According to Forbes and industry research from MarketsandMarkets, the global market size for the managed service provider (MSP) industry (including IT service providers) is set to reach $282 billion by the year 2023. This means competition is stiffening even as new opportunities and service stratification give larger firms more incentive to consolidate market share. Concurrently, still too many MSPs do not have a fully contemporary digital marketing approach.
All this begs the question: Is the current thinking of most MSPs in sync with the emerging digital demands of the MSP market?
SEO for MSPs and other IT services providers has not been rooted in a valid digital first approach – for decades. MSPs and IT service providers have for years been caught up in an SEO strategy that flowed from their prevailing content strategy: trying to customize branded prebaked content from their technology partners. Despite the struggle to balance scale and digital marketing relevance, the trend was always to put the speed of scaling first. In an earlier phase of the semantic Web, this seemed to be working, but now evolution is away from duplication toward purpose-led content.
The digital transformation is tightening. With the advent of worldwide pandemics and worldwide states of emergency, MSPs are being forced to reconcile how their pre-web and 1.0 Web approach is no longer enough in a Web 5.0 world we now find ourselves forced to live and work in.
In this article, we’ll look at why MSPs must change their content and SEO strategies before the evolving digital marketing curve grows too steep. It also briefly explains the gist of how they can do this far easier than they once thought.
The MSP SEO Backstory
For a long time now, managed service providers have largely avoided investing in their own marketing programs, since most of their clients came to them on a referral basis and often via personal contact such as at tradeshows and other industry events. Many thus still use prebaked marketing content that they either get from technology vendors (whose products they resell) or that they buy from marketing companies that sell monthly syndicated content for their particular MSP sub-niche. This means that there was no real digital native dimension to MSP marketing and IT industry SEO strategy under this pre-existing paradigm! Incredible, yes, but true.
Historically, companies providing marketing services to MSPs were themselves most concerned about scaling. That emphasis on scaling their own process and the reach of their services naturally generated something like an exportable strategy of prebaked content for their clients. The marketing firm could then distribute the same one-time content to all their clients and in some more sophisticated cases use walling-off strategies like geo-blocking as a means to eliminate the otherwise obvious competitor content overlap. Geo-blocking really just required the viewer to be in a certain region to view the literature. It wasn’t fool-proof, just convenient — and it genuinely seemed to work.
Then the world collapsed into a digital version of its former self.
Even without the advent of worldwide pandemics, the old referral approach already was lagging behind the explosion of a fast-digitizing MSP market with hyper-stratification of new types of Cloud services to factor in, new forms of content and equally proliferating sources of new competition. The old MSP SEO solutions offered by the old-world MSP marketing consultants are no longer working as innovative new forms of media consumption technologies have already come onto the scene.
What’s more, the “new normal” of the world pandemic era features diminishing contact. That is to say, reliable physical contact and socially-organized work time has diminished in ways that seem to be recurring and unpredictable, in favor of more time spent working solo. More and more, office workers are working from home and now virtually meeting with stakeholders and clients. Vaccines come out, and new mutations on the same virus emerge almost simultaneously. Everyday living and work-life are both shrinking. Moreover, cookie and privacy controls are now getting more highly-personalized.
Walling strategies like geo-blocking can no longer form a steadfast immovable barrier separating competitors. Key social channels and search channels are proliferating their own technologies to exploit their own platforms as nested, mini-search engine ecosystems, where similar content from same-niche players are increasingly on display side-by-side and geo-blocked content simply vanishes from view in most cases. Additionally, if your prospect isn’t allowing locational or cookie tracking, or does due diligence via nationally-researched web results and the many digital mediums now in play with the 5.0 Web, geo-blocking was already long ago a moot technique.
Digital marketing tools have leapfrogged the Web 1.0 world of content syndication. Advanced digital marketing tools like CMS platforms, social update scheduling, email automation, brand mention monitoring, and competitive intelligence research tools have together revolutionized and propelled advanced digital marketing to a plane coexisting with most other Cloud computing fields. Machine-learning algorithms for organic search marketing alone have outstripped previous expectations for the semantic Web. The value of walling off by locale is diminished thus even further.
