I watched ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ again at the weekend – I admit it’s one of my go-to films for when I’m in the mood for something that’s mildly amusing, nostalgic and not at all taxing on the brain. I also concede that this is perhaps not one of the coolest revelations I’ve ever made.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure, the plotline, in a nutshell, involves four hapless losers waking up in 1986, having spent the evening drinking to excess in an old hot tub. I once had a similar experience on a particularly heavy weekend in Rotherham. As you’d expect, the film underlines just how much things have progressed in the last three decades, as the kids of the ‘80s were completely baffled by emails, iPhones and a can of Russian-branded energy drink.

Back to the future II

I was born in 1986, so it goes without saying that it was a year of Rubik’s Cubed, Pepsi-drinking, Sergio Tacchini-wearing, Top Gun-watching epicness. Poignantly, it was just three years later in 1989 that Marty McFly gave us a flavour of life in 2015, as he embarked on another big voyage in Back to the Future Part II. As it turned out, the film’s depiction of what it would be like in 2015 wasn’t entirely accurate, but it did highlight our ever-growing reliance on technology.

As we all know, the internet is central to everything we do in 2015, and it’s hard to imagine how we’d cope without Tim Berners-Lee’s incredible invention. As digital marketers, it’s imperative that we know how to produce and promote online content that is going to capture our target audience’s attention. From improving search engine visibility and social shares to clever outreach campaigns and traditional PR, there are many things you can do to get your work noticed. The problem that many content marketers have is that they try to be a little too clever about article promotion. While Google (or Lougle if I were to cram another Hot Tub Time Machine reference in) is king, the imposing nature of the world’s biggest online search engine can cause marketers to lose sight of what’s important.

If you are to take anything away from this article – aside from the plethora of misty-eyed references to the 1980s – it should be the following tip:

When you are writing a piece of content, stop and think whether you would still be creating it if Google didn’t exist. If the answer is ‘no’, scrap your plans and start again.

While Google has unarguably made it easier for people to find relevant information and interesting content, writers and content creators mustn’t allow it to dictate their work. If you’re producing something just to be Google-friendly, you’re doing it all wrong.

If you must, take yourself back to the 1980s and get back to basics. There were no search engines, SEO was more likely to be the acronym of a feared group of football hooligans from Sunderland and writers had to rely on their talent and nose for a story in order to create articles that people were genuinely interested in.

I’m not suggesting that we completely forget about the importance of Google – that would be foolish. But for a moment, think about how you would grab and then hold an audience’s attention if search engines didn’t exist. What are these people interested in? What are they talking about? What questions are they asking?

If you can garner this information and then use it to produce an engaging piece of content that people really want to digest, it will naturally attract backlinks and will grow in authority. In short, if content marketers do things right, the SEO side of things should take care of itself.

Lee Wagstaff