Over the last year Internet marketing – primarily search marketing - has undergone something of a paradigm shift.
Shortcuts and scalable tactics are out, traditional marketing and hard graft is in.
In fact, this has always been the best way to build a business online, it’s just that most ‘Internet Marketers’ (myself included) have, over the last few years, been so fixated with getting to the top of Google as quickly and easily as we can – to rake in the traffic and the cash – that we didn’t want to do it the hard way.
We didn’t need to. For us the Internet did not exist outside of Google.
And the ‘easy way’ worked superbly until 2013 when Google’s onslaught of algorithm updates shook up the SERPs like a wrecking ball.
Right now, as a result, if you want to build a sustainable online business that will stand the test of time, then you need to forget the old SEO mindset.
Because here’s a secret: traditional marketing is killing it right now online.
I know this because creating brand equity and a loyal following using old school marketing tactics is precisely what I’ve employed over the last 12 months to grown my latest online brand and labour of love: GymTalk.
GymTalk is a community-based bodybuilding website which features in-depth articles on training and nutrition, product reviews, interviews and profiles with industry figures, humour pieces, and, most recently, an online shop proving a range of men’s and women’s gym clothing.
Between March 15, 2013 and March 15, 2014 GymTalk attracted 283, 926 unique visitors.
It has also turned over around £10,000 from affiliate sales in its first year.
Most of this has come in the last few months, with the site making over £2,400 in January, for example.
GymTalk has also amassed well over 10,000 followers on its social media profiles and mailing list.
As I mentioned previously, I built this brand by largely using traditional marketing approaches which have been devastatingly effective online.
The following are the tactics that I have employed:
Create something of value
This is the most important step and the one which will make everything else you do much easier and simpler.
Rule #1: Build something that truly offers amazing value.
Create something awesome with your band - not just some crappy 10 page affiliate website called www.best-treadmills.info.
It might take a hell of a lot more work but the long term yield will be astronomical.
Find and engage your audience
This is one of the oldest tricks in the marketing book: find out where your market hangs out and go and engage with them.
And the best part of this approach (with a few exceptions) is that it is completely free way to drive targeted traffic to your website.
With regards to GymTalk, I was able to drive huge amounts of traffic by engaging with my audience on various bodybuilding forums (there’s a tonne of them), the bodybuilding subreddit (again, overflowing with members), and Google Plus Communities (a largely untapped resource right now, start engaging now!).
For a more detailed look at how to effectively implement this tactic, check out Matthew Woodward’s excellent exploration of the topic, which he rates as the most important article on his entire site – and I wholeheartedly agree!
Help your audience
Never underestimate the power of being there for your audience.
Reply to every comment and answer every question you receive via email, the website and social media, even if it seems like unnecessary admin and a waste of your time.
Ultimately, you need to stop focusing on ways to make money and instead concentrate on the long-term pay off of building brand authority.
This will be far, far profitable in the long-term.
I usually respond to readers across all platforms first thing every morning – even though it can take over an hour on some occasions.
Also, go that extra mile whenever you can, for you’ll gain followers for life that way.
A technique I learned from Pat Flynn over at Smart Passive Income is to email every person that comments on your blog and personally thank them for taking the time to leave a comment.
By establishing yourself as an expert in your niche who is willing to help everyone you are well on the way to building your online brand by word of mouth.
Now this is not technically an old school marketing approach but the principles of ‘word of mouth’ marketing are there.
Hang out with your audience, engage them, have fun with them, tell stories, help them out.
All this will build brand awareness and long term relationships with real human beings – it’s word of mouth marketing on steroids.
Just be careful not to oversell and convert sales as soon as you can.
Instead use the soft sell approach, or as Gary Vaynerchuk terms it, ‘jab, jab, jab, jab, right hook’ your followers.
Treat your social media profiles as the ‘gateways’ to your brand or product.
This is another ridiculously effective – and completely white hat – technique to generate traffic and backlinks for your website.
Every time I publish a piece of content or an affiliate offer I reach out to hundreds of people in my niche via email and let them know about it.
However, don’t think for a second that this email outreach is anything like those emails sent out in their thousands by Indian SEO companies or people looking for guest bog posts.
I find out the person’s name, engage with them on a personal level about their website, and very kindly and politely ask if they wouldn’t mind helping me out by sharing the link.
Also, think outside the box when considering targets.
For example, I recently released an affiliate offer on the site, a MuscleFood discount code exclusive to GymTalk which provided a saving on chicken breast fillets.
Instead of targeting those in my niche, I reached out to food and ‘frugal’ lifestyle bloggers, many of whom were interested in the deal and were more than happy to help.
Building relationships with leading figures and websites in your niche is an extremely effective way to establish your brand.
Have conversations with them on Twitter, leave comments on their blog, and drop them friendly emails every now and again.
Once they know who you are, they will be much, much, much more receptive to you when you ask for a cheeky link, guest post or interview.
To be successful online in 2014 and beyond – whether you’re an affiliate marketer or an SME business owner – you need to stop seeing SEO and link building as a silo of your marketing strategy.
SEO – at least the SEO that works – has now become an amalgam of traditional marketing, social media management, content marketing, user experience, and analytics.
So forget shortcuts, cheap fixes and backlinks and instead invest time and resources into building a comprehensive internet marketing strategy which involves all of these key elements.
The results, I promise you, will be insanely powerful, and you will blow your competition out of the water!
Now it’s over to you.
Have you used any of these techniques? Any others that are working out for you? Any other thoughts or questions?
Let me know in the comments section below!