With an increasing number of Aussie and Kiwi brands turning to content marketing to deliver sustainable improvements in search, stronger engagement with their target markets and higher conversion rates, we take a look at some of the challenges and opportunities for the region’s content marketers.
Content marketing is an exciting, expanding and ever-changing industry, with more and more organisations creating and publishing their own content to reach out to and engage with customers and prospects. According to eMarketer, $118.4 billion will be spent globally this year on content marketing, social media marketing and video marketing.
But while the marketing dollars may be flowing towards content marketing Aussie and Kiwi brands face increasing competition for attention and higher expectations from their users. Content marketing is therefore both an opportunity and a challenge.
Geography is a significant economic factor in both Australia and New Zealand. In relative terms, they are two isolated, sparsely-populated countries with developed economies, meaning the internet is going to play an increasingly important role in the personal and professional lives of their citizens.
Take Australia, for example. It’s a huge country with twice the land mass of India, but just 2 per cent of India’s population. Aussies are mostly spread around the outside of the country, concentrated in a small number of major cities, putting huge physical distances between people and businesses.
There is therefore massive potential for high-speed internet and high quality websites to bring people together and make the country smaller. There is a major government project underway to upgrade Australia’s broadband network, bringing faster connections to 93 per cent of homes and businesses by 2021. The National Broadband Network (NBN) has been the subject of plenty of political wrangling, but both major parties agree that quick, reliable internet is an economic necessity.
Geography is helping to fuel the digital economy in this part of the world… Australia has twice the land mass of India, but just 2% of the population
It’s also something consumers are demanding. Online spending in Australia is growing at a rapid pace, with a PwC / Frost Sullivan report predicting that it will be worth $27 billion by 2016. At Castleford, we’ve witnessed firsthand a growing realisation among Aussie businesses that they need modern, engaging websites and social media profiles to win over an increasingly demanding domestic audience. Right now, overseas websites are setting the bar in key verticals, with Australian brands playing catch-up.
The disruptive effect of the internet means that Aussie and Kiwi businesses can no longer rely on stable domestic demand or long-term customer loyalty. They also have to worry about foreign competition, with the barriers to entry for a lot of industries having reduced dramatically because of the shift to online.
A fashionista in Auckland shopping for designer shoes will happily buy from a foreign-owned website if it stocks the brands they want and offers a better price or quicker shipping than domestic alternatives. Similarly, a small business in Sydney is likely to be more concerned with price, service and user experience than whether or not its suppliers are based in Australia.Aussie brands are facing increasingly stiff overseas competition for $27 billion digital dollars
The reaction to overseas companies with fancy websites from some major brands, particularly in Australia, has been to lobby the government for more protection. While there is undoubtedly a debate to be had over the impact local taxes (particularly GST) can have on the competitiveness, foreign competition is not going away.
Even if it becomes more difficult to ship goods to Australia or New Zealand from overseas or to provide services to consumers or businesses from outside those countries, new entrants that offer a world class experience to customers will quickly eat into the market share of slow-moving domestic alternatives. Rather than treating the internet like a passing storm, established brands in Australia and New Zealand should be thinking about how to leverage their existing assets (such as brand awareness, trust and customer data) in a digital age and looking to best-in-class examples from abroad that they can emulate.
Users are coming to expect a range of genuinely helpful and useful content from brand websitesContent marketing can play a big role in helping Aussie and Kiwi businesses to do just that. Whether you target businesses or consumers, your audience is going to expect to see more on your website than what you sell, where you’re based or how to contact you. They expect you to be offering the sort useful and help information they’ll be looking for when researching their purchases or pursuing their interests. And if you’re not there, you can bet a more enterprising competitor will be.
Content marketing is quickly becoming the only long-term search strategyReaching out to customers and potential customers during that crucial research phase is often a key objective for content marketing campaigns. What are these people searching for? What do they need to know before they’ll make a purchase decision? How can you satisfy their needs?
Content has always been an important ingredient in successful search campaigns. Google, which has a virtual monopoly on search in Australia and New Zealand, has consistently urged website owners to create better content rather than relying on short-term tactics aimed at gaming the system. As search continues to evolve content marketing is quickly becoming the only long-term SEO strategy.
Since Google Panda in 2011, the world’s biggest search engine has been rolling out regular updates intended to reward sites that publish useful and relevant content. There was a huge flap in the wake of the first Panda update with duplicate or thin content costing a wide range of websites their rankings. But it’s important to remember that Panda was not a one-off. In fact, another major Panda update was pushed live earlier this year, sending a clear signal to website owners and marketers that Google’s effort to reward sites offering better quality content is ongoing.
Google Panda is always closely associated with quality content, but Google’s quality drive is also evident in its other big campaigns. Google Penguin, which started in mid 2012, wiped out the credit sites used to get for over-engineering their inbound links or their keywords. By specifically targeting common tactics aimed at tricking search engines in to awarding higher rankings than site or page really deserved, Google was pushing website owners back to the honest path of just making the site better.
