Although search engine optimization is fundamental to all effective digital marketing efforts, the phrase itself has gotten a bad rap, due to its misuse by unscrupulous companies. These “content farms” use SEO simply to drive traffic to their sites, and don’t bother to actually provide useful content at those sites.
The worst content farms sprinkle in references to the latest buzzwords (cloud computing), websites (Pinterest), and products (iPad) as a way of luring in unwary Googlers. Since they make their money by selling ads, their only concern is getting eyeballs to land on the page. The more traffic they lure in, the higher their ad revenues. They have little concern about any of the words that appear on the page, other than to make sure as many as possible of them will appear in consumer searches. By starting with SEO and ignoring content, content farms are websites where, as Gertrude Stein said, “There is no there there.”
The content farm model is completely backwards. In fact, your job is to figure out what information your potential customers need and provide it. Effective digital marketing is all about posting meaty content that engages people — and then making sure people can find it.
SEO’s role in responsible marketing is not only legitimate, it’s crucial. That role is helping potential clients and customers find their way to you. If you’re selling something more significant than just hits on a web page, worry about content first and use SEO to support it.