Ever since the dawn of the meaningfully commercial part of the Internets we have known that content is lord and master. From figuring out how to rank highly in Alta Vista for our target search terms (keywords meta tag yay!) to populating our fancy new web-log that nobody visited and took 4 hours to download on dial-up in any case, content has been the common sense answer to every web marketing related question.
And guess what? Nothing has changed. Content is still the boss. But only if it is actually BOSS (yeah, I’m down with the Minecraft generation).
Remember the old school when we were so cool?
The Internet connects pieces of information and offers digital conduits along which folks connect to these bits of information. That hasn’t changed. But our appetite (just like the delivery system it supports) has gone through the roof. Where there was text and an image (or more likely text and an ALT tag because your modem timed out whilst trying to download that 50k behemoth of a JPEG), there is now the 4k delivery of HD video, infographics, long form blog posts and a social media platform to cater for every media type and any demographic.
I was told then that content was the most important thing you can do to support the success of your website and your inbound marketing (not that we called it that way back then) goals and I’m telling you now that it hasn’t changed.
What we find quite often with our clients is that content creation is seen as a drain on their internal resources; a bit of a drag. I mean, who’s going to do it? What are they going to write? How are they going to make their service offering sound sexy? Who’s going to read it? I can’t shoot video, I don’t have time and I don’t know how! What am I doing this for? What’s the ROI? All valid questions, let’s try and answer them…
A simple content formula: Content = Conversion
Let’s explore why content is so important. To do this we need to consider the Inbound Marketing landscape as it is today and as it is rapidly evolving into tomorrow. If we assume some of your marketing goals are your typical ones; brand awareness, building your social followings, more traffic to your website, more engagement (we’ll look at what that means in a bit) and more sales and sales enquiries – more of those metrics that turn into income.
Content is critical for SEO because Google (et al but mainly big G) loves content, content is it’s raison d’etre. Without content you’d most likely find Googlebot wandering around your local park in a smelly mac, swigging out of a brown paper bag. Google NEEDS you to have content.
But he’s fussy (and that may yet lead him to self destruction), so it’s got to be good content, not that scrapy, spammy, unoriginal, respun, 400 words of keyword stuffed tripe that he’s learning to devalue. Who does that help? Do you read it? No, so it’s not that stuff we’re thinking about.
We’re not going to get into the technical SEO, Panda centric chat here (but we did a bit here if you want to swat up), suffice to say that Google is smarter than your average bear these days at figuring out what valuable content looks like. One of the signals it’s using (aside from, this is unique, this isn’t on a spammy domain, this doesn’t read like an SEO consultant from 2002 has written it, etc) is by looking at how other folks are treating it. Are they clicking on it? Reading it? Are they linking to it? Are they retweeting, sharing and liking it? Makes sense, right? If YOU think it’s useful and there’s a trend for all your peers to agree then the likelyhood is that this blog post, video, infographic, FAQ page on your website, is worth ranking highly. So there’s that.
Then there’s this: Organic search traffic (and it’s slightly cheating but, hey, it’s your money cousin, PPC traffic) is not the only traffic channel you need to be focusing on. Traffic from your social media channels is just as relevant, and whilst it may represent a slightly different journey to conversion for your visitor this is where you are most likely to see the most growth in the least amount of time (for all you “how long before I rank for stuff” hounds).
So how does content help us to drive organic traffic, help to grow our social media followings and increase our brand awareness all at the same time?
Let me try to illustrate this with a couple of examples (maybe these will be socially sharable infographics by the time this post goes live??):
Example 1: The ‘About us’ post…
What’s it about?
A 600 word post introducing your latest product (or your recent trip to that exhibition, or that introduction to that new member of staff or that crazy day Jeff in accounts had last week).
Who is the audience?
Pretty much you, your staff. Maybe Jeff in account’s family.
What terms is it optimised for?
Oh, we threw in lots of keywords about our new product – like, about 20 times – we’re soooo relevant and our keyword density is the bomb!
What did you want to get out of this post?
Well, we’ve committed to writing at least one blog post a week, and we needed something to tweet and share on Facebook and people are just going to love our new product, and find out about the sorts of crazy things Jeff in accounts gets up to. And the boss said we had to do it so…
What was your return on Investment (yes – for content!)?
The boss likes it so I had a warm feeling in my tummy. Reach was awesome, most of Jeff’s family now follows us on Twitter and likes our Facebook page and engagement went through the roof at 2 shares, 2 likes and a retweet
Example 2: The ‘About them’ post…
What’s it about?
A long form blog post (2000 words + but really length isn’t the issue, we’ll discuss ideal lengths at some point) targeted (an important word that, targeted) at people who are likely to be interested in our products and services. We’ve explored trending content on Buzzsumo in adjacent topic areas (all will be explained, don’t worry) and found some egos to appeal to amongst our key influencers (again, we’ll translate the social marketing-ese before the day is done). It’s completely unique, full of great information, lots of stuff our audience can take away and use, some nice images and a decent, easy to read format. We put quite a bit of effort in but we’re dead chuffed with it.
Who is the audience?
People we feel are demographically suited to our product and/or service offering, key influencers we’ve identified via a bit of competitive research and folks who are already following, liking or linking to our competitors. And a bit of juicy gossip for people who already love us and are likely to become advocates for our brand.
What terms is it optimised for?
