I sat down on a call with a potential client the other day.
A budding business, this client wanted a complete content package – blogs, social media, an e-book – the whole thing.
The meeting went well and, towards the end of it, I asked the client if they had any additional questions for me.
"Yeah," he responded, "How long will it take to hit #1 on Google?"
If you work in the world of digital marketing or content creation, you know this isn't a surprising question. In fact, it's common for small business owners to invest in content as a way to "Get rich quick" in terms of online traffic and leads.
They imagine they'll hire a copywriter and an SEO, churn out some material that includes a keyword or two, and start claiming top SERP spots left and right.
Unfortunately, content – by its nature – does not work this way, and expecting it to be an overnight game is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.
The Lifecycle of Good Content
True or false: a brand-new company can build a website, post some blogs, and earn a million viewers overnight.
The answer is, of course, false. And the reason for it is simple – good content takes time.
Despite the fact that content marketing leaders enjoy 7.8x more site traffic than non-leaders and content generates three times as many leads as traditional marketing, none of those benefits come overnight, and the content influencers who make the largest ripples don't expect it to. People who want to to do content right, you need to regard it as a long-term game – a marathon rather than a sprint.
By respecting the life cycle and complexity of online content, it's easier (and more feasible) to use it to your advantage, rather than just expecting it to work a miracle for your brand.
Why Even the Best Content Takes Time
The internet moves at the speed of light, right? So why doesn't online content work just as fast? Here are a few of the top reasons:
1. Content is Complex
The world of online content is astoundingly complex. When you publish a post and it goes live on the web, there are dozens of things it has to do before it can "rank."
After all, Google alone has more than 200 ranking signals, and they're shifting all the time. This makes it virtually impossible for a single piece of content to go live and immediately garner you a bunch of attention, unless, of course, you already have a high level of site traffic and readership.
2. Your Competitors Want Those Rankings, Too
It's rare that you're the only brand publishing content in a certain niche. In most verticles, your competitors are publishing content, as well, and they may be targeting the same keywords and topics that you are. This makes it tough for your content to rank well, especially if you haven't done your competitor research, beforehand.
While you can take proactive steps to increase your chances of ranking on the front page (conducting keyword research, for example, and publishing lots of content), there are no guarantees.
3. Ranking Algorithms Change all the Time
A few years ago, Google upped its focus on expert-written content. It's also changed the way it evaluates links, its stance on keywords, and how it ranks content that's optimized for mobile. When it comes to Google and other search engines, you're dealing with a moving target.
In addition to the fact that these entities change their algorithms dozens of times a year, they don't always inform the public about it, which makes crafting high-ranking content even trickier.
4. Content is a Craft
There's good content, and there's bad content. If you want your brand to succeed, you'd be wise to shoot for the former. The only drawback is that creating great content is an art form, and it takes a highly-skilled writer, lots of communication, and a fair amount of trial-and-error.
This is especially true if you're launching a new company and you're not quite sure what your brand voice is, or how you want to interact with your customers. By nature, content evolves, and it requires space to grow and shift.
Setting Realistic Content Goals
So, content doesn't work overnight, but how do you set realistic goals about when it should be producing results for your brand? Start by accepting the fact that content is always a long-form game. While you likely won't see immediate results, starting early and committing to a comprehensive content plan is a sure-fire way to boost your rankings and increase your leads.
To ensure you're getting as much value from your content as possible, be prepared to invest in a good team and a good plan. The more thought-out your content is at the beginning, the better it will perform down the road.
Finally, you'll want to keep in mind that content is fluid and flexible. As your company grows or your voice changes, you may need to re-evaluate your content strategy and make adjustments, as necessary.
When you do these things, you step out of the way and allow content to work its magic for your brand.
In the words of Barry Stevens, "Don't push the river, it flows by itself."