We’ve finally come to the last installment of this series on marketing for the industrial automation industry, and here’s a big "thank you" to everyone who stuck with us for this long. It’s been quite the ride, hasn’t it? From learning how to know you actually have a problem with your marketing to learning why LinkedIn isn’t all you think it is, hopefully this series has been an eye opener for you and your team—and maybe you’re even walking away with some new ideas to try.
This installment, to put a nice bow on everything, will cover what is probably the most important topic of them all. If you get it wrong, literally nothing else we’ve talked about is going to work.
That’s right—we’re going to talk about content. In this conversation, we’re also going to touch on SEO best practices, and here’s a spoiler—"keywords" have nothing to do with it.
Let’s jump in, shall we?
What Is Content, and Why Is It So Important?
When I say the word "content," blogs are usually the first things that come to most people’s minds—and with good reason. Traditionally, when people asked, "what kind of content are you making?" they used to mean just that. Times have changed, however, just like with everything else.
Your blog is just one small part of your organization’s content. We’ll get to that concept in a minute, but for now, I would like to stress one thing. Everything you do—from your website to your product descriptions to videos to blog posts—is content.
One more time for the people in the back: everything is content.
To make it clearer, I’ll list out what I mean when I say content:
- Blog posts
- On-page website text, images, and videos
- Case studies, customer reviews, and star ratings
- Customer-created videos and testimonials
- Everything else you create for your business
Content is the lifeblood of your online presence, brand, and every other marketing channel. If you create quality content that people like and want to engage with, it can be used and repurposed for every marketing channel you have across the board.
We’ll start out with an easy example of what I mean. Let’s say you have created a good blog article. People like it; they engage with it—that’s great. Now what? Are you going to move on to the next thing, and let it waste away on your blog until it fades into obscurity?
You’d better not! Take that amazing blog article and put it back to work!
How? Good question! Here are some ideas:
- Take the best (or most interesting) quotes from the article and put them in your next email campaign.
- If you have any interesting facts or figures in the article, why not make an infographic out of them to share on social? You don’t need to be an artist—just get yourself a tool like Canva for about $12, and you can do it easily!
- Find someone in your company—preferably with a great personality or on-camera presence—to make a quick introduction video about the article. Then you can put that video on social or your YouTube channel (you do have a YouTube channel, right?), and drive even more traffic to the blog post.
- Are there any quotes from customers in there? Why not contact them again, and see if you can’t make a whole new case study? If people were interested in what these customers had to say, give them space to say even more!
Of course, you can also do much more if you put your mind to it. The bottom line is this: your content is the core of your marketing. Also, your content needs to be interesting.
Interesting content often takes a far back seat to dry, jargon-filled technical product announcements and spec sheets in this space. That needs to stop.
Why? Well, here’s a simple formula:
Boring content is boring marketing.
Boring marketing means no attention or engagement.
No attention or engagement means no traffic.
No traffic means no customers.
No customers means no sales.
No sales means no money.
See how that works?
"But This Is Industrial Automation! How Can It NOT Be Boring?"
We’re marketers. We don’t get excited about deeply technical subjects the way that engineers do. I’ve heard so many marketers in this space complain that they don’t like making boring content, but they can’t figure out anything else to do with the topic.
To that, I call nonsense. Interesting and engaging content can be made about any topic—yes, even highly technical topics. Yes, even topics that might not interest you personally.
Look, I get it. It’s not easy, but it can be done—and I know this because I’ve done it. In a previous life, I’ve had to write engaging on-page content about things like chef’s hats, guitar strings, and chewable vitamins—and I’ve done it for industrial automation as well.
Talk has been going around for years about how, in order to survive, you need to create what’s called 10X Content. That’s very true, but you have to walk before you can run. You don’t have to be Shakespeare. You’re not writing the next great novel. All you have to do are two things:
- Answer questions people are actually asking about your industry niche
- Have a personality while you do it
That’s literally it. Seriously.
So now that we’ve talked a little about content, let’s talk about everyone’s favorite channel: SEO.
What Is SEO?
To best define SEO, I’ll start with what it’s not, but what everyone thinks it is. Despite popular opinion, it is not about "ranking really high!" in search engines.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is basically driving quality traffic to your website via unpaid search engine tactics. To put it in even simpler terms, SEO is about making sure your site shows up for people searching for your brand, your niche, or related terms in search engines like Google and Bing—and not paying for ads while you do it.
Speaking of paying for ads on search, you may have also heard about a separate, yet related discipline called SEM, or Search Engine Marketing, that is sometimes referred to as "PPC" or "pay-per-click." This is when you make ads that appear on search engines and related third-party display sites across the web using tools like Google Ads (formerly AdWords). I won’t be talking about SEM or PPC in this series at all. Why? Two reasons:
- While I am certified and have done paid search previously, I am by no means an expert in it. That’s my weakest channel, honestly—so I’m not the one to come to for advice on this.
