Business owners guide to content marketing
As a business owner, I’m sure you’re bamboozled with the marketing babble that get’s thrown around. You remember the good old days of paying for an advert in the Yellow Pages [insert your local version here] and that was all you needed to do to get the phone ringing. Now you need a website, then you need SEO to get that website found. And now someone’s coming at you with this new phrase….content what?….content marketing? But I thought nobody read the content on my website…or others for that matter.
Even today I’m still faced with the….“ what’s the point of content on your website” attitude. Well unless you’re a mega brand that other people want to link to or write about all the time then you need to start producing high-quality content to develop your brand online. The kind of content people will want to read, want to share and want to link to.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing has over the last few years become the golden boy of the marketing world and for good reason. In the rapidly moving online space, people’s attitudes to and interaction with brand marketing has changed dramatically. The shift from outbound forms of marketing to inbound has required a paradigm shift in the way brands present themselves online. At the forefront of this new inbound approach is the concept of content marketing.
Content marketing in the digital space is about creating genuinely useful, informative or entertaining content that pulls people towards your website and general online brand presence. This is in stark contrast to outbound marketing that attempts to push a message out to a much broader audience.
Content marketing is often not at all about your product but can be anything vaguely related to your industry sector. It doesn’t attempt to directly sell a product and in that sense is very different from traditional advertising. The idea to bear in mind here is to create content that is genuinely useful or entertaining to your target audience and in that way draw attention to your brand.
Why do content marketing?
You may be asking yourself already, “how can content marketing help me?” Well, the benefits of online content marketing can be broken down into four distinct areas:
- Building your online brand presence
- Demonstrating thought leadership and credibility amongst your core market
- Generating referral traffic to your website from social media and web
- Organic SEO lift in the form of high-quality backlinks to your website
In effect, the last three of these areas are reinforcing the first but the general idea is that they all come together to drive more attention to your brand online. SEO is a huge part of that but we’ll come to that later.
One of the things people ask me about when it comes to content marketing is ROI. Whilst it’s true that it’s not always easy to measure ROI from content marketing, there is a lot of evidence that suggests the payback in terms of organic traffic can be huge.
Writing in the Content Marketing Institute blog, CEO of US-based Brandpoint, Scott Severson, explains how ROI for their average clients after 9 months had broken even but that this figure rose to 200% from the same content over a period of 36 months. At the end of the period, their clients had seen a 1000% lift in organic traffic. It’s worth pointing out that this was from clients who had not been doing any content marketing beforehand, which highlights the value of doing so.
What does it have to do with SEO?
SEO and content marketing are all too often treated as totally separate marketing functions but this is to misunderstand how they overlap and reinforce each other at a fundamental level. KISS Metric’s Neil Patel puts it quite nicely when he says “SEO and content marketing are actually two personalities of the same person.”
Think of content marketing as about user experience and SEO as the technical ‘under the bonnet’ optimisation. With both these disciplines working together you are able to maximise your content’s chance of getting real exposure in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Think of the relationship as symbiotic. There is no SEO without content and there is no content that doesn’t carry some kind of SEO signal to Google. The fresher and higher quality your content marketing, the more likely it is to carry the right SEO signals anyway. Keywords are a good example of this. Whilst it can be useful to research keyword competitiveness using a tool like Google Trends days of keyword stuffing are long gone. Create the right kind of content and make sure it is as good as it can be and those keywords will appear naturally in it anyway.
What sort of content do people want?
The founder of the Content Marketing Institute Joe Pulizz describes the challenge of content marketing in one very telling sentence
“Our job, as marketers, is not to create more content. It has never been about that. It’s about creating the minimum amount of content to bring about the maximum amount of behaviour change in our customers.”
Creating such behaviour affecting content is what Pulizzi calls ‘finding your tilt’. This is the idea of taking an area or subject that has had a huge amount of content created around it and finding a completely new angle or take on it that will hook your audience in.
Finding this elusive tilt isn’t easy and creating genuinely unique and game-changing pieces of content every time is never going to happen. A good strategy is, therefore, to look for areas and themes where they may be a lack of content. This will give you the chance to make a real impact yourself. Tools like Google trends and also Buzz Sumo are great for this kind of research.
Whether you produce guides, how to’s or heavy-hitting thought leadership articles or white papers, it’s important to remember that content marketing isn’t about selling your product, it’s about creating value for your audience. As such, avoid any attempt at bringing attention to your products or services as this is the quickest way to turn people off your content.
How to get started with content marketing
I’ve laid out some key areas you need to look at before putting your finger on the keyboard and kickstarting your content marketing campaign. Hopefully, this should give you a good basis to start on.
- Understand your brand’s personality (the concept of brand archetypes can help here)
- Understand your customer’s wants and needs and create a client/marketing persona document
- What problems do they have & how do you solve them?
- Research and track the websites, forums and social media spaces where your target audience ‘hang-out’
- Make notes on what people are talking about in these social spaces and who they are (young/old, male/female, etc). Are these your target audience? If so you should be targeting these platforms
- Research articles and topics to discover what’s popular and what’s not
- Create a content plan and an editorial calendar, making sure to map out any important ‘tentpole events’ you can create content around
Once you’ve created and published the content the marketing effort doesn’t stop there. Make sure you are promoting your content as much as possible on social media. If possible try and reach out to encourage any influential followers to share or retweet your content themselves.
Finally, you must measure your success to ascertain what content is doing well and what isn’t. Tools like Google Analytics are essential to this but you should also be tracking social shares, rankings in the SERPs on target keywords, as well as the most important metric of all, customers.