A Marketing Strategy is Better Than SEO

I’m not a big fan of the focus placed on SEO these days. Search engine optimization is a by-product of a poorly thought-out way of ranking websites in search engine results. The focus should be on developing a marketing strategy that highlights the benefits of your product or service to your customers, not on search engine optimization.

There are all kinds of SEO hoops that you have to go through when you create content because of the way Google ranks its results. No matter what SEOs or Google say, you can not write a good article and expect it to rank well without playing some SEO games. They tell you to write “high-quality” and “unique” content and it will be rewarded. But what does that mean?

Define¬¨‚Ć”high-quality” for me, please! What I consider high-quality is not what others consider high-quality, and most certainly not what I was taught in school. Most articles today are short, lack any thoughtful analysis or insight, and usually involve bullet points to make them¬¨‚Ć easy to scan instead of read. It’s like the difference between US News & Word Report and the New York Times‚Äö√Ñ√Æif you want real news, you read the New York Times. Nonetheless, Google “rewards” this type of poor content with high rankings in its search engine results.

“Unique” is just as confusing. How many articles have I read about SEO, social media, or content marketing that all say the exact same thing? I can’t even count them. The language isn’t verbatim, but it is essentially the same. This is the case across multiple industries. Creating truly unique content takes a lot of time and effort (and money), all of which small businesses are in short supply.

Just creating high-quality, unique content is only the beginning. Google won’t rank a post well just because it happens to be well written and thoughtful. You have to actually go through quite a bit of effort to get links and promote the content across multiple channels, including social media. Even when you do write a great article and do all the SEO tactics you are supposed to do to have it rank well in search engine results, usually nothing happens.

There are some businesses that have the resources and teams to create great content and promote it through SEO tactics. They can afford to bombard the interwebs with content, quality or not. Others rank well simply because they’ve been around a long time. Other businesses find success in using questionable SEO tactics, or worse, using SEO tactics that Google explicitly forbids. All of that frustrates me terribly because their rankings have nothing to do with the actual content.

I preach the benefits of a quality SEO strategy and employing certain SEO tactics to my clients¬¨‚Ć regularly. Sometimes I see it work and sometimes not. If Google ranked content based on its actual merits, search engine results would like very different. Instead, we have an entire industry built on the idea of manipulation to get found online. The results of this manipulation and Google’s poor search algorithm is mediocre content percolating to the top.

For that reason, I recommend some clients not to invest heavily in SEO because it simply isn’t worth the cost or effort for them. They are better off investing their money on other initiatives that are likely to perform better. Other clients don’t want to do SEO and I have to convince them it really is worth while in their situation. It’s a tough call and one I make based on the marketing strategy we develop for them.

A good marketing strategy will help your small business get found even when faced with all of the poor content that Google serves up. Think as a consumer for a moment. Would you rather buy a product from a business that creates a quality product or from a business that spends its money on manipulating reviews, ratings, offered incentives to bloggers to write about it, and who knows what else? I would rather engage with a business that has a thoughtful marketing strategy that highlights their benefits to me, not because they have manipulated search engine results to rank well.

Developing an effective marketing strategy should be the primary focus for small businesses. Good SEO naturally results from that approach. The reverse, however, is not true. Focusing on SEO will not improve your marketing strategy. Many aspects of SEO make sense, not because they have anything to do with optimizing for search engines, but because they contribute to a good overall marketing strategy.

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