The whole point of having a website is for people to come visit it. You wouldn’t open up a shop on Main St., USA and then lock the doors. You need customers for your business to work. This means your main goal is to get as many targeted people through your doors as possible. The same holds true for your website.
We have all heard of the infamous Google search engine algorithm, but what exactly is it?
Some people believe that SEO (search engine optimization) is the magic factor, or miracle pill, for getting people to your website. While this certainly holds some truth, the way you go about it can either hurt or help your efforts. Being at the top of the search engines definitely facilitates your end goal of more traffic, however, if you go at it blindly you could end up with Google penalizing you instead of rewarding your efforts. To explain this, let me give you an example of SEO gone wrong.
We have all heard of the infamous Google search engine algorithm, but what exactly is it? It is a way for Google to determine where each site ranks within its search results. Over the years, there has been a war of sorts between Google and unscrupulous (black hat) SEO companies. Google's goal is to see quality sites with great content at the top of the search engines.
The black hat SEO companies, however, are constantly looking for ways to cheat the system and artificially place their sites in the top search results. So, the black hat SEO companies find holes in the algorithm and then Google updates their algorithm to plug those holes.
The major tipping point in this “war” came to a head a few years ago when the New York Times launched an investigation into why JCPenney was at the top of nearly every search term in their industry during the very lucrative holiday season. If you have not read this, it is definitely worth a quick read.
Google VS JCPenney
The reader's digest version is that JCPenney had thousands of artificial and irrelevant backlinks from hundreds of different websites. The New York Times asked Google for a comment. Google's response was to manually correct the search rankings of JCPenney.com. What that meant was that JCPenney.com went from number one in the search engines to somewhere on page seven within the space of a few hours. Google then went to work on updating its algorithm to permanently plug that hole. As a result, Panda and Penguin (the names given to the Google algorithm updates) were born.
Unfortunately, as you can imagine, this was terrible news for a large number of websites. For years, backlinks were considered SEO gold. The formula was simple: the more backlinks you had linking back to your site, the higher your search placement would be. The type of site linking back certainly had weight, but Google considered any back link an endorsement that increased your site ranking.
Creating backlinks became the bread and butter of SEO companies. They could find junk directory sites and create hundreds of backlinks within a few hours of work. Then they could undercut the pricing of legitimate SEO companies because their artificial techniques produced results. With Panda and Penguin, however, the reverse is now true. Too many backlinks from unrelated sites now have a negative effect on your search ranking. It is not that Google is simply disregarding all those links – it is actively penalizing you for them. Unfortunately, it is a lot harder to take down junk backlinks than it is to put them up in the first place.
The next question is, how often does this kind of thing happen? I mean, the JC Penney case was a one-off rare change, right? Actually no, Google updates it algorithm over 500 times per year. Granted, most of these changes are small in nature, but each small change could have a major effect on your search ranking.
You could spend thousands of dollars and hours to crack the search formula today only to have all your hard work rendered worthless in the next update.
So what does this mean for SEO? Well, it means that SEO should be a by-product of a solid marketing strategy, as opposed to its main goal. As I mentioned earlier, your main goal is to attract targeted visitors to your website. So, how do you accomplish this? One of the best ways is through content marketing.
What Is Content Marketing and Why Should You Care?
According to Wikipedia, “Content marketing is any marketing format that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers”
Content marketing encompasses any type of content, such as blog posts, articles, videos, infographics and forum posts. The more you create, the more likely your content is going to be seen by someone that is interested in your product or service. In fact, the current trend in B2B services is that buyers are actively seeking out content from potential vendors and using that content to evaluate potential vendors before they are approached for a bid.
At Content Marketing World 2013 the keynote speaker, Jay Bear, presented this interesting statistic, “By the time B2B buyers reach out to vendors, 70% of the buying decision has already been made – and competitors weighed, vetted and nixed.”
Sarah Skerik of PR Newswire provided some additional insight as to the reason behind this, “The buying audience is doing a majority of their research based solely on online content, so brands must ensure that they are producing engaging, discoverable content that tells their story.”
Let’s break down exactly what this means for your business. Your clients are now spending time researching online and putting together a short list of possible vendors. So, the first part of this means that if you are not visible online, then you are missing out on a number of potential deals, because these vendors will never find you.
The second part of the process is that, once they find you, they are going to evaluate your business by reading the content you are creating and using that to determine if you are a good fit. This content is your chance to portray your company values, expertise and your ability to understand and respond to your client’s or customer’s needs. If you are not actively involved in content marketing, then you are not only missing out on deals that are happening in your market, you are not even being contacted about being involved.
The next logical step is to look at what type of content you should be producing. One of the best things you can do is to make a list of all the questions you get asked and then simply answer them as honestly as possible.
Your sales staff is your best resource for this, as they know more than anyone the questions that your potential customers are asking. Another great resource is your implementation staff, as they can help you understand the issues that customers will face once they receive and start implementing your solutions.
While your sales and implementation staff are great places to start looking for content ideas, your customers’ issues and expectations are constantly changing. In order to keep up with their most current issues, you should also be doing the following on a regular basis for content ideas:
- Searching Twitter
- Visiting industry forums
- Reading related industry websites/periodicals
- Asking your customers
Content marketing boils down to creating content that your customers want to read and know more about. The more you know about your customers and their needs, the better results you’ll have with your overall content marketing efforts. When you put the focus on your customers, instead of trying to win at the SEO game, everyone wins.
You can catch up with Bob Narindra at @bobnarindra.