Content for Links? What Ever Happened to Content for an Audience?
When it comes to content, I’ve got to say SEO rarely gets it right. Every conference I attend, speakers talk about great content that attracts links. The closest I’ve seen to an SEO conference really considering content with regard to audience, was at the most recent Brighton SEO, with Rosie Freshwater’s peta kucha Market Research: Informing SEO and Link Development (bottom of the page) describing how customer insight could inform building content which builds links. This entire guide by Distilled, while quite useful and comprehensive is also about links. Links, links, links, links, links. This is a great post about link bait from Search Engine Land, which explains:
“For SEO purposes, we are interested in sharing. You want people to write about your link bait on their websites, blogs and on their social media accounts. It would be a shame if 10,000 people saw your link bait yet none of them actually linked to it.”
That’s fair enough, but I don’t think it’s that much of a shame if 10,000 people still see your stuff. If 10,000 people saw this blog I couldn’t really give a hoot about whether or not someone linked to me. My audience would have gone up and I would have grown in community stature.
Links vs. Audience
The SEO industry never talks about content as a means to build audience, which is how every major media organisation would consider it. Of course, content which builds links builds search rankings, which technically builds audience, but it’s not exactly a way of thinking that puts people first. Since I’m a proponent of loving the people f rather than worrying about algorithms, I’m keen to change this mind-set.
Writers are Not Link Builders
Creating content as a means the end of building links is not something a writer will particularly enjoy. I was a writer in an SEO agency before – we wrote content with the objective of building links and it totally sucked. Our boss even told us to try and not be creative and noticeable, because then the clearly paid for links would be less likely to be found. I lasted eight months. Much more pleasurable is seeing that people are actually reading your stuff, and then a % of those people are sharing it as well. It makes your writers happier. Think about creating content around a niche to build an audience and a community. Don’t go about thinking that your content should always be attracting links. People first, algorithms second.
Benefits of Building an Audience
The benefits of building an engaged audience and community can be wide ranging (I suggest reading Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies), but building an audience who are engaged, brand loyal and thus more likely to come back are in the end more likely to buy your stuff. You should gain customers who repeatedly buy from your business, have a view on your business, and can help you (and are prepared to help) by providing insight. Once you have this, your advocates will recruit more customers through word of mouth. Think about how you can make your content interactive, how your audience can be involved with the creation of that content – build the audience and you’ll have more people who will share your stuff. Ultimately, you’ll get more natural links through this distribution.