When to Wax; When to Surf

Surfboards at Waikiki

Everyone wants to be first. First to market, first in market share and increasingly, first on search results.

In a world where “google” has become a verb, being number one in search is a mission critical priority.

If you run an e-commerce business then being first, or at least on the front page, for certain key word searches, is a must. If you’re a marketer with a company which has a web site, being first is only marginally less important.

However, only one site can be first and only a certain number of sites can make the first page.

Thankfully for countless companies and marketing departments, two guys called Larry and Sergey realised that they could make money by selling the top positions of search results and, by doing so, make a few billion dollars each.

However, paying to be first can lead you to be lazy – why earn it if you can pay for it? This thinking has lead to an over-reliance on “paid search” which in turn makes each referral to your e-commerce site very expensive. In Knock Knock, Seth Godin explains how each sale can cost you up to $100 in paid search.

So what’s a marketer to do that’s cheaper and just as effective than paid search?

In my view, there are two ways to optimize your site for search and both revolved around the one thing you need to know about search engines.

The only thing search engines love more than regularly updated and key word rich content is a huge amount of incoming links.

Therefore, and this is just my view, there are two ways to optimize your site. The first is to make your site search engine friendly. You put in the correct meta-tags, a great link structure and site map around some superbly written copy containing all your key words that you regularly update.

This will work but only on the margins (against site’s which aren’t seo’d) and as a result it’s a little too “passive” for me.

If “passive” SEO is like siting on the sofa waxing your surfboard, then “active” SEO would be surfing.

Active SEO is making sure your site gets lots of incoming links. It’s making something remarkable, it’s getting people to write about you, it’s about leaving comments on blogs with links back to your website.

There’s a time to sit back passively waxing your board and then there’s a time to surf. And surfing is a lot like blogging.

Blogging creates, by default, a great deal of constantly updated content. Good blogging ensures that you get lots of nice, extremely valuable incoming links.

However, great blogging, with a passion for what you’re writing about, will create constantly updated content which will generate incoming links based around your key words, catapulting your website up the organic (free) search results.

In turn, blogging is a lot like surfing. It can be risky. You can look silly and even get hurt. But surfing done right is spectacular. It’s just you and the wave in perfect symbiosis.

If you want to be first, you’re going to have to start surfing.

(Cross posted from the iStudio blog)

2 Responses to When to Wax; When to Surf

  1. Hi Ed – Neat posting. I’ve read alot recently about comment postings with link backs to a blog helping drive the profile of a site for SEO, but surely a technique that can so obviously be manipulated will be blocked by search engines fairly soon? I took up kite surfing last year. My goal for 2007 is to stay on board for more than 50m. Cheers, Stephen

  2. Stephen, absolutely correct. For example, Google changes its algorithms constantly and is always tweaking to account for the new tactics (i.e. comment spam) which is why the combination of paid and organic has worked so well to ensure constant accessibility to your brand/ product. Paid search, for some brands, is the cheapest form of advertising out there. In fact, I believe at this point incoming links are not weighted as heavily as they were prior to the last algo update in late ’06.

    Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose.

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