It’s human nature to look for a silver bullet. It’s natural to search for simple answers and tantalizing to find ones that seem to solve especially complex problems.
Marketers face this temptation daily. One of the biggest is what I call “tactic temptation.” Within search marketing especially, there’s always a temptation to seek out some kind of silver bullet tactic -- a marketing method that will provide immediate and dramatic return.
The truth is, long-term success in digital marketing can’t be born from a single tactic, no matter how temporarily effective it may be. Success, like most things in life, comes from consistent, applied effort toward a defined goal.
So from the perspective of search engine marketing and optimization, where “tactics” have worked so well in the past, what should that defined end goal be? What should be avoided? How can you avoid getting caught in the “tactic trap”?
Get the basics right. This is your foundation.
Creating a site that is search engine friendly is essential to building a strong foundation. Following best practices for on-site SEO will ensure that your site can be properly crawled and understood by Google. There are, of course, opportunities to constantly tweak, enhance, optimize and improve your on-site SEO, but laying a strong foundation can be accomplished with the right effort and attention to detail. Laying this foundation puts you in the position to get the most out of the real marketing you do; it enables Google to understand your site so it may rank it in a way that’s congruent with the value your content and contribution brings to the community, niche or vertical you work in.
Forget tactics; remember value creation
When you stop looking for a marketing silver bullet, it’s easier to remember the basics of good business. Create something people want and give them something they can’t find elsewhere. Following this mantra will provide perfect guideposts -- follow them and you will succeed in search.
Ranking well in search means earning your position. It’s Google’s mission to provide searchers with the most robust, relevant set of search results possible. You earn your position by creating content that’s worthy of being featured among other top results.
Of course, Google algorithmically determines how pages should rank, so their continuing goal is to find ways to determine how valuable a page, piece of content or resource may be to a potential searcher. By creating valuable content for your customers, you are aligning your mission with Google’s. By focusing on creating content that is useful to your audience, you will naturally earn recognition from Google by triggering the signals Google tracks.
But what’s valuable to my audience?
Creating on-site value for your audience should be a primary goal. Consider, if Google didn’t exist, what would you create for your visitors? What value could you give your visitors that will keep them coming back?
In the past, when certain tactics could artificially inflate your rankings within Google, it was possible to rank well without providing any real value to searchers. When this happened, it resulted in a bad experience for the searcher. As a result, it’s Google’s objective to make this happen as sparingly as possible. It’s their ongoing mission to become better at determining how valuable a site will be for a searcher given his or her query.
Creating content that’s valuable to your audience means giving them information and understanding that they can’t find elsewhere. With so much competition, it’s not adequate to match what the competition is doing. You must find a way to stand out and provide value beyond the status quo.
To ensure your content is valuable to people, generates the signals Google tracks and influences rankings the most, it helps to focus on creating content that is not only informative but also engaging.
Produce high-quality stories, editorials, guides, etc. -- look for hooks that emotionally trigger, surprise or delight your visitors. Try to create experiences that aren’t just informative, but also fun and engaging.
The content that’ll help you most is content others find so valuable that they share it with their own audiences. Whether that means your content gets featured on industry blogs or websites or your content gets shared widely through social channels like Facebook and Google+, creating content intended for sharing will provide a great deal of long-term value. It will also be most likely to generate those signals (like links and likes) Google utilizes to make determinations about how a site should rank.
How can my high-value content have the biggest impact?
Aligning your goals with Google and creating content that is highly valuable and differentiated for your users is the first step. Wringing the most possible value out of each piece of content you create is where you really set yourself apart and leverage your work so that it pays off long-term (in increased search rankings, notoriety and brand equity through increased visibility in the marketplace).
For any site, it’s important to create content that’s valuable to your audience but that might also have promotional potential with major publishers in your niche or a tangentially related niche. Strategic relationships and publisher outreach can breathe new life into the content you create by exposing it to large, built-in audiences. As you make great content for the people on your site, always think about content you can create for those who have yet to encounter your site or your brand.
Leave tactics behind. Focus on creating value. Leverage what you’ve created.
Stop looking at your website or online business as something that can succeed via a single tactic or silver bullet. Don’t rely on tactics and manipulation to increase ranking. Understand that real online businesses are built upon the value they create for their clients. Know that Google’s mission is to rank the sites providing the most unique value the highest.
This is your new paradigm. Once you’ve internalized that high rankings come as a byproduct of created value and differentiation, your attention can turn toward pulling those levers that wring the most possible value out of each piece of content you create.