A recent memo from the New York Daily News’ deputy entertainment editor leaked online, thanking staff for “keeping our stories SEO strong with the *Robin Williams dead at 63* headline.” The memo went on to provide staffers with a handful of other “buzzy” words to utilize, including “death, dead, suicide, etc.,” to ensure the continued prioritization of their article’s placement above others on search.
Cold-heartedness of the memo aside, it serves as a good reminder about the new reality of Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. There is an increasing need for companies and organizations like the New York Daily News to shift their search strategy to focus more on the content of the articles they produce and less on trying to outsmart “The Google” (lest you never forget that Google is smarter than you). In short, content marketing is the new SEO.
The SEO saga stems back to 2011 when the New York Times broke a story about JC Penney’s manipulation of Google’s search algorithm. The company employed an SEO firm to strategically link thousands of unrelated retail sites to JCPenney.com in order to increase their placement above other retailers on Google during the highly competitive holiday season. Unsurprisingly, the company turned over a profit from the strategy, but juice Google and you’ll be sorry. The practice, known as black-hat SEO, prompted the search engine to roll out a series of complicated algorithm updates over the last few years that not only punished JC Penney, but also made it even harder for brands to win at search.
Enter content marketing – a powerful branding tool and the future of marketing as we know it. But what is it?
Content marketing is a technique of creating and sharing content without the intention of selling something to your audience. The information can take on a number of formats including news, videos, webinars, storytelling, infographics, case studies, or photographs, all which depends on the goals for the brand.
While content marketing isn’t a solution to SEO, it’s a fundamental shift in thinking for most.
When done right, it can provide an avenue for brands to start communicating with their audiences in an impactful, and more importantly, real way. And once it’s been developed, it doesn’t have to live as a separate marketing strategy for a brand. It can be seamlessly integrated and leveraged for application across all forms of marketing including social media, PR, inbound marketing and of course, SEO.
Dollar Shave Club needed to increase brand awareness so they leveraged content marketing by creating and launching this video that received 9.5 million views, 76,000 Facebook fans, 23,000 new Twitter followers and 12,000 new customers – in just two days. General Electric needed to refresh how consumers viewed their 132-year old brand so they chose to design Ecomagination, a forum for fresh thinking and conversation about clean technology and sustainable infrastructure. These are just two examples of many brands successfully leveraging content marketing.
So where to begin?
Defining the voice and focus of your content is an important place to start. Where does your expertise lie? What differentiates your brand from your competitors? What does your audience really want to know about you? The average consumer has an opportunity to engage with anywhere from several hundred to several thousand pieces of content and advertisements per day, but only chooses to click, share and like content that is relevant or valuable to them.
By creating an identity for your brand and an organizational foundation from which you’ll communicate your voice, you can define how your brand can create content that engages your target audience and cuts through the noise. Good content marketing will make a person stop, read, think, behave, share, and react differently. Traditional advertising talks at you – content marketing is a conversation.
Adalaide Johnson is responsible for #hashtags and all things digital. Propelled by her background in politics and advertising, Ada’s role as social and digital manager immerses her in social strategy, digital branding and content marketing. With experience working on clients such as Susan G. Komen, Quiznos and Sonic Drive-In, creative thinking is her wheelhouse. If a new app, social platform, trend or technology emerges, you’ll find her brainstorming how to make it work for her clients. When she isn’t filling your Facebook feed with content, this KC to ICT transplant can be found painting in her studio, cheering on the Michigan Football team (#GoBlue) or cooking up a new recipe.