Google’s Search Results Don’t Paint an Accurate Picture

You can’t trust your Google search results. They’re biased, and they don’t reflect the true reality of what everyone else sees.

“But Google’s, well, Google! It’s the biggest search engine in all the world! What do you mean, we can’t trust it?”

You can’t trust Google’s results, because it’s trying to be so helpful and useful to you.

Let’s say you need to find someone to build a deck for your house. You go to Google, and do a search for “deck builder.” The results that pop up will be all kinds of deck builders within a 10 – 20 mile radius of where you happen to be sitting at that moment. That’s because Google can tell where you are. And if you’re logged in to your Gmail or YouTube account at the same time, Google even knows who you’re connected to.

Google search for Deck Builder in north Indianapolis, IN

That means the results you see are based on your location and who Google thinks you’ll want to talk to. It will even show you a little map of all the deck builders in relation to where you’re sitting.

This is a useful little feature that Google has, because they figure you want to see the deck builders who are closest to you, and not the ones who have the best optimized website but are 1,000 miles away.

Want to See the Real Results?

But what if you want to get a more accurate picture about what Google “really” ranks as #1? Maybe you’re doing a national search for some company or manufacturer, and you’re not as concerned about whether they’re 10 miles away.

For this, you would do an anonymous search, where Google doesn’t know it’s you. On your web browser, open an Incognito or Private browsing session (look in the File menu). That turns off all cookies and identifiers so Google and every other website doesn’t know who you are and won’t track you. Now do the same search.

You should see some different results. In fact, depending on your search terms and your location, you’ll see some wildly different results.

That’s because Google doesn’t know a thing about you. They’re showing results that anyone who’s not signed in to Google would see. They’re as close to objective, unbiased results as you’re going to get. But even then, Google is trying to figure out where you are, so it can try to give you the results you would most likely want.

Do that deck builder search in an Incognito search, and chances are, you’ll still see the local results, but the rankings will be different. Some pages will drop and other pages will appear, but they may still be locally-focused.

Take that one step further: Do the same search while you’re sitting in a hotel room on a business trip, and Google won’t show you deck builders in your area. They’ll show you deck builders within 20 miles of your hotel room. (Google knows where you are, based on your IP address, which it can pinpoint to your physical location.)

Again, that’s because Google wants to be as helpful as possible. They want to show you the results closest to you, and the results all your Google+ friends have shared or created themselves.

Why This Is Bad for Businesses

This creates a serious problem for businesses who do this to check their Google search rank. The first thing an eager marketer will do is search for their best keywords to see where their own website ranks.

And, because Google is so helpful and kind, it figures, “A-ha, Shelly wants to see her website. Let’s show it to her!” and places her little website at the top of the search results page, where it outranks giant mega-companies who have been doing this for years.

WE WON GOOGLE!” Shelly hollers at the top of her lungs, running around the office, high-fiving everyone.

Then, because she’s eager to show her husband how awesome she and her web team have been, she makes the 30 mile commute home, pops open his laptop, and does the same search only to find that in a few short hours, her company website has dropped from 1st to 87th.

It only gets worse when she goes back to work, checks again, and sees she’s winning Google once more.

You’re Not Really First

This is a problem for anyone who relies on Google search results to see how their search engine optimization and website design are performing. They get lulled into a false sense of security by Google’s personalized results, and slack off their SEO. And without realizing it, they slip lower and lower in the real, objective results, disappearing from everyone’s view except for their own.

If you want to get a real idea of how well you’re doing, you need a Google rank checker like WebCEO, which will check the actual rankings and tell you where you reallyrank for your chosen keywords.

This is true whether you’re doing the searches for your company, or even your own name (very handy for a job search, because it tells you what the recruiters and hiring managers will see).

In its efforts to be as helpful as possible, Google has inadvertently tricked us and lulled us into a false sense of success, which creates problems for us that we’re not even aware of.

