The New Traffic Paradigm

March 30, 2012 , 72 Comments

For small businesses and bootstrap marketers, it’s easy to feel persecuted by Google. From banning AdWords and AdSense accounts to Panda updates and from blocking keyword referral data (unless you’re a paying AdWords customer) to an increasing big-brand bias in the search results, it seems like Google is out to get small websites and small businesses.

That might not be literally true, but there’s no doubt that Google’s main goal is to make more money for Google. Being nice to small businesses doesn’t enter the equation for any decisions they make. And that makes relying on them too much a bad idea.

What then, are small businesses and individual SEOs to do? Is there a way to break out of the cycle of constantly trying to adopt to Google’s latest change, only to get smacked down by the next one?

There is. And it’s called the New Traffic Paradigm.

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Tough Times

It’s no illusion that the SEO game is getting more and more difficult. A few years ago, building up a profitable niche website was fairly easy. As long as you did your keyword research right, you could buy mediocre content and some simple backlinks, slap some AdSense ads on your pages and you had an almost guaranteed winner. Things aren’t that simple anymore. While the niche marketing model is still viable, it now takes more know-how to find just the right keywords, build just the right content and get just the right links, to make it all work.

And even then, you’re always one Google slap away from losing all your income.

To make things worse, even apart from Google, we’ve seen tightening nooses everywhere: facebook introducing more stringent advertising guidelines, twitter banning accounts (after a massive increase in automated twitter-spamming), YouTube banning accounts left and right…

Any online business is always reliant on third-party services of one kind or another. Because trends come and go and policies change, it’s simply inevitable that your business will be affected by changes made to those third party sites and services, at some point. There’s no escaping that. But you can make the problem worse: the more heavily rely on any one single service or traffic source, the greater the risk.

The key is to never be fully reliant on any third party. The key is to have something no one can take away from you.

The Solution

There is such a thing, that no one can take away from you: your brand.

In my post about how to start an online business, I emphasize the importance of focusing on building real skills and real assets and I recommend selling a product or service of your own. Exceed people’s expectations with the service you provide and you’ll be creating something that transcends traffic sources and other technicalities.

The same can be true for “just a blog” or other types of content-based sites. If you get involved and if you, as blogging-about-blogging bloggers love to say, give lots of value, people will relate to you and they will want to read, see and hear more from you.

The foundation of what you do online needs to be a real, valuable product or service (even if the service is providing great content). Engage your readers and be present wherever you can. Social media, search engines, podcasts, the news (if you can get featured), etc.

New vs. Old Site Strategy

The crucial difference is illustrated by comparing two of my own websites. On the one hand, IM Impact and on the other Fitness Site X (not the actual name of the site). Fitness Site X was built to promote fitness related products, based on keywords that met a certain set of criteria. Most of its content was not written by me, but outsourced to writers who, while they do know their subject matter, have no personal involvement or vested interest in Fitness Site X. Almost all of Fitness Site X’s traffic comes from Google, from a small set of keywords that I’ve attained #1 ranking positions for.

IM Impact, on the other hand, was originally started because I wanted to provide honest, non-fake reviews in the Internet marketing space. The content started to resonate with people and based on feedback I got in comments, emails and surveys, it evolved into the site you see today. All of the products I’ve ever made and sold under this brand were based directly on feedback and user demand. IM Impact gets a significant portion of its traffic from Google, but much of the traffic comes directly from returning visitors, subscribers and, surprisingly from social media, even though my involvement in social media has always been minimal.

If Google makes changes tomorrow that lead to the total de-indexation of both these sites, Fitness Site X will become completely useless and will no longer generate even a single cent of income. IM Impact, on the other hand, would lose a lot of its traffic, but only a small part of its business. People would find this site by other means. I could start more actively pursuing different traffic sources and I could even get my existing readers to participate and help me out.

In short: a Google slap would annihilate my niche site, but it would only put a small, temporary dent in IM Impact’s armor.

No More SEO?

So, is this the end of SEO? Not at all. And neither is it the end of social media marketing, PPC advertising, email marketing or any of the other tools in your toolbox. In fact, all of these things are easier to do when you have an awesome product, service or brand to promote.

It’s just that the priorities have shifted. Before, I used to do SEO and that was my entire business. Everything I did was dictated by what was useful and working in terms of SEO. Over time, this shifted. I’m still SEO’ing IM Impact and other product and service sites. I’m still doing keyword research and doing deliberate work to get top rankings for specific keywords. But now, it’s not the be-all-end-all of my business. It’s simply something I do to support my actual business, which is selling awesome products and providing awesome services.

What are your thoughts on the New Traffic Paradigm? What will you do to shift away from an endless dependancy on Google and Co.? Leave a comment and let me know!

