by Pat Fischer

Humanize Your Brand With Content Marketing as Part of Your SEO Strategy

human fund

SEO and digital marketing have always gone hand in hand, and for those of us who eat, breathe, and sleep SEO, this makes complete sense. After all, SEO is only valuable when the right markets are targeted. The basis of a solid SEO campaign begins with deciding which keywords you want a given website to rank for and then focusing your efforts on attaining those rankings.

By default, when choosing those keywords, you’ve already begun choosing a market to target. Thus, the relationship between SEO and digital marketing is completely symbiotic. Not only would it be unwise to perform SEO without a digital marketing plan, it’s completely counterintuitive to the process. A holistic understanding of this relationship is one of our competitive advantages here at OuterBox, and a critical component of our success.

SEO

By now you likely understand what search engine optimization is about, since at its core it too is a fairly straightforward concept. Your goal is to drive traffic to your site from the search engines, so the logical steps involve making changes to your website to appease Google’s enigmatic algorithm. SEO is simply the entire process of achieving this.

Content Marketing

Content marketing at its core is about creating and sharing content that you have created with a specific goal in mind. Although the purpose may depend on your industry, the goal will always be about the same: Acquire new customers and retain the ones you already have by creating engaging content. Seems pretty simple, right? It’s a simple process, but it takes a lot of research, planning and time to develop the right strategy for your business. Additionally, a solid SEO strategy is crucial to making this content visible in the search engines. After all, creating great content is a waste of time if the right people don’t see it. You shouldn’t rely solely on things like social media to drive traffic to your content.

The funny thing is, there has been a lot of chatter on the Interwebz that SEO is dead, and that content marketing is the latest reincarnation of SEO. This could simply not be further from the truth! Sure, this pretentious drivel mostly comes from click bait bloggers looking for controversial title tags that will entice readers to click through, but it  unjustly attacks an entire industry. For better or worse, you can simply get a lot of clicks with shocking titles like “SEO IS DEAD”.

Effectively, those SEO apocalypse types of articles are a very good example of the power of content marketing. Ironically, their target market includes the very same group of online marketing professionals that they themselves belong to. The embarrassing part is that as SEO professionals, we should know better, yet it still doesn’t stop (most of) us from clicking through and reading those articles. Even leaving your $.02 in the comments section just helps them to achieve the engagement they are after.

SEO is not dead; in fact it is alive and thriving. True content marketing should work with your SEO plan, not replace it. If it’s not, you need to rethink either one or both of those strategies to get them on the same page.

It is no secret that gaining quality and relevant links from authoritative domains is one of the most impactful SEO tactics known, and well developed content marketing strategies will certainly help achieve that. If your content appeals to your target market, they will share it with their friends and colleagues, and many quality links and social signals will occur naturally. That type of engagement is priceless, and is a crucial aspect of modern link building. Naturally built links are the cat’s meow in SEO.

SEO is not Content Marketing, But Content Marketing is SEO

What if I told you that SEO and content marketing are not just similar, but for our purposes, the same thing? Would you call me crazy? Certainly I would get quite a lot of head turns if I made such a bold statement amongst a group of online marketing professionals. You might even accuse me of creating the same type of polarizing argument that I am being critical of in this very article. Bear with me, though.

As an example, let’s think of it as you might think of squares and rectangles. A square by definition is a type of rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square. In the same way, SEO is not content marketing, but content marketing is SEO.

Humanizing Your Brands With Your Content Marketing Strategy

Every year, a few buzzwords (or “buzzterms”) become viral and end up causing a perceived paradigm shift in the industry. One term that has received a lot of buzz of late has been “brand humanization”, a strategy that has been touted as the future of content marketing. While traditional link building has shifted toward building links naturally by creating rich, relevant and (most importantly) linkable content (content marketing), the anointed online marketing aficionados have been advising us to use humanization as a way to connect emotionally with your target market. But what does humanization even mean, and why is it so great?

Humanizing your brand simply means attributing human elements to your company, or at the very least making your brand somehow relatable to humans. The reason behind this is pretty straight forward – people are much more likely to make an emotional connection to a person than they are with a ‘sterile’ corporation or business.

I’m not going to waste time by providing you with “13 Ways To Humanize Your Brand Before You Die – #2 Will Shock You!” – if you’re after that information simply google “ways to humanize your brand” and you’ll find PLENTY of ideas. Instead, let’s focus on WHY you may want to make humanizing your brand a core part of your content marketing strategies and WHAT that actually means.

Advertisers have been utilizing content marketing long before the inception of the Internet. One of the first documented uses of content marketing happened when a baking powder company began including free recipes on the back of their containers. This provided an added value to the product for free, incentivizing consumers to build a relationship with the company. The pleasant feelings one later felt while eating these sweet baked goods would create emotional connections to the brand. Even though they did not directly attribute human qualities to their brand, they made it possible for humans to relate to the brand on a higher level. This is a great example of how you can humanize a brand without necessarily having to resort cartoon anthropomorphisms (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

aflac-duckThe Aflac duck is a great example of a more modern brand humanization. Aflac created an anthropomorphic duck as its spokesperson and launched an strong advertising campaign to support it. Today, if you asked people off of the street what they thought of insurance companies, you might receive a lot of negative responses. If you asked them their thoughts on Aflac, most would fondly recall the comical voice and antics of the duck, and probably not even mention the word “insurance”. The duck’s image is so resilient that even a PR nightmare from Gilbert Gottfriend couldn’t weaken his effectiveness.

These types of emotional connections have proven to have profound effects on sales. When a consumer has an emotional connection to something, they are more likely to be passionate about sharing it with others. They also often develop a sense of loyalty to the brand. This builds lasting business relationships with consumers that end up buying products almost out of an unwitting sense of obligation. For retailers selling consumable items that must be purchased repeatedly, such as laundry detergent, for example – this loyalty is especially beneficial.

The best way to humanize your brand and align this strategy with your SEO plan is to create a content marketing plan that is rooted in both keyword research and target market research. Understand what types of content your demographic is interested in, and then combine it with your keyword research to drive traffic from the search engines. Never pay more attention to one at the expense of the other. Understanding how keyword research can be used in conjunction with your understanding of your target market is the most important part of this process.