How Your Business Can Thrive Without SEO & Social Media

December 9, 2014 , 45 Comments

Today’s post is an answer to a question sent by Paula in this recent post. If you know me, you know that I’ve never invested time into growing my social media following or improving my social media marketing skills. Plus, a few years ago, I dropped any and all search engine optimization work and now I don’t do any of that either, for any of my businesses.

If you’ve ever wondered why that is and how it actually turns into an advantage for my business, here’s the answer:

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Here’s the only clever social media thing I do (mentioned in the video): WP Sharely.

What “No SEO/Social Media” Looks Like

The amount of effort I invest in SEO and social media isn’t exactly zero. It’s just very close to zero. I’ve found a comfortable minimum of investment that takes almost no extra time.

The Extent of My SEO Work:

  • I use the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress to make sure my sites have sitemaps.
  • Also using the Yoast plugin, I create a good title and description for each post and page.
  • I update posts and pages that get a lot of search traffic, every once in a while.
  • I make sure that my secondary pages (notifications, confirmation pages etc.) are set to no-index.
  • Using Wistia, I create a video sitemap for my video content.

The Extent of My Social Media Work:

  • I add a social media optimized image, title and description to (most of) my posts, using this Thrive Themes feature.
  • I post my content to Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Linkedin. I use Hootsuite to do it quickly.
  • I use WP Sharely on some strategic pages to drive more social shares.

Some of the Social Media and SEO Work I DON’T Do:

  • Build links.
  • Keyword research.
  • Measuring keyword density or other on-page SEO factors.
  • Following and unfollowing people as a Twitter strategy.
  • Posting a lot of “viral” and engaging content on Facebook/G+ in an attempt to drive up engagement.
  • Writing click bait, social bait or link bait.
  • Creating any kind of content that has a purpose other than being infromative and useful or selling my products.

Like I said in the video, I’m not implying that the things I don’t do are bad or that no one should do them. It’s a matter of priorities and focus. As you can see from the lists above, the SEO and social things I do are those that take up the least amount of time, but still get me the bare minimum of results.

Over to you: what’s your social and SEO strategy? Do you have other low-investment steps you take or favorite tools to help speed things up? Let us know by leaving a comment!

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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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  • So, in other words: You provide a lot of value and that value comes back to you!

    Brilliant! (and the opposite of scammy…)

    • Thanks for your comment, Tommy!

      You could say that, yes. Although I’m sure it’s also possible to provide value through social media channels. It’s just something I don’t focus on.

  • Thank you for that thought Shane. You’ve just lifted a weight off of my shoulders. I have been so concerned that I wasn’t spending time becoming proficient in SEO and social media, that it was slowing me down with the things I seem to be better at. I now can really get into the things I believe I have true potential in and relax about all the other stuff.

    • That’s great to know, James! You can indeed relax about a lot of things, even though it’s easy to get the impression that we have to be good at everything. :)

  • Totally agree with you Shane. Funny, I don’t do SEO anymore either. And with regards to Social Media, I’m worse than you: I haven’t posted anything ever (!)

    I have done SEO but found that paid traffic is much more profitable (in my case, Adwords) for myself and my clients. My ROI is off-the-charts when comparing Adwords to SEO.

    So for the time-being, I’m going to continue saying no to clients for SEO or Social Media work. From a conversion point-of-view, I have yet to see Social Media (non-paid) provide a higher ROI than Adwords.

    Keep up the good work and thank you!

    • That’s spot-on, Andy. And I bet you face the same issue: you couldn’t make your PPC campaigns so profitable if you were constantly distracted by trying to also do SEO and social media etc.

  • Shane what would you advise to people who are starting new websites? Since you already have a good following and a well established website maybe these steps are sufficient. But for a new person if he is not doing SEO/Social Media/Paid Ads there are very less opportunities to get traffic from.

    • Hello Mohit,

      The thing is, I never focused on social media and I still don’t have a large following on any social media channel. Not large enough for it to really matter for my traffic levels, anyway. So you can definitely do this kind of thing right from the start and it won’t be a problem.

