Long ago, search engine optimization (SEO) tactics and online marketing went hand in hand. Not so much today. For real.
Of course, it seems like a loaded question, doesn’t it: how much SEO does the modern content marketer really need to know? Particularly those just starting out?
Well, it’s a serious question. One that Demian and Jerod plan on tackling without simply saying that SEO is dead.
Because that’s not true.
Half way through this episode, however, they both realize they are over their heads — and call in the big guns. Fortunately, this special guest confirmed several things Jerod and Demian said … but then closed the discussion out with a surprising tip you can use right now to improve your content visibility.
It was totally unexpected. But so unoriginal. If that makes sense.
In this 36-minute episode you’ll discover:
- The truth about hosting that hasn’t changed
- What happened that has made SEO tactics less important
- Today’s big SEO focus (everyone should care about this)
- The opportunities you are missing if you ignore social marketing
- The one skill that can improve your content visibility today
Listen to Copyblogger FM: Content Marketing, Copywriting, Freelance Writing, and Social Media Marketing below ...
The Show Notes
- More guidance on building high-quality sites
- SEO is Dead: Long Live OC/DC
- Will Your Website Survive the Google Mobile Penalty?
- How to Write Headlines that Get Results
- Where Headlines Have Gone Horribly Wrong
How Much Does the Modern Content Marketer Need to Know About SEO?
Demian Farnworth: … vibrant and socially viral. Fud bees. Feed buzz. Fud bees.
Welcome back, everybody, to The Lede, a podcast about content marketing by Copyblogger Media. The Lede, as always, is hosted by me, Demian Farnworth, and my co-host Jerod Morris, one of the VPs at Rainmaker.FM.
If you like The Lede, if you like me, if you like Jerod, and you want more of us and our surly Midwestern humor, check out our personal podcasts on the Rainmaker.FM network. Jump over to Showrunner.FM — that’s Jerod’s podcast about creating a dang good podcast show. You can find mine at Roughdraft.FM, where I drop essential web writing advice in less than 10 minutes a day, four days a week.
If you are a binge listener, then you probably just want to subscribe to our master Rainmaker.FM feed and get all 18 shows delivered. Yes, I said 18. Amazing, isn’t it? My favorite new show is Brian Clark’s, called Unemployable, and that is not a joke. It’s actually a serious look at getting freelancers and entrepreneurs to the next level.
By the way, all of our shows are brought to you by Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network built on the Rainmaker Platform, the platform that empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales empire. The cool thing is for the next 14 days, you can use the Rainmaker Platform for free. That’s right. You can get your hands on the Rainmaker Platform for 14 days without paying a dime. Just visit RainmakerPlatform.com to start your free trial. Now, on to the show.
Hey, Jerod. Welcome back to The Lede, man.
Jerod Morris: We’re back here again, huh. Already?
Demian Farnworth: Already. Time flies when you’re having fun, right?
Jerod Morris: It does. It really does.
Demian Farnworth: Let me think. Will we be in Podcast Movement at this moment?
Jerod Morris: No, this episode is coming out on July 21st. It is being recorded on July 9th, for people who care about those things. Just thought I’d pull the curtain back.
Demian Farnworth: We will be in Fort Worth at the end of this month at Podcast Movement. If anybody is going to be there or wants to go and see us, we will be there. Aren’t we going to have booth or something like that there?
Jerod Morris: We will have a giant booth with a big Rainmaker display. We’ll also have a pretty cool mobile podcast recording setup, too, because I’m thinking we should record at least an episode or two of The Lede live.
Demian Farnworth: Sure, that’s right.
Jerod Morris: We want to meet all of you. Come up. Say hi. Give us a five. Do the special handshake.
Demian Farnworth: Remind me again of the special handshake?
Jerod Morris: I can’t do it over the air. If people don’t know the special handshake, they can’t do it.
The Truth about Hosting That Hasn’t Changed
Demian Farnworth: Last week, we talked about podcasting and digital sharecropping. This week, we’re going to talk about SEO. In particular, I want to talk about SEO and the modern online marketer, the content marketer online.
