I’m not going to lie to you: I hate the phrase, “Content is king.” I don’t just hate it, I h-h-h-h-hate it. I loathe and detest it. I want to chop it up into little bits and jump up and down on them until I get blisters. Except when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO) — content absolutely drives that particular bus. I work with lean manufacturers and one day I thought, what if we applied lean manufacturing techniques to content strategy?
Lean manufacturing and SEO — made for each other
SEO is the art and science of getting your website to rise to the top of the search rankings.
Why should you care? Because many people — include your future clients, suppliers and business partners — turn to search engines like Google to locate manufacturers who can handle their next job.
Whether your website appears on the first (or 15th) page of a particular search depends on over 200 different factors. This includes the length of time the average person spends on your site, whether they visit pages beyond the first one, the load speed of each page, whether or not it can be viewed on the smaller mobile screens, and so on.
There are things you can do that don’t take a lot of time, but still play a big part in improving your website’s search rankings. Like regularly adding well-written and interesting blog posts.
Some of these are set-and-forget tactics like SSL encryption. Others require continual work, like updating words and images on individual web pages. You can spend so much time working on SEO that it’s a full-time job, which is why there are entire firms devoted to search engine optimization.
I like talking to lean manufacturers about SEO, because they already have a mindset of only doing what’s necessary to complete a task, and making sure they can do the best with only the bare necessities. I always think of lean manufacturers as the Spartan army from the movie “300.” They get the job done with the fewest, but the very best, resources.
So when I grudgingly agree that content is king, I add this caveat: Only when content is used properly.
The key to more website visitors: Content marketing
Businesses of all kinds attract new clients through content marketing, the practice of creating and sharing informational or entertaining videos, articles and social posts on the internet.
Unfortunately, the current state of content marketing is one of bloat and waste. As Mark Schaefer said in 2014, we’re in a state of content shock. As the internet grows, notes Mark, the amount of online content grows as well.
The problem is, most of this content is mediocre at best. And a lot of it is pretty bad. It’s poorly written, it’s too short and too basic and doesn’t explore new ideas. It’s a lot of “me too” regurgitations of something someone else has already posted. Decidedly unking-like.
(Case in point, after Schaefer wrote his original content shock article in 2014, other marketers wrote more than 1,000 articles in response. Me included.)
Content marketing’s problem is too much inventory and poor craftsmanship — both problems that lean seeks to solve.
What would happen if we applied lean manufacturing techniques to your content marketing strategy? Rather than writing more, more, MORE, we’d focus on putting out better-written articles and blog posts that meet the needs of our target readers.
Below are five SEO tips that dovetail with lean manufacturing techniques. Do these better, rather than doing more, and you’ll see big improvements in your search rankings — and by extension, your bottom line.
5 SEO tips for lean manufacturers
Pay attention to Time On Site.
Use white space to your advantage.
Outsource writing if needed.
Go where the competition isn’t.
Don’t publish when you don’t have anything to say.
Rather than tell you about on-page SEO tricks like adding schema tags to your web pages, let’s focus on how you can use web content strategically to your advantage.
1. Pay attention to Time On Site (TOS)
Google takes into account the length of time your site visitor spends on a single page, such as a blog post. If you want high TOS (and you do), you need longer blog posts. Current research suggests the ideal length is 1,600 words, or seven minutes, reading time. It gives Google a lot of information to index, gives you room to explore topics in-depth and more text for people to read. This is especially true in the B2B world, where readers are usually searching for specific information, and not just reading for entertainment.
2. Use white space to your advantage
If you want people to spend more time on your articles, even the 1,600-word ones, don’t hit them with long, unbroken blocks of text. Try “writing lean.” Use short words, short sentences, short paragraphs.
It’s like eating from a plate of hors d’oeuvres — “Just one more,” the reader thinks, “just one more, just one more.” Before they know it, they’re done with the piece and you’ve managed to keep them around longer than if you’d given them long, long paragraphs to read.
3. Outsource writing if needed
If you’re operating on lean principles, that probably means you have a lean staff. It may also mean you don’t have someone who can devote a lot of time to writing content. In that case, outsource your web writing to professionals who can do the best job in the shortest amount of time.
This is likely to end in low-quality content that nobody wants to read. A good writer gets it right the first time, which keeps your overhead low but still gives you high-quality content.
4. Go where the competition isn’t
If your competitor has a website, start a blog. If they have a blog, start a podcast. If they have a podcast, do videos. And if they have videos, switch to other alternative forms of content. The point is to do things that your competition isn’t, and then to do it better than anyone else. If other people decide they want to copy you, you’ve already established yourself as the best.
5. Don’t publish when you don’t have anything to say
Many marketers feel they need to publish blog posts and articles day after day, week after week, without fail. The problem is, they run out of interesting things to say and just start blathering on about nothing. Now, the daily publisher will occasionally stumble upon something interesting, but that doesn’t make up for the last four weeks of blah they’ve published. If you’re trying to build a regular audience of committed fans and readers, only publish when you have something worthwhile to share.
Like timing, context is everything
These last two points also address the importance of context. Context means not only saying the right things to begin with, but saying them in the right place. For example, let’s say you write a blog post about the importance of warehouse automation as a cost saving measure during the holiday shopping season. Where should you publish that?
Your blog? Of course.
A guest post on an industry-related blog? Absolutely.
The Huffington Post? No, the audience is too general. An industry-related blog with only 50 readers will probably result in better readership than The Huffington Post, since there might not be 50 warehouse managers looking at that publication anytime soon.
What if you expand that post into a 12-page white paper, complete with statistics and case studies? Where should that be published?
We know HuffPo is out, but what about your blog or the guest post? I’d say no, because at 12 pages, it’s probably 4,000 words long, and a lot longer than many people will want to read on a website.
This means you should turn it into a downloadable white paper and put it on your website. This way, people can get it after they give you some information about themselves and their company, which turns that interested reader into a possible lead. Something you wouldn’t have gotten if you had just published this on a blog.
It’s important you present content where it makes sense. That 1,600-word article about warehouse automation? That goes on your blog. The 12-page white paper? Turn it into a downloadable eBook.
Writing an article about warehouse management and holiday shopping might not be as useful three days before Christmas. But it could have a bigger impact in late January, after returns season, or at the start of Q3 when retail operations start thinking about their holiday shopping plans.
Make your website work harder with lean manufacturing techniques
One of the principles of lean manufacturing is the importance of measurement to determine progress. Measurement is one of the principles of search engine optimization as well. Not only are there tools to measure your SEO progress directly on your website, but there are additional tools to measure your search engine rankings (beyond the typical Google search).
By following these SEO tips, then measuring the results and tweaking the components, you’ll see your rankings improve. This will ultimately boost traffic to your website, which will bring more leads and, in turn, more sales.
Also published on Medium.