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About ​Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • Shane,

    OMG. This is so correct. I hate relying on other people for my success or risky failure. Your own product is the solution to perhaps a future problem. I make my own physical product and ship out (USA only), and I have been SO tempted to try the IM make money route since it looks so interesting (and easy)… yet the physical product just keeps growing. Again, my OWN stuff, little competition… and a very creative outlet with great satisfaction – something money can’t always buy!

    So, I will continue to copy some IM principles and good practices and implement them in my wood business (Personalized Wine Boxes dot com)

    Thanks for your weekly sharing and opinions – I look forward to them – a true test of your branding is how anxious I am to open and read your content. Well done.


    • Hey Scott,

      I love that business you’ve got going. Personalized wine boxes – talk about a niche market! :)
      Taking online marketing principles and applying them to your business is definitely the way to go. We need people selling unique products more than we need another AdSense site.

  • This has all happened before and it will all happen again – to paraphrase Battlestar Galactica.

    I saw the same waves in the IM community when Google hit everybody with Florida in 2004/2005 and I saw the same outcry of “How can Google do this?” and all the guys I knew building small spammy Adsense/scraped affiliates sites/Traffic Equalizer sites got wiped out overnight. And then……..built authority sites and continue to earn from them now – these authority sites about becoming brand names in their niche. Link building was kept to a minimum.

    It’s like the 7-year itch in the online marketing/affiliate community – things are shaken up every 7 years or so and even Matt Cutts has said Panda is designed to “..level the playing field”. Great news because it makes life for the blog commenting and scraping idiots instantly harder which means the search results get more relevant and conversions go up. Simples.

    Providing value, creating great content in your niche/market and adding something unique to the web has always been the best way to completely and utterly avoid all Google updates.

    The only people I see crying about Google Panda are the guys spamming the search indexes and putting content online that looks like it was written by a monkey on Prozac.

    The web is like a swimming pool. Some people decided to pee in the pool. They get away with it and tell everyone else it’s ok to do that – nobody is paying attention. This keeps going until the pool reaches a maximum urine concentration and is no longer sustainable and has to be emptied. Meanwhile all the people who peed in the pool are standing there going “No fair! We could have peed into it a little more before you emptied it.”

    Yes people need to stop taking the piss :-)

    • Hey Niall,

      That right there is the comment of the week. Easily.
      The pee-in-pool analogy is inspired! :)

      • Why thank you sir :-)

    • Steve wyman says:


      +1 the peeing in the pool.

    • Your analogy had me laughing…. because it’s so true and almost exactly what I had been thinking for months now. I have been part of a forum for some time now, one that is well known to all of us here, and it shocks me how much stuff comes out there in the way of special offers that basically encourages this “peeing” activity. Why do so many encourage this “poisoning of the water-well”? The IM community has to take responsibility on itself for forcing Google to make these changes.

      When I first started out in IM I have to admit I was going down the same road trying to make a quick buck…. but then I got to thinking would I share what I was doing with my family and friends? Was it something I could be proud of? It was sobering. Now I am taking what really is the road less traveled but one that seems that most here are also taking…. one where we take pride in building our businesses on the internet with quality content and are happy to have our name associated with it.

      Shane you are an inspiration and have been finding myself looking forward to your weekly updates more and more recently. Keep up the good work. And by the way I will probably be signing up for your SECockpit service sometime this month too…. what do you think, still a good tool? :)


  • Hi Shane,

    As always you cut through to the heart of it…and I guess reflect what Google are thinking. The big G wants to be able to provide search results that are informative and factual so they are finding ways to cut the more fluffy and often irrelevant content made for the sole purpose of selling a product.

    I noted your comments about how social media is “surprisingly” providing you with traffic and I think that if we can discover the link between social media and traffic to web pages we will break open a powerful traffic flow. I don’t think we have got it right yet although some may argue differently.

    I think it goes beyond ‘likes’ and ‘tweets’ but I am unsure how and am trying to find an answer. What I mean is that I think there will be, or maybe is now, a formula of social media sites interlinking with each other that, if done correctly, will enhance Googles opinion of our web pages and therefore lift them in the rankings.

    Given that Google owns them, this would have to include G+ and YouTube.

    Any thoughts?

    Gordon J

    • According to SEOmoz, there’s definitely a correlation between tweets and rankings and between facebook shares and rankings, but we don’t know whether the former cause the latter or not.

      At this point, I’m less interested in finding the right formula for social mediaing in a Google pleasing manner and more interested in interacting with awesome people in such a way that they will help me create waves. That’s a fluffy way of saying it, but it reiterates the points made above: focus on people more than on Google.

  • Shane, thanks for that.

    A related question, if you will…

    I have wondered if the sites that you build from the “throw money at it” campaign faired any differently with the latest Google changes vs the niche sites you had hand built and promoted yourself before that.

