The Markets have changed

I recently had a conversation with a customer who seemed a bit behind in marketing their site. They are trying to focus on creating good metatags, buying Adwords, putting banners all over the place, and essentially “flyering” everyone they could. I spent quite a bit of time trying to explain how the Internet has and is moving, but they didn't seem to get it. I know this will be review for the vast majority of you, but let me try it again here:

Right off the bat, let me mention that when I read the the cluetrain manifesto (book) (principles) and then saw the 2004 Presidential Election, I was completely sold. The tricks and methods that worked online five years ago online and completely dead and have been replaced by something better… conversations.

What's the best way to get hits to your site right now? The obvious answer is to get someone BIG to talk about it. It doesn't matter if this is a tv show, celebrity, large website, whatever. This will result in big hits in almost no time at all because people will see the site name and be able to type it in directly. Of course, since most of us can't afford to – don't want to – buy commercial time during American Idol or the Superbowl, what's the next best idea?

How about keywords? You can put a select list of keywords, their synonyms, and related terms throughout the site. You can have “info” pages which are simply excuses to use keywords. This will help search rankings and if someone types our key words, they may find us on one of the pages and follow through to the site. Of course, most users who click through to your site via one of these pages are probably going to distrust your site due to your methods. And in some hotly contestly words, you will never even be on the first few pages…

Instead of asking “What are the alternatives”, stop and ask yourself “What are the goals?” Most online efforts – regardless of the industry – want a few key things:

a) They want people to come to the site,
b) they want a) to happen often and repeatedly, because
c) frequent repeat and new visitors to the site are more likely to generate revenue via Adsense, buying items, donations, etc, etc, etc.

Now, how do we do this?

a) If you want people to find your site, you have to tell them its there,
b) If you want a) to happen often and repeatedly, you must convince that your site has value*, because
c) few people are going to buy from a site that doesn't demonstrate value* to them.
* Value here can mean a variety of things… best price, good customer service, warm fuzzy feelings, feeling educated, etc, etc.

Now, keeping our goals in mind, let's reconsider the situation. We want to draw people to the site. We want to give them something of value. We want them to tell their friends, associates, and relatives about the site. How do we do this?

By building community. Now, you're saying: Oh, that's all.

The way to build a community is to find the like-minded people who have something to give and convince them to give it. Now, you're saying: Oh, that's all.

This is your market, so you probably already know these people. Reach out to select individuals and try to draw them in. Give them something of value and get something of value.

Most of the people reading already know this, once again, my apologies.

The easiest and probably the cheapest thing to give away is your wisdom. You don't have to be a professional in a field to be able to talk about it. You just have to say something. If you want to call someone an idiot, applaud a new idea or technique, review a product, whatever, you will draw at least one person. Ideally, they'll tell all their friends and you'll tell all your friends and you'll get a grand total of 10 people reading! Wow, time for a beer, right?

No. If you can convince 5 people to read your thoughts, then what happens if you have 10 people involved each inviting 5 people to read any and all of the group of thoughts? Odds are that some of those people will be interested and pass the links along. Now, if you can convince people to discuss the topic – which is your industry, remember? – then it's even better.

This is much more time consuming than buying a Superbowl ad, but it will last longer, be more durable, and help establish you and your organization as experts in your field.

Unfortunately, some still don't want to see this change…