epiphany momentI often find clarity hits me when least expected. One such epiphany moment occurred yesterday evening…

Setting the scene, it was bed time story with son 2.0 and we were enjoying the delights of Horrid Henry. We were reading a chapter that was all about Henry wanting to be rich, but being shocked that he would have to earn the money.

Other than immediate thoughts along the lines of, “welcome to the real world Henry”, I found myself drifting into thinking about a parallel with the wonderful world of inbound marketing. Personally, the epitome of inbound marketing is the notion of earning attention rather than having to beg for it, but more about that later.

Despite kind and generous parents, I still remember the joy of being able to buy something with money that I had earned myself.  From saving up to buy a pack of football stickers to buying a car for the first time, the sense of pride you have when enjoying the fruits of your own labour is profound.

From an early age, I tried to think of ways to generate money by my own merit and fuel this deeper sense of achievement. I suspect this is why so many lottery winners are so unhappy – they know, deep down, that they didn’t earn the wealth.

So why am I writing this on our blog? What has it got to do with inbound marketing?

The concept of inbound marketing is not one that is immediately obvious and we sometimes struggle to express the  idea of earning attention. Clients traditionally want to talk about the number of links built rather than look at the quality and nature of links and they are hesitant to listen to an SEO agency telling them that their site needs attention.

Just as earning enough money to buy your football stickers is ultimately more satisfying than being given a pack, it is time to seek to earn links without every having to ask for them.

Whilst I absolutely believe that you need to make some noise about good content and there is nothing wrong with good old outreach, some of the best links that you can obtain are there purely because you merited the link. You didn’t have to ask for it – someone else thought your site was so good that they couldn’t help themselves linking to it.

So when your SEO / online PR / inbound marketing / content marketing / <insert your label here> agency is pushing you into creating engaging content rather than submitting your site to hundreds of directories, try and remember the satisfaction you feel when you buy something yourself rather than have it handed to you on a plate.

Yes, it is harder work. No, you can’t outsource all SEO activity and wash your hands of it – SEO is not dead, but it should not be in a silo. Earning attention requires excellence and it is not easy, but there is no doubt that Google will reward those sites that excel in their field.

What do you think? Does my epiphany moment make sense to you or has Horrid Henry driven me completely mad? Do you share my view on earning things rather than being given them and do you agree that this should be the future of link building / digital marketing? I would love to hear your thoughts.