Forget SEO, Embrace HEO And Tell A Great Story

If the title is off-putting, stand by. It gets worse. Pay attention now please and don’t worry if you don’t catch this the first time, because, sadly, I will probably have to repeat it anyway: Content is for people, not search engines. Without the human being on the other side of the screen, you have no audience. Shouldn’t the material you produce be for them? Isn’t it those people who are going to buy your wares? Think about it, when was the last time Google paid you for anything? People – not search engines. Yes, you have to show up in the search results, but there is far more to it than that and most digital marketers have no clue how to do that part.

Screen Shot 2019-03-07 at 2.46.30 PMSearch Engine Optimization, or SEO, is defined as the practice of increasing the quality and quantity of traffic to a website through organic search engine results. It’s designed to help drive your website to the top of the search listings. But there’s a problem, and we know we’ll get push back on this, it often fails to allow for the human element. Even some of the best “optimized” content is geared for search results instead of holding the attention of and motivating the audience.

Highly engaging, results-oriented marketing – regardless of the platform, digital or otherwise – must include what I have termed, “Human Engagement Optimization™,” or HEO ™. Regardless of how your site does on the search engine results, without HEO™, you’ve wasted time, effort and probably a great deal of money. If you want to keep people on your website once they get there or drive them to it through content that engages, entertains and informs, there are a few things you have to consider.

First, forget the tired phrase, “content is king” because It’s not. Offering a product, service or information that people actually want is king. Content is, at best, your knight – giving credibility, support and honor to your brand. High-valued content takes strategy, hard work, and, above all, consistency.

Next, tell a compelling story. Yeah, that’s kind of overused advice too, but, unlike some other buzz phrases, it has always been relevant. Marketing is about storytelling and anyone who doesn’t understand that should get out of the business. Throwing a couple of catchy lines on a display ad simply won’t do it. The best HEO™ content is a relevant story with a beginning, middle and end.

You have to engage your audience like a movie, TV show, or your favorite novel, but you have far less time in which to do it. Your content has to grab the viewer by the brain like that tune you can’t get rid of and not let go until he or she has done what you want them to do.

The best examples of storytelling in marketing are Superbowl ads. Half-billion-dollar TV spots on the most watched football game of the year have only one goal in mind – to be creative and get people talking about them on social media and around the water cooler. But they’re often not directly geared to promote anything specific and sometimes are not even structured like ads. Sometimes you may not even remember what the ad was trying to sell. It’s all about the buzz they have hooked the viewer with great HEO™.

Whenever I write content designed to tell a story structured outside the standard ad copy arrangement, someone will inevitably say, “where’s the Call To Action?” If you do it right, your CTA is included in the story by example. People trust you more if you’re not constantly hitting them over the head with, “call now,” “but don’t delay,” and “but wait, there’s more” nonsense. Just tell them a good story and they’ll remember you.

Finally, a big piece of your success is in how the story is delivered and the time required. Some people like print, some digital, some audio, it’s a bit of a coin toss – even with marketing statistics in hand. Time is also a factor. If the consumer has to spend too much time to get to the point, they’ll move on.

You must engage on multiple levels using different vehicles, sometimes dependent on the type of content you’re using. What I sometimes call, “infotainment,” (entertains and informs) delivering a story through video, text copy, or audio content will get attention and hold it far longer than the traditional advertising format.

Podcasts or a video channel on YouTube, for example, can be a great way to engage a regular audience that tunes in to learn more on subjects related to your product or service. Podcast and video length vary with the purpose and content. Some podcasts, like those set in an interview or talk show format, can be more than an hour, while videos work best if they’re less than a minute.

One word of caution. There is no “secret” to content marketing and there are certainly no silver bullets. As mentioned earlier, engaging an audience on a regular basis with good content takes strategy and hard work and you have to track the results to see what’s working. Creating good HEO™ to follow your SEO is vital if you want to attract and hold an audience long enough to get buy-in. Whether it’s a well-crafted display ad or an explainer video, if you don’t tell a good story it just won’t get attention.

For more information about how to build HEO into your marketing, contact GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd., at 937-902-4857 or