Squares vs. Circles and the Influence of our Fair-weather Friend, Google
In the post-SEO world, businesses need to focus less on Google and more on deep, useful quality content that educates, entertains and enlightens customers on the value of your product or service (and arguably more importantly, your industry). We call this inbound marketing or content marketing. In this approach we don’t bombard the user with “sales” literature but freely provide content resources that help him or making a buying decision. By doing so a business establishes itself as an industry leader, an expert in their field.
It is a softer, more respectful way of communicating with clients, but it requires more work and attention to detail. With strong calls to action we slowly help the customer come to his own decision on if and when to contact us. It involves way more than blogging, however, something most small business owners have now internalized as a way to boost their search engine rankings.
Instead, it’s an elevated content platform that uses newspaper models similar to the New York Times or Wall Street Journal to provide sophisticated content for an audience that is growing more jaded and intolerant to copy produced for a search engine.
The one caveat with this “new” approach is that it relies heavily on web analytics to determine the outcome and success of any piece of published content in eventually turning a suspect into a prospect and finally into a customer. In this sense it borrows the best from previous SEO quantitative toolsets while leaving the “spam” component behind.
In the past, SEO quants would rely heavily on onsite and offsite technical SEO to influence Google. And it generally worked. This would include an unhealthy focus on massive backlinking strategies and the production of shallow, vapid content simply to produce a higher search engine result.
The net effect was web pages designed for search engines not people. And, it lead to a plethora of sub-par websites achieving page one results at the expense of more mature, sophisticated websites which put an emphasis on quality content, including white papers, deep-focus videos and other visual devices such as infographics and podcasts.
Of course, this latter approach takes more time and resources, but anything worth doing usually does, right?
Google has in the last several months re-engineered its algorithm, code named Panda, to reward site authors who follow this strategy. Conversely, a number of sites experienced a severe drop in rankings because of their emphasis on technical onsite and offsite SEO.
We have some sympathy for these SEO practitioners since Google tacitly encouraged this approach, particularly its heavy emphasis on backlinking. As it continues to refine its algorithm, SEO companies are forced to adapt their strategies to keep up.
Google can thus be described as a fair weather friend – what works today will fail tomorrow. Ironically, if the SEO industry had focused on quality content right from the beginning it would have been ahead of the game, but we realize this is an idealistic approach when one considers the pressure to generate leads for businesses. Plus, their strategies worked well for years. We had to wait for Google to catch up!
The current Internet Marketing landscape is thus a hybrid marriage of the SEO Quant, or left-brainer, with the right-brain creative marketing skills of a Journalist, Artist and Videographer. While there are a number of other conceptual skills subtly influencing this mix, we have arguably reached a point where the visual marketing arts have an ‘edge’ in the 21st Century over the dryer keyword-centricity of SEO experts, who used to dominate internet marketing world in the 20th Century.
In one respect, SEO quants continue to have the upper hand: Metrics. Like their counterparts (although perhaps not quite as smart) in Wall Street, MIT math geniuses who attempted to guess, time and re-invent the stock and currency markets for Hedge Funds, “math” or “web analytics” continues to be the primary tool used to assess the success or failure of any campaign. When done correctly this can be valuable tool but numbers also lie and can be very deceptive. It can also stifle creativity when used excessively or disingenuously simply to “game” a higher ranking on Google. When this happens, the customer loses.
Lead generation over the next few years will be an uncomfortable marriage of content “plus” analytics, as marketers attempt to find Google’s sweet spot. At the same time, Google will need to distinguish between content that exerts the same pedigree, as say a New York Times article, versus that of a Huffington Post piece.
A small business will need decide which of the two conceptual models above puts it in pole position to attract more visitors (and leads) over the long term. Content Marketers will also have to pick a side and carefully consider the implications should Google decide (and it will) to change the rules of the game with its next round of algorithm updates.
So the question is, are you a square or a circle? A left-brain engineer or a right-brain creative genius? When it comes to build (or rebuild) your website, these two geometric and philosophical forces, and the direction you take, will ultimately determine how well your website fares in generating web leads.
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