Here’s my concern. I know some people who have careers as SEO people and make very good money from the SEO side of things. Here’s Demian Farnworth. Here’s a guy who works for a company called Copyblogger Media. I’m a writer. I consider myself a content marketer, but I really don’t feel like I need to know that much SEO, because as long as I write good content and obey some pretty simple rules about titles and key words — even those, I don’t have to be precise. I don’t have to be very advanced in the thought because a lot of the work is already done for us.
For example, my own personal website is built on the Genesis framework. It’s on the Rainmaker Platform, but that’s built upon the Genesis framework. Because that’s one of the selling points of the Genesis framework: it’s clean code. It’s HTML5-compliant. It’s web-responsive. All these things that some people make careers out of, I don’t have to worry about at all, because it’s already done for me.
I can do some keyword work with, say, the tool Scribe, which allows me to say, “How does this page I’ve just wrote rank for my site?” Then, on this page, according to this particular keyword, and it tells me, and I can make some tweaks to that. Outside of that, though, I don’t feel like I really need to know that much SEO.
My thought is, the question I wanted to ask and see your thoughts on, is how much SEO does a modern-day content marketer really need to know?
Jerod Morris: That is a great question. It’s a bit of a loaded and complicated question too, also, I think. Here’s what I mean by that. You and I — certainly with the work that we do for Copyblogger — are not great examples of what most people would need to know for SEO. It’s not that we don’t need to know it, but you had a great phrase there. Most of the work is already done for us.
Copyblogger has been around for nine years, gaining trust in search engines, and a lot of the big keywords — ‘content marketing’ and ‘email marketing’ — that we’ve wanted to go after, they have cornerstone content landing pages that have been optimized. There’s a great internal link structure. You’re hearing me throwing out all these SEO terms, right? So much of that work has already been done to the point where if we want a rank for something, put out a post with the keyword, and a lot of times it will rank up there.
There’s so many reasons, so many factors why that’s the case. For us to really answer this question — you did ask it in the right way — the modern content marketer, especially starting out, how much SEO do they need to know?
This is what I think, anyway. It’s a lot less on the technical side than it used to be, because a lot of times, if you’re smart about the platforms that you’re using, certainly Genesis and the Rainmaker Platform are one. There are many other examples that do this too. They take care of a lot the content structure — not necessarily rules, but just the way that Google likes your content to be structured so that it can tell what the topic is and all that stuff. Does it load quickly? Is it a good user experience? All these new factors that four or five years ago weren’t important but now are.
What I do think is still extremely important is the strategy. We’re going through this right now where there’s a new term that we want to rank on for Copyblogger. We’re strategizing a landing page for that term, a series of articles that are going to point to that term. In a lot of ways, that part of it is still the same.
But it’s less the technical part of it and more the strategizing the right term with the right content, and making sure it’s really, really high-quality content so that you get all those other signals — the sharing signals, and the time-on-page signals, and all that stuff now, which comes back to just crafting good content. The strategy is a lot more difficult in so many ways because there’s just not that much open ground. Flags have been planted on every term under the sun, and there’s so much content out there.
So that’s how I would answer that question instead.
Demian Farnworth: Let’s define the terms for those people who are completely clueless or just need a reminder or refresher. By ‘SEO,’ we mean search engine optimization. Basically, your site is optimized for the search engine so it’s easier to find. It’s more accessible. Often, we split that SEO into two different categories: on-page and then off-page, right?
Jerod Morris: Here’s the thing. These terms are important, but even the term ‘SEO’ is a little bit outdated. That really just suggests that you’re trying to optimize your content for search engines, but what really needs to be happening is optimizing content for discovery in all the different places that it can be discovered, and then, at the same time, optimizing it for conversion so that when people get there … SEO, it was always, “Okay, you got to get the click. Get people to your site.”
