Content marketing requires patience, strategy, and, above all, creativity. Writing engaging, intriguing blog posts, developing informational and shareable infographics, and creating a long-term campaign…the activities that help grow business demand that marketers think outside the box.
Yes, there are technical aspects involved — analyzing the data, tracking trends, and reporting on outcomes are just some of the many behind-the-scenes content marketing duties that aren’t viewed as creative parts of the job.
Search engine optimization is often met with the same perception, leading people to seek out SEO expert services.
Most people see SEO and their minds jump to:
- Style sheets
- Web site structure
- Web site speed
- Image optimization
- 301s, 302s, 404s and other errors
Did you check out for a minute when you read the list?
If so, you’re not alone. A popular article form 2015 called “Why Modern SEO Requires Almost No Technical Expertise” continues to be shared. People love to be creative, shaping and molding messages and content — and would prefer to leave behind the challenges and perceived “boring” work associated with the off-page and technical aspects of SEO.
At any level, though, SEO requires extensive creativity. Think of your SEO as a puzzle. The big picture, which is the finished piece, is SEO growth for your brand. On-page is the portion of the picture printed on each piece, helping to improve your user experience. Off-page SEO would be the filler pieces that don’t have pictures of the subject of the puzzle image but are still important to completing the puzzle. Technical SEO is looking at the puzzle’s architecture — the size and shape of each puzzle piece, the overall finished shape, and the way the frame comes together.
Each is necessary to complete the puzzle — and each is more than just a boring duty that falls under an SEO expert services to-do list.
Creativity Checklist: More than Art
While creativity is most often associated with artistic works, Merriam-Webster says that it’s “the ability to make new things or think of new ideas.”
Martha Davidovich Ockuly, a creativity researcher who got her start in marketing and copywriting, has developed a new take on the definition, calling creativity the “person-centered process of imagining possibilities and taking inspired action to bring new solutions, expressions, or ideas to life.”
Her marketing background is made clear, as both content marketing and SEO are becoming increasingly person-centered, focusing on the overall user experience. Web sites with content that considers the needs and wants of visitors, with proven authority and trustworthiness, tend to rank higher on the search engine results pages than those using black hat techniques.
Creativity is about more than just being able to paint a picture, draw a circle, or write a novel — even though those the stereotypical representations of the trait. Creativity is also more than just an inherited ability. Anyone can be creative. Anyone can imagine possibilities and take action.
The problem, says Adam Westbrook, a British storyteller, is deeper than not being born with the ability to keep up with famed creatives.
“All of us have the brain, and the talent, and the creativity to join them. But now, right when it matters, do any of us have the patience?”
Like anything else, creativity can be learned. It’ll take time — and patience — but in the end, you’ll develop a new way to look at the world around you. Start by giving your imagination a boost. Look for related components in unrelated subjects. Find patterns in completely unassociated objects and try to discover connections that most people wouldn’t make.
Another way to gain a new perspective is to spend time with new people, in new places, trying new things. Put aside the life components that are keeping you from what truly matters. Shift your focus from organizing your desk to organizing your content and SEO plans. Unplug for a while — go to a park, the gym, or take a nap. Allow your mind to wander, but also spend time focused on the task at hand.
Once you’ve done this, start thinking about the next steps. Automation is such a popular and growing field because it takes over time-consuming tasks and allows people to spend their time and energy on creating. Another option: checklists.
Surgeon Atul Gawande wrote “The Checklist Manifesto” to prove a simple, but often overlooked, point. Even the most organized expert can get better outcomes when they follow a procedural checklist. He talks about airline pilots — even the most seasoned follow a checklist, which lets them keep their mind off of the routine and on the part of flying that can only be done by a human.
SEO expert services should work much the same way. Consider developing a checklist for your SEO duties that spells out who does what, when, and how. Pull together a team and start brainstorming the regular duties. When you’ve got the routine written. You can spend your energy on the creativity that goes into your work and outcomes instead of trying to remember and track the work you need to get done.
Now that your creative juices are flowing, let’s take a look at how your newfound and enhanced creativity can benefit your SEO work.
On-Page SEO: Covering Creativity Through Content
SEO expert services don’t always focus on content marketing — but they should. Content marketing is one of the leading on-page determinants for search engine rankings. Google, especially, has been making a drastic shift over the last five years and many updates, putting greater weight on the Web sites where companies are making an effort to enhance the user experience. What does that mean for your brand?
On-page creativity calls into play each component on the page that is seen by the visitor. Page content can include text, whether you’re writing descriptions for products, a page about your company and its beliefs, or a frequently updated blog. Content also includes images: this can range from stand-alone photos to infographics to videos or slide presentations.
