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December 11, 2013

Content Marketing Tips


With about 160 million blogs online and 4 billion hours of video being watched every month on YouTube, there is, without a doubt, a huge opportunity for businesses - and organizations - to connect with their users with original, compelling content.

However, in a world where 80% of consumers use Google search for a product or service before purchasing it, brands need a holistic approach to content marketing that emphasizes both creative value and performance metrics equally.

While organizations are enthusiastic about publishing content, most companies fail in their approach when it comes to actual content marketing. Content marketing initiatives often underperform because the creative ideas are rarely integrated with a data-driven, performance-based approach as well. Great content can go unnoticed without SEO; and conversely, SEO-led content can do poorly because it’s not compelling.

The next generation of internet marketing professionals should be fully versed in inbound marketing strategies that take into account the entire suite of initiatives: SEO, blogging, content, email, PR and social media. In the past, SEO agencies, hired by companies looking for a quick fix, have contributed to a massive amount of spam and poor-quality content on the Web: among other things they broke directories, spammed the comments on blogs, as well as over bought and traded links… all designed to game Google’s algorithm and push mediocre content toward the top in keyword rankings. Those days are over.

However, content marketers still need to understand how the search algorithm works to make their content perform on Google or Facebook’s Graph Search. The algorithm is essentially ‘machine learning trying to be human.’ The game change is that as marketers, we can’t be merely concerned about ‘the keyword’ – you must optimize your content to relate to ‘who’ typed it into the search box. So, don’t chase the algorithm; get in front of it.

You could make the case that SEO is content marketing. Search engine optimization is a misnomer anyway. It seems to suggest you optimize the search engine. Clearly, you cannot and do not. You optimize online content. The industry is still trying to redefine itself after Google rolled out the Panda and Penguin algorithm updates. SEO must adapt and develop into a more strategic, cross-functional business unit.

Content marketing is a long-term play – it is a marathon, not a sprint. Most brands fail in their approach to marketing with content because they haven’t developed an effective content strategy that is centered on user persona's and data. The objective is to create a repeatable and scalable process of building great content with a built-in audience, instead of building content to seek audience. It’s like a heartbeat or going to the gym every day.

Yes, You Need a Blog

The necessity of having a blog on your site is not really debatable. According to HubSpot, companies that blog receive 55% more website traffic and companies that blog receive 88% more leads than those who don’t.

The topic of content frequency is my pet peeve because it is often abused and taken to extremes, especially when it comes to blogging and branded content. It is either too frequent to retain a certain level of quality, or too infrequent to make any difference. Ask yourself: How often can I create content that is good? Content frequency does impact customer acquisition, but if the content is not good, your audience will move away and your efforts will be counter-product

Public Relations Outreach

In a world where bloggers are journalists and consumers look for news on Google and YouTube, SEO and PR teams need to be like peanut butter and jelly: they might be good separately, but together, they rock! Traditional link building is dead and needs to be replaced by innovative content promotion strategies, centered on PR outreach and leveraging existing brand relationships. For enterprise-level brands, digital PR is the link building 2.0, but only if SEO is involved.

You need to have a well thought out content promotion strategy in place to optimize the performance of your content, from paid media to social. However, anybody who has ever done any SEO knows that outreach is a very effective content promotion tool. The problem with SEO’s handling outreach is that they focus on getting a link at scale instead of designing the right pitch and building long-term relationships. You should leverage your PR team to design a better outreach and have your SEO team prospect relevant sites with high PageRank to engage.

Organic SEO

The best time to engage SEO is when the concept is being defined. Building a great website with great content is all about teamwork. One of the biggest issues at creative agencies is that SEOs are brought in late in the process – they are sent a site map to research and map keywords, write page titles and meta descriptions. It is not the right way to go about it – SEOs should have an impact on the strategic decisions, such as picking the right CMS, defining the content strategy and site structure.

Give the people what they want

The most important factor in connecting with your audience is to give them what they want at the right time. If you engage in content marketing and you don’t have persona's developed and validated by quantitative research, start over. You need to make content decisions based on data so that you build content with a built-in ROI. Measure and test everything.

Great content that is optimized and targeted towards pre-defined persona's pulls your audience in naturally, so don’t get too pushy. You want to limit choice and drive a user through your content towards your calls-to-action, aligning with user persona's but avoiding overselling unless you target lower-funnel keywords: A nudge is mightier that a sword.

Not all social networks are created equal

If you’re doing a lot of stuff with micro content, for instance, Twitter is a must; and if you’re doing more tech-related things, even though the volume’s not there yet, you’re going to get more people engaged on Google+. For B2B you need to consider LinkedIn and so on. So the social channel and content format is more of a consideration for efficacy, whereas link-worthy content is much broader and has to do with the quality of content. In other words: Is this content good? Are people going to be interested in it? And can we actually get people coming in, rather than spreading it out? It is very important that you define the objective of your content before you create it. If you are engaging in a micro-content campaign, for example, on Tumbler or Vine, keep in mind that your objective is for that content be shared. Micro content will not do much for you from a link building perspective. You also need to optimize your intended messaging so that when that content is shared it travels with the right message.

Authored by: Attila Sary

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Attila Sary