Marketing Your Dive Business Online Is Getting Harder, Not Easier

Normally, I write my occasional post on Friday evenings since my office closes early that day. Saturday is my one day off per week, and a usually try to go diving. Today I woke up to get ready for my dive to see a nice email from the hosting company for the blogs I manage for work letting me know we’d been shut down again due to “extreme resource usage”. Since I then had to cancel my dive plans and work on my day off, I’m writing on a Saturday. Mad. So this post may be a little bit more stream of consciousness than usual. If you’re interested in “extreme resource usage”, I’ll talk about it at the very end.

Google’s Penguin update version 2.1 went live yesterday. Hummingbird went live a little over a week ago. Google has been taking away our search keyword data in the BS name of privacy. They took away the excellent keyword research tool. Facebook is constantly updating their news feed algorithm. Pinterest is rolling out ads and rich article pins. Instagram will be offering ads. YouTube is requiring a Google+ account to comment now.

To summarize all those statements and links:

  • Link building for your site is becoming more difficult
  • Content on your site needs to be even higher quality than before
  • It’s harder to find out what to write about
  • You either need to constantly experiment or pay to continue doing well on Facebook
  • Popular social networks are fighting hard both for your attention and ad dollars

Link Building: A Double-Edged Sword

For ages, those of us doing search engine optimization have been told that quality content will naturally create links to said content, and those links combined with quality content (with an appropriate amount of keywords) will get a page to rank.

A huge part of my job is search engine optimization and I am constantly building and testing sites. I employ the scientific method for everything, which means it takes far more time than just pulling an idea out of the air and trying it.

More importantly, I can’t run my tests on my work sites just in case the variable angers the search engine gods.

Right now, I have 27 sites that I’m testing various ideas on. Some are link related, some are content, others are basic site architecture.

For my link tests, I’m testing guest posts, paid ad links, social network links, social bookmark links, and a few other ideas.

With the latest Google update, sites that I consider to be the most natural tanked while those I thought were most questionable did well, which seems counterintuitive. I’m seeing competitor sites move up in rankings whose backlink profiles are predominantly blog comment spam and link exchanges, both of which Google claims to have penalized long ago.

As with any Google update, it’s important to let things shake out for a few days, but as of right now my conclusion is that link building of any type can either be beneficial or can tank your site.

I just love the uncertainty.

Up The Quality

If your content is thin or poor quality, you’re going to have a harder time with all of these updates.

This means more companies are snatching up the good writers, so if you are looking to hire someone to create your content, costs are going up for decent quality.

Part of why it’s getting more expensive to hire quality content creators is…

It’s Harder To Find Topics

For years, I could go into Google Analytics and look at what keywords people are searching for to find our site. I could run those keywords through the now gone keyword research tool to see what had worthwhile search volume, then tell my writer to focus on those keywords.

A month ago (not provided) data was 22.43% of new visits for one work site. Now it’s 87.89%. I know plenty of other ways to get keyword ideas, but none are as quick and convenient.

Plus now that the keyword research tool is gone and replaced with the far less useful keyword planner, I can’t as quickly and easily run those keywords for volume data to pass along to my writer. I’ve accumulated thousands of dollars worth of SEO-related software over the years, so I’m still able to do this, but it’s just not as fast, easy, or free.

Now, you can get your keyword data if you want to buy AdWords, so you can always open your wallet.

Oh, Facebook…

I hate Facebook for a ton of reasons. I’m only really on there to deal with my work Pages at this point.

I’m sure you’ve all seen the dog sitting in the middle of a street in the rain with some stupid caption like “Click Like if you’d save him”. What does that even mean? Or the kid with the poster that says “My dad won’t put me up for adoption if this gets 1 million likes!” Or “Comment with a state that doesn’t have a letter in the name!”

You do get the point of all of these stupid things, right? The more you comment, like, in general interact, the more that page shows up in your feed. The people who create many of these pages get the engagement up super high, then change the entire theme of the page, then sell it. You just got sold for falling for a trick.

