It’s no secret that marketing techniques are constantly changing to adapt to consumer behaviour. Take a look at the rise of Search Engine Optimisation; an inbound marketing process where people opt to use search engines such as Google in order to find the products or services they require. Traditional methods of marketing do not hold the same impact as they once did. While they can still be effective, they are fast becoming a secondary form of effective marketing due to the shift in consumer behaviour, whereby they are now online and more in control of the information they receive.
In response to the value of information that companies can provide to their consumers, one method utilised is the prevalence of ‘content marketing’, a phrase that you may have heard of, but exactly how familiar are you with its concept? It’s referenced a lot, and there’s a lot of sources trying to explain what content marketing really means. To put simply, content marketing is a process where companies acquire/retain consumers by being a thought leader in their respective industry. This involves the marketing technique of creating and sharing media, and publishing content. Think of formats such as blogs, podcasts and even e-newsletters (EDMs) – they are all designed primarily to inform and educate people, rather than serve as a hard-sell scheme for a product or service.
A lot of terms and strategies can easily fall under the umbrella of content marketing. For it to be effective, it needs to provide valuable information and answers to questions consumers may have before they reach the final step in the decision-making process. It’s not to say that all consumers will research to the point where they are scraping the bottom of the barrel, but the idea is having those resources available for those who want to read in-depth.
Successful SEO plans don’t just revolve around keywords and traffic results. For them to be effective in an all-encompassing manner, the process of planning and promotion of content needs to be set in place in order to build your site into a powerful brand.
Content marketing is the cycle of finding out what the audience wants, and then building content that draws them in. A smart content marketing plan is a way of building this relationship with the target market by creating valuable content that is well-driven and implemented, so it establishes an element of trust and authority and positions your brand in the research and buying stage in the consumer’s decision making process. This is the real benefit to companies; where the majority of cases will only try to appeal to consumers when they are in a “purchasing” mindset (ready to buy), content marketing is meant to affect customers through the entire decision process from need recognition, research, and then the purchase decision. As a valuable outlet of information, your brand’s credibility is deeply embedded into your consumer’s behaviour, all the way from the start to finish.
From a digital marketing perspective, good quality content that’s accessible through organic search results can attract clicks and traffic from Google. With the proper setup, it can act as a platform for users to turn into sales and/or leads. Search users being able to find your content gives you wider reach and impact.
In carrying this line of argument, SEO strategies are dictated by search user behaviour – finding out their questions, needs and intent behind the queries, which can be quite broad or very specific. This is where successful examples of content marketing go hand-in-hand with SEO work, because when you effectively use your content optimised for different channels, you can distribute your content via social media channels to boost social signals and increase your incoming traffic results. Also, the technical aspects of SEO can be used to complement on-page aspects of your content, such as optimising page speed, making content responsive, fixing bad links, and ensuring a clear hierarchy of the page (heading, tags, etc.).
Another feature which exemplifies the working partnership between content marketing and SEO is the work involving keywords. A fundamental aspect of SEO is to research, utilise and track keywords in SERP’s. But how does the research from here get implemented on to the next step?
The practical application of this is done through content marketing. Content marketing consists of good quality content that is written for, and meant to be read by real people! Throughout the content, keywords that you’re targeting should be employed strategically to meet SEO requirements to aid search and ranking results for your business.
Content marketing is a strategy that can be embraced by businesses of all types. Whether you’re a sole proprietor or a corporate company, content marketing has shown to be successful upon its implementation according to multiple sources of research. In fact, this survey performed by Ascend2 reported that 89% of companies that used content marketing can vouch for its effectiveness. We have also noticed a positive effect on the campaigns we mange as a result of content marketing. With high quality content which is consistent within our SEO strategies, there has been a direct correlation in improvements made from content marketing, in the form of better rankings and search results. And on the flip side, smaller campaigns that might not understand the importance of content marketing, or only possess a limited budget and thus choose not to focus on content marketing are left far behind, both in conversions as well as SEO results.
No matter what the size of the business model, whether you’re a large corporation or a SME business, content marketing is an effective method which saves time as a resource and communicates directly with your target market; educating your consumers decreases the need for people to directly reach out to gain the information they need, and creates an easier pathway for them to convert into sales. This was based on almost 300 professionals: marketers, sales, and other executive level businessmen from companies around the world.
Based on this survey, lead generation and improving customer engagement were cited as the main objectives from a content marketing plan. It’s interesting to note that improving SEO was the least important objective; this may be because SEO complements content marketing and thus rankings naturally see improvements. However, these type of objectives are things any company can take on board to improve their business. No matter the size, all types of companies can apply a content marketing strategy. Be on the watch for your next e-newsletter, or the latest blog post from your favourite writer – these are everyday examples of content marketing!
There are many case-studies proving the effectiveness of content marketing. Companies, no matter what industry they are in, can attest to its power and results in gaining market share.
If you’re active on social media, one brand you might have seen frequently is “Buzzfeed”. For those who might not be familiar, Buzzfeed is an internet media company providing social news and entertainment, redefining online advertising with its social, content driven publishing technology. Dominating the media arena through its “how-to” videos and feature articles (always used with infographics, GIFs, short videos and such), Buzzfeed has established a solid content creation process which has directly affected its increase in organic search visibility over the past 3 years.
