From stone tablets, to papyrus, to vellum, to paper, to computer screen to mobile phone to…
We see that whilst technology constantly changes over time, it’s still the message that is the primary objective of publishing, the act of communication goes from one to many, from many to many. Communication that influences, persuades, angers, motivates… etc.
But what is this to an SEO?
The objective of an SEO is to efficiently get as many people as possible from a search engine to a web page. This is done by ranking that web page higher in the search engine rankings that other web pages.
A good SEO who has mastery of the technology is able to increase the audience of the published message.
Whilst a focus on the technical aspects of this process serves an SEO well, a thorough understanding of the methodology of the art of publishing can take a professional SEO to the next level.
Indeed, we can look at those who are SEO thought leaders and observe that they have a very good understanding of the art of publishing and have attained mastery in the subject.
But it is not about being a thought leader and delivering conference presentations, blog posts, and video demonstration regarding SEO.
It is the understanding that the end result of all these processes and methodologies is all about people receiving a message, and is not about robots crawling the web, or algorithmic changes, or even latent semantic indexing. It’s all about that one person getting the message and for the message to perform its task.
SEO has nothing to do about link building, or does it?
The definition of an SEO has always been blurred around the edges.
It is a new process based on new technology that is constantly evolving, and whilst individuals burn through bytes to expound their own interpretation, there is something that an SEO cannot do without.
You may argue that an SEO is not about link building, but for the purpose of this argument I have defined an SEO as to efficiently get as many people as possible from a search engine to web page. This is done by ranking that web page higher in the search engine rankings that other web pages.
You cannot do this without links. Links are essential to the SEO, it has to be factored into the process, I don’t know of any SEO who does not concern themselves with links. I don’t know of any SEO who has not deliberately built links for this purpose.
But here is where it gets tricky. You need something to link to, this will be in the form of web content, be it a blog post, infographic, video… etc.
Content is therefore essential, you can’t have links without something to link to, and the mindset of an SEO is not necessarily the mindset of a content creator.
The SEO is usually knee deep in spreadsheets analysing keywords, backlinks, ratios of ‘no-follow’ to ‘do-follow’, tags, disavowing links… etc., rather than something more conducive to the publishing process.
This is where we need to switch to the publishing mindset. In a large agency they will have people whose task it is to be content creators, specialists who can excel in that particular task. Smaller operations can outsource this task to a specialist, but the danger then comes with quality control and project management, while smaller operations and one person set ups will do it all themselves.
It is possible for one person to have mastery in both SEO and publishing, and those who are able to switch between these skills have an edge over those who cannot.
Development of the Publishing Mindset is the most practical way for an SEO to scale their effectiveness
A publishing mindset focuses on the people it wants to attract to its websites. It does this by creating content that has a specific purpose to do achieve the following:
Content must get attention else it will die.
For a message or web page to get no attention means it may as well not exist. People pay attention to what is important to them. This is mostly not conscious though but is actually controlled by the sub-conscious and primal brain.
When we understand that the sub-conscious can perform 11m cycles, and the sub-conscious can perform 40, we clearly see where the cognition is occurring.
Clearly, our decision making process and what gets our attention is not conscious. The primal brain meanwhile is dealing with the basics of survival, sex, money, death… etc. It keeps us alive and controls our adrenal gland. It excites us with chemicals. No need for a cup of Joe when a Sabre Tooth Tiger has your scent.
The fact that some people sometimes make irrational choices in the content they consume, makes it difficult for someone with a completely logical process to work out what people want in terms of content.
Content not only needs to get our attention but it needs to draw us towards it. The headline or the short piece of text posted on social media is the main component of what draws us towards a particular piece of content.
It must act in a magnetic fashion, pulling us toward the content and make it irresistible to our brains, using techniques such as curiosity, greed, cognitive dissonance… etc.
It does this by promising fulfilment. The headline is not the full meal, it is the whiff of a meal, and its intention is to make the mouth water, to induce anticipation. It is not a detailed description of what is contained within the body copy.
This is because of what is happening beneath our conscious thinking. Attraction mostly takes place in our sub-conscious thinking. You have a deadline looming and you are not sure you can make it, and for some reason you end up watching a YouTube video about cats making organic donuts whilst dancing the Merengue.
This is not rational, it is not what you intended, and yet time and time again you as a reader will find that attraction to content goes against your conscious thinking.
What attracts us is not simply the headline, the headline is an important part, but there are other factors at work such as:
- Who is the creator of the content?
- What brand is associated with it?
- Has the content been produced by a member of our tribe?
- Will reading this content make us wealthy?
- Does this content help me achieve my goals?
- Has the content been produced by an acknowledged thought leader within the niche?
We are members of tribes who have allegiance to various groups of people. If the head of that tribe puts their name to a piece of content, or it comes from a tribe you are desperate to be a part of, then it will play a part in being attracted.