A more holistic, a smarter, approach for the type of people that listen to The Lede and that we really try to speak to at Copyblogger is, “Okay, you got people there, but part of that needs to be optimizing that content then to do something.” If it’s a landing page, where is it leading someone to? Even if it’s a blog post, what’s the goal of that person getting there? It’s not just with search engines. It’s optimizing content for discovery in all its different forms, but then also optimizing it for conversion so that something happens when they get there.
Demian Farnworth: There’s another part of this too — social. Back a number of years ago — this was 2011 or 2012 — a guy at The Atlantic Monthly, a huge magazine, now just a huge online publication, I forget what his name was. He basically said, “Forget SEO. We’re just writing headlines that get a lot of shares.” They actually had a pretty detailed process. None of the writers who wrote the articles wrote their headlines. They had people particularly trained to write the headlines, and then they had them geared up.
We know entire media business models have been created off that, like Upworthy, creating the headline that is socially vibrant and socially viral. BuzzFeed is certainly in that model, where it’s more connection and thought put into social, because you’re talking about discovery, right? That’s a key distinction here. Really, it is about discovery and being found. When we talk about something like optimizing headlines for social, we’re not still talking about search engine optimization, are we?
Jerod Morris: That’s an element of it, but it’s more for discovery. It’s great if you have a link in a headline on the first page of Google results, but people still have to click it. Just it being seen doesn’t matter. There’s still an element of clickability. That’s The Atlantic and these other places that are writing these crazy headlines.
The one thing that you want to be careful with, and you know this as well as I do, is having someone else write the headlines that’s not the person who created the content. That’s all well and good. And trying to write really compelling headlines.
The mistake people make is just going for the click, and if your whole business model is just monetizing page views with ads, this is a little bit more okay than the type of people that we’re talking to. Again, it comes down to, it’s not just about discovery. It’s also for conversion. If you write this great headline that gets a bunch of clicks on Twitter, but your content doesn’t fulfill the promise, and more importantly than that, the headline doesn’t actually lead to the type of people who would actually take whatever the action is, what have you really done?
You’ve optimized it for discovery, and that’s great. Maybe it’s even found in search engines, but it’s still not getting you anywhere. That’s why I think this more holistic view is the much smarter way to take. It’s not just getting people to the page, but what do you actually want people to do when they’re there? That’s going to then inform what kind of people that you want to get to the page in the first place.
Demian Farnworth: I want to talk to Sean here in a moment, but not just yet, because he wrote an article last year or the year before that. It basically said that SEO is dead, and he had a new term for it. We need to address that, but two examples, I want to pick up on what you said.
I’ve seen a number of times, the bigger the article or longer the article, the more social shares that it gets. We’re still talking about — and this is what irritates me about these studies — they say 2,000 words or more will get more shares than ones that are 1,000 words.
Canva, for example, is doing great work taking over the visual model of creating killer content. That’s what they said, “We came to a conclusion.” Also, they were getting super high traffic and time-on-page was being raised. Some of these more important metrics than just social vanity metrics were being increased because of the thicker, outstanding content that they were creating. In that sense, they’re optimizing the content for the thing you were saying — for the correct user, meaningful content for them.
It makes me think of Buffer and how they got their start. We talked about this before in the episode on content syndication. Originally, Buffer, the way they did it was Leo — that’s one of the founders — wrote 100+ guest articles in nine months. He raised the visibility, but then their next step in that was putting out these outlandishly large articles, but on topics that were getting a lot of shares. They were on very broad topics, like ‘happiness’ and ‘creativity.’
They were driving all this traffic, but the traffic was pretty much useless. Eventually, once they got to that point, they then had to scale down and then optimize to make sure they were getting the right traffic. Once they scaled down and they just started writing a very tight circle of content on social media, the conversion rates naturally went way up. The traffic wasn’t nearly as high, but it was converting way better, which is — bottom line — what we’re really after, right?
Jerod Morris: Exactly. That’s why traffic numbers — we talked about in the last episode — and download numbers, they’re enticing, but they don’t necessarily tell you anything. You’ve got to really dig deeper to know if what you’re doing is working. Sometimes, those top little numbers, what do they mean?
