Two separate and seemingly unrelated things inspired this article.
1) An article written about 1.5 few years ago by Ryan Jones, in his DotCult blog, “It’s All Bullshit, Bullshit Everywhere.” Ryan’s style, specifically that article, resonated with me and I frequently check Ryan’s site for fresh content. I appreciate the no BS, call-a-spade-a-spade approach. Throw in a cuss word or two in a well written article and voila, Ryan’s article made a permanent impression upon me!
2) My two years of experience as an entrepreneur and digital business developer (online marketer) citing countless hours devoting my time back-and-forth between search marketing and social media marketing. The countless hours wasted looking for opportunity where no opportunity exists!
We started two years ago as an online marketing company and I had my own opinions (yes, at the time they were opinions) about how online marketing does work, my own opinions how online marketing should work. I understand and appreciate the value of both search marketing and social media marketing, much like I also appreciate conventional and print media marketing. Each of these media channels has a place in our world, serves a purpose and is here for the foreseeable future. Many lessons have been learned over the past two years but something I have insisted on since day 1;
Understand that for every brand, every company and every organization there is a proper balance of social media marketing, search marketing, print marketing, email marketing. This balance is a function of past market position, current market position and future market position goals and objectives. At inception, 3V called this process M2 (M-Squared or Marketing Matters) but this is more commonly referred to as “The Brand Maturity Model” (Cseng Lim, Brand Channel)
Historically the protocol for starting a new business or venture was to develop a business plan then draft a marketing plan.. Three important prerequisites exist before you even consider executing marketing tactics.
Interestingly I included number 3, commitment and passion is something that I have learned consumers can quickly pick up on. They can see right through someone that is in it for the wrong reasons.
The success of a marketing effort in either the social or search space absolutely requires an open mind. Even failure is a success, failure in the sense that you tested/tried something and gained valuable intelligence that it does not work for you. There are probably at least a dozen sayings we could use to describe; “No such thing as a free lunch”, “No risk, no reward”. The point is if you do not try something you will never know how successful or unsuccessful that idea is or can be!
If I paid myself $25/hour (a very nominal amount for a good SEO resource) for every hour I spent search optimizing the 3V site, I would probably be able to retire after 2 years. I manage and schedule the content on this site very meticulously, this claim supported by the late 2013 onslaught of WordPress articles in the 3V blog to build up the 3V search marketing exposure and rankings for keyphrases similar to “Detroit WordPress Designers”. I continuously adjust and balance content to maintain rankings for for keyphrases like “Detroit Web Design”, “Best Detroit SEO Companies” and “Detroit Mobile Web Designers”. Having focused so heavily on WordPress and Web Design for the past 3-6 months, we have neglected SEO and correspondingly lost ranking and exposure for SEO.
With all that said, 3V has had two (yes TWO) off-the-street submissions in nearly two years of operation. We do limited paid search marketing (PPC) on both Google and Bing and our PPC ROI is 0% and our organic ROI is not much better. What I will say is that organic conversions are accelerating, so ALL of my time spent on local SEO was not wasted, it simply required 2 years to mature.
The images to the above and to the right are a comparison of referral sources for 3V, comparing May 2013 vs. January 2014. In May 2013, consumers found 3V approximately 33% of time through search engines, fast forward to January 2014 search engine referrals are about 67%. The trend of shifting referral sources from search to social is a universal trend across all brands that we manage.
We have one customer, Specialized Power Services or simply SPS, that is performing EXTREMELY well in both the organic and paid search space. This site supplies brand name electric generators and electric generator parts. The amount of time, money and resources allocated to both organic and paid search marketing is minimal, the brand sells itself. The site was performing at a high level right out of the gate (the site is less than 6 months old and already has paid for itself many times over.)
Comparing the first 6 months growth of 3V Business Solutions vs SPS is a little unfair to 3V because SPS leverages their market position as a Commodity Pusher (once again, see Brand Maturity Model). Within reason, consumers are less concerned where they purchase the brand “Generac” or “Briggs & Stratton”, they are most concerned with ensuring they are purchasing the brand itself!
I presented the two examples above as contrasting examples of two relatively new start-ups. The first example (our brand, our site) was developed without a brand identify, no credentials, no reputation and no history to back it up. The second example leveraged an already existing brand name to support its own existence. The results are more luck than strategy although we do prepare and follow a strategic marketing plan for each client. The point here is (and it took me a while to learn) that some people are looking for a magic SEO or search marketing bullet and if there if a brand has no online history or no online reputation than putting your eggs in the search marketing basket is a recipe for failure.
Our clients that are most successful embrace and leverage social media as much as possible. The brands we develop and manage, including our own, follow a unique and interesting trend. When building a brand, by far the largest source of web traffic is social media. Search marketing at the time of brand inception is virtually nothing. As a brand is developed, gains trust and builds reputation, search marketing will make continuous gains on social media as a referral source. As witnessed by the images of 3V referral sources, search marketing (SEO and SEM) exposure and reach is directly proportional to the branding!
Inevitably social media marketing presents an unparalleled opportunity for brand building. Social media/networking, the social graph, social networking and social search and discovery are all tools that are universally recognized as imperative tools for any brand building effort. Take Facebook as an example, personally I do 80% or more of my marketing, relationship building and daily business in the form of a Facebook Chat or as Twitter Direct Message. If you click the image to the right (below on a mobile device) you will see that a period of a few days all the personal correspondence I maintain on Facebook alone!
As a brand gains momentum, gains reputation, gains trust and acquires a following it only makes sense that search marketing exposure becomes more and more relevant, more and more important. In the digital and online marketing space, I refer to this as the “Digital Brand Maturity Model”. This model typically targets social media as the primary source (launch) of growth for the first 6-12 months with a transition and balancing act after the initial launch.
Let’s face it, when you are a start-up NOBODY (relatively speaking) knows who you are! Leveraging your social graph and social media in general will accelerate your growth curve greater than any other marketing channel available – PERIOD!
There are countless vultures in this world that spam our inbox with email on a daily basis with such tag lines as “1st page on Google”, “Higher Rankings = More Business.” Citing Ryan Jones article, “It’s All Bullshit, Bullshit Everywhere.” Higher rankings does not guarantee anything other than higher rankings. Granted there is a cross-section of people we work with where ego gets involved and higher rankings is more important than acquiring more leads (I call this the ego factor) but by-in-large the majority of people are looking for a return on their investment.
Similarly, there are many social media marketing experts (ninjas, gurus, vultures or whatever you call them) that spam our inbox and clutter our social feeds with messages like;
“Watch my video and subscribe to my service and I will show you how I grossed $100,000 last month”
I call “Bull$%^#” on this one, I call this a Ponzi scheme, I call this a get-rich-quick scheme. If you take anything away from this article, take away from this article the following;
Hello, I am Michael Lucy, owner and founder of 3V Business Solutions and welcome to our blog and my profile. My passion is technology and marketing. Click here for Michael Lucy on Google+.