Ready for some quick trivia?
True or False? You get arthritis from cracking your knuckles.
True or False? If you’re in space, you can see the Great Wall of China.
True or False? You can kill someone if you throw a coin from the top of the Empire State Building and it hits someone’s head on the ground.
Of course, the answers are all false, false, and yes, false. These are all myths.
Why do myths exist? According to research done by University of Michigan social psychologist Norbert Schwarz:
“The conventional response to myths and urban legends is to counter bad information with accurate information. But the new psychological studies show that denials and clarifications, for all their intuitive appeal, can paradoxically contribute to the resiliency of popular myths…can bias it into thinking that false information is true. Clever manipulators can take advantage of this tendency.”
Now, if you’ve ever tried marketing anything online, I’m sure you’ve come across some internet marketing myths that seem to never die. Though I can’t prove it scientifically, I bet certain people in certain companies want new players to keep believing in these myths. And here I’d like to squash some of these online marketing myths completely:
Myth 1: More Traffic = More Money
Makes sense right? The more eye balls you have, the greater the chance of you selling some stuff. Wrong again.
In fact, every time I hear that, I feel exactly like this:
If that were the case, how come Yahoo, which recently overtook Google for unique U.S. visitor traffic, makes a fraction of what Google makes? It’s because not all traffic is created equal.
Let me ask you a commonsense question:
If you sell lemonade, would you stand in the middle of the street every day screaming, “Lemonade!!!” at every person who walked by? Or would you rather wait for the summer and stand in front of a construction zone on a scorching-hot day?
Sure you probably could make money using a shotgun approach, but I would argue that you would make more profits in less time if you target correctly. In other words, if you can target people’s intent to purchase, you can make a killing. (And that is why search engines make the big bucks because they can tell when you’re ready to buy.)
In fact, one of my blog posts once ranked really high for some ridiculous keyword that brought in high volume, but low quality, traffic. The traffic not only did not monetize effectively, but it actually hurt my blog because it was temporarily blocked by corporate firewalls since the firewall software labeled my site a “threat” under their corporate policy.
So what’s the use in trying to get as much traffic as possible?
What you need is targeted traffic that needs what you have. Doesn’t that make sense? If you open a store, you would rather have people come in and buy something than just have window shoppers. Same logic applies here.
Myth 2: You Can “Game” the Search Engines (and Social Networks)
Now, before I get into this, did you know Google employs thousands of people with PhDs in computer science, linguistics, applied math, physics, algorithms, etc.?
What are the odds that an average person can beat an army of computer nerds whose job is to keep their $250 billion search engine results “authentic?”
If an SEO company tells you that you can “SEO your way to the top,” ask them this question: How come they don’t rank #1 when you search for “SEO company?” Why did they use advertising, cold email, or however else they got to you to start the conversation?
Makes sense, right? If they don’t eat their own dog food, why do they expect you to eat it?
If someone offers you some crazy link-building service, or software that promises to make you rank #1 and make you billions of dollars, ask them for:
- A reference. I doubt they even have a referral from one company that you can recognize.
- A phone number. I doubt they even have one. If they do, it’s probably some voice IP number that gets picked up in some boiler room in some country you can’t even pronounce.
- “Dog food.” That is, what keywords do they personally rank for.
The bottom line is, if it looks like a duck, smells like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, yes…it’s probably a scam or at best a zero-value proposition.
So, what’s the right way? There’s no magic. It’s common sense.
Just think this way: How did our parents and grandparents get the word out about their business, product, or service? Yes, they got up a tree and yelled, they made nice fliers and brochures, and got good ol’ word-of-mouth recommendations. It’s no different in the online world: be social, create awesome media, share, be nice, and yes, try to get people to refer you (i.e. give you a link back).
Myth 3: Build It and They Will Come
I see newbie internet entrepreneurs everyday—e-commerce people, software-as-service people, digital products people…all kinds of people. They think just because you have a “buy now” button, and you turn on advertising, then—voilà! Profit!
There are now hundreds of millions of websites, all asking for your attention, and your wallet. Do you really think that just because you have a brand new website that’s nice and shiny and has lovely content, that people are going to trust you?
Now, this is where common sense comes into play once again.
Remember when you were single (or if you are single and dating now, I guess you’re going through this) and you went on dates?
Now, if you’re a guy, what are the odds that you’re going to take that girl home on the first night? Or if you’re a girl, what are the odds that your Prince Charming is going to get on his knees and propose to you that night? Unless you’re Rico Suave or Kim Kardashian, your chances are probably in the sub-1% range.
Now, I’m not saying that it’s a bad probability, but the odds are much better if you “nurture” your lead to a point where they feel comfortable with you and start opening up to you. You know, that “crazy” thing you learn in social life called building rapport and establishing trust.
Guess what? It’s the same in online world. In other words, the odds of you converting a complete stranger to some commercial transaction on the first try are going to be fairly low.
So what do you do?
Teach, explain case studies, tell stories, and show examples. All the helpful stuff that people actually do like.
Do what you’d do in the offline world: communicate, show, share, and yes, listen. This means you have to create media like newsletters and blog posts. In other words, teach people why their problems exist and how you can solve them, and you will never need to “sell” again.
With each and every “marketing” step you take with them, you’re making them feel more comfortable about buying your stuff. Remember: no one wants to be “sold.” And everyone wants to feel special.
1. Don’t “collect” traffic. Focus on who you can serve and target them.
2. Don’t “SEO”. Focus on creating content people find useful.
3. Don’t try to “convert users.” Focus on creating value, building rapport, and developing their trust.
Remember, “traffic” is another way of saying “the person at the other end of the internet.”