On Search and Social, If It Ain’t Broken, Fix it Anyway
In many ways, the standard thinking about your marketing no longer applies when it comes to what’s happening online. Two of the largest components, search and social, are in a constant state of flux. For better or for worse, the big players like Google and Facebook do what they can to keep marketers and the businesses using them on their toes.
Chalk it up to constant improvement if you’d like. Say that they’re out to get us and that they don’t want us to succeed because then they won’t be making as much money. Whatever theory works best to make you understand that stagnant strategies are ineffective, so be it. That’s not to say that there aren’t components of search engine optimization and social media marketing that haven’t worked for a long time and will likely continue to work into the future, but the overall status of SEO and SMM are always on the move. What worked yesterday may not work today but may work again tomorrow.
This stems from a conversation I had with a potential client who was convinced that the Google Penguin and Panda updates had reached their final form. There were no more changes to monitor, no more adjustments to make. His site was ranking well and there was no need to push any further. There are two problems with this philosophy. First, Panda was updated just last month for the umpteenth time since it rolled out in February, 2011. At almost two-years old, it’s still being adjusted. Penguin is far from hitting its final variation – Google has all but said that. Then, there’s the dreaded Zebra update that may or may not be a mythical unicorn more than a real obstacle, but whether it’s real or not doesn’t really matter. The point is that Google is always improving, which means that search marketers must always be improving as well.
The second fallacy with his argument is that their rankings were thought to be as good as they were going to get. We have a client who has been getting optimized since 2003. Every month we’re fighting to keep the progress that we’ve accumulated over the years while pushing them further in other keywords. While there is definitely a plateau that can be reached where the gains from improved SEO start to level off, the idea that SEO can be in a pinnacle phase with no need for further improvements in the future is preposterous.
Social media is worse. In social, it isn’t just the changes that the websites themselves make that make strategy adjustments important. It’s the trends and flow of the communities themselves that make a difference. Case in point – I was working with a client not too long ago who was feeding multiple RSS feeds onto their Facebook page and into their Twitter stream. There was a time (short as it may have been) when this strategy of “more is better” worked. That was 2010. Today, any business who is auto-feeding a dozen posts onto their Facebook page per day is reaching nobody. Once I showed them how to look at their statistics, they realized that out of 17K fans, their posts were reaching an average of 16 people. Everyone had either shut down their stream from their news feed or had seen so many without liking any that Facebook shut it down for them.
Their Twitter account was a mess. With 4k Twitter followers, nobody had engaged with the account in weeks. Their posts were all doubled up – they were posting from the same feeds onto Twitter and Facebook, then feeding their Facebook onto Twitter.
This isn’t intended to single out a couple of juicy examples. Most businesses are not taking such a careless approach to their online marketing. However, it does seem that there is a rise in complacency. When success is found, it’s time to move on – at least that seems to be a prevailing attitude.
The reality is this: success is relative and there are very few who have reached a level that cannot be dramatically improved upon with better understanding of the current trends. Instagram was a huge portion of many business’s Facebook and Twitter strategies just a few weeks ago and now is being abandoned altogether by many. Pinterest is hot today but is facing spamming threats that could plummet the site into strategic unworthiness. Google+ is effective today for search rankings and may become more effective in the coming months, but it could also fall off the radar completely if Google decides that it’s just too easy to manipulate.
Nobody knows what’s happening behind closed doors at the companies that drive our industry. We can speculate. We can guess. We can keep our eyes open, read the various blogs, talk to insiders we have in out back pockets, but at the end of the day we’re all dealing with too many unknown variables to rest on what works today.
I’m not trying to scare anyone. I just want it to be understood that your online marketing efforts should be tweaked, adjusted, monitored, and tested on a regular basis. To sit back and let the changes happen without you, to be passive in an extremely aggressive atmosphere, would be the biggest mistake you can make, particularly if you’re already doing well. I’ve said in the past, “Being thankful for what you have doesn’t mean you have to be satisfied with it.”
Perhaps a more appropriate “person” to quote would be Ricky Bobby: “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”