You Can Diversify, or You Can Die

Small business owners: You must diversify.

Over at Search Engine Roundtable, Barry uncovers a thread on WebmasterWorld about a small business owner who’s laying off employees for the first time in 8 years because organic traffic from Google is down 50%-70%. The writer explains:

“Most all of our losses have come from our long tail keywords.”

At the risk of looking like I’m criticizing this business owner (I’m not), I do think there are a couple very important things for small business owners to think about here.

1. You can’t rely so heavily on one source of traffic/customers.

The author of that post mentions having e-commerce sites with 200k products. I hesitate to say this without seeing the site, but there’s a good chance a high percentage of those product pages have landed in Google’s supplemental index. It’s difficult for any business owner, no matter how big or small you are, to optimize that many pages and get enough quality links to stay out of the supplemental index.

In Where are all your eggs?, which is one of the first posts I wrote on this blog, I said:

A business plan that relies on free traffic from an outside source you don’t control is no business plan at all. Spread your eggs around. Changes will come — you can be sure of that. Question is: Are you prepared?

2. Natural search traffic is great, but it’s never enough.

I love SEO. I love doing SEO. I love helping clients get qualified, convertable traffic from natural search. But SEO has a little flaw: It’s built on the idea of hope. You have to hope the searcher types in the right query. You hope your site shows up in the SERPs. You hope the searcher clicks on your listing instead of the others. Hope is not a marketing strategy.

On a very related note, Andy Hagans wrote a terrific post earlier this year on the idea of defensible traffic. It’s about having a variety of traffic sources so you can survive the whims of any one traffic source, such as an algo change, or the introduction of “quality score” into PPC, or whatever else might come next.

There’s a reason I write about social media. There’s a reason I think you should learn how to market your business on Flickr. There’s a reason I think advertising on podcasts can be a great, inexpensive way to reach a very targeted audience. You have to go out and find your customers, not hope they come find you.

As Barry wisely points out, the small biz owner who’s laying off employees has been doing business online since 1998 and a WebmasterWorld member since 2001. This isn’t happening to a newcomer. It can happen to anyone.

Diversify to succeed. Diversify to survive.

[tags]marketing, online marketing, social media, defensible traffic, seo, small business[/tags]

Comments (4)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Miriam says:

    Hi Matt,
    That was an odyssey post. I followed all your links and wanted to say that your Flickr post is just excellent. For the first time, I’ve understood how this could be used to promote a small business and I really thank you for the clear way in which you explained that.
    Just super!

  2. Matt McGee says:

    I’m glad you got something out of that Flickr article, Miriam – it really is underused, I think, as a marketing tool. And there are plenty of small businesses that are PERFECT for using Flickr. If you get some clients trying it, let me know how it goes!

  3. Miriam says:

    Hi Matt,
    I’ve been thinking about your Flickr post since I read it, and wondered if you could answer a question for me about this.

    I am wondering about the copyright aspects of this. When a photo is published to Flickr, does it then become public domain?

    Let me give you an example here. I run this blog (I hope it’s okay to include this link; if not, please delete it)

    This is my birding blog, and features my original illustrations of the local birds I study. These illustrations are copyrighted. If I were to upload some of them to Flickr, would they then become public domain for anyone to use?

    If I am questioning this, I can see some of my clients wondering about it, too, and I’d greatly appreciate your thoughts on this.
    Thanks, Matt!

  4. Matt McGee says:

    Hi Miriam – Flickr uses Creative Commons, so in your Flickr account settings, you set the level of copyright control you want. Some people set it to “no usage allowed” and others are more lenient.

    Most of my photos are open, so that people can use them as long as they give me credit and/or a link in exchange for using my photo. The copyright is always mine, no matter what.

    Hope this helps….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *