When Dale Carnegie wrote the award-winning book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, in 1936, he was not writing for a culture dictated by advanced technology, social media, or more importantly, Google rankings. The world has changed in the past 80-plus years, but the fundamentals of interpersonal communication and creating and sustaining successful relationships, have not. In fact, Carnegie’s teachings evolved with modern technology and culture, making his message more relevant now than ever. His method is all about drawing out the qualities in yourself and others that provide for a mutually beneficial and productive relationship, communication, and at the core of his teachings is honesty and integrity.
In the business of public relations, the key to success is to discover the story for clients and find the best way to tell it. Everyone has a story, whether they know it or not. This isn’t about crafting believable fiction, but uncovering what’s already there and then using that information to create honest and enticing content. Consumers respond to this style of branding, and even better, so does Google. Google rewards honesty and has no qualms about blacklisting users who try to work the system in unscrupulous ways. As much as we would all like to find a short cut around having to “do the work”, there is simply no way around Google’s omniscient algorithms. With more than 60 percent of its market’s share, Google may be the God of Internet traffic and how much exposure your business’ online presence receives. At its core, it’s reliant on real, honest-to-goodness transparent content.
An entire industry has sprung up around trying to fool Google 10 years ago that looked something like: A dash of back-links to popular sites with anchor text and reciprocal link exchange, a liberal sprinkling fluffy, filler copy, and an obscene amount of key words and meta tags. But Google has always stayed one step ahead of the industry. By 2009 they culled the Meta Tag fad because people were using it to “trick” Google’s algorithms, shoving every possible descriptor and misspelled search keyword that they could think of into their site’s back end. Today there are still technology-based tricks to good Google exposure, the No. 1 tried-and-true method remains grounded in transparent, honest copy and content that is relevant to your customers.
So, let’s not waste time and resources on tricks, but rather the time-tested actions that lead to lasting relationships and translate to real business for you. After all, what is your end game? Getting in good with Google, or getting good business? Wil Reynolds, an SEO strategist who has been in the game since 1999, said it best: “SEOs need to stop driving clicks and start building cliques.”
Here’s what Google has in common with your target audience, and where we queue Dale Carnegie’s timeless wisdom:
Your audience wants to hear your story, not hype. We’re so inundated by buzzwords and hype that we tend to dismiss them off-hand. In an era where babies practically come out of the womb with their social media accounts active, people are jaded and wary of hyperbole. We are truth-starved and craving interpersonal connection that feels genuine. Your audience would rather hear a truthful, personal story than some inflated version of what you want them to think.
People skills still matter, even in virtual spaces. Your message and branding should be crafted in a way that is relatable and endearing to your target audience. Dale Carnegie knew the power of making warm connections to bring others over to your side. What is the online equivalent of a smile, eye contact, and a firm handshake? It starts with being genuine. You don’t need to be face-to-face with someone to make them feel good or to ignite passions otherwise undiscovered in your target audience.
Keywords are tips, not tricks. Keywords are not bait on a hook and your target audience is more than what is for dinner. Use keywords not to lure people to your site, but as research to see what people are genuinely interested in and curate your content to be relevant to those interests. You can then create and distribute this content via blogs and social media. Keywords are clues and hints, and if you do your homework, your content will be more relevant to those you are trying to reach.
Vulnerability is valuable. When you share your story in an open and heartfelt way, your audience will respond. Rarely are others interested in hearing about how everything on your end is perfect and wonderful. In the real world, there are highs and lows, so don’t be afraid to share your true journey with others. We’ve all been there.
You do have a story that your customers want to hear. Telling your story and discovering what will be of interest to your target audience is a skill that needs to be nurtured and developed like any other, but it’s a job for a good publicist, not a programmer or SEO professional. Honesty, integrity, and transparency in the content you are producing are still the best way to “win friends and influence people.” I know Carnegie would agree.
Jenny Kaplan focuses on strategic public relations campaigns. Her company, JKaplan Communications, has garnered celebrated results for a wide variety of businesses. Her years of diverse experience in executive search, publishing and the media are her edge in the challenging and multifaceted world of public relations. Learn more at www.GetNoticedPR.com, or contact her directly at (707) 578-1336.
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