Success in social media and organic search is only possible with an optimized content marketing strategy. If you don’t have the latter, you may as well forget about being remotely successful with the former.
That was my conclusion to the audience of an SES London 2012 session that detailed to attendees why an optimized content marketing strategy is crucial for successful social media and organic search strategies.
I’m even going so far as to say, don’t even worry about your SEO and social media strategies. Worry only about your optimized content marketing strategy and you will win at both search and social in the long run.
What is an Optimized Content Marketing Strategy?
The base of the definition (content marketing) comes from our friends at the Content Marketing Institute and is adapted it to take into consideration the concept of “optimized”. My adaptations are bolded below.
“Optimized Content Marketing is the art of understanding exactly what your prospects and customers need to know and deliberately producing optimized content based on keyword phrases that are driving organic search traffic and conversions. Then delivering that optimized content to them in a relevant and compelling way to grow your business by socializing the content through your organization’s social networks.”
This leads to the definition of “content” – whatever it is your prospects and customers want to consume. In this context, content can consist of:
- Website content
- Press releases
- Case studies
- White papers
- How-to guides
Why an Optimized Content Marketing Strategy is Crucial
Five major Google algorithm changes that have occurred over the past 400 days prove that an optimized content marketing strategy is key to ranking in organic search and being relevant in the social networks. It also confirms that you won't be penalized by Google’s organic search algorithm for producing and distributing fresh, relevant, optimized content.
Let's look deeper at each of these five algorithm changes.
1. Social Signals
About 400 days ago (December 2010), both Google and Bing announced that they factor social signals into their organic search algorithms. Why? Because according to Google, social media and social networking are about relationships and relationships prove relevance and relevance is at the core of organic search.
Simple as that. Social signals aren't going away.
Many industry people (including myself) believe social signals are the new backlinks. Backlinks will always help prove the relevance of content and therefore always play a role in organic search results, but I predict social signals will continue to weigh-in more heavily as the lines between social media and search continue to thin.
I like how Eric Schmidt, Google’s Executive Chairman, said it in December 2011, “The social signal, the people you ‘hang with’ is actually a ranking signal.” Period.
The Optimized Content Marketing Strategy Approach: Distribute your optimized content strategy to your social networks and give your website visitors and content consumers every opportunity to socialize and amplify your content including:
- Twitter tweets and retweets
- Google +1’s,
- Facebook Likes and Shares
- YouTube views
- LinkedIn shares
You need to build out your social networks too – more followers, Friends, Circles, etc. This is a massively important topic, however, one that is too huge to be part of this blog post.
2. The Panda Updates
Approximately 365 days ago (February 2011), Google officially started clamping down on bogus backlinks. That is, backlink farms and web spam backlinking strategies used to get sites ranked higher. If your web presence was employing these tactics it may have actually disappeared from organic search results overnight (I hope yours wasn’t one of them).
If you were executing on an optimized content marketing strategy and building out backlinks naturally, your web presence was not affected. In fact, you probably got some lift.
The Optimized Content Marketing Strategy Approach: For long-term success with your SEO and social media strategies, build out your backlinks by producing and distributing relevant fresh content such as optimized press releases and blog posts.
Optimize your content for the keywords you know your prospects are using to find you and that they are converting on. Point backlinks in the press release, blog post or case study to your website, or better yet, a conversion page. Then socialize the content through your social networks including: Google+, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. If it is a press release, distribute it though PRWeb, Marketwire or Business Wire.
3. Google +1 Button is Introduced
Approximately 330 days ago (March 2011), Google launched the +1 button allowing Google searchers to specify content they recommend. Clicking the +1 button on a piece of content is shorthand for “this is pretty cool” and, you guessed it, another social signal that affects organic search rankings.
The Optimized Content Marketing Strategy Approach: When your content is optimized for the keywords that your prospects are using to find you, it obviously stands a better chance of being found and gaining social signals.
4. The Freshness Updates
About 100 days ago (November 2011), Google launched a major algorithm change called the Freshness Update that gives priority to fresh, timely content such as press releases, blogs, news and events. Why? Because fresh content is more relevant.
The Optimized Content Marketing Strategy Approach: Give Google what it wants – fresh, relevant, timely optimized content.
5. Search Plus Your World (SPYW)
About 50 days ago (January 2012), Google launched Search Plus Your World. Now your published content in Google+ (Google’s social network) is findable by other people in your Circles.
In my opinion, SPYW is a full out assault on Facebook and Twitter as they don't have the combined search + relationship networks that Google has.
For example, when you publish content in Twitter or Facebook, how findable is that content after 24 hours, 48 hours, one week, one month? With Google+ and SPYW your content has further reach and a longer life than in any other social network. That is powerful.
The Optimized Content Marketing Strategy Approach: If you have one minute remaining in your day to publish one piece of optimized content, publish it in Google+. Making Google+ part of your web presence and SEO strategy is a really good idea.
5 Benefits & Reasons Why You Need Content Now
Search, social, and content marketing aside, here are five additional benefits and reasons why you need content now:
- You have more content than you think and your prospects want to consume it. Content within an organization is everywhere. If you put your mind to it, I bet you can find case studies and blog content about great things that are happening with your clients as well as how-to guides or best practice check lists. All of this is content, it can be optimized, and your prospects want it.
- Content is measurable. Content can be used for lead generation and can be easily measured. There are technologies and software systems on the market that can help you with this. So for any published content you can understand if it is impacting your organic search rank, visitors, conversions, backlinks, and social presence.
- Thought leadership. The consistent production of content can position your organization as a thought leader in your industry.
- Content can become a competitive advantage. If you implement a content strategy today and begin producing and publishing optimized content on a regular basis, your competitors will have to out-content you in order to out-social signal and outrank you. So start today!
- The future social network. I can’t foretell the future, but I’m confident that a strong content strategy will withstand any new social network the market might throw at us.
While the fundamentals of organic search optimization remain important – such as ensuring you have a strong technical website that the search engine robots can crawl, and addressing local search and industry-specific directories for backlinking purposes – a real shift is taking place in the ongoing approach to traditional SEO. That shift is the creation, publishing, and distribution of an optimized content marketing strategy.
Focus on strong, consistent, and optimized content distributed effectively through the social networks and you will crush your competitors in organic search. Plus you will likely never be penalized by Google.
Shift your thinking of SEO to simply being an outcome of an optimized content marketing strategy.
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!