Demian Farnworth: The most important metric of all are the number of sales. If you’re in business, which I imagine everyone listening is in some capacity, it ultimately comes down to what are the sales numbers? I remember one time, Jerod sent out an email, and he sent it to a number of us. Brian Clark was on there, and he had this theory about these numbers. Do you remember this email?
Jerod Morris: Yeah, I do.
Demian Farnworth: Jerod was asking a very interesting question, and the way he was looking at things. Brian Clark just responded, “Sales are up. What’s the problem?” We’re like, “Okay, never mind.”
Jerod Morris: Speaking of sales, it seems like as good a time as any to bring Sean in.
Demian Farnworth: Is he available?
Jerod Morris: I don’t know. I want to preface something right now. We did not tell Sean we’re going to call him. It’s something we did about 20 episodes ago. We had fun with it. If there’s just an awkward cut and then it’s back to me and Demian talking, that means that we dialed Sean up and he didn’t answer. Hopefully, he will. I’m going to try to add him to the call right now.
Demian Farnworth: Thanks.
Jerod Morris: Let’s see here. Let’s Skype him, and then let’s ask him about some SEO, because Sean knows SEO very well. Actually, a lot of stuff I was saying earlier about optimizing for discovery and conversion is what he was talking about in that post.
Demian Farnworth: He’s also the guy behind Scribe, right?
Jerod Morris: Yes, he is.
Demian Farnworth: Contrary to what people say about him, he’s a very, very intelligent guy.
Jerod Morris: He is. Whether or not he’ll actually get on the phone with us is another question.
Demian Farnworth: Friendly is questionable, right?
Jerod Morris: Right. I’m going to try calling him one more time. The first call did not go through. He said give him 10. Sorry, Sean, we’re recording live.
Demian Farnworth: He wrote an article a couple years ago, like I mentioned. It was intriguing, because he said, like you brought up, that very point — that language, the term. He was against the term ‘SEO’ because he felt like it was dead. In essence, the landscape has so changed. Really, what we’re talking about, the content marketer has, would you say, more responsibility than they did in the past versus less?
Jerod Morris: Responsibility in terms of what?
Demian Farnworth: As far as what they’re trying to accomplish in the past with SEO, which was, again, discovery in the search engine. Now, it’s discovery on social media. It’s discovery on iTunes. Still, it’s discovery on search engines. I feel like they need to know more, but it’s not nearly as technical. Again, it goes back to strategy in that sense, when we’re talking about on-page versus off-page, even behind the scenes. We’re not talking about if you have a large site and you have thousands of products, there are clearly some very advanced SEO things that you need to know.
Jerod Morris: It’s just about, again, there used to be really highly technical things that you would have to do and make sure were in place. A lot of the CMSes now have those. If you are willing to invest in good hosting, then you’ll get good page load times and up time and all of those things that Google is looking at from an optimization standpoint. Again, it’s just taking a bigger view of it than just search engines.
What Happened That Has Made SEO Tactics Less Important
Jerod Morris: Search engines are still very important, and there’s things that you want to do there, but it used to be — I know back when I was building Midwest Sport Fans — I really focused almost entirely on the search engines. That was the main source of traffic. Search engines are part of it now, and you’ve got to take a much more holistic approach with what your strategy is.
Demian Farnworth: Two things, too. We don’t know exactly how or to what degree, but we know that social influences search in some degree. We just don’t know how much. The other thing, too, though — Eric Enge at Stone Temple Consulting did a study, I believe it was last year, in which he said that as far as conversions go from the traffic he was getting, whether it was from — I forget what the options were — basically, it boiled down to social and search engines. Search engine was clearly just more. It converted better, and that’s why we talk about it.
The intent of someone who’s searching is way different than someone who just stumbles across something they see on Facebook or on Twitter. It’s the intent of people of people who find things through search. In that sense, too, you can’t lose sight of what you have.
