The fabric that binds us all are stories. Stories are at the heart of our society, and their genesis dates back to the dawn of language in our species. Human begins have long been telling stories that have carried on from generation to generation. Today, we live in a world where stories are central, not just amongst family and friends, but also in business. Stories shape perspective, invoking emotions and eliciting powerful reactions, twisting our knowledge and forming the basis for our experiences.
Today, in a world that’s been virtualized and digitized, stories still take center stage. They elicit associations and draw parallels, working to develop a foundation of values and beliefs around any particular concept, person or business. Stories, in fact, are central to businesses, very much like stories might be central to religious figures or historical events in our past. In fact, big brands are built and shaped around stories.
Stories are so integral to shaping how we feel about something that advertisers have been using them for ages, partly as slogans and even complete advertising campaigns. Some slogans are so powerful that they’ve stuck with us, being etched into our minds, even after all these years, sparking an instant association with a particular product or company. Think about some of the most famous slogans or campaigns in history and you’ll see just how central stories are to the business world.
Slogans like Apple’s “Think Different” campaign or DeBeers’ “A Diamond is Forever” and Folgers’ “The Best Part Of Waking Up is Folgers In Your Cup” elicit strong emotional reactions. Why? Because advertisers have been so good at marketing their content because they understand how to pit pain versus pleasure to talk up a product. Combined with images, slogans and jingles can create a mass movement of interest in virtually anything.
Marketing Content In The Digital Age
While the days of traditional advertising are slowly coming to an end, the iconic growth of the internet is in full swing. And although content is no longer marketed as often through old media channels such as television, radio and magazine, this new spin on marketing via the digital ether is creating revolutionary results. Content Marketing is important in so many aspects, but so few people have learned how to leverage it.
While the practice of marketing content is part of the greater industry of online marketing, very few have discovered how to leverage this behemoth of a practice. The few who have, understand the mechanics of things like search engine optimization, social media marketing, blogging and video marketing in a true and inherent sense. But this isn’t a level of knowledge that comes through overnight success. It takes years and years to wield expertise in a field that’s filled with obfuscations.
In a recent conversation that I had with Loren Baker, founder of Search Engine Journal (SEJ) and Foundation Digital, one of the leading content marketing and digital consulting firms in the world (with clients that include companies like ESPN, American Eagle, ForRent and many other well-known consumer brands), we spoke extensively about the market forces at play in this field. The truth? It’s hard to wield dominance due to an ever-changing landscape without truly being invested in the tumultuous digital climate.
With things changing so often, leveraging the ability to market content on a large scale still proves elusive at best. In my conversation with Baker, who has built a massive leading SEO website, I was curious as to just what it took to dominate in this competitive landscape. Considering that content marketing is founded upon the fundamentals of doing SEO the right way, I knew that Baker would be the perfect source for advice.
The Genesis Of SEJ
Before I dive into the structural components of crafting a good story through content marketing and effectively elevating your brand, I wanted to convey Baker’s journey. For me, understanding the journey of a wildly-successful entrepreneur like Baker helps to highlight a blueprint that can potentially be replicated. We always hear that we should model after success in order to achieve it on our own, and that’s precisely my fascination with people.
The truth is that thoughts are things and the closer we are to success, the more we can potentially see it coming to pass in our own lives. However, don’t get me wrong. Baker didn’t start out successful. In fact, he was much like everyone else, completely enthralled in a 9-to-5 job that brought little challenge or excitement to his life. Yet, that job in the advertising field, did make him privy to many of the tectonic shifts that were occurring at the beginning of the Web 2.0 era, ushering in search engines like Google and the deep embedment of relevancy in online search.
However, just as things started to take off in the digital world, so did Baker. In the early 2000’s, Baker embarked on an adventure to Japan where he decided to teach English for two years. Although the term digital nomad hadn’t quite been coined as of yet, he was the precursor to just that as he arrived at the second stop in his journey in Brazil. Yet, what he realized while living in Brazil was that you couldn’t pay off college loans from income received in gainful employment in that country, so after nearly three years of unplugging, he got back online and back into the world of SEO, which had changed a bit.
Roughly around this time, in 2003, Google had acquired Blogger and Baker had an inkling that he would immerse himself in the world of content publishing by launching his own blog. Search Engine Journal was born on a whim, originally hosted on Blog Spot, but later switched to WordPress’s beta platform, called B2 at the time. In fact, SEJ became one of the first major websites to ever be hosted on the WordPress platform and still is to this day.
Baker kicked off his content marketing exploration at the time, launching Search Engine Journal as a personal content publishing project with the ultimate goal to elevate his own personal brand and services in the world of SEO. It wasn’t until he began receiving offers for advertising that he realized he could effectively monetize his blog’s traffic. Although the first ad ever placed on SEJ was for $35, it was the beginning of something very special for Baker. He was finally in a position where he realized he could actually monetize something that he loved doing and two years later; SEJ was a six-figure-income blog.
Since then, Baker and the team at Alpha Brand Media (the parent of SEJ since 2010) have built SEJ into a global SEO behemoth. In fact, so many in the SEO industry, including myself, rely on SEJ for breaking news on topics related to the industry but also on in-depth content, analysis and test results being constantly performed by the many contributors to the platform.
And according to Baker, it was the experience of launching and building SEJ that gave him an advantage in the world of SEO and content marketing agency services, along with his partners at Foundation Digital, fellow SEO veterans Greg Boser & Dax Herrera.
