Content marketing is the new normal when it comes to digital marketing. This is the single most powerful strategy for increasing awareness for a brand and bringing more eyes to a website. In this post, we will explore the concept of content marketing in greater detail, so that you can better understand the benefits of this methodology and why it is in many ways superior to other options.
Content marketing is a form of Online Marketing that bears a large amount in common with other forms of marketing such as SEO and social media marketing. In fact, in many ways, content marketing can be thought of as being a natural extension of those approaches.
With SEO (search engine optimization), the objective is to get a website to the top of the SERPs (search engine results pages). This is an important objective for any marketing campaign, seeing as Google is often where we start when looking for any kind of content. If you want to buy a hat, you will probably first navigate to Google and then search for ‘buy hats online’ or ‘buy hats in [area]’. If you can secure yourself a position at the top of the results that come up, then you can greatly increase the amount of traffic you get to your page and therefore (hopefully) greatly increase the amount of sales that you make and the amount of profit that you can generate.
So how did SEO and social media marketing evolve into content marketing? What are the differences? And why is this such an important distinction to understand? In this post, we’ll find out.
Once upon a time, SEO was a very simple and only really involved
This worked because Google used content on websites to look for matches when someone would search for a specific phrase. So, if someone were to search for ‘buy hats online’ and you had a lot of content on your website all about buying hats, and it included repetitious use of the words ‘buy hats online’, then you would end up getting to the top of the SERPs – especially if you also had paid lots of other websites to link to you.
Notice the importance of content here. While the keyphrases and the links play a big role in helping Google index and prioritize the site, you are always going to need to have content on your site for it to index in the first place. This is what gives you the opportunity to use those keyphrases in the right setting and it is also ultimately what Google is actually looking for.
And why is Google looking for content? Simple: because the users are looking for content. Google’s purpose is to help people find what they want on the web, and normally if you’re searching for something online, that’s because you want information, entertainment or another form of content. Content is effectively the currency of the web in that sense.
This fact actually resulted in something of a phrase emerging, that being: content is king. It simply meant that without content, a website couldn’t thrive.
But in these early, Wild West days of the internet, there was no requirement that this content actually be any good. All Google required at this point was that content be abundant and that it use lots of keywords over and over again.
And this led to people abusing the system. People would literally churn out as much content as they humanly could and would stuff it to the brim with keyphrases and key words. At this point they had no interest in ensuring that said content was high quality and often the keyword stuffing as it was known would end up leaving the content completely unreadable.
Google responded by altering its algorithms in order to penalize those sites that would add content with no regard for quality. Keyword stuffing was punished, as were other misdemeanours such as using ‘duplicate content’ (content that had been stolen).
Google also started to reward longer-form content and even content with links out to other useful resources.
And it has adapted further in the years that followed. Since then, Google has adopted an entirely new algorithm that goes by the name ‘rank brain’. This is a method that utilizes machine learning in order to better understand the way humans speak and thereby to identify content that is ‘well written’.
Google now looks for content that includes not only keywords but also related terms. This is called latent semantic indexing.
Partly, this change is also driven by Google’s new focus on AI. Google describes itself as an ‘AI-First’ company and what it means by this, is that it is putting machine-learning and AI products front and center. The most obvious example of this, is the fantastic ‘Google Assistant’. Google Assistant now allows us to speak to Google directly. Instead of typing ‘buy hats online’, we can now say ‘hey Google, where can I buy hats online’?
This somewhat nerfs the entire concept of keywords and ensures that Google now rewards natural language. Write for humans and not for machines.
Meanwhile, marketers also started to twig that they could bring in traffic without relying on Google at all. While Google is a highly useful tool for bringing in traffic, it still means relying on a third party (that being Google itself) which does not make for a highly resilient business model.
When Google changed its algorithms as described here, it resulted in thousands of businesses losing a huge amount of money. They were penalized for practices that had once been encouraged and for many, that meant dropping immediately from the top of the SERPs to several pages back.
This demonstrated the folly of relying solely on Google clearly. Google could choose to change its algorithms at any time.
But what’s better? Social media marketing is one other option but even this relies on third parties – even more so in fact. When you use Facebook or Twitter, you are relying on those social sites not to instantly delete your account. In fact, this writer felt the effects of this possibility very starkly. I once owned a Facebook page that had hundreds of thousands of followers. It was useful for marketing my other sites and was probably worth a lot more than I realized at the time even.