Here’s the thing. I don’t remember the gal who quoted it, but she says, “Google won’t love you until people love you first, so create things that people will love, will read, will watch, will listen to, and will share.” Naturally, that just translates well to the search engines.
I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time, because when Google rolled out Panda in 2011 — I believe it was early 2011. They were after all the shallow, cheap content that was out there that was clogging the Internet with bad content, but the site was ranking really high. They figured out how to punish these people who weren’t delivering good content but were ranking high for minimal effort.
I remember reading — at the same time, Google handed out this criteria that you could follow as a content marketer, as a media publisher. Basically, all it was saying was, “Create in-depth, original, readable, and trustworthy content, and you’ll do well.” There was no, “Check off these two boxes, and do this, and then Tweet that.” It’s just consistently create good content, and it’s something that Copyblogger has been saying all along.
That’s what got me on this train of thought. How much do we need to know as long as we’re just creating original, good content? You just need to know enough to know how to write a particular headline and to write it in such a way that it gets seen.
Today’s Big SEO Focus (Everyone Should Care About This)
Jerod Morris: That’s why the strategy is still so important. You do want to target specific terms and see if there’s the ability for you to own a specific term that’s out there, see what the opportunities are, and certainly try and structure your content in that way. And use landing pages and direct attention to those landing pages so they’re built up. That stuff is all still very relevant, but it’s also, what exactly is SEO? Ensuring that your content looks good across devices, that’s very important for ranking in search engines. Is that SEO?
It’s this holistic idea of creating a great user experience both from the nature of the content, the usefulness of the content, but also how the content is displayed, how it’s consumed, that experience. That all goes together now. We never thought about that before. Where does SEO really start and stop? The lines are so much more blurred now, which is good. Like you said, that’s what Copyblogger has been teaching for a long time. People sometimes just get a little bit too narrow or rigid view of things and don’t realize that all this stuff works together. It’s all interrelated.
Demian Farnworth: I’ve always said this, too. I don’t think there’s any distinction as far as being a writer online. Some copywriters will distinguish themselves by saying ‘SEO copywriter.’ If you’re writing online, then you are. You should know that. It’s not a distinction one should make, but clearly it makes them stand out branding-wise.
The other thing, as far as mobile, you’re talking about mobile. Google just announced and published this mobile friendliness update, basically saying that if your site is not mobile friendly, then you’re going to have trouble showing up in mobile search.
The question then becomes, “How much traffic do I get from mobile sites?” Then you just adjust to that. The thing is, for the modern-day content marketer, I didn’t have to sweat that. My site was on a site that was mobile-friendly. The design was already taken care of. Go back say five, six, seven years ago, though. If that was the case — and I got a lot of traffic from mobile — then I would have to hire a designer to make my site mobile-friendly instead of going out and just buying a theme and flipping it on and being done after $100 and maybe four to eight hours of work. Now, it’s pretty much done for me. I didn’t sweat the mobile friendliness update at all.
Jerod Morris: Frankly, this episode is about SEO. I would assume that most of the people listening to this understand the importance of mobile friendliness and have mobile friendly sites. If there’s anybody who’s listening who doesn’t, that honestly is probably the number one ‘SEO’ thing that you can do. Make sure that your site is mobile responsive. Make sure it looks good across all devices. You look at Mary Meeker’s latest Internet Trends Report, no surprise.
Mobile usage of the Internet and of everything continues to grow. We know that’s the trend that’s going to keep happening. You’re right. It wasn’t an issue five years ago. Now, it is. It’s not even like you can get a bonus with it anymore. It’s just a prerequisite. If you’re even going to compete, you’ve
just got to have sites that look good on mobile. That’s where most people, for the most part, are going to be accessing your content from.
Demian Farnworth: When I was doing research for adaptive content, I kept coming across this quote, several different variations of this quote. It was saying, “Stop saying ‘mobile responsive.’ It’s ‘web responsive’ because mobile is the web.” It’s just that the device changes. We don’t say ‘laptop responsive.’ We don’t say ‘tablet responsive.’ It’s web responsive, which means that no matter what device you look at it on, it is optimized. It’s easy to read, easy to access, easy to watch, easy to read.
