Invite the World Over to Watch

Digital business is the California Gold Rush of the modern ages—and search engine optimization (SEO) is its mantra. (SEO is the art and science of making web content discoverable through Google.) Of the 100,000 prospectors who set out to stake their claim, very few found gold. But a guy named Sam Brennan made the equivalent of $4 million a month selling picks and shovels.

Today, there are more bloggers, podcasters, and SEO gurus out there selling online courses and services then there are small and midsize businesses making money. But there are some that have found a way to generate revenue online. This book is about how to become one of them. Those new to digital marketing can fall prey to an online influencer promoting a get-rich-quick course or costly but ineffective subscription service. Or they rush out onto social media before they have a way to convert leads or otherwise generate revenue.

The truth is, before you’re ready to pivot to digital marketing, you need a big picture understanding of what it takes to build and operate a digital business. A website, social media, and search engine optimization are all just pieces of a much larger puzzle.

A lot of people don’t want to hear this. They assume it’s too complicated for them to grasp, and they shut down. They want simple answers, a get-rich-quick scheme. So they squander precious time panning for gold downstream instead of mining at the source. Meanwhile, competition online gets stiffer every day.

Of the four media types, owned media is the most misunderstood and overlooked. But it is also the most important because it sets up the digital pivot. Owned media is digital media you own, which means you control the actual layout of the web page and format of the content. Your website is the core of your digital marketing strategy. Unlike on social media, on your own website, no one is displaying their ads against your content, siphoning your traffic away, or collecting commissions on your sales. Before you push off and spin, your owned media presence must be stable and balanced. Without a strong foundation, you can’t find your axis. Getting ready to convert visitors to your website to customers is the first step of the digital pivot.

If you rely primarily on social networks or Amazon to connect with your customers, you’ll never be a principal dancer. You’re performing on a rented stage. You’re twirling before you’re ready. And your future is wholly dependent on a third party who can boot you off their platform without notice, like former President Trump when his Twitter and Facebook accounts were shuttered.

Before you head off to Facebook or Twitter to invite the world over to watch your pirouette, you need to study the moves first. Owned media strategies are informed by concrete research that reveals why people come to you, where they come from, and what they want.

To get prepared, you have to anticipate the questions that your buyers will ask when they’re considering doing business with you. In person, that’s easy. You just answer whatever questions they ask. But you can only answer one question at a time, because you can only talk to so many people in a day. Owned media lets you answer questions at scale. It’s more challenging to educate people online because you have to give them the specific answers they want without overwhelming them. And it has to be easy for them to get answers on a self-service basis.

Whoever controls the layout controls the payout. If you don’t control the user experience, you can’t control the customer experience. The proximity of your content to the transactions you seek to make directly impacts the probability of conversion.

Social media is media you share on someone else’s website. You can’t build conversion funnels on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn because you don’t own them. But you can share content with a vibrant community in hopes of luring them to your website. The media you share could be text, images, audio, and video you create, but you share it with others on a social network, rather than on your own website. You use social media to connect with a community that’s actively discussing the problems you solve.

I’ve search engine optimized many websites that rank on page one for high commercial intent keywords. And I haven’t touched some of them for years. Particularly in niche B2B industries, it’s still possible to launch a site and get on page one in a matter of months and stay there indefinitely without much additional work. But even if you’re flush with cash and need immediate results and opt to drive traffic with paid media sooner, you still need to get your owned media set up first so there’s an easy to find and follow path to purchase.