Digital Marketing Strategy

Has Google Helped To Do Away With The Need To Advertise?

Here’s a question for the new year: Does a first page Google search ranking replace the need to continue spending on advertising? After all, if you’ve made it to the top of the charts in Google search results, what more is needed?

Times have certainly changed. Understatement of the year, right? But it’s true. Having been in the marketing business for more than 35 years, I have to marvel at the difference a few decades have made. I stand corrected: what a difference a few years have made.

Things were going along pretty swimmingly during the seventies, eighties and nineties until the Internet came of age. Until then, we knew what it took to reach our desired markets and chose among radio, TV and print to do so. Expensive as those choices were, we at least had a handle on the world of business marketing.

Enter “big brother.” There is nothing that has had more of an impact on our world than the advent of Google and its all-pervasive “vigilance” (to put it politely) of every detail in which we humans engage.

Our homes? Just check Google Maps. From every angle. Satellite. Earth. Street. Baby stroller.

Our lives? Just plug your name into the Google search field and cross your fingers.

While some are bemoaning the fact that Google has indexed the good, the bad and the ugly from which there seems to be no escape (should someone happen upon a misdeed from ten years ago in some obscure…or not so obscure…search results), we at Mid-Hudson Marketing are feeling pretty lucky that Google has very much worked in our favor.

How have we managed to arrive at this enviable position? For one thing, we have stayed informed about what is important in today’s Google-dominated universe. What, pray tell, is that, you may ask?

Well, it is a combination of things to be sure, but it all boils down to the critical need to have a search-engine optimized website, better known as the Internet lifeblood of SEO.

While you may have heard of this and shrugged it off as superfluous to your daily business, as compared with the air that we breathe and the busywork that we do to stay alive, nothing could be further from the truth. SEO is the air that we breathe and without it, you may as well start writing your business obituary. Maybe not today or even tomorrow, but soon, perhaps this coming year, you will begin to realize that if your website (if you even have a website) is not coming up in a significant position in search results, you will have an expensive journey moving forward toward maintaining any semblance of business success.

Those who have done their SEO due diligence are reaping the benefits in many different ways. For one thing, having a website or references to your business which come up on page one of Google search results is synonymous with having a glowing feature story on the front page of the world’s leading newspapers. It surpasses the power of a full page ad or an infomercial on TV because that is something you pay for, dearly, as compared with the prestige of having an editorial endorsement in a medium that is respected on a global stage. That certainly is Google’s stature: worldwide, powerful and totally impartial. What does that mean? It means it is totally believable, something in short shrift in the skeptical world in which we live.

The sheer brilliance of achieving a page one position among the first twenty listings in a search that returns more than two, five or one hundred million results speaks volumes about the intelligence behind the entities at such a level of accomplishment! The question is not how it may be possible for a small company or an individual person to rank at the top of such a competitive index, but how that can happen in today’s world for free!!

Of course, we all know that nothing is ever totally for free. Attaining such a position is the result of many costly years of cumulative investment in time, self-education, effort and risk. Being in business for decades is no small feat in itself. Doing so while keeping pace with the exploding technology and all that it demands is even more commendable, especially if the business also sustains financial triumph in the process.

Does this mean that SEO dominance now spells relief from the cost and necessity of advertising? Is it possible for a well-optimized website to replace the tried and true strategies of marketing, networking and merchandising? How far do the Google search tentacles reach?

First of all, different searches bring up different search results just as different direct mailings done on different dates have different numbers of respondents, if any at all. We all know that placing an ad in a magazine or a newspaper is a crap shoot for rate of response depending on who happens to read the publication on that particular date, and whether they even notice the ad, let alone respond to it! Every method of marketing is subject to the vagaries of chance which makes it as risky as investing in the stock market. You pay your dues and you hold your breath.

While not everyone on earth may see your stellar Google ranking as a result of a certain combination of search terms, and not everyone is an Internet user, the beauty here is that this phenomenon hasn’t involved any outlay of cash. It’s just there for the taking. Similar to having a free listing in the yellow pages but with so much more significance and reach – you can’t even compare the two! And while someone may call you from your free yellow page listing, if you’re lucky, if someone clicks on your web address as a result of your free Google listing, once they arrive, they have an entire encyclopedic volume of information about you and your company carefully crafted to make an impressive presentation, lead them to the conclusion you want and direct them to either buy your product or service or respond with a positive desire to learn more – all without having ever spoken to anyone at your company!

It’s hard to minimize the benefits of that kind of achievement on any level. Again I ask, does it replace the need to continue to assign precious marketing dollars to the endless choices of expensive advertising which includes yellow page participation, traditional print ads, radio and TV spots, billboards on our roadways or banner ads on websites, networking efforts through industrial memberships and/or trade show presentations, direct mail and/or email marketing, guerrilla marketing on community bulletin boards, or in-your-face marketing on shopping carts, mall kiosks, store countertops, or panel trucks? In a down economy, certainly a lot of this can be held in abeyance while a more personal effort is dedicated to improving one’s SEO.

So, what are the secrets to SEO dominance? Let me count the ways:

First, there is no most important single parameter; rather, it is a combination of things that add up to SEO excellence. Simply put, being in the right place at the right time is a big one. This means having your business associated with big, powerful and popular websites that will include a “linkback” to your URL address (www.yourwebsite.com) for an extended period of time. Social networking sites come immediately to mind because they are steps you can take yourself for free with the potential for enormous dividends. Having a blog which is constantly generating new content attracts Google’s attention, especially if the content is “rich” or valuable in its informative contribution. No fluffery allowed here.

This also holds true of your website. Think in terms of the assignments you had to fulfill in advanced college courses for teachers who expected your performance to be nothing short of genius level. Now apply that kind of effort to your web page content, making sure to include marketing and graphic appeal to keep your visitors lingering on your pages and thirsting for more. You’ll need to predict what kinds of search terms your preferred visitors will use to find and take pleasure in your site because these magical words will be the key to your future business. (Hence, the term “keywords!”) And you will need to incorporate these golden nuggets into the flow of your page so their search and your content will be relevant to one another.

You will also need to have active links from your pages to other content within your website that further addresses their quest for more elaboration on what they are seeking. Whether your website is simply informative or offers merchandise for sale, your aim is to reward your visitors with complete satisfaction. Remember, every happy customer is a source of future referral!

While the relevances of SEO also include the appropriateness of your domain name, your page titles, tags and descriptions, it is mind-boggling to learn that Google has recently shaken up the Internet universe by tweaking its search algorithm in some mysterious way, making the job just that much more challenging for those of us who study all things Google on a daily basis. Translation: It is never a done deal!

Since we’re only a few years into the Google paradigm, we need to take our time to assess and reassess the correct plan going forward, especially if your business has a long, established history. Deciding to suddenly curtail spending on marketing and advertising strategies that have put you where you are today, may not be the wisest coup de grace. One last thought: It may be the success of your marketing and advertising all these years which has contributed to your current stature among the SEO cognoscenti. There’s an old adage in the advertising world paraphrased as follows: If the train is traveling along at 90 mph, you don’t disengage the engine!

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