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Growing Traffic Outside the SEO Paradigm

Recently some have expressed dismay that Google is sending less traffic. The underlying assumption is that Google is the Internet and without Google we wither. That’s actually not true. SEO is not the only traffic driver.

Online success does not begin and end with Google. Relying exclusively on SEO is a limited approach. It can blind a business to the opportunities to grow traffic. It’s possible to do both, grow traffic and grow SEO traffic.

Focusing on SEO Leads to Questionable Decisions

Exclusively focusing on SEO results in self-defeating decisions. A common one is to exclusively focus on creating relationships with sites and entities according to an arbitrary metric.

In the old days businesses would focus on the PageRank of a site in the belief that high PageRank sites will help a site rank better. After a certain point that was no longer true. Yet the belief in cultivating relationships exclusively with sites of a certain PageRank level persisted.

I am not saying to avoid SEO. I’m only saying don’t let the focus on SEO blind you to opportunities that exist outside of the SEO paradigm.

While we don’t currently have access to PageRank values, many SEOs rely on metrics that aren’t even connected to Google.  This results in decisions that make questionable sense for SEO and less so for building traffic.

A typical example is an opportunity to privately publish an article in a newsletter that will be seen by 10,000 potential customers. The SEO will turn away from it because the effort will not influence rankings.

But we’re not doing this to win a rankings race. We’re in this to make money, right? Ten thousand potential customers seems like a good use of time to me.

The SEO is correct, the project won’t influence rankings. But that’s why it’s so important to see the bigger picture.

These kinds of traffic and sales building projects that are targeted to potential clients can help build a website into a destination, resulting in traffic outside of the Google paradigm.

Be Better than the Competition

There’s a link and content strategy called Ego Bait. This is sometimes called a Round Robin. A site that wants links or attention will invite the most popular people to answer questions.

Of all the round robins I have participated in it always amazed me how some of the respondents submitted short and sometimes unhelpful answers. A few responses were laden with industry platitudes and layered with buzzwords.

Unconsidered answers communicate little that is useful.

“Content is king, bla, bla, bla”

“Focus on quality, bla, bla, bla”

“Holistic approach to SEO, bla, bla, bla”

The person who takes the time to provide generous insights and actionable strategies will look the sharpest. Most importantly, that person will be quoted and shared on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. So why phone it in?

In everything you do online, whether it’s tweeting, optimizing an image to be useful or answering a question, don’t phone it in. Do it as if your business depends on it. Because you know… your business depends on it.

Don’t Emulate – Go Big

Google has had many spectacular successes. Google generally accomplishes this when they’re not trying to emulate their competition.

Gmail is an inspirational example. While the competition was providing email storage measured in megabytes, Gmail provided storage measured in Gigabytes.

Gmail is an example of being better than the competition. If you are doing a guest post, make it original, make it insightful. Write it as if you want it to be the defining statement of whatever topic you are writing about.

Find your competitor’s weakness and make it your strength. And don’t just focus on your competitors. Go to other niches and see what the leaders in those niches are doing.

You may find inspiration by discovering what the leaders in other niches do best. And you might also find inspiration from what those leaders don’t do best.

One of the shortcomings of traditional competitor research is focusing exclusively on competitors. If you really want to be out of the box, get out of your niche.

Seek Opportunities in Being Different

Is is a commonplace that there is wisdom in crowds. But we know that isn’t true. Crowds consist of people. People are fallible. They also like to have others do their thinking for them. This can be an opportunity.

Sometimes the crowd will coalesce around an idea that a certain way of doing something is the way to go about it. If competitors are doing something exactly the same as everyone else, it could be that they all think it’s the best way.  But the reality is that the competitors are simply chasing each other.  Does it really make sense to jump in line and replicate that?

I’ve seen this many times. For example, in the personal injury space there is a weird convention of buying domains with way too many keywords in them. And the promotion consists of obtaining links from other keyword-in-domain-websites.

The personal injury space is one of those niches where people get locked into the mindset that if the competitors are doing it then they should too.

If everyone is doing the same thing, it’s not always because it’s working. It’s just people following each other. This is an opportunity to do something different and consequently better.

Become a Destination

Becoming a destination is the idea this article has been headed toward. This is not about “becoming a brand.” Brand is a meaningless buzz phrase.

The problem is that Google is increasingly sending less traffic. The insight is that this is only a problem if your marketing strategy is exclusively focused on SEO. Because that idea, that Google is the Internet, is the mindset that results from focusing entirely on SEO.

But there is another mindset that can run parallel with SEO. And that’s the mindset of becoming a destination.

  1. Be better.
  2. Be different.
  3. Make people know you.
  4. Become a destination.

An unremitting focus on Google can make SEO feel like trying really hard to be a flea on a dog. Cultivating traffic and building awareness is about being more than a flea.

The efforts put into becoming a destination can run parallel with SEO. There is no need to choose one over the other.

All this hand wringing about Google not sending as much traffic, Facebook not sending enough traffic, that’s the mindset of a flea looking for a dog. There is more to success than SEO KPIs.

And the interesting thing about going big is that once people love your site, once your site becomes a destination, the rankings follow along.

Images by Shutterstock, Modified by Author

Category SEO
SEJ STAFF Roger Montti Owner - at

I have 25 years hands-on experience in SEO and have kept on  top of the evolution of search every step ...

Growing Traffic Outside the SEO Paradigm

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