    Was a difference in rankings drops between the two groups?

    Is the “throw money at it” methodology that you did last fall completely dead now, or just needing to be modified?

    Thanks, as I think that will be insightful for those of us starting new sites today.


    • There was no difference as far as I can tell (sample size is too small to really be sure, though).

      The basics of what I did in the Throw Money At It case study definitely still apply. After all, for any medium to large business website, the content and promotion is essentially outsourced (to employees). However, if I did the same again from scratch, I would find one quality writer with niche expertise for each site and hire them for all of the content (I did this with one of the sites already). And I’d also make some changes in terms of what SEO services I’d hire etc.
      Some tweaking is definitely necessary.

  • Very well articulated, Shane! I totally agree and that’s why I’ve decided I want to learn a lot more about getting traffic from multiple sources, not just Google (which is what I currently do).

    One of my favorite marketers says “Own the race course, not just the race horse” which is essentially what you are saying here too.

    I also love the way you put it – “Traffic is People”. The way I’m thinking about it is that our goal as marketers needs to be finding out where the people interested in our product or service are and then reaching them. Not just waiting for them to type in keywords into Google.

    • Yes, that’s exactly it!
      Whenever I talk to someone who wants to start a business, it’s the first thing I ask: who are the people who want/need your product/service and where can you find them?

  • hi Shane,

    interesting idea. Unfortunately I can think of no product or service I could offer. Good post nonetheless. I may have to rethink the IM thing.

    • If you were doing niche and keyword research before, you were already going in the right direction.

      The goal is not to sit and think until you come up with an idea of what you could offer as a product or service. The goal is to go out and find what people need and want in the real world, then find a way to deliver it to them in such a way that there’s a profit margin for you.
      You can run a successful restaurant without cooking any of the meals yourself. Similarly, you don’t have to think about this in terms of what you personally can create and sell.

      • “The goal is to go out and find what people need and want in the real world, then find a way to deliver it to them in such a way that there’s a profit margin for you.”

        This is excellent advice and I think in one sentence summarizes what “entrepreneurship” is all about. I still struggle with this since I feel that if I can’t do it then I can’t sell it and I have to keep reminding myself not to think that!

  • Hello Shane,

    You asked what I’m doing about it. I’m presently working on what will no doubt be my one and only WSO about the value of owning a community website which I happen to believe in very strongly as one way to get off the IM merry go round. This comes about directly as a result of your early warnings that things were changing.

    Monster thanks for your email reply to me awhile back in regards to your now defunct but life saving WSO tutorial!

    And I have set the stage for an experiment in SEO that I don’t think has ever been tried before. I really don’t know what to expect from it, but it’s bold. That’s the next thing in the pipeline.

    I would not have proceeded with either of these two projects had it not been for your weekly videos which are a great source of inspiration as well as fraternity. Your followers are simply super!

    Win, lose, or draw, I’m about worn out with the usual grab a keyword make a site stuff. I know I can do better.

    I’m totally 100% on board with you Shane. You’re right on, and a right kinda guy.

    Your fan,

    • That sounds like an awesome plan, mate!

      Keep me in the loop about that SEO experiment. Not in a “give away your secrets” kind of way, obviously. :)

  • Hi Shane

    After being a coaching client of UK marketer Lee McIntyre for the last few months, and also taking much advice from John Thornhill, I can say that we are all singing from the same hymn sheet. Producing genuine value in any shape or form, that gives people the answers they need, will always be the way to go in this game and the better your products or service, the greater the longevity of your customer base and their loyalty.

    There is nothing worse that feeling scammed or going away feeling like your search has been a waste of time as you have landed on some rubbish content or half cocked review site that has obviously had no thought put in it.

    I love creating and owning good products and people that buy them are genuinely grateful that they exist.

    You IM Impact site is like a magnet … It just oozes quality and the topics are always really useful and invoke much response. I actually picture this site as something that I would like to aim to build for myself, in my own way, with my own content, and will do in the future.

    Keep up the good work Shane – cool content rules!! :o)


    • You make a very good point: really serving people well is so much more satisfying than just doing some traffic arbitrage from a traffic source to some random affiliate offer.

  • Hey Shane,

    bang on as usual –

    The branding of both oneself as in your case (and frankly watching how you go about things over the last many months has been one of the best ‘object-lessons’ in how to do this well i have experienced anywhere… i mean it as you know from other comments i have made)…

    also the aspect of building a brand in a niche – which is a weird balancing act for me, who relies strongly on the one other thing i feel still is a good method of adding to ones ‘insulation’ from damaging blows…. that being diversity.