      Personally, I started building my audience by selling products and getting some affiliates to promote them. And that is still one of the most important growth factors in my business. I’m not saying that that’s the only or the perfect way of doing it, though. I think the most important thing you can take away from this is the idea of focus. If you want to build your traffic through SEO, that’s cool. But I think it’s a mistake if you try to specialize in SEO and social media and PPC and

  • Spot on Shane and how refreshing to hear that common sense approach! You are the only person I follow now because of the great content and products you provide. As others have said, keep up the good work:-)

  • Shane I think I fit into the category of trying to do too much and not concentrating on the things I do best, and also enjoy the most, which is creating online courses and video content. I tend to be a DIY-er, so I’ve only done basic SEO, but I learned it long ago. Now I’m in the process of redoing all of my SEO since switching to Thrive Themes as I’m more focussed than when I started my blog 5 years ago. I also know I spend too much time on social media that isn’t all productive! Time to stop that. I have learned more since purchasing Thrive Themes last month than I have in the past few years from other online marketers. I think it’s because you are focussed on conversion and really, that’s what it’s all about. I appreciate all that you share by example, and I look forward to your posts every week and marvel at how much content you consistently put out. Okay enough of the love fest — time to get back to work! :)

    • Thank you very much, Marlene! I’m very happy to hear that you’ve had some a-ha moments since joining Thrive. :)

      The conversion thing is really the key to it all, in my opinion: when you are clear about what the conversion goal in your business is you can work backwards from that and figure out what the high priority tasks in your business really are.

  • I’m not yet to the point where I can completely ignore SEO, just to get a little bit of initial traffic. However, I have come to the conclusion that paid traffic is cheaper.

    As my Amazon FBA business grows, I do less and less SEO.

    I like the bit about not trying to concentrate on more than 4 things. I think that trying to do too many things at once has impeded my progress. Unfortunately, I’m interested in nearly everything, so it’s really hard for me to pare things down.

    I think the ultimate answer for me is going to be Outsourcing. I’ve already had great luck with that.

    • That’s a great point, Howard. I also have the problem that I tend to be interested in everything and I actually like trying out all kinds of things. For the sake of my business, I have to reign myself in every once in a while. :)

  • Charles O says:

    Shane -EXACTLY – Gave up on SEO a few years ago and haven’t looked back. I know people who spend hundreds of dollars a week in getting content created, building blog networks for backlinks, links and other time and money black holes. Not too smart.

    I would rather take just a fraction of that money set up an offer and test it with paid traffic. If it is a winner I then scale up and spend the rest of what they spent on SEO to make a fast and sustainable profit. If it doesn’t convert I tweak and try again with a little bit of money. Not everything is a winner, but I don’t waste time or money waiting to find out.

    My only regret is I wasted so much time that I can’t get back messing around with SEO and all its permutations. I’m making 5 times the amount of profit now since I abandoned the idea of trying to get free traffic. The best part it is so much faster and easier.

    All other forms of media use paid traffic (advertising). Do you think Coke, Wal-Mart or McDonald’s or any other household brand name would have been successful if they waited on free advertising. Why do internet marketers think it will work when it doesn’t for any other media?? Free traffic from SEO is just a myth promulgated by Google to build their Adwords business. Think about it.

    • Thanks for your comment, Charles!

      Yes, that’s what it comes down to for most businesses: “free” traffic is just too expensive. :)

      I don’t discount it entirely because some online businesses thrive on free traffic and even build up free traffic in a relatively short amount of time. But they are the rare exceptions and I think it’s much more difficult to try and replicate that than to just focus on something like paid traffic or affiliates.

  • Spot on Shane. I just don’t have time (or is it effort?) to get stuck into SEO and social stuff. In a life as an offline sole operator, the best form of marketing I have done is WOM, and this only came from reputation, service, good products … well, in my game it was. Same with an online biz. SEO and social media still have a place, but as you’ve shown, not a prime spot.
    Thanks for your insights, they’re always very instructive.

    • Hello Des,

      That’s a great point. Word or mouth is important online as well, but I think it’s often confused as being the same thing as social media marketing. I think in reality, WOM can come through any channel and you can’t “make” it happen on those channels. You can only make it happen in your products and services.

  • Hi Shane,

    I note you refer to WP Share – isn’t locked content banned by Facebook now?


    • Hello Dale,

      Like-gating on a fan page is no longer allowed. There has been no update to the policy about content locking on your own site. Not yet, anyway.

  • This is yet another great example why you’re such a welcome guest in my entrepreneurial journey, Shane. You answer questions/solve problems for me with every single piece of content you produce. I’m really grateful.

