SEO and digital marketing can easily become saturated in sales promotions, special offers, and solely product-based conversations. To cut through the noise and attract new readership and new customers—focus on providing value first, and making sales second. While this may sound counter-intuitive but it’s proven to be one of the best SEO methods deployed by modern business. Learning some basic philosophy and some practical approaches to providing your customers with extra value can help transform your website from a cold transaction to an emotionally fulfilling experience.
Most businesses possess a resource that nearly always gets overlooked—the amount of time they focus on their industry. It never ceases to amaze how knowledgeable professionals are about their trades, yet so few share these stories in engaging manners. For example, a regular florist knows more about sustaining plant life that 99% of people walking around. The average Dentist has forgotten more about different flossing techniques than you or I will ever hope to learn. Even a sanitation worker may know more practical knowledge about the dynamics of household trash decomposition than most chemists. These professionals have all cultivated a deep well of knowledge because they spend all day, every day, focused on their trade. Even the most loyal buyers don’t spend this much time focused on the topic but would likely be interested in learning more about it.
Becoming A Resource
In the past, to share an in-depth discussion on a market-related topic with every customer wouldn’t have been feasible. Your best hope would have been to get a book published, but even then the conversation would be dependent on them spending money. Today, a simple blog post can reach every person in the entire world that wants to know more about your industry. Developing content to help tell these kinds of stories, publishing them in an easily accessible and enjoyable format, and applying some simple SEO power can help you connect with people already interested in your trade. Working to create this type of content can help transform your website into an industry resource that is a backlink magnet.
Many successful modern businesses much akin to media companies, engaging audiences with interests that align with their products
The biggest hurdle that most business struggle to get over is the concept of investing in non-commercial content. For example, a 10 article series on different exercises to strengthen lower back muscles would be a great way to attract related traffic for a fitness products business. Helping readers understand why they need your product, by helping them better understand their own problem, is one of the most effective ways to connect with a potential customer. You’ve already provided them value up front in helping to answer their questions and now stand ready and willing to provide them with the products they need to support their solution. They win, you win.
Some Inspiring Examples
The internet has transformed how people interact with, and discover, businesses and new interests. Technologies like WordPress, Squarespace, and Shopify have made it easier than ever before for local businesses to connect with huge audiences of potential customers. Enterprise level solutions are great for those with boatloads of cash, but if you’re just looking to get an edge to your business’s online presence—there are very cost-effective ways to establish an initial revenue flow. Below are some brief examples of sites that do well to show how providing value often inspires people to respond with strong affinity to your business or product.
I Want to Draw a Cat For You
One awe-inspiring example of just such bootstrapped success can be seen in the success of the I Want to Draw A Cat For You website that started off with nothing more than a YouTube video going viral and a PayPal button. Viewers inspired by the video could order a hand-illustrated cat drawing from website owner Steve Gadlin for $10 a pop, and be mailed a copy via USPS mail. Sounds lame right?
Today Gadlin has sold over 7000 cat drawings, has a month-long wait-list for new drawings, and has received investments from notable VCs like Mark Cuban. The takeaway is that you don’t need a $50,000 website to get things moving and that connecting with people in meaningful ways can help drive sales more than running ads on Google Search ever will. This website is a perfect illustration of just how little a website actually matters when starting out if you are providing people with something they regard as being valuable.
In November 2015, draxe.com was receiving roughly 500K visitors a month. This is no small feat, but also nothing monumental. One year later they were receiving over 6.5 million visitors a month—which certainly begs some attention. This website is run by a doctor (Dr. Joshua Axe) who sells training seminars to licensed health professionals and has his own line of supplements. The majority of the website consists of articles, infographics, videos, and live streams on home remedies, the benefits of exercise, yoga poses, and everything else related to alternative health topics.
One of their more popular articles on the Uses of Apple Cider Vinegar gets roughly 50,000 monthly views! At first glance, this website looks more like a newspaper or media company—except there are no ads! In place of annoying ads are signup forms for email lists, sales pages for health training seminars, and ads for the Dr. Axe supplements. The majority of their effort is spent in providing value to people interested in alternative health topics, which translates into establishing lines of communication to share new products and offers to people that already have shown interest and have gotten value.
Houzz is another behemoth of a site, focused on DIY design and all things related to home goods. It got its start as a sort of social network type venue for interior designers and home goods product developers but has since morphed into a marketplace for goods and services and full-fledged eCommerce. There organic ranking has been a bit of a rollercoaster, having taken a nosedive in early 2015, but since then they’ve seemed to have recovered and know present a very modernized, user-friendly experience.
Beneath the window dressing however, they are offering an often unnoticed value of providing readers with highly sought after design advice. For example, they rank on the first page for the keyword ‘bathroom ideas’ which is a roughly 110k searches/mo keyword that isn’t a product. Now, before we compliment them too much—it does seem they’ve taken some short cuts to get this presence. For example, the page they rank for ‘bathroom ideas’ with is an archive of photos added to their site having been tagged with as bathroom related. At the bottom of the page, they’ve got about 700 words of very keyword-heavy copy to give Google some of what it loves. While we’d offer some much more straight forward ways for them to deploy this approach, Houzz serves well to show how many additional visitors you target by expanding your site’s focus beyond the strictly commercial.
These examples may not be relevant to your industry directly, but serve well to portray the general concept of giving value first and selling products second. Another great example are email lists, most of which are like text-based telemarketing in their presentation. If you sign up for an email newsletter from a business and the first 5 emails your get are for sales, product offers, and company news—how likely are you to unsubscribe? The emails I find making their way past my urge to click ‘unsubscribe’ are those that are telling me a story, or helping me to solve a problem, or connecting with me in an honest and non-commercial way. They establish an on-going line of communication between you and a potential buyer, and when they’re ready to buy a product in your industry it’s almost a certainty they’ll at lest think about your business. A much more elegant summation can be found in Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People:
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
If you’re business is just blasting them with sales promotions you’ll be seen as another marketer after their money. If you’re providing them with information that gives them value however, you’re building a relationship with them. This will make any offers you show them in the future seem more friendly recommendations than hard sells. Give value first, be positioned to sell when they’re ready to buy later. There’s some really effective ways to help make this process more efficient, but list segmentation and autoresponder sequences handle most of the heavy lifting and can be run on autopilot.
Providing value to customers is what business is all about. If your product or service is more valuable to them than their money, they’ll make a trade with you—you give them products and they give you money. An effective way to attract new customers and strengthen the loyalty of your existing ones is to provide them value without anything in return. Developing on-site resources such as how-to guides, infographics, and informative blog posts can help connect with audiences that may not even be aware of your product yet. Leveraging your business’s unique knowledge to create valuable content is one of the most effective ways to create this kind of content initially. Harnessing technologies like WordPress and email automation services can allow these types of resources to be put in place for very conservative amounts of investment. I’d describe many successful modern businesses much akin to media companies, engaging audiences with interests that align with their products. Above all, the businesses that are succeed with this SEO method are focusing on providing people with value first, and introducing products last.