“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is an often used phrase to warn us away from impending doom.
Sometimes we take this advice on-board, sometimes we ignore it.
In the modern online world we should take it on-board, especially if our ‘basket’ is organic traffic from Google and the majority of our business comes from one source; Google’s organic search results.
Why is it such a potential problem?
The answer is simple – next time Google updates its algorithm all our traffic could disappear in a puff of internet smoke.
It’s happened before and it will happen again. It’s just a matter of when.
How to avoid the carnage
Dramatic? Possibly, but if it happens to you your business could go from making hundreds or thousands of pounds per day, to almost zero, in just a few short hours.
Over the past couple of years Google changed how it ranks web pages. Through a string of major and minor updates, nicknamed Panda and Penguin, it targeted sites with low quality content and dodgy link profiles. Overall the changes make for a better user experience, but some businesses suffered major losses as a result.
Some might say it’s their own fault. Some might say it’s the fault of the SEO company they used. Some might say it’s Google’s fault.
Whatever the reason, it’s not a good situation to be in.
So, what can you do ensure your online business isn’t burned next time Google updates its algorithm?
Besides creating great content and better managing your link building process, you should look after your customers and create and nurture a community you can rely on to spend money with you, and to recommend you to their friends and acquaintances when they need the services you provide.
Consider traffic from Google a bonus, make the most of it while it lasts and never, ever take it for granted.
If it one day disappears and you don’t have a loyal customer base or a community behind you, your online business could very quickly go under.
Looking after your existing customers takes many forms:
- Engagement through social media, offline conversations, newsletters, email and other forms of communication
- Special offers and discounts
- Understanding their needs and making them feel special
- Provide the best service you can at every opportunity
- Build real relationships
- Forget the hard-sell
Building a community is tough, especially in the early days of trying to do so. Luckily, through social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn, things have become somewhat easier, but don’t expect it to happen overnight and without a lot of effort.
When it comes to success in social media too many people focus on high numbers and assume the higher the number the better.
This isn’t true.
And Twitter followers and Facebook likes can be easily bought.
What’s most important in social media is the interaction between you and the people who follow you.
Take Twitter; it’s better to have a reliable percentage of 500 followers who react to your Tweets than 5,000 followers who take no action at all. The small percentage who retweet, reply or click links in your tweets are more likely to become a paying customer than the 5,000 who ignore you.
Here are a few pointers to help you develop an audience and rely less on Google for customers.
- Always provide quality content that your followers find useful
- Create a mailing list and provide a regular newsletter
- Give stuff away – industry specific reports, freebies, vouchers – whatever works for your business
- Ask questions about the wants and needs of your customers – and meet those needs
- Try the soft-sell approach
- Handle social media yourself, or pass it to somebody you trust (don’t let the new bod handle it)
- Share interesting industry related content on your social platforms – it’s not all about you (try Scoop.it as a curation tool)
- Use social media to build brand awareness, trust and to connect with, and build your customer base
The bottom line here is that you are trying to build your online presence so your business could survive if Google ever decided it didn’t like your website, for whatever reason. The aim is to communicate and engage with your existing customer base to build up trust and loyalty.
Many small businesses operate on a referral only basis, they don’t advertise because they don’t need to. They provide a good service so they retain customers and earn new ones through recommendations. If you build-up a small community around your business you stand a chance of being in a similar situation. Once your community exists, nurture it and look after it, as one day, you might have to rely on it.