SEO experts may know content is key to search visibility and other internet marketing goals, but not all consultants are on the same page. Don't let Larry, Moe or Curly get in the way of your content marketing campaign.

Here’s a scenario: New business has plateau’d for the past two quarters and your company owners are continually at your throat to generate more viable leads. Tradeshow costs are becoming less justifiable given dwindling attendance, your telemarketing efforts are drying up with more time spent trying to reach decision makers than booking meetings and you’re not on track to meet projections for the year. Sound familiar?

Whether or not this all-too common marketing scene hits a nerve with you, it’s time to think outside the box about how you can generate new business. A little research will help you begin to see some value in content marketing. Inc. magazine calls it the biggest buzz in marketing, businesses claim it’s creating leads for them and studies show consumers trust editorial content and branded websites more than most other information available on the web.

Of course! You have a website and you’re not using it anywhere near its potential to promote the business and tap into that audience that is not reached through existing channels.

Now here’s another scenario: With the right strategy you become the hero. You need to be right. You’ve done your research and (among other things) you’ve learned:

  • More than three-quarters of marketers with strategic SEO campaigns in place are already investing in original content creation
  • 60 percent of content shared on social media mentions brands by name
  • More than half of marketers have acquired customers from their blogs
  • 60 percent of B2B buyers say branded content informs their purchase decisions
  • 61 percent of consumers purchase from companies that offer custom content 

So now, you’re ready to champion the value of a content marketing strategy aimed at strengthening online engagement through better SEO, robust social media sharing, fresh email marketing content and improved website traffic to ultimately increase form completions, media downloads, live chats, checkouts, trial programs, etc.

You know this is a fit for your company. Just need to do one thing first: Check with your SEO consultant. And that’s right. Your SEO consultant is an expert, brought on board because you trust him or her. But based on my experience working with newcomers to the world of content marketing, there are some things to be wary of when the only thing holding you back from adopting a content strategy is your trusty SEO expert.

All of your careful research shows content is good for search engine optimization and for driving audience engagement and on-site transactions. In a perfect world, your SEO expert will agree. But perhaps you find yourself speaking to one of the following three stooges of SEO consultancy who pose the threat of holding your business back.

Larry – Content Is Not Important

Content creation is effective for SEOThis is a major red flag. Run for the hills as fast as you can. An SEO consultant who doesn’t think content is important for search engine optimization (let alone broader online marketing goals) is going against the 92 percent of marketers who agree that content creation builds SEO. The “expert” is not remotely in the ballpark with this ideology.

Any SEO worth his or her salt shares in the mantra that “Content Is King.” This is a mantra expressed by representatives from Google and Bing, among others. Those who are in tune with the ever-evolving practice in content marketing further understand that “Unique Content Is King,” and ensures a Panda-friendly relationship with Google.

The fact of the matter is that different SEO consultants specialize in different areas of practice – some PPC, some web design, etc. – and this is all good. Content marketing may not be an area of practice for all SEOs, but blatantly dismissing the value of branded content should inspire consideration around your ongoing partnership with your consultant.

Moe – Content Is Important, Now Go Write It

Ok, so at least now your SEO is in the ballpark … but with this recommendation you’ve barely cleared the turnstiles. While this type of SEO confirms the value in delivering fresh content to audiences, the guidance doesn’t really begin to solve your core problem of developing a content marketing strategy.

You presumably have an abundance of expertise on your industry, your products or services and their benefits to your target audience. What you and your team may not have is the time to write. And maybe you don’t have internal qualification (or interest) in writing to begin with. Brafton has written in the past about how lack of manpower often prevents businesses from developing website content.

On one hand, I appreciate a company’s mission to develop content on its own, but in my experience, it is exceptionally rare that the business sees it through. Getting a blog up and running isn’t the hard part. The challenge is in creating content strategically and sustainably to generates results. The value of blogging doesn’t come from your first few posts that the masses will descended upon to soak up your savvy. It ultimately comes through sustaining the appropriate volume of quality keyword-rich pieces to impact search visibility and consistently engage your audiences.

Also, creating blog posts is not the same as setting an overarching content marketing campaign that will account for getting website content shared across social media, fresh headlines to fuel email marketing and alignment of your content with a conversion funnel.

Curly – Content Is Important And We Can Write It For You

With this type of SEO consultant, we’re officially in the ballpark, but the question is where do you want to sit? You can sit in the nosebleed seats with an agency that offers content as an add-on service, or buy a ticket behind home plate and invest with a content marketing provider.

Writing a news article, an evergreen piece, a blog post, a landing page, etc, isn’t fundamentally hard, though you do need to consider the following:

  1. Who’s writing the content and with what qualifications? Ask the SEO if the writers they employ are full-time or freelanced. Do the content writers the SEO recommends have experience writing in your industry? How do they source information? Are the writers’ qualifications equally in writing as in SEO practice? How do they plan to communicate with these writers so that the content can reasonably be positioned in the voice of your unique brand? 
  2. How much content are they recommending with respect to your strategy? Where strengthening SEO is a key consideration, keeping a consistent, daily stream of fresh, relevant content is paramount to seeing results within a workable timeframe. Google has an algorithm that places some emphasis on how fresh content is in terms of visibility. But perhaps even more important is that internet users are more likely to do business with brands that have active social pages, and repetitive content is one of the key reasons people unsubscribe to business’ email marketing messages. Your business has to have something new to say if you want to be relevant to online audiences. Put simply, understanding how to use content as a means of improving online engagement and delivering the bare minimum necessary volume to will better search standing are two entirely different things. 
  3. What goals beyond search engine optimization are factoring into content creation? The SEO who advocates content seems to know it’s key to advancing your search visibility. But what about using branded content to fuel social sharing and bring in traffic from referral networks? Is engaging your specific audience – targeting their pain points or key purchase questions – part of the content plan? What about site integration to drive desired transactions? Lead generation is commonly a top goal of content marketing, but 41 percent of companies find it challenging to create content that achieves this. How does your SEO account for using content to support broader business goals, and how will this be measured?SEO stooges can't use content marketing to develop integrated website content

If you’re ready to try content marketing but find yourself talking to one of these types of SEO’s before you invest, consider this:

If you’ve found a reliable content marketing partner and come around to the idea that strategic content can strengthen search results, beef up social media engagement, ensure better response to email campaigns, drive more traffic to your website, encourage click-throughs and, ultimately, breed leads… the question for your SEO (the expert, right?) might simply be: “Hey, how come you didn’t bring this up before?”

Sean Greene is an experienced online content marketing consultant and Sales Manager with Brafton, Inc. He regularly discusses content-driven strategies with small, medium and enterprise-level organizations across multiple industries including IT, Healthcare, Energy, Travel, Insurance, Retail, Finance, Education, Real Estate, Utilities and Non-Profits.