    Merry Christmas,

  • Hi Shane:

    First of all I think you are an awesome speaker and I love the way you do your videos. We can all learn from your approach.

    Love your products and all the extra training that comes with it. First class all the way.

    Without question investing in your Plugin and themes have been the best investment I made this year. By far.

    Claude Haggerty

  • Good to know your priorities Shane. I am more interested in the software you use to create these vids including the in-video text you use. Do you use a teleprompt?
    BTW, I do enjoy using the products you guys produce, they’re great.

    • Hello Steve,

      I don’t use a teleprompter, no. Some of my videos are just off-the-cuff and for some, I write a rough draft of a script before recording, but I’m not actually reading off of the script while I’m recording.

      The videos are edited using Premiere and After Effects. If you’re watching a video of mine and the editing is really good, that means I didn’t edit it myself. I have someone doing that for me. :)

    • Paul @ IMH Blog says:

      Hi Steve, get yourself a copy of adobe after effects and premiere pro.

      Editing a video in Premiere is pretty easy, animation and effects will be done in After Effects and it is quite difficult to master compared to the other Adobe software

  • Very well said, basically time is money so we need to invest it wisely.

    I would spend hour submitting posts to groups on facebook and google etc. It’s all just full of spam and when I actually tracked it I got about 1 or 2 clicks for those hours spent.

    Hours that I could have easily have written (or started to write) an excellent bit of content.

    Without tracking and analyzing we all waste far too much time.

    Ive been a long time reader shane and noticed you made the switch to purely video, do you have a blog post to document why you decided to make the change, i’m thinking of doing the same thing

    (ive got the rode procaster too, lovely mic)

    • I was thinking about this just yesterday: it’s easy to think of the work we do ourselves as “free”. Especially in the startup phase, it’s typical to do a ton of work and get no direct return for it, so it does feel a lot like free work. Personally, I stayed in that mindset for way too long and it blinded me to some ways I could have optimized my business sooner.

      I don’t do video posts exclusively (next one in the queue is without video, for example), but it’s true that I’ve published many videos lately. There are two main reasons for this. First, I’m simply more proficient at creating videos than at writing posts. That’s just a matter of experience and practice (I’ve published far more videos than written posts, in total) and the result is that if I have an idea for something I want to get across, I can do it faster in the form of a video.
      The second reason is that many posts lately (on the Thrive Themes blog) have been about new features or about how to build better pages and sites. I find it’s a lot more effective to give a real demonstration of something like that on video than to just write about it.

  • Hi Shane,
    Slick videos you’re posting these days – content good too.
    Are you recording these yourself – or with help?
    Using an autoprompt?

    Paul (a customer of your plug ins)

    • Hi Paul,

      I do have help, yes. I record everything myself and I don’t use a prompter, but the video editing is done by someone who’s better at it than me.

  • Sorry Shane. I beg to differ here. Its not that time consuming and can in fact pay off in almost any site / business. The key here is doing proper and effective keyword research so you can go after the low hanging fruits and rank for those hidden gems in your niche (which by the way are not easy to find but can be found if you know the tricks). And once you do find them, you’ll be driving and converting traffic in days. If you’re just stuck up and go after the big keywors… thats when it can get frustrating and dangerous. So, there’s a trick to doing SEO. And the first step is taking proper aim and going after the easy wins. You see, the people who drop out of SEO are those who don’t really know how to rank and bank. And, no one is going to share their tricks for free in the open…

    • Well, that’s exactly the point, isn’t it?

      There are SEO tricks which are constantly evolving and no one who knows them shares them, so I have to invest time into research, experimentation etc. to get that easy free traffic. I know that it’s not difficult once you’ve built that expertise. 90%+ of all my traffic was organic search traffic for a couple of years. SEO was my playground. And I got those easy rankings (even for big and tough keywords) quite easily, for a time. But then the rules changed again and my business evolved and I saw that my time was better invested in other playgrounds. :)

      • Agreed with you 100% Shane on this. It does eat up time. So, let me ask you this… in hindsight, SEO helped you initially to build up that momentum and gain insights. So, if you did not have SEO at your disposal when you started out – would you have done it differently via other channels? For example – you say PPC / Adwords. I’ve wasted a ton of money when I did not know how to do it right. So, you have to “learn” that skill too. Its not like everything comes so easily to everyone :) Every other investment of time has a learning curve that is probably as tough as SEO and an opportunity cost. But, all in all – yes SEO is tough work… but its worth the time spent. Gives you the confidence knowing that you have access to your potential visitors on the worlds biggest marketplace!

