Seven years is like 50 internet-years. Or so says Jon Henshaw, the Chief Product Officer and Co-Founder of Raven Tools.
Jon has been with Raven Tools for the past 50 internet-years, and in that time he has watched his role as an SEO strategist change dramatically. When Raven was started, they worked exclusively on SEO, which primarily meant link building. That was back when Google’s algorithm was much simpler and easier to manipulate. As Google has continued to become more complex, their strategy has increasingly turned to quality content.
A large part of Jon’s job is research and development, or trying to anticipate how SEO will evolve next. He does this, he says, by thinking like a search engine – or at least the people programming them. Time spent in the industry has made him particularly good at it, and allowed Raven to stay ahead of the curve. Perhaps most important is his ability to discern the difference between a game-changing new concept and a distraction. Many times, in this industry, people do get distracted. Because things move at a breakneck pace, it’s easy to want to latch on to the newest, shiniest thing. His eye is never on the latest trend though. Instead, he’s constantly looking much farther into the future. His forward thinking is what allowed Raven to grow and develop in the way it has. Even now, he says, the platform will likely look radically different in the next six to 12 months from what it does now.
In order to stay ahead far, far ahead of the curve and think like a search engine, Jon does a lot of homework. He personally checks his RSS feeds daily (he points out here that old technology is not always irrelevant technology). His feeds are filled with the opinions of people he considers thought leaders. Because of his passion for the industry, he’s able to find people who may not have wide recognition, but are far more informed and intelligent than most. This is one of his greatest assets, and one that can be applied to any industry.
Look outside of the celebrity thought leaders. Knowledge is more important than status when finding a true thought leader.
That does not, however, mean you should ignore the big names and companies. Though Jon relies heavily on information obtained from “the little guys” or “best kept secrets,” he also puts a great deal of value in looking to large, successful companies. He uses Amazon and Apple as examples. They are often on the cutting edge, and for good reason. Their size and success provides them with knowledge resources that smaller outfits just don’t have.
Regardless of the size or status of the people and companies you look to for information, constantly ask yourself how you can be better. There’s nothing wrong with looking to your competitor and trying to improve upon their idea. That’s what Jon calls innovation. In content marketing, that means finding better ways to get your content seen and shared. To do this, he suggests bringing yourself away from your role as a marketer, and asking yourself what you would be attracted to as a consumer. What would make you want to read and share something? Recently, there’s been a focus on big content, which he refers to as “epic content.” If you listen, he gives you a full rundown on exactly how to make epic content epic with a full out assault. Seriously, go listen.
The purpose of all this effort is primarily to engage your audience, and drive conversion rates. And you can’t know how well you’re doing that if you’re not tracking your efforts. He suggests tracking through Google Analytics, which puts a number of tools at your disposal. He makes a big plug for Google Campaign variables. Also, focus on what Jon refers to as the “big three:” Goals, Events, and Campaigns. While this is common sense in big establishments, it sometimes gets neglected by smaller businesses. Being a small business doesn’t mean you can’t use big business practices.
The takeaways for digital marketers:
- The internet moves fast, so stay ahead
- Stay ahead by digging in deep, and finding the unknown authorities
- Don’t be distracted by trends, keep you eye on the future
- Ask how you can do better
- Track your success (pssst, use Google Analytics)
- It’s not all about page rank, it’s about conversion
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