In fact, Foundation Digital has found that one thing that sets them apart in their industry is that they offer full circle services including design, development, hosting, SEO, content production and content marketing all under one roof; with the help of strategic partners such as CopyBlogger’s StudioPress and other companies like WP Engine and OptInMonster.
Baker tells me that, “Around 2007, after SEJ really started to blossom and grow, companies were approaching me asking me to do for their blog what I had done at SEJ. Even to this day, the ability to walk into a meeting and discuss a content marketing strategy which supports all facets of digital omnichannel marketing, after having created a publication which has grown from a blog into a full blown media channel with podcasts, webinars, lead generation campaigns, white papers and conferences like the SEJ Summit series … the ability to walk the walk in addition to talk the talk; goes very far in securing content marketing driven vendor and client services relationships.”
What Is Juice-Transferal Theory?
At the heart of any content marketing campaign is the underlying concept of juice-transferal theory. If you’ve never heard of it, let me break it down for you. Juice, which is another way of referring to the power of a hyperlink, is transferred from one page to the next across the internet. Some sites, because of their level of trust and authority, can transfer more juice than others. Think about it like an electrical circuit. There’s more power in larger or bigger circuits than there are in smaller ones.
Websites work in very much similar ways. Juice is built up and created over time, harnessed by a site and its underlying content. The more trust and authority it has, the more juice it builds up. When it creates links from its content away to other pages, it transfers parts of that juice, very much like a light switch being flipped on transfers electrical energy to a lightbulb to illuminate it.
Now, people in the SEO industry like Baker and myself, understand this concept at its very core. Considering that linking is still one of the primary ways that people can increase their visibility on a search engine like Google, doing it the right way can lead to some very explosive results. And when you harness this concept of juice transference, you can really take your content marketing to the next level when done the right way.
And, yes, there is a right way and a wrong way to market your content. Clearly, you have to pay homage to Google’s many rules. You also have to ensure that you add value and create insightful, engaging and well-written content. Beyond that, exactly how you position that content relevantly to your audience and how you structure the links and share them will have a large impact on your success.
How To Supercharge Your Content Marketing
If you’re serious about ranking for difficult keywords, you need to market your content. To do that, there are 5 primary steps that you need to go through, which Baker has kindly laid out for me. In our conversation, Baker says that content marketing is the most powerful strategy for ranking for virtually any keyword that’s topical or relevant to your site. Here’s how it works.
— Step 1: Build High-Quality Anchor Content
The first step is to build high-quality anchor content that resides on your site. While there are loads of rules to follow when building this content, here’s a basic outline of what should occur. Keep in mind that the goal here is to ensure that your content helps solve a problem or fill a need and that it instructs people on just how to do that. The longer they stick around consuming that content, the better it’ll be for you in terms of rank over time.
- Ensure the content is over 2,000 words
- Utilize your keyword or topic in the title
- Use a canonical URL with the keyword or topic embedded
- Stay keyword-centric and on topic
- Lean heavily on LSI keywords rather than exact-match keywords
- Make it relevant to your audience
- Section the content off properly
- Make it well-written and free of errors
- Use a high reading level and diverse word usage
- Don’t duplicate content ever
- Use a high-quality image with a descriptive ALT-tag
- Ensure that the content is insightful and engaging
- Cite all sources and backup all factual claims
- Make the content easily shareable
— Step 2: Build Insightful Authority-Site Content
The next step in the process is to essentially repeat the first step, but ensure that the content is also unique and reaches unique insights. Do not simply spin the content from the first step. You have to go out of your way on this one. Spend the time it takes to make the content amazing on its own and post it to a site like Medium, Quora, LinkedIn’s Publishing Platform, SlideShare, Scribd, YouTube or any other number of authority sites out there.
Keep in mind that authority sites have lots of authority and trust. Therefore, far more juice to transfer over. You should select authority sites based on their Domain Authority (DA). This is an important concept. It effectively tells you how important, from 0 to 100, an authority website is. Several online SEO tools provide you with a DA. You can select the one that works best for you.
— Step 3: Create A Relevant Link From The Authority-Site Content To your Anchor Content
Due to the power of juice transferal, your content from the authority site needs to have one relevant LSI keyword link to your anchor content. LSI keywords are simply similar to exact-match keywords but not identical. For example, an LSI-variation of “make money online” would be “earn cash online” or “earn income on the internet.” Can you see how the keywords are similar but not exactly identical? This is important to allow the article to look organic and not to portray link or keyword sculpting.
— Step 4: Share The Authority Site Content On Social Media
Sharing the authority site content on social media sends powerful signals that transfer the juice far better than if you were to share your own anchor content. Now, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share anchor content on social media sites. However, you should first focus on sharing them with relevant descriptions and to relevant audiences on social media for the authority site content first. That will transfer more juice over to your own site. Afterwards, you can share the anchor content as well.
— Step 5: Slowly Drip-Market The Authority Site Content Weekly
Your work isn’t done yet. Once you’ve fully marketed the content and sent social signals, you should continue to content market the authority site content by repeating steps 2 through 4 to the original authority site content. Translation? Simply market the content marketing piece from the second step and share it again. You’re effectively building out a chain of links that are extremely powerful and can create enormous movements up Google’s SERPs over time.