    Diversity of ways people can end up on my sites, on my network, or lead to my reviews, sales pages, communities, etc. However in my case, as much of this is about an seo network that by very nature has to stay hidden as best as possible from the big G for instance…

    I can’t very well go and spread a brand logo up top on all of my sites!

    However the mix i am personally working on is that of branding – both myself as an expert and authority in my niche, and for the moment one or two key authority sites in my network themselves – ones i am building up as the crown jewels so to speak …

    but having this whole network of sites, whether they are backup on certain keywords when some get hit – or far flung sub-sub-niche sites within the whole (i note this because i have watched these bring noticeable extra traffic flows to offers that dont relate on the sub-niche level the site is about – but by the nature that it is a sub niche, viewers are still good targets usually for niche wide offers)….

    basically i did lose some money making rankings (some i have now recovered already a couple still patching up) but while working to recover them – both my many other sites and to some extent my other points of entry such as web2s doc sites etc… I can manipulate traffic flow across my network of sites and WAS able to – still am doing in fact on one specific case here – and avoided what would have been a huge income loss for sure if i was not able to do that.

    So for me it is a case of branding like you discuss – which i see the immeasurable value of certainly. No doubt at all. But the further insulation / hedging / protection i have built up by not allowing myself to rely on any one site or point of entry, but rather set up hundreds of them over time, is an asset i wouldn’t trade right now…. its proven itself in ways i never planned for it to be amazingly valuable as well.

    • That’s some advanced stuff, building out backup sites to rank, in case one gets slapped. Good stuff, though.

      As you say, you can usually combine branding/building authority with other IM and SEO methods.

      It’s true that building one strong brand also means sacrificing one kind of diversity. With a brand, you have diversity of marketing channels and traffic sources, but you have just the one brand.

      With the typical niche marketing model, you have diversity of niches and websites, but usually just one traffic source.

      No solution is perfect. Although you can have more than one brand as well.

  • Great post and insights – How to become independent of Google rankings and all this panda updates is one of the biggest issues in the so-called seo scene at the moment. My personal opinion: One of the most progressive and innovative marketing / seo guys is the german landing page expert Karl Kratz. I had the pleasure to visit one of his workshops and some sessions of him. Unfortunatly most of his work is available in german only, but for the interested (and german speaking) readers please google for ‘Karl Kratz’ and ‘Seo for the System’ .. You will not regret it and your view on SEO will totally change / expand…

    • Thanks for the recommendation, Jörg! I’ll take a look.

  • My site was slapped and dropped to page 2 (from position 2). Not because of a penalty (at least that’s what I think at the moment) but because my backlinks are dropping (blog networks) faster then I can make them up by other means.

    So, I dropped 3k in print media in my industries magazines. I’ll probably get more traffic that way than by all the Google traffic in the last 9 months combined. So, I’m kind of glad Google did what they did. I’ve decided it’s time not to rely on Google (or any search engine) alone. Diversification is now key.

    • Cool! It’s easy to forget how many marketing and traffic opportunities are really out there, when you’re caught in the Google-chase-cycle.

  • Yes, finding different traffic sources other than the Google search engine (One example – Cost effective Ezine Advertising).

    Building a small online business that depends on Google for most of its online traffic does not look very stable (by any stretch of the imagination).

    This is a good learning experience. What have I learned? Google is the master and we are the servant. It is best to find other useful traffic sources.


    • Yep. And that’s exactly the kind of master-servant relationship we need to (and can) get out of.

  • Shane;
    Thanks for your insights and you are soo right. You have demonstrated two things, integrity and a great brand. To say nothing of saving me a bit of cash that I was about to spend on a questionable back-link scheme. In an interview in the last couple of weeks I read a reply by Matt Cutts that seemed to indicate that even poorly optimized sites should be given a chance.

    “He talked about finding ways to surface smaller sites that may be poorly optimized, if, in fact, those sites have the very best content. This is not anything new from Google. They’ve always had a goal to rank the very best content, regardless of how well optimized or not it may be. And I think that’s the key. If a page is the very best result for a searcher, Google wants to rank it even if the site owner has never heard of title tags.”

    Ok, I am all for good content, but the goal-posts seem to keep on changing.
    And the idea now that you must now become a “social maven” with tweets, likes and MOST IMPORTANTLY +1’s is even more frustrating.

    You are right it needs to become a matter of branding. For my part I have decided to seriously pursue content syndication. My name on great content distributed through as many channels that are not Google dependent at all. that I can find.

    Thanks for a great site, great products and as always your timely advice.
    Michael Brown

    • Yeah, I don’t feel too good about Google+ as well. Like they aren’t enough of a monopoly already…

  • Thesis Best says:

    Hi Shane,

    Another excellent and thought provoking post. I absolutely agree that it’s all about people. For example, I have no idea how ranks for keywords or what those keywords could be. I read these posts because I want to read/watch what you have to say and am completely indifferent to Google’s opinion about your site.

