A couple of blog posts ago I discussed the proliferation of independent search engine optimisation consultants that are vying for business from small and medium-sized enterprises. In that post, I pointed to the number of individuals operating in that sector who either had minimal marketing training or who were not offering solutions which complimented other parts of the promotional mix.
Since that post, nothing seems to have changed. My twitter feed and email inbox are still stuffed with unsolicited promotional messages. I even get regular mail from the big recruitment websites offering short SEO training courses. It seems that these organisations are pushing SEO consultancy as a quick fix to people’s employment issues. It also appears that many companies are seeing SEO as a ‘magic bullet’ marketing strategy and that all they needed to do to succeed in terms of digital marketing is to get a high Page ranking for their website.
Ran Fiskin, in the introduction to his book Inbound Marketing and SEO, addresses this phenomenon. He accuses some firms of having SEO tunnel vision. He points out that changes to search engine algorithms have resulted in some commentators declaring SEO dead. He disagrees with this view; after all, to use the internet you need to search for information; and states clearly that SEO should not be viewed as a marketing strategy but as a tactic: only one part of the digital marketers toolbox.
In any case, many of the ‘black hat’ SEO practices had been identified by search engine operators and algorithms changed to avoid such practices. I suspect many partially and untrained SEO consultants are still using procedures which are now ignored by search engines.
Many digital marketing experts no longer refer to search engine optimisation. They talk about inbound and content marketing.
Inbound marketing is the use of social media, content, algorithms and conversion rate optimisation. It is the process of using digital marketing channels to bring consumers to your business organically. This is usually achieved without the use of paid for media. it is the things you do on the web to earn traffic and attention but which don’t directly cost you money. This blog for example.
Clay and Newlands, in their book Content Marketing and CEO, describe content marketing as achieving business objectives by strategically creating and sharing digital content.
Content marketing is not:
- creating robotic posts stuffed with keywords
- writing long-winded sales pitches
- pestering customers on social media
- proliferating content because you think you have to
- putting content on your site which is unrelated to your strategic purpose
- copying content from other websites
- Publishing content everywhere just because that is what your competitors do.
Content marketing is:
- communicating effectively
- making links and connections
- sharing the right content
- engaging your audience
- being in the right place at the right time
- seizing opportunities
- inspiring customer action
- nurturing customer needs
- showcasing your brand culture
Clay and Newlands also criticise many businesses for approaching the strategic use of digital content in the wrong way. Such organisations create content, try to find an audience for that content and then think about the objectives of that process. Instead you should set clear objectives, then define your audience and finally you should create content which meets those objectives and which meets the needs of the audience.
SEO is no longer the dominant tactic in digital marketing. it is still useful but it is but one small part of a digital marketing toolkit. You also have to gauge SEO, inbound and content marketing in not only the context of your wider promotional strategy but in terms of your marketing mix.