Most sales consist of a series of micro sales. Most people do not just go to a website and buy right away.
We learn to trust brands, companies, people, and websites. Network marketplaces offer user feedback which act as currency. If you are on eBay and are about to buy an expensive product you are probably going to look through some of the other feedback the merchant has.
The web as a whole also offers many layers of feedback. If people search for your brand what do they find? When people search for SEO Book most of the feedback (except for the occasional BrantRant) is positive in nature. When people ask about your brand in a forum do you get ripped to shreds or does your site usually stand up ok?
I recently had an SEO executive tell me I was an idiot for saying I ranked well for SEO Book, and then he used Overture to show that term draws no traffic.
In search terms keywords are all important and with the keyword book on SEO "seo book" receives 322 searches per month in 1st position you will receive an estimate, for argument sack 10% CTR, meaning 32 clicks to your website.
If one of those 32 convert you have value.
Unbeknown to that SEO professional, most people looking for SEO related stuff use Google, and his traffic estimates for my site for my well branded term are off by at least a factor of a 100.
But the point of my post is not to try to talk up this site. This site is complete rubbish to over 99% of the people on the web. To them it has less than no value. But (hopefully) not to you. And thanks for reading it!
The feedback I have gained from readers in that other 0.001% have helped me to
- offer a better product
- increase brand awareness
- sell more
- meet great people
- come across other amazing opportunities
Brand related search queries and consumer feedback come at the end of the trust cycle though. First you must gain attention, awareness, and credibility. Each time someone takes the time to read something you write or revisits your site you have made another mini sale. A bit more mind-share. Maybe they link to your site. Maybe they come back for another read. Maybe they tell a friend about it. Maybe they mention your site on a forum or say good things if someone flames you, etc.
If I could give my book away free without being 99% certain that people would think it is worthless based on its price I probably would. It would give me a ton more mind-share (that could be leveraged into currency in other ways), but it would give me access to a brutal group of customers:
Actually it's kinda sad in a way. I've given away almost a hundred copies of the SEO TutorÂ© optimization book to newbies and intermediates alike and with a few exceptions, the message is always the same, "I don't want to do any real work; I just want to get rich fast."
That is not to say that I think I (or SEO Tutor) have low product quality, just that feedback is exceptionally valuable, and pricing at free might prevent you from getting the feedback you need while adding a ton of noise to the feedback you do get.
Most value based systems are arbitrary in nature. Money is a means to barter, but not a finite resource. Stocks are just pieces of paper, as are baseball cards, and books, etc. Diamonds are just stupid rocks. But most established value systems (moral, financial, etc.) have value because people have pushed them long and hard.
Why was slavery legitimate in the US long after most of the advanced world considered it repulsive if we are the land of the free? Someone pushed and sold that story. Why must we have a war on drugs? Why must you be afraid of terrorists? and sugar? Someone is selling those stories.
Value based systems (and thus the perception of value) typically take a long time to build. To get people to value what you are doing you have to over-invest for a while with the hopes that the value will come back, but retail only has value if you have exposure and people are buying.
Many of the people who read my ebook and say "I need help with SEO and your book did nothing for me" have a one page sales-letter site that says "buy now or forever screw off". They limit the types of sales they can make, and the speed with which they can gain mind-share or learn from feedback.
Each feedback route or potential audience presents another opportunity to gain mind-share. For example, if you are multilingual and typically write in one language also post your thoughts in another. If you have a news site then try to get in Google news. If you have an informal news site maybe call it a blog to make it easier for other bloggers to identify with your work and link at you.
If a site does not give people reasons to come back and does not give people many reasons / ways to show trust then the odds of the project becoming a long-term success are much lower. If no humans show that they trust your site then why should search engines?
Let's pretend you are walking the streets of Amsterdam at 1:12 AM and someone comes up to you and whispers
coke charlie, coke charlie, got what you need
then the next guy walking past you says
There is no rapport building there. Buy now or forever screw off.
Compare that to a local mischief guide (perhaps a topical authority?), who might start a dialog with something like:
Are looking for a drink or a smoke? The coffeeshops just closed, but there are still a few bars are open a few blocks up. If you need papers they sell those right up the street. If you need a smoke I sell some ______ right here.
Which one of those people would you be more willing to trust?
I am not advocating drug use, but if you assumed that 99% of everything on the web is shady (coke charlie got what you need) then you would be viewing content the way a search engineer does.
9 times out of 10 (with the other 1 in 10 being their own content, or content from partner businesses) they want to rank the least shadiest offers, and hope the other ones wind up buying ads, which they can plaster all over the web, to help spread their value based system.
coke charlie, etc. ;)
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