    My belief is that we should work to engage people online and not work to outsmart search engines. People don’t come to sites because the site has the “right” keyword density or so many number of Hx tags; they come because they expect to find something useful. So we need to create and develop that expectation.

    In that context the whole SEO thing becomes something you do so that even the dumb SE bots can read your site, with whatever algorithm they may be using at that moment, but not as a primary concern.

  • Hi Shane,
    I can’t agree with you more. To the tune that I published a similar post yesterday “Online Lead Generation Through Blogging – Forget Traffic!”

    Traffic is the bain of most IM’s lives; it seems to be the only topic of conversation and causes uproar as soon as Google ring the changes.

    I am not for one moment saying that traffic is not important. What I am saying is that focus more on brand, relationships, visitor demographics and providing extraordinarily valuable content that will encourage those users to sign up to your list.

    Trust is a massive issue online and the only what to alleviate peoples fear is to treat them like human beings, respect them and build relationships.

    Once again Shane, GREAT content!


    • Yeah, it’s easy to obsess over traffic. Clearly, a business without traffic is doomed. But I noticed myself that I disconnected from the reality of traffic, which is that it’s people! Forgetting about that did not help me one bit.

  • Hi Shane
    Great update!

    I really do think that the latest changes in Google are leveling the playing field. What I am seeing happening with my own sites is that the quality ones are getting stronger, while the poorer ones are dropping. That is exactly what should be happening.

    I am currently writing a report that highlights some of my own subscriber sites that were hit by Panda (or some other algorithm change). In every case, the owner of that site thought their site was a very high quality. In almost every case, I found a number of problems with those sites (content, linking profiles, duplicated information etc).

    I think as we build our own sites, we are less objective when it comes to understanding what quality means. The best way I have heard quality described is whether or not you think your article could appear in a glossy magazine. That’s a high quality glossy magazine ;)

    Keep up the good work!

    Andy Williams

    • Hi Andy,

      Thanks for your comment!

      Looking forward to that report! Based on real-life case studies is always the most useful material.

      It’s the same for my portfolio of sites. For example, I have a niche site where I outsourced all the content, but I outsourced it to someone I found on a niche-forum, who had real expertise in the niche. Plus, it was the same guy who wrote all the content. This site has been more engaging than most of my other niche sites and it’s fared well in Google, through all the changes.

  • Hi Shane,
    This reflects my own views completely, but I don’t believe that Google will hit small internet businesses because they are small businesses. It will hit them when they set out to manipulate search technology (which is a tremendous business enabler) in order to achieve results that depend more upon doubtful methods and techniques than upon hard work work and reputation.

    The foundation of any successful small business has always traditionally been hard-work, reputation and customer value. These values build a brand, even if its own a local or niche brand. It’s going to take longer to build our internet businesses. “Get rich quick” will increasingly become a thing of the past. We will all be much better off when it does.


    • The way I see it, manipulating search results or not doesn’t have that much to do with it.
      You can have the nicest, most genuine and most white-hat site on the entire Internet, but if slapping you out of the search results somehow translates into more money for Google, they will slap you out of the search results.

      Agree that the world would be better off without all the get-rich-quick nonsense. I do hope to see that world, in my lifetime (but I’m a bit skeptical).

  • Hi Shane,

    I agree with you in getting away from the dependency of Google or Web 2.0 is definitely a good thing because of the constant changes. The problem is only – if we like to see immediate results – branding takes time.

    From building an authority site to (eventually) having a (accepted) brand is definitely no overnight thing if you do not have a (large) budget to speed up the process a bit. One or two projects alongside with more immediate financial results should be mandatory in order to maintain your motivation for your big project.

    I think I am not the only marketer who does not have enough capital to (adequately) fund their long term projects which might take a while to generate their own income.

    My standard advice – “Create a small(er) informational site in a niche you feel comfortable with and give away something of value to build a list of prospects and convert them to buyers through your email marketing efforts using affiliated or (preferably) own products a where you can make sure you have a proper sales funnel (upsell, downsell,…) in place” – can result in more work than anticipated and (in my case) results in spending more time with smaller projects and forgetting/neglecting my main goal/project.

    I would like very much to create a guide with the title “Small and easy, hands-off, create and forget fund raising projects to finance YOUR online endeavors in a breeze”.
    The proper funding of let’s say $500 a month to invest back into your business can really go a long way and speed up your “success” considerably.

    Actually, the process of creating funds to finance all projects in planing, should be the only way to conduct your biz. If you use this consequently you will never use past earnings to fund future projects. The downside would be that unsuccessful fund raising results in no new projects. But hey no system is perfect ;).