The message from Google Penguin, which in many ways has had a bigger impact than Panda, was that shortcuts don’t work. In fact, they will hurt you. If you spend money and time obtaining links from weak domains or cramming your meta-tags full of keywords the most likely outcome is a short-term spike followed by a sharp drop and a long, expensive road to recovery.
Google’s Penguin and Panda updates and the new Hummingbird algorithm are putting more emphasis on quality contentSmart website owners and marketers are switching their budget from black hat tactics to content marketing strategies that focus on improving their sites for their customers. Creating better quality content and more of it adds value to the user experience and sends helpful, regular quality signals to Google.
Hummingbird, which went live in October 2013, was a wholesale change of the algorithm and promised to drill deeper into the meaning behind search queries to find more specific, more relevant results. Again, sites that have been investing in an accessible, crawlable archive of high quality content were well-placed to benefit. If you can offer a more recent, more specific, more in-depth answer to a search query you stand a really good chance of picking up more traffic. In fact, as Google gets better both at figuring out what users mean and separating the genuinely good sites from the sites playing the system, creating and publishing quality content will be the only way to achieve better results.
Just as SEO isn’t just about keywords and links, content marketing is about more than just organic search traffic. It’s also about engagement and conversion. One of the really exciting opportunities that Google Hummingbird presents is getting users from search results straight to more relevant pages on your site. As well as getting found, investing in better quality content and more of it will increase your chances of converting visitors once they arrive on your site.Content marketing provides a great opportunity to reach out beyond your own website and connect with people wherever they’re active
Creating more specific landing pages, for example, that dive into a particular topic in more detail, provides a chance to offer users closely-related calls-to-action. The more natural you can make the next step (a purchase, an enquiry, a sign-up form etc), the more likely your visitors will be to take it.
Content marketing should also extend beyond your website, but your website should always come first. You need to start with good quality landing pages that describe what you do; a logical site structure that makes life easy for Google’s crawlers and for your users; and regular updates that provide useful, helpful content for your target audience.
But once your site is in good shape, you can use content marketing to reach out to your target market wherever they happen to be. In fact, one of the really cool aspects of content marketing is looking at what your audience is interested in and creating some content on that particular topic or using that channel.Active social media marketing will have a positive halo effect on your website’s search performance
If Lip Sync Kid has a bigger YouTube audience than you, why not launch your new single from his bedroom? If your audience is using blogs and social media to research a product you sell or a service you provide (and you can bet they are), some useful, helpful content is your ticket to reaching them.
Social amplification is a vital part of content marketing. You can create hugely valuable, high quality content but if you neglect the promotion element the people you’re targeting won’t get to see it. Social media, whether it’s sharing your latest blogs on Twitter or producing self-published articles on LinkedIn, offers an excellent, often free channel to get your content in front of more of the right people.
The direct link between social media and Google’s search results might be a little weak, but there is undoubtedly a positive halo effect to an active, positive and properly-targeted social media presence. You also have to remember that some social media sites might be getting more attention from your particular target audience than Google’s search results, which means there could be huge value in the form of referral traffic.
Just like any emerging industry, content marketing here in Australia and New Zealand faces a number of challenges. Through our sister companies in the US, the UK and Europe, we’ve seen content marketing develop and establish itself in some very different markets over a period of close to 15 years.
Back in the UK in 2000, the idea of creating their own content for the web was a new one for the vast majority of brands. It would have been rare to see anyone doing it on any significant scale and nobody was calling it “content marketing”. As recently as 2011, content marketing was still an unusual concept in Australia and New Zealand, even among marketing professionals.
Our survey suggests solid support for content marketing among the region’s decision makers
While that has changed dramatically over the intervening years, content marketing is still establishing itself in the marketing budgets of Australasian businesses. In the UK and the US, mid-sized and larger organisations will have dedicated budgets for content marketing and will often have a head of content marketing in-house. Our own survey published in May this year revealed that only 18% of Aussie and Kiwi business have someone with “content marketing” in their job title and that budget remains one of the biggest obstacles to content marketing activities.
But while content marketing is still establishing itself as a standalone niche, interest is undoubtedly growing. An overwhelming majority of respondents to our survey (93%) said the resources they allocate to content marketing would remain the same or increase in the 2015 financial year. Perhaps more tellingly, c-level executives are getting on board with 75% viewing content marketing as either “quite positive” or “very positive”.
This strong support, both in terms of resources and the attitude of the higher-ups, means content marketing is likely to be front and centre of Australia and New Zealand’s digital campaigns. The quest for more search traffic, stronger social engagement and better conversion rates leads back to content. But as it attracts more and more interest, simply ‘doing’ content marketing will not be a differentiating factor. The challenge is to develop a strategy and create the type of content that can cut through the noise, resonate with your audience and benefit your bottom line.
Castleford is Australia and New Zealand’s leading content marketing business. We provide tailored content strategies based around high-quality editorial, graphics and video produced in-house by our specialist teams. If you’d like to know more about content marketing, check out our Content Marketing Glossary, subscribe to our Content Marketing Insights or connect with us on social media.