paid owned earned mediaAs Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher once said, “Change is the only constant in life,” and that applies double to Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

I’ve had clients refer to SEO as everything from “Voo Doo” to the “Dark Arts.”  And while many business owners aren’t sure how to implement SEO the one thing they all agree upon is that it’s critical to the health of their business.  Because SEO is an important factor to being found online by those prospects who are actively making their way through the buying cycle looking for relevant and timely information.  Which is why we’re such proponents of content marketing that helps prospects make buying decisions — from you.  But that’s another story you can read about HERE.

The challenges for SEO, however, have never been stronger.  Keep in mind this one absolute truth as you read further:  “SEO is the enemy of Google.”  The simple reason is because the more successful SEO practitioners are at getting their clients highly ranked on the search engine results, the less likely they are to buy paid advertising, specifically Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising via Google’s Adwords.  Adwords is the reason that Google is valued at over $376 BILLION so obviously, there’s a lot at stake.

SEO is the enemy of Google. Click To Tweet

RECENT CHANGES IN SEO

There have been so may updates to Google’s search algorithm  over the last 3 years, many with cute animal names like Hummingbird, Panda and Penquin, to name just a few.  But the three things that really hurt our efforts to manipulate the search engine results were the demise of anchor text links, especially in press releases, the demise of Google Authorship and the ascendency of link building, which usually requires the involvement of a third party to grant you the link in the first place.  Not an ideal situation when your SEO strategy becomes reliant on the kindness of strangers.

So while we’re been able to counteract some effects of these changes by emphasizing more quality content creation and social media distribution, we’ve also begun to use more paid media as part of the mix.  In fact, look for us to launch several new services over the coming months that will move away from “Search Engine Optimization” and more towards “Content Optimization.

IF YOU CAN’T BEAT ‘EM JOIN ‘EM

At the end of the day it’s our job to generate more exposure for our client’s message.  So introducing a paid component to any Content Optimization strategy makes sense to us.  We see this as the three-legged stool approach that includes:

  1. Earned media:  content that is useful and relevant, “earning” shares, likes, comments, links, etc.
  2. Owned media:  Your own website, social media channels, blogs, etc.
  3. Paid Media:  Advertising;  Pay Per Click, display, remarketing, social media ads, etc.

It’s #3 that I really want to expand on.

We’re finding that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are offering more sophisticated ad platforms to help you reach your target audience more effectively then ever.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that Facebook is less of a social media platform for marketers than an advertising platform.  And as you probably know by now, Facebook has been steadily decreasing the number of your own followers who see your own posts.

Facebook is now less of a social media platform for marketers and more of an ad platform Click To Tweet

While Google Adwords is the Top Dog in terms of reach and effectiveness it’s also the most complicated and the most expensive.  So what are some good alternatives?  Glad you asked.

Some alternative advertising platforms you should consider using include the following:

Facebook Ads Manager:  With a gazillion users worldwide, Facebook offers enormous reach second only to Google Adwords.  While the level of ad serving controls continues to expand it’s still not as sophisticated as Adwords but it’s easy to use and you can generate thousands of engagements for as little as $10 a day.

Twitter Ads: Surprisingly effective with lots of controls, ad styles and global reach.  We recently tried Twitter Cards with decent results, reaching targeted users for about 8 cents a click.  Check out this useful tutorial on setting up a Twitter Card campaign here.

Outbrain: Want your content to appear on sites like CNN, Martha Stewart Living, Forbes.com and other large, heavily-trafficked mainstream media sites?  Outbrain subleases space on these sites and many others as part of the “related content” area you often see on the bottom area of content pages.

outbrain

 

Taboola: Similar to Outbrain with a different list of media outlets.  Pros for both Outbrain and Taboola:  inexpensive traffic.  Cons:  You can’t laser target like Adwords and the sites actually approve or reject content based on it’s informational worthiness — you can’t be too self-promotional, which kind of defeats the purpose but, with the right kind of content and some creativity on your part, these outlets can reach thousands of new users you would otherwise never reach.  Other downside, it’s not search activated but is piggybacking it’s relevancy upon other content.  Other pros:  really cheap click-through rates.

LinkedIn:  Probably the most sophisticated targeting after Google Adwords.  Major pros:  you can target specific groups.  Great for B2B.  Cons, not so effective for B2C.  But definitely worth a try.

SUMMARY

So while content marketing and SEO can still be effective by themselves, promoted content can give you faster results that often help you test out ideas for your other content marketing efforts.  So whatever you’re spending now on content marketing and social media marketing efforts, try setting aside 20% of that budget for paid media and see how that impacts your monthly traffic goals.

And as always, whatever you’re doing to boost traffic and increase revenues, make sure you’re tracking the metrics and conversions that are important to you, whether it be clicks, calls, sales, likes, shares, downloads, opt-ins, etc.  All of the above services offer tracking and reporting and will also register as traffic sources in your own Google Analytics or Google Webmaster tools.