Category: Content distribution

Why “resonance” is the future of SEO

future of seo

One of the problems in the digital marketing world today is that leaders are using an outdated playbook — especially when it comes to Search Engine Optimization. I think the future of SEO is taking some pretty wild and unexpected turns right now so let’s explore that today.

Content as SEO fuel

The major innovation with SEO over the past few years is that it has largely become a content strategy. Beginning with the “inbound marketing” concept introduced by Hubspot in 2005 and growing into very sophisticated AI-driven techniques today, creating content that can auto-magically bring qualified leads to your site has been a reliable strategy.

But there are a few trends that are changing that and content certainly does not work for SEO like it used to. The future of SEO is moving in a dramatic new direction.

The changing search landscape

Let’s look at the future of SEO and content as it is unveiling itself through three significant trends.

First — voice search. When you search Alexa or Google home by verbalizing a question, you don’t get a list of content sugestions like blog posts or videos. You get an answer. So content has a much-diminished impact in the world of voice search.

It’s impossible to tell exactly how much of the total search pie is going to voice queries, but let’s be ultra-conservative and say 20 percent.

future of seo

When you ask Alexa or Siri to do something for you, you normally don’t get a list of blog posts or podcast episodes in the results. So the implication is that your content is potentially impacting much less of the search market than it did in the pre-voice days five years ago. But wait, it gets worse.

Trend number two — Last month, something very significant happened in the search world. For the first time, more than half (51 percent) of the search inquiries on Google were kept by Google. This means, Google kept the SEO “answers” away from businesses and content creators and directed them to their own knowledge panels, internal properties, and paid partnerships.

Will this continue to grow in the Google direction? The government will have some say over this. Google’s increasing dominance in this space is a subject of a Department of Justice probe. The company owns the dominant tool at every link in the complex chain between online publishers and advertisers, giving it unique power over the monetization of digital content.

So now we have a truer picture of the emerging search world. In the past five years, the majority of organic search traffic that was available to be attracted by your content has been in steady decline.

future of seo content in decline

The main idea here is, the available search inquiries that can be served by your SEO-oriented content has been evaporating over the past five years.

And when we look at the future of SEO … it gets even worse.

Trend three — While the piece of the pie available to organic search inquiries has been in rapid decline, the amount of content competing for that shrinking pie has literally exploded.

When you have more and more content competing for the same search traffic, eventually content marketing is not a sustainable strategy for some businesses. This is an idea I proposed some years ago called Content Shock.

future of seo content shock

This graph from WordPress shows the number of blog posts published each month since the beginning of the content marketing era. You don’t have to be a statistician to realize it’s harder to compete for attention in a world of 80 million blog posts every month compared to one million a month 10 years ago. In fact, your competition has increased by 8,000 percent in a few years. A tough world for an inbound marketer!

Of course, the same thing is happening on podcasts, visual content, and video (there are 300 hours of new video uploaded to YouTube every minute of the day!).

To break through in this environment, you need to either spend more money on quality to win the content arms race or spend more to promote your content. Either way, traditional content marketing becomes more expensive and less accessible for many businesses in this environment.

So is this the end of content marketing?


We just need to think about content and its benefits in an entirely different way.

SEO and the junkyard dogs

I was recently hired by a company in Seattle to conduct a personal branding workshop based on my book KNOWN.

When you think about it, this was an extremely unlikely pairing. If you search for “personal branding consultant,” there are 40 million results. Even if you search for “personal branding consultant Seattle” there are 2.1 million results.

I am not in those top search results. Not even close.

This is not an unusual situation for a small business. I am NEVER going to be in the top search results. Really, the only thing that matters is the top three slots. The top three slots will be won by the biggest, meanest, richest SEO junkyard dogs.

It’s an expensive and never-ending battle that I will never win for terms like “digital marketing consultant,” “marketing strategy, “keynote speaker,” or any of the other jobs that I do.

Chances are, unless you’re the junkyard dog in your industry, you won’t win your SEO battle either. And yet, every company I know is pouring money into content trying to win the SEO battle!

This just makes no sense.

But here I was in Seattle, conducting an awesome workshop. How did my client find me in all this hopeless SEO mess? Through my content. But not through search.

The business case for resonance

The night before my workshop, I had a wonderful seafood dinner with my client. I asked my friend … “Why did you hire me?”

“Your content resonates with me,” he said without hesitation.

