Olaf Kopp is an executive partner at Aufgesang Inbound Online Marketing GbR and head of marketing at the Aufgesang agency group. He is an enthusiastic searchengine and content marketer, as well as a certified Adwords professional.
As an author and blogger, he writes for a variety of field-related magazines (such as t3n, suchradar, Website Boosting …). Additionally, he engages as a speaker at conferences and as a lecturer at the IHK and FH in Hannover, covering the topics of SEO, content marketing and web analysis.
He is author of the e-book “AdWords-Optimierung” and is a joint organizer of the SEAcamps. Olaf Kopp completed his studies in business administration with a focus on marketing and e-business with an MBA and has concentrated on social media marketing, Google AdWords and SEO since 2005. Since early 2012, the focus of his interests has mostly included content and inbound marketing.
In our interview with Olaf Kopp, we will talk about the relationship beween content marketing and SEO, other online marketing diciplines, inbound marketing in general, the phenomenon of “content shock” and the complex relation between companies and influencers.
linkbird: Hi Olaf, thank you very much for taking the time to answer some questions about content marketing, online PR and inbound marketing. Let’s get started, shall we? Could you introduce yourself and your agency “Aufgesang” to our readers?
Olaf Kopp: Aufgesang Inbound Online Marketing was founded in January 2012 and helps clients with strategic search engine optimization, PPC-advertisement such as AdWords, Bing, Facebook, content marketing and Google Analytics. We are a joint organizer of several events, such as the SEAcamps in Jena, Germany, the online regulars’ table Hannover and also as guest authors for the IHK Hannover, FH Hannover, t3n, suchradar and Website Boosting. Our agency-blog was just recently included in the 10 best German-speaking online marketing blogs (German article), which I am personally very proud of.
As the Aufgesang Inbound Online Marketing GbR, you are part of an agency group which incorporates different branches of PR and marketing. Would you see the relation between content marketing and SEO in a similar way, that is, as equal parts with the same goal, or do you see structural and/or substantial differences?
Yes, that’s correct. We are part of the Aufgesang Agency Group which consists of the legally independent agencies “Aufgesang Inbound Online Marketing” and “Aufgesang Public Relations”. When Google launched its first Panda Update in summer 2011, it became clear what was in store for us: SEO had to fundamentally evolve and open itself up to a greater extent. It was for this reason, that my current business associate – who had been running a PR agency for more than 10 years – and I decided to merge the business branches of PR and SEO into an agency group. This step, namely to use the synergies between several technical-analytical competences in online marketing and the communication competence in PR, has proven to be a quite logic step.
To get back to your question, I don’t see content marketing primarly as a means for link building – respectively SEO – but rather as a strategy for business communication and marketing. As I illustrate en detail in my piece on content marketing not being link building (German article), content marketing pursues strategic goals, such as the setup of a communication system – for example a blog -, the establishment of a brand, or the maintenance of long-term customer relations. Short-term goals such as backlinks play only a minor part.
Results from our extensive “Content Marketing in SEO” Survey
I think to implement content marketing just for the sake of SEO is not reasonable, since its scalability is not provided. Of course you can plan and produce specific Linkerati groups coordinated content. And by doing so, you will actually increase the chance of this content to generate links. However, content marketing can result in links, but there is no guarantee. And you have to accept that.
SEO is an important part in the content marketing process. According to a study in 2012, more than 80% of all research entries for demand satisfaction in B2B start with a search engine. For that reason, the traceability of a company’s content at Google & Co. plays a crucial part. And this is the moment at which search engine optimization comes into play. However, similar to content promotion via PPC-Ads, SEO is only one component of a demand-actuated content concept. For instance, SEO does not play a part in content production, outreach, content promotion, etc. Unfortunately, content made by SEOs, also often looks like it was made by SEOs.
To stay with this topic a little longer, we at linkbird believe in the effectiveness of a symbiosis of SEO (link building), content (marketing) and online PR (brand monitoring, to maintain press contacts via a CRM, etc.). What do you think of this holistic model? Where do you see potential difficulties?
At Aufgesang, we see that in a similar way. All three diciplines work best when combined. Even if you only focus on SEO goals, traditional link building is still a part of it. You will achieve the scalability that PR and content marketing do not provide via link building. And I am not necessarily talking about link buying or web-catalogue entries.
The actual development of necessary processes, as well as the high coordination demand within interdisciplinary teams of specialists, however, does represent a mammoth task. I guess it will take years for companies to build up the necessary structures in order to get rid of this tunnel vision kind of thinking. What is at stake here is not only the coordination of workflows, but the different ways of thinking, philosophies and goals. An SEO, for instance, pursues different short- and medium-term goals, compared to a PR specialist. Hence, to cooperate in order to reach the strategic goals of a company is what it is all about.
A big hindrance for establishing the right structures, is the lack of skilled personnel within the online business in general. Branches such as SEO or PPC, to name but a few, lack specialists to satisfy their needs. Right now, the demand for new professions, such as content marketer and community manager is increasing. However, our school system reacts only slowly to this continuously rising demand. This poses a big problem for agencies and companies, which often have to fill necessary specialist positions in online marketing with apprentices or interns.
Is content marketing the ultimate savior in SEO or do you see any dangers, such as the oft-cited “content shock”?