SEO for MSPs and IT service providers has changed across the board. As younger businesses take to the playing field, these evolving digital marketing tools are being utilized in IT and other technical fields where previously they were felt as “other” and irrelevant somehow to the core of Cloud IT businesses (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS), but that view is no longer proving to be the case. The digital marketing tools themselves are becoming a must, not an “option”, measuring evolving metrics that give must-have marketing intelligence reporting.
There’ no “going back”.
The High SEO Stakes of Web 5.0 Originality
The issue for MSP SEO, always present, was at its core the problem of originality. In essence, it’s the same content every other MSP is getting and the similarity blocks search engine imperatives placed on original and unique presentation of content in a marketing ecosystem that assigns too readily to spam the everyday business practices of many current MSPs.
The W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), a technological pied piper of the internet, has long projected the path ahead. For the web, automation and the granular inputs of an interactive Web 5.0 universe in which we are now finding ourselves, are set to mesh, not separate off. The search engines, and Google most notably, have the task of leading the building of that coalescing infrastructure. This means that giving inputs to the granular level of the 5.0 Web that can complete the digital transformation of society and business is part of surviving and part of marketing digitally. Your data needs to mesh with the rest of the Web to thrive, not wall itself off.
As web technologies become ever-more prone to create new content on the fly and move toward ever-granular originality, there is the inevitable risk of being last in a game of niche musical chairs. The last standing will have a turn in the road, be unable to adapt fast enough and will inevitably stumble. For these reasons, it’s better to adopt a content strategy that can not only anticipate but reap truly forward-looking MSP SEO rewards, reducing the cost of search engine reach during the top-of-funnel phase of the buyer’s journey and eventually lead down a branded path to your sales rep’s phone, inbox or chatbot.
Other, Emerging SEO Challenges for MSPs
MSP owners struggle to stay lean and neck-deep in their own core business and stay out of internal marketing investment (hiring and maintaining marketing staff like search engine optimization specialists). The temptation in the past was to rely on proven B2B techniques, but the B2B techniques turn out to age as the consumer web matures.
There is a next MSP SEO challenge already on the horizon. The marketing challenge of unifying a proliferating number of digital customer engagement channels is the challenge that is swallowing up the former challenge of scale.
As Gartner points out, 50% of existing brands will fail to unify their customer engagement channels by the year 2022, creating a situation where branding message becomes disjointed and brand context is ultimately lost on the typically digital channel lead. In short, not only is duplicated content not going to cut it, but original channel-based messaging will be so mandatory that unified messaging will become more difficult.
MSP SEO 5.0 Will Be Crucial in the 2020s
The general IT ecosystems across the board stand to gain or lose by their next steps — Cloud Service Providers (CSPs), System Integrators (SIs), Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs) and Value-Added Resellers (VARS) are all in the same boat. Services like cloud solutions, data backup and recovery, data storage and management, as well as network monitoring and cyber-security can all likewise either benefit from a truly MSP SEO 5.0 approach or watch as their market share erodes.
MSP SEO 5.0 involves embracing originality as power. As the semantic Web loosens the idea of an exact-match keyword correspondence in favor of diverse, natural language along the semantic search model, this opens the door to fresh ways of talking about the same product or service and optimizing that originality in proven ways that anticipate rather than react to each emerging challenge.
Content must be diverse, aimed not at old-world formulations, but emerging platforms. Schema, structured data, rich snippets and microformats, in addition to new adaptations of social media, must all take the lead as emerging micro-channels. These increasingly smaller digital channels are to be filled in with a unified as well as customized brand presence that adapts to the platform and multiplies search visibility.
Content curators need your brand content originality, too! Curators are now the linchpin between your digital brand and the industry. Without digital content curators in your corner, there are no industry media sites, cheerleaders, analysts and commentators talking about your brand value, and no reliable source of high-value, long-term backlinks and domain authority (DA) or page authority (PA).
…So then, what’s the Web 5.0 MSP SEO Strategy for the 2020s?