Isn’t that an interesting word … resonates.

My content was not at the top of an SEO stack for personal branding. I’m certainly not going to make the Alexa hit parade.

But a person who hired me for this important work chose me because there was an emotional connection that resonated with him on a personal and professional level.

This reveals a more practical and realistic value of content in this competitive environment, and a value that is almost entirely overlooked by marketers today.

At this point, I would like to interrupt myself. Whenever I write a mega-trend blog post like this, I am pointing out an idea that is very broad … and it may not apply to everybody. There certainly is still room today for SEO-driven content, and there always will be as far out into the future as I can see. The numbers I’ve presented here are high level. The true search volume for your industry could result in mostly organic results, especially in smaller niche markets.

The answer to every marketing question is, “it depends,” and that is certainly true here.

But overall, SEO-driven content is probably working less well for most businesses and content that attracts customers due to its authority is becoming more important.

Content and authority

So there are really two basic content strategies you can use to win new business: Content meant to win SEO and content meant to earn authority (content that resonates with readers). And of course, you can have overlap between these strategies:

future of seo

I won the business in Seattle — against all SEO odds — because I ignored SEO. I write for my readers. If I do that well and consistently, I’ll earn subscribers. Eventually, these subscribers will grow to know me, trust me and hire me. I think that is the future of SEO, which is really not SEO at all!

It’s a different way to look at content strategy but for 90 percent of the businesses out there who will never win the SEO battle, content built on authority might be the best and only strategic option.

I’m not creating content to trick you into clicking a link. I am creating content that consistently connects with your hopes and dreams and business needs. I’m building a long-term connection that resonates.

Make sense?

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy 

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Is there still a place for blogging?

I love blogging. It is certainly my favorite social media drug of choice. It has helped me build a career and a business and it makes me happy to connect to people in my {grow} blog space every week!
For years, I’ve been hearing predictions about an inevitable decline in blogging popularity. Could it be here?
This is a well-known chart put out by WordPress that shows the number of blog posts that have been written on its site since 2006:
place for blogging
There are three noticeable characteristics of this chart:
  • A decade of enormous growth
  • One month in 2019 that seems to defy all odds!
  • A leveling of posts that have been published in the last two or three years
Arguably blogging was the first “social media” of the internet era and a reliable communication form for both companies and creatives. But with the entry barriers being removed for anyone to produce high-quality videos, podcasts, and other communication forms, the death of blogging has been predicted for a long time.

Is there still a place for blogging?

Does this graph indicate a slide in blogging growth? And where does blogging stand today?
First I want to caution that this chart does not tell the whole picture about blogging. For example, it excludes blog posts being published on Medium, which have been exploding, as well as platforms like LinkedIn, which has become a popular place for original content in the past few years.
I think if you look at all the places written content is being created today, you would see a trend line that is still going up — dramatically. But with all this other competition for your attention, is blogging less important, less relevant today? What is the place for blogging in this information ecosystem?
I haven’t addressed this issue in a long time and I thought it would be a good discussion topic for the podcast. In the newest episode, Brooke Sellas and I examine the true story behind blogging in the content ecosystem and also discuss a new integrated marketing trend, the marketing ideas consumers love the most, and an outrageous (and exclusive!) new musical performance from Ian Anderson Gray!

Let the show begin! Just click here:

Click here to dive into Episode 182

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What is the current state of content distribution? The answer is “who”

content distribution

I was recently in a lively discussion about the state of content distribution and it reminded me that this is a topic I haven’t covered in a long time. This was a dominant theme for me when I was working on the 2015 book The Content Code and it’s time to take a fresh look at things. So let’s dig in.

Content shock is alive and well

We are approaching the fifth anniversary of the most popular blog post I’ve written — Content Shock. It went viral because it pricked at the pomposity of the content marketing gurus and proclaimed that the popular notion of inbound marketing just doesn’t work like it used to.

And … it doesn’t.

There’s no denying that my prediction came true. As niches swelled with meaningful, helpful content, it became more difficult and expensive to compete. Social sharing and page views declined and our collective ability to stand out was muted by this hurricane of content competitors.

This suggested that content alone could no longer be the answer to the marketer’s dilemma. Creating more content just added to the problem. We needed our content to move. It had to be seen, it had to be shared. It had to be ignited.

Content ignition — that is the true source of content marketing value! There is no economic value to publishing content unless that content is seen and shared.

