You might be hearing the new, latest buzzword to float around the search engine optimization industry – “content marketing.” Content is king, as they say, but in order to really make it work, you have to think about it strategically. There are several reasons the interest level in content marketing has skyrocketed recently:
- Google’s Panda update (and 20+ subsequent revisions of that update) lowered the rankings of websites with low-quality, thin content
- The Fresh update gives preference in the search rankings to sites with new, regularly-updated content
- People searching the web want fresh, relevant, high-quality content
- It helps you attract free links, improve your search rankings, and get higher-quality leads
What Exactly is Content Marketing?
In the past, you know how advertising used to work: shout as loudly as you can, encouraging (commanding?) people to purchase from you as quickly as possible before your offer runs out. Do this on every type of media available – television, radio, and the web, and make it so loud it’s impossible for your competitor’s voices to be heard.
That’s how marketing USED to work, but you still see it from some companies because they don’t understand the marketplace isn’t reacting as well to the traditional form of advertising yet. Experts refer to the old form of marketing as “push” marketing because the idea was to push your idea onto people and get them to believe what you wanted them to believe.
But now, the entire world of marketing/sales is changing. People don’t want to be sold anymore. They don’t want to do business with gigantic, faceless corporations who provide customer service much like robots – mindlessly reciting whatever the computer monitor instructs.
Instead, the general marketplace wants to buy from people they know, like, and trust. Corporations still exist and always will, but those that humanize themselves and form a personal connection with their audience will succeed in the long run.
Experts call content marketing “pull” marketing because you don’t push your message on your market. Instead, you give your market something it wants, knowing that the more value you offer for free, the more likely your market is to purchase from you when they are in fact ready to make a purchase.
The entire landscape of marketing is changing because of the rapid innovations occurring in the digital world.
“Content marketing” is the pinnacle of the way marketing now works and the way it will work for years into the future.
How Does Content Marketing Work?
So now that you know why content marketing works and why it’s important to be a part of for the coming years, you’re probably wondering how you do it. Very generally, it’s a merger of these three digital facets:
- Search engine optimization
- Quality, relevant, useful content
- Social promotion
More specifically, here are the common categories of content marketing:
- Blogging – Timely, educational, interesting, or related to industry news. Your best content should always go on your blog because you want people coming to your site so you can build relationships with them and eventually convert them into paying customers.
- General/static web content – Product descriptions, company information, or a FAQ. This content doesn’t change over time, but it gives your visitors the most powerful reasons to work with your company when they have the need.
- Downloadable content – A white paper, eBook, case study, brochure or checklist. With one of these marketing materials, you show the customer everything you know about their problems, and then provide concrete evidence of how your services can help them. You offer these materials as a free download in exchange for your customer’s contact information (usually an e-mail address, but can include a phone number or physical address).
- Social content – Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, & Google+. Social signals (number of followers, number of social shares) are playing a larger role in Google’s search rankings. Also, Google is increasing its focus on “personal results.” These results are ones that someone in your social networks created, and at this time, that means Google+. If you’re signed in as a Google user while searching, personal results are much easier to find and appear much higher in the search rankings.
- PR materials – Think press releases or blog posts that reach a big-time blog like Mashable or Huffington Post. Unfortunately, press releases are misused exclusively for link building by many SEO companies today. They do build links and should be used for that purpose, but more importantly, they should tell a great story. The greater the story, the more interest, and it’s possible a journalist actually calls you for an interview. An interesting story builds more links that an exclusively-SEO-focused press release.
So, for a very basic content marketing strategy, for example, this is how you would use SEO, content, and social media for marketing your company:
- SEO – conduct keyword research to determine where the best opportunities for conversions lie/optimize the content for that keyword, and ensure off-page links are being built to grow rankings for that keyword, and finally, make sure all opportunities for off-site links/anchor text include the keyword or variations of it
- Content – develop a blog post around the topic with an attractive headline that offers valuable information to the target audience
- Social – promote the content across all of your existing social channels, and offer to write guest posts for other leading blogs similar to the topic
The Hub-And-Spoke Model of Content Marketing
One way to think of content marketing that most experts swear by is the hub-and-spoke. Basically, it looks like this:
The hub, as you can see, would be your website, and your blog makes up for about 90% of your website, so really your blog makes up your hub. Each of these “spokes” – contains links back to your website.
The hub-and-spoke model you’re looking at to the left here is more appropriate for a corporation. For a smaller business, you might not use nearly as many channels for promoting your content.
The most important thing to keep in mind while you build your hub and the spokes is to determine where most of your qualified traffic comes from, and where it doesn’t come from. Then, focus your time and efforts on those spokes from where you generate the most qualified leads.
If you serve a female demographic, for example, you would spend much of your time working on Pinterest and Facebook, while spending less time on LinkedIn and Twitter. The same idea applies for businesses where visual, rather than written content, does most of the selling.
And then, to complicate the whole matter of content marketing, there’s new social networks being created every day. The spokes are always changing. Did you know anything about Slideshare just a few years ago?
When you work with a SEO company, keeping up on all these trends and performing the research to learn what works and what doesn’t is what you are paying for.
Dan Stelter is a SEO Writer with special interest and expertise in content development and production.