Let’s dis­cuss TAR. Not the neg­a­tive tar in nico­tine or the stuff that fills cracks on roads, but rather the pos­i­tive TAR that is the foun­da­tion of suc­cess­ful busi­ness­es:

  • Trust
  • Author­i­ty
  • Rep­u­ta­tion

With­out these three ele­ments, a busi­ness is basi­cal­ly a copy of its com­peti­tors, mul­ti­ply­ing choic­es for prospec­tive clients.

When TAR is present, prospects become emo­tion­al­ly engaged, which leads to loy­al­ty.

As for the oth­er busi­ness­es that lack TAR, they dilute the choic­es, cre­at­ing tougher deci­sions for prospects who don’t want to make tough deci­sions.

This con­cept also trans­lates into the world of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing.

Trust, author­i­ty, and rep­u­ta­tion inter­twine to cre­ate the DNA of the most suc­cess­ful SEO and con­tent mar­ket­ing cam­paigns.

Look at any first-place organ­ic rank­ings, and TAR is clear­ly present.

For scal­able online suc­cess, a sharp focus on build­ing (and bal­anc­ing) all three TAR ele­ments is a must.

These ele­ments increase SEO vis­i­bil­i­ty because search engines crave TAR, and all that con­tent – also designed with TAR in mind – and its high­er vis­i­bil­i­ty will nat­u­ral­ly earn respect from prospects, which leads to long-term clients.

The TAR tac­tic to strength­en a business’s online pres­ence is sim­ple and straight­for­ward. But the process of achiev­ing true TAR in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing is some­what chal­leng­ing because it’s coun­ter­in­tu­itive to nor­mal cam­paign strate­gies.

Before the typ­i­cal key­word research, tech audits, and con­tent cal­en­dars are cre­at­ed, a TAR tac­tic must be woven into the fab­ric of every cam­paign ele­ment.

And it all begins with end­less ques­tions dur­ing the vital dis­cov­ery phase, includ­ing the most impor­tant ques­tion: “why?”

The answers to these ques­tions help mar­keters build a suc­cess­ful cam­paign that val­i­dates the truth behind the busi­ness, which is root­ed in the rea­son “why” the com­pa­ny is in busi­ness and “why” their prod­ucts are need­ed.

Apple imme­di­ate­ly comes to mind; its brand is built with strong TAR that rein­forces its “why” as a busi­ness.

Apple isn’t in the busi­ness of sell­ing tech­nol­o­gy, but rather inspir­ing cre­ativ­i­ty. Each of its prod­uct adver­tise­ments always clear­ly states the “why” fac­tor before back­ing it with the two oth­er nec­es­sary ques­tions: What and How.

Here are the essen­tial tac­tics to build and strength­en the TAR of your con­tent mar­ket­ing and SEO cam­paigns.

Think Like a Traditional Journalist: Why, What & How

I spent time in the ear­ly part of this cen­tu­ry as a tra­di­tion­al news­pa­per jour­nal­ist. The ini­tial rea­son I want­ed a dai­ly news­pa­per gig was to “cut the fat” out of my writ­ing.

What was equal­ly impor­tant, though, was embrac­ing the “Five Ws and One H” of tra­di­tion­al jour­nal­ism (Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How).

These came into play through­out life, from head­ing up con­tent mar­ket­ing depart­ments to launch­ing an agency.

For the dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing land­scape, the focus on the Five Ws and One H dwin­dles due to some obvi­ous rea­sons, and the con­cept trans­forms to “Two Ws and One H.”

All TAR tac­tics should explain the Why to cap­ture emo­tion, fol­lowed by the What and How to ratio­nal­ize those emo­tions.

The Who, When, and Where of tra­di­tion­al jour­nal­ism are typ­i­cal­ly answered on the com­pa­ny bio page or foot­er, rais­ing the aware­ness of the oth­er Two Ws and One H.

Always Start with Why

In “Start with Why” (more than 1 mil­lion copies sold), TED super­star Simon Sinek says:

Peo­ple don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. A fail­ure to com­mu­ni­cate WHY cre­ates noth­ing but stress or doubt.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, when ini­ti­at­ing a dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing cam­paign, many SEO pro­fes­sion­als and con­tent mar­keters sole­ly focus on the How and What of the client’s prod­ucts and ser­vices – typ­i­cal­ly the fea­tures, prices, and every­thing that’s dif­fer­ent from the com­pe­ti­tion.

This is what typ­i­cal research data claims a business’s web pres­ence needs for suc­cess, and it fails to tar­get the emo­tion side of things by first ask­ing Why.

The Hows and Whats are absolute­ly need­ed, but as a ratio­nal fol­low up to the more emo­tion­al Why.

The Why of a busi­ness should be imme­di­ate­ly addressed. Again, think of Apple, but this time rather than the com­pa­ny sto­ry, think about its indi­vid­ual prod­ucts.

Apple doesn’t just sell Mac­Book Pros; the prod­uct inspires human cre­ativ­i­ty, which is the clear mes­sage of the lat­est Mac­Book Pro page copy.

This sim­ple ad imme­di­ate­ly answers the Why of the prod­uct and is fol­lowed by the typ­i­cal How and Why. Apple’s page begins by high­light­ing “A Touch of Genius” to answer the Why of the prod­uct, fol­lowed by the How and What of the prod­uct.

The oth­er genius Apple cam­paign that begins with Why was the sim­ple iPhone 4 ad: “This Changes Every­thing. Again.”

Com­pa­nies that ask Why first will nat­u­ral­ly appeal to a prospect’s emo­tions, and influ­ence the three ele­ments of TAR that can begin a life­long rela­tion­ship – some­times romance – with a com­pa­ny and its prod­ucts.

