Content is Tyrant: Is it Publish or Perish for Everybody Now?
Summary: In the era of "content marketing" it's not just scientists and SEO specialists who have to create content to survive. Every business seemingly has to as Google etc. needs content to monetize. Do you have to submit to the content tyranny or does it suffice to offer what you already sell?
In the SEO industry many people claim that they are SEO experts because they have worked with Fortune 500 brands and the likes.
Nobody knows what exactly they did but well, who cares? Well, people care. In SEO it's like in the science community despite SEO being more of a craft: publish or perish. In case you don't have a blog and do not advise people publicly what SEO techniques to choose there is no peer review and these "SEO experts" are not accountable.
They can "wow" some poor souls with big wallets probably but they don't deserve respect in the industry as long as they keep hiding their asses. Everybody can claim that s/he is an expert but only other people can judge whether you are. So in SEO just like in science publishing your ideas and findings is key to get a name.
These days, after years of repeating the "content is king " and "you need great content" mantras a new hype reigns: content marketing.
Google and other major corporations eager to monetize third party content have been pushing everybody to create quality content to get rankings, traffic and sales while in reality still links are the most important ranking signal. Content by itself does not make you popular, it's the fact that it gets shared and linked to that makes you rise in search results and get traction on social media.
So it seems that content is a prerequisite to get those links and shares. Can't you get them without content?
That's not a question I ask. I get asked it all the time by clients. Clients do not want to create "great content". They want SEO. My SEO clients mean most likely link building or any other miraculous way to get rankings, traffic and sales without having to publish additional content. Why? Most businesses are not publishers. They sell products or offer services and those are their business model. Creating and spreading content is not part of their business in most cases.
Now who am I to tell clients that in the 21st century you can't get found on the Internet as long as there is nothing to find?
First they claim that they have content. They will say things like "look at our product descriptions (we copied from the manufacturers)". Your sales copy is not content though, it's part of the packaging. I try to explain it again and again. Some people get it faster than others but most of them grapple with the need to hire additional people to do the content work and to change their business practices in such a way that they have something to say or offer content-wise in the first place. Content can't be just impersonal and descriptive. You need a whole new approach!
So before I force my client to pay for a completely different service than what they initially approached me for just to please Google and their bottom line I try to find common ground. For SEO you still need links and shares but content is just one way to get those. There are many modern SEO practices you can use to get those links and shares without resorting to brand journalism which is the old less hyped name for content marketing.
You can be awe-inspiring to get links/shares by
- reaching out
- being generous
Outreach is about addressing the people who already care for you or the products you sell.
Generosity is about spending money on things people appreciate instead of buying ads.
Being spectacular is about jumping from space or at least doing something inspiring on Earth.
Once you do these things you don't have to write yourself about them. Other people will be glad to mention or describe you and your actions. So don't regurgitate news, make news. Be newsworthy. Be likeable and shareable. Actions speak louder than words.
- Instead of buying distracting Google ads offer support for free for artists, bloggers or non-profits.
- Instead of buying this huge full page ad everybody tries to ignore in the dying newspaper that only gets read by the elderly make the news all over the place by offering a service for free others don't.
- Instead of paying for that incredibly costly Superbowl ad consider inviting 100 families from poor backgrounds to the Superbowl and let them express their gratitude.
I'm not very creative today so the above examples are pretty simple but you get the point I hope. Even in case such marketing budget won't help immediately you will have thankful supporters and brand evangelist for years to come while the ads may not help your business either and once the money gets spend nobody will remember you.
So it's not publish or perish for everybody. Content is tyrant.
So do not let Google force you to create content for them to monetize. Create something newsworthy and shareable. Content creation and promotion is just one way to deal with the current Webscape. You don't have to do it in case you are better at actually helping and impressing people. There are enough others who will be glad to create content about you once you deserve it.
* Creative Commons licensed image by Cyril Attias