Updated: May 2020
‘Content Marketing’ is one of those terms that pops up all the time but do you know what it means and how it relates to SEO?
How important is content marketing to your business? Is it one of your priorities or do you overlook it because it sounds too tedious, too far out of your comfort zone or maybe something that you just don’t need to do?
Well, if you want to market yourself online effectively (and if you have a business, it’s a pretty crucial step these days), then it’s time to get busy. Content Marketing is your friend and you need to become besties with it to increase your reach, build your audience and drive your sales.
What is content marketing?
The Content marketing Institute in America defines content marketing as
“…a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
That sums it up in a straight-laced kind of way. In simpler terms, what it means for you, is:
- To know exactly what your product or service does or offers
- To know who your target audience is (i.e. the specific people you want to reach out to)
- To create, post and share your useful content (we’ll look at different types of content later)
Which, in turn, will:
- Raise brand awareness
- Build trust in your reputation as an expert
- Attract more visitors to your website
- Create more conversions (i.e. more customer enquiries or sales)
- Increase your sales and your revenue
- Create a sense of community around your brand
Ultimately, content is anything that communicates a message to your audience. The key to good content marketing is creating and sharing content that’s incredibly relevant and useful to the people you want to reach.
Get this right and not only will individuals love what you’re sharing but they’ll also start talking about what you have to say with their networks (on- and offline). This is an amazing way to market your products or services without icky ‘cold’ outbound marketing tactics. In fact, content is the very lifeblood of inbound marketing.
Content marketing and SEO
How does content marketing affect SEO?
Honestly, the list is so huge, it would be impossible to cover everything in this article.
With focus on any relevant SEO keywords and searched terms, your content will appear in people’s search results and drive more traffic to your website.
The higher up Google’s search results you appear, the more it suggests to both existing and potential customers that you know what you’re talking about and are an expert in what you do.
If people click through from a high ranking in Google to great quality, unique content, this will reinforce that perception.
Combined, all these things give customers confidence in you. They promote trust and loyalty, so they feel ready to use your services or buy your product, rather than a competitor’s.
With your expert content, you’re not only giving authority, your website is also gaining authority – from the people who are reading, liking and sharing it and looking to you for expertise and answers to their problems.
Your content is the single best way to attract links and mentions from third parties; again, both positive signs to Google that you’re an authority in your field.
The more content you have, the more it gives search engines to crawl, and it helps them to build up a clearer picture about what your company does and who it serves. You will have more chances to target a wider variety of long-tail keywords and phrases related to your business, meaning that your web pages will show up in a wider variety of searches reaching a greater number of people.
The bottom line is that without content, search engines would have nothing to optimise for search engines. Equally, every single search that’s made is a search for content.
What types of content marketing should you use?
Anything you post online is a form of content marketing, so everything has to be of relevance in some way. And ‘content’ can take many forms, so you’ll need to find which ones work for you as well as your audience.
You could stick to some of the more tried and tested types, or change tack and try something different. It will take some time to drill down to what works best, whether it’s for you, or more importantly, your customers, but here’s a list of the most common forms of content marketing:
- Blog posts
Probably at the top of any ‘to do’ list of content marketing, blogs should be the first thing to post on your site. Blogging allows you to write, in as many words as you want, about any relevant topic to promote yourself and your business.
That’s not to say that your blogs should be a relentless sales pitch. In fact, sales talk should be kept to a minimum. Instead, you want people who read your blog to think, “Wow, if they give this much knowledge and value for free, imagine how much more I would get as a paying customer!”
Get your approach right and blogs are one of most powerful content types to turn readers into customers.
Regular blogging of useful and original content that includes SEO keywords can build up a reserve of knowledge on your site for your customers. This reinforces your expertise and your brand and makes you more visible on any Google searches. And with 60% of business marketers saying that regular blogging is one of their main content marketing priorities , you can see how much importance blogs receive.
While we’re on the subject of blogs, a handy tip is to always include internal links to related content in your articles. This ties topics together for readers, as well as encouraging them to spend longer on your site and read a greater number of web pages – both two signals to Google that you’re providing high quality content that deserves better rankings.
The flip side to blogs for your own site is a guest blog for someone else’s site. If you’re invited (or offer) to write a guest blog, this gives you a fantastic opportunity to get your content in front of a whole new audience and widen your online reach.
You can even syndicate your existing content to third party content syndication sites to reach new audiences and further boost brand awareness and authority.
No one likes to read blogs or any other online content in one solid block of copy. Your readers will very soon lose interest if it looks like too much effort to get to the end. Instead, text should be easy to skim read so that visitors can assess what it’s about at a glance.
Images are a great way to break things up and make content more interesting for your readers.
