SEO and content marketing that works

Go onto any job board for writers and creatives, and you’ll see hundreds of jobs posted by startup wannabes who read some guru’s book, and decided that they can get rich by creating a web site, using “black hat” SEO and filling it with cheap articles that are so packed full of keywords that they no longer has any real meaning.

Keyword packing doesn’t work any more. The fact is, a well-written short article of 500 to 1000 words can be a great way to market your product or service. It’s called knowledge-based marketing, and the operative word is “knowledge” But there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about that content marketing, and unfortunately, there are far too many books and seminars out there that are telling you the wrong way to do it. Those articles should present you as a thought leader. Your primary goal shouldn’t be to pack them full of keywords – your primary goal is to create something of publication-quality, which provides useful and unique information to your audience, gives them something they didn’t already know and potentially solves a problem, answers a question, or entertains them.

Here’s the predominant business model being sold by those gurus: Find a subject, any subject. Let’s take toenail fungus. Make a quick-and-dirty website. Do some keyword research and find the top 100 keywords related to toenail fungus, and then hire somebody to write 100 articles of 500 words each, each one repeating a single keyword 50 times within the article, and pay the writer five bucks an article. Or, worse yet, hire somebody to write ten articles, then put each one through an “article spinner” ten times to churn the words around just enough to make the resulting spun articles seem different enough to Google’s spider. Put some Google AdSense blocks on every page, and wait for the money to roll in. When it doesn’t roll in, hire an SEO expert who will place artificial inbound links in a link farm network of other websites.

Those riches will never roll in. You have wasted your money.

Hiring writers to produce articles at a penny a word doesn’t work any more, either. Sure, you can get writers to produce five-dollar articles all day long, but that’s the heart of the problem – your website will be full of five-dollar articles. You may as well create a computer program to put words on the page at random – it will be just as effective. Professional writers who produce useful, intelligent and compelling copy don’t work for a penny a word. If you want real thought leadership, you need to hire a writer that is a thought leader – not a penny-a-word hack.

Third, inbound links only help you when they come from real websites – link farms don’t work. Building up your count of sites linking in to your webpage is not something an SEO provider can do overnight, despite their claims to the contrary. In reality, building up those links is more of a public relations task than it is an SEO task. It comes from real engagement, and a legitimate presence on other sites – it comes from placing meaningful commentary on forums, getting quoted in feature stories, and having your own meaningful guest posts hosted by legitimate online publications. Black-hat SEO experts can’t do that type of work. If you want those inbound links, hire a PR agent.

SEO is not a mechanical process. It’s a creative one, and it takes time and costs money to do right.