writing for humansA story in two acts, in which a non-writer takes the first bold step towards blowing up an inbound marketing agency’s content strategy. [no actual explosions, safety gear optional]

During a recent marketing meeting at my agency, I became very frustrated with the amount of time we spend on keyword research. Our organic traffic had dropped. We couldn’t figure out why. For an inbound marketing agency to have a drop in traffic with no logical explanation is, to say the least, no bueno.

My team and I proceeded to spend a good five hours searching and poking and prodding for a root cause. Was it a Google algorithm change? Was it something we messed up technically? Was our content just crap and Google thought so as well? The forensics continued for days after this meeting — digging through data, meeting with experts in the industry, and in the end, we ultimately wound up without a solid answer.

So at the next meeting, we simply defaulted back to square one: determining what keywords to write for. We’re all familiar with that almost-snarky definition of insanity — you know the one. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, blah, blah, blah. I blame that old adage for the fact that my frustration was only amplified by this ‘circling back’ crap. I’m not a big fan of defeat.

There’s another old saying that actually ended up working better for this impasse: A watched pot never boils. This particular pot of ours was not merely watched, no, the whole crew and I had circled our chairs around it and stared at it with super-human intensity and focus for a solid week.

Sometimes you’ve just got to walk away from a problem and let your brain re-boot. So it really should come as no surprise that an answer would pop out of nowhere shouting “Ta-DA!” AFTER I’d skulked off home in search of alternate amusements. Shaking off the dust of the day’s skirmishes, I settled in to unwind with some wine and diverting conversation with my husband. And maybe just one more wine. Relaxed and unconcerned about the world, outside at last, a single clear thought rings in my brain.

F Google. F Keywords. Write for humans.

“Hell yeah!” I said to myself. That’s an epiphany right there! But as I embarked on convincing my team of this the next day, there was push back. Seriously, guys? This is a REVELATION. Surprised that I was not instantly hoisted upon jubilant shoulders with cheers of “Hip hip HURRAH!”, I look from one face to the next and see more than one unconvinced expression. Dang it. There’s going to be a discussion instead.

seth godin: content marketing is the only marketing leftYou see, we have a culture here of being honest, transparent, and in open opposition to BS in all its forms. We fearlessly ‘mine for conflict’ and trust each other enough to really say what we mean. There may be teams out there who can cut through the crap to ferret out the real merit of a thing with more speed and efficiency than ours, but they have not been reported by reliable witnesses.

The ensuing discussion netted three competing perspectives on the “perfect” blog formula. And from that, “The Battle of the Blog” was born.

Read the other two perspectives to judge for yourself which one you like best:

You, the patient reader, are reading my entry right now. This is me, charging into the battle, eyes fixed on reclaiming our organic traffic — which ultimately wins us the war. Let’s be clear: This isn’t some revolutionary idea. I’m not the first to think of this.

However, convincing a team of content marketers that blowing up the past is the most unencumbered path to the future is a hard sell; and being a data-driven agency, I have to run this experiment. So allow me to explain my radical self.

The Hypothesis

If you are writing content for marketing, such as blogs, white papers, ebooks, you are likely writing them to reach a larger audience, solve a problem, and ultimately gain a new customer. I think that if we write interesting and compelling articles that solve people’s marketing challenges, we will see a growth in our organic traffic, without the need to overanalyze and craft a mastermind keyword strategy.

The Gameplan

gary vaynerchuk: if content is king. Context is God.This is the first step in testing my hypothesis. I’m writing this from the heart.  I’m not a writer, I’m actually a terrible writer. My team is far better suited for this task, but to really test this, I have to write it.

The second step will be to outline my process and steps so that you can test this for your own business. I’m a firm believer that every business’s content strategy should be different. There isn’t an exact approach that will resonate with every business, industry or person. Gary Vaynerchuk once said, “If content is King, then Context is God.”

While I have done no keyword research, my principles are to blend Content, Context, and Readers together to form a sweet spot of meaningful marketing communications.

The Formula For Success

targeted meaningful communication

  • Know your audience
  • Write like an author
    • Quality not quantity
    • Keep Real, Human Queries Top of Mind
    • Use Relevant Language
    • Don’t Be Repetitive
  • Personality over Keywords
    • Make it pretty: People are drawn to visuals and videos before words.
    • Grab them with some eye candy to keep them reading.
    • Write about what interests them, not what you want to sell.
  • Execute proper technical SEOURLs
    • Titles
    • Meta Descriptions
    • Alt Tags

And that’s it. Not so revolutionary up close, is it? Ultimately, the foundation of my theory here was stated best by Moz Founder, Rand Fishkin, on Twitter:

There’s no such thing as ‘writing for people vs. search engines.’
There’s only ‘writing for people who also use search engines.’