Making content creative means something different to each brand. Some are like the moviemaker for the Nike Make It Count campaign. He devoted the enire budget to showing what could be done with Nike products as he traveled around the world, creating pieces that encourage viewers to treasure each second of their lives. Some are like Zappos, “ambushing” Google’s cupcake truck when the company decided to give out cupcakes to promote its new photo app.
Creativity in content means thinking outside the box to get inside.
- Get inside your customers’ minds to figure out what most interests them and creating content that targets their thinking patterns
- Get inside your customers’ radars by solid keyword research that takes them to your content
- Get inside your customers’ memories by building brand awareness and leadership that sets you apart from competitors
- Get inside your customers’ shopping habits by guiding them through the content toward a logical, effective call to action.
Thinking about your target audience requires you to get out of your own head and put yourself in their shoes — none of which you can do without a level of creativity.
Off-Page SEO: Creativity Centered on Confidence
Now we’re stepping into the gray areas. Off-page search engine optimization isn’t usually considered to be highly creative industry, especially when you consider what makes up the duties in off-page SEO.
- Link building
- Social media
- Social bookmarking
Google uses off-page SEO to learn about what others think about your Web site. It shows your level of authority and value, ultimately pointing toward your likeability. If a Web site is meeting the needs of its visitors, providing quality content that improves a user’s money and life, users are going to tell others.
Users will refer to the pieces of content in their own Web site’s links. They’ll share the links and mention the Web site on social media, and they’ll bookmark and distribute the pieces of content in their own circles. When this happens, you’ll see higher search engine rankings, brand awareness and exposure, and better quality leads.
Look at the ways boosting your creativity can boost your off-page SEO.
- Learning to make new connections can help you seek out new, reputable sites that might consider sharing your link. This doesn’t involve link-exchange schemes, but does involve looking for ways to reach out to people who might find your content interesting and link-worthy. For example, you might sign up for Help a Reporter Out as a source. As you lend your expert opinions and input to reporters on assignment, you’re more likely to see an increase in your natural links.
- Both social media and social bookmarking are people-centered activities. While both fall into link-building activities, they involve finding new ways to get people to see your link and visit your Web site. Consider finding niche sites that might not be the first, or most obvious choice, where you can share your content.
- Look at ways to boost your reputation. I have been thinking about looking for a new pair of shoes, but haven’t actually searched for any yet. A friend who didn’t know about my search shared a link, though, for a company that uses hand-made, fair trade textiles and high-quality materials to produce shoes — and then plants a tree for each shoe. Their reputation for global philanthropy intrigued me and let me to seek them out.
Technical: Covert Creativity
Nothing about the word technical screams creativity — yet even this detailed, specific part of SEO requires creativity for success.
Technical SEO is used in both on- and off-page SEO to make the most of your SEO activities. It pulls in unseen-to-the-user elements to make your site easy to crawl and index. It calls many things to mind.
- Reading and writing code and using HTML and CSS
- Building an HTML and XML sitemap
- Error codes and not found pages
- Site speed
- Robots.txt file
- Internal links
- Optimized images and contents
- Mobile optimized
- Titles/headers/descriptions/meta and alt tags
- SSL certificates
Not exactly the most exciting list.
However, each of these requires creativity. Each of these also needs to be people-centered to find new solutions that put you in front of your prospects and site visitors. They require finding new avenues, learning new languages, and working with your images. They require you to naturally work your keywords into your copy. They require you to find logical connections between your on- and off-page activities that meet the needs of your users and the search engines.
While you’re doing that, Google has also been making changes. Many SEO expert services are shifting from technical SEO specialties that Google seems to be leaving behind in favor of a better user experience. Google has shown that they are placing an emphasis on creative, efficient design. The introduction of Optimize 360 lets marketers try out Web site layouts to see better site performance.
SEO Expert Services: Creativity Champs
Small businesses that try to handle their own SEO and content marketing often run into a common complication: getting stuck in a rut. They spend so much time with their own team members or inside their own heads that looking outward for inspiration and imagination doesn’t even become an option. It can get to the point where everyone falls into the groupthink mentality, more worried about getting along than on setting outcome-changing goals.
People start to do things because that’s what they’ve always done. Others become overwhelmed by the enormity of the task and find themselves paralyzed by indecision or by feelings of inadequacy.
Address those situations head-on. Try some of the creativity boosts above, encourage each team member to research and present on an aspect of SEO that can help others learn and grow. Seek out SEO expert services.
An SEO expert will help you gain a new perspective on your current work and help you look at the next steps. They’ll stretch you and challenge you — both steps that will enhance your creativity and give you better SEO results, more satisfied customers, and an improvement in your overall online efforts.
Contact us today for a free SEO analysis. Our SEO specialists and content marketing experts will help you find creative, outside-the-box ways to get you the outcomes you want.