But rather than rest on your laurels, you need to keep track of how things are really going for you. Use a rank checking website like WebCEO, and run a report at least once a month. Then, focus on new SEO techniques — a regular blog, social media promotion, submitting blog posts to Google+ — that can help move you up in the actual rankings.

Ultimately, you may end up getting your personalized search and actual search rankings to match up.

Want Me to Watch Your Ads? Pay Me

The one and only reason I stopped paying for Hulu+ is that I was paying $8 a month for a service that was still showing me ads.

Every other app and online service I can get offers the option to go ad free if I pay a monthly fee. So I quit paying for Hulu+ because it wasn’t worth the $96 per year to see ads I would see if I was on the free service.

“But you get to see shows that are older than five weeks!” Hulu fans say.

Or, I could just watch them before the five weeks is up. Or catch them on Netflix, which is ad free.

We’re Sick of Being Shouted At

Given that many of us are trying to escape the bombardment of advertising and marketing messages, it can sometimes be a small price to pay for just a brief respite of BUY THIS! BUY THIS! BUY THIS! messages every time we interact with the outside world.Old Ovaltine magazine ad

Here’s what annoys me about marketing and my fellow marketers:

  • I pay for cable TV, and yet I’m still seeing advertisements. I am, in essence, paying someone to show me ads. These same advertisers whine and complain because people like me DVR shows and fast forward through ads.
  • Clothing companies sell t-shirts with their giant logo silk screened on the front, making me a walking billboard. It costs me $20 – $30 to be a walking shill for their company.
  • Car dealers who I just gave thousands of dollars to now want to put a sticker or license plate frame on my new car so I can tell everyone where I got it. That’s not there for my benefit. That’s free advertising to the person driving behind me.

Since when am I required to be an advertisement, and when do I do it because I truly like the product, and want to evangelize on their behalf? And why do brands presume I want to pay money so I can promote their product?

I don’t see why I have to pay for the “privilege” of advertising for a company, or pay to be advertised to. It’s my prerogative to escape advertising, and it’s my prerogative to not shill for a company when all I wanted was a t-shirt. I’m the one doing them a favor by telling people who trust me that I endorse that product.

So here’s what I’m going to start doing:

I am going to purposely avoid as much advertising as I can. I understand that I can’t escape it completely, and I’m not going to try. But here’s what I will do:

  • I will record all TV shows and fast forward through all commercials. The one exception is the Super Bowl.
  • I will never wear a shirt that has a company brand name or logo on it, unless it’s one I support. For example, a conference t-shirt or a shirt for the Cincinnati Reds or Indianapolis Colts.
  • I will never allow a sticker or license plate from to be placed on a new car I purchase. (In fact, I did this already on the last car I bought. They asked if they could, and I said I would if they gave me $1,000. They said they couldn’t go any lower on the price, and I said, “No, I mean you can give me a check for $1,000.” They said no, so I did too.)
  • I will avoid buying magazines filled with advertisements. If I do, I will purposely skip over the ads. When a lot of magazines are more ads than articles — looking at you, GQ — why should I pay for something I can find online?
  • I will pay for the ad free version of an app or product if I believe in and support it or the company. If I don’t, it means I am willing to pay the small price of being marketed to.

In short, my time, my mental bandwidth, and my careful consideration are mine to give. They are not yours to take.

Don’t assume that I want to be advertised to. Just know that if I need your product, I’ll seek you out. If I need your service, I’ll Google you.

But — and here’s my concession — I will happily look at your ad or your short infomercial, up to 30 minutes in length, for $50. You give me $50, and I will watch, read, or listen to whatever you want. $50 gets you 30 minutes of my time, and no more. It doesn’t guarantee I’ll buy your product or tell other people about it. For that, you have to impress me.

Is it fair? Am I being unreasonable? I don’t think so. Too many marketers try to take our time and attention away from something else. They try to insert themselves everywhere and into everything, trying to find that place we go to escape them, so they can take that away from us as well.

