Stop playing the SEO game: Find your sources of influence
SEO - Search Engine Optimization - was always my favorite digital marketing tactic. After talking to Rand Fishkin (founder of Moz and SparkToro) and doing some introspection, I am ready to question the value of SEO in 2021 and beyond.
Whether you've been struggling to get any results with SEO or just starting to plan your digital marketing strategy, you should know that there are other ways to achieve your goals that don't require top positions in the Google SERPs. Better ways, easier ways.
In our conversation, Rand told me that he's growing SparkToro and getting hundreds of users signing up daily using absolutely no SEO.
Listen to it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or on the web.
In this article, I will share the most relevant learnings I got from the podcast and my point of view on the topic.
About Rand Fishkin
I've been a fan of Rand Fishkin since the early 2000's when he blogged daily on SEOMoz and helped us grow as digital marketers and SEO practitioners. Through Whiteboard Friday, we became acquainted with Rand's face and his positive energy.
Recently he published the book Lost and Founder that I highly recommend to anyone in the startup world, and last year he founded SparkToro, an audience research tool.
You can grow organically with no SEO
Rand Fishkin built an SEO powerhouse with SEOmoz. He blogged five days a week, and his extensive guides dominated the organic SEO-related queries in Google. This strategy drove thousands of marketers to consume his content and later to buy his product.
In 2020, when he started SparkToro, Moz kindly redirected his blog posts to the new domain. Google traffic dropped to zero instantly.
At this point, he could have started again, putting in the long hours, hiring writers, getting backlinks, climbing those SERPs one by one. If anyone could pull that off, it's Rand. But he didn't. He chose another path and found success without relying on search traffic.
I will not say SEO is dead or even dying. It's just that the dynamics of the web and the fierce competition made it less attractive than it was 20 years ago. At the same time, other platforms like online communities and social media became increasingly influential. This combination shifted the decision on where to apply your organic acquisition efforts.
A corollary to this thesis is that you can also stop paying Google to send you search traffic and save a ton of money in Google Ads.
So what do you do instead?
The influence map
The alternative way to generate organic traffic that converts into business is simple: start by creating an influence map, then earn visibility on that map.
To build the map, determine where your target audience hangs out online. What do they read, listen to, and watch? Who do they trust?
You will find a mix of publications, online communities, conferences, YouTube channels, thought leaders, newsletters, and others.
Take all of that and create a map, the influence map for your audience.
Next, you need to find ways to show up in those places regularly. That's when our marketing job becomes fun because we get to network and create value that stands out from the crowd.
I don't have a recipe for this process; you have to lead with empathy and creativity!
Creating content for amplification
Most of the content produced for SEO purposes goes to waste because no one ever consumes it. When you bet everything on ranking for a particular keyword to be found in the SERPs, you know for a fact that most of the time, you will lose that battle to a competitor. Or they will lose it to you. Either way, only a few can win, so the vast majority of marketing content falls into a void, utterly unnoticed forever.
When you change your mindset and create content to be amplified by the sources that influence your audience in the channels they use, the odds change.
You will need to work hard to earn amplification, and being Rand Fishkin surely helps to open doors. But anyone can do it, and the results compound, just like SEO did in its golden age.
If you have been paying attention, at a tiny scale, that's what I'm doing with my personal blog. I write articles to share on my LinkedIn and e-mail list, and hopefully, others will re-share them. SEO traffic is negligible.
On a larger scale, that's also what Landbot is doing with our new podcast.
By now, you've realized I'm hosting the new Landbot podcast, Ungated Marketing. We will talk to experienced marketers about the latest marketing tactics that break away from the aging over-used playbooks.
Rand Fishkin was our first guest, and I couldn't imagine a better way to kick off a marketing podcast, but this is just the beginning.
Every week we'll publish a new episode, so stay tuned! And if you can, please leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts.