If an author, speaker, podcaster, or blogger ask one of the “how to get traffic” gurus how to optimize their time marketing their website, 9 out of 10 would say search engine optimization. I am here to tell you that this answer is dead wrong.
Search engine optimization is probably the second or even third thing on the list you should worry about, if that. The main problem with search engine optimization is that it is so fickle. Google practically has a monopoly on the industry with nearly 70% of the market so they make all the SEO rules.
This would not be so much of a problem if they didn’t break the rules as soon as they made them. So if you invest the majority of your marketing resources on search engine optimizing your website, there is a good chance that the time and money spent will go to waste the next time Google changes their algorithm. For me, this is way too risky.
The alternative to Search Engine Optimization
The whole point of search engine optimization is to increase the likelihood that you will be found by a potential customer seeking to solve a problem that your business solves. If this is your #1 source of traffic to your site, then you are essentially outsourcing two critical functions that should be in house: customer discovery and lead generation.
Customer discovery in the sense that you have to depend on Google’s keyword search tool to discover what problems your prospective customers have. Then you must guess how to word your solutions to target those problems based on the keywords your prospects search most often. This. is. not. fun.
Lead generation in the sense that each page you optimize for a keyword will have to be designed to capture that visitor’s contact details or your SEO efforts are wasted. This means putting design aesthetics aside, and focusing your design on squeezing your customer down a conversion funnel. (Can you say ugly web page? AKA squeeze page)
There is a better way to achieve these two goals, and I call it community optimization.
What is Community optimization?
Community optimization is the process of improving the visibility of your website by building relationships with people who share a common desire with you.
Why Community Optimization is Better
Now that you know what community optimization is, let me explain in one simple sentence why this will be a better investment of your resources than SEO. Relationships can last a lifetime, SEO is temporary at best. (click to tweet)
When you make a meaningful connection with someone, you can go months and sometimes years without talking with them and still spark up a conversation like the last time you talked was yesterday. The only caveat is that you must still share a common desires. As long as that common desire is there, the connection will remain strong over a lifetime.
On the other hand, a top ranking in Google for your desired keyword could be snatched away from you overnight.
The Four Levels of an online community
Just like any attempt to optimize a process, there are multiple layers that must be addressed before you get to the desired level of optimization. Below are the levels of an online community that you must optimize.
- Thought Leaders / Influencers
- Individual Contributors
- Solution Providers
Thought Leaders and Influencers: These are the people recognized by the community for their ability to break down and explain the problems and/or desires of the community into simple terms that can be understood by the newbies. It is common for thought leaders to spend the majority of their time teaching others in the community and sharing their ideas at speaking engagements. In addition, thought leaders also suggest innovative ways to solve the problem that solution providers use to create new products and services.
Thought leaders are typically the types who have very popular blogs, host podcast or get interviewed regularly, serve as keynote speakers at conferences, and are bestselling authors.
Individual Contributors: Before you become a thought leader, you must go through the individual contributor phase. The individual contributors are also very good at breaking down and explaining the problems and/or desires of the community, however they don’t yet have a platform (and may not want a platform) that reaches the masses within the community.
Individual contributors typically are heavy commenters on blogs, regular listeners to podcast and write podcast reviews, attend 1 or 2 conferences / events a year, and buy the books and products that the thought leaders and influencers sell.
Newbies: This is what it is, a new person who just became interested in the problems and desires of the community. Typically the people who fall into this category don’t quite get the terminology, are unsure what blogs to read, podcast to listen to, conferences or events to attend and books to read. A newbie might not even know a community exist yet. This is why their first destination to solve their problem will likely be Google. Google will then likely lead the newbies to the thought leaders.
Solution Providers: These are more or less the entrepreneurs within the community. As a solution provider your goal is to help the community find faster or better ways to get their desired result using repeatable processes. This could be either be a software solution, a hardware solution or some other physical product, a conference / event, or a “recipe” of some sort that could be manifested through a service, training or formula. Solution providers are often the competitive forces within the community actively vying for the attention of the other three levels.
One more thing, solution providers are sometimes either run by thought leaders or employ thought leaders.
How to Community Optimize your Marketing
If your goal is to drive traffic to your website, your ultimate goal must be to become a thought leader or influencer. In order to get there, you must first be an individual contributor. The core role of an individual contributor is to actively engage and challenge the prevailing opinions of the thought leaders and influencers.
With that said, you need to do 7 things for community optimization:
- You must regularly read the blogs and books of the thought leaders
- You must write reviews and rate the books and podcast of the thought leaders
- You must read and comment on the blogs of other individual contributors daily
- You must write blog post several times a week
- You must connect with other individual contributors using social media
- You must attend conferences
- You must try the products and services of the solution providers and then make recommendations or come up with alternative solutions
You may notice I don’t suggest any things to do for the newbies. As stated above, newbies will use Google, and Google will direct them to the thought leaders.
By doing these 7 things consistently, you will naturally become a thought leader or influencer and the newbies will connect with you as a side-effect.
To wrap it up, doing these 7 things consistently will almost guarantee sustainable website traffic. Website traffic from those who will actually trust you enough to convert to long term fans, friends, followers, and customers.