an application that Facebook users can add on to their profiles? The list of opportunities to engage social media are almost endless. SMBs need to get off their duffs and explore this new medium of potential traffic and how they can best utilize it to their benefit.
Utilize Web Forums
For every industry that exists, there is most likely a web forum related to it. Whether it be a local community forum such as AnthemStuff (a community forum related to Anthem, Arizona) or a forum related to a specific product such as Everything Treo, these online venues allow people to come together for a common purpose. As an SMB, you can engage in that community by simply participating in the forum and adding value to the community. Sign up, create a signature profile which includes brief information about your company and a link back to your site and become a contributing member. You will make people aware of your existence and attract new traffic to your site. You may even discover new networking opportunities that did not exist beforehand.
The only caution I have regarding web forums is to make sure you add value. Don't use forums for mere self promotion as that would be viewed as spam and end up doing more harm to your reputation than helping it.
Word of Mouth / Referrals
Word of mouth and referral business continues to bring some of the best new sales leads in my experience. No matter how much advertising you do, don't neglect this most important tactic which fundamentally involves providing a great product or service. It is as simple as treating your customers right and they will tell others about you. Of course you can also encourage referrals by promising rewards to those that refer you or establishing partnerships with other companies that can send new business your way.
Don't Neglect Traditional Marketing
You remember traditional marketing - business cards, flyers, mail-outs, print advertising, radio and television spots, even having your web site URL on company and/or personal vehicles. While search has allowed many businesses to cut back on these traditional ways of marketing, they should certainly not be cast aside.
The bottom line is to make sure you are not dependant on any one company for survival. This not only includes search giants like Google but any business relationship in which if you were to lose it, you would suffer irreparable harm.
David Wallace is CEO and founder of SearchRank, an original search engine optimization and marketing firm based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is experienced in search engine optimization and marketing, pay per click and pay for inclusion management, directory submissions and web site design usability. David is a frequent contributor to various search engine related forums, an active editor of popular directories such as GoGuides.org, Joe Ant and Zeal and has had several articles published on industry related sites. Since 1997, David along with his company have helped hundreds of businesses both large and small increase their search engine visibility and customer acquisitions.
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