Hint: Don't call it SEO.
This time of year is always exciting for me. It represents potential and options. I think about all the things I can do in the year to come. Usually, it turns out that the things I do each year aren't significantly different than the things I did the year before.
But every once in a while I make a big move. In 1999 I started my SEO company. It's still going strong today.
In some ways it looks very different now. And in other ways it's still pretty much the same little SEO company.
Search engine optimization is all about traffic generation. And then getting that traffic to do what you want it to do.
Purists, I think, are the people that have gotten into a difficult spot these days. Original SEO experts were people that were focused on one thing: blue text links. All they thought about were the blue text links search engines had at the top of the listings.
That's just not the world we live in today.
Bruce Clay recently did an article "Are Likes the New Links." He proposed that Facebook Likes will be harder to spam and consequently will be more genuine than links that can be fairly easily bought.
And Greg Boser at PubCon, as reported by Lisa Barone, says he does "human behavior analysis." Lisa writes, "He specializes in understanding how people behave when they're searching for knowledge."
Both Bruce and Greg are founders of the SEO industry. They have been here since the beginning. But they are very clearly evolving in their knowledge. They are staying with the trends of this fast moving industry.
So, a search engine optimization start-up would definitely think differently today than it would have in 1999.
I've put together five things you should do to start your new SEO shop.
Thing No. 1: Don't Call It SEO
"Search engine optimization" is an old phrase. And quite honestly, it is tainted. Large companies are suspect of its value. And small companies are probably more confused than ever. Consider calling it something like:
- Online traffic manager
- Internet lead generation
- Internet marketing
- Online public relations
- Inbound marketing
Calling it anything with the word "search" in it will just confuse the matter. What is a search engine, after all? It's definitely Google and Bing. But isn't it also YouTube, Facebook, and Foursquare?
You're the person who positions their company in all the places their clients are looking.
Good luck on naming whatever it is you do. Just don't call it SEO.
Thing No. 2: Don't Call It Link Building
If SEO has a bad name, link building is 10 times worse.
Link builders have gotten the wrap of being back alley pimps. The fact of the matter is, there are some very good link builders. They do very valuable, useful work for their clients.
But there are many more that are scavengers. They are buzzards flying around blogs and discussion forums looking to drop links any chance they get.
Call it public relations. You are a 21st century PR professional. You help spread the word about the innovative, useful, and exciting things your clients are doing. (And you happen to get some links back to your clients' sites.)
You are also going to need to think about Bruce Clay's Facebook "Likes" issue. You should also be thinking about the new phenomenon of "check-ins." Mashable recently reported that Yelp is now offering check-ins along with Facebook and Scvngr.
I'd also be in charge of getting people to review my clients at third-party review sites. These are becoming incredibly valuable.
You love this industry, right? Only someone who is really into this will be able to keep up with all the changes.
Thing No. 3: Study HubSpot
HubSpot is taking marketing services and making them "products." This is a great way to give your clients a wide array of options.
There is no reason to believe that the marketing and advertising agency model isn't going to get shaken up just like all offline marketing and advertising. Most SEO shops are just run on the basic "agency" model. That's probably not the future.
HubSpot is closer to what the future will look like.
Thing No. 4: Study Apple Stores
Look at their pricing. Look at their complete service solution. They have made everything incredibly easy, cool, and fun. The heading of Apple's retail store website is: "Apple Retail Store. Come to Shop. Return to learn."
The Genius Bar
Apple has created probably the best product experience ever.
You could do that. You could be everything for your clients. You could offer workshops (online or in-person). You could have community events. You could create an "experience."
Thing No. 5: Listen to Seth Godin
I hope he forgives me for copying an entire post of his. But here it is:
"It's one thing to hear it...
It's another to do something about it.
Is there anything at all for which this isn't true?
Knowing the facts, the opportunity or even the process is merely a first step."
There are only two qualities I've seen in all successful entrepreneurs I've met.
The first is: persistence. These are people that just don't quit. When everyone else tells them to stop, they just keep going. It's an irrational persistence.
The second is: crazy. I have yet to meet a business owner that isn't just a little bit nuts.
Rational people would not subject themselves to the life of business ownership, I don't think. When Seth says, "It's another to do something about it," he's talking about jumping off a cliff.
That's why people don't start businesses. You study everything. You get all your ducks in a row. And then you quietly slink away.
Successful people often hear something and then just jump. Maybe this column can be that for you. Maybe you will hear this message and just jump. Maybe this is your year. Maybe this is the year you become an "Online traffic manager or an "Online PR agency" or an "inbound marketer." Just as long as you don't become an SEO.
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Sage Lewis is the president of SageRock Digital Marketing. SageRock has been a leader in Web marketing since 1999, offering search engine optimization, paid search marketing, social media marketing, and analytics.
Sage speaks nationally with SES and other prominent Web marketing organizations. He is one of the most sought after speakers and coaches in the field of Web marketing. From coast to coast, Sage has trained, coached, and consulted with some of the largest brands and conferences in the country.
Sage is also "The Web Marketing Video Guy" with nearly 500 Web marketing videos published. Sage writes as an expert for ClickZ in the "Search Engine Marketing" section. He lives in Akron, Ohio with his wife, Rocky, and son, Indiana.
His columns can be found in the Search Engine Watch archive.
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