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· 5 min read
Tim Post

Ultimately, you'll agree that capturing traffic from search even when the user's intent is pretty clearly not to land on a marketing page is something that you need to do.

But, you need to do it in a way that makes the Internet at least not worse in the process. If you haven't yet been down the early-devtool-startup rabbit hole, this is usually something that founders struggle with after realizing that shares from thought pieces just aren't producing enough qualified leads. Nobody, especially people on the engineering teams, likes seeing word salad on the company blog.

If you take nothing else away from this, it's that you should trust that instinct whole-heartedly. First, littering is bad, even on the Internet. You don't want to take someone that's already in the throes of anxiety because they're searching for whatever it is you're trying to capture, and you're doing it with the intent of showing them something that is .. probably very unlikely to help them in the moment. That's not a great first impression and why are you making people's days worse anyway?

SEO Content must first, above all else, add value to the endeavor that you're capturing.

If someone is running as fast as they can down a hallway with a mouth full of half-eaten habanero peppers while yelling for something to drink, alcohol probably isn't helpful even if it eventually kills the pain.

If you're going to put yourself between a person and the information that they really wanted to begin with, try your best to give them that information as an early part of your process. A tactic we're seeing increasingly used by other content marketers is trying to get search traffic for particular errors and then dropping someone into a webinar instead. This isn't technically bait-and-switch if you want to rules-lawyer it, but it doesn't stand up to a lot of scrutiny either.

The best strategy is to pick opportunities where you naturally fit the solution.

Do you need to get search traffic for something that has literally hundreds of duplicate questions on Stack Overflow about exception handling, because you make that particular pain go away in, say, Python or Java?

Great. Go sort through those questions, find the best one that you can along with the best answer. Let your visitors know that you looked through the questions, found the best information and then give them links. Then bring your own experience to the table and make it convenient for the visitor to fall into your funnel when they have more time.

And then tell them why using your product means not wasting any more time of their life wading through landing pages just like this one.

You optimized for their time this way by:

  • Doing their research for them.
  • Giving them what's probably the best answer they can find.
  • Explalining why right now is actually a good time to tell people about the product, and ideally giving them. some means of rediscovering it later (retargeting is evil here, be careful).
  • Being deliberately transparent to save some cognitive overhead.

Don't try to force content that doesn't want to be created.

Don't force this or it won't work. If it feels like you're writing a word salad, stop until something leads you to discover a way to write it that also feels genuine and good. Bad marketing content can do more to damage your overall perception because it tends to age very poorly in places that people forget all about, but still gets traffic.

If what you're writing starts off as bad, it has nowhere to go but terrible as it ages. You don't want that for the sake of chasing SEO and content KPIs that are mostly arbitrary anyway!

But that doesn't mean you can't sell and promote yourself!

You need to be respectful of your visitors' time, we didn't say anything about humble. You now have the real position of having provided something of actual value, so be bold with your pitch and be sure to remember that folks tend to be very impressionable right after getting help.

These are a great place to provide incentive to follow social accounts to get something else of value, say an extended freemium package or beta period, or something else that's convenient for them to claim when they have more time to get distracted.

Concluding ...

You can meet content marketing goals and still feel good about yourself as a writer; you just have to do it creatively. Writing killer canonical resources for common problems is one way to do this, but just one of many. As long as you at least make the user feel like finding you moved them in the right direction, these pieces can bring in a steady stream of curious adopters. Just make sure you keep track of them, keep them up to date, and keep them real.

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