Photo respectfully snagged from Louder than Swahili. I am often surprised of the great new blogs I discover while searching for a great photo to thieve.
We are all well aware of the evolution of SEO and SEM over the past decade or so, however I like hearing about personal evolutions. In a previous post, I discussed the simple artistry of online marketing and how there are different approaches to it based on individual history and perspective. I thought I would share my history and perspective on the subject.
When I first started dabbling in SEO in the late 90′s, I don’t even recall it being called SEO, SEM, internet marketing or anything of that nature. I simply wanted more hits to my online store listings, therefore, me being me, I had to figure out how to do it.
Back in the 90′s it seemed to simply be about content, back-links and using the right keywords. I basically studied from some of the pioneer bloggers in SEO and read a lot of source codes to learn how I needed mine to be done in order to compete. I was even really bad and experimented in the practice of “ghosting text” before I knew that was a horrible thing to do. The internet was still “small” enough at the time that I actually received an email from Google warning me that this practice was n”not cool”. Well, shame on me…I read it on an SEO blog. Nevertheless, it did teach me a valuable lesson in what is now called “Black Hat” and “White Hat” SEO and I have been very careful since.
Link exchanges were the “end all” of SEO. The constant emails requesting “link exchanges” got old fast. Every site had a “links” page to place these links and I can honestly say that I don’t recall ever looking at them. I would get an exchange request with a “what’s your page rank?” question because allegedly, that mattered. The back-links had to be “valuable”. That is one thing that I am glad is gone…and of course today’s “no follows” make that nearly obsolete.
I ditched the “links” page before it became obsolete simply because I was sick of it. I never thought it brought me any more traffic, at least not according to the primitive Google Analytics. My site ranked pretty high so I decided I didn’t like them anymore and I thought, quite brutally, that link pages were tacky.
I basically spent a deal of time on keywords, image alt tags and good content.
MySpace came along and that changed my entire perspective. I created several niche groups related to my eCommerce efforts and posted elaborate HTML posts with photos, links to product listings on my website and giveaways. My traffic went through the roof to the point where I could hardly keep my inventory up. This whole new concept of social marketing was born and I latched on quick. My MySpace business page nearly became the landing page to my site. 60% of my traffic and buyers came from MySpace and I embraced this whole new world of actually being able to meet and interact with my buyers.
I officially became an addict. I loved tracking where each buyer came from, how they navigated my site and what lead to their eventual purchase. I learned what worked and what didn’t and experimented with a lot of trial and error.
I Hated Facebook at first
I really did. MySpace allowed me the freedom to post nearly anything I wanted in any code that I needed to. Facebook did not allow that. All you could do was upload a photo with a link. I hung onto MySpace until the bitter end before I migrated to Facebook, which never got the traffic that MySpace did. Facebook required a lot more content marketing, which was just more work.
Over time, Facebook improved and I had to adapt. It wasn’t until Facebook initiated the “pages” that I really embraced it. The only problem with this however is that my business had a profile, which Facebook lovingly deleted for me. Gee thanks, but the pages were better and it allowed the following without the annoying “friend requests”.
I tried everything
Every new “social network” that came out, I gave a go. Why not? It took me a lot longer to embrace Twitter than Facebook, mainly because it was so different. I dabbled in Tumblr, submitted everything to StumbleUpon and really embraced the social shopping platforms like StyleHive, Kaboodle and ThisNext. Social shopping networks became extremely valuable to me and produced the traffic that I had become accustomed to with MySpace. Each shopping network had a learning curve, but once I got the hang of it. WOW.
I had to learn local
I opened a store. I went the rare backwards route of having eCommerce success first, however when I decided to open a brick and mortar, I had to discover a whole new world of SEO. Geotagging, Google Places, Yahoo Local, Yelp, MerchantCircle, Facebook check-ins. You name it. This was a fun challenge and I became successful with this really quickly. I had surrounding merchants begging me to get them found quickly as I got my business on the front page of local search within a couple of weeks. The beautiful thing I discovered about local SEO is that it never cost me anything but time.
My addiction lead to an education
And here I am. My store has been sold for over a year now and I missed the obsessive nature of marketing, SEO and web traffic so I decided to go ahead and go to school for it. I didn’t want to waste all of this valuable “hands-on” knowledge that I had developed over the past decade and I am excited to see how SEO continues to evolve!