If You Market, They Will Come, If You Have Content, They Will Stay

The links VS content debate has been going on for a long time now, and I doubt it will go away anytime soon.

I was recently asked about which was the better method, by someone who clearly felt they should spend their time making content rather than pursing links. While I certainly sympathize with the philosophy, I had to disagree with it.

Now, I'm a big believer in the power of content. But that doesn't mean I don't understand the importance of links. You need both.

Let me give you an analogy I like to use. I used to do some work for a couple of record companies.

You are a music artist. What do you do to get people to listen to your music?

There are 3 basic approaches:

1) You can make the best damn music you can and let people find you and be amazed and delighted.
2) You market the hell out of yourself - interviews, videos, press releases, scandals, etc.
3) You combine the two methods.

Most artists start out preferring the first approach. It's the purest choice. They hope that by appearing at local clubs, the buzz will get out and they will naturally attract attention. It's also (not a coincidence - most artists are broke when they start out) the cheapest method.

While a commendable concept, it's also naive. The fact is that there are so many crap bands and wannabes doing the same circuit that it would be like winning a lottery to get noticed by the right people. Actually, I think your chances are better for winning the lottery.

Some of the best artists in the world are unknown right now, and will be unknown forever. This is a damn shame, but it's the way the numbers work. This is musics "long tail". They will often have a small but loyal following. Not many people come, but most that do, stay.

This is the equivalent of a content-only strategy.

The second approach is the pop-music approach. Build a huge buzz and push it like crazy. This can create one-hit wonders and the flavour of the week. Often the main talent of the "artist" is looking good, rather than their musical talents.

This can be very successful in the short term. It's also very expensive and behind the scenes is very time consuming.

The end result though, is that the flavor of the week disappears into obscurity next week. The people come, but do not stay.

This is the equivalent of a links-only strategy.

The third approach is the combination of the two. You create the best damn music you can and market like crazy. This is the hardest method, of course.

It's also the best. Think of the artists you were listening to 5 years ago, and still listen to today. I'll bet very one of them is a great artist, and also has great marketing (videos, concerts, news releases, website, etc).

These artists are the most successful. Their marketing gets people to come, and their talent convinces them to stay, and to tell others. In the first scenario, you have people telling others, as well, but since it's a small group, the word of mouth doesn't work very well, and tends to be local.

For the same artist with great marketing, there are more people visiting and therefore more people spreading word of mouth. Once it hits a certain critical level, it can actually be nearly self-sustaining. The people come, and they stay.

This is the equivalent of a content + links strategy.

In short, you can wish that people will just magically recognise your talent without marketing, but it's not likely to be very successful. This is fine if you are a hobbyist, but not so fine if you are a business.

"If you market, they will come, if you have content, they will stay."


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