So I’m willing to meet them halfway. Instead of going to all that time and trouble to reaching me in the place I don’t want to be reached, just pay what you would have paid anyway. I will gladly sit down, review all your materials, and then we will go our separate ways.

You’ve been trying to spend all that time and energy to get me to watch your commercials (I fast forward through them), your magazine ads (I flip past them), your billboards (I keep my eyes on the road), your radio commercials (I listen to public radio or change stations), and your direct mail (I recycle it before it ever makes it into the house).

Let’s take all that money you spent and guarantee that it has been read, seen, heard, and considered. Compensate me for paying attention to you, rather than wasting money trying to trick me.

Photo credit: Crossett Library Bennington College (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Five Universal Truths of Social Media for Business

Despite what we may think about the power of social media, there are still plenty of business owners and corporate executives who dismiss it with a wave of their hands, and pooh-pooh it as nothing more than people who want to talk about what they had for breakfast.

Nothing is more annoying to me than for someone to dismiss an idea or tool without ever having even looked at it, let alone used it. People who repeat their dislike of that idea, just because they heard other non-users say it is about as accurate as thinking you understand fraternity life because you saw “Revenge of the Nerds.”

So I can’t help but feel a little schadenfreude when those same people who dismissed social media as a passing fad of food-sharers and and parents’ basement dwellers find themselves in a panic when a social media mob comes after their company with virtual pitchforks and torches.

Plato from Raphael's School of Athens

If anyone knows about Universal Truths, it's Plato.

Nothing has disrupted marketing more in the last 90 years than social media. Everything in marketing that came after the advent of radio has all been one-way broadcasting — the advertisers talk, we listen. There’s no way to talk back. But social media has changed all of that. Now we have a channel that lets us talk back to advertisers and lets us talk to each other. And it has helped drastically change what is happening in the business world.

After writing No Bullshit Social Media with Jason Falls, we started to hear from more businesses about how they were using (and not using) social media for marketing, customer service, and PR. After hearing from these people, I began to figure out these five universal truths about social media in the business world.

Five Universal Truths of Social Media for Business

  1. People are no longer listening to marketers, they’re listening to each other. Gone are the days of people listening to the trained marketing professionals. Now they’re reading customer reviews and making their decisions based on what their friends, and sometimes complete strangers, are telling them. This is why review sites like are so popular, and why people stand in Best Buy reading reviews on the store’s site before buying a piece of electronic equipment. (I once bought a digital camera based strictly on user reviews, and didn’t read a single pixel of marketing copy.)

  3. Your brand is no longer what you say it is. Now, thanks to people telling each other what is good and bad about a brand, your ability to define yours is nearly gone. That has been lost to your customers. They are the voice of your brand. Sure, you can put out brochures, commercials, and any other marketing piece, but as people’s voices get louder, you’re fighting to be heard in an increasingly-crowded room. What are people finding on the search engines? What’s being said about you on Facebook and Twitter? What are people saying about you on their blog that reaches thousands of readers? That’s where your true brand lies.

  5. People want to be heard, not shouted at. Consumers are going out of their way to avoid being advertised to. We record TV shows on our DVRs just so we can skip the commercials. We watch Netflix and Hulu because they’re (mostly) commercial free. We listen to iPods and commercial-free Internet radio stations. We block ads from our web browsers.

    So when we do interact with companies online, we want to communicate with real live people. We don’t want marketing speak. We don’t want canned responses. We want help, information, answers. We want to know how your product or service will solve our particular problem. That means someone needs to be monitoring social media for our queries. And given Universal Truth #2, someone needs to be monitoring for unhappy customers as well.


  7. It doesn’t matter how stupid you think social media is. Your customers love it. Why do you advertise on TV, because you love a particular program, or because your customers watch it? Why do you advertise in a particular magazine, because you love the stories, or because your customers read it? What about going to trade shows? Because you love being away from your family, or because it’s the best place to reach your target clients in one location?