    The only problem is that I can’t come up with enough ideas to fill up a short no fluff report.

    Shane, what are your thoughts/ideas on this subject. Any tips are welcome :D.


    • Absolutely true: people want a quick and easy solution. Always, no matter where. This is the big issue in so many markets and manifests in weight-loss pills, silly, ineffective workout devices, fluffy self-help advice that doesn’t work, extremely unhealthy but quick food and, of course, products that promise quick, effortless riches.

      The thing is that chasing the quick and easy solution is the most commonly traveled road to failure and looking for shortcuts is the greatest detour of them all.

      As for start-up funding, this is what I’d suggest: make a thorough estimation of what it will actually cost to get your online endeavor to a first working iteration. I bet it’s usually going to be less than you expect and you can probably save up to it or do some freelancing type work to generate the income.

  • Hi Shane – completely agree with… building a brand for your service/product, as the best way forward for a sustainable business model!

    The thing is, a lot of IM that the ‘gurus’ preach and teach, is based on the complete opposite.

    You see a lot of.. set up a small niche site, get /backlinks… then Google traffic will come… approach. This has tended to focus people’s expectations on being able to generate income from Google alone, as a reliable traffic source… using the small sniper/review niche site model.

    Well, we have all seen in the last few weeks, this model just got much harder and less likely to succeed.


    • Agreed. I see it coming to a tipping point. The un-involved simple niche marketing model can still work, but it’s coming to a point where it’s not worth the time, effort and risk, compared to other options.

  • Hi Shane,

    Yep, words of wisdom – thanks for sharing your (as ever) insightful thoughts.

    I’m focusing on 2 main authority sites and have ditched about half a dozen sites that I thought didn’t pass muster.

    I know many IM’ers tell you to avoid writing about your ‘passion’ and go where the money is, but I personally can’t sustain such websites as I don’t have any interest in writing content for them. The end result is that they don’t rank highly and they don’t get visited!

    I don’t particularly like the stranglehold that Google has on the search engine market, but I do admire and use loads of their products.

    So, quality websites focusing on real people seems to be the way forward. Kind of obvious when you word it like that, isn’t it?


  • Stefan Müller says:

    Rarely are people original, you can see that here and throughtout other IM related blogs for years now, same old recycled ‘content is the best seo’ blah, blah comments… yes it’s a true statement so stop stagnating on this point.

    If they reduce the size of the cylinder in basketball it doesn’t mean players become worse scorers, they are still compared to other players who are affected in the same way.

    The ultimate business strategy is to stay one or more steps ahead of the other business people.

    On another note, I read a lot of “Matt Cutts said” fluff. Matt is going to try to make Google sound more effective than it really is. If you search for long tails you will still see sites ranking in top 10 that never even altered the default wordpress themes and have garbage content, that will reduce but never change completely.

    Nothing changes in business and people don’t either, when you realize that you will take that opportunity to forever jump and stay 3 steps ahead.

    – Not an Im’er

    Hallo Shane

  • Shane, This has been both thought provoking and encouraging. Plus, a lot of great commentary. I felt pretty positive up until January that I was on the right track with several niche sites. Plus, working to build my own personal brand on my blogsite. Google changed that in a heart beat. The lesson is, we can’t be trying to second guess what is coming next.

    It was easy to get sucked into the “This is how you must do SEO” merry go round. But it still comes back to the main principle of business “provide real value for real people”. Give them what they want and help them solve the problems in their lives.

    As a result we continue to work on our niche sites but are entirely and intensely focused on great content that adds to peoples lives and knowledge of the topic. I have sought out and found some absolutely excellent writers who do quality research and write for the target audience.

    We hope that our sites will rise to the top through value provided. It unfortunately has taken a great deal of tripping and falling and a lot of wasted cost. Have to chock it up the “The Cost of My Education!”

    Shane, keep up the fine work, your ‘Brand” is awesome!

    Paul H Grimm

  • Shane, you speak absolute words of truth!

    You’re one of the very few I still take ideas from online, as it’s clear that money is not necessarily the main motivator behind the great content and insights you share. I don’t have the time to read all your visitor comments, but I’m willing to bet many others will be mirroring these sentiments as well, and for sound reason.

    Keep up the good work bud.

  • I definitely agree, my own blog on IM get’s almost all of it’s traffic from returning visits and forums. While we have a few posts ranking in the search engines most of our search engine traffic is people searching for our blog or a specific post we wrote about using site: + what they think is the post name.

    Anyway, I definitely want to move towards this with my other niche sites. Some of them get 30k+ uniques a month with very little returning visits and how can I blame them? My niche sites are mostly impersonal, half of the articles I paid others to write for me which brings some of the issues you mentioned…

  • Clearly, building a brand has been and always will be an ideal way to get traffic. But, not all products and services will lend themselves to a brand.

