Technology evolves quickly and with it, consumer tastes. What’s acceptable and useful to a user today doesn’t match what was acceptable and useful to the same user three years ago, and three years from now, it will probably change again. Successful brands aren’t the ones who can leverage present audiences most effectively, but instead are the ones who can adapt quickly to changing circumstances.
Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs get trapped in old lines of thinking—and I can see why it’s easy to do. If an online marketing strategy works well for you for years, it can be hard to tell when it gradually fades from utility or efficiency in the landscape of potential marketing campaigns.
Still, if you’re using one of these utterly dead online marketing strategies, it’s time to close up shop and move on to something more modern:
Search engine optimization has gone through a number of different phases, and one of the longest ones was keyword-centric ranking (and the accompanying strategy of keyword-centric optimization). Unfortunately, this phase has ended, and if you’re still using it, you’re living in a dead era.
Here’s how keyword-centric optimization worked. Google would take a user’s search query, break it up into important “keywords,” and then look all over the web for sites that mentioned those keywords the greatest number of times. As the search algorithm grew more sophisticated, the framing of those keywords became more important. For example, articles with a keyword in the title were worth more authority than articles with keywords in the body, and any instances of “keyword spamming” were immediately thrown out. Still, optimizers could select a handful of target keywords, optimize for those terms, and then hope to achieve rank for queries containing those keywords.
In 2013, Google introduced a new means of search analysis called semantic search. Rather than focusing on keywords, Google’s algorithm now takes the effort to understand the intention behind user queries and formulate responses that seem appropriate for those queries. In effect, keywords don’t matter at all anymore. The quantity or phrasing of your keywords won’t factor into how Google ranks you. Instead, focus on the topics you write about, the niche your company serves, and peripheral authority factors like guest posting on industry blogs and syndicating on social media.
Continuing to optimize for specific keywords is an inefficient strategy, but more than that, it could actually harm you in the long run. If you use the same keyword phrase over and over too many times, its algorithm will take notice, and you could actually suffer a ranking penalty as a result.
When social media platforms first started to emerge, there was ample fruit ripe for the picking, and nobody knew the best way to take advantage of it. Similarly, few social media platforms had the sophisticated level of user experience necessary to sustain a full-scale customer communications platform the way they can today. Old-school social media strategies were all about getting as many friends, fans, and followers as humanly possible as fast as possible. It was thought that higher audience volumes directly correlated to greater sales, and on some level, that’s true. More followers means your messages can spread further, and new people exposed to your brand will think you have a higher reputation if you have more followers.
However, in order to artificially and quickly inflate these numbers, people resorted to buying followers. Back in the day, this strategy was marginally effective, but today, it’s a good way to sabotage your brand.
First, bought followers are usually fake accounts with names in foreign languages. Anyone who looks at your “massive” follower count will instantly know you paid for all those followers, and you’ll be discredited instantly. Second, if you post quality content, your audience will grow naturally—there’s no need to buy anybody. All the fake followers in the world won’t mean anything if your content is bad. Finally, numbers don’t mean much anymore. People know that follower counts can be inflated, and they care far more about what you’re willing to do for your followers than how many followers you have. Focus on making your audience—no matter how small it is to start—happy.
This is a broad online marketing approach rather than a strategy pertaining to any one channel. In older online marketing campaigns, favored results were always impressions or clicks—it was thought that the more people that can see your brand online, the better you’re faring. As a result, SEO, PPC, and other marketing strategies always had the ultimate goal of increasing either the number of impressions or the number of clicks a message received.
Today, there are two more important metrics. The first is conversions—a click doesn’t mean much if a user ends up wandering away from your landing page. Think about it; would you rather get 1,000 clicks but only 1 conversion, or 100 clicks but 10 conversions? The latter is more valuable, rendering the “clicks” measurement practically worthless.
The second important metric is ROI, or the return on investment of any given strategy. How much you spend to get a certain result means just as much as the type of results you receive. ROI tells you not just how effective your campaign is, but how profitable it is, and at the end of the day, that’s more important.
These strategies may still hold marginal benefits for your brand, but in all likelihood, they’re doing more harm than good. The faster you can dump them and get on board with a more modern, suitable strategy, the better. Don’t let your ROI suffer any longer.