Publish or Perish- Internet Marketing in the Content Era
Ever heard the phrase “the attention economy“? Here’s a little primer, a hand-picked part of the definition from Wikipedia, as it relates to advertising:
“Attention economics” today is primarily concerned with the problem of getting consumers to consume advertising. Traditional media advertisers followed a model that suggested consumers went through a linear process they called AIDA – Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. Attention is therefore a major and the first stage in the process of converting non-consumers. Since the cost to transmit advertising to consumers is now sufficiently low that more ads can be transmitted to a consumer than the consumer can process, the consumer’s attention becomes the scarce resource to be allocated.”
When you advertise on the Internet, you’re not competing for billboard space, or bidding against competitors on TV airtime, or trying to get a good ROI on a radio spot or newspaper ad. The means of transmitting your marketing message has become inexpensive almost to the point of triviality and for about $30 a year- a dime a day- anyone can buy a domain with hosting and start putting out any message they want. What we are all really competing for is the User’s attention. The world of information and entertainment has become increasingly fractured into multiple streams, channels and verticals. Users consume all kinds of content on all kinds of devices, which are no longer bound to a specific geolocation.
What this all comes down to is that Google and the other search engines are having to change the way they grant authority to pages. I’ve written many times on this blog in the past about how linking used to be an extremely effective strategy; at the end of the day if you’d tried all the white hat techniques and explained to the client that these things take time but they are going to leave if you don’t do something RIGHT NOW, well, you could always as a last resort head over to TLA or TLB and buy some nice, exact-match anchor text from a somewhat relevant blog, and you would almost certainly see a bump in rankings. It was a sure thing. However, the search engine algorithms are more than ever accounting for the fact that links can be really easily gamed, and as a consequence, we are seeing social signals factor more and more into search results; with Google even having taken the bold step of laying the social strata right over top of the SERP with Google+. It doesn’t matter how resistant we are to these changes- we have to accept that the “old way” of doing SEO is simply not going to cut it any more.
If we’re competing for User’s attention, it follows logically that it’s not enough to put up a static website and throw links at it. YOU HAVE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE ATTENTION ECONOMY. That means getting on Google+ (why are people so resistant to it anyway? You can maintain an active presence there in about 10 minutes a day). That means having a section of your blog where you update frequently with stuff that YOU write. It means Tweeting. It means getting the social signals that are supplanting links in the algorithm coming in to the site, and I hate to say it but the dirty secret here is that takes work. It takes a lot more work than linking did, but we can’t all just throw up our collective hands or worse- stubbornly stick to the way we’ve always done things- we have to move forward. Moving forward means being a publisher.
So how the hell do you do that?
1. Write regularly. Write high-quality content, that comes from your background in whatever it is you are writing about. Conversely, if you are writing about something that you don’t have any expertise in, do your research and credit your sources with outbound links- this is a great way to build community. Quality is more important than quantity; as a personal example I have been writing less and less frequently on this blog as I run out of things to say- but I’m branching out to write about other things to maintain the momentum I’ve built over the last year. Don’t write just to write- write because you have something to say and want people to listen.
2. Audit your old content and see if it can be refreshed, reshared, repurposed or somehow made more relevant for the User. I have stuff on this blog about The Old Republic MMO, for example, that is incorrect information. If I want to be considered authoritative about the game, shouldn’t I have all relevant, proper and correct information here? Of course! Otherwise, why would anyone read me- they’d just go to Darth Hater, as they’ve built a reputation for high quality relevant content.
3. Build a community by hosting guest posts and really engage your community; that’s how you command attention. Give away one of your best secrets, take the opposite side of an issue, create a little controversy! Give people a reason to pay attention.
It pains me to say it, but throwing links at a site doesn’t work any more. We are fully in the thick of socially-influenced search, and on the way to “semantic search”, whatever that turns out to be. The bottom line is that if you want to participate, you’ve got to publish or perish.