So many choices…
Whether it’s a new business, a side hustle, or a new direction for an existing business, the number and range of choices can be overwhelming.
How do YOU come up with opportunities to pursue, or choose between them?
For most of us, it used to be that our Internet Marketing or online business efforts largely revolved around keyword opportunities; we would use keyword research tools to uncover and evaluate ‘underleveraged’ keywords and phrases – the old “high volume, low competition” mantra.
We did this for a number of reasons, some of which are still appropriate – search volume, for instance, is still a good indicator of size and potential interest.
But the rationale behind the “high search volume, low (easy) competition” tactic for niche or topic selection, and for keyword targeting, no longer holds.
The reasoning behind all of this revolved around ranking – specifically the ‘old’ methods of creating and accumulating (often low-value) backlinks as the means to build ranking. Those methods no longer work, and so it no longer makes sense to make decisions predicated on tactics that we won’t use because they don’t work.
In fact, we want to take a bigger step back and consider things from an even wider perspective, asking the question: are we still trying to drive our business by driving search traffic to our sites?
Many internet entrepreneurs and online marketers don’t even consider the question; it’s been so ingrained that few of us even consider whether that’s still an appropriate or even valid approach. So many business models are built on this ‘foundation’ – including our original info-product approach – that we simply take it for granted.
But the environment has changed, and what was once a sure, relatively easy, and well-understood model – that a) we can build sustainable businesses with search traffic, b) we get that traffic by reaching Page 1 in the SERPs, and c) we can almost always achieve that positioning by gaming the system i.e. accumulating a great enough volume of lo-value backlinks – no longer holds. And that’s true on a few levels.
First, a business based primarily – or solely – on search traffic will always be vulnerable, even if it’s able to achieve enough volume to begin with. Remember, we’re not ‘entitled’ to search traffic; nothing says Google has to let us reach Page 1, or that if we do, we’ll stay there. And history shows that even if we ‘decode’ the formula for top rankings, it will always be a moving target – the ‘formula’ will keep changing.
There’s a lot to be said for free search traffic, and we certainly want to take advantage where we can – as long we aren’t doing so at the expense of building a stable foundation, and that the ‘cost’ isn’t too high.
Two points then to clarify, and a new one to add, each of which can’t be over-stated:
First – a business built on a foundation of ranking and search traffic is vulnerable, and inherently unstable.
Second – less & less of the total available traffic, and less & less of the ‘routing’ (deciding where to go, why to go there, and how to get there) will revolve around Google.
In addition to those points, we look at things through a new lens today. Instead of trying to build a business by identifying – or creating – “artificial” opportunities to take advantage of, such as under-leveraged keywords, we look instead for areas where we can legitimately add value.
Which brings us back to the original question…
In our “new” model, we look for opportunities where there is a need we can fill, a question we can answer, a benefit we can offer, or a problem we can solve. We do this the same way we would begin researching niches & topics previously. But the criteria for what will work, and how to evaluate them is different.
We still want to make sure there is sufficient volume – interest or need – to make it worth pursuing, and we still want to make sure we can compete, but we no longer measure competition simply by gauging the ranking strength of the top-ranked pages.
If we’re looking to get some of our traffic from search, then we still want to see if we can rank for appropriate keywords. But now we can measure the strength of competition not by the number of backlinks, but by the relative strength of the page we’re competing with itself.
We also want to gauge the strength of competition as far as their ‘social strength’, and their ‘reach’.
‘Social strength’ is how strong their social presence is i.e. do they have a Facebook page? How many comments do their posts get? A Twitter account? How many followers? How engaged are they? Do they have a lot of citations (mentions)? Do they have a lot of positive feedback, reviews, etc.? Because that will increasingly determine how big a slice of the available traffic they’re getting, and how hard it will be to displace them.
‘Reach’ is how well and how much they’re tapping into non-search traffic. Some of this is social network traffic. Some is ‘other’ – traffic through document sharing, content syndication, paid traffic, etc.
If it seems like it’s getting more complicated, that’s because it is. The plain truth is that the ‘easy cash grab’ days of internet marketing are disappearing. That doesn’t mean there aren’t niches, topics, and opportunities that are relatively easy to leverage – there are. But as people become more wired into this increasingly personalized, always connected, always on, “mobile social web”, the means to capture and market to them grow proportionally more complex.
What’s ‘right’ today is different than what was ‘right’ a year, eighteen months, and two years ago. Some ideas and methods remain the same, but much has changed. The “bigger hammer” methods of the past have become less & less effective. In place of force and repetition, we focus instead on a longer-term and more effective “trust & authority” model.
As always, the ‘proof is in the pudding’: our own online efforts are stronger, more profitable, and seemingly more durable, while being easier/cheaper to accomplish at the same time.
And that brings us to a final point worth making: The main focus of 100k Results – our training, how-to’s, consulting, this blog – has always been to provide the ‘ways & means’ to succeed as internet marketers. And since our training products are all based on our own in-house real-world efforts, they reap the benefits as well.
The takeaway is this: base your choices and actions on available opportunities to add value, and measure your progress on real metrics like engagement and user/reader/customer/client feedback.