Content marketing is the term applied to any activity which involves the publishing of content onto a website, social media platform or blog for the purposes of promoting a business or other activity and to improve a website’s online visibility.
Why is content marketing important?
Marketing activities fall into two broad categories – paid and unpaid. If your business is to be prominent in the results of searches made on search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and others then it is important to have content on your website that encourages those search engines to include your website in the results of searches that are relevant.
If, for example, you are in the business of making, or selling, safety footwear then you want to feature in the results whenever someone searches for safety footwear related topics. If the search engines don’t know that your business is relevant to the person making the search then your site will not be featured in the results. Content marketing is important therefore in order to inform search engines that you are involved in whatever you are involved in so that they can add that content to their indexes and show your URL and site details to those carrying out a relevant search.
In fact, one of the single most important items of content that you can spend time and effort on is what is called the “Meta Description” of your pages. Each page has its own unique meta description and this forms the small snippet of text that appears below your URL in the search results and tells the view in around 150 characters, what you do and why they should visit your site.
Content most often takes the form of text but that is changing. Text does not have to be the only format you use. Video content is becoming more and more important and is much easier to produce now due to the many apps available and the high quality of footage that can be produced with a smartphone. Add audio into the mix alongside visual content marketing by recording useful podcasts for your clients and potential clients – a podcast is an audio blog, sometimes carried out in the format of an interview and are very popular because people can listen to them whilst doing something else, for example driving to or from their place of work.
Content converts. Websites that contain a good selection of content that is relevant to their product or service will find that more people are likely to visit their website and stay on it for longer. If good quality content is available to help them to understand or learn about the topic in question then they are more likely to purchase the product or service from you. It follows therefore that a good way to increase conversions is to give potential buyers the information that they need in order to make a buying decision.
Is Content Marketing Effective?
The short answer to this is yes – if it is good content and if it is published in the right place where search engines can find and index it so that it can be included in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
Websites that do the minimum possible usually end up losing traffic to those that give the website visitor more to explore. Google even has a term for this – “Bounce Rate”. This metric is an indicator of how many people visit a website and then leave it again within a few seconds and without interacting with the site, e.g. by clicking on a link to visit another page. If your site’s Bounce Rate is high, (it is a percentage) then that means that people visiting the site are not finding what they need and leaving. One of the best ways to counteract this is to provide lots of information about whatever it is that the site is about. This usually takes the form of articles but, as previously mentioned, videos as well as podcasts (audio presentations), quizzes and so on, all have a part to play.
When building a website it is a good idea to avoid the temptation to put everything on one page – this is a trend that has surfaced in recent years as web designers think it looks cool but, in the eyes of a search engine, it is difficult to work out what the site focuses on and the visitor doesn’t need to click onto a different page thereby making it more likely that their visit will be counted as a bounce.
Sites with a high bounce rate are treated less favourably by search engines so put plenty of content on the site in order to minimise this.
Another way in which content marketing is effective is to improve brand reputation. It is a good idea to try and publish your content on special interest websites as well as on your own. If you have video content then a YouTube channel is another option when it comes to spreading the word about your product or service. It is free to setup a YouTube channel and, if you do it properly, your (video) content will be found in Google’s search results with a link to the video. Once someone is taken to your YouTube channel to view the video they will also see your other content – you can include a link to your website from the description placed underneath the video.
How To Get Started With Content Marketing.
The way most people tackle this is to set up a blog on their website. Most website building platforms, such as WordPress, have excellent blogging facilities and there is usually no cost involved unless you choose to outsource your article writing requirements.
Blog posts should be at least 1500 words in length and should focus on a small number of keywords. For example, if writing about vegetable gardening then focus on the main keyword, in this case, “vegetable gardening”. Make sure that the term “vegetable gardening” is in the page’s “Meta Title” as this is usually the first thing a search engine will read when crawling your website and it forms the bold part of the listing when shown in search results.
If you try to focus on too many keywords the search engines will struggle to identify what the focus of the piece is and often they can end up indexing it for those terms that are of lesser importance.
The main keywords should appear several times in the body of the text and in the titles and subtitles – known as H Tags – throughout the piece. Do not be tempted to overdo it through – this is regarded as “keyword stuffing” and is frowned upon by search engines. A density of around 2-3% is ideal, i.e. the keyword or phrase should represent no more than 3% of the total word count.
Many businesses find that they do not have the necessary resources in house to write articles, social media posts and blog posts themselves and find it necessary to use the services of a third party author or copywriter. This is a common practice and enables you, the business owner or manager, to concentrate on what you do best.
Always ensure that the content you acquire is original, i.e. not copied from other sites, as this is not acceptable to web search engines and they can penalise you for it. It is OK to quote short passages however, so long as you cite the source.
Try to write ephemeral content whenever possible, i.e. content which does not age quickly. If your content is outdated quickly then you will need to update or replace it frequently. Of course, if you are publishing, for example, a newsletter, then this type of content, by its very nature, will age quickly so alongside the news try to include some ephemeral content as well.
How To Create a Content Marketing Strategy?
Content marketers usually plan their content production according to the needs of the business in terms of lead generation, brand building, product launches, special promotions, and so on.