Can begin” are the cru­cial words here because the Why must be backed up with a sol­id What and How. Fol­low­ing is why.

Why Must be Followed by What & How

Once you appeal to the emo­tion­al side of a prospect, it’s time to back up those feel­ings with ratio­nal data – and that’s where the What and How come into play.

Here is where the usu­al dis­cov­ery ele­ments of SEO and con­tent mar­ket­ing cam­paigns sur­face – the com­pet­i­tive analy­sis, key­word research, con­tent cal­en­dars, and site struc­ture, to name a few.

The What and the How are vital, but should always fol­low the Why.

Appeal to emo­tion first; fol­low with ratio­nale.

The What and How break down a company’s offer­ings. The answers to What and How clear­ly explain what a ser­vice com­pa­ny com­pletes from strat­e­gy and process per­spec­tive, and what a prod­uct com­pa­ny offers from a fea­tures and specs per­spec­tive.

Again, the What and How are absolute­ly need­ed to ratio­nal­ize the emo­tion­al Why of a com­pa­ny and its prod­ucts or ser­vices.

The nat­ur­al byprod­uct of this strat­e­gy is the growth of TAR ele­ments. The more con­sis­tent the What and How are defined, the more respect a client will have for those TAR ele­ments that play off our emo­tions.

Who You Ask Is as Important as What You Ask

Also, who you ask is as impor­tant as the ques­tions you ask.

Most of the agen­cies I worked with only dealt with the mar­ket­ing depart­ments of big­ger busi­ness­es, though in some small­er busi­ness­es oth­er teams were involved.

To tru­ly ingrain TAR into a dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy, agen­cies should speak with not only the mar­ket­ing team but the CEO, founder, sales team and any of those on the prover­bial front line that deal with the day-to-day cus­tomer rela­tions.

Each one can pro­vide unique insight on ques­tions, help­ing to influ­ence TAR fac­tors on prospects – the more per­spec­tive you have, the more you can prop­er­ly explain the Why of that com­pa­ny.

Once the Why is answered, and the cor­rect Whats and Hows are in action, brand’s online pres­ence will build stronger and quick­er.

Amplify What Works

Seek­ing the answers to these types of ques­tions also allows mar­keters to ampli­fy on the ser­vices that are the strong point of a com­pa­ny rather than spend­ing time fix­ing things that sim­ply aren’t work­ing.

The Why ques­tions probe deep into a business’s strat­e­gy, some­times influ­enc­ing a redi­rec­tion of focus on what prod­ucts or ser­vices to ampli­fy, and some­times what ones to dice. This also helps enforce the 80/20 fac­tor so no time is wast­ed.

It may sound coun­ter­in­tu­itive, but ampli­fy­ing what works instead of spend­ing time on stuff that doesn’t is the proven fab­ric of many of the world’s suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies.

Think Apple and its iPhone; these plat­forms work, so it makes more sense to con­tin­u­al­ly build and ampli­fy it rather than side­line it and direct more atten­tion to an entire­ly new phone mod­el.

Yes, Apple suc­cess­ful­ly builds oth­er prod­uct lines, but notice what gets the most atten­tion with­in their mar­ket­ing cam­paigns.

This all stems from the TAR Apple has already built into its mar­ket­ing.

The only way to tru­ly achieve TAR is with ques­tions from actu­al humans from the begin­ning – ques­tions of Why to expose the emo­tion­al fac­tor, fol­lowed by ques­tions of What and How to ratio­nal­ize that emo­tion­al fac­tor.

This type of strat­e­gy can dras­ti­cal­ly change the out­come of SEO and con­tent mar­ket­ing cam­paigns.

Make Questions – Especially Why – The Soul of Your Content Marketing Trinity

When engag­ing with clients, I con­stant­ly rein­force the cre­ation of a “Con­tent Mar­ket­ing Trin­i­ty” – one that will inspire them to be sto­ry­tellers and build an opti­mal online pres­ence.

This trin­i­ty includes:

  • Con­stant fresh and emo­tion­al­ly appeal­ing con­tent host­ed on their busi­ness web­site.
  • Guest post­ing on author­i­ta­tive web­sites with­in their indus­try.
  • Con­stant­ly feed­ing the social media machine.

The SEO val­ue with­in this trin­i­ty needs no expla­na­tion, and nei­ther does its val­ue in con­tent mar­ket­ing as you look to build a pow­er­ful voice with­in your indus­try.

But how do you go about mak­ing it work? Sim­ple – start with the Why first to appeal to emo­tions, and ratio­nal­ize those emo­tions with the What and How.

This “Con­tent Mar­ket­ing Trin­i­ty” also nat­u­ral­ly has syn­er­gy with the three ele­ments of TAR – Trust, Author­i­ty and Rep­u­ta­tion.

This is where 3 + 3 equals 6 for con­ven­tion­al mar­keters that don’t begin with Why, but equals “inno­va­tion” for those who begin with Why.


In the best­seller “Zero to One,” Peter Thiel says:

Doing what we already know how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of some­thing famil­iar. But every time we cre­ate some­thing new, we go from 0 to 1. The act of cre­ation is sin­gu­lar, as it the moment of cre­ation, and the result is some­thing fresh and strange.”

A marketer’s top mis­sion should focus on deliv­er­ing some­thing “fresh” to client cam­paigns (and some­times strange), bring­ing its client’s online pres­ence from “0 to 1.”

The solu­tion resides in exploit­ing the strongest TAR ele­ments, and it all begins with ask­ing the cor­rect ques­tions, always begin­ning with why.