How Content Marketers Can Grow Their Audience: 3 Takeaways from MozCon 2012

Posted by · July 30, 2012 10:56 am


In years past, Search Engine Optimization was a pretty narrow field: build links, plug in a few of the right keywords, optimize your page and BAM! You just did some SEO.

But the rules have changed. According to SEO consultant Cyrus Shepard, there have been more changes in search engine optimization in the last year than the past 10 years combined. In addition to hundreds of other updates, 2011-2012 gave rise to the seminal Panda and Penguin updates to the Google algorithm that turned many websites upside down. The old shortcuts no longer work (in many cases they’re now a liability) and real, meaningful content is the only strategy left. SEO managers find themselves awkwardly peering over the shoulders of bloggers, social media strategists and user experience champions in their company, hoping to get a piece of the action.

Which is how a content marketer/blogger like me found himself at MozCon 2012 last week, SEO Moz’ annual gathering of in-house SEOs and consultants. Search engine optimization and creating online content is now (more than ever) inextricably linked. For those unfamiliar with Rand Fishkin, Roger Mozbot and the rest of the crew, SEO Moz develops software and tools for SEO consultants and managers. Fishkin’s Whiteboard Friday has become a staple for SEOs everywhere, and the Moz community is one of the more robust online hubs for discussion.Image courtesy Flickr (via ChicagosCeasar)

The theme for MozCon 2012 is best summarized by Digital Underground: “Now stop what you’re doing, ‘cuz I’m about to ruin the image and the style that you’re used to.”

STOP IT. Stop building links, stop talking about “do follow” (I don’t even really know what that is), stop all the flim flam, shell game garbage that SEOs have talked about for years. In the words of SEER Interactive’s Wil Reynolds, “Do real company s**t.”

Okay, I get that—it’s a narrative that hardcore SEOs need to hear. But content marketers have already been doing real company stuff; blog posts, articles, podcasts, videos, webinars—all relevant material to our brand and our audience. How do we take the work we’re doing and get it in front of more people? That’s what brought me to MozCon in the first place. I know we’re creating good content; now I want a few pointers on getting a bigger audience.

So amidst the (much needed) scolding of longtime SEOs, I managed to glean these three tips for growing your online audience with good content.

1. Create Content People Can’t Help But Share

There’s a big difference between “oh, that’s a nice blog post” and a story that a reader can’t resist sharing. Does your headline pack the right punch? Is there a more interesting angle you can take that will attract more comments? Take a moment to step back from the send button and think about it.Experts Exchange loves Roger.

Post a lot of photos

People love to look at pictures—more importantly, people can’t help but share pictures. But you never know what is going to work, so when in doubt, just share it. Moz Community Manager Jen Lopez notes that a photo of employees at a soccer game was one of SEO Moz’ most-shared photos of all time. Quality, contrary to logic, is a numbers game. Since you don’t know what will resonate, push more pictures rather than waiting for the golden image.

Okay FINE! I’ll do an infographic.

Geez, the speakers at MozCon LOVE infographics. And I suppose to a certain degree it makes sense; a good infographic can spread like wildfire online. In our experience making infographics, though, the risk/reward can be off-putting–determining a good topic, pulling together the data and tasking a designer all become a resource drain for the organization. In his MozCon presentation “35 Ways to Get Links,” Paddy Moogan of Distilled drew attention to an excellent way to work out the kinks with infographic creation without making extra work for others on your team. infogr.am is a tool that can help a content marketer or SEO manager produce their own infographic in about an hour, testing out concepts and refining the process.

2. Spend equal time creating and promoting content

Here on the Experts Exchange content marketing team we’ve veered toward spending more time focusing on content creation rather than promotion. If you’re part of a small team, you probably know what it’s like—you just spent the last few days on a blog post, or the last week on a video and you just want to SHIP IT and move on to the next thing.

But that moment when you’re sick of the project is when the world is seeing your finished work for the first time. It’s critical to have a promotional strategy in place, whether it’s posting in targeted communities beyond Facebook and Twitter, emailing key contacts, whatever makes the most sense for your business and the content. The rule of thumb I’m going to adopt is a 50/50 rule—whatever time you spend creating a piece of content, be prepared to spend the same amount of time promoting it. Because promoting it is as (if not more) important as creating it in the first place.

3. Be patient with the long game.

SEO used to be crack for marketers: get a quick hit of keywords and links and watch your search ranking improve while your eyes roll back in your head. That just doesn’t work anymore. One interesting takeaway at MozCon was a retrospective of Moz CEO Rand Fishkin’s blog posts dating back to 2005 (provided by Paddy Moogan). Rand’s posts get 300+ comments and hundreds of social shares today, but in 2005 he was lucky to get one “like.” Is his content really that much better? Probably not. But it demonstrates the need to be patient with a good content marketing strategy–it takes time, creativity and tenacity to build a meaningful audience for your blog or website.