Whether you’re a small business or a regional powerhouse, chances are you’re doing some kind of content marketing.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, 81 per cent of Aussie brands are now running a content marketing strategy and 87 per cent plan to up their spend over the next 12 months.
No longer the reserve of geeky search specialists, content marketing is now centre stage in the digital marketing plans of brands of all sizes. But that doesn’t mean everyone is sold on the idea.
In fact, now that content marketing is mainstream and attracting a bigger share of marketing budgets, staying ahead of the competition and proving ROI are even bigger challenges.
So, exactly how does content marketing work? What are the benefits of building and executing a content marketing strategy? Let’s take a look at three popular goals that often come up in our conversations with customers and prospects: better search performance, building trust and generating leads.
How Does Content Marketing Work For SEO?
SEO (search engine optimisation) used to be the only play for a content marketing strategy. Create some unique content around your priority keywords, link it through to some meaty landing pages and then sit back and watch the traffic flow.
But, a combination of Google updates and more competition has meant big changes for how content marketing works for search. Let’s take your blog, which most brands now have as a key part of their content marketing strategy. Pick a topic, any topic, and you can bet it’s been blogged about before. Probably quite a few times. Just Google your intended headline.
Gone are the days when search results returned vaguely relevant landing pages for your longer-tail keywords. Today the competition has got there already and just hitting the right topics will no longer be enough to get you any real, sustainable traction.
What you need is to carefully identify the SERP (search engine results page) that you want to target and find ways to outdo what’s currently available. Unless the content you create for your blog offers real value to users, beyond what they can get by clicking on the first few results, don’t bother. Every blog post has to be able to punch its weight in the SERP you’re dropping it into.
Rand Fishkin of Moz has put out some great stuff about this idea. In this video he talks about the idea of 10x content: articles that are not just better than the top ranking search result but 10 times better.
How does content marketing build trust?
Trust is an essential part of any relationship and that applies to your business just as it does to your love life. If you can get your target audience to have positive interactions with your brand, they’re more likely to come find you when they need what you sell.
So how does content marketing build trust? First it’s a great way to introduce yourself to potential customers who maybe haven’t heard about you or aren’t aware of what it is that makes you different. What are your company’s values? What are the topics and themes you care about? By using your blog, your social media and your email campaigns to talk about those values, topics and themes you’ll find people who care about them too.
Content marketing is also an opportunity to buy trust. Not with money, but in exchange for something else of value. If you invest the time and effort required to create useful and helpful content you can start to build the sorts of relationships that turn into sales in the future.
When brands get better at tracking customers online, offline and across different devices, the value of content marketing is going to reach a whole new level. That’s because right now, you don’t always see the sales you make or leads you generate that started with someone clicking on your boosted post on Facebook or reading your wonderfully-helpful blog article.
How does content marketing generate leads?
But what about some red meat for the boss while we’re all waiting for our acquisition tracking utopia to become a reality? In order to justify your investment and do really cool stuff with your content marketing strategy you need some quick wins. So how does content marketing generate leads?
If content marketers had a magic wand visitors to their priority landing pages would be so impressed by their beautiful, user-friendly layout and wonderful, descriptive prose that they would click right on your buy button and become a customer there and then.
In the real world those assisted conversions that we talked about in the last section are closer to the reality of what a successful content marketing strategy looks like. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still impress the higher-ups with some immediate, tangible ROI.
A great way to use content marketing to generate leads is to apply the value exchange principle but to a softer conversion. So, instead of “read my great article, buy my product now”, it’s “read my great article, download my interesting looking whitepaper on the same topic, give me your email address”.
Softer conversions like whitepaper downloads or email sign-ups aren’t cash in the till today, but they are solid leads for your marketing or sales team to follow up. If you’re running marketing automation this tactic is essential for identifying website visitors and dropping them into the most relevant drip campaign.