I’m not old enough to remember what the internet was like without search engines. Apparently, there were lists of web-servers: they were manually updated and publicized in news updates like this. And then the search engines came crawling, indexing and sorting out pages. As the web expanded with more users and businesses putting up websites, search engines became an essential way to immediately find information.
There’s a common saying: build your site for visitors, not for search engines. A famous Google webmaster guideline asks the question: “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?” It’s actually quite a challenge: Pretend search engines don’t exist. How can you grow your website, get visitors and make lots of money?
I recently built a couple of sites without any focus on search engine rankings and getting organic search traffic. I didn’t block the search bots from indexing the site but I optimized nothing. Didn’t focus on site link architecture, title tags, meta-descriptions, meta-keywords, link building, competitor analysis. Forget about search engine algorithms.
I also wasn’t interested in methods of search-based marketing like finding long tail phrases and placing them on article directories or social media properties in order for these pages to rank and send traffic to my site. That would have involved researching search keywords and competition, so I did nothing of that sort too.
Ultimately, you’re dealing with a situation where the convenience offered by search engines is non-existent. No quick answers to quick questions for everyone. So how are people going to find what they need? How are they going to find my site?
Image Credit: assbach
Without search engines, people will do what they’ve been doing for thousands of years. They rely on each other. They rely on the community, on the collection of publications known within their geographic location or industry. They rely on word of mouth. And they also rely on getting information from common resources like a public square, library, forum or marketplace.
Go where people gather. There you will be heard. It sounds like rudimentary marketing but quite honestly, until I’ve tried ignoring search engines and focusing exclusively on gathering points, I didn’t realize how much actual marketing I was NOT doing.
There were far more forums, social networking sites, blogs than I ever imagined even for small niches. And then there are mega-sites like Youtube and Facebook. If I were to put a number to it, I would say I’m missing out on at least a few thousand visitors every day by NOT being active in these online communities. And that doesn’t include offline marketing.
This is a good amount of visitors who are likely to become supporters of your content, clients or buyers. And the truth is I’ve always made money much faster by going to them instead of waiting for them to come to me. It sure beats the usual plan of waiting for my site to get indexed, rank for longtail phrases and THEN hopefully convert into an ad click or sale.
Traffic from these sites can be as targeted as search engine visitors: many are looking for recommendations from peers or actively engaged in a specific activity that is relevant to my site. But unlike search visitors, they aren’t coming in blind into your website from a query.
They know more than your page name, url and meta-description. They know your avatar, they know your history of contributions. They have a rough idea of who you are. Your words are in their face before they even click over. You’ve already presold them by making yourself familiar.
Image Credit: assbach
The most common problem we face is the lack of time. Can we outsource something like forum, blog or social site marketing? Yes, of course. But use people who know what they’re doing or else you’ll be wasting your time. If you’re a one-person operation, it might not be good for your brand to have someone that’s not you out there, even if you have an excellent ghost.
But small businesses, big businesses and multi-author content sites? No problem.
In any case, the whole experience of marketing without search engines is educational. It forced me to go out and represent my brand. This is me, I own this website. Hello, here’s what I do. Take a look. Here’s why this will be interesting.. and so on.
Once again, nothing revolutionary but when you’re not depending on search engines, its a make-or-break situation. How can I not just get clicks but the most value out of each click? What web page should I link to, who should I target, what content angle to use etc.
It forced me to work and persuade on a social level you don’t really think about because you’re always focused on existing traffic/users or things that will improve a machine’s reading of your site’s worth. Then you realize the value in having a strong brand and reputation.
I would recommend that you try pretending that search engines don’t exist, even just for a week or so. Especially if you’ve got a new website. Search engine traffic is invaluable but there’s a lot of visitors out there just waiting for you to show them your site.
If you’ve already reached a plateau in organic search traffic and its not making you as much money as you like, why not focus on promoting your site outside of search engines?
So, how would you market your website if search engines didn’t exist?
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Marketing Your Website Without Search Engines