ReporterNotebook.pngI read a recent interview with marketing guru Guy Kawasaki by Lee Odden, where he said he didn't know anything about search marketing except to "write good stuff." It sounded almost apologetic, but you should know producing content people want to spend time with is, in fact, the most important part of search marketing. And small businesses will be happy to know it doesn't cost much more for lousy content than it does for good stuff—although it does take more talent and more time. So, what is a small business to do about creating good content? My advice is to think more like a reporter than a marketer.

The truth about all Web marketing, and search marketing in particular, is that good content is consumed and bad content is ignored. The old style of pushing your message to target markets over and over again is the way of the offline world, but doesn't get you attention online.

Instead, online marketers must understand the secret is to attract people to your message. Every click is a decision on how to spend a few seconds of time. Your content must consistently cause people to decide to spend those seconds with your message.

So, rather than emulating the hype-laden, breathless marketing copy of advertising, instead you must think about what content attracts people. It's far better to model your content on the media than on advertising—people choose to read magazines or watch TV every day. So, ask yourself what kind of information you could provide to your customers that they really care about. Chances are it is not the paragraph ripped out of your sales catalog.

No, you'll need to think about what problems and issues your customers are struggling with. That's why consumer package goods giant Procter & Gamble focuses on Web initiatives such as Home Made Simple, which is full of helpful content for people to take care of their families. You don't need to do anything quite so ambitious, but P&G's success can show you why your newsletter might be a more valuable approach than a banner ad. Instead of focusing on selling, aim at solving problems. Being helpful will give you content people want to read.

You can also take an entertainment approach. Blendtec's "Will it blend?" series of videos took the Internet by storm because they were entertaining. But Blendtec's sales went up five-fold because we each got the idea that if this blender is powerful enough to pulverize an iPod, it probably will get the lumps out of my smoothie. So, be entertaining, but also reinforce your brand message.

What does all this have to do with search marketing? Plenty. That helpful content will contain loads of keywords around solving problems you might not have elsewhere on your site. You can attract a lot of traffic that might never have found your product catalog. That entertaining video might attract loads of inbound links that other sites would never have made to your sales pitches.

So, maybe you are convinced this is a good approach, but you don't feel talented enough to do it yourself. That's OK. You might be pleasantly surprised at how easy it can be to work with others on this.

If you're no a writer, don't worry. You might be able to work with a local public relations firm—they know how to write interesting stories about your products and your customers. If that's too expensive, then see if you can pay a freelance journalist to ghost write some stories for you. The reporters for your local newspaper don't get paid all that much and they are often looking to supplement their income with side jobs. You can also haunt the local college to see if any journalism students will do the job for you. Lots of people know how to write, so you should be able to find an affordable alternative.

Likewise, audio and video experts are all over. Local schools often have students itching to do a real job. Your community television station also has people who are willing to take on extra jobs at reasonable rates. You might even find your own kids or their friends know enough about photography or video or podcasts that they can pitch in.

Tell your collaborators what you are trying to accomplish—often they'll have an outsider's viewpoint that helps you identify what would be really interesting to your average customer. Sometimes you are so close to your business that you don't realize what normal people would find interesting or helpful.

The really good news about all of this is you don't have to start big. Try one project. Write a customer story about the most interesting use of your product. Or the way your salesperson saved the day in a really difficult situation. Or post a picture of the goofiest use of your product.

Whatever you decide, just try it. You can design new pages for your Web site, or just start posting to Blogger or YouTube with pointers back to your site for more information. You might find it's easier than you think. As you do more of it, that search traffic just might start to find you.

May 21, 2008

Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.


Mike, thanks for the great post. This has been my battle cry for a while now - that social media is the realm of public relations and that we PR professionals need to step up, take the reins and start leading in this area. You gave some great examples here. Thank you.

Good post with clear examples :). Thanks a lot. It helped me.

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Search Engine Guide > Mike Moran > More Journalism, Less Marketing