Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Content Marketing is Useless Without Organic SEO

Is 2015 the year of "content marketing"? Judging by the press (here, here, and here, too), content marketing is the hot new trend. This might strike some as a bit ridiculous. In one sense, content marketing is as old as marketing itself. What is marketing if not, well, the marketing of some form of content? After all, in traditional marketing, the product itself--its packaging, its suggested use, its name--can be viewed as content.

Andy Warhol understood that the product is the content. [Source]
However, the term "content marketing" refers more explicitly to sharing content independent of the product. And despite its recent popularity, the term has a lineage (according to Wikipedia), dating back at least to 1996:

"The phrase 'content marketing' was used as early as 1996, when John F. Oppedahl led a roundtable for journalists at the American Society for Newspaper Editors. In 1998, Jerrell Jimerson held the title of 'director of online and content marketing' at Netscape. In 1999, author Jeff Cannon wrote, 'In content marketing, content is created to provide consumers with the information they seek.'"

Today, if you Google the definition, you'll likely see the term defined by the lofty-sounding Content Marketing Institute:

"Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action."

With all the talk of content marketing, not to mention the social media admonitions so familiar to small business owners--"You're not on Facebook? You have to get on Facebook!"--you can't blame a small business owner for thinking that content marketing is the key to success.

The problem, however, is that too many small business owners are focusing exclusively on "content" to the detriment of "marketing." As Jayson DeMers recently wrote at Forbes:

"If you’re a savvy marketer, you’re already actively engaging in content marketing. Unfortunately, many business owners are so focused on the creation of their content that they’re forgetting the marketing component of the equation. After all, what good is amazing content if nobody knows about it?"

We applaud the recent emphasis on content, yet like Mr. DeMers, we worry that too much content is being created and shared in a vacuum. What good is your website's content, for example, if the site itself has not been optimized for search engines?

As our sponsor, Alex Stepman, said last August:

"About ninety percent of...websites [are] not optimized for the major search engines. Typical problems included design and development flaws that could have easily been avoided when the website was built."

At the time, we noted that nearly 100% of these same website owners assumed that their websites were optimized for search engines:

"Many seemed to think that a beautiful website translated to an effective website," we wrote. "In one sense this is true: a beautiful website, if optimized, will likely perform better than an ugly website."

In another sense, however, this is a false (and costly) assumption. Online, beauty does not necessarily translate for success. Unfortunately, this view is often propagated by the very website designers who create the beauty. To be frank, most website designers do not know the first thing about search engine optimization. 

It's important to remember: when ranking a site, Google evaluates many elements--from content to design. In fact, Google famously uses over 200 signals to rank a website. Yet despite the increasing relevance of content marketing, many small business owners view search engine optimization as an incidental process--one that, by nature, comes gift-wrapped with each new website.

"Oh," we've heard countless times, "my website designer is taking care of that."

In fact, that "that" is not necessarily "taken care of" by your website designer. A website designer should be literate in SEO, but this is not always the case.

It's not, in fact, as simple as James Earl Jones would have it in his famous line from Field of Dreams.

If you build it, he will come.
Put another way, the content marketing proselytizers might say: "If you create it, he will come."

We say: Not so fast. As Alex Stepman said last summer:

"Not all website developers build search engine-friendly sites, and if a site cannot be easily discovered by search engines, it is invisible, a high-priced business card."

Before content marketing, then, think organic SEO. Make sure your site is optimized for the major search engines. Make sure you're not merely creating a high-priced business card.

Content Marketing with Stepman's PC 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively build and promote websites, we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepman's PC: 215-900-9398 Stepmans PC combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective content marketing campaigns. 

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