No. As I’ve mentioned before, I do not see content marketing as a method for search engine optimizaton. If anything, SEO serves as a method for content marketing. In my opinion, there are still several industries which find themselves in a state of hibernation when it comes to online marketing. For these industries, it may suffice to perform the core elements of SEO, that is, technical onpage SEO, keyword analyses, topic maps, as well as scaleable link building methods. However, especially within highly fought over industries, in which complex offers and high contract values are at stake, content marketing is actually a must-have. Only via this method, companies will be able to create the demand for their product; regardless of the price. This process, then, will improve the closing rates, which is what it is all about in contested industries.
“Content Shock” itself is still a few years ahead and I think that in many industries, there is still the possibility to establish oneself as an “information lighthouse”. However, the longer you wait, the harder it will get.
In order to perform inbound marketing in the best possible way, a diverse array of competences is necessary. How would you staff the perfect inbound marketing team, if there is such a thing at all?
Only a few companies can afford to employ the perfect inbound marketig team. In order to perform inbound marketing in a professional way throughout the entire process structure, a whole bunch of specialists is needed. If you would want to staff every single department with the best possible choice, you would have to hire at least 10 people.
Results from our extensive “Content Marketing in SEO” Survey
For the majority of companies, this situation requires the courage to make do with gaps. The departments content/editorial department, PR, SEO and maybe social media should, however, exist as core elments within the team. The same applies to the necessity to employ an expert in web analysis. In my opinion, a team should therefore consist of at least 3-4 people. It is also helpful if the content production is carried out by personnel who are “passionate” about the product and identify with it 100%. They represent the brand with their faces and their personalities. These staff members are usually very well connected and you will often find them in responsible positions, such as in management, or as a head of department. These positions often help to simplify the process of content distribution.
As an inbound marketing agency, you often work with the most diverse array of clients. Since branding plays an important part for these clients, do you see any differences in the branding workflow for clients from the B2B, B2C or startup business?
In general, I don’t like to differentiate between B2B, B2C, or startup. It is the nature of the product that matters here. Highly complex and expensive products or services will be purchased only after a comprehensive research has been conducted. The higher the necessity for a certain amount of trust from the consumer towards the company, the more important the brand, respectively the reputation, gets. On the one hand, this importance is tied to the complexity and high price of the product itself. On the other hand, certain aspects such as possible risks to health and the provision of personal data can play a crucial part.
From an SEO point of view, I am firmly convinced that branding or at least the authority of a brand – in certain industries – will play an even bigger part for the best position within search engine results in the time to come.
Content marketing relies on creativity. As an agency, where do you get your inspiration from? To put it differently, is there such a thing as a “traditional” idea generation process or does every single client become a field for his/her own?
We have developed certain processes within the framework of content conception, which proceed in a very data-based and analytical fashion. In this way, we provide certain guidelines for the colleagues in PR/communication within which they can get creative and develop ideas for content. We go through this porcess with every single client. However, depending on the market and the competitive environment, these guidelines can look quite differently.
Quite a lot has been written with regard to the question as to how to seed and promote content in the best possible way. What are your own tips to achieve the ideal amount of attention for one’s content? Are you using any software to optimize your outreach and seeding process?
As I’ve mentioned before, search engines and therefore SEO play an important part for achieving the desired media range of your content. In second place, I see outreach via influencer relations, respectively PR. With regard to content, I believe that the field of influencer marketing will reach a state of importance similar to that of SEO today. Additionally, we partly rely on the support of certain content promotion tools, such as Outbrain or advertisements in the Google Display network. In this field, however, we are still in the testing phase to better evaluate the effectiveness of this method.
How does the linkbird tool, for instance, assist you to optimize your workflow in the fields of CRM and PR communication?
We use linkbird predominantly for research of link sources, contact management, and communication.
Talking about content seeding, the term “influencer” often pops up. Who exactly does qualify as an influencer and how is it possible for companies or agencies to increasingly involve him/her in the online marketing process, respectively get him/her interested in it?
The topic “influencer marketing” plays an important part with regard to word of mouth and hence the distribution of content and messages. Influencers are certain people, who are usually very altruistic, or at least appear as such. In order to understand how to work successfully with influencers, it is necessary to elaborate on certain behavioral scientific basics. If you commit certain mistakes in the contact with these highly important individuals, they might turn away. The client, and even more so the influencer, has a basic need to choose freely from different options.
Should this “free choice” get interrupted by aggressive advertisement, you might actually achieve the exact opposite result of what you want to achieve. You should therefore make sure not to put these people under any kind of pressure. Push-elements, such as advertisement, do not work with influencers.
Usually, influencers are very well connected within social networks. They are individual people, who are “intrinsicly” motivated and who consciously or unconsciously influence the opinions of certain groups. Moreover, they are respected experts, who are often consulted within their respective field. For these reasons, it is crucial to proceed in a cautious, well-planned manner when dealing with these persons.
In case you’re interested in the topic of influencer marketing, you might want to take a look at my, somewhat ageing, diploma thesis (please send me a request), or read the chapter dealing with influencers and influentials on my blog (German article).
As a last point, if you could make a wish for the developments in content marketing, what would you wish for? In what direction should the market progress in your opinion? Something along the lines of “less content, more communication with the clients?”
Content should always communicate something. I actually think the situation is quite agreeable at the moment. Right now, content marketing seems to be a playground, on which a few courageous ones realize their more or less ambitioned visions. Once more companies will implement real structures and workflows on a wide base, it will become really interesting. This represents a huge effort that one should not underestimate; and I believe that one or two SEO, PR, and marketing persons in charge will reach their professional limits while working on this.
How important is Content Marketing to SEO? More than 500 experts in SEO, E-Commerce and Online Marketing gave us their answers. Here are the survey results!