Craft an MSP SEO 5.0 Strategy: The Way Original MSP Content Thrives
With the right team who understands your brand’s native strengths and in turn enables contextual discussions on specific mediums, your SEO reach becomes naturally multiplied in the following ways:
1. Focus on the digital medium.
For MSP SEO and IT industry SEO strategy , short-form content formats like spinoff blog posts addressing highly specific and trending topics should become a given. That said, pillar content that embodies the heart of the topic should intersperse the architecture of your content strategy as a way of uniting categories of content. This helps to ensure that compact digital mediums automatically get their due attention, both in your content and in SERPs.
The waterfall is a useful concept for MSP SEO 5.0. The “content waterfall” concept illustrates the fluid nature of main topics spilling over into smaller topics via more compact mediums like featured results on SERPs or special mobile Web SERPs features. These granular digital mediums draw the attention of industry solution researchers to your core services within those topics. Social updates form another SERPs contact surface further down below. This approach works both with SEO for MSP businesses and IT industry SEO strategy.
2. Unify brand messaging across all digital mediums.
The final result of this content architecture is a unified home for brand messaging with the website as the hub, pillar content as the supports that give voice to the chief value points of that brand, and child content that demonstrates the ability of the brand to get granular and focus on the details as they arise while supporting the pillar content and thus the authority of the brand domain name itself, the bedrock of the brand presence.
Each medium now plays a unique role in a unified digital marketing function. Social media updates, landing pages and opt-in can play into your MSP SEO 5.0 pillar content format to generate a sense of connectedness to your brand messaging and help your business to finally connect all of the disparate dots in your marketing ecosystem for your MSP and IT services prospects.
3. Engage customer & end-user to crowd-source marketing materials.
Your own customers and end-customers are the ultimate finishing touch to your MSP SEO marketing materials. User-contributed marketing materials like early adopter case studies, interviews, customer-wide polls and content-resident social “quotables” can not only bolster your marketing message, but provide an ample, overflowing source spring from which to optimize for search engines.
MSP SEO 5.0’s Winning Content Marketing Tactics
We’ve now seen why and how building your digital MSP brand is a matter of proliferating, diverse types and sources of content. We’ve seen how synthesizing all of that original content via the brand message context, rather than reworking or simply duplicating syndicated content, is the way forward in the Web 5.0 world of the 2020s and beyond. Unlike a syndicated content approach, however, this MSP SEO 5.0 approach is rooted from its very inception in solid brand marketing principles.
- Brand stories that show your brand’s value as necessary
- Branded bios that highlight your human resources
- Channel-specific brand messaging that utilizes all digital channels in a unified way
- Organic content strategies that emphasize the buyer’s true journey stage
- Intelligent digital funnels that leverage original thought-leadership
- Focused funnel goals, qualifying your marketing leads into qualified sales leads
- An expanded CRM strategy incorporating the full resources of organic search
By employing an experienced and channel-focused digital marketing firm to learn your brand and represent you to the audience with both a ubiquitous reach and truly unified brand integrity, your MSP SEO or IT industry SEO strategy can adapt to emerging digital channels with confidence and readiness.
Scale an MSP SEO 5.0 Web Presence Now (without Hiring)
Organic search marketing can convert your challenges into positives, via an affirming focus on the business you’re actually in, as a helpful services concierge and facilitator, with authenticity to your brand as the key focus. Our Web 5.0 channel marketing approach was designed to free the MSP or IT managed services provider from reliance on both internal marketing staff and external brand content to drive their lead generation and create a viable voice along a viable buyer’s journey.
CX Atelier is a skilled provider of channel marketing, focused on just such a truly Web 5.0-ready, all-inclusive MSP SEO approach to digital marketing . With an eye to the future as well as the present search engine dynamics, our SEO team recognizes the challenges of 21st Century channel marketing head-on with strategies that meet and anticipate the already-emerging next stages of digital content.
About the Author
Founder CX Atelier
Ayan Adam is an experienced leader in the B2B IT Technology industry. She designed industry-recognized brands and delivered high impact marketing strategies for IT industry leaders. She is passionate about fulfilling the promise of digital marketing for B2B technology companies and meeting the next wave of digital transformation with experience-focused marketing.