Tongue-in-Cheek Warning: 4 out of 5 stars for cynicism applied. If you are a Millennial who is unfamiliar with this ancient term, “tongue-in-cheek”, please Google it. (Googling is now a verb)
When my young partner Joey Bouza was in college studying digital marketing, it was all about “pay-per-click”. Google was the main topic, and if your ambition was to be a web developer then what would be better than adding the ability to drive folks to the web site you built them? Double your value! Search engine optimization was the name of the game and the higher you ranked, the better. Let the bidding begin!
For a moment let’s review why SEO was king and deservedly so: floor traffic was slowing down in all SIC’s because it was becoming widely known that the internet was the new traffic flow area/arena. Families weren’t as traditional as they once were in that they weren’t piling into the station wagon and driving around to shop as much as they once did. After 2007 discretionary income dried up a bit and people REALLY started researching things before pulling the trigger; SEO was where it was at. Merchants of all sorts were investing heavily and regularly in their web and internet presence because the old traditional means of marketing: TV, Radio, Newspaper and the like, no longer returned on the investment as they once had. The mother lode (everyone was figuring out) was in getting to people online so as I stated just previously, “let the bidding begin!”
Why was ppc (pay-per-click) so important? Because if you figured out the right keywords and constructed the right ads, you could get web traffic. So please follow this progression: Why was web traffic so important? Because floor traffic was down incredibly. The convenience of online shopping and the new buying culture was in place. Why did merchants spend so much on pay-per-click? To get folks to their website! Why did they want folks to go there? Because it was now the new “front door” to their business. After folks came through the new front door, what was the MO? Show them all the cool things and services you had to offer. Why? So they may, while cruising around, fall upon something that piqued their interest. Why show them things to get them interested? So they may want to learn more and want to speak to a sales associate…what might we call this honorable goal? Getting a Lead. Why do we need leads? Because more quality leads mean more people to talk to, and obviously the end goal was to get them to trade with you, to buy something. AND IT WORKED! Well to some degree, more in theory than reality, merchants soon learned. They achieved great traffic but there was quicksand.
Businesses bought into the necessary new need to drive that online traffic to the web and the web masters and SEO specialists who helped them accomplish the traffic said, “See! Look! You had 6,402 visitors this quarter! More than you ever had before you hired me!” And for a while the merchant was a happy merchant. Until thousands and thousands of hours and dollars later, he wondered this wonder – “If I have such a wonderful web site and so many visitors because I am number one in the ranking, then why aren’t we selling any more than we are?” It was an improvement over putting dollars into vehicles that no longer performed well, but nowhere near what the good ole’ days were like. “Oh, have faith, it just takes time being in that number one position and eventually you will dominate your SIC. Stay the course.”, the Yelpers and local IT specialists would encourage those doing business with them. But in the end analytics aren’t something you can take to the bank; only sales can accomplish revenue… not clicks, not empty conversions. Sales didn’t seem to be directly related in way too many instances.
While all of this was going on, a recreational social media item named “Myspace” was becoming popular. In the early 2000’s it was all the rage but by 2011 it had become a non-issue, giving way to the powerful rise of Facebook which to this day (in spite of some other successful social media applications) is the king of social activity. Online activity had changed significantly as phones became a whole lot more than something to talk to other humans with, and so we end up in our current society where most everyone waiting on their appointment of any flavor, anywhere (be it at the automotive shop or doctor’s waiting room) has their head down, looking into a small rectangular screen. Amazing the advent and impact social media has had on families and our society, and for businesses it changed the environment they hadn’t even become used to yet. Get used to it; the only constant is change!
Why is social media relevant to my beginning tirade about ppc? Because it is now a tool every bit as powerful as anything else in the business world. Who would’ve figured?
Why is this article entitled “SEO – The King has been Dethroned!?” Because utilizing ppc (Google, Bing and Yahoo all included) in conjunction with social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, allows you to build a portfolio of platforms with which to place “question based” ads and build a lead generation strategy. Here is perhaps the most controversial statement of this article: a good lead generation strategy dwarfs the importance of overall “drive ‘em to the website” SEO.
After years of driving folks who came and went as they darn well pleased to their web sites, piano dealers/principals have begun to understand that the end game doesn’t necessarily need to be funded by opening the bank vault and giving Google all your dough, so that you are number one in rankings. That thinking my friend can now officially be labeled “old school”, not essential, timeless and valuable “old school”, but unnecessary “old school”, because this is the way we’ve been convinced it needs to be done “old school”. Home pages need to be optimized for conversion and content is more important than spending the most in your marketplace without a bid cap.
Here is something to ponder: we, Prospects International, perform over seventy programs in over fifty markets, creating leads (therefore selling opportunities) for over 150 piano sales associates globally. Here is what we’ve learned about rankings – people love choices. When we are in the top half of the search page, usually between two and four, we enjoy just as many strong leads and conversions as some of the small markets where we typically rank number one because there isn’t as much competition as there is in the larger markets. Allow me an analogy from the annals of marketing history. In the olden days of yore there existed this advertising option/vehicle called the yellow pages . Many advertisers believed that spending the most and possibly even having the cover or back of the book, would mean that they would get the most phone calls. Naturally, the Yellow Pages sale representatives encouraged this thinking and might’ve even dropped an unethical hint about the size of the ad “so and so” was going to place in order to get the listing merchant to bump up the spend. After a while, merchants started using a dedicated phone line to track the phone calls and learned that many times, the phycology of those looking for goods and services in the book would steer away from the top spenders. Consumers realized that those folks who were buying the most expensive placement, that, well, they probably would not be the most reasonable people to do business with. After all, they had to pay for that advertisement somehow, didn’t they?
You need to rank well but being number one at any cost is costly and very over rated. Human nature hasn’t changed. The game hasn’t changed, just the field we play on. People online are still looking for the most reasonable person to do business with, that’s why the “used” word works so well.
We must always have faith in the human innovative spirit, and the old saying that “necessity is the mother of invention” always rings true inside the entrepreneurial spirit. So over time, lead generation took the technology of the day and learned not only to drive but also to ENGAGE with the prospect. This is why we state emphatically that lead generation is now the digital king. Being seen ONLY has value if you get to engage with enough people.
Allow me to end my editorial with an argument that has no chink in its proverbial armor. My first opinion is based upon the new reality that people still want to buy, they just don’t want to be sold! Therefore, your best bet is to operate under this mantra: The company with the most friends wins! Now to bring the argument that lead generation is now the king to conclusion, I will invoke a saying my young partner uses when selling the benefits of lead generation – It is important to “own” the prospect. How do we own the prospect? By having more information, therefore the opportunity for a deeper relationship than our competitor. If lead generation allows you to create dialogue which leads to fact finding, and allows you to position yourself as the best tour guide on their way to a piano sale, you will dominate the online potential in your marketplace.
So, does SEO still matter? Sure… but move over, the throne is now occupied by something that allows sales people the opportunity to engage with people who have interest in what they sell. All Hail the new king and let his reign be long and profitable for those who submit to his power– Lead Gen Rules! Lead Gen Rules!
Every interaction you have with anyone is an opportunity to learn something and to give something – Gary Hensel .