Another example of a successful content marketing strategy can be seen through LEGO’s activities. It’s a company that’s got global pull and power, and a budget big enough to make a feature film. Whilst this is an extraordinary case (very few companies would have the resources to make a film), by having their product brand infused into the design and narrative of the movie, it serves a greater purpose than entertaining children on the big screen. The aftermath of the Lego Movie has made a noticeable impact on its comprehensive target market; groups described as children (the actual players of Lego), the parents (the buyers of Lego), and ‘nostalgic adults’. Activity on all of Lego’s social media platforms increased in volume. Instagram posts consistently get 15,000 to 22,000 likes per post (up from a 7,000 per post, prior the Lego movie). Twitter results also saw a higher number of retweets, increasing from under 100 retweets to over 1000’s of retweets.
LEGO’s Facebook page was always popular in terms of the number of likes and shares. Despite this, popular posts are still gaining a lot more attention than before, and their total fan base of ‘likes’ has increased to almost 11 million Facebook users.
How does this all tie in with content marketing? Lego understands the continuous nature of the content marketing cycle, so the company constantly rolls out email marketing campaigns, updates to microsites, and the use of social media to all complement each other in communicating to its consumers. Lego has managed to drive views, increase impressions and create brand awareness, all by investing in content.
Examples of content marketing start from as early as the 1900s, and it’s highly likely more examples of content marketing will come for the foreseeable future. But as companies need to adapt to market changes, there are always going to be a different approaches and methods as we go forward. So what are the latest trends we can expect from content marketing? Here are 4 trends to keep a close eye out on 2016, so you can look ahead and understand where it’s all really heading.
Its Aimed at People, Not Search Engines: The purpose of content marketing is to build value and provide information for search users. Instead of focusing on keywords for search engines, content creators are now endeavouring to attract their audience through better-quality writing and effective elements, like images and videos.
Google’s RankBrain Is Improving: This means that search algorithm changes are placing a higher emphasis on semantic keywords and long-form (long-tail keywords) search queries. Google is improving its ability to locate the information you are seeking, and even predicting what user intentions are behind the search. More and more, the quality of content found on websites needs further work or improvements in response to these changes, and to earn the clicks from users.
Higher Intensity and Focus On Content Marketing: Content marketers in 2016 are now increasing their work load up by 80% compared to the year before. . This rise of producing more content means more competition, more clutter and more work in driving search users to your company.
Rise of Automated Algorithms: Since there is more importance and value in content marketing, robotic algorithms which are used to generate content are getting even more sophisticated and smarter. A lot of sites use a robotic program to create content, and this has been going on for quite a while. Whilst a human touch is necessary for creating complicated topics, automated algorithms are being further developed to improve quality of content they produce, which in the long-run may provide a threat to freelancers and other one-band copywriters. Please note that this is only a notation of the trend; most professionals would advise against an artificial use of creating content.
Looking at the overall trends of content marketing, it’s also important to learn from common mistakes which prevent sites from reaping the benefit out of its content marketing. These points below examine what you can learn from other sites to ensure your content actually works.
Not Customising Posts For Each Social Network: Social media can have a powerful impact in delivering your content material, but you have to customise posts and messages for the format favoured by each platform you are using to connect with your audience!
Keyword Stuffing: The aim of content marketing is to inform and educate people. It is best to avoid a strategy where the focus is emphasised on keywords and rankings as this can often alienate your audience. If the quality of the content is high, it will have a natural positive boost for SEO.
Publishing Posts Purely For Quantity: Whilst companies are aiming to produce more content in 2016, it’s important to develop a plan or strategy for your content to be effective. Search users aren’t looking for more content – they want good quality content, and so does Google. Don’t increase the quantity of your marketing material just for the sake of it, as that is not the main objective you should seek to achieve.
Not Updating Old Content: When’s the last time you’ve read over the content on your site? Evergreen content is meant to last for years, but you can leverage its longevity further with a bit of research and planning. Use your analytics data to improve content marketing campaigns. Fine-tune your content by using insights and search terms users enter, and see different sources of long-tail keywords to see if you can attend to specific enquiries.
Outbrain: Outbrain is a platform that assists with the publishing and distribution step of your content marketing. It assists in improving any video, infographic, blog or other crafted content all with the audience in mind.
ClearVoice: A very popular tool for content marketers. ClearVoice is able to combine aspects of branding, content creation and publishing all together in the one place. ClearVoice helps brands identify influencers, analyse competitors and employ best practices so you can be sure the content you publish is engaging, relevant and actionable.
BuzzSumo: Discover what’s trending, and what’s losing traction, by identifying the performance of content for any topic or competitor. BuzzSumo has its on space with analytics driven insights, where you can compare shares on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus (and more). By knowing which topics related to your business are garnering the most attention, you can give the people what they want and save time on ineffective methods and work on what works for you.
Buffer: Buffer can be a great time-saving measure, where this platform is able to load content across all social sites of your choosing. You can still optimise the post for each site and make changes where necessary, but you won’t have the hassle of logging in on individual sites to deliver your content.
Hemingway: Check the nature of your content. Brings you clarity to your writing by identifying common mistakes in sentences such as illogical structure, grammatical errors and overuse of adverbs.
Content marketing should be an on-going process which focuses educating the target market and embedding your brand into your consumers’ decision making process. The main purpose of providing valuable content is the intention of enhancing consumer behaviour and more easily facilitate the path from the consideration stage to a purchasing mindset. No matter what industry your business is in, there are always competitors fighting on various platforms and fronts (think about company websites, blog features, Facebook, and other social media profiles). The challenge for your company is to provide something unique on a regular basis – so you stand out as a leader in the industry!