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The Power Of Social Marketing And Self Promotion: Life Beyond Search Engine Optimisation

By Paul M Simpson

The recent report by Hitwise, which showed that MySpace has overtaken MSN search in driving retail traffic, should make all those involved in website marketing sit up and take note. Firstly, it underlines the value of social marketing as a way of reaching your customer base but secondly, the figures also show that the total amount of retail traffic generated by the top three search engines amounts to only 21.95%. Why is this important? Well what strikes me right away is that over 78% of retail traffic is not delivered through the top three search engines. I would thus argue then that there is a hell of a lot traffic that is conceivably up for grabs. The point is do we spend too much time worrying about search engine optimisation and not enough effort worrying about other forms of traffic generation.

Social networking is a good example of one of the other options available. The effect that social networking sites can have can be seen in an analysis of online photo sharing. In the UK figures from Hitwise show, that MySpace is responsible for an astonishing 22% of all Photobucket’s UK traffic. MySpace itself though is only the twelfth most visited site in the UK where as in the US it is the number one site, which suggests that the amount of traffic for US Photobucket is exponentially even greater.

You might ask how this affects me as my product or service is unsuited to social networking? I would argue that there is always way to utilise any channel that has the potential to drive traffic. Admittedly, some products or services are more suited to the medium but any business can make use of video opportunities presented by these or video specific sites such as YouTube. If you can make a short promotional film good, funny or trendy enough then the viral potential is phenomenal.

Social networking or video sites need not be the only distribution platforms. Self promotion should also include regular press releases. Again, there are existing means of distribution through highly regarded sites such as PRWeb and PRNewswire. The key is to make them sharp and relevant and covering something that people are likely to want to read, maybe local success stories or things you or your business have achieved and not just sales pitches. The idea is to drive traffic to your site, which is the place for the pitch. A similar strategy would be to utilise successful EZines in your field by submitting articles of interest that will be picked up upon by readers.

Sometimes old fashioned tradition mediums od delivery can get overlooked. People still read paper newspapers and shop on a high street. Simple line adverts, or handing out leaflets can actually be effective and the forgotten Guerrilla tactics that symbolised some early web marketing such as stickers and stunts can still work well, although they tend to be more effective with trendy brands.

All these methods are on the edges of traditional marketing strategies and individually may only have a marginal effect. If however they are joined together as a suite of ideas then the cumulative result is likely to be much greater than the parts. The common thread of all the above is to get noticed and thus hopefully drive traffic. As the statistics show There is a huge amount of traffic that can be driven to your site that does not necessarily involve search engines and the quid pro quo is that if you can generate a buzz then you may actually see yourself climb the SERP’s anyway as people link to you funky, funny or poignant video or podcast. If you do in fact have a marketing budget then these methods are still (if not more) relevant as the use of professional marketing and PR agencies could substantially improve the response.

I am not suggesting you look to ditch traditional SEO but that you open your eyes to the possibilities that exist beyond. I have deliberately avoided talking about PPC, Blogging or RSS feeds as it is likely that you are probably employing these methods already. Even though these will take up a fair proportion of that 78% on non search driven traffic the point is that by not utilising some of these alternative marketing strategies you are not tapping in to the other potential sources of available traffic. Ultimately, there are probably millions of people who would be happy to view your site, it just you have to let them know you are there and these are extra ways you can do so.

News, information and advice for website marketers.

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