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Google is Changing Search. How to Build Traffic and Revenue Beyond Google — Part 1 (Thinks Out Loud Episode 424)

Screenshot of Google AI Overview feature to highlight the importance of building traffic and revenue beyond Google

Google is changing search. The company’s AI Overviews features increasingly puts answers in front of customers, bypassing the need for a click. The problem for you is that those clicks often drive traffic and revenue for your business. Even if you can do cool SEO activities to figure out how to be the answer presented, that’s still no guarantee that customers will end up on your website or app. And that’s potentially very bad for your business.

What can you do about it? It starts with building traffic and revenue beyond Google. We’ve talked about why that’s necessary for some time. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll do a deep dive into how you do it. This episode will look at how you put together the right strategy to build traffic and revenue beyond Google, while next week’s will look at how you can choose the right channels to grow your business long term.

Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you.

Google is Changing Search. How to Build Traffic and Revenue Beyond Google — Part 1 — Headlines and Show Notes

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You might also enjoy this webinar I recently participated in with Miles Partnership that looked at "The Power of Generative AI and ChatGPT: What It Means for Tourism & Hospitality" here:

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Recorded using a Shure SM7B Vocal Dynamic Microphone and a Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface into Logic Pro X for the Mac.

Running time: 23m 50s

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Transcript: Google is Changing Search. How to Build Traffic and Revenue Beyond Google — Part 1

Well hello again everyone and welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter. This is episode 424 of the Big Show. Thanks so much for tuning in. I think we’ve got a really cool episode for you.

And when I say cool episode, I actually think I should say cool “episodes.” Because this is the first of a two-part series kind of building on what we talked about last week. In last week’s show, I talked about how Google’s new AI Overviews in search is a real problem for Google but how it’s also a problem for your business.

Because as Google increasingly incorporates AI results into its search results — and when I say AI results — I mean the answers to people’s queries right within the search results. That may drive fewer clicks, that may drive less traffic to your business and ultimately less revenue to your business.

If you’re like most companies, you probably get somewhere between about 30% percent of the low end and maybe as high as 70% or 80% of the high-end of traffic and revenue from Google, when you think about organic search and paid search and local search and metasearch. If customers are able to get the answer to their question right there in Google search results, they may not click. And that’s obviously a problem for your business if that in fact comes to pass.

So, I’ve been talking in last week’s episode and a bunch of prior episodes all about how you can diversify your traffic, or rather, all about the need for you to diversify your traffic so that you can get more traffic and more revenue from sources other than Google, if in fact this comes to pass, that people click through less often.

And I got several questions from various listeners saying, "Well that’s great, that’s a really, really good idea. But how do we do that? How do we get more traffic and, more importantly, business from companies outside Google, from other sources of traffic?"

And I love this question because it’s a strategy question disguised as a tactical question. It’s not really just about driving more traffic. It’s about building deeper, more robust connections with your customers. It’s about finding new ways to engage your customers that ultimately benefit your business in the long run. And so that’s what I want to talk about today.

It’s also a big question. So big, in fact, that I’m not going to be able to answer the entire question in a single episode. Which is why this episode and the next one will be a two-part miniseries where we talk about how do you get more traffic and more business from sources outside Google.

I want to start with a very simple place that you may already be thinking about today. And that’s your objectives.

What are your objectives for driving traffic, for driving business? What is the purpose of your marketing activities? Are you looking to increase awareness for your business? Are you looking to increase leads? To increase engagement? And when I say engagement, are you looking to get more connection to your customers? To gain some data about them, like an email address or a phone number or an address if you’re doing any kind of direct mail activities? But is that what you’re looking to accomplish? Or are you looking to accomplish a purchase you want them to buy?

Ideally, you’re always focused on the purchase in the longer run. As my friend Mark Schaefer put it so succinctly the other day on LinkedIn, “your job isn’t to create content, it’s to create customers.” He is absolutely right. Absolutely correct.

I grew up in e-commerce. We were very focused on putting heads in beds in the hospitality industry? Get people to come to your website, pull out their credit card, make a purchase, and, you know, book a room. And it was hugely impactful to understand that we were actually driving purchases with our marketing activities.

What’s also true is that sometimes you’re going to create customers by creating content because you often need to create awareness before you can drive purchases. Pretty much no one is going to buy from you if they’ve never heard of you. Research from a wide array of industries shows that customers are most likely to buy on a third-party site when they start on a third-party site.

So, let’s use hospitality as an example. They’re more likely to buy on sites like Expedia or when they start there. And they’re far more likely to buy directly from a hotel website when they start on the hotel’s own website. To put it more simply, people can’t buy from you directly if they never come to your website. So awareness can be a perfectly reasonable goal. Just make sure that it’s awareness that ultimately leads to a purchase.

Which then comes to the second big thing that you have to be aware, which is understanding your customer. I’ve seen case after case after case over the years where companies have done something that generated an enormous amount of traffic. They got a lot of people to come to their website or download their app, but those people didn’t buy because they weren’t actually representative of the customer that the company really needed to talk to.

