Everyone’s talking about content marketing these days. As a small business owner or marketer, you probably have lots of people telling you all about how you need to spend more time, energy, and money on these efforts. But why? What exactly is content marketing, and what makes it so important to a business strategy? We’ll go over all that (and more) in this post.
What is content marketing?
"Content is anything that communicates a message to the audience. Anything." –Ian Lurie, CEO, Portent, Inc.
Many people automatically associate content marketing with one specific thing: blogging. But while a blog is an excellent way to get into content marketing, it’s only one of many different strategies you can use.
Don’t forget that the most important and influential (or detrimental) content for your business exists on the pages of your website. Like the last sentence implies, website content can either instill confidence and inform potential customers or completely scare them away. Bad grammar, incomplete sentences, or unclear writing are all ways to guarantee that people won’t even read what you’ve written.
Along the same lines, the amount of content is just as influential as the quality. Imagine that you’re doing some research online—would you want to sift through a giant block of text in order to get the info you’re looking for? Organize important information coherently and clearly, using headlines and paragraphs to make it more readable.
Are you an agency or company that provides an intangible service? Give prospective new clients some concrete evidence of past success by putting together a few well-written and colorful case studies. Anyone serious about potentially giving you their business will be interested in reading more about what you can do for them (outside of the typical cliché jargon). Include any and all statistics that might be relevant, but also remember to tell a story. You can even include quotes from the satisfied clients in question.
While there is an entirely separate category of marketing strategies that fall under the umbrella of video marketing, videos are still seen as a valuable part of content marketing. No matter what industry you’re in, anyone can use video content to their advantage. Try making some fun product review videos or demonstrations if you sell tangible goods. If your services are more conceptual than concrete, you can still make videos your potential customers will love to watch.
You may not think of email as part of a carefully constructed content strategy, but it should be. Done right, your emails can nurture leads and move people down the sales funnel. Create short messages for different groups of your audience at different stages of the funnel. For example, you wouldn’t send the same email to someone who just filled out a contact form for more introductory information as you would to someone who just purchased from you.
This type of content could be anything from an ebook to a checklist or worksheet, etc. The possibilities are endless. These pieces give you the freedom to include the really good information you want to save for qualified leads. You can gate the content with a short form—this will not only get you contact information to include in your database, but now you know that this person is a more qualified lead than someone randomly stumbling across a blog post. Because these people are willingly giving up their contact info, make sure the content is worth their while. Think about common pain points your customers experience and work off of that. What would they benefit most from learning about?
Just like downloadable content, blog posts should address issues you feel would be most interesting to current and potential customers. Posts should generally not be gated, and can vary in both length and depth of detail. No matter what your business does, there are plenty of topics you can write about! As you’re starting out, try writing about common questions customers have, interesting news in your field, or how-to guides.
Content marketing SEO benefits
The examples mentioned above might seem a little overwhelming, and, it’s true, content marketing does require some effort to do correctly. But there are clear SEO benefits to putting in the time and energy to create quality content.
Google and other search engines recognize quality content on your site, thanks to algorithm updates like Panda. A web page that ends up on a search engine results page (SERP) has been “crawled” by a search engine bot and indexed based on the information that was found. If the bot finds spammy content, excessive use of keywords or backlinks, or irrelevant content (in relation to what the page claims to be about), that page’s ranking on a SERP will be lowered.
On the other hand, if search engine bots find good, quality content that is relevant to your business and helpful to your visitors, you’re much more likely to rank well on SERPs.
Patience is the major factor here. Adding one blog post is not going to significantly change anything in terms of your search engine rankings, but a solid and consistent content strategy implemented over a lengthy period of time can really make a difference for your business’ SEO.
Content as lead generation sources
If you’re wondering how all of this work translates into actual business for you, don’t worry—it does. Another way content marketing can make a difference for your business is by using content as a lead generation source.
Be strategic about what content you write so that you can subtly relate your point back to your business. The word “subtly” is bolded because sounding overly promotional in your content is a big no-no. Savvy customers can immediately tell if you’re just trying to sell them something, as opposed to offering them valuable information. To strike that perfect balance, try referring to this example:
Joe owns a local flower shop and regularly publishes blog posts on his website. The week before Mother’s Day, he published a post about “The 10 Best Ways to Show Mom You Care,” including making a homecooked meal, taking her somewhere for a fun day out, and surprising her with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Notice that two of these three things have nothing to do with what Joe actually sells. But that’s OK.
At the end of the post, Joe included a call-to-action (CTA) for his business. In this case, clicking on the CTA would lead customers to a product page or order form for a custom flower arrangement.
The image below is just an example, so there’s no link or landing page behind the offer!
Image created with Canva
So what should you take from this? In the example, Joe created a simple post filled with helpful Mother’s Day tips. We can assume that anyone clicking on the article is genuinely interested in reading about ways to make Mother’s Day special for someone—that makes them a qualified visitor. And because they’ve already decided to do something nice for a mom-like figure in their life, the CTA at the end is very likely to lead to an actual arrangement sale. These principles can be applied to any business, including those that don’t sell tangible products.
A little thought and creativity really can lead to business for your company.
If you’re still not convinced by the potential SEO benefits, lead and sale generation, and reputation as a trustworthy source of knowledge in your industry, the possible repercussions for ignoring content marketing should do the trick. Simply throwing some random paragraphs on your website will negatively affect your search engine rankings and your reputation among potential customers and clients.
And with all the content marketing help available today, there really is no excuse for having poor-quality content on your site.
This article was written by Lauren Marchese from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.