25 Oct Who’s the Guardian of Your Story?
Understanding the Machine/People quality gap in content.
The term has been around for awhile now and yet, it still has no single, concrete meaning. To some, “content marketing” means SEO. To others, it means BRAND STORY. The truth is, anyone telling you it’s just one of those, is either making it up to sell their own services, or worse, they don’t really know the difference.
The simple truth is you need to do BOTH and ideally, you need to do both well. Even, if you do SEO well, in a vacuum without the clear and compelling story coming through, you may just be missing a valuable opportunity.
Ask ten business owners to define “content marketing” and you’ll get at least ten different answers.
It’s not that no one knows what it is. It’s that we all use the term to define different aspects of the problem.
What is the problem, you ask?
The problem is… you have three specific elements:
- Brand Story
This is more complicated, and we’ll expand on this topic separately another time.
- Content relevance
By this, I mean human relevance or interest to the reader.
- Content optimization (SEO)
This is what I call machine-relevance, or those things that make Google and the other search engines rank you higher.
There are some spectacularly good SEO experts out there. Some who do pay attention to both sides. I’ve had the good fortune to work with some of them. But more often than not, when somebody’s trying to sell you SEO these days, they’re only selling you one side of the equation. And, their focus isn’t always on your singular voice.
That equation is:
(Machine Quality) (Human Quality) = Optimized Engagement
Google and all search engines have been trying to solve the quality problem for years, consequently, they continue to get remarkably good at it. But for most, there is still a gap of understanding between quality machine content and quality people content. And that is where people with a singular focus on the message come in. People like us at NYMBLE.
In short, if you’re communicating specifically what about your product or service your customer most wants to know (aka, the value prop), and you’re doing it in a way that makes them feel energized about your offering, and finally, you’re hitting them with a clear, compelling, timely call to action that makes sense to them… you’re winning.
Because at some point, the people finding you in the #1-2-3 slots in Google will click through to find your content. And if that native content doesn’t tell a consistent, compelling, actionable story – that is, if it doesn’t deliver the answer to the question they had when they were searching – you’ve only addressed the front end of the problem.
One of the other problems is in an effort to a) figure out the Google algorithm and b) differentiate themselves from their competitors, the SEO agencies have different approaches to the way they solve the machine quality problem.
Some solve it with quality of keywords and volume of content. Post more good stuff. Get a higher ranking. Others claim it’s not about how much content you post, but how highly Google values that content. They’ll talk about backlinks and traffic and all sorts of other elements.
And… the truth lies somewhere in the middle and it varies from business to business and industry to industry.
The human quality problem, however, comes down to just a few seemingly simple things:
- How well you know your customer;
- Your understanding of what motivates them;
- How effectively you communicate that to them.
The equation for human quality is completely based on value to your reader:
Value = Accuracy + Usefulness + Actionability
The next series of questions gets deeper and requires testing to understand what your customers and prospects will best respond to. For example:
- Should you gate your content and demand contact information before your readers can see your white paper or e-book? That may work exceptionally wall for one business, but may scare away your customers.
- Does your target respond to massive numbers of regular, brief posts, or do they prefer longer, deeper analysis, less frequently?
- Does your email list grow with a monthly newsletter, or does your list shrink with weekly updates?
Regardless of what your vendor says, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. And your particular solution requires real data to solve. On top of this, it really needs to be understood in the context of your singular brand voice and what’s compelling to your target audience.
The Bottom Line
If your SEO vendor is only looking at machine quality – and with a few notable exceptions, they are – you need someone to be the guardian of your brand story. Your singular voice. And that someone needs to be able to work with your SEO vendor and everyone who touches your message.
In a large organization, that would be the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and his or her staff. Smaller organizations often can’t afford to maintain that role and the CEO is focused on too many other things. Regardless, the role exists and they need someone that fits to their scale.
Whether your strategy involves 20+ pieces of content per month or just one or two carefully crafted pieces, all of these items need to square the circle. They need to match your story, be consistent, and be actionable.
If you don’t have a guardian of your story, you can find one. We’re out there. And we’ll build a system to serve your story for you.