Is Branding the New Way?
Everyone has a different path when it comes to internet marketing. I’ve done a lot in the 3 years. I’ve managed to take myself out of a job I hated and into a pretty decent six figure salary just through my online efforts. I could have done much better though if I had a more solid strategy.
I still get questions (emails and comments) about how one should go about internet marketing. I know from my own experience, it’s a scary world out there when you first start looking at trying to make some money online. As a marketer, you have to adapt quickly to change. The SERPS/Marketing world is dynamic and if you don’t evolve yourself, your boat will sink and you are going to drown. Just look at my own efforts:
2009: Web 2.0 “Bum Marketing”
Worked for about 6 months straight, building as many niche hubpage articles as possible. I ended up with something around 600 hubs. Managed to derrive my first “full time income” from my hub effort. Focus was on Adsense. This sort of marketing really took a nose dive early 2011 when Google declared open war on UGC (User Generated Content sites). This had huge ramifications, one which not only saw rankings for article directories/web 2.0′s tumble but also the tightening up of author rules. My feeling is that there are some legit platforms for user generated content, but on the whole, Google wants information to be disseminated from trusted sites (be the niche specific or general authority with some credence to them) not some joker writing bullshit hubs targeting adword longtail keywords. Really, what would you, as a reader, trust more if you typed in “How to Prevent Herpes”: a hubpage of dubious origin with no editorial monitoring or an article from health.com?
2010: Mini Sites
I spent part of 2009 building mini sites. 2010 I really ramped up my efforts though. In my heyday, I must have had close to 400 mini sites. The focus was on adsense. This model abruptly collapsed when a good 200 sites were deindexed May 2010. It was clear to me at that point that Google was moving in a different trend: brand and authority.
Mini sites really don’t offer too much in the way of user experience. There is nothing a large site (or “branded website”) can’t offer better than a mini site in terms of content, user engagement, or user experience. Many an authority site has started out as a mini-site, but if you don’t bother growing your best niches beyond the mini-site phase, you are losing out big time and you may lose out completely in the end.
2011+: Brand & Authority
The strategy this year has been to diversify my efforts into building big authority sites with an emphasis on “Brand.” The search engines have really been changing the past couple years — there has been a big shift to Brands having blanket authority. The heyday of the micro site is really coming to an end (it actually did a couple years ago!). The focus here has been affiliate selling, though I’m seriously looking at moving in to the direct advertizing market or offering legit services.
One model that I’m really delving into is to buy premium generic domains and work on building a brand on that domain. You get an amazing, top-notch generic keyword domain (helps brand yourself as a player in that niche and people REMEMBER that domain), you get instant “trust” from your readers and more opportunities for link building via networking (people trust you more because you own the generic domain), and you even get natural links because of the domain. This might not be fore everyone though, since many premium generics cost XX,XXX to XXX,XXX but it’s one (of many) strategy you can pursue if you want to focus your efforts on flagship sites. Note that you can still build a strong brand/authority site on a non generic domain or some wacky “brand” domain name too. I find it’s just way easier working with generic domains for a focused NICHE. If you want to go really broad though, a brand-type domain is better. (See my post about exact match domains).
So why all this talk about branding and authority? I know that not everyone can become a quote “Brand” in terms of say TripAdivsor or Amazon. But you can, with some foresight and (a lot of) elbow grease, brand yourself in a niche. Building a “brand” is more than just throwing up some information about a topic. A Brand is more than that. A brand resonates with the users, a brand does not necessary require Search Engine love to sustain itself (though by God it helps).
Now, if you want to successfully tackle a niche, you need to at least try mimicing some of the branding signals. Yes, that means reaching out with social media as a means to engage your readers on some level. That means finding out WHAT the readers are looking for and catering to their needs. That might mean you need to get yourself out of your basement, throw a shirt on (because god only knows how many internet marketers spend all their time locked up inside wearing only their underwear), and actually gets some on-the-ground information.
If you think rewriting someone else’s information is going to give you authority status in a niche, don’t waste your time. Building a real site these days can be a substantial investment of both time and money. You might need to actually hire real writers, real experts about topics, that sort of thing. You might be able to trick your readers (and Google) for a short time, but eventually you are going to be found out for the fraud you are if you go this route. Google (and other search engines) are getting very good at detecting so called “branding” signals. Can you mimic these with SEO? Yes, perhaps, but it’s getting harder and harder. At some point, it’s just so much damn EASIER to go the legit route and do the real thing. You certainly won’t sit around worrying about getting your site canned.
Just some food for thought for you newbies looking to make some money online. It’s still possible and the web is still a bit in that “wild west” phase, but slowly but surely civilization is moving in. Now is the time to get started — in 3-5 years from now, the landscape will be even more competitive. If you stake your claim now and develop a collection of authority sites, you could be laughing in a few years while sitting on a beach somewhere!