      • I can’t say I wish I’d never done SEO because doing SEO is what led me to creating my first product. However, looking back, I can say that I could have grown my business faster by switching tracks away from the SEO and niche site model and towards what I do now sooner than I did.

  • Apart from Howard who referred to FBA on Amazon, there is little reference in the comments to affiliates who promote physical products such as Amazon or the health market etc and who do not create great products or get affiliate referrals.

    Are we saying that the only alternative to social media and SEO is paid traffic as otherwise we would not have a business as we wouldn’t have any traffic coming to our site?

    There seems to be as many failures with PPC as there are successes and for some people, me included, PPC can turn into a costly learning curve.

    I would dearly love to chuck SEO and Social media out the window and follow your example but I think I still need further guidance on how to do this as an affiliate in the markets I mentioned above.

    • Hi Joe,

      If you’re selling physical products as an affiliate, there’s a problem with branding (you’re sending people away from your site to make the actual purchase) and also the problem of low margins. This makes PPC difficult, to say the least.

      In this case, I would think of the business as a service business. What service are you offering to your readers that they can’t get anywhere else? In what way is visiting your site before making a purchase clearly and significantly better than going directly to Amazon or visiting a competing site first? If there’s a clear answer to these questions, you can sell the service rather than the product and that opens up more possibilities. If there’s no clear answer to these questions, I don’t think there’s much of a choice but to try and get SEO traffic, as the advantage you’ll have in that case is that your site is simply the one people find first.

      Keep in mind that the point of this post isn’t to say that no one should bother with SEO or social media – the point is just about focus and prioritization. For some business, putting all of the focus on SEO is the right thing to do.

  • Hi Shane,

    I don’t do much social media either but I do SEO. I use SEO plugins similar to you to help speed it up.

    I’ve done paid traffic and I plan doing more of it.


  • Hi Shane

    Your answer confirms what I had been thinking, but your description of my problem has enabled me to look at it in a more positive way in finding a solution.

    Many thanks

    • Thanks for your comment, Joe. I’m happy to know that this post was helpful for you.

  • Once again Shane has shown how to use simple Social Media tools to drive more traffic to his site without having to spend much time on Social sites. I never thought of the click to share to get the reduced price idea.

    I have used a premium Comment plugin that I purchased a couple of years ago to pick up some decent comments. Comment Luv also has multiple plugins built in to help keep comment spam off the websites.

  • Hi Shane

    I’m understand your aims
    “this post isn’t to say that no one should bother with SEO or social media – the point is just about focus and prioritization”.

    I’m find the answers from this blog post, plus it give me better understanding about managing my time effectively.

    This is what i mean. Below is my daily effort for IM and i’m find it very difficult to get all the task done, and it make me unmanageable too:
    :: Product review
    :: Creating great content for my blog
    :: Forum
    :: Blog commenting
    :: Getting Affiliate referral
    :: Social Media

    This is my opinion, i think by outsourcing SEO is better than to learn it. I know that, it to learn it take years to see the better result. Also Google algorithm issue.

    Like you said above,
    “it have to invest time into research, experimentation etc.”

    I know a few website that offer SEO services but not really know their credibility i.e. Video Valet, Fat Joe, Source Wave.

    What I’ve learn/benefit from this post is
    1/ Focus and Prioritization
    2/ Thrive Themes feature ( i did’t know it until i find this post )

    That all. Once again, thanks for sharing this great info.


  • I’ve always owned my own businesses, a true serial entrepreneur. A couple of years ago I decided to start a new business and enter the digital arena, but in a real way, no one-click rich junk. I have gained more useful, actionable, real, valuable knowledge through your articles and tutorials, along with those from Hanne, than all the other information and so-called training I’ve paid handsomely for all put together. You, my friend, are wise beyond your years and a living example of “Adding Value to the Marketplace”! Job well done to this point – carry on…

    • Thank you very much, Ritter! It means a lot to me to get feedback like this. It really is the most gratifying thing to be able to pass on some useful knowledge and make a difference for someone else.

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