    You may hate a particular TV show, think a particular magazine is shallow and pedantic, and despise a particular trade show. But you go because your customers are there. It’s the same thing with social media. With more than half of all Americans on some sort of social network, you’re missing a big piece of your audience just because you think it’s stupid. Know who doesn’t think it’s stupid? Your competitors, who are stealing your customers.


  9. You have to play in it personally before you understand it from a business perspective. The best business accounts are those that are led by people personally. If you’ve been on social media for a while, you already know, and have a few favorite, people and brands that you like to interact with. But if you haven’t, you need to join it, use it, and understand how it really works.

    If you can get a feel for what works and doesn’t work for you as user, you’ll start to understand how you want your favorite brands and people to interact with you. And you’ll want to interact with your own customers and clients that same way. But if you’re not using it regularly yourself, you won’t understand how you want people to react to you.

    (h/t to Chuck Gose for #5. He said, “The people you see who are doing dumb things socially with their business are not the people you see using social media themselves.” Well said, Chuck!)

It’s easy to tell you what social media tools you need to use — how to use Twitter, what to do on Facebook, whether blogging is a smart marketing strategy for your business (hint: it is). But if you want to truly understand what you need to do with social media for your business, you need to understand these important truths about what’s happening to your business, how your customers are using it, and what they expect from you.

Social Media Marketing Lessons from a Broken Pilot G2 Pen

My pen died last week.

Normally, this is not big news. In fact, this may be the lamest thing I’ve ever written about, and that includes my “this is my first post” post on Blogger back in 2003.

Broken Pilot G2 .5 mm pen

It gave its life in service of my words.

But it’s a notable event, because I want to brag about my pen, and also talk about the power of strangers in the world of social media marketing.

Social media has turned the marketing world on its ear, because it has disrupted marketing altogether. It used to be that we needed professional marketers to tell us what was cool/great/awesome about a particular product. If the paid professionals told us, then it must be true. Or at least, if it wasn’t true, their shouting generally drowned out the one or two detractors who hated the product. In fact, if there was something we didn’t like about a particular product, we got our talking points from a competitors’ commercial, much like talking points in a political ad.

But several years ago, when we started using early social media, like AOL, and creating websites with comments, we started relying on each other to tell us what was cool/great/awesome about a particular product.

That’s how I became such a fan of my Pilot G2 pen. In 2004, I had just entered the world of Moleskine notebooks, way before they became douche-y, and realized I couldn’t use just any old pen in the same notebooks used by Hemingway, Picasso, and Bruce Chatwin. So I went to the Moleskinerie website, an online community for and by Moleskine fanatics, and looked for any recommendations for a good pen. As it turns out, a few months earlier, someone had posed that very question, and the fans weighed in. In fact, it was one of the most commented-on posts they had.

The commenters far and away raved about the Pilot G2 pen, the 0.5 mm size, so I bought one and immediately loved it. I loved it so much, I have used nothing but Pilot G2 0.5 mm pens for the last 7 years, even carrying the same exact pen for over four years (I cannibalized the cartridges from a box of G2s to replace the empty one, rather than just replacing the entire pen). That pen finally broke last summer, so I had to pull out a second one, which broke last week and leaked all over the place.

The cool thing about this is, for as often as I use this pen, to have only one break or go bad in nearly eight years, I’m very pleased. (I’m especially pleased I found it before it leaked into my shirt pocket.) That’s a pretty good testament to quality — to have one cartridge go bad in 8 years of using them? I’ve never even had a car that long without developing problems.

But the coolest thing? I bought this pen based on the advice of a bunch of people I had never met. I didn’t need the Levenger people telling me what was cool about the $237 Pelikan, or Faber-Castell’s four-color booklet on the long history of the Faber-Castell name. All it took was several random comments from a bunch of strangers who were passionate about a notebook and were choosy about their pens.

Traditional Marketers May Be Out of Work Soon

Marketers who haven’t yet embraced social media need to take note: you’re basically out of a job. Consumers are no longer being persuaded by your beautiful graphics and well-designed websites and brochures. We’re being informed by them, but we’re not being persuaded. Instead, we’re persuading each other.