Hubspot claim that content that includes relevant images or visuals can get 94% more views than content that doesn’t. Put that together with content that includes your SEO keywords and you’re onto a winning strategy.
You should optimise your images as well so they include your keyword(s), alt text and a description so they add to your SEO arsenal.
Images are a useful addition to your web content in more ways than one – they can help explain an idea, get your point across or serve as a natural ‘end point’ to a section of your content.
Infographics are a powerful visual content type that can work well for most businesses.
Why are infographics so successful in content marketing? Search Engine Journal suggest that 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual and 40% of people respond better to a visual than they do to plain text.
Using infographics can be a good way to cut down on your written content if you need to. As they’re virtually self-contained, you may need little dialogue beyond a brief explanation. This makes them perfect for sharing across social media such as Twitter and Pinterest.
If you’ve got stats or data that are genuinely helpful to your cause, then infographics will get technical or detailed information across in one bite-sized, easily understood graphic.
Recognised as a slice of content marketing that can increase conversions by 80% on your landing page, videos should definitely be included in your marketing strategy.
Stats show that a massive 64-85% of users are more likely to make a purchase after viewing a video online and a whopping 92% of people who watch online videos share them across social media. So, if building your audience on solid ground is your aim, online video is the game.
There are no rules as to what your video could or should include, but timing is key. For the best results, your video length should be somewhere between 30 and 120 seconds. This makes it easy to watch in its entirety and easily shareable on social media.
Again, any content should be of value to your audience, so videos are ideal for a business overview, how-to guides, testimonials or just an introduction to your brand story.
Podcasts are all the rage right now. These online audio broadcasts offer the perfect way for busy people to access information about their favourite topics, even when they’re on the go.
People listen to podcasts while they’re relaxing at home, doing the housework or cooking, as well as on the school run or their daily commute, or while out jogging or working out.
There are currently more than 850,000 active podcasts to choose from and more than 30 million episodes. A staggering 82.4% of podcast listeners spend more than seven hours a week listening to podcasts.
Podcasts offer you a different way to reach your audience and provide a high level of convenience. People who may not have time to watch a video or read a blog may well opt to listen to a podcast at the same time as doing something else.
Many businesses record weekly podcasts featuring interviews, insights, education, news round ups, etc.
What could your podcast be about?
- Social media content
Any content you post on your business’s social media profiles/pages falls under the heading of content marketing.
You can use social media to share images, branded memes, blogs, text statuses/tweets, videos, infographics, podcasts, quizzes and more.
Again, you should be constantly asking, “What does my audience want to see? What will they find helpful and of value?”
Everything that you share on social media should be on-brand. Even if it doesn’t say your business name anywhere, it should look like the content all comes from the same source, reflecting the values at the heart of your business.
If you choose to share content from other sources, it should still be in keeping with your brand rather than sharing unrelated content for sharing’s sake.
- Paid/sponsored ads
It could also be argued that some paid or sponsored ads representing your business fall under the heading of content marketing too.
Again, your ads should resonate with your target audience and lead them to a landing page on your website, for example, that has genuine value to the people you want to reach.
- Product descriptions
Every piece of content that you write and publish counts as marketing, and this includes product or service descriptions.
Just like your blog and all the other forms of content listed above, these should be written to appeal to your target audience, giving them all the information they need to decide whether your products or services meet their specific need.
The best product descriptions are those that reflect the overall business brand, communicate value and answer customers’ questions before they’ve even thought to ask them.
- Other content types
We’ve only just scratched the surface of types of content that you could use to strengthen your marketing and your online presence.
You might also want to consider ebooks, case studies, webinars, e-newsletters, product guides, how-to guides, testimonials, games, demo videos and special offers as just a few examples.
Developing your content marketing strategy
Before you can decide what content you want to create to market your business, you’ll need to map out your content marketing strategy.
Many businesses create content on an ad hoc basis with no real sense of where it fits in and what it’s meant to achieve. This makes it hard to measure how effective it is and whether it’s giving you a decent return on your investment (ROI).
With this is mind, it’s essential to create a carefully thought out content marketing strategy covering the following points:
- Your goals
What are your overall goals for your business? Do you have goals mapped out for the next 12 months, five years and ten years, for example?
Above all, your content should serve your overarching goals for your business, as well as some shorter-term goals.
Do you want to grow brand awareness by a certain percentage? Do you want to make 25% more sales this year than last year? Do you want to set up a reward scheme for your loyal customers?
Your goals will help you pinpoint the most appropriate and effective forms of content for your purpose.
For example, to grow brand awareness, you might decide to blog more regularly, create branded images and stories for Instagram, publish an ebook, or video your brand story. Whereas, to increase sales, you might write a new FAQs page on your website, video product walkthroughs or add manuals to your product descriptions.
