I am the owner of a cabin management business (Cedar Creek Cabin Rentals) in north Georgia near Helen. For years I have been so concerned with traffic and placement of keywords. You may have similar story. Perhaps you did whatever was the latest marketing or SEO trend on how to raise your rankings, or get known for keywords. Spend the bucks to drive paid traffic to your site and then keep spending more because this spending will get more traffic hits. Well I can relate. I spent $150,000 per year back in 2010 on paid search and realized that if I did not figure out how to get organic traffic, my business could not sustain the upward spiraling costs of paid search.
Then in 2011, I wised up and learned about organic inbound marketing and the the HubSpot software for reporting marketing results. I began a new understanding that blogging and content was the answer. At the time, blogging daily and around specific keywords proved to be a homerun and our organic traffic zoomed up 86% and business was doing better. Not 86% better, but we were having modest revenue increases.
It worked so well that the NY Times posted my story!
My internet guy and I got so excited about the successful results that we formed our own internet marketing company. We began providing the same services to our new clients, and our own business began to take off. As in 2010, when I was paying the big bucks for Google Adwords, a similar reality was beginning to take place and it began Jan. 2013. It was called Panda and Penguin, which were the names for the Google algorithm updates. These updates destroyed our organic rankings. Can you relate?
Pumping out content utilizing keywords clearly was not working like it did up through 2012. Rut Row! By March 2013 organic traffic was trending down and year to date organic traffic is off -55%. Was I to go back to spending money on Adwords? My Google paid search went from $150,000 in 2010 to $25,000 in 2013. That was amazing to cut back that type of spending! But was I about to have to reverse that course and start spending money on paid search again? Heck no I thought! I refused to be a Google slave. So I traveled up to Boston last year to once again hear the latest at HubSpot’s annual Inbound Marketing conference. The theme of which was 1+1=3. This could be in terms of synergizing with others or in the software’s approach; synergizing with various inbound marketing methods to create software with much more power.
That was HubSpot saying that marketing was about to take a new approach and their software would help create a way to harness that approach. Yes, you still needed to put out regular content - although there was the beginning of a change of that content’s focus from fairly broad and keyword-driven to one of thought leadership. Looking at other data like time on site and engagement with the content was looking to be a more effective approach. But the big breakthrough was in adopting a persona-based topic-driven content strategy and interaction with the audience. So both my cabin company and our internet marketing agency (98toGo.com) were on a new path.
We literally had to let go of some of our clients that were not willing to embrace this new direction or got fired by the ones that were in it for the traffic only. Instead we focused our efforts on building a solid sustainable marketing approach. This approach was having that online interaction be based on the persona of the individual vs. a generic approach that had everyone be the same. The HubSpot software made it possible to automate and develop lead nurturing based on these personas. The results made me cry (happy tears). We were getting open rates on emails as high as 62% and averaging between 40-49%. The click-through rates were just as mind blowing averaging in the low 20% range. It was blowing away any other type email campaign we had delivered. This was magical. We took a concept of automation along with the concept of personas and were able to get solid effective results. (See image to right for actual results.)
So I look back at the traffic and realize that pain point actually caused us to respond with a different and more powerful approach. I am not saying that traffic is irrelevant, as without it, you have no way to interact. The issue with the focus on traffic is a constant battle of trying to stay at the top. That takes a tremendous amount of energy that may not be best served for actually growing your business. In the last 4 months since HubSpot’s inbound conference, we have realized that the approach is really very simple. Solve the problems of the target audience (your personas).
The results will speak for themselves and, more importantly, you will stay in tune with what are the important questions of your potential clients. The 2nd major breakthrough we came to was carving out our niche. That is, who we were as a company and targeting clients that truly understood our approach. We knew these clients would be a much better fit.
At the moment, that is what Google is indicating that searchers want, but we all know this too can change. The good news is that the audience’s desire to research to solve problems will not change and that bodes well for this approach for the long haul.
So the learn for me was to ditch the energy toward driving traffic, keywords and rankings and instead to dive deeper into your audience personas and answering questions based on this persona. This in turn builds trust. Like author Steven Covey says, “understand before being understood”. If we practice this mantra, we begin to get a deeper understanding of who and what our potential clients are and what problems they are looking to solve. Then, continue to build trust and inform them of why your business may be a best fit to solve their problem. This has proven to work very well for both of my businesses.
The results should pleasantly surprise you too.