Much has been written about search engine optimization and how it is search marketers can leverage what is known (and unknown) about the underlying algorithms at work within Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to get at better ranks in search results. As much has been written about keywords and keyword strategy.
What isn't discussed enough, at least from my perspective, is the need to go beyond keyword lists and strategies to get at a long-term, thoughtful content strategy.
The truth of the matter is, you can't have really good SEO without really good content (in all its forms). Another truth is that, increasingly, marketing departments have got to start acting like media empires - to be their own News Corp, for instance - in order to effectively meet marketing objectives.
Why? Because audiences are now always-on and engaged with as many as four screens at a time. Because audiences turn to what they view as "authorities" all over the Web to guide their own behaviors and decisions. And because audiences get their news, information and entertainment from more sources than ever before.
I was reminded of this most vividly recently when my partner and I were sitting at opposite ends of a sectional we have in our media room at home, and arrayed between us were:
2 iPhone 4s
1 MacBook Pro (work-issued)
1 iPad 1
1 iPad 2
1 Apple TV remote
1 "universal" remote controlling the 42" TV and DVR
In the other room was the central command of our little computational empire, an iMac. Putting aside our obvious Apple fanboydom (we're both Bay Area natives and were raised on Apples, so that's a good excuse, right?) what is remarkable is that we are no longer some fringe, geek element indulging gadget fetishes. Households all over the world have collections of similar gadgets, all delivering a constant stream of fresh content -- and engagement.
Put simply, marketing strategy must evolve quickly to take this cultural shift into account.
Like media companies, then, marketers must adopt engagement strategies that rely on content and ideas that are always fresh; always updating and engaging; and always delivering on brand ideals and promises.
In other words, marketers should be increasingly concerned with producing the digital equivalents of newspapers, TV and radio programming, movies, magazines, games and books, to a name a few. Whether published in the forms of emails or micro-sites, tweets or Facebook Pages, YouTube videos or Scribd publications, blog posts or podcasts, all are forms of content. And all of it should be guided by unifying ideas, values and -- importantly -- strategies that tie back to a company's business objectives.
Some marketers are wisely getting into the engagement game by changing the marketing game. They are adopting keyword strategies that drive content strategies and vice-versa; they're unifying marketing outputs; and they're meeting audiences where they're at before extending invitations to come over to a company Web site for a visit. And they're using tactics like movement marketing to align brand values with consumer values to tackle issues or ideas both hold in common, creating what I call the win-win-win of marketing (think the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer or the buy one, give one campaign at Tom's Shoes). These marketers know that when you engage your audience with great content, audiences work harder to find you when they need you.
So, content strategy is key. Over the next 14 weeks, I'll be laying out what I view are the elements of effective content strategy and the ways in which good strategy can improve not only a search marketing effort, but every aspect of an integrated marketing program. And I'll be highlighting examples of marketers who are doing content strategy well throughout the series. If you're one, let me know.
As always, I'll be interested in and guided by your feedback.