Content marketing is a relatively new field and “how to do it right” is something that’s still being figured out amongst those working in the industry. Nonetheless, one thing that can be universally agreed upon by all content marketers is that it is not “the Internet” or “Google” that we market to, but rather it is people who we are targeting.

Over the years, search engine optimization (SEO) has proven to be one of the most – if not THE most – reliable methods for online traffic acquisition. For close to two decades, SEOs have racked their brains working to try and crack Google’s algorithm and rank at or near the top for particular search terms. Indeed, as the world’s largest search engine, Google can be relied upon to drive traffic from people looking for answers (in the form of keywords and phrases).

One method SEOs commonly use to strengthen websites and improve their ranking on search engine results pages is link acquisition; in other words, getting other sites to link to your sites. Often, lots of money will be invested in pursuing this strategy in order to ensure that your sites have a broad and diverse backlink profile from as many authority sites as possible.

While there’s no doubting the importance of SEO, at the end of the day, websites are built for their content to be consumed by people; not Google’s crawlers. Even the most “technically perfect” article or Web page won’t be of any value to a person if its content was compiled by someone whose only job is to ensure that a checklist of terms and keywords were included.

When producing content, the goal should be to give value to the consumer. In other words, beyond crafting catchy titles to initially get a potential reader to click, a writer needs to have the goal of leaving the reader with more information, knowledge, etc. about a particular topic. With that as a goal, more often than not, all those critical keywords and search phrases end up getting included in the text anyway. More importantly, however, the consumer is far more likely to share the content (e.g., via social media), thus providing it with added reach. Articles don’t go viral because they happen to be ranked #1 on Google for a particular keyword. They go viral when enough people gain from it and feel as though it’s worth sharing with others.

By the same token, having great content is one critical component of obtaining a link, but getting the right people to be exposed to it is the other piece of that puzzle. Getting other websites to discuss and give overage to your content is every marketer’s dream. Remember that behind those other websites sit people, just like you. Those people are far more likely to listen to what you have to say if they already know you, even if you’ve never met face-to-face. When you invest the time in establishing relationships with people like webmasters, writers, and editors, you’ll have a captive audience of influencers ready to listen to what you have to say when you let them know that you’ve just published some great content. More often than not, they’ll be happy to link to your content… and it won’t have cost you a dime.

The Internet is not a standalone entity. People “make the Internet happen”. If the content you produce is geared towards people and marketed to people with whom you’ve built relationships over time, you’re guaranteed to have an audience that will constantly be eager to see what you have to publish next.