Facebook, Now YouTube…How Should Your Business Adjust to Firearm Censorship?

YouTube’s Firearm Policy Restrictions | Marketing Solutions for Firearm Businesses and Brands

By: Weston Schrank, SRM Content Manager

It wasn’t until quite recently that the outdoor industry discovered YouTube’s restrictions on firearms related content. It has reached the industry’s consumers, brands, and businesses, infuriating many but alarming everyone. These restrictions have come to light not long after another disturbing update, Facebook’s recent algorithm changes. When both are considered, the compounding effect could, tear a firearm or outdoor industry business limb from limb. For those brands and businesses, this threat signals that it’s the time to adapt to a more stable and worthwhile investment for digital marketing.

YouTube’s Firearm Policy Restrictions

The Google-owned video platform YouTube is now tightening its noose on firearm-related content. YouTube’s Firearms Policy changes indicate restrictions on certain kinds of content featuring firearms. The specifics are below:

See Youtube’s Policies Here

Essentially the policy works to block content that deals with specific firearm accessories and the instruction of manufacturing these specific accessories including ammunition. YouTube is now clearly censoring firearm-related content, which can be viewed by many as an infringement on constitutional rights.

Is This as Bad as it Sounds?

To the untrained eye, this current policy change might be a digital Armageddon for firearm-related brands. However, to most marketers and brands that utilize their social and YouTube channels correctly, this is only a small blip on the analytics as it relates to traffic acquisition. While certain videos that directly relate to the policy may be taken down or limited, most firearm and hunting related content is perfectly fine. In addition, those brands and marketers that use the channels correctly, as just one form of traffic acquisition, have barely paid attention to this policy update. They do not solely rely on generated traffic from these sources, trusting instead more stable digital marketing tactics and generating traffic directly to their website.

When this is considered, the only thing this YouTube firearm policy change reveals is those who are and aren’t using the channel correctly. This policy change may actually prove to be useful for firearm and hunting related brands and businesses. It might be the alarm they needed to finally look into digital marketing tactics and strategies that are safe from politically driven censorship of firearm and hunting related content.

So what do these tactics and strategies look like? Many brands and businesses may jump straight to employing paid advertisement, but as the next section is about to reveal…that may prove tough.

You Can Still “Pay to Play” Right?

In recent years, the entire outdoor industry has seen its fair share of politically driven limitations on hunting and weapon-related content. However, these recent updates could not arise at a worse time for those brands and businesses that struggle to use YouTube, and other social channels correctly. The outdoor industry, compared to other mainstream niche industries, has just recently begun forming a strong foothold in digital marketing. With businesses and brands now relying on traffic and online sales from both YouTube and Facebook, the recent policy change and algorithm change respectively could spell disaster for some. At this time many of these businesses would consider pushing marketing dollars towards paid advertisements to make up for the lost traffic. However, paid advertisements have, for a long time, been subject to even tighter restrictions, including profiling and restrictions on content.

Stone Road Media’s own Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder, Jeremy Flinn, summed this up in a recent podcast.

After Facebook’s algorithm change, marketers and brands have to “pay to play”. This means that in order to reach an audience, you have to create a social advertisement or put money (boost) behind a post. Even with an extremely good following and a great engaging piece of content, I estimate that you might only reach 10-15% of your audience organically. From there the numbers plummet to 5% for content that does not spark immediate engagement. Unfortunately, even once you agree to “pay to play” with social media advertising you’re now entering policies that are…you guessed it, restricted! Guns, knives, bows, arrows, and basically anything weapon oriented means that Facebook has a right to deny the advertisement of that content.” – Jeremy Flinn, Bent and Ballistic Outdoor Podcast

Facebook has profiled, restricted, and shut down pages relating to this genre of content, with other social platforms sure to follow. With Facebook and YouTube restricting not only organic content posting and engagement but advertising as well, it’s not hard to realize that the outdoor industry’s businesses need to start paying attention to using the channels and other forms of traffic acquisitions in their marketing mix.

Investing in More Stable Solutions

Unfortunately, digital marketing will not get any easier for outdoor industry and firearms-related businesses, especially when they rely on these channels for most if not all of their traffic to drive profitable consumer action. The only solution lies with where a brand and business lives– the website. If Facebook, YouTube, and soon to be other social media platforms are no longer viable sources of traffic, businesses must invest in other sources.

Fortunately, this policy change brings to light one valuable takeaway– If these policies are hurting outdoor and firearms-related businesses, they’re also hurting the same genre of consumers!

As hunters and shooting enthusiasts are limited to what they see on Facebook and YouTube, they will and already have started seeking the content directly. This means searching for it online!

Outdoor Industry Search Marketing

Catching this rapidly growing number of queries made each day on Google will not be easy. In fact, this form of traffic acquisition is by far one of the most complicated for businesses to harness. It requires smart and strategic use of content, content containers, SEO, and overall website optimization.