So how do we ignite our content? Let’s look at the state of the nation.

First — A caveat. There is no cookie-cutter solution or idea in the marketing world. Every industry, business, and product is complex. So, there are lots of exceptions. Today I am presenting high-level ideas, not specific solutions.

Search engine optimization

For nearly three decades, SEO has been the go-to strategy for content distribution. There is no more intoxicating marketing idea than having high potential customers auto-magically find our content organically through that little search box.

That is the heart of the idea behind inbound marketing, a concept that is much less relevant today than it was five years ago.

SEO is important, and it always will be, but my view it is far less important to most businesses than they think, for a simple reason. To win at SEO, you have to own one of the top search results. So in this never-ending battle for SEO supremacy, there can only be one or two winners in an entire product category.

In essence, SEO is like two big, mean junkyard dogs fighting over the same bone, week after week, year after year. Unless you’re one of those top dogs, SEO can be an expensive way to achieve endless frustration. Another option for content ignition — and probably a better option for most businesses — is to develop content that builds authority.

Authority-based content is produced for the customer, not a search engine, and wins the distribution war if it is good enough to earn customer subscriptions and organic advocacy.

If you want to dive into this idea more deeply, here are resources that can help. In another blog post, I explain the junkyard dog idea and in a second post I break down the two most likely content marketing strategies, including authority.

Promotions and advertising

If we can’t organically earn our way into the attention span of our customers, can we buy our way in through ads that boost our content? That is also getting more difficult.

Here’s a sign of the advertising apocalypse before us. One of the themes at the last Cannes Lions Festival was the desperate push from agencies to get Netflix to show ads. This sad and ridiculous strategy is coming about because of a couple of megatrends.

First, at an increasing rate, content being consumed today does not feature ads. Netflix. Amazon Prime. Spotify. Audiobooks. None of them show ads. Why? Consumers hate ads and consumers always win. Traditional advertising as we know it is dying.

Second, the only place where advertising is growing — digital — is filling up. As the ad inventory declines, the prices rise, making digital ads less accessible for some businesses, or products with slim margins.

Advertising is still a relevant content distribution strategy in some places of course, but it is also a victim of Content Shock — as the competition to standout increases, the cost to compete and distribute that content rises until some businesses will simply have to drop out.

The importance of WHO

So in this weird and noisy world, how do we get our message through? I think the future of content marketing and distribution is found in the word WHO.

Content distribution is a real mess compared to a few years ago. It’s harder to get our content seen and shared and even when we boost it with an ad, people probably still don’t see it or believe it. In fact, trust in businesses, brands, and ads have declined 10 years in a row, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer.

Who do people trust? Each other! We trust people like …

  • Friends and neighbors
  • Business leaders
  • Technical experts
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Influencers and celebrities

I believe completely that this simple fact will dictate the future of content marketing and content distribution.

The key idea is that yes, the WHAT of our story is important, but perhaps even more important is the WHO — WHO IS TELLING THE STORY?

If your company is telling the story through your content, it’s less likely that it will be seen, believed, and shared. But if people I trust are telling me this story, the content becomes internalized and actionable. The content ignites in the very best way — from people we trust.

Content ignition through trusted audiences is the true state of the art in content distribution. If you want to dive into this a little more, in another post I describe how this is an ongoing process of being invited on to the customer “islands.”

The future of content distribution

Marketing success in this new environment means adopting an entirely new mindset. We do not control the message, the pipeline, or the customer journey. The customer is the marketer. How do we help them do the job?

This is a scary and unfamiliar concept. It’s going to be hard to explain to a boss who is still entrenched in 2013. Content marketing success is going to be harder to measure. It’s going to take some bold leadership to accomplish.

But in this world of rapid change and uncertainty, this is one thing I know: We don’t have a choice but to keep moving ahead. We have to pivot and accept these new marketing realities.

The future of content distribution will rely on us creating stories and experiences that are so unmissable and conversational that the customers become the marketing department.

The key to our future success isn’t necessarily the story. It’s who is telling it.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy

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Why you need to climb aboard Medium, the magical home of the written word


Medium has become my biggest source of personal inspiration … and a new revenue stream. Today I want to lay out the business case for why you should get involved in Medium, too.

