Branding and Problem Solving: Thinking Bigger than Ranking with Wil Reynolds @SMX

If someone took your content away from the web … would anybody miss it?

Wil Reynolds (@WilReynolds), founder of Seer Interactive, wants you to think about this.

Does your content solve a problem, or does it exist simply to exist? If you’re doing content for content’s sake, or focusing on ranking just for ranking’s sake, you’re playing the digital marketing game wrong. Because your chief concerns should be the user, their frustrations, and creating content they can trust.

Wil Reynolds, speakerReynolds kicks off this SMX East 2015 session, entitled “Content, Your Brand and the Battle for Customers,” by stating: “All marketing boils down to this: understanding people’s frustrations, and creating content that addresses it.”

He uses Amazon’s buy-it-now dash buttons as an example. Have you seen them? They allow consumers to literally push a button and thereby order a new supply of … whatever. Those are a perfect example of something that has nothing to do with ranking, was inspired by frustration, and addresses a consumer’s needs.

Reynolds then throws out some statistics that underline Amazon’s power:

  • Amazon Prime has a 74% conversion rate.
  • Less than 1% of Prime members are likely to consider other mass-market retail sites (e.g., Walmart, Target) during the same online session. Amazon has trained users to buy from them.


Loyalty is mostly undisruptible. Loyalty isn’t about ranking, but about creating meaningful experiences and/or trust. There are certain brands who Reynolds will skip over higher results to get to. Reynolds gives the example of Moz. He’ll click on a result from the Moz blog even if it’s lower in the SERP because he trusts the content that he gets from Moz.

No amount of SEO solves an unmarketable products.

Think about the following as you move forward with your marketing:

Where are you putting the how before the who?

Where are you putting the algorithm before people?

Stay paranoid. Think about the kinds of things that Google doesn’t show answer boxes for that will be really helpful for users. Create content accordingly.

Branding vs. Ranking: AirBnB

Let’s say you’re a company focusing on vacation rentals. You focused on ranking, and you’ve achieved the No. 1 spot for the term.

Meanwhile, there was AirBnB. Instead of focusing on ranking, they focused on branding. They marketed the vacation experience: relaxation, adventure, etc. And their high quality content? When Airbnb produces content, people search for it.

AirBnB ranks No. 9 for vacation rentals … but they thought bigger than rankings. And now? Search for the term “Airbnb” dwarfs search for “vacation rentals.”

Brand matters.

AirBnb didn’t care about ranking for “vacation rentals.” AirBnB was busy building a brand.

Think Outside the Box

Think innovatively about content of all kinds. Reynolds talks about airplane safety videos and compares Virgin America’s dance/safety video to the average safety video. Virgin America actually considered what their fliers might want to see!

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Search is critical – but the issue is really solving problems.

Trust is hard to disrupt. Is your content strategy building trust at every step?

And remember: if someone took your content away from the web … would anybody miss it?

Kristi Kellogg is a journalist, news hound, professional copywriter, and social (media) butterfly. Currently, she is a senior SEO content writer for Conde Nast. Her articles appear in newspapers, magazines, across the Internet and in books such as "Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals" and "The Media Relations Guidebook." Formerly, she was the social media editor at Bruce Clay Inc.

See Kristi's author page for links to connect on social media.

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