Of course, the Penguin update is a hot topic at the moment. Google, the most widely-leveraged search engine, made some modifications, which influenced a number of Web masters. What's done is done. It's not the first time Google has done it; and, it won't be the last.
Should it chill your reception of online marketing? I can see how it can for a party of people who view online marketing as an unknown mystery that can deliver results if you type in the right codes. It's not quite like that. SEO, online marketing, SEM, and other derivations of "marketing" vary in degrees but all pursue the same end…intriguing and converting consumers…as it has always been.
Back to Basics
A while ago now, Gianluca Fiorelli wrote a post, urging us to 'wake up.' I've referenced the post before; it's a great learning resource for novices; it explains the major components of online marketing and justifies them. Gianluca urges us to focus on the technical, content, and social aspects of online marketing. Let's further explain for our purposes here:
Gianluca is referencing a site's meta information, HTML, backend design, etc – all the technical aspects. He wants to ensure your site is appropriately 'communicating' with the search engines, which host its information and pages. This is a job for your coders, IT guys, designers, and other professionals who understand the 'language' of computers.
The technical ensures the engines understand and properly read your pages. Consumers use engines; so, make sure your pages are properly indexed. Here is another good post on technical SEO by Dave Sottimano.
Let's continue by discussing a beloved topic of content. Online…success (whatever that means to your brand) is king. That's why you pursued online marketing in the first place – to make your brand successful. Content (written posts, audio files, info-graphics, videos, cartoon strips, etc) needs to be composed and released entirely with the target market in mind.
Who should know your market the best? You should. Why else would you be offering goods/services to it? You'll find tons of great information on how to generate great content online. Collect tidbits here and there you can use to help organize and share your own content. However, understand you can't recreate the success of another brand by emulating their tactics; you must heed practices then create something unique to your brand.
Jonathan Morrow wrote a content-focused piece on Copyblogger recently. It's written in a humorous but highly pragmatic style. The post gets down to the essence of writing sales copy and writing for your consumer.
There was a time when a consumer leveraged the phone book or some kind of directory to locate a service or product need. There would be a broad heading, like electricians, with a number of service providers listed after. Aside from some copy cues, there was really no way for the brands to differentiate themselves, to express personality. Nowadays, brands can freely engage markets and express personality through social media channels.
Remember why so many brands were obsessed with the Web in the beginning? They knew it was a new marketing channel, a way to get peoples' attentions. Brands quickly started chasing rankings, thinking consumers bought from providers listed on the top of SERs. It's still a sound decision to get on the first page; yet, it's not a necessity. Get your market's attention through social media; that's what you wanted in the first place, right? You wanted to get consumers' attentions.
Engaging in social media is highly subjective too, just like constructing copy. I can give you suggestions; but, you can't be me and I can't be your brand.
However, a brand can use resources to devise its own methodical and strategic way of addressing social media initiatives. I often read the BlueGlass blog for tips on peer, social, and public relations. The social aspect of online marketing is very akin to traditional PR, except now, brands are not just being social with the press; brands are being social with just about anyone involved with them.
The technical/content/social approach to online marketing is a sound paradigm at present. There are six-million ways to try your marketing initiatives. Ideally, arrange your online marketing around your target market rather than Penguins and Googles. I couldn't of said it better myself:
Be dependent on your target market's interest rather than movements of zoo animals and their 'keepers'