Just hire a content marketing strategist, already!

So, I turned down a SEO copywriting job today.

No, the reason didn’t have anything to do with what the client would pay (the money was pretty good, actually.) Nor did it have anything to do with what I’d be writing about (the content was fairly interesting.)

The reason I turned down the gig was because there was no content strategy in place – and although I could easily write the copy and take the client’s money, I knew that what I’d be doing wouldn’t help them. Yes, I can write articles. Yes, those articles can easily have keyphrases. But to write 80 articles all focused around one keyword each…well…that’s not a content marketing strategy. That’s a step closer to Spamville.

What’s hard is explaining this to the client, who learned about this “content marketing strategy” from their marketing agency.  The agency explained to the client that if having one article on their site is good, 80 is better – especially when each article has a specific keyword density (can you SEE me rolling my eyes…argh!).  What’s more, the agency told the client that HOW the article was written really didn’t make much of a difference. It was all about focusing the article around one lone keyword.

Ouch.  What makes it worse is that I know the agency the prospect was working with. And I know that – every month – these poor folks are paying about 20K/month for advice like that. For some of us, 20K/month would mean a new car. Or a partial down payment on a house. You know, something that would be useful…

I’ve seen this same problem manifest in different ways, some more “SEO dangerous” than others.  Sometimes, the issue would qualify as a “stupid strategy” That is, it’s a strategy that won’t really help a client and shows that the SEO doesn’t know anything about content marketing (although they could be a fantastic technical SEO.) Other times, I hear of weird content interlinking and keyword-stuffing strategies that are painful to hear about – and would be even more painful to implement. During times like these, it’s hard to keep my mouth shut and not say, “Um, WTF is your agency thinking?” (And for folks who know me personally, you know that, yes, I DO ask that question. I can’t help it. It’s how I roll.)

Here’s the thing: Your content marketing strategy is crucial. You wouldn’t hire a SEO strategist who didn’t understand the technical ins-and-outs of a Website. Nor would you hire an affiliate marketing strategist who knew nothing about affiliate marketing.

But why, oh why, do agencies (and SEO companies) think that it’s not important to have a content marketing strategist on staff? And what’s more – why aren’t clients screaming for this type of expertise?

A content marketing strategist is more than a glorified copywriter who helps makes your content pretty for the search engines. This person is responsible for reviewing your existing content, noticing how it performs, reviewing your customer messaging, and helps build out value-added content your prospects want to read (and yes, helps them convert.) They may be expert SEO practitioners – but their focus is around your messaging and your opportunities. Not to mention, watch-dogging your existing content play to make sure that everything you do fits neatly into best practices.

So, here’s my call to action…

If you are an agency or a SEO company, for goodness sake, just hire a content marketing strategist already. You don’t have to bring them on full-time (although I’d recommend it.) Even having an outsourced content marketing strategist will help. If nothing else, your content marketing strategist may see opportunities that a more “technical” SEO wouldn’t see – and these opportunities can help increase the value of a contract (and more importantly, increase the value to the client.) This way, Mr. Technical SEO or Ms. Agency Marketer, you can focus on what you know and excel with – and the content strategist can do her thing.

If you are a client working with an agency or SEO, ask about their content strategy process. If the agency dances around the whole “content marketing strategist” talk, run. Run away. And run fast. For the most technically-savvy SEO’ed site doesn’t mean a thing without a good content marketing strategy. After all, are people buying from you because your site boasts elegant code and a slammin’ back end? Or because of your content and how it’s presented?

At the end of the day, as Seth Godin said, “The best SEO is great content.” When you work with a specialist, he can make your content great – and help you make content decisions that make sense for your site. It doesn’t get better than that.