Jerod Morris: Is SEO as simple as saying, give people good useful content and a good experience while they consume that content? Those are the two things that really never change. Now, the specific tips will change with the technology, but those two ideas have still always been important. You’ve got to give people useful content, and you’ve got to give people a good experience so that they stay on your site. Maybe that second one, the good experience, has changed some because of increased emphasis on time-on-page and some of those factors.
We’re now joined by a special guest. Do we have Sean Jackson on the line?
Sean Jackson: That would be me.
Demian Farnworth: Uh-oh. Trouble.
Jerod Morris: Sean, you are live. You’re being recorded.
Sean Jackson: Fantastic. As opposed to dead?
Jerod Morris: We’re doing an episode about SEO.
Demian Farnworth: Here’s my question. Specifically about this, how much SEO does the modern marketer really need to know? My contention is so much of the work is already done for us. Say, my own personal website, The Copybot. It’s on the Rainmaker Platform, but it’s on the Genesis framework. I know that a lot of that code is taken care of for me. It’s web-responsive. I don’t have to worry about that.
Do I need to concern myself? We’ve covered things, like basically saying ‘SEO’ really should mean ‘discovery.’ One of the reasons we wanted to talk to you is because you, last year or the year before, said that SEO is dead. We want you to explain what you mean by that.
Sean Jackson: I equate the term SEO to the same way that when I started in the industry, we talked about BBS systems, bulletin board systems, way back in the day. We don’t talk about BBSs anymore, even though modern-day websites are very much what we had back in the early ’90s, BBS systems. We just don’t use that term, because while the technology and the aspects of engagement are the same, the term no longer has applicability to the modern role of those features, techniques, et cetera.
It’s the same with SEO. SEO was always this black-hat-esque type of black box behavior. It was something that you needed a specialized understanding of to crack the Google algorithm, if you will. It had a mysterious nature that in some cases was practiced by honest and sincere people and in other cases by charlatans and gurus.
The Opportunities You Are Missing If You Ignore Social Marketing
Sean Jackson: I look at this and say that SEO is dead as a term, because what we’re really talking about is the idea of taking your content and optimizing it for discovery. If you think about the term ‘SEO,’ use that in the same sentence with Pinterest. Would you SEO Pinterest? Yet, Pinterest has been proven to be a very important content discovery engine.
It’s the same with Google. Google is a content discovery engine. Facebook is a content discovery engine. YouTube, et cetera. When we start thinking of these platforms as content discovery tools, then what we are trying to do is optimize our content for discovery in that tool.
Hence, the term SEO is no longer applicable, because I don’t hear a lot of people saying, “Hey, I’ll help your SEO out on Pinterest. I’ll help your SEO out on Twitter. I’ll help your SEO out on Instagram.” The term is absolutely dead. Yet the techniques of traditional SEO, of optimizing content, of making it easy for algorithms to index and understand context, is still very much applicable. It’s just that the term is no longer appropriate.
Demian Farnworth: I don’t see people saying, “Hey, I’m a content discoverer.” They would say, “Hey, I can help you get lots of traffic from Pinterest.” Or, “Let me show you how to get 100,000 followers on Facebook.” Those people are really, in essence, doing content discovery, showing us techniques and tools for content discovery.
Sean Jackson: Right. The end result of SEO has always been about generating more traffic. When we’re generating more traffic, that process has applicability, but it’s in a different context. That’s what I keep on going to. SEO is about driving traffic. Content discovery optimization is about driving traffic. It’s all the same thing. Does that make sense? It’s just that the SEO term does not matter anymore. Stop using it. It’s too confining.
Jerod Morris: Let me ask you a question, Sean. What I said earlier is that when it comes to this, this whole idea of content discovery, there are still some technical things that you have to do and that you have to have in place. For the most part, if you’re smart about investing in good hosting and if you have a good platform — and we use Genesis and the Rainmaker Platform as examples, and there are others — they’ll help you do this certainly for SEO, with how you want the content structured.
