The early days of online marketing were a lot like the Wild West -- anything goes.
Keyword stuffing, thin content and links from dubious websites all worked to move websites up the search rankings and drive traffic. Over time, the algorithms became smarter and many of the worst tactics lost effectiveness. The past 18 months have been a transformative period for the digital industry, with three key factors contributing to this significant change: an emphasis on quality content, the use of multi-platforms for content discovery and the increasing importance of influencers.
Search Algorithm Changes Emphasize Content Quality
In an effort to improve quality and relevancy in the search listings the search engines introduced changes to their search algorithms that penalized thin content and surfaced quality content to the top of the search rankings. Although the algorithm changes actually impacted only a small percentage of queries (between 2-3 percent), the industry impact was broad and far reaching as marketers moved to produce quality content the algorithms would favor.
Search Ranking Changes ehow.com
Content Discovery Becomes Multi-Platform
As online behaviors have continued to evolve, users have begun to discover content in multiple ways. Recent research on search vs. social shows that the second most popular use for social networks is content discovery: more than half of users now use social networks to discover content.
As search algorithms evolved to emphasize quality content, users are discovering content across multiple platforms. Industry influencers and online experts are preaching the value of quality content creation as a foundation for all brand marketing efforts online. The end result of all of this is: excellent content has become foundational to all of online marketing.
Content has become foundational and fundamental for both SEO and social media efforts. Content facilitates the movement of the buyer through the purchasing funnel. If marketers aren’t thinking about creating unique content they will fall behind, lose market and mindshare to the competition and may even outright fail.
Excellent Content is Foundational to All of Online Marketing
The Brand as a Publisher
This movement, where quality content is king, has forever changed the way a brand relates to, and communicates with, customers and prospects online. The industry has described this shift as "Brand As a Publisher" -- the process by which brands are expected to transition into publishing regular and quality content as a means to drive inbound marketing online.
Mike Volpe, CMO of Hubspot describes the brand as publisher phenomena in the following way:
Provide value to your customers. Be helpful. Become the best publication and information source in your industry. This is the core of inbound marketing."
So, how do you become the best publication and information source in your industry? Although brands should continuously be working toward the description above, it should be viewed as a long-term goal and something that brands can evolve into. For immediate impact, the following are some pointers to help brands get started on building and sharing compelling content on a routine basis.
Become a Problem Solver for Your Audience
One way of addressing the brand as publisher imperative is to become a problem solver for your audience. By identifying and solving the problems that your audience faces, you will begin to build trust. Search algorithms will pick up on the resulting user behaviors that show your audience thinks of you as a problem solver.
To become a problem solver for your audience, start by thinking about sources you might turn to, both offline and on, to identify the problems your audience faces. Sources might include:
- High Converting Keywords in Analytics: Mine your web analytics for keywords for which your audience already considers you to be a problem solver. Identify if there are adjacent areas you can create content and expand your problem solving reputation.
- Social Networks: Social networks can be a gold mine of problem identification for which you can create content. Spend the time to mine social networks to understand both the problems that they have and the way that they talk about them.
- Search Query Complete Data: Websites like soovle.com will query multiple search engines and return auto-complete data. Analysis of this data for queries in your industry will provide insight into both the kinds of problems consumers in your industry face and the linguistics they use to describe those problems.
- Site Search Data: One of the most underutilized treasure troves of data that announces the problems your audience faces is your own site search data. By mining your site searches you can identify and better understand the kind of problems users are looking to solve using your solutions or services.
Don’t Wait. Take Steps Now to Become a Publisher
To win online mindshare, drive traffic and convert visitors into customers, modern businesses and major brands must become regular publishers of quality content. By becoming a problem solver for your target audience you will begin to develop a solid reputation, capture targeted traffic and attract the attention of the search algorithms. Ignoring this new direction in online marketing and brand visibility will put you at a significant disadvantage -- the risk is just too great.
Title image courtesy of AntonioGravante (Shutterstock)
Editor's Note: Ready for more content marketing tips? Read Carla Johnson's Content Marketing: Know WHY You're Headed in That Direction