When Castleford first launched in 2011, content marketing was all about SEO. That meant it often fought for budget with paid promotion campaigns, such as banner ads or Google Ads. Content marketing has evolved in the years since to cover the full gambit of digital marketing. Now, content creation and paid promotion go hand-in-hand.
We’ve already talked about social media. Options for advertising or promoting content on leading social media platforms were quite limited when we started out. But increasingly, the ad products in their various forms are now the only route to an audience for most brands.
Social media is perhaps the best example of content creation and paid promotion working together. Facebook, for example, allows brands to combine their creative, engaging and relevant content with its in-depth knowledge about its users interests, wants and desires. But social media isn’t the only example. There are other situations where content creation and paid promotion come together.
Ads is Google’s cash cow. Financial results from its parent company, Alphabet, revealed ad revenue close to USD $20 billion in the three months to September 30th 2016. For all the cool and exciting stuff Google and Alphabet do, it’s the online ads that keep the wheels turning.
For content marketers, Google Ads is an excellent way to drive qualified traffic to your lovely new landing pages or to get more of the right people engaging with your very best content.
Google’s search and display ads have always been more effective when they’re supported by great content. If users click on your ads and don’t like what they see you won’t convert them into leads or customers. And if you have lightweight, poor quality or irrelevant landing pages, you’ll pay more per click or your ads might not get shown at all.
As organic search has become more about quality than quantity a lot of brands are investing in the sorts of high value assets that lend themselves to a Google Ads campaign. If you were building an archive of short, keyword-focused website pages you probably wouldn’t back any of that content with separate ad spend. But if you had switched that budget to instead create a high quality, downloadable case study you might feel different.
Despite the growing popularity of social media as a paid promotion tool, search engine marketing (SEM) remains the most popular form of online advertising, according to the Content Marketing Institute. More than two thirds (69 per cent) of respondents to the CMI’s 2017 Australian Benchmarks said SEM was part of their paid promotion strategy. That was ahead of social media ads (66 per cent), promoted posts (64 per cent) and online banner ads (55 per cent).
When it comes to search, Google is the only show in town in Australia and New Zealand. Unlike other markets like the US, Google’s market share in this part of the world is north of 95 per cent giving it a virtual monopoly. That means if you want to do search ads, chances are you’ll find yourself logging in to your Google Ads account.
The Google Ads campaigns we run for clients tend to be quite small. We are first and foremost a content business, so we usually bring Google Ads into a strategy to promote something we’ve created like a downloadable whitepaper or a new landing page.
Combining content creation with Google Ads has a number of benefits. An Ads campaign is really only as good as the content you’re linking to. Budget, ad copy and keywords are important, of course, but if the page you send users to is difficult to navigate, irrelevant or poor-quality none of that will matter.
However you get users on to your website you should always start with what you’ll do with them when they get there. And Google Ads is no different. A search campaign on Google Ads can reach out to people just as they’re searching for the products or services you sell. But search ads don’t capture leads or make sales. You need great landing pages for that.
When we’re working with a client on Google Ads we always start by assessing the landing pages they plan to use. We either put together a report highlighting potential changes or we’ll create new pages ourselves.
The benefit of creating the pages from scratch is that you can design and build them not only for the specific campaigns you plan to run, but also segments within those campaigns. You might have, for example, multiple ads on the same set of keywords. By directing users to a page created specifically for each ad you can offer a more consistent user experience.
Conversion landing pages need to be first and foremost relevant to the link that the user clicked on to get to them. After that they should avoid too many distractions, give clear information about what the user will get if they take the next step and try to build some trust and confidence.
Content Distribution Networks (CDNs) haven’t been around as long as Google’s Ads, but they offer an interesting spin on the content creation / paid promotion relationship. CDNs are there to promote content, not ads. So they’re aimed specifically at brands with active content marketing strategies. CDNs offer these brands the chance to display their links on already popular blogs and news sites, usually in a separate section underneath their articles.
CDNs can be a great way to get more eyeballs on to your content. If you don’t get a lot of organic traffic to your blog you might be able to use a CDN to get some visitors. The campaigns can be quick and easy to launch and cost per click tends to be relatively low. The problem with CDNs is that the traffic is less qualified than Google Ads or Facebook Ads because of the limited targeting options.
Search is the most popular type of Google Ads campaign but you also have the option of running display ads across Google’s network of third party websites. In our experience, display ads tend to get a lot more impressions, but lower clickthrough than search ads.
One type of display campaign we like is remarketing. This is where you add a tag to your website and use it to retarget website visitors with ads on third party sites. These types of campaigns can be especially powerful if the product or service you sell has a long consideration period.
If you sell novelty Christmas elf hats then your typical customer probably doesn’t spend months researching the different options, comparing prices and reading online reviews. If you sell software or marketing services the opposite is true. A potential customer may well have a dig around on your website months before they’re ready to make a purchase.
A Google remarketing campaign gives you a chance to get your brand name back in front of these people while they’re looking at other sites. If you get a lot of traffic on your website, you can target more specific behaviours, such as visiting a particular page or series of pages.