As the saying goes, the only thing in this world that’s permanent is change — and that statement is about as true as it gets, as far as the world of online marketing is concerned.
The digital landscape has become synonymous with upgrading and updating. From company websites redesigning and relaunching their pages to antivirus software getting constant updates to fight the steady arrival of new viruses and malware, one can say that the Internet not only allows change — it makes it a necessity.
Algorithms, of course, are no different.
In order for search engines and social media platforms to determine the kind and quality of content that would appear on their search results and news feeds, respectively, they are powered by algorithms.
In essence, an algorithm is a ranking system of sorts, determined by preset standards of quality and relevance in order to display the best results possible.
It is because of these algorithms that online marketing has become a tight competition that forces marketers to avoid getting complacent and get them used to thinking of brand new and effective strategies as they go along.
Now, algorithms don’t stay the same. Google, for instance, reportedly changes up its algorithm once every two weeks. Some even say that they change the algorithm 500 to 600 times a year! We can never really know for sure, since the search engine giant doesn’t really share this kind of information.
It is apparent, though, that these algorithm changes actually have a significant impact on campaigns and brand prominence in general. Another example: Facebook has been known to mix it up as well, and some say that they even do it every couple of weeks!
Now, this constant changing of online algorithms does have its purpose. Mainly, this gives smaller businesses a chance to shine with some really well-written content (instead of just letting those who are already at the top to gain even more recognition).
Unfortunately, due to the tight and competitive nature of marketing as a whole, the knowledge that algorithms exist, change, and (in many ways) determine the success of a campaign has led to some marketers treating their strategies as less of a way to get their message across to the right target audience and more of a quest to always be the first item on the search engine results page, or the most prominent post on everyone’s news feeds.
This focus on algorithms leaves marketers scratching their heads about what to post.
Would an image get more engagement? Would posting this funny video get my page more attention? What if it’s just text – would it get passed around or ignored?
Another area that isn’t so clear here is how your online behavior affects your ranking. Do you hit the Like button on your own posts? Do you hop on the trending hashtags and hope that the increased exposure will get your brand the attention you feel it needs?
Whether it’s coming up with ways to make your content more visible on your target market’s timelines, figuring out how to get your YouTube videos suggested alongside an influencer’s own video content, or getting your podcast trending on iTunes, more and more marketers are finding reasons to obsess over algorithms.
And I don’t think that this is appropriate or healthy for your brand at all.
Content is well and truly still King
There’s a reason why we say that content is king, and that’s not just because we need more content to rank higher on search engine results. The content that you publish has to reflect the heart and soul of your brand — and it should not center on algorithms alone.
Sure, I understand that there are so many questions that we, as marketers, need to be aware of and to understand. After all, our craft is an investment, and we’re in this business to get our target market’s attention, plain and simple.
Sometimes, though, you have to stop and think: What truly matters, at the end of the day? What should we really be focusing on?
Think about it…
- As a content creator, how would you feel about being severely limited in what you say or plan, just so long as you meet the supposed requirements of an algorithm to put you on Google’s radar?
- As a marketer, how would you feel about sacrificing your company’s unique branding and message, just to perpetually chase after that magical ranking system you want to be on top of?
- As a business owner, how would you feel about having to throw your understanding of your audience — your intuition and analysis of the kind of content that would really resonate with your present and potential customers — out the window, in favor of just resorting to content generating tactics that you wouldn’t normally resort to, just to outrank everyone else?
What you should do
Well, here’s what I think.
I think we should strike a balance when it comes to creating content. I think we should consider algorithms AND the things that matter when we craft our message.
Imagine finding the love of your life and deciding that you want to do everything you can, just to get their attention. Your strategy is to give gifts, spend a lot of money, be around the person all the time, and other similar tactics. Sure, the person will notice you, all right, and they would probably etch you in their memory. This isn’t a guarantee, though, that they will fall in love with you, or at the very least reciprocate your feelings.
See, it’s one thing to know what a person likes or dislikes — but it’s another (and equally important) thing entirely to make them like and know you, too. Your goal shouldn’t just be to say the right words; it should be to give them a reason to feel the same warmth you feel about them.
Believe in your message
Going back to digital marketing — remember this: In its essence, a powerful message does not have to rely on imagery to be effective. If the core of your brand is something that your target audience can appreciate and embrace — if you espouse the same values your target market does — you do not have to put all your eggs into
Besides, search engines and social media platforms rarely share information about their algorithm changes, and with good reason. These measures are in place to prevent people from gaming the system, not to encourage it.
When you come across the nth list of the week about supposed algorithm-based “best practices” for social media platforms and search engines, take them with a pinch of salt. Don’t let your marketing revolve around an algorithm-based strategy. Remember that, at the end of the day, that’s exactly what it is: A strategy, and nothing more.
Instead, focus on tailoring just the right message to capture the essence of your brand. That’s not to say that you should junk the idea of ranking permanently; all I’m trying to tell you is that you should not let it dictate the way you craft content or deliver your messages.
Focus too much on style instead of substance, and your brand will end up losing what makes it so distinct and special.
And no one, customer or otherwise, can fall in love with an empty shell.
Now that you’ve read my thoughts on the matter, allow me to help you take your messaging to the next level. Learn how you can devise and prepare an excellent and effective range of content for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other popular social media sites. Check out my collaboration with Skillshare, How to Create Engaging Social Media Content, to learn how you can skillfully craft high-quality content to get you a better ROI.
Liz Azyan is interested in the ways new kinds of social data and technology introduce challenges and opportunities to society. Get involved with Liz’s latest project here.