Just in case you didn't watch the Archer clip
This relates to the image at the top in an Archer way

Finally, Facebook caught on to these pathetic tricks. But now those of us who dabble with engagement bait are getting penalized with the scammers. So again, we’re constantly applying the scientific method to see what works best for each hour of the day, day of each week, month of each year and so on.

If you’re not trying different times of day, days of week, text/link/picture/video posts, you’re missing out. But really, Facebook just wants us all to pay for ads anyway, which is much easier, so maybe it’s just best to open your wallet.

Other Social Networks

If you’re serious about marketing your dive business online, you don’t just pick one social network. You have a blog, a Facebook Page, a YouTube Channel, a Twitter account, and a Pinterest account at least. All of those services are constantly balancing how to make money with how to keep users happy with how to keep advertisers happy, which isn’t always easy. They’ll never really balance against the making money side of things, so it’s really a balancing act between users and paid advertisers, the real customers.

When they adjust one direction, they make life harder for the other. So they adjust back. Then they roll out a new feature that benefits one side. Then the other.

They’re all constantly evolving and changing and it’s a full time job to both keep up and experiment with those changes to see what is worth the effort or expense.

Can Online Marketing Be DIY?

I used to tell most people who would ask that they could fairly easily do their own online marketing for their dive business with existing staff. If you’re like my original dive center who owns the town they’re in, you still can.

But if you’re in a highly competitive niche and want to be serious with your marketing, it’s only going to get harder having existing staff manage it.

If your dive center is in Thailand but your main customer base is in Germany, are you available to respond based on your typical work schedule or your customers schedule?

From my own personal experience managing the social media for two corporations based on the east coast, but shipping globally, I deal with questions, complaints, and issues at all hours of the day 6 days a week.

Clearly it can be done (I’m doing it), but it is definitely a full time job and even I have a part time virtual assistant helping me. Based on your competition in your niche of the diving industry, you may not have the same requirements, but some day you may.

Are you prepared to be researching, testing, implementing, and dealing with issues 7 days a week?


Dealing with “Extreme Resource Usage”

The host we currently use for both of my work blogs periodically shuts our sites down due to “extreme resource usage”. By “periodically”, I mean when we’re closed for a holiday, on my one day off a week, or when I’m attending a conference and don’t have easy access to deal with tech support.

They send me the same form email every time which basically reads, “We see you’re using WordPress, you should fix these 3 things that aren’t an issue on your site”.

They tell me to use a caching plugin that I’ve tested to not be as good as the one I’m using. The one I’ve paid out of my own pocket for both the Pro upgrade that makes the site even more efficient and to have optimized for our server.

They tell me not to use plugins that aren’t even on my site.

They tell me not to run autoblogging (scraping) software on my site, which I don’t.

They take hours to respond to messages.

I’m paying for a content delivery network (CDN) plus a CloudFlare Pro account to make sure caching and bandwidth are minimized. I’ve optimized the sites to download in ~1 second, so they’re fairly well optimized.

But somehow the sites have “extreme resource usage”.

How do I fix this?

I reply to their support ticket saying, “I’ve done everything you suggested, turn my site back on.” I don’t actually do what they suggest because their suggestions are either irrelevant or stupid.

Nine out of ten times, they turn the site on and we’re good to go until my next day off or conference. The one out of ten times, they say no, I tell them to give me more suggestions, they send me more suggestions, I lie and say I did those suggestions, and the site comes back to life.

This process typically takes at least 6 hours though due to their slow responses and the fact their ticket system only sends me every ~13th email notification of an update.

Eventually, we’ll be migrating both of those blogs to the corporate servers and I hope to be much happier at that point. This site is hosted with my friends at Pro Scuba Sites and I’ve seen their emails with a server admin when they have an issue they can’t handle on their own (very rare). They send a question to support and it gets answered the first time.

The sites have been up for an hour or so now, so I think I’m safe and can go try to enjoy the rest of my day off. Hopefully I can dive next week.

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