If you follow the Online Marketing Blog many of the themes Lee and his team write about there are distilled, refined and presented an easy-to-read book.
“Lee tackles the triple crown of online marketing – SEO, social media, and content marketing,” wrote Geoff Livingston in a review on Amazon.com. “None of them alone are strong enough to succeed, but together organizations can deployknockoutt strategies.”
There’s another major theme in Lee’s book: PR. Lee has done a lot to get the basics of SEO across to PR pros because whether they know it or not, PR pros are perhaps one of the best means for authoritative link-building. Links are arguably still the most important factor in search rankings.
As I read through the book, I found myself underlying and highlighting points that stood out for me. There are nine take-a-ways I thought I’d share.
1) “Purchase is just the start of social engagement with the customer, which extends across a life cycle that takes the customer from prospect to evangelist.”
This is an important point because social media doesn’t impact prospects at just one stage of the buyer’s journey. They might first hear about our products or services on Twitter. They might look for third-party validation on LinkedIn. And they might like our brand on Facebook only after purchasing the product or service. The point is the buying cycle has changed — it’s more circular and less funnel.
2) “…many investments in [search] optimization are specifically to generate leads and sales, since search is an explicit expression of need or want…social media as a marketing channel can be hit or miss for many companies, because people don’t tend to join social networks to make purchases.” [emphasis added]
These tools work best when they work together to execute a higher-level strategy; strategy drives tactics. Search alone is not a strategy. Social media alone is not a strategy.
3) “…on the web, the currency of influence is content.”
What is currency? What is a dollar bill? It’s really nothing more than paper, but it works because a) we have faith we’ll be able to redeem its value for goods or services and b) it’s a heck of a lot more efficient than bartering on the town green. So if content is the currency of influence, then content can be used in trade for influence. Money is earned — it doesn’t grown on trees — and the same goes for influence.
4) “Content is the reason search engines exist…the primary value provided by search engines is to connect people with answers…”
Optimization is about helping us help people find the answers we are providing.
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5) “Engage with your community, and ideas will come out of those interactions. Look for common questions, misinformation to be clarified and unique stories to share.”
If we write often, then from time to time we might be a loss for ideas; Lee’s suggestion is simple: what questions are people asking? Since people are already searching for this content it’s a good indication our answers will resonate and those people are already providing us with the terms they are using to search for that answer.
6) “Many companies go after the most popular social networks with a ‘fish where the fish are’ approach. That’s not an unreasonable strategy, but it’s a lot like putting a billboard up on a popular highway. What if our customers don’t drive down that highway? Choosing a social network based on popularity alone is not effective. Why? Because relevancy rules on the Web.”
Influence is not the same as popularity. “Influence is the ability to cause desirable and measurable actions and outcomes.” And this point is so important because it sets up the next take-a-way.
7) “A big part of effective content marketing isn’t just about having a well-written and compelling content. You must be able to get that content in front of customers who care, as well as people who are influential and will pass it along to all their networks.”
Takeaway? You’ve got to tell somebody. Hoping someone will just find it, isn’t enough.
8) If it can be searched, it can be optimized.
If I had to boil the book down to one phrase, this would be it. We all love to coin new terms, but if people aren’t searching for those terms, then they might not find our content, and we’ve missed our chance to have a voice.
9) “No matter what your staff tells you, they will never know enough. There is no end to search and social and social media expertise for content marketing.”
Indeed, I believe that’s true. As I wrote on the TopRank blog years ago, 7 Social Media Lessons from Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid, there’s a first time for everything, even for the experts.
Perhaps Brian Solis put it nicely when he noted we are “forever students of new media.”
Disclosure: At the time of this writing Lee and his firm TopRank Marketing had been long time consultants to my then-employer Vocus.
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