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4 Questions I Answered at the SESNY Roundtable Event

by Rasheite Radcliff

This year SESNY incorporated a new event called Roundtables. I had the opportunity to lead the SEO Content Marketing roundtable with Simon Heseltine the Director of SEO from AOL. I was honored that Slingshot SEO chose me to represent our company, and I must say it felt quite nice to offer advice to others on an area I know fairly well. There were two different roundtable sessions, so each day brought a diverse round of questions. Below are a few of the questions that came up during the roundtable discussions.

I’ve been a content marketer for years. How is SEO content marketing any different?

Ah. I actually love this question. SEO content marketing is, in my eyes, an extension of content marketing. Content marketing uses traditional methods of understanding and communicating to your audience—consumer market research, customer surveys, yada, yada, yada. And while these are all very useful tools, SEO content marketing goes a few steps further. Companies have to realize that the market you target through print is not always going to be the same market you are getting online. Our esteemed Kimmie, one of our Senior Client Success Managers, likes to call it “casting a wider net.”

So SEO content marketing differs in that it compensates for the audience you never knew you were getting. It also takes into account online attitudes and perceptions about your brand and products. Tools like Google Analytics can give you insight into user behavior happening on your site, and social listening tools like socialmention.com and Radian6 can help you gauge what’s happening off your site. The idea is to utilize this information to create top of mind awareness. You may not want to expand your reach—that might not be your goal—but a little expansion through SEO content marketing could be just what the doctor ordered. SEO content marketing is essentially the same thing as content marketing, but it’s got a bit of a twist. Think of it like a martini and an appletini.

What advice do you have for us about our web content?

I’d urge you all to resurrect the notion that “the customer is always right.” Social media is running the world right now. It’s become the standard method of PR, which means marketing and PR are no longer limited to marketers. Customers have full control over the conversations around any given brand, which could be scary for brands that are not operating in a space that is considerate of the customer base.

When I say, “the customer is always right,” I don’t mean merely giving a discount to a disgruntled buyer or a free return to someone who mistakenly ordered the wrong product online. These things can definitely be beneficial, but it’s not enough. Word of mouth has become a virtual mess. Customers can tweet, like, share and +1 your brand in less than one second, and because people will share and tweet just about anything you can think of, the experiences they encounter with your brand are not off limits.

So my advice is a little bit easier said than done, but just because it isn’t easy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Enhance your customer experience through engaging and shareable content. Refer back to Google’s 23 Questions constantly, and ask yourself if the content you are producing is trustworthy or whether the content is something you would actually bookmark or share with your own friends even if it wasn’t something you produced. The subtleties of content can allow you to insert the voice of your brand directly into the minds of your customers, so while you can’t control the conversations that are happening, you can use content to guide those conversations. A thorough content strategy can help you do that.

What is the idea behind content strategy?

Content strategy has become a buzz word online these days. It and personae have somehow come into vogue, but it’s not new. As a technical writer I used audience analyses and user personae frequently to craft a variety of content types. It was the basis for everything I did. Clients wanted to be sure I had a firm idea of their target audience. I wanted to make sure I maximized the use of my time by getting things right on the first try. Understanding your audience can help you do that.

The idea of building a strategy is the popular kid in school right now, but for me it’s really just what makes sense. “Content is king” has become cliché, and honestly, the phrase is somewhat annoying to me—not because it isn’t true but because it isn’t complete. The phrase has somehow convinced people that being successful on the web is simply a matter of producing content—throwing it up on a wall and hoping it will stick. This simply won’t work. It’s not a good practice to just make one-off pieces of content. It’s like shooting blanks. There’s just no point. Having a strategy provides direction, and it incorporates a space for measurement to see what works and what doesn’t—it allows a create, measure and recreate process. I mean if we are going to play with guns let’s at least shoot bullets.

What’s the idea behind the over-optimization penalty? What does that mean for me?

What the over-optimization penalty means for anyone, is that now is as good a time as any to assess your SEO practices. I can’t say how the penalty might work, but I know Google’s tactics are to create the best experience for the user. Who wants a search engine that doesn’t return search results that are helpful or even useful? Personally I am not afraid of the penalty because I’m not huge into gaming the algorithm. My focus is on the user. A strategy that begins and ends with pure efforts to enhance and improve usability on the web can’t be overdone.

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