Content marketing is the starting point
People who want to do online marketing often don’t know knowing where to start. There are so many things to do! There’s social media, SEO, lead generation, branding, web analytics, and much more.
Some people try one aspect of online marketing, like social media. They see limited results, so they get turned off by this whole online marketing thing. The reason they didn’t succeed is not because they built a bad roof. It’s because a roof without 4 walls supporting it is pointless.
Creating content is hard. It requires creativity. It is time consuming. Doing an on-page site audit or creating a twitter account is relatively easy. However, achieving a real competitive advantage in business has always been hard. The fact that marketing has moved online hasn’t made it easier. To paraphrase the late Randy Pausch, the brick walls are there to keep out those that don’t want it badly enough. That’s how it is in marketing. Keep that in mind while reading this.
Content helps you with everything else
Let’s look at a few common components of online marketing. I’ll show you why content helps each of them naturally.
On-page optimization is a small part of SEO. If you look at the SEOmoz 2011 Ranking Factors report, you’ll see that keyword usage is only about 26% of the SEO game (15% page-level, 11% domain-level). The other 74% is building authority on the web in general.
Just like in real life, gaining authority on the web doesn’t just depend on how good you say you are. Your authority needs to be validated by others. Preferably it should be validated by others who are authorities themselves, and are relevant to your field. The web recreates this effect very well. In the eyes of a search engine, you gain authority through links, social shares, followers, and other audience factors.
Interesting content is what gets linked to and shared on the Internet. Company web pages alone are generally not very share-worthy. Think about it from your own perspective. Would you rather share a corporate website with your friends, or a New York Times article? Over time, more and more people share New York Times articles, and Google begins to recognize its authority. This means that the New York Times website will have a greater chance of ranking well in search results. Companies should start being more like the New York Times.
So content gives others the incentive to help your website gain authority. Once it has this authority, it has a greater potential to get found online. But the benefits don’t even stop there. Content actually gets your site found online. Each web page is a new opportunity to get found under new search keywords. It is a new opportunity for a part of your site to get shared on social media. It is a new opportunity to gain referral traffic.
There are several ways companies typically approach social media. They may create a Facebook page, Twitter account, or LinkedIn group. They may even establish a ‘social media listening’ strategy, through which they monitor the conversation online around their brand and industry.
Like SEO, social media is all about gaining authority. The best way to gain authority is to produce interesting, original material around your topic. You can share links to industry news on a twitter account, but without original content, none of those links will bring traffic to your website. You’re gaining a following, but your actual businesses isn’t gaining much. Original content gives people a reason to follow you, and not others. It gives you stuff to share, and a reason for people to interact with you.
While some content like blog posts can be left open, more in-depth content like an eBook should probably lie behind a landing page. The open content creates the initial attention, while the closed content should target prospects farther in the buying process. Online lead generation through content is great because it’s highly targeted, less expensive, and can scale.
After generating leads, you want to turn them into sales. You can do this by offering them increasingly conversion-oriented content. At this point, the content can even talk about your particular offering. A common way of presenting these offerings is via email. Again, this way of nurturing leads can more done effectively, efficiently, and at scale.
Branding is more than just what you call yourself. It’s about instilling this association in others. Creating content can help do this. It can help create thought leadership in your industry by proving to potential customers that you know what you’re doing.
Creating a content machine
Content doesn’t just makes other parts of marketing easier – it makes them effective in the first place! Producing content can go a long way, even without thinking about how it plays a part in other components of the marketing strategy.
Companies should prioritize content creation above other marketing initiatives. Fitting the other parts of the puzzle together will be easier afterward. Here are some tips for creating content effectively, in no particular order.
Always seek inspiration
Content ideas can come from many sources. The email or phone call you had with a customer can be a blog post. You can look at forums or Q&A sites to see what questions people have in your industry. You can respond to recent industry news or an event. If you have a keyword strategy, you can base your content on that. Even if you want to talk about updates in your business every once in a while, people will tolerate that.
Take advantage of subject matter experts
The best people to create content are people who actually have a deep understanding of the topic. Find these people, or hire them. If you have pure marketers create content, other people in the industry will sniff them out, and you will actually lose credibility.
Explore multiple forms of content – especially blogging
Content can come in many forms, including youtube videos, social media updates, ebooks and whitepapers, and webinars. Any of these might work for you, depending on your line of business. However, blogs are probably the most effective content platform. A blog is an automatic hub for your content. Adding new content shouldn’t require the hassle of redesigning a site or figuring out how to do internal linking. Blog posts are generally more digestible pieces of content, and are therefore more viral.
Create content on your own domain
Don’t create a blog with the URL yourcompany.blogspot.com. If you do this, all the links and social shares will give authority to blogspot.com. Instead, create yourcompany.com/blog, or blog.yourcompany.com. This adds the authority to your site, right where you want it.
Create a blogging culture
A company shouldn’t inhibit its employees from creating content – it should encourage it. It should make creating content as easy as possible, make it as open to as many people as possible, and reward its content creators.
Sure, some companies don’t need marketing at all. But those that do need content marketing.