Italian artist Luc on 24 hours of Le Mans - he sketched and wrote about the highlights of the auto race in his Moleskine notebook

We’re getting advice from each other on where to eat, what to watch, which computers to get for our kids, what cameras to buy, what cars to drive, and yes, even what pens to write with.

Marketers who want to take advantage of this should provide places for your customers to talk to each other. You should get your products and/or services into the hands of influencers. Moleskine went so far as to buy and leave it in place, so Moleskine users could share what they were doing with their notebooks, like Italian artist Luc, who uploaded several photos of his sketches and notes about the 24 Hours of Le Mans auto race.

The smart marketers aren’t telling us what’s cool/great/awesome about their products. They’re providing places for the rest of us to tell each other. They’re sponsoring special niche networks on Ning and other platforms for their target audience. They’re getting their products into the hands of influencers. Or in the case of Fiskars and their Fiskateers (which we discuss in No Bullshit Social Media), they’re turning it into a niche community and a research and development channel. They’re basically letting us do all the work for them, and are getting out of the way.

Social media marketing is disrupting the way traditional marketing is done, and giving us all of the power. Now if I can just get someone to send me another pen, I’ll be happy.

Photo credit: Broken pen –
Moleskine Notebook – Luc on Not Not Tana

You Don’t Get Social Media ROI Yet? C’mon, Man!

I was feeling good about social media ROI, and how/whether people understand it. I figured, at least my people — marketers — get it. They understand how to measure social media, or at least the principles behind it.

Apparently not.

eMarketer dashed those hopes to the ground with their December 20, 2011 article When Will Social Media Measurement Mature?.

Marketers know that counting fans, “likes” and followers is not the best way to measure success in social media marketing. Yet these metrics are often the top benchmarks for performance. It’s not surprising, then, that marketers consider calculating return on investment to be the biggest challenge of using social media, and that a majority of them believe they cannot measure social media campaigns effectively.

How to Calculate Social Media ROI

Calculating the ROI of anything is easy. Subtract how much you spent from how much you made, and that’s your answer. If you spent $10,000 on a social media marketing campaign, and you made $50,000, your social media ROI is $40,000.

Simple, right?

$50,000 – $10,000 = $40,000.

So how do you know whether sales are coming from your social media efforts?

I’m not going to delve into the step-by-step process, but I’ll give you the tools and concepts you’re going to need to get started.

  1. Set up Google Analytics, and install the code on every page on your website. If you have a blog, it only needs to be part of the code. If it’s on a website with pre-built pages, it needs to be on every page.
  2. Set up a Bitly account. Bitly is a URL shortener that also lets you do some basic analytics on the number of people that have clicked your link.
  3. Create a Google Analytics tracking campaign for any and all major links you’re sending out. This is how you’re going to measure a particular blog post, tweet, Facebook status update, etc. If it’s just a basic link to the website, a campaign code is optional. But if it’s a blog post about a particular marketing campaign, set up the Google Analytics campaign.
  4. Put a hyperlinked call to action in your blog posts that take people directly to a sales page or order page. Make sure that the hyperlink is given a unique campaign code.

Here’s what will happen:

  • You’ll send out a link to a blog post via Twitter, Facebook, etc. Let’s say that 10,000 people see that link on your various accounts.
  • 1,000 people visit your page and read that blog post, all within a 6-hour span.
  • Of that 1,000 people, 100 people actually make a purchase with a total of $10,000 in sales.
  • Those 100 people also fill out their contact information, which gets placed into your CRM.

By looking at these numbers, you can determine a number of things.

