Look at the pace that the term ‘content marketing’ has moved into the vernacular of marketers, as measured by Google search volume. Although content marketing has been bandied about as a term for several years, its recent hike in popularity is not actually much of a surprise.
Google’s algorithm changes having been coming thick and fast over the last 12 months, and content-poor websites have been taking a real beating.
September 2012 saw the rollout of the latest Google Panda and Penguin updates, together with a sharp turning of the dial to tone down the influence of ‘direct-match’ domain names. Google is working hard to shut out purveyors of thin content and rewarding owners of sites with useful, relevant and unique content.
You need to take action if:
- your website has less than 100 pages; or
- your website has a high number of pages populated with ‘thin content’ i.e. a paragraph or two at most of original content wrapped in a common template; or
- there is very little content being added on a regular basis;
- you want to improve the level of engagement you have with your audience
First – what do you want?
Before you take any action, take a moment to quantify your objectives. Have a think and discuss with colleagues what you really want to achieve with your marketing. And be specific, not just general business objectives like ‘increase sales’ or ‘increase market share’. For instance, ‘I want to increase the number of visitors coming to our website from social media channels by 200% over the next 12 months’. Or, ‘in our next financial year, I want to reduce my pay-per-click spend by 40% and build total internet sales without increasing my online marketing budget’.
Firstly, flesh out any thin pages you have with meatier content, whether that involves extending your product descriptions or providing more background information.
If you don’t have a company blog or a news section, get one or both started now and contribute to it every day. If you are languishing in Google’s rankings for your prime keywords, you should see a steady rise begin in around a month or two. If you’re already up there, you’ll consolidate your position and begin to see second-tier key terms rise up the rankings.
Remember that some of your competitors will also be adding content and improving their web presence, so the pressure is on you to stay ahead of the pack, and boost your authority within your industry.
Here are the three broad strategies you need to follow to keep at the forefront:
Add more engaging, relevant and informative content
Add different types of content
Propagate your content
Let’s look at each of these in turn.
Add more content
According to inbound marketing company Hubspot, businesses that add at least 20 articles a month to their website get five times more traffic than those businesses that write at most once a week.
By including regular blog posts and industry news, you broadcast your industry knowledge and authority. It also demonstrates your thought leadership and, importantly, informs and educates your readers at the same time as giving them a platform to engage with you.
Gone are the days when we produce content specifically for the search engines. By that I mean liberally peppering every article with one or more top tier keywords (and never failing to include a keyword in the title). Search engines have gotten smarter – they know when they are being shown a private dance and can detect keyword stuffing from several miles away.
This is not saying that we should lose focus on utilising keywords that specifically drive conversions. These keywords, important in the buying process journey, need to be discovered and let out in a judicious manner. In the course of writing truly relevant and informative articles, first and second tier keywords will naturally appear and help drive your site forwards in search and build up long-tail collateral.
Try to avoid creating content that is wholly company-centric. Too many marketers assume that their audience is going to be hooked on a stream of content centred around the company and its brands. This approach simply doesn’t produce the level of interest needed to build a genuine rapport.
Of course it is easy for people to talk about their own company and its products or services. Conversely, it’s relatively difficult for marketers to come up with original content outside these areas, while still of particular interest to the audience. According to the Content Marketing Institute, around 41 percent of marketers say their leading content marketing problem is actually producing engaging content.
Your overall business objectives might be to increase enquiries, increase sales and profits. You also want to tell the brand story, build brand awareness, increase brand market share and establish thought leadership.
What I am saying is: focus on the customer and the information that he or she needs and is interested in. In the diagram above, anything outside the red circle is a no-go area.
There is nothing wrong in zooming in on your audience’s interests as they relate to your organisation. And without a brand in the picture, content is just a distant cry in the wilderness. But if you restrict yourself to providing content that must, in a direct manner, relate to the brand and/or the business, you will struggle to grow your audience.
Just try moving your brand and business out of the story and see how much further the content will travel. I guarantee you’ll want to do it more.
The interesting thing is that when you really do have something interesting to say to your audience about your brand or company, they’ll be much more attentive and responsive.
Add different types of content
So that’s a hint about where to start in terms of broadening the scope of the subject matter. Adding more types of content is another way to broaden your reach, improve engagement ratios and boost SEO efforts.
The content type above is a visualisation, which in this case shows a selection of content forms available. The positioning of content types here (based on our internal data) gives a general idea of the production ease and relative effectiveness of each.
In reality the effectiveness of a content form really depends how suited it is to your information. Your choices are also going to shaped by resources that are available. Writing a book or even a white paper, whilst generally very effective, is going to some time and therefore is expensive. At the other end of the spectrum you have social media updates and blog comments which are quick and cheap to create and, on their own, have limited effectiveness.
There are some under-utilised types of content, like comics or cartoons, which can get good shares in social media, stick around for a while and are good at picking up inbound links. Slideshare presentations are great at condensing longer Powerpoint presentations or displaying a set of slides in a visually appealing manner.
In terms of value for money, quality blogs and original news feed are a very powerful way to inform and engage with your audience, especially when used in conjunction with newsletters and social media. The ‘Freshness Update’ was coined to explain the way that Google rewards websites that are continually adding more content. A Google search guru even said that search results were like cookies that come out of the oven – ‘best when fresh’.
Infographics are in vogue of course, and are fantastic for allowing people to digest and make sense of larger amounts of data in a fun way. Different types of information are often best conveyed by using particular content forms. So couple creativeness in broadening your topics with a bigger toolbox of content forms to really build your audience.
Propagate your content
Once you have produced your content, is it just going to be plonked on the website, waiting to be discovered? Or will it be actively promoted and marketed?
Before discussing ways to get your content linked to from third party sites, check to make sure the page upon which the content sits is well formatted, optimised for search and is featured around the site itself, including the home page.
Adding internal links from keywords or phrases in your regular content to relevant sections will help consolidate those sections and form good site architecture. Don’t be afraid of linking out to third party websites. In the old days, this would constitute ‘leaking of link juice’, but most SEO experts now agree that linking out helps rather than hinders online marketing efforts.
Make sure you have social sharing links prominently displayed above or below the content. Maybe both. Check that there is an RSS feed set up so people can subscribe to your regular content through their browsers and in their personal news aggregators.
Here’s what agency and brand marketers are doing to promote their content externally, according to Outbrain.
It’s likely that the better online marketers are utilising the majority of these.
No surprise to see that nearly everyone is using social media. If the content is deemed good enough by the audience, it will travel a long way.
Take a Facebook post we put up recently for a client, a sustainable forestry investment company. It was just 50 words with an image about the world’s first ‘vertical forest’ – trees growing on every balcony of an apartment building in Milan, Italy. But it’s interesting, relevant content for this audience, garnering many comments and hundreds of shares. There’s no mention of the brand anywhere, no calls to action.
Other times we will link to a news story or a blog post on the client’s website, where there is a chance of conversion. Three quarters of online adults at least sometimes visit a corporate web site after learning of a news story through social media channels. And seven out of ten will use corporate websites or online newsrooms as a source for sharing and posting information. Social media is a very powerful platform to showcase your expertise using compelling content.
In your holistic approach, you will be co-ordinating your social media, PPC, SEO, public relations and other online marketing activity so you’re not duplicating efforts and you are achieving a level of synergy.
Follow the bones of this content marketing über strategy, and you’ll leave your competitors straggling on the first lap.