It’s happened over and over and over again…
Once upon a time it was called a “Google Slap.” Don’t know what Facebook marketers refer to it as. But it happens A LOT.
Clever internet marketers find out a way to get a ton of traffic from Google or Facebook or whatever other source.
It requires a little foray into the gray area…
That is, it’s not clearly wrong in terms of ethics or morality, and it’s definitely not illegal or directly conflicting with policies…
But it might not be 100% above-board, either.
Take SEO trickery, for example. You used to be able to create keyword-stuffed websites, just to get the search engines’ attention, and get traffic.
Or you could list your site on dozens of directories built for this purpose, just to build up “link cred” and trick Google into believing that your site was relevant, based on the number of links to it.
Or, with Facebook, you could create nearly-infinite topic-focused pages, and simultaneously post a link to all of them, and get attention in users’ news feeds.
Article marketing falls under this category — as does an old practice of using free press release sites to get search engine attention.
There are probably a thousand different gray area practices that internet marketers have used since the dawn of internet marketing, to try to get more eyeballs on their websites.
Then, they get slapped!
Take Google’s Panda 4.0 update, back in 2014. Its purpose was to filter out “thin” content from the top of search results.
Nearly every major PR-related news site that offered free press release distribution saw a precipitous drop in rankings and traffic.
One PR site was documented in having a 71% dip in SEO visibility.
Which likely decreased their traffic by about the same amount.
If you were using sites like this to game the search engines, imagine the impact on your sales and profits.
Imagine, for every $10 you’re making today, you wake up tomorrow and you’re making $3.
If you have an entire staff and overhead relying on $10 instead of $3, you’re in trouble.
There were businesses that seemed to be in their heyday immediately before each of these updates, that dried up and blew away, pretty much overnight.
They focused on TACTICS, when Google and Facebook want you to focus on a simple principle!
I keep coming back to this. Because it underlies nearly EVERYTHING, in marketing and beyond.
Tactics are superficial, and can be important to getting results. But focus on tactics alone is fraught with peril.
Underneath tactics are techniques. Better techniques beget better tactics, but it doesn’t work the other way ‘round.
Under techniques, is strategy, and under strategy is principles.
Better principles lead to better strategy, which leads to better techniques and tactics. But it doesn’t go the other way.
All those traffic games are TACTICAL.
That is, publishing keyword-rich but otherwise valueless press releases to free online press release platforms did nothing to add value to the market, but it temporarily worked as a tactic.
But Google, Facebook, and other platforms that are brokers and tollbooths of the traffic of the internet don’t like that game.
Google is the world’s most-used search engine not because you value their traffic, but because their traffic values you. That is, people only use Google when it delivers the best search results. They focus on user experience above all else, because users come back when they have a good experience.
When they start letting marketers play games to get higher search rankings and appear more often, it leads to a lesser user experience, which drives users elsewhere.
That’s the death knell for Google, they know it, and they are tireless in their efforts to avoid it.
Same with Facebook. If a tactic works to show up free in their users’ timelines, but it leads to less time spent in infinite scroll mode, Zuck and crew are not happy.
They will obliterate your ability to pull traffic off Facebook, if it means that traffic keeps coming back to Facebook.
It’s all about the UX…
That is, it’s all about the user experience.
If you provide VALUE, whether that’s through the free content you put out OR the paid advertisements you run (they’re looking at both, and willing to cut off either), you get rewarded.
Period. End of story.
That’s the principle they’re looking for. When they send their users your way, does the user behavior that follows indicate that you provided value, or not?
Example: their user clicks on a link to your just-published article. How long is it before that user comes back? 3 seconds? 30 seconds? 3 minutes? They can tell, from that plus data about the page itself — such as how many words are in the article — whether your content is engaging or not. Aggregate the data across dozens or hundreds of readers, and they can make accurate judgments about whether you’re providing value, and it’s a BETTER judgment than if they had paid readers scouring every page on the internet.
So, how do you use this information?
The one strategy that has continued to become even more effective as these companies get smarter is…
They have all kinds of fancy algorithms that look at all kinds of different factors. And if you’re simply trying to stay one step ahead, there are probably techniques and tactics you can use today to maximize traffic while hopefully not setting yourself up for future punishment.
But through time, as they get smarter and smarter (meaning, as their computers get smarter and smarter through machine learning), this one approach will prevail.
Create a GREAT user experience.
Serve the humans first, and the traffic sources second (or never).
If humans love what you’re doing — if members of your target market find value by visiting your site — you’ll be okay. No matter what the next algorithm targets.
It’s not that freaking hard!
I recently saw a conversation in a Facebook group, and it featured a graphic from a slide presentation from a member of Facebook’s advertising team.
The slide gave a high-level formula that Facebook uses for calculating the “Total Value” of an ad…
Total Value = (Advertiser Bid x Estimated Action Rates) + Relevance And Quality
The first part is all about the revenue. The second part is all about the user experience.
And they have a pile of different metrics they won’t reveal too much about that lead them to come up with the user experience score. They also won’t tell you exactly how they weight these, relative to one another.
So let’s say they’re judging ads on a Total Value scale of 1 to 10.
They could split it 50/50, meaning they weight the revenue from that ad auction at the same level as they weight the user experience.
Or, it could be 80/20, either way.
Meaning, 80% of the decision to show your ad is based on how much revenue it will generate for them, and 20% is based on user experience.
Or, weighted the other way, only 20% of the decision to put you in front of their users is based on how much they’re going to make today, and 80% is based on keeping users happy so they’ll come back.
My bet? Based on everything I’ve seen, over and over again, that last scenario is the most likely.
It’s a long-game play.
They need advertisers, yes. But if you’re abusing their user base, and you go away, they will sell their user’s attention to someone else. There’s a line of advertisers stretching around the block.
Those users go away? That’s trouble.
The best news…
Focusing on delivering value and giving a great user experience is also in your best interests.
Don’t mess around with tricks and tactics that go against that.
Just create a ton of value for your market, and keep creating value.
Even if it means you have to miss out on short-term opportunities for more traffic and eyeballs, it will put you on top in the long run.
Oh, and tactically, if you want to know how to do this, read their advertising policies. Even if you’re getting organic traffic, complying with the advertising policies will lead to staying in their good graces, and likely increase your ability to get both organic and paid traffic in the long run.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,