When I was a youngling I was a fan of Cookie Monster – that joyous blue creature from Sesame Street who gobbles cookies with abandon. He is probably the reason I kept glass jars full of yummy things on my desk for many years.

Web Content MonsterA few friends of mine have told me these days the cookie monster now eats vegetables and while I agree that makes sense - I know when Emma gets interested in Sesame Street I am going to cry a tiny little bit inside when I see that.

So here you sit in 2014 , wondering what you need to do to market your website and how to "take care of" that Internet Marketing thing. What will be new this year, what do we need to do more of, do less of, or maybe stop doing? Hmmmmm.

There have been many conversations about the death of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and we'll see that make a much stronger appearance this year. From a management perspective it is no longer reasonable to invest in SEO and doing so has rapidly diminishing returns which are getting awfully close to zero.

A quick aside – there are some folks who insist they "do SEO" and that it still works great – but they then go on to explain they focus on things which are not related to SEO. It is a bit like a pharmacist explaining she doesn't believe in prescription drugs and you should use these herbs but she is still a pharmacist. You can get solid results with these people, if you can tolerate the fact they have an identity crisis in progress. Bottom line: Everyone saying SEO isn't dead has a truly weird-ass explanation of what they think SEO is.

"So what replaces SEO?" screams the community of Internet Entrepreneurs – more and more folks are saying the answer is SMM – social media management. So just take all the resources you had allocated to pleasing the Google and send them over to please the social media networks, worship at the alter of Facebook and make sure you don't ignore Google+ when you do that. Easy peasy, right?

Well – as is typical of this sort of stuff - that is almost correct but it isn't quite that simple. The 'here's what you do' explanation skips the most critical thing and without it you'll fail. In 2013 I saw many folks dramatically increase their SMM efforts and gain zero ground – and basically they are not feeding the monster.

If you don't feed the monster as part of what you are doing almost all web marketing tactics now fail. (exception to this rule: most paid marketing...but even that works way way better when you feed the monster)

You know the monster I am talking about – the one who makes Internet Entrepreneurs break out in cold sweats, the only monster who scares people as much as the data breach monster – the Content Monster.

Ooooooo – that is a scary monster indeed, the kind with gnashing teeth, terrible claws, and a generally unpleasant demeanor.

If you aren't afraid of the content monster it means you don't understand him or know how to feed him. I know him very well: where and how he was born, I have watched him his whole life, and quite frankly - he scares the crap out of me. I always wonder if I will be able to produce enough.

In 2013 I had a client casually tell me he "got it" and he then proceeded to put out content that went like this...here is one small fact about my product, now click here to buy my product. He failed, quite badly. If you are going to give the monster food it is really important you make sure it is not rotten.

So how do you feed the content monster, how do you make sure people want to visit your site and check out your stuff?

An Editorial Calendar

Yup – that's it, three words – super simple and it sure sounds easy.

Just is case you think three words means it is easy.....

Want to lose weight in three words? Eat less crap.
Be happier financially? Spend less money.
Have a great relationship? Communicate heartfelt love.

If you don't have amazing wonderful stuff to say there isn't much SMM can do for you. All social media does is spread the word, it rocks at spreading the good word. Social can also jam that rotten stuff at people a whole bunch, but they won't eat it.

True for a long time but a rule in 2014: "Click here to buy my stuff" is an offensive and ineffective piece of 'content'.

Most people have some familiarity with editorial calendars – they list the emails you'll be sending, your social media posts, your videos, your webinars, your calls to action, your site pages – all good stuff.

In the land of holding people accountable a simple calendar is important and does a great job. Without consistent execution content is missing a key ingredient, no doubt about it.

But even when you make the trains run on time you still haven't really fed the monster good food. You made sure you fed him daily and that's great but a simple schedule won't make the food not rotten.

So what does?

Help people.

Truly understand the part of what you do that makes people happy, solves problems, is amazing – and focus on that.

Anyone can create personas (fake "real" people who are your customers) even though good ones are hard.

Anyone can hold folks accountable with a calendar, even though it can require serious management skills.

Anyone can spit out a bunch of stuff – but making sure it all truly helps people?

That's magic. That's the secret sauce that is needed, that is what makes web marketing in 2014 go.

Here's the bottom line for Internet Entrepreneurs: You are right to think SEO is dead but SMM is only your savior if you do the hardest thing yet – feed the monster. Feed him delicious food and he will make that joyous 'nom nam nam' noise which made me love the cookie monster when I was a youngling.

Ross Lasley is the Internet Educator, an experienced Internet entrepreneur providing web strategy and consulting services to businesses. Ross speaks frequently on web design, e-commerce, and Internet marketing issues and maintains a weekly newsletter, Web Enlightenment.
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