You may have heard about the new kid on the block, content marketing.
Only, it isn’t new. Actually, it has been around for a while, but not every company was taking it seriously until recent years when a series of Google algorithm updates made it clear that quality content was their long-term plan.
The slow adoption of this latest online marketing strategy is likely due to the heavy human resource requirements necessary to achieve a good quality result. It isn’t about a one-off campaign with instantly evident results, but a sustained, wider marketing strategy. It requires planning and time, and so small and medium businesses thought of it as an optional “nice-to-have” that they would get round to – at some point.
However, Google updates have made content development impossible to ignore for those who value decent organic rankings – and with 90% of worldwide searches made through Google’s engine, who could blame them?
We have observed Google indexing get smarter and smarter over the years. For example, there was the Panda update in 2011, which targeted what Google considered spammy, low-quality websites such as link farms. Then, followed about a year later, there was the Penguin update, specifically designed to penalise black hat techniques, for example keyword stuffing, cloaking (hiding keywords from humans, but which would be seen and indexed by web crawlers) and duplicate content.
Both updates sent webmasters into a panic as their websites tumbled down the ranking ladder overnight, seemingly for no particular reason. Since then there have been and continue to be, numerous other updates designed to improve search result quality. In our opinion these updates have been great for the industry – whilst they have certainly made SEO practitioners have to work much harder to achieve results for their clients, by and large, they have improved the user experience of the internet which is a great result for everyone.
Nowadays, Google is smart enough to pretty much read your website’s content as if it were a human and hence it has become a strong factor in determining search result rankings. This is why there has been so much talk about content production in recent times. This is illustrated in the following graph which shows a relative scale of worldwide searches for the term “content marketing” over the last few years, and how businesses gradually woke up to the changes in the SEO landscape. The correlation with Google’s updates is very clear; and the explosion of interest remarkable.
So if you want to get your website on the Holy Grail that is the first page of Google Results, you’d better read on!
Now, you know what marketing is, and you know that a website’s content in the context of marketing consists of the value adding assets presented to its users such as blog articles, infographics, videos etc. But what is the content marketing lovechild about?
We are bombarded with marketing messages all the time, both offline and online, to the extent that we ignore most of them. Smart businesses have realised that just shouting “Buy Me, Buy Me!” louder than their competitors won’t get them anywhere. Instead, wooing customers has become a longer, more indirect process, an attentive courtship dedicated to offering them what they are interested in.
That is what content marketing is about, creating and distributing useful, relevant and valuable informational assets to draw customers to your business.
You would understand why it makes marketers nervous: this approach relinquishes some of the control to customers. No more “in-your-face” calls to action; you will only win clients over with your knowledge and thought leadership. It shouldn’t be shied away from though, as it really is a fantastic opportunity to pitch yourself to your customers without being interrupted and without pushy (and ineffective) cold calling and time-consuming appointments.
With well-written, captivating content, you can raise product awareness, build your brand and demonstrate your expertise in your field at low cost. Once you have established why your goods or services are better and more worthwhile than that offered by your competitors, converting readers into customers has a much higher chance of success. If your article was interesting and relevant, it will stick in people’s mind, and when they are ready to buy, now or in the future, your name will be the first one they remember and trust.
Social media platforms, blogging, videos, webinars and posting articles on relevant forums will all give you the opportunity to engage with your audience in a very targeted and cost-effective way. However, and we cannot stress this enough, it is about QUALITY, not quantity, so resist the temptation to tweet about a topic that really isn’t that interesting or value adding because you feel you must post something but don’t know what.
Instead, do some keyword research, find out what your audience is interested in and what their pain points are. Start by approaching your website or business offerings as if you were a potential customer. From there Google AdWords Keyword Tool is a good place to go to expand your list. Don’t assume that you “just know”, even if you have decades of experience in your field, as results are often surprising. Then, weave your chosen keywords into text based content in a seamless manner so that they can get picked up by search engines and assist potential customers in finding you. From there you can expand on your topics with other content assets such as videos or infographics as alternative means of conveying your messages.
So in the end, content marketing as we see it, is both a tool to be used to boost your SEO activities and as a draw card for converting prospects into leads and sales. Modern web users are experienced searchers and make heavy use of the Google engines to find products and services to meet their needs. Content development may not be a quick fix, but it does work over time and is worth investing in so that your business is readily accessible and helpful to those conducting searches.
If your business is considering its content production strategy, get in touch with the experts at This Side Up to get advice to suit your unique situation.