Anytime we think about how we’re diversifying our traffic, we have to start with who is it we’re trying to reach, and what do we know about them? You, you probably have an ideal customer profile already, an ICP, for your business. But if you don’t, you need to be thinking about, who are they?

  • Are you talking to people at a business?
  • Are you a B2B company? Are you talking directly to consumers?
  • What are their needs? What problem do they want to solve?
  • How do they make their purchase decisions?
  • What’s important to them?
  • How much will they spend per purchase or period of time?
  • And most importantly, what is their biggest pain point? Where do they really struggle? What’s the problem that they’re trying to solve?

There’s a concept you may have heard about before where we talk about the “job to be done” by your product or your service. You may have heard the line people sometimes use, I’ve used it myself, that “nobody wants to buy a drill, they want to buy a hole.”

They have a specific problem and they need something that solves that problem for them. And if you don’t understand their pain point, you’re not going to know where should you go to try to reach these people and how to talk to them when you get there. That’s why it’s critical to understand what’s most important to them.

There’s a story I really like that talks about the easiest business in the world is selling hot dogs outside a stadium. Imagine that there was a sporting event or a concert or something like that. And inside the stadium, nobody’s selling any food. And the sporting event or the concert goes on for three or four or five hours.

When people come out, they’re going to be super hungry. You don’t even have to offer them a great hot dog. You just have to offer them something to eat and you’re going to make some money there, right? Selling hot dogs to hungry people is the easiest business in the world.

So what we’re thinking about here is, who are the hungry people? Who are you trying to talk to? Because that’s going to point you towards the places where they congregate. Once you know where the stadiums are, it becomes much easier to say, “Oh, that’s kind of where we have to focus our marketing efforts.”

Another reason that that’s really important is because it helps you understand who else serves your ideal customers. There is no universal set of places you’re going to go talk to customers that works regardless of what the industry you’re in. Every industry, and in many cases, every customer segment, has their own places that are going to be more effective when we think about how we reach people outside of Google.

The reason you want to know who else is serving those customers is because you can take a look at where they are. Where are the places that they seem to be having success? I want to be clear, it doesn’t mean that you’ll copy everything that they do. You also want to keep an eye on what they’re doing because it may help guide you in some new directions that you haven’t thought of. If you see that everybody you compete with for that customer is on Instagram, that’s a strong data point that Instagram might be a place you want to be. If you see that everybody you compete with is on TikTok, then that may be a strong sign that you want to be on TikTok. If they’re all on LinkedIn… you get the point.

Now, there may be times where you want to zag when everybody else is zigging, where you want to go in a different direction, and that’s okay. We’re going to talk in next week’s episode, how you do that and why you might do that.

In either case, you want to remain aware of those, because you can’t take a strategy to say, we’re going to zag, we’re going to go in a different direction, or we’re going to use the same direction if we, if you don’t actually know what it is your competition is doing. You’re really trying to figure out where “the hungry people” are. And looking at what your competition does is absolutely a signal for that.

The next key thing you want to take a look at is what your main message is. It, it matters a ton that you actually have a clear message because you can’t actually pick the channels that work best for you if you don’t know what you’re trying to say in each of them.

I’m a huge fan of this idea of summing up your business, summing up your value proposition to your customer in a couple of sentences. Get to a very simple form of what it is you tell customers you do. What are the one or two lines that sum up your benefit for your customers?

Please, please, please, I’m begging you, please don’t say you offer solutions. You see this all the time in B2B, and the word has lost all meaning. Part of what I do for my clients is go look at their competition, go look at their website, go look at their competition’s website — and I have spent tons of time, on an enormous number of websites and apps where after 10 or 15 minutes of looking around on those sites, I can’t tell you what the company I’m looking at does.

Believe me, your customers aren’t going to spend 10 to 15 minutes trying to figure it out. They want to understand it really quickly, really easily. That’s going to help you, regardless of the channel you put that in. And it’s going to make it clearer to folks why they should want to come directly to you at some point. It is so much easier to attract clients, to attract customers, when you’re clear about what it is you do.

I’m going to give you an example. This is ours. You know, we say:

“Tim Peter & Associates helps marketers and business owners think beyond Big Tech to lower their cost of customer acquisition.”

That’s it. That’s what we do. We “help marketers and business owners think beyond Big Tech to lower their cost of customer acquisition.” Everything we do then follows from that. If you go to our website, the first thing you see is “Reach your best customers. Improve profitability.” Simple and to the point.

Sure, there are probably ways we can improve it. There are probably ways we can punch it up. I always think you can get better at this. It also matters a ton that you’re able to articulate that for your business and more importantly for your customers. Understanding that message is going to play a role in choosing channels to share that message in.

Some messages are going to work better in some formats on some channels better than they are others. And in any case, it’s going to help your customer understand what your business is and make that content valuable to them, make that message valuable to them.

You want to think in terms of your main message. Take some time to think through that main message and make it clear. There’s some very simple questions you can ask yourself. Who do we help? Remember a couple minutes ago when I talked about who is your customer? Think very clearly about who do we help. Be as explicit as you can.

