Content marketing is a rather new skill that no online business should attempt to avoid. It seems every conference you attend today, and every guide you read mentions the importance of content marketing, but where does the value truly lie? A robust content campaign requires a significant investment of time and money, so if you’re going to do it, you need to know where the return comes from. Today we reveal several ways that content marketing can be of great value to your business and recommend certain strategies necessary for success.
One of the primary purposes of content marketing is to increase the chances that visitors will become customers by not trying to sell them. How can this be, you may be wondering? After all – every traditional online sales strategy involves pitching website visitors on your products and trying to convince them to buy something. Content marketing can accomplish the same goal as sales, only without the upfront selling. The secret is trust.
It is important to realize that not everyone is ready to buy your products from an AdWords click or first time visit to your website. However if they get a chance to warm up to your company a bit, they may eventually be ready to spend some money with you. Rather than hitting them with a high-pressure sales message right off the bat, try presenting them with a library of free, valuable content on the subject they are interested in. Eventually, this user might come to appreciate your free advice so much that they develop a trust in your expertise. When it comes time for this person to buy something related to your field, they’ll be coming straight to your website’s order form.
Positioning Yourself As An Expert
Related to the idea of building trust with your audience is the strategy of becoming a recognized expert in your industry. In field after field, from medicine to architecture, the true experts are heavily published. From articles to books, if you’re at the top of your field, people find you through your publications. So it goes for blogs – by publishing defining resources that demonstrate your erudition in the industry, searchers looking for a top notch professional will come to you after reading the resources you provide for free.
Think about it like this – If you needed blueprints for a piece of heavy machinery, would you prefer to buy from a website who hits you with a generic sales letter and no proof of expertise, or the guy who has written about your exact equipment time and time again and has clearly demonstrated an intimate understanding of your needs as a business? Most would choose the latter, because he is perceived as a top expert, not just a salesman. Such is the value of well-written, heavily circulated content.
Everyone wants to rank number one on Google for searches related to their product, but only a select few ever see a placement on the first page. This puzzle is so crucial to solve that some companies spend tens of thousands of dollars a year on search engine optimization consulting. These “experts” routinely pour countless hours into studying the Google algorithm, trying desperately to find little hacks in the system they can sell to their clients as “quick SEO boosts.” The entire field has become so clouded with smoke and mirrors salesmen that it can be practically impossible for a business owner to successfully achieve their top placement.
Want to save a fortune on bad advice and unlock the secret to Google ranking in two simple words? Here it is – content marketing. Content Marketing Today reports that “There is only one way to [rank high in Google]–by creating a niche for your business that precisely targets the information needs of your best customers.” A common misconception among beginners is that simply having a bunch of content pleases Google, but in fact this is not true. It’s not the amount of content itself that Google cares much about, it is the number of links to your domain that the content attracts.
So How Does Content Marketing Help Search Rank?
Google’s ranking is largely dependent on the number of inbound links (links to your page from other blogs and websites) that exist to your website. Content acts as bait for these links – attracting interested readers and urging them to reference you on their blog or social outlet. The more content you circulate about a given topic, the more people are likely to link to it. This is how Google determines relevancy – the way they see it, links are like hundreds (or even thousands) of people are screaming, “This page is valuable to this topic, show it high in the results!”
Of course, there are several other factors that affect the search ranking, such as keyword density, duplicate content, etc. While these tweaks do have some pull, they can never compare to the power of having a hefty assortment of authoritative inbound links. There is a tendency to focus on other marginal improvements before tackling the big smoking gun of content marketing, because they are always easier and quicker to execute than the authorship of a small library of articles. This is absolutely the wrong approach however, because as difficult as it is to create all of that content, smaller tweaks in total can never make the difference that content marketing can.
So far we have talked about how content marketing can help you build relationships with customers and keep them coming back for more. Beyond merely retaining your current readership, content marketing can also be used to find new customers for your business. CopyBlogger, a leading authority in the filed of content authorship and marketing, describes every regular piece of content you release as a “tasty cookie that rewards your audience for consuming it.” To attract new readers, they advise, you need something even more appealing than a cookie — they call this content “birthday cake.”
This content should be substantially different and much more in-depth than your regular posts — a nifty new blog entry won’t cut it. On the other hand, a video that solves some vexing problem facing newcomers to your field is a good example of birthday cake. Such a resource demonstrates that you know your stuff and have the potential to solve countless other issues these new audience members may one day face. Other good choices include a free eBook, white paper, or tutorial that provides unparalleled insight into specific aspects of your field and strives to make a difference in the reader’s life. Such extensive and valuable content will convince new readers that, above all the other wannabes in the field, you are the real deal and deserve their dedicated readership.
Bait For Your Autoresponder
Knowing the number of visitors to each of your blog posts or other content publications is important, but it is even better if you can determine how many of them are returning visitors. Using website analytic software, this kind if discernment is possible. When you find that you have a high number of returning visitors, an autoresponder course can help convert them into buyers. Your course must provide even more value than your regular content does, so as to entice people to allow you to email them on a regular basis. The worst autoresponders are ones that consist of nothing but constant sales pitches and unfocused content.
Study the trends in response to your past blog posts in order to determine a specific skill or problem your audience seems to be most interested in. Use this to develop a 7 – 10 day course on addressing, solving, and moving beyond that problem, or building a certain skill to near expert-level mastery. So long as this content follows through with it’s promises and makes a measurable difference in the subscriber’s life, you can follow up with an effective a sales pitch for a paid seminar, advanced training materials, DVD set, or whatever other materials you develop.
Social Media Integration
Okay, so you’ve got all this content and a good number of readers organically visiting your blog, or coming in from Digg and Reddit, but you’d really like to expand and bring in more readers than ever before. If this sounds like you, then social content marketing is the key to exponential growth with a minimum of effort. Select your best new pieces of content and share them at a set interval (say every two days) on your social accounts. The nature of social networking (especially on Facebook) is that when a user likes a piece of your content, all of their friends see it on their home screen.
Since people tend to have at least some like-minded friends, there is a good chance that the mere act of your readers liking and sharing your content will attract even more new readers. As this snowball effect rolls on, your blog will receive a flood of new, organically-generated traffic that you can hit with fresh new content and feed into your autoresponder. To keep this wheel turning, it is important to include easy share buttons with each new piece of content you generare. Readers may be excited to show people the wisdom you have shared with them, but if they have to go out of their way to log in to their social network and share the link manually, they may be discouraged. Share buttons make it so that they can show their support for your website simply by clicking a button.
Authoring expansive libraries of original content is a strong barrier to competition for the simple fact that it is difficult to replicate. It takes hundreds of man hours, a dedicated author on staff, and payroll compensation to build your collection of content. Few but the most ambitious blogs have the money or time to devote to competing with you.
Content marketing is also an ongoing effort, meaning that one you have your initial library in place, you must continue to pump out quality content week after week to remain relevant. The more you write, the further you send the competition scrambling to catch up. As they try to match the content, you’ve already published, you’ll be releasing more and staying an extra step ahead.
Ever think about setting up an email auto responder, or sending some direct mail? Fortunately the core pieces of your sales messages already exist in your blog posts. Rather than starting from scratch, you can easily take bits and pieces of your best content to create the cogs of your new marketing objectives.
Best of all, your audience has already responded to this content, so you know exactly which pieces will be most effective. When you compose these new messages, combine similar elements of your best pieces into separate, new articles and messages. You can now recycle these for your new mailing list or ebook.