We associate with people who share our values and prejudices, content which comes from these types of people will have a stronger attraction.
Leadership can be a powerful thing. When previous success in a niche has been acknowledged, the thought leader in that space does not have to work has hard to gain attraction.
Mastery of the art of delivery or production is the mechanical part of the process, and comes down to such fundamentals as discerning which social media platform to promote on.
It is essential to build relationships with people who can help boost your particular message on various social media platforms. Building your own tribe which supports you and viewing it as a valued asset is crucial to a successful publishing strategy. Thus, knowing the difference between Twitter Vs Facebook becomes hugely important, and can mean the difference between success and failure.
But it also comes down to how the content is formatted, what content management system you use, is it set up correctly, are images spaced in a consistent way… etc.?
The mechanics are part of the process just as much as the type of content.
Each publishing platform is different and it’s the little things that could end up making or breaking a well promoted piece of content.
It’s important to note at this point that consistency is also an important part, as a lot of people will be attracted to the content simply because of the content that has preceded it, or that there is a brand attraction, which could be an individual or a corporate brand. Habit is something which plays a large part in this, which we can discuss further in another article.
Getting the desired response from the reader is the point of the whole exercise.
If you are selling a publication, eBook, course… etc. the response may not be as important to you, as you already have the cash in your pocket.
Even then you should still be focused on getting a reaction to your content which satisfies your particular business model.
However, most will be publishing information and communication that is free and so the reaction or response to it becomes the reason the content exists in the first place.
Reactions can be:
- Sign up to an email list
- Buy a product or service
- Build on the emotional attachment to a brand
- Drop a link (remember those)
- Initiate a social signal
- Bookmark the web page
- Increase recognition of a person or brand
- Initiate a social media follow
It is crucial you set the specific objective for the content before the content is even imagined, as it is this that will guide the direction of the content.
In the same way the headline should also be thought of before the content is created as this enables the content to be built around a highly effective headline, rather than trying to fit the headline to the content.
A pre-defined headline will also help to guide the spirit of the content to where it should be.
Type of audience
A publisher should know their audience. They must specifically know what content is going to attract them, and have their desires fulfilled by reading that content.
An SEO is already on the way to knowing the audience in a niche, as this is a part of the SEO process when perfoming keyword research. This gives a valuable insight into the words that the niche is using to search for specific information.
However this only gives a partial insight into the audience, its motivation and desires. We must craft our content to the hungry market and feed them juicy morsels which they cannot resist, and we can only do this if we know exactly what makes their mouths water.
How to research the motivations within a niche
Keyword research, if you are an SEO I assume you already have a grip on this.
- “I hate….”
- Offline magazines
- Authority websites
- Thought leaders
Forums have existed as long as I have used the web, they are often forgotten in the trendy world of social media and content marketing, but they are still very popular and are fantastic sources of data.
Hangout at forums, analyse the repeated gripes, notice what people complain about. These problems will be the most powerful and pressing issues that people will be seeking solutions for.
Search for “I hate (keyword), “(keyword) is rubbish”, (keyword) is lame… etc. Think of many different types of phrases that are written as an emotional response to keywords in the niche.
These will mostly be negative and will give you are very good idea of what really gets under the skin of people.
It is still very useful to stand in front of a news stand and digest the headlines displayed on the front cover of a glossy paper magazine.
Headlines writers, particularly for women’s magazines, have a specific task to do, which they need to do using the least amount of words possible.
We often forget, or ignore the offline market, but there is still clever stuff happening in offline publications.
We can quickly ascertain, simply by doing a visual search on Google, which are the websites which have authority within a niche. There are quite a few social media tools that allow us to quickly identify important, authority websites in bulk.
Authority websites may be part of your competition. But never copy the competition, think one step ahead of the competition. If they have thoughts about a new product that is out, position a story that says the product is already out of date.
Websites that command authority are there for a reason, they have perhaps had to blaze the trail, but it is you who will benefit from that and get to build your homestead on fresh and fertile lands.
Watch for articles that repeat. What evergreen content is working, I recently researched a piece and found it very useful to be able to identify evergreen content in competitors:
By identifying usable, evergreen content in your niche and publishing your own version you can boost the traffic and branding of your website.
Graham Charlton on Evergreen content and why it’s important.
Evergreen content is that which is still interesting and relevant weeks, months or even years after its initial publish date. It doesn’t date like news, and the value is that it can deliver traffic, leads, social shares and can occupy valuable search positions for a prolonged period of time.
Isolating what are evergreen content within a niche is very important in being able to understand what content is working and what is not.
Some call all this content marketing, and whilst that may be an accurate term for certain parts of the publishing process, it does not connect all the dots needed to have a complete understanding of the process involved.
A deeper understanding of the publishing process from creation, to promotion to measurement, is a vital tool for the SEO to add to their skillset.