I’m surprised by how many people are overlooking this important and delightful publishing platform. So many give me blank stares when I rave about it! Medium is growing, it’s an important step toward cleaning up the web, and it’s for everybody who loves the power of written word.

I don’t think I have ever made a public recommendation for an idea or platform ever before, so this post represents a notable break from my normal position.

To be clear, I am not any kind of sponsored spokesperson for Medium. I’m not paid for the endorsement. I just really believe in what they’re doing and I want you to be aware of the opportunity, too.

Medium, the rabbit hole

Medium is an online publishing platform developed by Ev Williams (founder of both Blogger and Twitter) and launched in August 2012. The platform is an outlet for social journalism and opinion, featuring a hybrid collection of amateur and professional writers covering every subject imaginable.

mediumYou can subscribe to more than 140 different topics — curated newsletters for startups, tech, health, or marketing, for example.

The content is assembled with the help of actual human beings, so you’re really seeing the best of the best in your daily emails.

Without question, posts on Medium have become my biggest source of business ideas and inspiration.  Sometimes I actually hesitate opening the email from Medium each day because I know I will go down a rabbit hole of interesting new people and ideas. You can spend a lot of time there!

Through Medium, I’ve discovered emerging thought leaders, diverse points of view, new resources, and exceptional insights. And its not just bloggers … some of the best writers in the world contribute to Medium.

Here is the most important innovation from Medium: Last year, Ev Williams decided to end the advertising model for the site. He realized that advertising can’t co-exist in a world of quality content because eventually the content starts to drive ad sales, not delight subscribers. And that’s a bad thing.

So Medium depends on subscriptions to survive, but that’s the only option if the platform is to maintain its focus and investment in quality. No ads. No spam. No hate. No fake news. Diverse perspectives. This is what we need in the world right now.

It also is one of the few places around these days that actually rewards writers for their best work … which brings us to:

The revenue source

For about two years I’ve been posting my content on Medium. I am primarily doing this as a vote of support for the platform because I believe in it, but it’s also starting to pay off financially (a little).

mediumMedium attracts well over 220 million monthly users — putting it in the ranks of Spotify and Pinterest. To best serve its readers and writers, Medium invented the Medium Partner Program, the company’s method for paying writers for creating high quality work.

Medium is extremely transparent about their revenue model and metrics. They base their payouts on the actual reading time of subscribing members. So if subscribers are reading your stuff, you get paid.

This drives the right behavior for contributing writers because a) there is no way to “game” the system and b) you are being rewarded for high-quality, long-form content.

Everybody wins.

Chances are, you won’t get rich by being a Medium writer, at least not yet. Medium reports that in the last month:

  • 59 percent of writers who wrote at least one story in a month earned money.
  • 9 percent of active writers earned over $100 in a month.
  • $24,439 was the most earned by a writer in a month, and $6,783 was the most earned for a single story.

It’s significant that somebody out there earned more than $24,000 in a single month from their freelance writing. I’ve seen months where the leading writer made more than $30,000. That is awesome.

By the way, that person was not me. I’m only earning about $50 a month, but I haven’t had a serious focus on Medium as a revenue stream. It’s just not a priority right now so I only post a couple times a month — the big earners concentrate their efforts and may post every day.

Truth is, only a very small percentage of submissions will rocket through the ranks and catch the Medium editorial team’s eyes so they will “feature” it. Featured Stories receive a professional copy edit, custom artwork, and prominent placement across Medium’s platform and social networks. Those are the posts that can bring in the big bucks and drive massive awareness for your work.

The opportunity

So … Medium can make you smart and it can even make you money, but there is a more important reason to support the platform. Medium is what we’ve all been waiting for — It’s what the media world needs.

There is no barrage of “targeted ads.” Nobody is tracking you. There is no cesspool of fake news. Writers own their content and they are being paid for their good work!

But long term, this idea is only going to work if the company acquires more subscribers and more active writers.

Medium has a free version and a very low cost monthly subscription  — just $5 (or $50 for a year). I’ve been a subscriber since the first week they eliminated advertising and I hope you’ll subscribe too. It’s a chance for all of us to take one small step to make the web a better, more ethical, and smarter place.

Again, this is not any kind of affiliate situation. I will not receive a dime from this post. I simply want Medium to succeed because the world needs quality content on the web to thrive.

The internet is such a mean and ugly place that it makes my heart hurt sometimes. Medium shows the world there is hope for something better.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Images are from the Medium website.

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