This planning process takes into account seasonal trends and online search trends that indicate interest levels over time. You can easily check on the interest levels for a subject by referring to Google’s “Trends” facility which gives you an indication of how much search activity there has been for a particular term or topic. You can find this tool here: https://trends.google.com/trends/?geo=US
Another factor that plays an important part in devising your content marketing strategy is the activity of your competitors. An easy way to check this is to do a Google search for a keyword or phrase that is important to you. When the results are shown, ignore the paid ads and look at the first few “natural” results – which websites are featuring highest in the results for a particular search term? Make a note of the top 3 or 4 and visit the sites, taking a good look at the content they have and then start planning to produce similar, (but not the same), content yourself.
While Google’s “Trends” tool will help to tell you when to publish your content, the other factor you should consider is where to publish it. Obviously, your own website will be high on the list but it should not be the only place that your content sees the light of day. It is likely that there will be other websites, blogs, social media pages and similar properties where your material could be seen by interested parties.
When looking for suitable websites on which to publish your material you should, of course, avoid competitor sites. Instead, look for sites which publish material about the subjects that your product or service address. For example, a golf professional wanting to gain traffic might consider writing and submitting material to a website about golf. Very often, website publishers find it difficult to produce enough content for their sites and welcome “guest posts” to help lighten the load of writing all the content themselves without the need to pay for it to be written. This is known as “guest blogging”.
As well as guest blogging there are also many sites where material can be published and has a chance of being seen by interested parties. Sites like Reddit provide a platform where you can submit articles and posts about almost any subject and they will be seen, (but not necessarily read), by people interested in the subject that you are addressing in the article.
One of the most accessible platforms where you can publish material is the social media site. If you are addressing a profession, “B2B” (Business to Business) audience then LinkedIn may be worth considering. You can publish an article free of charge on your LinkedIn page and, if you have enough followers, it will be seen, and possibly read, by a substantial number of people. Facebook offers a similar opportunity with the option to “boost” your post for a small fee and have it shown to a larger audience of interested parties.
Once you have identified the social Media sites that you want to publish your content on you can make the task easier by using a tool such as HootSuite, which enables you to schedule your posts and submits them automatically for you saving a great deal of time and effort.
5 Advantages Of Content Marketing
Content Marketing can improve brand reputation.
By writing about your brand and the products or services that it provides, in a way that gives the reader information which is useful to him/her, you are adding value to the readers experience and building “authority” for yourself or your business as a source of information about that subject. This works particularly well if you write articles that address a particular problem that the reader might have, e.g. “How to improve your golf swing”.
Content marketing helps bring in new leads.
Almost every business needs an ongoing supply of fresh leads or enquiries. By publishing your content in places where it can be seen by people who are likely to need your product or service at some point you are making your business accessible to those people at the time that they may be considering making a purchase. Most platforms that you can publish on, other than your own website of course, will let you include your URL (website address) to the article so that it can be clicked on by the reader.
This is called a “backlink” and not only enables the reader to go to your site but also strengthens your website in terms of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Search engines like Google place great value in measuring how well your website is linked to by other quality websites. I cannot stress enough however that these links should occur naturally, usually from websites that are relevant to your own. Google and others will soon spot if you are procuring links from sites that have no relevance to your own or, worse still, if you are buying links from providers that do this as part of their business. This used to work a few years ago but it doesn’t work now. If you get caught, and you will, then you could find yourself being penalised by the search engines and your website falling in the rankings.
Content marketing can help to increase conversions.
The more a potential customer for your product or service knows about you, your business and your products or services, the more likely they are to make a purchase.
By providing information on your website and elsewhere about what you do, you are building the customer’s confidence in you and your business. This is why you see many e-commerce sites back up their online shop listings with libraries of information about how to use those products, e.g. a DIY store that sells tools and also providing short guides about how those tools could be used. This is a good example of where a video might also be used – just check out YouTube next time you want to learn how to do something and consider that others will be doing the same thing. Make sure it is your video they see and not someone else’s.
Content marketing helps improve SEO.
Anything you can do to lift the level of visibility your website has online will help towards optimising it’s online visibility. We have already mentioned the advantage of gaining backlinks to your site by publishing your content in places where it can be seen by potential customers and where you will be likely to be able to include a link to your website from within the article or blog that you publish. This is a known factor in improving the overall SEO of your website and should be done wherever and whenever possible as long as the target site is of good quality and repute – poor quality links can have a detrimental effect.
By including plenty of content on your own website you will increase the chances of the visitor staying on the site for longer and exploring the content you have provided there. If you are an e-commerce site then this is important – people often need a bit more detail than can be provided in a simple product listing before they make up their mind to buy.
Content Marketing Improves Customer Relationships.
By providing your existing customers with a source of news, updates, user guides and reviews about your product or service you are helping them to get more from their association with you as an existing or potential supplier. In the longer term this will do far more to build and strengthen the customer relationship than just sending them purely sales-related emails and other promotional activity can do.
As you may have gathered, content marketing is a term which covers many different activities and not all of them will be relevant to you and your business. Try as many as you can and monitor the results so that you can work out what you should concentrate on in the future.
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