Internet marketing has been around for years, but it continues to evolve before our very eyes.

How long have you been involved in the internet game? If longer than five years, you witnessed the “old west” feel of the internet’s early days.

Back then, SEO was more about keyword density, sites ranked based on having keywords present on the page (even if via trickery), and you could get away with far-fetched claims with little or no repercussions.

Fast forward to 2015, and all of these tactics are stories and myths in today’s inbound and Internet marketing landscape. Sure there are a few tricks left, but in the end, internet users have seen it all. Trust is paramount to success. If you’re game is predicated on duping people into giving you their credit card numbers or passwords, you’re running on fumes.

So you want to establish trust? Spend your time focusing on authenticity.

What Is Authenticity?

That’s an easy question to answer – it’s about being authentic. About not pretending to be something or someone you are not.

It’s about telling it straight, being honest, and establishing rapport and trust. You have to woo prospects to engage them.

And we’ve become very savvy to all the games by now. Most internet users can smell a con artist from a mile away. In fact, most of us have our guard up as a condition of browsing the web.

Being authentic is straight forward, but it’s not always as easy as it may seem. Sometimes, you could even inadvertently give off an air of “fake.”

So what should we do to stay true to authenticity across our inbound and internet marketing efforts? Let’s look at several areas where it matters the most.

Keyword Targeting

In the old days, SEOs would start by researching keyword volume and stuffing those all over the website pages. If it drove a ton of volume, it was a good keyword.

Over the years, the search engines have become exponentially more sophisticated about how they evaluate relevance. In fact, the real motivation behind all of the last few years of Google penalties was this exact purpose – relevance.

And really, how annoying is it to search for a keyword, click one of the top results, and land on a page about something completely different?

This is a prime example of internet marketing devoid of authenticity. It’s rather appalling, in reality.

There are a bunch of different ways to target better keywords in today’s uber-competitive search marketing world. We have long-tail targeting, semantic match, and flipping the script to target topics rather than keywords.

In the end, any of those approaches can work. But you need to be absolutely sure that the keywords or topics you pick are truly relevant to the content on the page where you are placing them.

So basically, be savvier about how you pick what to target. Only go for keywords of any type that are spot on descriptive of what you want to talk about, sell, etc.

So when it comes to keyword targeting, authenticity is all about relevance. What do you do with your own keyword research to qualitatively filter for relevance? If you don’t do it, change that today. You’ll see better engagement and conversion numbers in nearly any situation.

Blogging And Content Generation

With content marketing being all the rage the past couple of years, blogging and content generation are also important places to practice authenticity.

Blogging is the best and easiest place to show your authenticity. In fact, being dry and less than authentic is an easy way to have your blog fade into obscurity.

The best blogs on the planet tend to have tight themes of topics and very personable voices to them. These blogs typically cover content that is less self-serving. They are about providing real value to the reader.

But even moreso, they are more focused on connecting to you the reader than soapboxing. It’s possible to be both educational and conversational, and a range of writers like Darren Rowse (Problogger) and Neil Patel excel in this area.

For other types of content, it’s also easy to fall into the habit of creating dry content in a passive voice. Realistically, people read content that speaks TO them, rather than AROUND them.

Make it a point to stick to active voice, and don’t be afraid to address the audience directly. If your message is authentic and you can connect with the audience, you’re ahead of the game.

Social Media

There have been posts about authenticity on social media in the past, and I would be remiss to omit it just because it has been covered already.

Since social media plays such a key role in engagement with prospects, customers, stakeholders, investors, and others, authenticity is a requirement and not an option.

What does authenticity mean on social media? It differs between individuals and brands.

Social Media Authenticity For Individuals

Individuals should find it easy to be authentic. Just be yourself (within reason, so use good judgment), be personable, and connect with other people directly.

There are all types of people online, so your personality and interests should match up with someone out there. If you keep it real, you just need to find your right community and engage with them. This is one of the most enjoyable parts of social media.

Social Media Authenticity For Brands

Social media for brands is very different than it is for individuals. Brands are under much more scrutiny for what they say, how it is said, and how people react to it.

This is why we always advocate having a social media policy for any brand that plans to dabble in social media. That policy should include things like what topics are on brand, what the company persona or voice should be, and how to handle crisis situations when they arise.

Since social media will be run by people, provide parameters for them. Then let them find their own way to be authentic to the brand and the fans/followers within those guidelines.

Not everyone can adjust to this appropriately. In fact, my personal belief is that social media for a brand should be managed internally in the vast majority of businesses. This is the reason that Return On Now offers social media strategy consulting but not execution – we would rather help build the approach and then leave the engagement to those who can be most authentic on behalf of the company.

Online Advertising

It may surprise you to see advertising mentioned in a post about authenticity. After all, ads are trying to influence purchase decisions or drive sign ups to your list, which some see as self-serving and manipulative.

Don’t be short-sighted when thinking about online advertising. You can push a CTA and drive conversions without losing your authenticity.

Start out by focusing your message on what benefits you are trying to provide. If a product fixes a problem, say it.

Or maybe you are pushing for people to download an ebook about a topic related to your business. Great; tell them what is in it for them if they download the ebook.

In the end, be honest and upfront, and make sure you are driving real value with the CTA’s you are presenting to prospects. Again, it’s about trust and getting the relationship off on the right foot. Do that and you’re golden, even with online ads.


Authenticity is critical to building a successful inbound and Internet marketing presence. Build it into your keyword research content, social media, and online advertising from the start. Keep it consistent across all of these sub-channels, and you’ll build engagement and community, as well as your customer list, faster than if you take any other approach.

What else do you do to keep it real and authentic? Are there other channels I missed which should be added to the list above?

Photo credit: Planeta on Flickr, License: CC BY (commercial reuse with modification)