SEO (search engine optimization) used to be a B2B marketer’s dream come true. One, it was relatively cheap and easy, compared to something more difficult and costly, such as ads in trade publications, two, you could see results (sometimes fairly quickly), and three, you could measure ROI.

Using a keyword tool, you selected the best keywords that people looking for products and services like yours were using, you used these keywords to optimize your site using specific rules, and then bingo, your page/s would begin to rank in the search engines and traffic would come to your site. Woohoo!

elephant Then, using Web analytics, you could match up the keywords people were using to find your site with the keywords you used to optimize your site — and yay! you could see that your SEO efforts were working (or not).

Those days are disappearing rather fast.

If you haven’t looked at your Web Analytics in awhile, you may be in for a surprise. In 2011, Google stopped passing on organic keyword results for searchers who were logged in to Google or who were using the Firefox search bar or the Chrome browser.

For many of the small businesses I work with — and for my own Website — “Not Provided” is the number one result in the Google Analytics keyword report. “Not Provided” can represent anywhere from 30 to 50% (or more) of your organic traffic.

Basically, you’re now flying blind, so to speak.

At first, “Not Provided” sent me into a tailspin. I’m all about getting results for my clients. If I couldn’t prove to them my SEO efforts were “working,” how would that affect my business? As I thought it through, however, I realized that “Not Provided” is really a blessing in disguise.

Why? Because Google is forcing marketers and SEOers to wean themselves off the crutch of keyword marketing.

The main problem with keyword marketing is that nefarious SEO firms used it as a siren call for top rankings. “We’ll get you top rankings — guaranteed!” these companies would call out. Over the years I’ve had clients email me these seductive offers to ask if they were indeed legit.

Anyone can promise top rankings — but usually for the wrong keywords. And unsuspecting small business owners, who are too busy to keep up with all of this, usually don’t have a clue. (Even just a few weeks ago someone emailed to ask if a company promising top rankings through link farms was legit. Ack! Run away! Fast!)

The second big problem is the marketers and SEOers have been creating lots and lots and lots of content — all geared toward search engines. The problem, of course, is that people read and act on content, and as many of the people I talk to say, “Man, there sure is a lot of really crappy content out there!” Indeed.

With “Not Provided,” you now have the opportunity to use — dare I say it? — traditional marketing practices to create great content that also helps boost targeted traffic (targeted = prospects interested in what you’re offering). How so? Consider:

1. Articles in trade pubs — In the old days, you’d work hard to get an application note, info brief or feature article into a trade publication. Contrary to popular belief, trade pubs still exist and many of them still accept technical articles and the like. (See these two client examples: Lanmark Controls and Cabot Corporation.)

Trade pub articles give you some wonderful benefits, namely:

  • They send prospective customers your way
  • They show your industry your expertise and innovative thinking
  • They give you links back to your site (the kind of links Google likes)

For more info, download my report, “Get Your Articles Published.” I wrote it back in the day, but the basic principles still apply. The report includes a nice interview with a trade pub editor on how to develop your pitches.

2. Case studies, reports and white papers — I know content marketers want you to think that content marketing is the new black, but any veteran marketer will tell you that B2B companies have relied on collateral marketing for decades. (In my first job as a marcom specialist in the early 1990s, for example, I used to produce three print newsletters that were translated into numerous languages and shipped around the globe.)

And, despite all the hype, you don’t have to create a lot of this type of material to be effective. For small companies with tight (or non-existent) marketing staffs, I recommend creating one case study and one white paper/report per quarter. One, this is a doable schedule and two, by the end of the year you’ll have eight pieces of collateral you wouldn’t have if you do nothing.

Again, the benefits are many, including:

  • Providing prospects with information that helps them decide to do business with you
  • Pieces you can use with other marketing tactics, such as direct mail or email
  • Content that helps generate leads or inquiries

3. E-Newsletters — E-newsletters have taken a beating as they’re no longer seen as “sexy” and because our email inboxes are overflowing, but for small businesses, an e-newsletter is a great way to give your customers and prospects information they can actually use in the form of news, tips and tricks, and links to the collateral you’re producing.

If you produce great content, people will want your newsletter (with one of my clients, his client requested that people from his company be added to the distribution list).

You also keep your company top-of-mind with them.

If you have a blog, consider repurposing your posts and using them in your e-newsletter (the way Adam Jacobson, CEO of Red Three Consulting, does). This way you don’t have to create double the amount of original content, you drive people back to your site and you get a few social media shares and maybe a comment or two.

Optimizing your Website is still a very good practice as you want people to find your content. However, relying on SEO alone is no longer enough. SEO, the big kahuna of online marketing, is now one of many tactics needed for an integrated marketing plan.

What do you think? Leave your comments below.

  • Sally Martin

    Diana, What is the benefit of an e-newsletter vs. just having an email subscription option on your blog?

    • Sally, You can do that — or people can subscribe via RSS. For my newsletter, you sometimes get more than what I put here on the blog, and you get invites to webinars. 😉

  • Odd coincidence. I just looked at G Analytics and saw (Not Provided). I’d forgotten about Google’s creepy move until I read your email.

    Don’t forget the tactics that have Google worried enough to force people to join its social network — social marketing, especially on LinkedIn and Twitter. I’d have to say that Facebook and G+ are better for B2C marketing.

    Thanks for the Not Provided refresher!

    • I’m finding that FB is becoming much harder. I have close to 300 fans and only a very small percentage see my FB posts now since I don’t pay to promote them. I like G+ better, LinkedIn not so much.

  • Dianna,
    As usual you provide the latest important info and are a
    breath of fresh air around content publishing. So many other content marketing “gurus” recommend that we create an immense amount of content, and insist that blog content be unique from newsletter content. I don’t know how anyone does this without blogging in their sleep (or not getting any sleep!) I personally don’t want that kind of barrage of content. I stopped following certain experts that I respect because it was just too much to possibly absorb. And I have always believed that a “naturally” well written relevant blog article or site content was better than writing for keywords. Obviously there is a balance, but I welcome these Google changes and love that the “old” tried and true methods are still effective. Thanks for the great articles that you write!

    • Christine — FIrst off, I apologize for the delay in your comment appearing — it went to the Disqus spam folder. Second, thank you! for the feedback and the nice words. I, too, have stopped following many gurus as I couldn’t handle the barrage of information nor could I keep up with all the “must dos” many of them say we have to do.

      Regarding newsletter and blog content: I used to do original content for both. Last year I surveyed my newsletter readership and here’s what I discovered (which astounded me): Few if any of my subscribers read my blog. So I said, “Great!” And that’s when I made my blog and newsletter do double duty — and I’m happier for it. 🙂

      I think we rely too much on what others say without testing things for ourselves. One of the concepts of lean manufacturing is “go look, go see,” — meaning, go to a place and see for yourself what’s happening. That’s what I did with my survey — and I continue to survey my subscribers (i.e. which webinar topics they want). Always enlightening!