Even if we take this broader view of it with social networks, like being able to put a specific Facebook image in that looks good in Facebook, and taking advantage of the strengths of the different networks. Then really, there’s still the strategy part of it that’s important, right? Where are you going to try and be discovered to get the best bang for your buck? What terms do you want to be known by and still show up for? There’s still that part of it. Do you think that the strategy part now, and that overarching strategy, is a lot more important now than the technical aspects simply because so much of that is taken care of?
Sean Jackson: Strategy has always been important, right? It was just a lot easier when you had less platforms. Trust me. When we had three networks, TV strategy was a lot easier than it is today. Strategy always is the single most important, has always been. It’s just a little bit harder because there’s more considerations in the tactical elements that you do. Speaking of tactical elements, I still think it is important.
One of the things that SEO really brought into the lexicon of the modern online marketer is the understanding of the role of keywords, of titles being really important, of headlines being important, how the content is structured for easy indexing. Those were really brought into the modern online marketers’ toolkit from the SEO experience.
Keywords still matter. I don’t care what discovery engine you are trying to target with your strategy. The way you use keywords really does matter. The way that your content reflects those keywords really does matter still. Your title tags still matter a lot because those are inevitably the headlines that get people to act on the content they discover.
Demian Farnworth: Are you saying that they matter to the machines or to the people?
Sean Jackson: Both. We’ve always said, and this was when we built Scribe many years ago. We are writing for humans first. We’re making it easier for the engines out there to understand what it is that we’re writing towards. Those engines, while they have been increasing in their capabilities, are still very much based on the way that terms are used together. The reason is because that’s how people are searching for things.
Remember, search is a feature of all these content discovery systems. The terms people use for them should be the terms that are reflected in your content so they can pair the query against the content properly. You’re always writing for the human, but by writing for the human, you have to make it also easy for the engine to take the human request, the keywords, and the content, and marry the two together.
Jerod Morris: It gets back to the idea of empathy, putting yourself in your potential audience’s shoes, your target audience’s shoes, and figure out, “What terms will they search for to get this content that I have for them?”
Sean Jackson: That’s right. Always. The rules are still the same. That’s what SEO brought to modern marketers, this understanding of keywords and their role and importance. That has not changed just because I eschewed the term SEO. You’re still thinking about keywords, but the keywords that people are using in YouTube are probably different keywords than they’re using on Twitter.
Demian Farnworth: We’ve seen this before in copywriting. We were doing market research like this. We’ve always talked about “Use the language that your audience uses when you’re writing copy, and the copy is basically written for you.” It’s the same thing. It goes back to having a solid, fundamental, deep understanding of who your audience is and writing in such a way that they can relate to that.
Sean Jackson: You know what? That hasn’t changed over the years. It’s still true. It’s still true.
Demian Farnworth: Let me just ask you, give you an impossible task as we close here. What can somebody do right now today or within this week to improve their content discovery skill set? Does that make sense?
The One Skill That Can Improve Your Content Visibility Today
Sean Jackson: Work on your headlines, and become a master of headline writing.
Demian Farnworth: Really?
Sean Jackson: Yes. Master the headline writing technique where keywords are logical in their placement and usage in those headlines. As content discovery engines continue to expand, the headline that you write will inevitably be the call to action to get people to click further, to read and consume that content that you’ve created. The masters of modern content discovery — that’s really the masters of that old term, SEO – are the ones who really refined the art of creating headlines that include the keywords that people would use to find it in an artful way that gets them to act.
Demian Farnworth: Fortunately for our listeners, there’s this great little show called Rough Draft that has an entire series on headline writing, too.
Sean Jackson: That’s just the round ‘poof!’ It is a great show. I look at the stats on that damn show, and I’m like, “Gosh dang it!” It’s a great little show. The Missing Link has a lot to hope for.
