SEO Is 90 Percent Content


Content marketing, to many of us, is the latest shiny thing, creating buzz and inviting rhetoric from companies large and small. But to the folks who’ve been in and around digital marketing for more than 10 minutes, content marketing is nothing more than media (content) publishing with the goal of acquiring customers.

It’s a fact Beth Kahlich knows all to well, which is one reason I reached out to her to be a part of the first post in my new series, one in which I pick the brain of an expert in the digital marketing sphere.

A digital marketing trainer and consultant with a breadth of experience in the SEO realm, Kahlich— who created her first website in 1993—is as freehearted as she is knowledgeable (and she’s a lot of the latter). In addition to being a frequent speaker and dedicated member of the DFW SEM/SEO community, Kahlich also heads the Dallas Search Engine Academy, which provides hands-on SEO classes to local business owners.

As someone who has more than two decades of experience in digital marketing, you can speak very effectively to how the digital landscape has changed. What would you say has had the biggest impact in digital marketing since you entered the field?

At its core, being online is about connecting with people and gathering information. That much has not changed. Newer technologies have empowered people, so our role as digital marketers has expanded, as we’ve moved beyond being just “doers” but trusted advisors on how to navigate the endless options as well.

Back when I was on bulletin boards and CompuServe groups, we were discussing the same topics that now get batted around on blogs and on Facebook. The scale is so much bigger because those tools are much more accessible than they were in the late 80’s and early 90s.

From a business perspective, the ways companies can connect with their ideal customers has grown exponentially, and the ability to track the effectiveness of your marketing efforts is probably the biggest impact.

Those of us making a living the digital space are well aware of the power of Google. However, we lose sight of the fact that folks not doing what we do on a daily basis and don’t realize the impact of the search giant. They also cannot appreciate how omnipresent search is in our daily lives, including via Gmail. How do you drive home the value of search when clients reach out to you for help?

My students have a pain point when they come to me: They are not ranking for their “chosen” keyword, and they are not getting qualified leads. So my job is to educate them on the complexities and nuances of how Google (and Bing!) interpret information on the web; how people search; and, most important, how they can get in front of their ideal customer by using that knowledge.

As I explain this to them, I often see a light bulb go off, and that is truly my biggest reward. As they start to put it in to action, if they follow my advice, they see quick wins along the way that really drives the point home.

Content marketing is hotter than a six-shooter pistol, with everyone jumping into the fray. Has that led to increased enrollment for you from folks looking to learn SEO?

The trend I see is that at the end of the year, and at the beginning of the year, business owners and in-house marketers have time to reflect on what they are not getting out of their digital marketing, which usually comes back to leads.

Content marketing does figure into it for some clients that are starting to “get it.” However, most businesses—large and small—still do not see why content marketing is relevant to their business.

I don’t see content marketing as the driver that makes people want to take my course specifically; although they quickly learn that content is what it’s all about. SEO is 90 percent content, so business owners are always looking for SEO experts.

More and more, were hearing the words “content strategy” as part of the content marketing mix. How do fit content strategy into that discussion with clients? Is it tough to get buy-in?

A lot of this depends on the personality and spirit of the decision maker. It’s important for me to walk them through the explanation of how the search engines interpret information and how the human searcher interacts online, and how these are similar/related and different.

If the decision maker “gets it,” then we are more than halfway there. From there my job is to coach them on the best way to develop and implement that strategy.

If not, and it’s usually a very process-oriented concrete person (a very good business person, but not a creative thinker), it’s extremely hard to get past the bias of “why do we need that?”

In such instances, you have to let the numbers do the talking: analytics and tracking can help (which of course we should be doing, and doing well, for all our clients).

Being in an agency as opposed to being a consultant, I find it interesting that many firms allow clients to cherry-pick SEO from “content,” when it’s tough to do one without the other. I’m interested to know your thoughts on this. Think it’s wise for agencies to adopt this model?

What I have found in my almost six years as a consultant is that people want prices, they want choices, and they want to know exactly what you will be doing for a certain price. SEO and digital marketing do not fit neatly into that model.

So while from an implementation perspective, we on the inside realize it’s very hard to separate SEO from content, and from a sales perspective, it does make sense. And at an agency, you’ve got to be able to explain things in terms the client can quickly wrap their brains around.

Fill in the blank for me: When SEO’s do [ ____ ] the industry will see a tremendous benefit?

Stop chasing the changes at Google. I see lots of businesses that have been damaged by previous SEO companies who claim to have the “secret recipe” to ranking No. 1 on Google. We know what happens next: short term gains and long-term disaster.

SEOs have a bad rap with some people because some of them have been involved in this type of “rank/bank/tank” activity, which is a term I’m borrowing from one of my fellow DFWSEM members.

What about link building? Is that a part of the business you’re actively engaged in? 

What do I do about link building? I recommend other companies for that. Link building is basically taking your content and making sure it gets in front of the right audience. It’s really about networking.

Bring out your magic ball: What’s around the corner for SEOs?

As I mentioned above, we have a bad rap with some people because of the “surefire tricks” that have put clients in danger.

So a re-naming ourselves is not a bad idea. I am still a fan of digital marketing consultant.

Of course, mobile is huge. We need to pay careful attention to how search is going to be utilized on mobile devices from both the short query (because you are typing a query) to the long query (because you are using voice search).

Semantic search, natural language processing, and the whole spectrum of Google Hummingbird are truly the future. Google has the data. We need to listen and read between the lines of what they are saying so we can keep providing the best content for humans and search engines.

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