But then one day, I went to log in and it was missing. Facebook had simply deleted my page. And I never got an answer as to why.
So, what’s the better option? Simple: to build fans. To build a direct audience that will come back to your site because they love the content. Remember, this is the main thing people look for on the web. If you can demonstrate that you are able to inform, entertain and inspire on a regular basis, then eventually, you are likely to build up your audience and you are likely to find that people come back to your site of their own accord because they want more of the same.
So, they might find you the first time because of Google (thanks to your content) but then they will eventually keep coming back thanks to the quality of the content on its own.
At the same time, content will allow you to develop trust and authority. If your articles help people to find the answers to questions they’re looking for, if they demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about etc. then eventually this means that they’re going to be much more likely to buy from you. They will feel they know you and they will feel you know what you’re talking about… so of course they’d much rather buy an ebook from you than from a stranger. Of course, they’d much rather hire your writing services!
Even when you do use social media marketing, this is still going to be reliant on content. Because what is the number one way that you provide value through your social media channels? Simple: you share posts from your Facebook or from your Twitter as a cheap form of Content Seeding.
So almost every form of marketing relies on content and at the same time, content can be enough to bring people to your site of its own accord. That is the power of content marketing.
So that’s the theory. But how does it work in practice?
What many optimistic (and frankly naÃ¯ve) marketers think, is that they can simply write a few posts on their website, and this will result in traffic coming to their site and bookmarking their page.
Of course, this is not the case and it will usually require multiple interactions for you to convince someone that they should subscribe to your site.
Normally this works as follows:
Either way, they probably still won’t subscribe to your site or bookmark the page yet. The objective at this point is to get to the point where they now seek you out for content and information.
In other words, if your site is a fitness site called ‘MuscleLand.com’, then the next time they want to know about muscle fibre recruitment, or getting great abs, they might search for:
‘muscle fibre recruitment MuscleLand.com’
‘get great abs MuscleLand.com’
The point is that you’re now at the point where they trust your advice more than others, or they enjoy your advice more than others. And that is the point you are trying to reach!
This is also the point at which you are now much better poised to make a sale of something. Let’s say you’ve been writing about web design for weeks and you’re now at the point where many audience members are seeking out your advice over that of other content creators. If you’re at this point, then that means that you’re going to be much better poised to sell your web design skills. Because why wouldn’t someone choose the one creator that they trusted more than anyone else to tell them about web design to design their own website?
But this takes time and it takes repeated exposure to excellent, high-quality content.
And eventually, the reader may subscribe. Eventually, they may get to the point where they are now a ‘fan’ rather than simply someone who has been impressed with your brand.
So how do you create incredible content that will bring someone to this point?
The first and most important thing is to write about your passion and write about something that you know and love. The biggest mistake that countless marketers make is to a choose a niche to enter that is simply one they believe they can make a lot of sales in.
In other words, they think ‘here’s a niche with a large potential audience’ and they then start creating content regardless of whether or not they have any real interest in it.
Anyone can write about fitness right? All you need to do is to find some articles and then basically rewrite them to fit your needs?
Or better yet, why not just hire someone to write your content?
The truth is that this doesn’t work. While this content will be serviceable and will certainly do the job, remember that your aim here is to create content that people will seek out over others. The aim is to create content that is so well written that people want to bookmark your page.
And this really comes down to you making really interesting and unique points. Every piece of content – just like any good product – should have a USP. A Unique Selling Point. Why would someone choose to read this piece of content over any other? Normally it comes down to the fact that you have something really fresh and unique to say.
And how do you ensure you have something fresh and unique to say? Simple: you know and love the topic so much that you’re able to research and pick out new and unique points. And when someone else who loves the topic sees you have something new to say, they’ll hopefully click on your link.
Conversely though, if all you are doing is rehashing old content and writing uninspired articles that have been written hundreds of times before, then you just aren’t going to inspire anyone to click.
There’s more to it than that though too. Creating stunning images to go with the written content for instance is also important. This helps not only to elevate the writing on the page, but also to demonstrate your creative skills and raise the first impression for those landing on the page (retaining your audience this way is one of the biggest objectives and challenges of content marketing).
In terms of length, Google now states that it prefers longer content. That means content that is 800-2,000 words long. Links out to useful resources are recommended and if possible, the objective is for your content to become a ‘resource’ post on the subject matter that it is addressing. All this should be part of your Content Strategy.