Demian Farnworth: I couldn’t pass up that softball, sorry. That was a great answer, though. Anything else Jerod?
Jerod Morris: No, that’s all. Sean, we appreciate you coming on here impromptu and furthering our discussion on this topic.
Demian Farnworth: Yes, sir. Thank you.
Sean Jackson: Gentlemen, I do appreciate it, and I’m here for you anytime.
Demian Farnworth: Thank you, sir.
Jerod Morris: Thank you.
Sean Jackson: Thank you. Bye bye.
Demian Farnworth: I have to be honest. I didn’t think that this show would go in this particular direction.
Jerod Morris: I didn’t either. Isn’t it nice to know though that what you do for fun on a Friday night is basically the best way to get better at content discovery?
Demian Farnworth: Exactly.
Jerod Morris: That’s cool.
Demian Farnworth: In my mind, too, as we’re wrapping things up, we need to explore this content discovery concept more here on The Lede.
Jerod Morris: I do, too.
Demian Farnworth: Are you feeling the same way?
Jerod Morris: I really do. It’s much bigger. He did make a good point. Some of the elements are not as complicated. A lot of the technical stuff, the technical specs, the parts and pieces, the building blocks of doing it right are all much more there than they were before. I don’t think you can get an advantage just because you do it in a certain way. But that strategy part and knowing what to do with it and when, that part is a lot more complicated now.
Demian Farnworth: Exactly. Strategy, maybe that’s where we’ve got to start. Any other thoughts on this concept? To summarize, what we’ve learned today on The Lede is that SEO is dead. Content discovery is alive. Let me say it this way: SEO has been dethroned, and content discovery is on the throne.
Jerod Morris: Yes, absolutely. I like that. Is that going to be the headline for this?
Demian Farnworth: I don’t know. I was thinking ‘SEO Is Dead.’
Jerod Morris: Copy Sean’s headline from two years ago.
Demian Farnworth: That’s right. Or the phrase ‘SEO Should Die. Here’s Its Substitute.’ Or, ‘This Is What the Boy Did Next,’ maybe an Upworthy type of headline.
Jerod Morris: ‘You Won’t Believe What Happened Next.’
Demian Farnworth: ‘You Won’t Believe What Happened.’
Man, good talking to you again. Everyone, thank you so much for listening to The Lede. We appreciate your support. We appreciate your ratings and reviews on iTunes. If you have any thoughts or questions for Jerod or me or both of us, shoot us something on Twitter. You can actually comment on the blog at TheLede.FM, right?
Jerod Morris: Yes, it is.
Demian Farnworth: TheLede.FM. If you didn’t know that, we do have a blog dedicated to The Lede. You can leave comments after the shows. Find the show, and leave us a comment. Anything else you want to add, Jerod?
Jerod Morris: That’s it. Hopefully, we’ll see some of you at Podcast Movement.
Demian Farnworth: That’s right. Everyone, take care, and we’ll talk to you soon.
Sean is always such a good sport, and he is so smart that yes, when he gets called on unexpectedly, he looks like he’s prepared. Sometimes I wonder if he’s a politician. By the way, you can get more of Sean on his podcast, The Missing Link, where he talks about using LinkedIn to build your business, to build your career.
Enough about Sean. What did you think about the show? Any SEO people out there bristling and wanting to take us to the woodshed? Please, by all means, let us know what you think in the comments or on Twitter. Ask us any questions. Leave a comment. We are listening.
If you get a chance, leave us a rating or review on iTunes. It’s one of the best ways of supporting this show, as is sharing this show with friends and family. Thank you again for joining us for this episode of The Lede. We’ll see you next week. Take care.
Great episode! I really like the concept of discovery engines. When I try to explain my job to people not in marketing or when I am explaining my content strategies, I tell people that I help brands get discovered by their customers. Whether that means SEO, content distribution, digital PR, or social media– I use everything I can to get a brand found by their potential customers and then nurture that relationship. To me that is what being a modern marketer/content marketer means.