Myth vs RealityIf you have spent any amount of time looking into content marketing, you’re probably getting sick and tired of people telling you that the secret behind content marketing is creativity and promoting social sharing.  You are told over and over again that the secret to getting more visitors to your site is to generate content that people will find interesting and will want to share with their colleagues and friends.  What does that really mean?  More pictures?  A top 10 list?  Blogging…blogging… and more blogging?

Why is Old-School SEO to blame?

To a certain extent, this recommendation comes from SEO practices that seemed to encourage writing content for the sake of writing content.  With a hyper-focus on keyword density, let’s be honest, there is a ton of absolutely terrible content on the web.  Written for the now infamous Google spiders, this content is often hard to read, and the forced insertion of keywords make the content awkward and generally lacks substance.  For that reason, the SEO community has pushed the complete opposite of the spectrum.  Focus less on keyword density, but rather focus on just writing content that the end user will find interesting.  The theory here is that Google will simply reward you for producing this content, and your job here is done.  That couldn’t be further from the truth. This narrow focus has led many to completely ignore the fundamentals of content generation, and while creativity thrives, the number of visits to websites has gone largely unchanged.  To debunk this common myth, first let’s look at the practice as a whole.  There’s a number of buzz words that float around including; content creation, content marketing, and content optimization.  The only thing these three things have in common is that they all start with content.  Sadly, that’s where the comparisons end.  Understanding all 3 of these website initiatives is truly the key to getting the most bang for your content buck.

What is content creation?

This is where the narrow recommendation of creating interesting content begins and ends.  Content creation’s sole focus is on creating a block of content that highlights your business.  Whether that is done through a blog or a static page, the one thing we know for sure is that search engines are built upon the premise of the written word.  While there are terms like persona development and keyword research that go into a good content creation strategy, the overall premise is really very simple.  Who are you writing the content for, and what is the main focus of the content?  If you can answer both of these questions, start writing.  Once the content is published, monitor user interaction with the content to make sure it is actually accomplishing the original answer to those two questions.

Does content still need to be optimized for search?

The short answer her is… Absolutely!  While the main focus of content should be the end user, it’s overly naive to think the content is going to rank well just because your immediate family and friends finds it insightful and interesting.  With thousands, if not millions of pieces of content being added to the internet daily, it’s borderline certifiable to think that search engines are going to find some deeper meaning to your content and rank it for terms you want it to, simply because you asked nicely.  While keyword density is a term that is sure to drive you to ruin your perfectly good content by forcing keywords into the body of your content, it does still play a role.  After all is said and done, you are still counting on a computer to place a value on your content, and not a really smart one at that.  Reinforcing the focus of your content within the title and body of a web page isn’t just good for search, it’s a good practice for users to be reminded of the focus.  Computers don’t have the capability to understand emotion or human thought, so don’t expect it to understand your stream of consciousness.  Stay focused to your initial topic, and insert the focus keyword naturally throughout the content.

What is content marketing as it relates to newly generated content?

Lastly, content marketing is a strategy that makes the assumption that waiting on search engines to find you is a passive marketing initiative.  That is to say, what if a beverage company created a new brand, and waited for word of mouth to carry the brand to the next level.  They might be successful, sure.  However, it’s going to take considerably longer, and in many cases, an immediate ROI is necessary to justify its existence.  The same is true for a great piece of content.  As a new “product offering”, there’s no point in waiting for people to find out about it when you can actively promote it.  Share the content with your inner circle, and if they like it, they’ll share it with the world.  While I won’t use the word “viral” because frankly, it’s overused, it’s a waste of your time and effort to think that content is going to reach millions overnight simply because it’s good. Sharing content across multiple websites and social media platforms is going to give your content the best opportunity to reach the masses.  Even if you’re just sharing the content in your inner-circles, the simple act of sharing it on social media allows it to reach exponentially more people. The other day, I found a white-paper on content marketing in 2014.  This resource said it was the perennial resource for all things website content in 2014, and frankly, it just made me sad.  As with many content marketing blogs currently live, it talked about creative content, sharable content, captivating content…  Blah.  It’s more than just writing a 300-500 word blog.  Take an active role in your content marketing strategy and don’t ignore the tried and true methods for gaining visitors to your site.  Don’t believe the hype on this one.  Writing great content is well…great… but actively optimizing and promoting that content is what is going to set it apart.  Site’s like Buzzfeed didn’t get its readership from producing great content and then sitting back and waiting.  They became a content empire because they actively optimized and promoted their content.  The readers did the rest.

Richard Lesher is an internet marketing consultant and Senior Account Manager with Volume Nine.  He is passionate about consulting and providing advice to anyone looking to make an impact on their business through internet marketing. In his free time, Richard is a dog-lover and spends a majority of his time discovering new places around Colorado with man’s best friend.