As I just said, “marketers and business owners.” Period. Sometimes we say, “marketers and business owners in the hospitality industry,” or “marketers and business owners in the financial services industry,” or “marketers and owners in the software as a service industry.” We’re thinking very clearly about those, and obviously within those we can get even more specific. So we might be talking about, you know, in the hospitality industry, we might be talking about marketers and owners. We’re going to take a minute to look at some of the questions that we’ve received at management companies or at independent hotel groups, because it just makes it that much clearer. It’s going to make it that much clearer to understand where do those people congregate, which is something we’re going to get into in a lot of detail next week.

Once you’ve answered who is it that we serve, the question becomes. What’s the problem we’re solving for them? Notice what we said: “Think beyond Big Tech to lower their cost of customer acquisition.” That’s the problem we’re solving for them.

That’s the problem you want to think about for your customer because it’s going to make your messaging so much clearer and make it more valuable to the people you’re trying to talk to. Again, in our next episode, I’ll talk about why that matters in terms of choosing the channels you’re going to try to reach those customers on.

But you want to take a minute and be very clear about who is it that we help and what is the problem we help them solve. Make sure you write that down and you’re very clear on it and that everybody in your business understands what it is because that’s going to come back later when we talk more about channels.

And the last thing that I want to talk about from a traffic perspective before we get into the individual channels is to remember there are only four ways to succeed here. This is true for every business always.

The first is that you get more new customers. You reach people you haven’t reached before. That’s one way you grow.

The next is that you get existing customers to spend more per purchase. That’s obviously more from a revenue perspective. If you want to think about it from a traffic perspective, it could be that you get them to engage with more content each time they interact with your brand. Just don’t lose sight of the business side. Again, the reason we’re doing this is to grow our revenues.

The third is to get existing customers to buy more often. On the traffic side, it could be getting them to interact with you more often. Come back to your website, open your app more frequently. Though again, we’re trying to drive this to the specific business result.

And the last of these is “all of the above,” or at least some set of the above. Can you get more people who come more often, who buy more each time they come? That’s ultimately what you’re trying to get to, so it becomes this real force multiplier.

Why is all of this important as you start to think about channels beyond Google, as you start to think about growing your channels? Because it’s going to help you identify those channels where you can reach people you’ve never reached before. It’s going to help you identify channels where you can reach people who are more engaged and likely to come back more often. It’s going to help you identify the channels that are more productive for you in terms of how much revenue you’re able to generate per person you interact with. It’ll help you grow your business. And then, of course, when you put them all together, you just keep winning, you stack a win on top of a win on top of a win, and get overall greater benefit.

In our next episode, I’m going to talk specifically about some channels you should be looking at, and how you evaluate the right channels that are going to work for your business. I also don’t want this to be, you know, just a big build up and then tell you, “Oh, but wait ’til next week before we get into some of the details of picking those channels.” So, I want to let you know, we’re going to be talking about the hub and the spoke model. And specifically, the spokes, right?

Your hub is your website and your email list. They’re things that you control. The spokes are things other people control. Ideally, to bring people to the hub so they become part of your long term strategy. So we’re going to talk about both of those in some detail in the next episode. The key is we’re going to be thinking about how do we pick the correct ones, and how do we pick them in such a way that they actually benefit our business.

So I would encourage you to tune in next week as well for episode 425, where we will cover that in detail.

To recap what we’ve talked about today, this is all about understanding how we drive more business, how we drive more traffic beyond Google.

  • It starts with a clear understanding of objectives.
  • We build on that by making sure we have a clear picture of our customer.
  • We ensure we know what our main message is we’re going to use to reach those customers.
  • We focus on the four ways to succeed of getting more new customers, getting existing customers to spend more per purchase, getting existing customers to buy more often, or some combination of all of those.
  • And we’re going to use our hub and spoke model, our hub and spoke framework, as a way to think about the various channels, the various spokes that are going to work for us to help us grow and grow. Direct traffic or traffic from other really economical, affordable channels for our business.

So, I would encourage you to tune in next week for more details on how we do that.

And we’ll build on what we’ve talked about today then. I’m looking forward to you joining us for that.

Show Wrap-Up and Credits

Now, looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week.

And I want to remind you again that you can find the show notes for this episode. As well as an archive of all past episodes by going to Again, that’s Just look for episode 424.

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Show Outro

Finally, and I know I say this a lot, but I want you to know just how thrilled I am that you keep listening to what we do here. It means so, so very, very much to me. You are the reason we do this show.

You’re the reason that Thinks Out Loud happens every week. You’re the reason we take the time to put this together. So please keep your messages coming on LinkedIn, keep hitting me up on Twitter, sending things via email. I love getting a chance to talk with you, to hear what’s going on in your world, to learn how we can do a better job building the types of information and insights and content and community that work for you and work for your business.

And with all that said, I just want to say that I hope you have a fantastic rest of your day. I hope you have a wonderful week, and I will look forward to speaking with you here on Thinks Out Loud next time. Until then, please be well, be safe, and as always, take care, everybody.

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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