  • 1,000 visitors out of 10,000 social media followers, fans, and friends means you have a 10% click-through rate.
  • 100 sales out of 1,000 visitors is a 10% close rate; out of a 10,000-person network, that’s a 1% close rate.
  • By looking at the entrance and exit paths of that particular 6-hour period, or particular day, you can see that a majority of people were moved enough by the blog post to go directly to the order page. Compare that to another blog post that only lead to 30 sales out of 1,000 visitors, and you know it wasn’t as effective in moving people to act.
  • You can then subtract the cost of that particular campaign from the amount of money you made to calculate the total ROI for the day/week/month.

Calculating social media ROI is not that difficult. It’s just a matter of having the right tools and knowing basic analytics and campaign creation. There are literally hundreds of articles and several books on each step I first described. It’s just a matter of reading, and then trying out what you’ve learned. With some trial and error, and constant measuring, you’ll soon learn what works and what you can stop doing.

Or you could just hire a social media professional to do it all for you.

50 Things That You’re Not Measuring for ROI, But Should

I’m so sick of the “what’s the ROI of social media” question. It’s asked by people who a) think it makes them sound clever, and they’re hoping to show that social media “doesn’t work,” or b) think they’re supposed to ask it, because they read an article that said they should ask it.

The problem is, we can’t answer the ROI question during out first meeting. We can answer it after your social media plan has been up and running for six months. We set goals and then measure to see whether you made them. We count how much money the social media campaign made — because we can do that — and we subtract how much money it cost.

But we can’t predict it accurately beforehand, and anyone who tells you they can is lying.

What about you and your business? What’s the ROI on the stuff and the staff at the office? Have you measured them? All of the things you buy and the people you hire have a direct impact on your bottom line. Some contribute to revenue, some take up space, and some are a drag on your bottom line.Number 50 painted on a wall And yet, the people who are so quick to pull the “what’s the ROI of social media?” trigger haven’t asked that question about anything else in their own business.

So I’d like to see companies start measuring ROI on these things.

  1. Your college interns.
  2. Your brochures. You pay professionals to design these things. What have they gotten you?
  3. Your weekly staff meetings.
  4. Every other meeting you have to attend. They’re a big time suck and productivity killer. Yet we go to them without question. So what’s their ROI?
  5. The person who answers your phones. Don’t you think the voice of your company contributes to customer satisfaction?
  6. Your accounts receivable department. What does it do to your cash flow if they’re on time versus late with sending out invoices?
  7. The paintings and furniture in the front lobby.
  8. Your telephone hold music. People actually study this kind of thing, so it should be possible to figure out.
  9. That lunch meeting you had.
  10. Your mobile phone.
  11. The company mission statement that took eight people three months to write over six hour-long meetings.
  12. Your membership in three different trade associations. You should get valuable sales and clients from these. Are you?
  13. Your Chamber of Commerce membership.
  14. The company car. Lease costs, gas costs, maintenance. Are you making your money back on that?
  15. Your HR department.
  16. Your legal department. They’re great for keeping you out of trouble and for helping with intellectual property. How much did they make you this year?
  17. Your sponsorship of a Little League baseball team.
  18. Your fax machine. Seriously, do people still use fax machines? They have online services you can buy to send and receive faxes, instead of paying $40 a month for a separate phone line.
  19. Your voice mail system.
  20. The PR agency you hired for your latest campaign. And none of this “this is what your media coverage is worth” stuff — how much money did you actually make?
  21. Your office coffee machine.
  22. Your annual industry conference in Las Vegas.
  23. The business class flight you took to get to the conference. Execs need more leg room than regular staffers, apparently. So did you make more money by taking the more expensive flight?
  24. Your trade show display. These things are expensive. But did you make the money back?
  25. Your marketing department. These are the ROI experts. How much money did they make you?
  26. The cleaning service.
  27. The office Christmas party.
  28. Your office location. Retail stores can demonstrate how one location outperforms another. But what do you get for where you’re located? Do you really need an office downtown in the big city, when a location in the suburbs will cost less?
  29. The water cooler.
  30. The TV commercials you ran on cable TV for six months in 25 major markets.
  31. The IT department.
  32. Your CIO. Should your CIO really have the same decision-making abilities over the CMO? Should they be able to tell the CMO, “no, you cannot use social media tools to help market the company”? Hopefully they generated revenue to make up for all the lost sales they just caused.
  33. Staying at the conference hotel instead of a cheaper hotel a mile away.
  34. Your sponsorship of the local chamber event.
  35. The 90-minute morning networking meeting you attended. You go to this once a month. Have you gotten sales directly from going?
  36. The giant flat screen monitor in the conference room.
  37. The big table in the conference room.
  38. The conference room.
  39. Your administrative assistant.
  40. The company website. If you don’t sell anything on it, is it still making you money? Why did you spend $10,000 to get it designed?
  41. Subscriptions to all the business magazines that decorate your lobby. Did you even read them?
  42. Your newspaper ads.
  43. Your business cards.
  44. Casual Fridays. And while we’re at it . . .
  45. Appropriate business attire. There must be a reason we have to dress up for work. So how much money did you make from it?
  46. Your customer service department. You know how much they cost you, but do you measure how much they made you?
  47. The accounting department.
  48. The 12 books on new management ideas you bought and never had time to read.
  49. Your industry trade magazines.
  50. You.

