Quality content is what enduringly builds a reputation and grows a readership.
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You know, these days there are different ways to promote your digital business online. Search engine marketing (SEM), Facebook ads, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing (SMM), blogging — the options are many.
Are you supposed to do all of them? Should you even try some of them? If so, which ones are most important? I know it’s so confusing. But there’s good news: I’ll answer those questions. In fact, I’ll give you practical answers that have worked for A-list bloggers. In other words, everything is about to get a whole lot easier. So, let’s jump in.
Don’t squander money on digital marketing.
When you launch a digital store, your next line of action will be to promote it with digital marketing, right? Wrong. Promoting your e-commerce store, once you get it off the ground, is not the right way to go.
It’s like proposing a lady on your first date. It’s such a wrong move. You’ll never get a yes! Why? You haven’t spent the time to connect with her: She doesn’t know you; she may not like you; and she doesn’t trust you.
Online marketing works just like dating. Starting up anew, the last thing you want is to spend money on marketing before you even start selling your products. Smart, successful startup founders keep it lean, especially at the very beginning.
Related: Eric Ries on 4 Common Misconceptions About Lean Startup
They create a minimum viable product first. Then they engage their audience with epic content, slowly building a rapport with their readers before they ask them to buy their product.
As a startup, you need to focus on sharing great value with your audience. That’s how Darren Rowse built his blog. The Problogger founder started blogging “out of curiosity,” he said but remained firm in providing his audience with great value, teaching and helping them with tips and hacks that make life better.
Rowse’s primary goal wasn’t to make money or become a blogging superstar. His primary goal was to help his readers out. That’s how many successful bloggers get to where they are today. They are motivated to serving their audience.
And in the process of doing that, in their commitment to sharing their knowledge, expertise, and experience with their audience, they build their reputation as well. Suddenly, they become thought leaders, go-to resource people in their industry.
That’s how you too should build your online business. Not with expensive marketing or black hat SEO, but by building your online reputation, one step at a time.
Build your online reputation.
The popular wisdom be to focus on common online marketing campaigns: SEO, link building, and social media marketing among others.
Sure, these marketing strategies work. An average Facebook user, for example, clicks on eight ads per month, a study by WeAreSocial reveals. But too much obsession with Facebook ads or SEO is bad for you, for your brand, and for your business.
Here’s why: If you try to run many ads, you’ll end up spending all your money, time, and resources instead of engaging with real humans — your audiences, readers and prospective customers.
Again, Google changes every day. As a new online entrepreneur, you should focus more on customer engagement. You can always turn to SEO and other marketing tactics later.
Related: New Change In Google AdWords Impacts Businesses
“But,” you may ask. “How do I effectively engage more with my prospective customers online?” Focus on publishing what I called the Mona Lisa level content. In other words, quality, inspiring, original, and well-written content that hasn’t been written anywhere on the web.
You write this type of content by, in the words of productivity guru Robin Sharma, “releasing your attachment to outcome.” You stop focusing on how to rank higher on search engine result pages, to secure backlinks, or to generate more leads and sales.
Instead, you stay committed to a process of constantly coming up with thought-provoking blog ideas, constantly helping your readers with life-changing stories, and constantly publishing an audience-optimized content that solves your reader’s problems. That’s what builds your online reputation as well as expose your brand to your potential customers.
The recent Google update, Google Rank Brain, buttresses this point. The AI-empowered Rank Brain figures out the searcher’s intent and provides them with accurate results. Successful bloggers grow their business with comprehensive posts that answer their reader’s questions. Let’s examine an example.
Grow a blog without spending a dime on ads.
Leo Babauta started blogging in 2007, writing about his personal habits and the changes he was making. But after just five months, the productivity guru made the Technorati Top 1,000, reaching 11,000 subscribers and a million page views a month. Four years later, Time Magazine listed his blog, Zen Habits, as one of the 50 best websites of 2011.
Crazy, huh? Obviously, Leo Babauta must have spent millions in Facebook ads and Search Engine Marketing (SEM), right? But he didn’t. He just focused on serving his audience with great value.
“You can put Google Adsense ads on your site from Day 1, and you can launch an amazing ebook in the first month of your blog’s existence,” Babauta penned in one of his blog posts on Zen Habits. “But let me spare you the suspense: you won’t make any money doing that…The missing ingredient is readership, which you can grow by creating amazing and useful content.”
Year after year, Babauta stayed laser focused and consistent at writing and publishing amazing and useful content on his blog and guest posting on popular blogs. His aim was feeding his readers with content that quench their thirst. Because that’s the only thing that matters.
Related: 5 Ways to Build an Audience for Your Blog and 10 Ways to Make Money Once You Have
Typically, your reader comes to check your blog, not because of your tricky ads or fine landing page, but because of your amazing content. “Your content,” says Babauta, “[is what] will help [your reader] in some way — by teaching her how to do something, by inspiring or informing or entertaining.”
The bottom line.
Facebook ads and SEO are great. But you don’t need them from the start. You need quality content.
That’s the most important aspect of your business. Of course, in time, you can use SEO and SMM to grow your traffic and revenue, but only after you have built a foundation, when you have grown readership and attracted some fans.
But for now, focus on building your credibility, your reputation, your authority. That’s how A-list bloggers like Leo Babauta grow their blog; they became authoritative and highly successful in their industry. “It wasn’t until I had 26,000 readers that I got a book deal,” he said. “The readers proved to my publisher that I had something worth saying, and that it was resonating with people.”
Bring it all together: Commit to creating compelling content, commit to serving your readers, and commit to getting your first 1,000 loyal readers or subscribers. At the end of the day, those are the only real ads that matter!
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