    For example, there are some photography sites where I will look for camera reviews. I will, as you said, find them whether they were on page 1 or page 100. But, if I want information about a new topic, a one time, one of a kind purchase, etc., I am hitting the search engines. You are either on page one (or two) or you will not get my attention.

    Your site lends itself to a “following”. People come back to listen to what you have to say and your reader’s comments. They trust your reviews and your own products. But you underestimate how very difficult it is to gain that trust and create your brand.

    I think a list is more practical. You have a better chance of getting a name and email address if you are willing to give something of value. But again, many products and services will still need to rank high in Google to survive.

    • Building a brand will not be of detriment to SEO. In fact, with the recent bias in the Google algorithm towards identifying brands and giving them the highest organic results (see:- for a great little infographic about this) – it will only serve to help you.

      Building a brand is not mutually exclusive with SEO, email marketing or any inbound marketing strategy. The traffic paradigm is all about the end user – not about the marketing channels used to promote a web site. There’s an important distinction. It is entirely possible for SEO to be your #1 traffic source and to build a powerful brand.

  • Hi Shane

    Thanks for your valuable insight as usual. Given the current situation with Google and the Blog Networks, how do you think your Link Control strategy would work now. My view is that it would still be okay if implemented in the model you suggest.

    Interested in your updated thoughts since the recent developments.

  • Shane,

    this was a great post, thanks, but it is not about the post itself, it is about you teaching people things of real value that actually can help them much. so far I have your focus and action and backlink battleplan and both are great.

    So all I am saying, thanks for being an honest good guy/teacher

    All the best

    • Hello Wolfram,

      Thank you very much for your comment! I’m glad that the content is helpful for you!

  • Hi Shane,

    Great information. I notice that being dependend on Google just doesn`t work. I`ve heard of the term share cropping (being dependend on others) and what you are saying is exactly that.

    The future of the internet is not anymore SEO and Social media optimalisation but BO (brand optimalisation). There are millions of products, sites and competitors. The only way to stand out is by creating a brand people love. A website must have a more community focus.

    What you are saying here makes completely sense. Very great insights! Thanks for sharing this information.

    • Hello Nicky,

      Thanks for your comment! Yes, Brand Optimization is a great term to use. Funny, since old-school advertising was all about branding.
      And it’s not to say that the new school of performance advertising is going away, but I think what we should be aiming for is a powerful combination of both branding and performance-based marketing.

  • Victor Pidkowich says:

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time. More and more Iv also had the same epiphany of building a REAL business. And what does a real business do… builds trust, brand and of course value for its clients.

    I now see “businesses” (including my own niche site “business”) as just arbitrage.

    Because rather than using these traffic sources to insert value, we’re really just scraping / re-directing / leaching traffic to get them to something they may be interested in buying or filling out if CPA offers. Which is really just arbitrage, taking the spread without caring about the value.

    And this is for all traffic sources. Same with Facebook ads, adwords etc.

    Rather than just trying to get a high CTR we should add value and always do things with our clients in mind by providing the best service and or products.

    Thank you Shane for solidifying what was happening in my head :)

  • Victor Pidkowich says:

    PS – i think the term “authority site” needs to be re-visited. What are auth sites? Amazon for sure. And what is Amazon? A hell of a brand that strives to keep happy customers in everything they do……………….. NOT a site that has one hundred 1000 word articles.

  • Wow! Totally spot on. You have made me realize again; the importance of not putting all your eggs in one basket; and most importantly, that Google is not the end-all and be-all of life and or business on the Internet.

    As we know…nothing lasts forever. My prediction…soon enough, maybe even within just a few more years…a new Grads PhD might just be entitled…”Google:The Anatomy of an Antiquated Search Engine”

    For me, that day can’t be soon enough!!!

  • So true. I got hit HARD by Facebook back in the day when I was doing a lot of affiliate marketing, from $300-1000 per day down to ZERO overnight. Peen Panda slapped hard by Google, etc. NEVER AGAIN. Hardcore brand building taking place :)

  • Yeah Shane…I also want to compliment you on backlink battlefield. After being frustrated leaving my branding up to “marketing experts,” I knew I had to take control. I am actually a tax attorney and I was tired of getting hosed by people who were ripping me off for SEO and on adwords. You got me on my way. I use a mixture of techniques and the biggest lesson I’ve learned is do your research, but don’t be afraid to go for keyword that is too competitive. I’ve been able to nab a bunch I shouldnt been able to get.

    The only way to keep abreast of changes is to try things. See what fails…see what doesn’t. And then when some thing new happens, you’ll be able to apply what you’ve learned through analogy. And it is really fun when you guessed right.