The long tail surrounding some core keyword concepts and ideas. People may party like it’s 1999 but they search like it’s 2014 so we’re learning to evolve our thinking on keywords and ranking goals.
What did you want to get out of this post?
Our core objectives were to add keyword rich content to our website, increase brand awareness via our social network, increase the number of folks following us on our various social media profiles and improve our reach and engagement metrics.
What was your return on investment?
We increased traffic to our blog by 150%, we reached over 4000 people on facebook and engaged (shares, likes, retweets, clicks through to your website etc) with 200 of them. We gained new followers, stimulated feedback and conversation both on our social profiles and on our blog and our website conversion rate is up this month too!
What those examples are plainly illustrating is that one blog post can change your business for the better, turn it around even. Pardon? Yes, I said that – ONE blog post can have a massive impact. Now it might be the next blog post you or your agency write that has that impact but moving towards a content strategy that thinks and plans in this way will drive you ever closer to those top end metrics that generally mean that income is on the up.
Lets break it down a little bit and give it some meaningful direction:
There are many different types of content you can use in this way; regular copy, pictures, video, infographics, polls, quizzes, apps, maps and so on but we’ll think about a good old fashioned written blog post.
Where do you start?
Think about what you want to get out of it. Let’s say you want to get more followers on Twitter. You need to be looking for influencers. These are folks that may be following you already, or they may be following your competitors. We use tools like Followerwonk to give us a heads up with this, breaking down a few easy targets, but you may be able to identify them with a bit of straightforward digital elbow grease.
Understanding influencers, trends, tools and adjacent content…
An influencer may be a blogger, or he/she may be a journalist, or simply somebody who is followed by many and a voice of authority in your topic (or adjacent topic) area. They may have written a post themselves recently (or tweeted about or put out a video on Youtube about etc) on a subject close to your target audiences heart or minds (or both). So a good strategy here might be to create a post about that subject yourself, gently massaging the ego of your target influencer with some mentions and links to their work and so on (the kind of attention you’d be flattered by yourself might be a good guide).
Then when you post your piece, your tweets would naturally be asking for @influencer’s opinion (or thanking them for the inspiration or simply blowing smoke up their broadband). This is quite likely to result in them retweeting your tweet to their (massive, as we’ve already established, hence them being our target influencer) audience. Happy days.
Now, if your piece is also genuinely well written, well researched, unique, entertaining (again, judge it by your own harsh standards – would you read it?) and USEFUL, then there is a likelihood that your newly acquired audience may do a little retweeting themselves. And they may do a little linking from their blogs or they may cross share it with their other social audiences. One good piece, targeted carefully can have a staggering reach and a huge impact.
Lets just rewind a little to the term ‘adjacent’ content. I touched on it in more depth here… but to save you the click, it means that, yes, you may not have the sexiest service offering in the world when it comes to content creation ideas but there is ALWAYS an angle, that’s where the ‘creativity’ bit comes in. Adjacent content means not directly about your products and services (99% of which are as dull as dishwater let’s face it, unless they’re sexy new Apple products or entertainment media) but they are in similar topic zones to your industry or products and of interest to your target audience. If you sell soap, then your audience might be interested in being clean, in hygiene, in bathroom accessories, etc. If you sell flower pots then your potential customers might be interested in gardening tips or the world’s wackiest sheds. Insurance, greatest ever insurance frauds; dental equipment, victorian dental torture; double glazing, how to retain heat in your house when it’s freezing outside using only your granny and a piece of string and so on. Take a look at what your competitors are doing, what’s working for them? See what’s trending in these topic areas and getting shared a lot today (we use buzzsumo)
How much should you write?
As much as you need to write to get across everything you want to; your tone, your research, your answers, some things your audience can take away, a reason for them to ENGAGE with your efforts. Long form doesn’t have to mean a small novel’s worth of words. You might be posting a gallery of images, letting them do the talking with just the minimum of explanatory copy – but it could still be epic. But having said that, for the most part, if you’re truly exploring a topic then you may well be writing a fair amount. Don’t forget to include images that support your point. Why? Because people like them, they can be more illustrative than you in some cases and because they break up homogenous blocks of endless…
And on that subject, make sure you break things up. Lots of headings, lots of paragraphs. Make it easy on the eye and easy to scan.
Just remember, the amount effort you put in is proportionate to the ROI you get on your time. A little extra effort (a post may take you a day or even a week as opposed to the 500 words you might normally knock up on an afternoon with your Friday doughnut) and the results will FAR outweigh the extra effort you put in. So it’s not actually proportionate at all, in fact, the more you put in, the more the ROI curve bends upwards.
So content is worthy of your best efforts if you’re interested in a future proof approach to inbound traffic BOOM time. There’s no way around it – whether you do it or whether you outsource it, you need to be doing it. Let’s just recap the important parts of the process:
1. Know what you want the content to achieve for you
2. Consider your audience (potential customers, influencers etc)
3. Plan your content (adjacent for brand awareness, ego boosting for influencer engagement etc)
4. Put a shift in – INVEST in the content
5. Post, share & measure
Thanks for taking the time to read this post, if you have any questions or would like to share your experiences then feel free to pop them in the comments box underneath. If you fancy learning more about our managed services then go for the contact box hovering over on the right there and we’ll be happy to share caffeine and questions with you. Finally, if you’d made it this far, why not SHARE this post with anybody you know who may need a little convincing of the merits of high quality content and it’s place in the inbound marketing battlefield?