I Eat Oatmeal, But I’m Not Friends With It

You know that friend of yours that shares links to static home pages of random businesses like Main Street Turbines or Frank’s Encased Meats? No? Well neither do I because he doesn’t exist! No one likes to talk about boring stuff in the real world, and they don’t like to link to boring stuff either. Do you think the Internet is flooded with cat videos because they’re selling something? Simply put, the days of passivity are over. You can’t build a website for your business or blog and just let the masses interact with it like monkeys did with that monolith from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” You have to engage your customers and give them a reason to link to your site. “‘Engage,’ you say? Like asking them to ‘like’ us on Facebook?” No. It’s no longer good enough to force the customer to rationalize with their inner self why they’re friends with a laundry detergent. You have to give them another reason to like you, to be an online resource in their daily (or weekly) life, and to serve a need that is above and beyond your actual product benefit. In a word: content. Content marketing is the key to building not only links, but enduring popularity. While some may say that content marketing has been forced upon SEO’ers by Google’s recent updates, it simply flies in the face of human nature NOT to focus on quality content. Which is exactly why Google updated their algorithm in the first place - to get people what they really want. And what they want is to learn and laugh. They want to discover new things, connect with others, and better understand their world. No one wants to be a data point on “x” company’s social media campaign. If your website can provide information and entertainment in an engaging and original way, you will have transformed your site into an oasis of quality that will be sought out by legions of content-thirsty folks. To build links, you have to become desirable. How? What if you just make shoe polish? 

  • Educate your audience with expert insights into your field that they can’t get anywhere else. Discuss the history of shining shoes. Talk about the science of making good polish. Suggest some DIY tips using household items.
  • Share stories, successes, and failures that contain wide-reaching lessons. Mention that time you tried making a new color for women’s shoes and you called it “Acai Berry Daydream.” Laugh at yourself. Humanize your business.
  • Entertain through a variety of media - post videos, pictures, and blogs about life at the office, wacky projects, or tangentially related interests. Post videos of a graffiti artist using your shoe polish to make amazing billboard art. Take pictures of a fort you made at the office made entirely of shoe polish tins.
  • Engage your customers by involving them in the website. But remember: the value lies in the content you give them, not the other way around. Folks want to consume. They don’t want to be free creative or consultative labor for their household product companies.

It’s important to realize that in a world of “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately,” your website is only as good as what it can provide. There is no such thing as inherent value. Earn value through quality content, and your website will be a valuable product on its own.

Rod Holmes is a partner at Chicago Style SEO, a full-service Internet marketing company in Chicago. His main responsibility around the office is being the head PPC wrangler (he's a certified Google AdWords expert). He also seems to spend a lot of time on the phone. You can find Rod on several social media channels: Google, Twitter, and Facebook.