We used to be magicians; we used to be tech-savvy entrepreneurs that challenged the might of Google’s algorithm, and for a long time we were winning. Fast forward 2-3 years and we’re still tech-savvy marketers, but Google’s crushed us. Our ‘secrets and techniques’ no longer work and creative agencies, writers, and PR specialists look down on us as the ‘hacks’ of the marketing world.
Yes, I’m an SEO, and despite the reputation we may have, I’m proud to be one. I take pride in being a marketer, a creative thinker, and an outreach specialist.
But what really makes us special? All the sudden we hear the words ‘inbound marketing’ and take it as an identity rebirth because we’ve hit a dead-end? We start preaching ‘quality content’ and evangelize ‘content creation’ in our conferences, while ad agencies and PR agencies have been doing this stuff FOREVER.
If this rant sounds familiar, it’s because I’m echoing what Tom Critchlow forewarned about at Mozcon 2012. He asked these same uncomfortable and stirring questions. So what is it that we really do? What’s our identity?
Tom told a story of an author who was promoting his book over three marketing channels. The launch of his book was mentioned in The New York Times (impressive), featured on the Oprah Network (most impressive), and then he wrote a guest post for Tim Ferriss (not bad). The guest post with Tim Ferriss absolutely blew the other 2 channels out of the water in terms of direct results. Tim, also an author, doesn’t have the widespread influence of Oprah or comparable credibility to New York Times, but he has a highly engaged audience. He has regular readers, followers, and fans that trust his every word and recommendation. Connecting with highly engaged audiences is what we do best.
Why We Need To Succeed At This
Organic search continues to bring one of the best returns on investment (ROI) and the business world needs us to be good at what we do. Don’t believe me? Just ask any business that’s been blogging for years and their rankings haven’t even budged. Or perhaps online retailers that continue to exhaust their budgets in the competitive world of paid search.
Links are and will always be an important part of SEO. Google will always need digital signals to evaluate the web, plus you can’t get referral traffic without a link.
How We Can Succeed At This
The method for acquiring content placements with highly engaged audiences is three-fold:
Knowing Your Target Audience
Once you’ve identified the audiences you want to get placements with, start creating content they’ll love. Do your homework, but also don’t be afraid to just ask the gatekeepers “what content do you want?” Don’t rush the planning stage, because you may only get one shot. Teach the readers something new, give them useful data, and solve their problems. Look for ways to join or stir the conversation.
Having Content Outreach Capabilities
Highly engaged audiences come in many forms: blogs, Facebook pages, forums, editorials, etc. You need to understand how to work within these diverse web properties with the ultimate goal of acquiring a link. Skip the salesmanship and look for the win-win. You want content placement and they want awesome content that will engage their audience. Outreach templates can help streamline the process, but personalization is a must. Remember that you’re working with busy people: social media specialists, forum moderators, editors, business owners, etc. You can bet they’re receiving multiple pitches a day, so make sure your pitch stands out and is genuine. If all else fails – up your game: pick up the phone, send a gift basket, or stop by their office.
Having Content Creation Capabilities
This is where most SEO’s get bogged down. Creating ‘quality content’ takes time, planning, and resources. No more shortcuts or budget undercuts (unless you can find a more affordable graphic designer). Don’t rush the design stage – you can’t rush a masterpiece. Hire the best writers, have graphic capabilities, and have video capabilities.
It used to be so easy.
We’ve evolved and the SEOs that couldn’t have dropped out of the game. Our efforts are targeted and quantified. We need to own our craft, because the business world needs the ROI we bring. Let PR agencies continue to send press releases ‘over the wire’ and let ad agencies continue to create brand awareness. We need to stick to what we do best – connecting with highly engaged audiences.
Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/peterhess/2976755407/