The days of easy SEO, Social Media, and Content Marketing are over

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The online world changes daily. What’s needed to find success today is vastly different than it was a year ago, let alone five or ten years ago. Options and challenges now abound and the internet just keeps growing – so to be found isn’t as easy as it once was. Sorry, but it’s the ugly truth.

SEO has more options and challenges

Google rules the roost when it comes to search, so most focus their efforts on it – and rightly so. Google’s recent and ongoing algorithm updates – intended to fight search spam, content mills, and nefarious black hat SEO techniques – has been brutal. Many sites felt the sting of these updates to some degree – even if they played by the rules.

Moreover, while you’re dealing with the effects of Google’s algorithm updates, you have to do it without search term data. Since Google now encrypts all search, keywords are no longer available within Google Analytics. In essence you’re now flying blind when trying to determine what people searched on to find you. Not to mention you also have to include and navigate local search and mobile search and the world of social media as well.

Social Media now favors paid promotion

Social media allows near real-time communication among family, friends, and folks worldwide. You can quickly check the opinions or reviews of dozens, hundreds, or tens of thousands about anything. You can rant and vent online. You can watch events unfold from personal perspectives unfiltered by mass media. And best of all, it was focused on your interests – your friends, who you followed or liked. It was revolutionary.

But shortly after the “big guns” offered their IPOs things started to change. It was inevitable. As venture capital is replaced by investor capital the focus changes from growing subscribers to growing revenue. And so social media has veered towards paid promotion.

Algorithms now limit what you see on Facebook and reduce the reach of your posts – even among your friends and family –unless you pay to promote them. And it’s worse for companies and small businesses. Even Twitter now injects sponsored posts into your feed.

It’s not going to get better. As each social media company nears or offers an IPO, it will gradually be forced to find a revenue stream – and this generally means advertising. And to pump up ad rates you have to ensure people “need” to advertise to be seen – so attenuating “reach” forces it.

Content Marketing is drowning itself

Content marketing is basically the term coined to cover any activity that generated “original content” with the purpose to grow your natural search listings or social media reach. Write a blog, create a video, make an infographic, or produce a podcast – it’s all content that’s probably marketing something.

Content marketing worked until it didn’t. Well, it still works… it just takes a lot more effort. And the problem is that huge companies have popped up that generate humungous volumes of content – even after Google clamped down on content mills in their last updates. The difference here is that Buzzfeed.com, Mashable.com, Cracked.com, and similar companies all generate content that’s consumed, shared, and that tends to go viral.

These companies “each” generate 10, 20, 30 posts per hour, flooding social media with them (via subscriptions and Likes and Shares). This translates into thousands of posts, videos, and/or infographics every single day flooding the world with content. And don’t forget, every other business is also being “advised” to create content too. So how is your business blog that posts once per week (if you’re lucky) suppose to be found and succeed?

So what should you do today to compete?

First, don’t try to compete with the Buzzfeed.com’s of the world. Focus instead on connecting with and resonating with your customers and prospects. Generate content that is relevant, interesting, and genuinely helpful to them. Don’t play the game of generating lists and aiming for quantity over quality. It’s a vicious downward spiral that generally doesn’t end well.

If you’re only able to write a blog post or create a video or podcast once per week or once per month – that’s OK – provided it’s good content. Don’t just create something to get it done – spend the time to create something that your audience will enjoy.

Second, if you’re creating content that’s focused on helping your customer or prospect, it should automatically align with what they’re searching for online. Not that this guarantees good natural listings – but it’s a good start. And the longer you continue and the more good quality content you create around related topics and key phrases, the better your results will be. It just might take time. Of course if you need faster results you can certainly invest in SEO services or budget for online ads.

Third, as for social…again if your content is interesting, helpful, and focused your audience will likely share it or recommend it. But it also helps to make it easy for them to do so. Add sharing links/buttons to your content. And don’t be ashamed to ask… adding a line such as “if you enjoyed this post share it on Facebook or Twitter” can help.

Make sure you’re also active and engaging on social too. Don’t just push out your own content – try to find other “helpful” information and share it too. Your audience will appreciate it and you’ll stay “connected” with them. And be ready to respond to questions or comments on whatever social channels you’re participating. Remember, social is about being social. And yes, if you need faster results and can afford to, you can also explore ads and promoting posts.

What you shouldn’t do

What you should avoid is the delusional concept that SEO, social media, and content marketing are easy and cheap. That may have been partly true when each was in its infancy and the early adopters found easy success. But things are different today and it will take an investment in time and/or resources to eke out success in today’s crowded world. There’s simply no free ride anymore.

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