In a recent article for Forbes social media and content marketing guru Jason De Mers had the following to say:
Dedicated SEO consultants and departments will begin to phase out as SEO comes to be seen not as a siloed discipline, but rather a foundational component that integrates with and is affected by all aspects of the marketing mix – both online and offline. We’ve already seen the shift from ‘SEO consultant’ to ‘content marketing strategist’, and this trend is only going to become amplified in 2015. Don’t misunderstand me: SEO is not dead or dying. It’s just changing; content marketing and social media specialists will need specialized SEO knowledge and skills in order to be successful. However, these SEO strategies will be need to be fully integrated with the creation and promotion of content, rather than kept as a separate, isolated task.
In a similarly predictive vein, The Guardian’s Astrid Sandoval quotes Meredith Levien of The New York Times:
…2015 will be about attention and deep engagement, and how they impact a company’s sales, sentiment and reputation. Content marketing will mature to be high quality programming. Interruptive “commercial time” or disruptive advertising will give way to marketer content living alongside journalistic or entertainment content, transparently labelled as created on behalf of a brand, and winning attention anyway on the quality of the work.
So, put them together and what have you got? Very simply, your content needs to be very, very good. Combined with a more intense focus on user experience, good content will drive traffic to your website and build brand trust as companies are forced to get more transparent and more useful, and thereby more honest.
In other words, content is driving commercial engagement and commercial integrity, and you’d better get on board.
So, how should businesses go about maximising their digital presence and thereby their ROI for strategic content?
Audit thyself to know thyself
Search algorithms, along with every other type of technology, are improving rapidly. It’s imperative that you have a good handle on all the digital content you have, not only so that you can see what you’re lacking and be clever about filling gaps, but so that you can maximise that which you already have in line with the latest trends in digital. This requires dedicated expertise, not someone who already has other things to do.
Ask thy audience to know thy audience
If you have no idea who you’re talking to, you’re probably not going to have a good conversation, ever. This is doubly true in the digital realm, where there is simply so much stuff vying for people’s attention. To create quality content, you’re going to have to know the people you’re trying to reach, very, very well.
Play with social to know social
Not every available platform out there is going to be good for disseminating your content. When you’ve figured out what social media will best serve your goals, you’ve then got to put time and effort into cultivating the right networks. People share content, not algorithms, and so the success or failure of your content is going to depend on the people who see it. This might seem obvious, but just putting content out there for ‘people’ to see is a sure-fire way to fail. Go back to the last point, and then find and address their social media gatherings.
Link, link and link some more, so Google knows you
Being able to link your content together from your website to social media and into emails or other marketing tools is imperative. It builds a journey for your customers to follow, and it helps Google authenticate your business.
Find an artist, so you know your content will be good
You could jump on Elance and find a bunch of writers on the sub-continent to give you 500 words at $4 a pop, and you could watch your business fail. Or, you could hire someone who takes the time to do proper research, tells good stories and understands the finer aspects of SEO. It’s not just people who know quality content when they see it; search algorithms are fast understanding what’s good and what’s a cheap tactic to increase visibility.
Be generous, so you’ll know good Karma
Sharing expertise isn’t about giving away trade secrets or losing ground to the opposition. On the contrary, it build trust in your ability to deliver good work. This is the biggest change social media has wrought not just in digital business but commercial transactions in general: you’ve got to be social, and you’ve got to be nice (for the most part). Power to the people indeed.
Engage, so people will get to know you
You’re not just bricks and mortar any more (and increasingly, not at all). There needs to be a human face and a human voice behind everything businesses are doing these days. We may respond through technology, but we don’t respond to technology. A sense of humour, generosity, open-mindedness and a commitment to customer satisfaction is imperative in today’s market. It takes a long time to build trust as a business, but one disgruntled person with enough of a grudge will destroy you in a couple of clicks. ‘Humanizing’ is such a disgusting word (if you need to taught to humanize you’re probably too far gone; please just do us all a favour and go away), but it does sum up the direction for business in the 21st century.
In sum: cultivate a digital presence based on quality, utility and engagement. Be nice. Be genuinely you. And your business will thrive online.