Most businesses and brands in the outdoor industry have become experts at short-term traffic acquisition. This traffic is easily achieved through paid advertisements and social media campaigns. In comparison, long-term acquisition through search marketing requires a more strategic approach. Once achieved, this transition away from short-term acquisition will lend brands and businesses more dedicated followers and audiences that create digital value…a value which cannot be censored or restricted.

First, brands must button up their website to be optimized for both content consumption and profitable consumer action. That means making sure the website is mobile friendly and ensuring that content, product, and service offerings fit mobile audiences. Second, with YouTube now restricting content, any video content can be placed on a video platform that can easily integrate into the website. YouTube will still be a source for traffic generation, especially when it brings great SEO value, but it can be costly sinking all video content into one channel for traffic. Steering away from YouTube might lose SEO value, so investing in the content container around the video (your website) is a more stable location for firearm and hunting related content. Even when traffic might be limited, the container itself is something a business contains and allows that content to be agile if traffic were to become limited from YouTube. Keep in mind this is not just simple video or playlist embed on a website, this is where the real chance at developing long-term value is created. This video content and any other content must be optimized at every level of creation. A strategy must be put into place before the content is released into short-term traffic campaigns, to maximize every bit for consumption, profitable consumer action, and now, most importantly, long-term traffic generation.

Long-term sustainability online is achieved through search marketing, investing heavily into not only the content but a brand and business’s audience. It is the the one thing the YouTube’s firearm restrictions and other similar restricting policies have revealed. This level of digital marketing can only be achieved by elevating content to its fullest potential through content containers, landing pages, and long-term campaigns while also leveraging any short-term acquisition that might actually get through restrictions.

Every hard-earned Facebook or YouTube post, video, or advertisement that actually gets through restrictions needs to be well worth the fight. Every ounce of traffic from these and many other traffic sources that are/may become restricted must be fully extracted in order to achieve organic traffic to your website. Traffic that can’t be censored or restricted!

A Hard Road Ahead

YouTube’s firearm policy restrictions, Facebook’s algorithm change, and other traffic restricting policies have revealed to the outdoor and firearms industry to finally invest into more strategic and dynamic digital marketing.

The outdoor industry is no stranger to politically driven policies and with the way recent history has panned out, we should and can expect further restriction on not only firearms content but hunting content as well. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when! Realize that these policy changes only limit brands and businesses that incorrectly use the channels, relying heavily on that traffic and not generating traffic from their website. Now is the time to make a move to develop your own platform and traffic to achieve freedom from censorship.

This solution will not be an easy road. With the outdoor and firearm industry now moving to more advanced digital marketing strategies like search marketing, the competition will become brutal. There is only so much Search Engine Result Page (SERP) real estate to fight for. Making the right moves now could create a head start on the competition.

Take the first steps with an outdoor digital marketing agency by your side, contact us today!

Shooting and Tactical Marketing | Sniping Valuable SERP Real Estate

Sniping SERP Real Estate | Shooting and Tactical Marketing Plans

Photo By: Steve Smolenski – CEO/CTO
Graphics By: Deanna Riley – Web & Graphic Specialist
Article By: Weston Schrank -Content Marketing Manager

While it might be hard, I am going to try and refrain myself from going into the now scripted writing of talking about why content creation and content marketing is important. It in all honesty does feel scripted, like I am supposed to type those keys, those words, and those sentences in order on my keyboard to tell you the reader why content is important. Not today, I will not do it this time…By now, whether you are arriving at this blog from our own site or another blog, or if you have arrived from an organic search result, chances are you very well know how important content is. So saving time and space, I will move on to perfecting content marketing and moving on to the advanced stages by becoming deadly accurate with that content. This idea is how we have, and you can/should move on from basic digital marketing to full out sniping valuable SERP real estate. This is taking outdoor industry marketing, and more specifically shooting and tactical marketing to the next level, becoming a hardened content marketer, manager, or creator by creating top SERP ranking posts for anything you want…

“Each piece of content that is chambered into your content marketing machine should be primed with the proper optimization and value, dialed in with the correct keywords, and fired into the most effective location and position for your brand and product…resulting in leads and a lethal hit to your competition” – that is sniping valuable SERP real estate, that is effective shooting and tactical marketing…

SERP Real Estate?

Now when you’re going out to the field with a rifle, scope, and ammunition in hand, you have to know the lay of land and the terrain to determine what you are shooting at. You figure distance, wind, and factors that affect the flight to that target. In the case of your brand, product, or company this is learning what the real estate space is like on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).  But it goes beyond that, you have to look into what you can expect, what keywords, and long tails you should rank for, their average search volumes, what traffic you will own with a 1-5 or a first page position on that SERP. This is going into an intense content strategy for some, but for others it’s simply learning how to dial yourself and the content in. The fact is now is the time to do it! Dialing yourself, your brand, and your company in now will seize that real estate up before the industry and your competition does or plans to do so.

If you have a sense of marketing you know about content, its importance, and why you should create and optimize it. But really how valuable is this SERP real estate and how much work is involved to get the content there? What kind of traffic are you looking at…why does it matter that you have a presence on the first page of a search related to you? These question being contemplated in your mind might help move things along.


