Content is not King. Self Promotion Is.

February 3, 2010
By Lisa Barone in Online Marketing

While I was at the airport last week, Dr. Pete sent me a link to his post on SEOmoz about SEO cliques and asked for my thoughts. The post talked about the various groups that exist in SEO, how not friendly the industry can be sometimes (The Internet is mean!) and attributed ‘being loud’ in social media to having no other skill (worth noting: That statement came later in the comments, not from Dr. Pete.). I don’t want to touch the whole “SEO is a clique” debate because it’s been done and it’s sad watching people strain themselves to climb atop those high horses. I don’t even want to fight the comments that accused Outspoken Media, Jill Whalen, and Rand Fishkin of not being able to cash the checks our brands write us. I get to cash that check every month and imagine Jill and Rand do, as well.

What I wanted to talk about was the importance of self promotion. Because that’s what this whole thing is really about. Some of us are loud and pro-active about spreading our content. And others view self promotion as dirty and, as a result, slow the growth of their business and get mad about it.

This weekend I’ll kick off my fifth year of SEO blogging (is it bad it feels like a gazillion?). When I look back at the posts I’ve written in that time, the ones that took off, and the different reaction that posts had based on where I published them, it’s easy to realize something. Content is not king. Your ability to promote that content is.

Does that idea bother me as a content writer?

It used to. When I worked at Bruce Clay, Inc. , I didn’t promote anything that I wrote and I think it showed. Posts didn’t get as much attention and we didn’t reach the number of people that I think we could have. I don’t think I learned the power of promotion until I met Rae. Rae is God’s gift to promotion because she GETS the importance and she can do it better than anyone. I often joke that the reason anyone knows about Outspoken Media is because Rae makes them. I’m just here putting some thoughts together and Rae forces you to pay attention. It’s a tag-team effort. Any success I’ve earned writing the blog I share equally with Rae’s ability to promote it.

I don’t feel badly about self promotion because I didn’t create the rules; I’ve just learned how to do well by them in order to help clients. And just as we tell our clients, your audience will not find you because you throw a Web site up on the Internet. For you to earn your spot and your attention, you need to be willing to promote the hell out of yourself, at least at first. Once you find your audience and your following, they’ll begin to promote your content for you. But you need to get to that point. This isn’t 8th grade English class where the teacher is going to read every essay and determine which one deserves the highest grade. This is Marketing. This is where you step in front of people to tell them your message. It’s where you subtly enter their line of sight and refuse to get out. It’s where you become their best pal in order to encourage them to buy from you down the road.

If you’re writing great content or putting out a great product and you’re NOT promoting the hell out of it, you’re an idiot. Because no one is seeing it.

Clay Shirky recently offered a rant about women and talked about our inability to self promote when compared to our male counterparts. I don’t think it’s necessarily true that girls are taught not to promote or be less aggressive than boys. That’s certainly not what I was taught. However, I do agree with Clay that reason people don’t self promote comes from fear.

  • People don’t want to be seen as arrogant.
  • They don’t want others to call them out.
  • They don’t fully believe in their content.
  • They don’t want to be wrong.
  • They don’t want blog posts written about them about how they don’t actually work.

That’s a lot of changing how you act to make things less offensive for others.

Of course, there is a line. If you go in doing nothing but promoting yourself and promoting content that doesn’t deserve it, then you’re going to be shunned and ignored. The reason I don’t mind promoting Outspoken content is that I believe in it. Our calling out Seth Godin, Rae’s taking Google to task for putting spam into the index, Rhea’s incredible Online Reputation Management Guide. I will promote those any day of the week without feeling badly about it. Because they’re good pieces.

Creating good content on the Web is not enough. Maybe it was when there wasn’t as much of it competing, but today there is. What separates the Good Content that IS read from the Good Content that IS NOT is your ability to promote it. I’d go as far as to say that it’s what separates people who are successful from those that are not – their willingness to promote themselves when it is in their best interest to do so.

Promote your content, but know that you’re going to find some haters. People who will resent the fact that you’re loud about what you’re doing simply because you believe in it. People who will create fake Twitter accounts so they can “call you out” when they don’t even have the balls to put their name on it. I’d feel badly about promoting THAT. Not what I or Outspoken does.

People write about SEO cliques because they feel like their good content is getting pass on over “clique content”. You can fight about whether cliques are or are not fair OR you can learn how to promote your own content so that you ARE getting attention. Choice is yours.

[While in Los Angeles, I recorded a segment for SEM Synergy with Virginia Nussey where we touched on the importance of promoting your content (and steak quesadillas). That segment airs today at 3pmEST on WebmasterRadio.]

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