In business, one is the loneliest number. One client makes you susceptible to risk; one employee means your business can screech to a halt due to illness, internet blackout or family emergency. One traffic source? You could lose it overnight… any many have.

When I started in the digital marketing world, I worked for a friend out of the Detroit area. David sold information products online, and still does to this day. When he brought me on board, I was his Google AdWords specialist, where I would try to find ways to improve his campaigns every week. He was buying ads on Google’s network and for every dollar he spent, he was seeing at least a 5x return on investment. It was a great business and it was my job to improve it.

After about four months of getting comfortable with the ads, I decided to try my hand at a new campaign. The goal was to increase quality score of the ad copy by writing relevant text and decrease the overall cost. It was our first foray into image ads placed by Google, but I knew I could give it a good college try.

I mocked up the images for the campaign, eight different 300×250 ads. At the top, a traditional headline to hook the readers attention; the bottom half was an image of a woman. I found her on a stock photo site and thought she fit the bill. Cropped her above her halter top and added her into the different images. Once I was satisfied with the messaging, I uploaded them to Google for approval and flighting.

The next morning, David had sent me an email telling me the grave error I had made. It wasn’t a good day. Turns out, all eight ads were declined due to their “adult nature,” because the person reviewing the ads thought the woman was topless. A fair judgement, but I had no idea what the repercussions were. They told me that if I upload two more image ads that are declined, that they will ban our account for violations of the terms of service. They thought I was trying to game the system, even though it was an honest mistake.

What would have happened if I had made 10 ads instead 8? It was made explicitly clear to me that if I had uploaded 10 images and they were all disapproved, David’s AdWords account would have been banned.

Losing the ability to drive traffic with Google AdWords could kill a number of businesses in dozens of different niches. If you’re in a similar boat, betting all your chips on a single source of traffic, you need to differentiate.

1.) Use Bing and Yahoo ads for search traffic.

They don’t have nearly the impressions or eyeballs that Google offers, but there are plenty of people using these search engines to find what they are looking for. You may be able to spend less on your ads through Bing due to the low competition, giving you a nice traffic source that provides sales without Google.

2.) Use Facebook and their Custom Audience features

Facebook is the website most people in my generation look at the moment they wake up and the last site they visit before they go to bed. There are billions of eyeballs daily on the site and it’s a great place to target potential prospects. Having unbounded points of data, Facebook makes it easy to target the right people. If you are not currently using Custom Audiences to target your email list, Lookalike’s of your best customers, people who are friends of those who like your Page, or remarketing, you’re missing out. There is a wealth of potential income from Facebook alone, and it’s a great place to build another funnel for your traffic.

3.) Guest Blogging exposes you to Greater Audiences

One thing Google will never be able to control is your ability to guest blog. It’s an arduous process, but for that reason, it’s still highly effective. The short of it is that you reach out to someone in an industry that compliments yours and ask them if you can write a blog post on their blog. My favorite analogy is to think that you’re a cheese maker and you’re reaching out to wineries asking if you can write about pairing different cheeses with the wines they offer. The winery gets the benefit of relevant, helpful content on their site and you get the benefit of talking about your product or service. The way to do this is to find trafficked blogs in your industry or complimentary industry (you can tell by the number of Likes, Comments and +1’s the posts have), then email the owner and ask the question. You’ll want to ensure you have at least one link back to your website from the blog post. Consider offering the audience something special, like a no-cost-of-goods-sold audio if they sign up for your mailing list. You’ll build great fans, provide value, and buttress your otherwise single source of traffic.

4.) Blog yourself!

When the search engines crawl through websites and sort through the content, they’re assessing how unique and relevant the content is to the theme of the website. They want to provide the best user experience online, and in order to do that, they need to give the best websites the top positions on their results pages. This is the art of Search Engine Optimization. The single biggest thing you can do today to help your website grow in popularity and amass organic traffic from Google, Bing and Yahoo is to create regular, high-quality content. Writing blog posts between 300 and 600 words semi-regularly grows the percentage of quality content on your site. The search engines love this, and they will reward you with a higher position naturally. Make sure your content is focused around specific keywords that speak to your audience, that those keywords are in the title and URL of the blog post, and you should be set. It’s not rocket science… We’re not at a technological age where robots can write great content yet. It is one of the last things we, as sentient humans, can do to improve our rankings online.

5.) Be Social

I absolutely hate this term. I think it’s trite and without direction, so let me give it some… With Google’s announcement of Google Plus in late June of 2011, Google has begun using social signals in their ranking algorithm. This means that they are looking at Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest as signals to say if an article or post online is relevant. When I’m looking for news on something that is happening right now, I always turn to Twitter. It is the literal heartbeat of the internet. Twitter has real-time posts about current events, like “where are the Mardi Gras Indians right now?” or “What area is affected by this power outage?” If someone wants to write more than 140 characters, they’ll likely blog about the topic, then post it to their social media profiles with appropriate hashtags. This is a signal that the search engines are using to display those relevant, timely posts to searchers. Use this technique for your own site or business; tweet new posts. Follow people and companies in your industry and have a dialogue with them on social media. Use the trending hashtags on your posts to allow others to find it easily. The social game, in my eyes, has two outcomes:

  • 1.) To signal to the search engines the content that you’re producing is relevant and ready for eyes
  • 2.) To create a conversation with your audience, so you’re seen as an authority figure.

Point #1 is something everyone can do. Just Tweet, Pin, +1 and share on Facebook any new content you’ve written. Point #2 is a much broader picture and undertaking. Only tackle that when you’re actually ready.

Have you ever almost lost your single biggest source of traffic? Tell me about it in the comments below!