What do you do when a client doesn't believe they need content? Cringe? Slap them? Slap yourself for picking up the phone?
It's a tough call. Because if they won't buy into content, they aren't really getting what real link building is about.
Unfortunately, sometimes part of a link builder's job is explaining to a client why it isn't feasible to "just get links to the home page" or why their shipping guarantee doesn't count as content.
The inspiration for this post actually comes from a great conversation in the comments of last month's column, "Why No One is Linking to You." Someone asked specifically, "how to convince clients to create linkable content?" As I re-wrote my comment response about five times, I realized I had enough thoughts on the matter to write an entire post. So here it is.
Part of online marketing means creating content that isn't a self-endorsement or just-the-facts-ma'am. Great content and great marketing is the life force behind a website's growth. We know this. So why is asking a client to buy into it a lot like asking them to believe in leprechauns?
That resistance comes from a number of places. Sometimes, it's pride or laziness or a lack of understanding. Some clients may think that their industry is so narrow they are exempt from needing content.
They may even think that there is nothing exciting to create on their topic. And that's just not true, no matter what the industry is. Subject matter is never really the problem, it's the mentality.
So the question is: how do you convince clients that there are real rewards to great content, which can translate to an ROI?
If a client resists the idea of needing content, I simply ask, "What motivation do people have for linking to your site?" Then I wait patiently while they tell me all about their great products, their first-class customer service, and their stellar reputation. Because while all of that may be true, and may influence someone who is considering making a purchase, it is rarely influential in getting links.
Sure, when you're actively engaged in link building it helps a lot to be representing a legitimate site. But you will run out of places to beg for product links unless you have something of greater interest to offer.
There needs to be something unique, individual, interesting, and -- dare I say -- even compelling on a website to deserve the really good links. The trick is to find a nice, diplomatic way to say, "I'm sorry, but as awesome as you are now, you're going to need to be a lot awesomer to get more backlinks."
Don't Forget to Mention: Marketing is everything. You could publish a revolutionary study proving that doughnuts cure cancer, but without proper promotion, no one will notice. Make sure to have a marketing plan for the new content ahead of time. Those channels should be in place by the time you publish. If they aren't, you're going to end up tons of great new content, no links, and a room full of people each other asking, "Now what?"
If you have more content, you stand a chance of having that content rank in the SERPs. If you rank for informational searches, visitors will come into your site though the content. If a client wants to improve traffic levels, then they need to create content.
That's it. Plain. And. Simple.
Don't Forget to Mention: Most of the time, traffic that comes into the site for your content isn't there to buy your product or service, so they might need a little "push" to get into the more commercial part of your site. Content pages need to be set up to draw people in further. Always list more articles and information on any one article page, and every page should come loaded with a prominent, eye-catching call-to-action.
It's funny how people rarely think about creating content as a way of building credibility.
Think for a moment about being in school and how we viewed our teachers. We went to them for instruction and education and we believed in them. We trusted their words, because through them we learned something ourselves.
When a website acts like a teacher, it becomes a platform for sharing knowledge and passion; it begins to earn that same kind of trust and respect. If you sell something, anything, it's in your best interest to be perceived as an expert on what you sell.
To draw another real world parallel, look at specialty stores versus big box stores. In their marketing, a specialty flooring store might insinuate that the people at Home Depot couldn't possibly know as much about flooring as their staff. Is it true? Sometimes, sometimes not. But is it an effective marketing technique? Absolutely.
The same concept applies online. When you're able to demonstrate your expertise though content, if you can teach, help, and inspire people, they will begin to view you as more than just another commercial entity with an eye on their wallet.
Don't Forget: In order for this to work, the content needs to be intelligent, comprehensive, and accurate. Nothing can screw up this exercise in trust building worse than misinformation or half-truths. If the facts or poplar opinion actually work against your product or service, like cigarettes for example, then you build trust by being fair and well-rounded. People know smoking kills, and they light up anyway. It's OK to present the bad side of a product or service, too. In fact, sometimes in the interest of full disclosure, you have to.
A lot of times people take their search engine optimization (SEO) cues from their competition focusing on the question: "What's the other guy doing?" I'm all in favor of competitive analysis. It provides insight, inspiration, and intel that can be game-changing. But what I don't love is when, if the competition isn't doing something, it's chalked up as unnecessary (i.e., content).
When that happens, the first thing I wonder is what else the competitor has that the client doesn't. Do they have a really strong brand? A loyal fan base? Are they utilizing social media well? Do they have a lot of backlinks? How are they getting them?
Whatever the competition has, study it, duplicate what you can, and then look beyond it. Because, if there really is no content on the competition's site, that is actually a great thing for you. Why? Because the other guy's lack of content means that there's also a giant gaping hole in their strategy. And it's just big enough for your client to slip through and pass them.
Don't forget to Mention: Reality. Some competitors are just straight up juggernauts. There are bound to be massive companies that are armed to the teeth with brand strength and marketing dollars that some smaller sites just can't overtake. Helping clients set realistic goals about how far they can go or what they can actually rank for is one of the major parts of any SEO's or link builder's job. If you allow a client to blow pipe dreams, then you're to blame for their inevitable rude awakening.
The Final Word
Convincing clients that content is a necessity rather than a luxury is all about painting the big picture. An online business looking for years of longevity needs to be prepared to do the work.
But that means they need to want to be more than just a shopping cart or an Internet brochure. Which means it becomes part of our job to help a client aspire to be a destination and a thought leader.
Because here's the truth: great content is the present and the future; they can get on board, or get left behind.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!