This graph derived from Advanced Web Ranking shows you a general idea of what kind of traffic the first page rankings will give you. Generally the numbers come to around 30-35% for #1, around 15-17% for #2, around 10% for #3, and around 3-8% for 4-10, and lower off of the first page. Now these numbers are extremely variable taking into consideration what type of keyword it is (unbranded vs. branded), long tail keywords, whether or not the SERP contain ads, and where they are located (top, bottom, or right side), and the search intent. In general the percentages and the graph will look the same. The real number we see off of this is that on average 70-75% of the clicks are on the first page…around 65-70% of those being #1-#5! This is no big trade secret, but knowing what to do with this information plus a few more tools is a skill and trade acquired with experience.

Is Ranking for Shooting and Tactical Marketing SERP’s Possible?

No, at least not without the knowledge, optimization, and power of literally perfect SEO tactics. So the real answer is most definitely YES, but only if you’re willing to put in the work. When it comes to firearms marketing, tactical marketing, gun marketing, and content marketing related to shooting and tactical companies, it is a tough and highly competitive field. You know this, and that is most likely why you are here in the first place.

Knowing this can almost seem entirely too daunting of a task to tackle. In this regard outdoor industry marketing, including shooting and tactical marketing officers and their campaigns just revert back to google ads. That is the easiest way to derive traffic from SERPs right? Yes and no, google ads have their place. In fact sponsored results account for 64.6% of clicks for high commercial intent keyword searches, while 35.4% of click are from organic unpaid search results (WordStream, 2012). But again, that is looking and considering search intent, product specific searches to be exact. When a user is searching product specific, a good strategy is being there with google ads, but SEO and organic search still does own informational searches, the information that consumers look for when educating themselves before they buy. In addition, your organic searches can own real estate right under ads, keep in mind much cheaper and more long term than those ads at that…For firearms marketing, tactical marketing, and gun marketing, and all forms related to the shooting and tactical marketing industry, this is an important concept to understand.

Let’s say we look up “holsters”. If someone is looking for this, they are undoubtedly looking to buy in most cases. More often than not the consumer will get much more specific than this, such as a search for “IWB holsters”. But the general search for holsters reveals top ads, right side ads, and bottom ads. In a SERP like this, organic is receiving a beat-down from sponsored results. But before the search for “holsters” might take place a majority of consumers will search with informational queries. Informational queries? In this case it might be a search such as “top concealed carry holsters” where a consumer might be looking for reviews, opinions, and a detailed article ranking concealed carry holsters. In this case, when looking for information, the consumer often skips right over the top sponsored results, and goes directly to the organic results. They are skipping the ads and going to your content.

So again going back to the real question, is trying to rank for shooting and tactical marketing SERP’s possible? Absolutely, the unquestionably great thing for content managers, strategists, and creators like me, (with any size company, budget, and resources) we can rank and compete with even the largest players in the shooting and tactical marketing industry. Know how, quality of content, consistency, and relentless creation of content can become a form of domination over competition. Content marketing and organic search results are an even playing field.

Shooting and Tactical Marketing Plans and Sniping SERP Real Estate

When and if you have a thoroughly trained asset behind a well-made and optimized machine, they can and will make devastating blows. These assets will begin knocking down rankings, any and all, whatever they choose, and the “hunting ground” is google…it is open season! We see these results everyday with our own content. We decide what keywords are most advantageous to own real estate and knock down the low hanging but valuable fruit down first. This highly specific sniping of real estate gets the ball rolling so to speak, establishing constant traffic across the content, landing pages, and shop from queries made monthly, weekly, and daily! Actually getting there with this content is an entire other discussion, again I am really trying to refrain from talking about the actual content itself, and trying to be more specific to this more advanced stage of content marketing. Sniping real estate is dialing in your content strategy, keyword and long tail keyword focuses. When this processed is refined into a well-oiled content machine, you will gain steady, reliable, and dominating flow of consumers across your website and pages, creating very valuable leads.

As you dive further into looking at inbound marketing, and trying to perfect your shooting and tactical marketing plans, it may be fitting for you to look into the assistance of an outdoor industry digital marketing firm like Stone Road Media. The least you can do is dive further into the topic of trying to develop you own content. Finding your content sweet spot, and sniping valuable SERP real estate will have great returns in the long run!


Photo: Steve Smolenski has worked in the graphics and web design field for over 19 years. His expertise is in the areas of product development, R&D, graphic design, web development, SEO, and Social Media. He thrives integrating his technology background with 27 years of hunting and wildlife management. 

Graphic: Deanna Riley grew up in western PA with a love for the outdoors, which lead to her drive to capture the essence of what’s around us in her nature photography and design work. She holds a BFA in Graphic Design, and is excellent at web, logo, and print design as well as social media.

Article: Weston Schrank is Stone Road Media’s Digital Content Manager. He has turned the obsession of outdoors and hunting, expertise in wildlife and land management, and understanding of specialized content creation and SEO into an excelling and devoted career as a content manager and strategist, benefitting the company’s many outdoor industry partners, and outdoor freelance writers.