50 Shades of SEO – Is Search Engine Optimisation Dominating Your Content Marketing?

Obsessions often start with an innocent desire, but then quickly become all-consuming and destructive. This is definitely true of B2B marketers’ passion for search engine optimising their websites to the ninth degree. Yes, inbound leads from prospects already in buying mode are now far more likely to come in via your website than your annual industry tradeshow, as buyers rely on Google to sift through information to research and shortlist vendors. But inexperienced or offline focused marketers are sometimes manipulated into doing shameful things to their marketing content that they would not have dreamt of doing if an interactive marketing expert or web master had not told them to do so.

While SEO is a fundamental part of today’s b2b marketing plans, it is the content that matters most, as it effectively fuels your SEO efforts, engages your website visitors and provides the context for your keywords.

50 Shades of SEOIn the relationship between SEO and content marketing, content should be the dominant partner calling the shots. But with website-generated revenue often being attributed to SEO and PPC rather than the content consumed by prospects, it’s easy to be led to believe that marketing content should be submissive to SEO. Here are the top signs that your content marketing campaigns may be being perverted to suit someone’s penchant for making all things subservient to SEO:

Sign #1: Submission
The H1 title tag is crucial for SEO, and there is widespread agreement that keywords in page titles will boost your search engine results pages (SERPS). At the same time, the title of any page needs to appeal to the reader, be well written and relate to the content of the page. If you are being asked to stuff page titles with SEO keywords that are unrelated to the page content, you should take this as a warning sign your content is being (mis)used to satisfy the needs of SEO. The reason this is negative is because keyword stuffing is not only uncomfortable, but also counterproductive and will be punished by search engines. That’s because Google wants you to provide quality content to readers, and search engines do not like to be manipulated. The safety word you need to use to make this this type of domination stop is ‘quality’ – the quality of the content is more important than the number of times a keyword is featured per page.

Sign #2: Controlling Behaviour
Similar to the above, but taken to the next level. Specifically, some organizations now employ (or outsource to) web writers, who rewrite copy to optimise the content for search engines. This is all well where search optimisation is the main success criteria, but aren’t we forgetting the reader? You should write for your target audience, not for Google. And who knows your reader better: You or a web writer? Final sign off on all content should be with you. If that’s not currently the case, you need to start to say no and set some boundaries.

Sign #3: Unrealistic Expectations
SEO practitioners sometimes forget how much time and effort it takes to produce great content. If your SEO partner demands unrealistically high volumes of content and applies the (proverbial) whip when it’s not forthcoming, it’s a sure sign that they see themselves as the dominant party. To satisfy their unnatural appetites, they may also suggest a role play of sorts, which sees them producing content which has no marketing value whatsoever apart from link building and search engine optimisation.

If you have not encountered this before, read this article which explains all about auto-submitted content, paid for links and the dreaded blog spam comments: http://www.searchenginejournal.com/non-seo-bad-link-building/106009 

You should steer clear of these tactics as they will most likely not aid your SERPS, and may prove embarrassing, too. Submission, controlling behaviour and unrealistic expectations are three warning signs that someone is trying to dominate your content marketing to satisfy their SEO needs. There are additional signs (feel free to share them below), but thankfully there’s no need to devote a painful trilogy to this topic!

Apologies to everyone who thought this blog post was in any way related to that 50 Shades of Grey movie trailer!

What football and marketing have in common

As I listened to the pundits narrating Belgium’s win against the USA in the World Cup, I got to thinking about the similarities between the beautiful game of soccer and the beautiful art of marketing:

Marketing is like football
















Marketing is like football, because…. Please complete the sentence below:

Five signs your content marketing plan needs reviewing

The donkey and the marketing plan

Don’t be a donkey!

If you are in the business of creating B2B marketing content, sooner or later, you need to ask yourself the question: What next? Sure, you have a long-term content plan, but even the best laid plans of mice and marketers often go astray. After all, your content should address current market challenges, and be tailored to address the state of your sales pipeline, and without powers of clairvoyance, it’s hard to predict either with 100% accuracy at the beginning of the year.

So now you are half-way through the year and looking at your content marketing strategy, and thinking: Hmm – do I still really want to cover these topics? Here’s how to decide whether to press ahead or refresh your content marketing plan – five signs your marketing content plan needs reviewing:

  1. Your sales pipeline is crammed with early stage opportunities that are not moving. If this symptom applies to you, review your content to see if:

a) all your content is high-level thought leadership designed to raise brand awareness

b) any of your content is suitable for lead nurturing

c) your marketing automation is making effective use of your lead nurturing content