- The last time we’ve checked, we simply did not see enough search volume around relevant keywords to justify running paid search ads in the markets we would most likely see sales—so we do not currently run them.
Speaking of SEO and keywords, that leads me to my next point.
Modern SEO Is NOT About Keywords
If you ever want to know if you’re talking about SEO to someone with just enough knowledge to be dangerous, listen for some variation of the following sentence:
“Make content around your keywords, and then you’ll rank really high!”
Sorry, but that’s not how it works anymore. Actually, that isn’t how it has worked in about five years.
With multiple updates to the Google algorithm over the years, SEO is now far beyond keyword research and optimization. The days where you just shove words into the metadata of your website are long behind us. If you want to do proper SEO, you need to get up to speed.
I’m going to give you a quick high-level overview here, and along the way, provide some solid resources to help you keep going. Let’s get started.
Fix Your Website
If you want to perform well in search engines, the first thing you need to do is to make sure your website is up to par. This includes—but is not limited to—making sure your site loads quickly, is mobile-friendly, that your redirects work properly and sensibly, that your URL structures make sense, and that your website uses https encryption. (Believe it or not, some people are still using unencrypted websites, and that’s just inexcusable these days.)
This list is absolutely not exhaustive, but it’s a good place to start, because a lot of websites in the industrial automation space still don’t meet these basic requirements.
Create Quality User Website Experiences
Once you have your tech up to par, then you want to start looking at your on-page content. What you do not want to do is start making "SEO content." When people say that, they usually mean "keyword stuffing" and other nonsense that not only doesn’t work, but can actually get your site penalized by the algorithms. Trust me, you don’t want to get penalized by Google. I’ve had clients in the past who took months to dig out of penalties from bad SEO practices.
Instead of making garbage content, just make content for readers, not search engines. Use the tips I provided earlier in this article and apply them to making content for your site. That’s really all there is to it. Google has several nuanced and sophisticated natural language processors in their algorithm now, from BERT to Rankbrain, that can understand a piece of content and for what it should be ranked. You don’t need to make a bunch of junky, keyword-stuffed content. Trust me; they know what they’re doing. You don’t need to "help" them.
Once you have your on-page content created, you can do things like marking up your pages with schema or JSON-LD for an extra push. Also, you’ll want to make sure your images are optimized for image search, and you have proper internal links on your pages for both SEO and user experience.
Again, this is not an exhaustive list of what you should do, but it should get you started. If you ignore everything else in this section, the one thing you need to listen to me on is this: do not use manufacturer’s content on your product pages.
Some people will tell you it doesn’t matter, but I personally have seen first-hand the difference in search performance between people who use duplicate content from a manufacturer on their pages and those who create their own content for these pages. If you can’t make content for all of your products, pick the top 10 or 20 best-sellers and create content around those. Trust me, your search visibility will thank you.
Backlinks: Get Them…Somehow
Backlinks are exactly what they sound like—websites that link your content. Having these are extremely important to SEO. They always have been, and probably always will be—and that’s why I don’t understand why they’re so complicated. Google has always put major restrictions on how you can "earn" backlinks in ways that won’t get your site penalized for having an unnatural link profile.
What used to be called the "Penguin penalty" has mellowed out a lot in recent years, but it is still a thing, so be very careful how you get websites to link to you. If you pay someone to do it, that’s a penalty. If you are getting them from press releases or guest posts, that could be a penalty. If you are using PBNs or link schemes, that’s a penalty. And so on and so on.
There’s a lot more to SEO, but it just can’t be covered here—including advice that contradicts other advice, and the infamous SEO answer to everything of "it depends."
To learn more about SEO, a company called Ahrefs put together a great article to help you do just that.
Of course, the articles in this series only touch on topics to get you started and looking in the right direction with your marketing. As with anything else you’d find on the internet, not everything is going to work for everyone. You should only test with money that you are prepared to possibly lose until you find strategies that work for you.
Here are the five other posts in the series for your reference:
- Part 1: Introduction
- Part 2: Admitting You Have a Problem
- Part 3: Email Marketing
- Part 4: Social Media Marketing
- Part 5: Modern Marketing Channels
Thanks for following along. If you want more marketing goodness from me, you can follow me on my blog, smokehouseseo.com, or catch me on Twitter at @scin383.
Thanks again, and happy marketing!
Interested in reading even more articles like this? Subscribe to ISA Interchange and receive weekly emails with links to our latest interviews, news, thought leadership, tips, and more from the automation industry.