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Beyond SEO?

Since I've been trying to make people aware of for a while, I've come observe web-marketing efforts far more closely than I earlier used to.

I observe that SEO is touted as almost a magical strategy to get business online. Here's what the wikipedia entry on Search Engine Optimization has to say:
According to Google's CEO, Erick Schmidt, in 2010, Google made over 500 algorithm changes - almost 1.5 per day. It is considered wise business practice for website operators to liberate themselves from dependence on search engine traffic.
It goes on: has suggested that "search marketers, in a twist of irony, receive a very small share of their traffic from search engines." Instead, their main sources of traffic are links from other websites.
Now that doesn't mean SEO doesn't help. Great web-architecture and site-structure and the right words always help. But, if another observation that most (I understand this needs a good number) people do not go beyond the first 4-5 search results (at best, the first page) thrown by search engines, is true, then I wonder how all sites deploying search engine optimization will benefit!

In any given category, there are businesses in multiples of 10, if not hundred. Surely all of them can't feature on the first page. Even second page for that matter. So then?

People say 'link building'. So to get results in a hurry, some take it to the level of essay-spamming and perhaps even 'bribing' :).

I suppose link-building best happens through conversations. Not necessarily the kind deployed on FB by a PizzaHut for once. PizzaHut and big brands like that have ample money to make people aware of their presence online through mass-media and then translate that into some sort of conversation. No, SMEs don't quite have the resources to pull off a staged stunt like that.

I am talking about conversations of the kind that consumers get involved in. What do they do? They want information so they search in Google, visit the pages which seem relevant, read up and talk if necessary. For SMEs it could work like this... They want consumers so they search in Google, visit the pages where consumers have asked questions, answer them and lead them to their respective sites if necessary. If the conversation strikes the right notes, a lot more people might take notice and patronize the business.

What's needed to make these conversations interesting are not necessarily mass-media ads. But a sense of wit and timing and authenticity. Link-building will happen not just among websites and not just with URLs, but also between the business-representative and the consumer.

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