    I am about putting as many irons in the fire as possible…who wants their entire fortune wrapped up in what someone’s equation says. Divirsify…and let others bluff their way out of competing with you.

  • Hey Shane,

    first i want to thank you for this article and the webinar which opened my eyes in some cases.

    I just have a small question to you and your readers, which have some experience with.

    Let’s say i have a article and load it up to 2 or 3 PDf-Directories and put it on my server. Is it possible that Google declares it as duplicate content, because this same PDF is available on some other places (my server & article directories).

    Did you or your readers have experience with it?

    • Link to the original article or the domain the original article is on, in the document.

      Of course it’s duplicate content, but there’s no punishment for having your content published in more than one place.

  • I am glad this question was posted. Maybe you can help me clear something up.

    Let us say that you create this wonderful 1000 word article on Driving Safely in the Snow. You have a website for auto insurance.

    At this stage I would be asking myself:

    1. Should I use it as post on my own website and link to my internal page on discounts for safe drivers?

    2. Should I create a small post (say 200-300 words) as an overview and use the article to create a new site page, linking the post to the page?

    3. If I use the article on my site (page or post) can I also publish it to an article directory without a penalty and still gain from it?

    4. Should I spin it and then publish it on an article directory? I am hearing that you need to spin to at least 75% unique. Heck, at that rate I might as well start over and rewrite the article.

    5. Or, instead of an article directory should I use it as a post on a related blog where I can get a link back to my site?

    Opinions are welcome.

  • Interesting Article and Video Shane. However, I am going to play devils advocate here.

    So, what you’re saying is to forget about traffic. No need to optimize the site for SEO, no reason to tweet about the site and no need to really do anything to drive traffic to the site. After all traffic is just people.

    Ok the “Build It and They Will Come” idea should be put to death once and for all! I heard that idea when I first started in 1999 didn’t work then and I don’t think it will work now. I don’t believe that not ranking for a keyword and optimizing the site so google gets people to look at the site or facebook or twittering about your site should be abandoned.

    OK maybe you aren’t saying that because you did menion branding your site. As far as just advertising in an ezine or paying for a banner ad that says “Hey I am Brand X”, do you really believe that will make them come to buy your product?

    Now I am not angry or crazy here. Like I said just playing devils advocate. I just think you need to find a balance between the two. Don’t write just for Google and Don’t write to ignor Google either.

    Just my 2 cents.

    • Hi George,

      I’m in no way advocating “build it and they will come”. Saying that traffic is people is something completely different and I’m not implying that people will just find you all by themselves.

      What I am saying is that you need to market for those people. This is where a lot of the stuff in the IM space – backlink spamming, twitter bots, pinterest auto-posting – gets it completely wrong.

      • Shane, hey I didn’t say you were advocating it. That was the overall vibe I got from it. I mean when you said forget about Google, forget about Facebook and Twitter…How else are we supposed to get the people to the site?

        I agree there are alot of so-called expert’s out there still touting stuff that worked back in 2000. But if that is all the information that is out there then what do we do?

      • The point I’m trying to make is: don’t focus on the platform (Google, FB, Twitter), focus on the people you can reach via whatever means (including Google, FB, Twitter).

        The post is a counter-point to a very common idea in IM, especially among people pursuing passive income, which can be summed up as “I just want traffic, I don’t care about my visitors”. For some business models, this worked very well for a long time. For some, I’m sure it still does.
        Niche marketing and SEO are where I experienced this a lot. Create a crappy site with some cheap content, spam some backlinks and profit from Google visitors. You aren’t really offering anything, you just want some adsense clicks.

        As stated in the post: of course SEO is still a valuable traffic source. But for your average startup or bootstrap entrepreneur, caring about traffic and not people is a recipe for disaster, these days. And SEO should be something they do to market their business. A business which is made for people.
        It should not be the sole focus and purpose of the business.

  • Your rationale in this article is very interesting. The point is we do not have to depend only from one source of traffic to our sites, namely Google. We need to find other sources of traffic that we continue to grow, even though Google made ​​a new rule such as Google Panda update.
    I think this is a very good thing and we need to try. While we need to work hard and work smart in this regard. However, this will make us self-sufficient, continue to grow, and no matter what happens out there. Thank you.

  • We have to create a lot more than we consume. As internet marketers, we often get caught up in what others are making, selling, writing, and doing. We need to make our own destiny, and by creating awesome products and services, we can.

    Thanks for the great post, Shane. You clearly practice what you preach, so to speak.

  • Well, just cane across your blog now but quite inspiring.
    I opened a blog this year.
    Will really like you to take a look and advise me

  • I believe, Building a brand in the market space is the most important thing these days. Along with proper optimized website and SEO, you gotta have a good product/service as well. After all, it customer satisfaction that can lead to your business success, not the SEO.

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