Most businesses know they need a website, they need to do something called SEO marketing and they need to take a look at this content marketing thing. But they don’t know exactly why.
Today’s business environment is vastly different from what it was 20 or 30 years ago—the internet has transformed how customers find businesses and how customers and businesses interact. Companies need a website to exist on the landscape at all, SEO marketing and good content to make sure their website is visible on that landscape and appropriate messaging to communicate to their customers in the right way.
The Yellow Pages
Back in the day, the Yellow Pages were the tie between companies and their potential customers. Word of mouth and traditional advertising like magazine ads and television commercials played a role, of course, as they do today (albeit an increasingly minor one), but the Yellow Pages were the main conduit.
When someone was looking for a company that sells widgets (and wasn’t referred by a friend or acquaintance), they picked up the yellow book and thumbed through the section on widgets. If one of the companies in there had a larger listing, they more than likely got the call.
Every company had a listing. If you didn’t, your company didn’t exist.
You Need a Good Website, Period
Fast forward to today. Hardly anyone uses the Yellow Pages—it’s all about online search and content marketing. When someone is looking for a widget, they get onto their computer and do a search for widgets. Whichever companies show up highest in the listings get their business, usually.
Simply put: without a website with good SEO and value-adding content marketing, you’re invisible. You can try the Yellow Pages and online listing sites (sites that you can pay to list your company and use their influence to have your company listed high in the rankings), but it’s really not going to get your anywhere.
Because customers won’t be able to find you. (And, frankly, even if they do, they won’t like what they see. “Who doesn’t have a website?” Or: “Oof, look at this horrible website.”).
Google and SEO for Visibility
If you’re not on the first page, you’re not likely to get someone’s business. But getting on the first page takes work—and expertise in your field. There are no shortcuts in content marketing.
Google absolutely dominates—the company accounts for about 90% of all online search. At one time Yahoo was a big player, and Bing is trying to get a share of the market, but at this point it’s still Google’s show.
In a nutshell…
Google needs a way to rank websites so users don’t have to sift through millions of listings when trying to find something. The company uses extremely complex algorithms to create these rankings (like, NASA-level complex). The algorithms use a couple hundred variables, with varying importance placed on each.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is simply the optimization of websites to better match what Google wants, for higher ranking.
Google’s algorithms are some of the best-kept secrets in the world, and no one outside of Google really knows how they work. (In fact, even some people in Google have admitted that no one really knows exactly how they work.) But we do know, in general, what Google wants: valuable content marketing.
No doubt you’ve heard of keywords (i.e., the search terms people use to find something, like “widget”). Basically, if you want to rank high for “widgets,” you better have “widget” and “widgets” in your website copy somewhere. However, the algorithms have changed over the years, becoming increasingly complex as Google has attempted to improve the search experience. In fact, keywords aren’t as important as they once were, as topic clusters enter the fray.
Content Marketing’s Rise
Years ago, individual variables like keywords were the way to a high ranking. Companies would put keywords all over their websites to the point where it became obnoxious (keyword stuffing), and less legitimate companies could rank higher over more authoritative companies based solely on their use of keywords.
Google understood this and took steps. The company’s end goal has been to make search more natural, more human. In the last few years, changes to the algorithms have had a profound effect on SEO marketing.
There are no shortcuts anymore. Companies can’t pretend to be something they’re not with their content marketing and still rank high—they have to actually be that thing. And they need to prove this to Google through authoritative content.
Companies have to provide their customers with a wealth of valuable information that demonstrates their expertise to Google’s algorithms, which are sophisticated enough at this point to differentiate between an expert article and a bunk one (again, NASA-like complexity).
That’s all content marketing is: providing customers with valuable, expert information. And it’s the best way to a high ranking. Shouldn’t the real experts’ articles sit atop the search rankings when you Google a subject? And isn’t that exactly what customers want?
Not only has the internet changed how companies operate, it’s changed the way customers operate—and what they expect. With a plethora of choices for every conceivable service or product, competition is much higher than it used to be (it’s global), and there are fewer differentiators.
Simply put, customers expect more from companies these days. This is where content marketing plays a huge role.
Content marketing isn’t just for Google. Your content is your brand, your identity, your company personality, your values and more.
One thing leads to another…
If you have real passion for what you make or provide, you’ll have a lot to say on the subject. A lot of good, valuable information.
If you care about your customers, you’ll want to share that information with them—to enhance their experience with whatever product or service you sell.
If, through the information you disseminate, you demonstrate a depth of knowledge, experience and interest (not only in your business, but in your customers as well), your customers will be more likely to buy into your business and act based on your content marketing.
You can’t sell customers anymore—they’re informed and savvy enough to see through all that. Every content marketing campaign you launch has to provide valuable information. And not as a cynical attempt to differentiate your business—as a genuine attempt at helping them through content marketing.
A Good Website, SEO and Content Marketing
The internet has transformed business. To succeed in this cyber world, companies need a good website, they need to optimize that website for SEO marketing and they need to communicate their passion, knowledge and expertise to customers through content marketing.
Selling doesn’t work anymore. Which is a good thing. Companies that are good at what they do can rise to the top of their industries simply by being themselves—and putting themselves out there on the internet with SEO marketing.