It’s always a good idea to make your goals SMART as you’re more likely to see them through. This means ensuring they’re:
In other words, instead of a ‘fluffy’ broad goal like, “I want to raise brand awareness”, a SMART goal would be, “Over the next 12 weeks, I want to raise brand awareness in order to attract 100 more followers on Instagram. I will do this by creating branded images, testimonials and a video of the story behind my business”.
- The data you plan to monitor
It’s important to track how your content is performing so that you can build up a more accurate picture of what your customers respond to (and what they don’t).
This will also help you to determine whether you’re spending your content marketing budget in the most effective way.
Once you know your goals, you will have a better idea about what data to track to measure them.
For example, if you have brand awareness goals, you might want to track your number of social media followers across all the platforms you use, subscription/mailing list sign-ups or online mentions.
If, though, your goals are around growing brand loyalty, you might want to measure your percentage of repeat customers, online reviews or referrals.
- The customer journey
As we’ve talked about above, the type of content you create will depend on your goals and your audience.
There’s something else to consider too. Every customer goes through a journey that starts the moment they become aware of your business for the first time and continues (potentially, for years) long after they’ve made their first purchase.
Broadly speaking, the journey covers four main phases: Discovery/Awareness, Consideration, Conversion, and Retention/Loyalty.
Along this journey, there are multiple points where you can help to grow the relationship between a potential customer and your business. But different content is appropriate for different stages of this journey.
For example, a lot of content obviously sits in the Discovery phase: blogs, guides, ebooks, webinars, videos, podcasts, and email newsletters can all be used to help potential customers discover your business.
But there are plenty of content options for the later stages in the customer journey too; case studies, demos and product guides are perfect for people in the Consideration stage, where potential customers are weighing up their choices of what to buy.
As we can see, while planning your content marketing strategy, you’ll need to pinpoint, not only how content fits with your goals, but also where it sits on the client journey.
- The types of content you plan to create
Having considered points 1-3, your next task is to drill down to the types of content you want to produce.
Remember, the key here is to provide content that reflects your brand consistently and that offers genuine value to your customers.
You’ll need to think about:
- What your target audience needs from you
- Why they’re looking for from your products/services
- How you can help them to overcome a problem or achieve an aspiration
- What they will be looking for at each stage in the customer journey and how you can give it to them
Armed with this information, you can begin to draw up an editorial calendar for your content, so you know what to produce, when and why.
- How you plan to share your content
Your website and various social media platforms each suit different types of content. Therefore, your content marketing strategy will need to include how and where you plan to distribute your content, based on where you know your audience will be.
- Your budget
You will need to set your content marketing budget based on various factors. Who will create your content? Will it be done in-house or outsourced? Will you be running ads? Will you be paying to boost the visibility of social media posts?
If you have a limited budget or you’ll be creating the content yourself and you’re short on time, think about how you can create ‘evergreen’ content, i.e. stuff that won’t go out of date or need regularly updating.
For example, an on-page SEO guide would have a much longer shelf life than a blog making SEO predictions for the next six months. Yes, both articles would have value but I would probably get more long-term mileage out of the less time-sensitive guide.
- Who will create, review and revise
With your content marketing strategy complete, all that remains is to confirm who will be creating each piece of content, your editorial calendar, who will be tracking its performance (and how) and what you will do with this information, i.e. how you will revise and refine what you create.
Do you have existing content?
If yours is an established business and you’ve already created content in the past, it’s worth carrying out a content audit.
This will help you to spot:
- Content that your audience loves
- Gaps in your content
- Content that needs updating, deleting or rewriting
- SEO issues/weaknesses/areas for improvement
- Internal linking opportunities
- Duplicate or thin content
It could be that you already have some fantastic content at your disposal. A content audit can help you ensure that you’re using it to its full potential.
There are always ways to get more mileage out of your existing content. This will help you to make the most of your budget and tap into longer-term benefits of content marketing.
The cornerstone of any hardworking website
As we’ve seen, content marketing is the cornerstone of any hardworking website.
By creating quality and genuinely useful content for your audience, whichever methods you choose, it’s the best way to get that all-important traffic to your website. An increase in your visits won’t happen immediately but, by using these tactics, you’ll gain traction over a period of months and your rankings will improve considerably.
What areas of content marketing do you think will work best for you? If you’ve already used some of them, which ones gave you the stats you were looking for? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Hazel Jarrett, director of SEO at SEO+, is well-known in the SEO space, has won many awards during her 20-year career and has been published on various well-known sites. Through her services and training programs, her SEO strategies have generated 10s of millions of sales for her clients, earning her a big reputation for delivering the results that matter.
Want to follow Hazel on social media? You’ll find her via the icons below.