The Wrong Things

This is somewhat of a follow-up post to The Forest for The Trees.

As web social and search marketing hit the mainstream, people in charge of “developing business” are scrambling to learn the latest tricks. To people who have been involved in web marketing for, say the last decade, this isn’t really new at all.

The pattern goes something like this:

“Experts” say stuff online, the herd misunderstands the nuances of what was said, over the cliff go the lemmings.

This was the pattern with the storied “death of guest blogging.”

Pattern: Matt Cutts says Google is going after spammy guest blogging, the herd hears NO MORE GUEST BLOGGING, over the cliff we go.

As I noted in Forest, we need to change our thinking.

We need to stop hyper-focusing on all the wrong things.

The Right Things

For a hot second, I want you to forget everything you’ve read about web marketing. Take your time, I’ll wait.


Now I want you to think about your business.

Who are your customers or clients?

How did they become your customers or clients?

What are they looking for?

What are they interested in?

Where are they looking for it?

Perform this exercise for every client you can think of.

Don’t guess. Ask them. Also, ask people who aren’t customers or clients, but could be.

Write this stuff down.

Okay, now let’s look at the answers to these questions in the context of the internet.

Did people say that they research your kind of products and services in search engines? No? Then search might not be a good channel for your business.

Did people say that they ask friends online for recommendations on products or services like yours? No? Then direct response social media advertising might not be a good channel for your business.

Starting to get the picture?

Okay, now let’s assume that “your target audience” (i.e. people you want as customers and clients) answered that they use the web as part of their buying/hiring decision-making process.

How do they use it?

Do they use search engines to find businesses like yours? Are you a local business?

Then search marketing and advertising MIGHT be a good channel for you.

You should focus on:

  • Optimizing your website for local searches.
  • Making sure that your business’s Name, Address and local Phone number is accurate everywhere on the web.
  • Finding and connecting with people in your local community on social networking platforms.
  • Publishing local content both your website and around the web that your local community would find useful.
  • Experimenting with online advertising on a very local basis.

Do they use search engines to do research related to your products or services?

You should focus on:

  • Publishing content on your website and around the web that helps them complete their research.
  • Answer their questions online.
  • Connect with people who have useful sites on the subject and contribute to their sites.

If you’re prone to hyper-focusing, hyper-focus on:


Fix the technical aspects of web marketing. These include things like:

  • HTML on your sites
  • Page load speeds
  • Third-party platform integrations (i.e. Google+ Local Pages, etc)
  • Adding structured data markup
  • Responsive design (i.e. fix the way your site looks on smartphones and tablets
  • Conversion tracking systems (i.e. phone, form and email tracking)

To name a few.

These are huge performance opportunities that you’re probably ignoring while you struggle to figure out the best time of day to post on Twitter.

Make stuff that people might actually like online. Yes, this is vague. Yes, this is hard.

Remember that earlier exercise where we thought about your business, customers and clients?

Refer to that.

What do these people want? What do they like? What do they need?

What can you give them? Not sell them. Give them!

And how do you know whether they actually want it, like it or need it?

What are they telling you?

Are they sharing it with their friends?

Are they writing about it?

Are they linking to it from their sites?

Are they signing-up to get more of it?

Are they commenting on it?

These are what you should be hyper-focusing on. These are the right things.

Be more social. Huh?

Do people find your product or service because people they know told them about it?

They do.

Get to know more people. Interact with them both online and in real life. Support them. Empathize with them. Be funny.

Yes, I know this might be hard for you.

But these are the things that will move the dial for your business.

Not number of followers. Not number of links from crappy directories. Not useless pages created for every search query iteration you can imagine.

Now stop wasting your time with all the wrong things and go obsess over the right things!