Content Marketing and SEO

Deborah Hanamura

24 September 2013

Content is more important than ever. The internet is filling up with articles, blog posts, tweets, videos, infographics, reviews, press releases, and more – but content marketing is about quality, not quantity. In the past, content was a tool that was often used to game search engines – but the search engines are smarter now, and so are consumers.

A quality content marketing strategy starts with understanding your customers, and producing the right stories in the right format, at the right cadence for your audience.  The most important thing that any marketer can do is focus on stories that have meaning for their audience, and then tell that story consistently on the right channels.

If you are running a content factory that focuses on high volume publication without proper follow through, then you are not engaged in content marketing – you are engaged in a massive waste of time.

The content hamster wheel:

  • Draft a blog post
  • Post it on the website
  • Link to it on Facebook
  • Repeat

Odds are, if you are on this cycle, you are posting content to yourself.  Your content is not doing what it needs to do – which is to create engagement and improve your reputation online.

But I’m not here to talk exclusively about SEO. Content marketing may result in SEO, but that is not the purpose of content – content exists to help brands build powerful customer relationships. It’s the practice of communicating without selling.

Brands that deliver consistent, ongoing, and valuable information to buyers are rewarded with increased business and loyalty.

It’s a simple concept, but it isn’t necessarily simple to execute. Marketers struggle with an abundance of choice, a lack of data or insight, disparate publishing systems, and – perhaps most importantly – old habits.

Step 1: It begins with a story
Your business has a story to tell – and I’m not talking about a list of features and benefits – I’m talking about the real and relatable impact that your product or service has on the people who use it. Find your most powerful story, and then remix it into a variety of formats based on the places where your customers hang out. The format should address the customer, where they are in the buying cycle, and the environment in which the content is being consumed. And it should be interesting!

Your strategy must include online and offline channels – how does your story fit into advertising, PR, events, websites, banner ads, etc.?

Step 2: Help your audience find your story.
You must amplify your story across channels – promote it, and sell the story, not the product. By creating a compelling story that builds curiosity, your customers will inevitably find their way to your brand.

How? There’s no single recipe for success, but you can start by:

  • Promoting posts on social channels.
  • Push your story to the front page of your website.
  • Make sure that the right people in your organization know about the story, and are ready to talk about it.

Step 3: Engage
Every hour, enough information is consumed by internet traffic to fill 7 million DVDs. And just a few years from now, it’ll be four times larger than that. Consumers don’t need you to pump the web full of useless or uninteresting content – consumers need content that will delight and engage.

You don’t need to simply wait for someone to respond – you can proactively find people who have a similar interest and are active online, and tell them about your story – and ask them about theirs. Your authentic curiosity about their world and how it relates to your world is how communities get started. And active communities translate to stronger brand affiliation and bottom line profits.

About SEO: It has changed. You may need to change too.

Both Google and Bing have changed their view on content and how to rank it. There was a time when you could game the algorithms with carefully chosen key words and backend tagging. Now Google and Bing are both using increasingly complex algorithms that determine the relative value of a page’s content. Google focuses on site behavior and credibility of incoming links, while Bing focuses on social behavior and the freshness of content. In both cases, the response that your consumers have to your content will make or break your discoverability. Further, your content’s life off of your website is just as important as your on-site content. Make it shareable if you want to improve your rankings.

Bottom Line: You are not a content factory.
Your job is to understand the stories behind your brand, and to create authentic connections with your customers. The stories will do the selling. You just do the telling. Start with one great idea and tell it ten different ways.

Speaking of writing, we've got a great post about choosing copywriters here!