SEO is changing and we have now entered the age of content marketing.
The divide between online marketing and classic marketing and advertising is closing fast with creativity and design now essential elements of an SEO campaign.
SEO is dead!
Every other article seems to be screaming at us that the end is nigh. It’s pretty tiresome to read sensationalist articles with provocative headlines and little else in substance.
Instead of looking at negatives I like to focus on where things are evolving and stop trying to pick over the carcass of a so-called dead animal.
Just for the record before I begin: this is NOT about The Death of SEO.
SEO is far from dead but is rapidly evolving. I wrote about having less dependence on Google a few months ago and how link building has evolved into a PR role. What I want to consider here, is how online marketing has turned full circle to traditional marketing and how SEO, classic marketing and design are converging.
The rise of content marketing
Inbound marketing was the buzzword last year. Now we have entered the age of content marketing with agencies scrambling to keep up with the change of nomenclature and keyword implications.
Content marketing is essentially creating and sharing relevant information to engage consumers.
I have read stacks of articles over the last few months about content marketing as if it is a shiny new thing. Fact is, content marketing has been around for a long time, its just currently enjoying a resurgence of interest.
Brands have been using content marketing in print for years: Nestlé and Kraft began producing recipe books as free gifts for housewives in the 1950s and think about all those free magazines you get from supermarkets with helpful tips on how to use their products.
Soap Operas were invented in the 1930s by Proctor and Gamble as a form of content marketing that has evolved into its own entity.
Content marketing: Everything old is new again.
Content marketing offers value to the consumer. At best is a worthy distribution of information and at worst a thinly veiled guest posting strategy or a weak infographic.
Personally, I am very passionate about the distribution of information and learning – this is why I love the internet so much. I am wholeheartedly in favour of the use of content in online promotion but am also aware of the implications that this will have on the quality of what is being offered online.
We can already see the damage that is being done to infographics, which historically have been a stunning art form of data visualisation.
Social media is an essential component of content marketing - content is created to be shared - it should be included in the strategy at planning stage, or else, why bother creating it at all? Social media is a powerful means of getting a brand message out and raising a brand profile online is now the essential focus for online marketing.
Social media implies that media is inherently social. Contrary to popular belief, for media to become social requires that marketers and creative professionals design shareability into content. Without doing so, content is at best consumable.
Why design matters in content marketing
This is where design comes into the equation. Design (I am referring specifically to graphic design not product) is fundamentally about the visual communication of information. Without design we couldn’t have books, magazines, road signs, computer interfaces or even packaged food.
Design is essential to content marketing in the same way that code is essential to technical SEO.
Design arranges information to make it visually accessible to the reader as clearly and quickly as possible. Good design creates a visual hierarchy and order on the page. Highlighting key information and keeping the clutter and noise to a minimum.
Great content is only great when it’s read and remembered.
One of the side effects of the internet has been the overload of information. Today a consumer has access to just about everything they want, except more time.
Content must rise above the noise to initially be seen and then to engage as quickly as possible, before the user skips to the next info-bite. Good layout and design are going to ensure that your content is read.
You might spend hours crafting the most ground breaking collection of information in your niche but if it isn’t visually appealing enough to invite the reader in, then its chances of being read are diminished.
Investing in the quality of the design to ensure your content is engaged with and ultimately shared, is just as essential as the information it contains.
You can read more about this here: why design matters to SEO.
SEO, design and marketing collaboration
Moving forward an agency, call it SEO, inbound marketing, content marketing or whatever; has to cover many areas. I see the core elements as:
- Technical SEO.
- Creative thinking and design.
- PR and outreach.
- Content marketing and social media combined.
- Classic marketing and branding .
I know through speaking to some of the high-profile agencies in the industry that they are currently refocusing direction, restructuring internally and investing in their creative teams.
But, meeting these requirements is going to be a major challenge for small and one-person operations that don’t have the resources or experience to embrace so many disciplines. I predict we will see a lot of small SEO agncies fall by the way side the net years as they struggle to adjust.
Collaboration is going to be the best option for smaller agencies to evolve and survive. I see the quickest way to achieve this is by an SEO agency teaming up with a marketing/design agency who understands the online space.
Anyone who can straddle SEO, design and marketing is a valuable asset right now and in short supply.
Books I recommend to read:
If you want to get ahead and understand more about creativity, classic marketing and advertising I highly recommend starting with these books:
- David Ogilvy - Confessions of an advertising man/Ogilvy on Advertising
- Dave Trott - Creative Mischief
- Malcolm Gladwell – Tipping Point/Outliers
- Claude C Hopkins – My life in Advertising/Scientific Advertising
- Lateral Thinking – Edward do Bono