A friend of mine has had a bad time this past week. For many of you reading this, it’s the stuff of nightmares.
Over the past few years he has built a really busy and profitable online business. His website traffic has allowed him to open a factory and employ a bunch of staff.
Through some clever search engine optimization, he managed to rank #1 on most of his main high volume targeted keywords. Daily the leads kept coming in, so much so that he was at times, up to a month behind in website inquiries.
He really was seeing the fruits of how amazing an online business can be. In his case, customers were basically free through really good SEO.
However, as we’ve discussed many times before, he needed to look at ways to both protect his ranking and to find other diverse traffic sources. He is a smart guy, so he knew that this was the best thing to do.
Unfortunately, he didn’t diversify his traffic until this week, when he simply had no choice.
You see, even though he was doing all the right things in the eyes of the search engines (strictly white hat SEO), you can’t always predict what might happen in business.
In his case, his site got hacked and someone injected hundreds of porn links into his site. No more than 1 day later his site dropped off the face off the earth. The only term that he ranked for was his own unique business name.
So now he’s scrambling to sort out his ranking and looking at other ways to drive traffic. This is something he should have done long ago, and has now been forced to do.
Once he removed the problematic script that allowed the hack, he requested a reconsideration via Google Webmaster tools. Some of his rankings have returned, but not the key ones. We’ll be watching that carefully.
Are you guilty of this kind of thing? Putting all your eggs in one basket? It’s a dangerous place to be that is for sure.
My friend agrees. Here’s an interesting part of our Skype conversation.
In many ways, I see the difference in business maturity based a lot around how the business owners generate their traffic.
As part of the Behavioral Science degree I did at college, we studied a whole stream called “Development Through The Lifespan” where we learned about the different stages of life.
We can look at our online business in a similar way, especially our approach to driving new business.
In some ways, it fits quite neatly into the following. Of course, like all analogies, it won’t work in every case, but it’s useful nonetheless.
Infant: Well I guess at this stage, most of our traffic probably comes from our friends and family. 🙂
Child: At this stage, the business gets all their traffic from free, largely uncontrollable sources like SEO and Social Networks. Good while it works, but very difficult to scale reliably into a big business that makes a lot of money.
Teenager: The business looks at diversifying and may rely on affiliates to send them traffic. This is a nice safe way of growing the business so that you only have to pay money when you get it. However, the affiliates are in control of your growth and are likely to move on when the next shiny opportunity comes along.
Adulthood: When your business can be considered an “Adult” is when you’re able to reliably purchase advertising (like PPC and Banners) and make a positive return on investment. You have complete control over the destiny of your business and you can in many ways scale on demand.
The problem with reaching this stage of maturity is that it’s a bit scary and you are likely to blow some cash in discovering what works and what doesn’t.
When you hear about the affiliates who are making the really big dollars (as in 7 figures plus), they are leveraging this dynamic.
They are experienced online marketers who have reached adulthood. They have a level of maturity where they can buy traffic on demand and turn it into dollars.
So they are able to see businesses who are at the teenage maturity level (so play it safe and only pay on performance through their affiliates) and have the experience to go out and get the traffic on demand and make the numbers works.
Whereas, the site owners themselves should be taking control and doing the same. It’s the only way they can be confident in the future growth of their own business. They aren’t putting it into the hands of a group of, at times, fickle affiliates.
Whenever I hear people say that they are happy to keep doing what they’ve always done with their free traffic sources, I get a bit disappointed. I know that their business will always be smaller and less successful than it should be.
Yeah, I know, PPC and other forms of buying advertising can be hard. I think it's a fact of life that anything worthwhile is at times difficult. However if you want to build a robust business that reaches its true potential, you’ve got no other choice than to learn the craft of buying controlled and targeted traffic.
This week, the friend I shared about has no other choice. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
Have you got any stories like this, or any other comments? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
UPDATE: We've just reviewed a new ebook on high performance PPC. Highly recommended. See the whole review here.