  1. A disproportionately high number of your marketing leads are disqualified by sales. If this has happened to you, you’ll need to not only review your segmenting criteria, but also your marketing messaging: Do your marketing campaigns promise more than your products can deliver? Is your positioning premium, and your service delivery no-frills?
  2. Your content is not generating any demand for your products and services. If your marketing metrics (page visits, time spent on page, response rates etc.) are good, but your product is not shifting, your content may be to blame. Review your campaigns to see if there is a disconnect between your content and your services. For instance, if your thought leadership focuses on the benefits of cloud computing, but you are trying to generate leads for a Software as a Service accounting solution, then your content needs to be revised to address your niche more specifically and help connect the industry megatrend (cloud computing) to your product.
  3. Your last video generated lots of inbound enquiries and social shares, but you only budgeted for one. This is good news – you produced content that worked well. Now it’s time to go back to your plan and cut less well performing content to free up time and budget for things that generate revenue.
  4. Your marketing metrics are declining. Every email you send gets fewer opens than the previous one, your clickthroughs are dwindling while your unsubscribe rates are creeping up. These are sure signs that your content is not only failing to rock your audience’s world, but it’s seriously starting to get on their nerves. If your customers and prospects don’t see the value of your content, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Review your marketing contentThe end of Q2 can be a good time to review your content marketing plan. If you are looking to improve your performance, doing so now will enable you to make change tack and set you on course to meet your end of year goals.  Do you know of any other signs that your marketing content plans need to be reviewed? Please share your ideas in the comment section below!

Beware of Content Marketing Myths: Don’t Let These Five Beliefs Stop You

Content Marketing Strategy

There’s now plenty of evidence that content marketing works for business-to-business (B2B) markets. One of the latest studies on this topic was issued by the Content Marketing Institute. I was particularly interested in this new research, as it specifically addresses the content marketing practices of technology marketers. While I enjoyed the piece, it perpetuates streams of thinking which hold marketers back from doing more and better content marketing:

Myth 1: You need a documented content strategy
Content Marketing StrategyYes, you do need to know what you are doing. But this is less a matter of having a documented content strategy, and more about being able to make the connection between market developments, customer needs and your organization’s desired business outcomes. To use an analogy: Journalists create content every day – it’s their job. Now, ask to see a journalist’s content development strategy document. I predict you will encounter blank faces, and probably raised eyebrows. That’s because journalists’ raison d’être is to provide valuable content to their audience. Content marketers need to develop the same understanding: If they see their role as engaging their target market with their organization through content, then they will do a good job – regardless of how much strategy documentation they have produced.

Myth 2: Content marketing is the job of one person – the ‘Chief Content Officer’
ThChief Content Officere best content is produced based on knowledge of the market, buyer personas and customer pain points. If content is produced in an ivory tower, by a wizard of content magic, chances are that the result will not resonate with the market and will not be useful for the sales team. Content creation should be collaborative – content is everyone’s concern. I get ideas for some of the most successful pieces from talking to salespeople, and draw on the expertise of a great team of experts in various aspects of technology to make sure content delivers value to customers.

Myth 3: Content marketing is expensive
Content marketing is not expensiveMost companies would be able to reduce their marketing budget if they spent more time on content marketing and less time on traditional marketing activities such as tradeshows and advertising. Great content will have a longer shelf life than those tactics, and have a longer reach, as readers use it, forward it and share it via social media.


Myth 4: Content marketing is only effective if you use lots of promotional channels
Content marketing channelsContent by itself has no purpose – it’s like painting a masterpiece and storing it in the attic under dust rags. Without promotion, there is no ‘content marketing’ – there is only content. But it’s not the number of channels that matters. I have found that a focused approach works better – good content should be promoted carefully to make sure it hits the right audience at the right time. To avoid audience fatigue, choose your top 3 or 4 channels and phase your rollout: Email your infographic out one week, but link your social media promotion to the email and to your website in order to create a more integrated campaign. Give your customers and prospects time to engage with your content and then consider the next phase, for example targeted advertising via LinkedIn or a third party distribution to a list which is significantly different from yours.

Myth 5: Content marketing is all about bringing traffic to your website
Website content marketingWhile B2B technology marketers identify lead generation and brand awareness as their top content marketing goals, they cite website traffic as their top success metric. That’s not a logical choice, really. B2B technology is typically not sold via e-commerce websites, so web traffic is neither a useful measure of lead generation nor of brand awareness. Sales lead quantity and quality, response rates and market reaction (social shares, blog comments, media coverage) would provide better indications of the quality and effectiveness of your content.

A good takeaway is to think about what drives your content – be it industry trends, the profiles of individual decision makers or stages of the buying cycle – and the reactions you want to elicit from your audience, such as downloads, product trials, demo requests and so on. These are not complicated considerations, and most seasoned marketers have internalised putting the customer at the heart of everything they do. If you want to write it down and call it your content marketing strategy bible – it won’t do any harm. The key to effective content marketing is not documentation: It’s the application of good marketing principles to your daily work.