I am not opposed to the social media ROI question. I just think it’s an easy fallback question that people use as an excuse, whether it’s out of fear or disdain. And I encourage businesspeople to ask that question. After all, you’re going to spend money on it, so you’d damn well better know how much money you’re making from it.

But you should do the same thing for some of these other things you have in your business as well.

Photo credit: duncan (Flickr)

Who Should Rule, Content or Marketing?

Over on his blog, Nashville writer Jeff Goins questions whether content is really king.

Well, actually, no he doesn’t. he said content is not king anymore. It’s a “fat, dethroned monarch, dis-empowered of his royal ability to influence.”

Janus, the two-faced Roman god, should represent content marketing.

Janus, the two-faced Roman god, should represent content marketing.

Marketing — or as Jeff calls it, “relationships” — are the true king. Without relationships, without marketing, it doesn’t matter how awesome your writing is.

I used to be terrible at this. I thought all I had to do was be a good writer. But I was wrong.

I was scared. And lazy. I didn’t want to have to actually meet people. I just wanted to write.

But that’s not how the world works. So why would I think for one minute the Web would work that way? Yes, even in real life, it’s not just what you know that matters, but also who you know.

And even in business, the best way to promote an idea, product, or service is relationship. We all know this, because in this day of media saturation, we don’t buy what the ads tell us to buy. We buy what our friends recommend.

If I have to give an edge to either of them, I still side with content. Because hidden content can accidentally be discovered one day. I might write a post that gets picked up by search engines, and I could start being found for that topic.

But I could optimize and promote the bejeezus out of something really awful, and a lot of people could see it, but what do you think would happen if everyone showed up and saw — and said — how awful it was?

Still, it’s not a question of whether content or marketing is king.

Content Marketing Rules

This does not have to be an either/or proposition. You shouldn’t have to choose one over the other. And no, this is not one of those “why can’t everyone just get along” cop-outs that I detest. This is like arguing about whether peanut butter or jelly is more important on a PBJ.

Content and marketing have a symbiotic relationship. One cannot exist without the other. You can have great content, but if your marketing sucks, no one will see your stuff. And you can have great marketing, but if your writing sucks, no one will care.

There has to be a happy medium here. Or at the very least, we have to recognize that Content/Marketing is a two-faced king, like Janus, the Roman god of beginnings. You can’t have good marketing and lousy content, and you can’t have lousy marketing and good content. Without one, the other will die.

Content without good marketing is a private diary. Marketing without good content is spam.

I think once writers realize they need to market, we’ll see a bigger explosion in books and ebooks. And once marketers realize that content is not some throwaway afterthought, they’ll start seeing an explosion in sales and profits.

And if you want to learn how to do both, you can buy Branding Yourself or No Bullshit Social Media to see how.

(See what I did there?)

Photo credit: mscolly (Flickr)