SEO.co is a Seattle-based SEO & content marketing agency. We specialize in link building services, a form of off-site content marketing, which we’ll cover here shortly, and we work with companies of all sizes to plan and execute link building and content marketing strategies.
Alright, let’s dig into the good stuff. In this webinar we’re going to cover the following topics:
I actually got the idea for this webinar after conducting a survey and learning that the majority of SEO.co’s audience wants to learn more about content writing—it was the highest-requested topic that we cover in 2016, so I figured, where better to start than at the ground level?
So, this is content marketing 101, and the first thing I want to do is talk about the concept of content marketing, because it might be a little bit different than what you’re used to, or what you thought content marketing was.
Obviously, content marketing is all about content.
This graphic includes 9 different examples of content, and there are probably dozens more still. “Content” can mean written content, visual content, video content, audio content— really, anything that communicates with your customers and holds some sort of value. We’ll dig a little deeper into what constitutes that “value” later on, but for now this is a good working definition.
The goals of content marketing are to make your brand more powerful and visible, resulting in higher conversion rates, more traffic, more leads, and more sales. In essence, we’re just talking about higher traffic and higher conversion rates, which are the two elements of the online revenue formula.
But there are a few misconceptions that lead people astray when it comes to content marketing.
The first is that there’s a formula to content marketing that works for everyone.
Some people have been pitched the idea as a fad, or a kind of gimmick, where some agency or expert has told them content marketing is a guaranteed path to success for any business. There are a lot of objective benefits that almost any company can take advantage of, but this line of thinking implies that content is a straightforward, plug-and-play type concept, and it’s not.
It demands a lot of hard work and adjustment over time—and because every company is different, there really is no set formula that works 100 percent of the time. There are some major considerations and useful strategies that any business can implement, but there really is a trial-and-error component to a lot of this.
Another major misconception is that content marketing is a standalone or isolated strategy, and again, this isn’t really the case. Technically, you could stand to benefit with just a blog, or just a whitepaper series, but the true power of content marketing is better unlocked when it’s made an integral component of a much wider web of interrelated strategies.
For example, content marketing can work closely in conjunction with an SEO strategy; if you know how to optimize content for search engines, you’ll end up ranking higher for more keywords, and appearing in search results for more keywords overall, which will increase the visibility of your content. Knowing the ins and outs of social media marketing gives your content more reach, increasing its value even further. Email marketing, even paid advertising—there are a lot of options here to expand the reach of your content.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the benefits that content marketing has to offer the average business.
The benefits of content marketing are more than just giving your customers more value, and it can actually improve your business in several different areas. Obviously, the bottom line is getting more money and more customers, but there are both direct and indirect paths to those goals.
Brand visibility. Brand visibility is about how much exposure your brand is getting. Just having your name in front of more people, and top-of-mind to a wider portion of your target demographics is valuable. It means people will be more likely to buy from you when it comes time to make a decision, and may even help you get some word-of-mouth attention. You’ll get this by publishing more content in more places and getting it shared in bigger and bigger circles.
Brand reputation. Brand reputation is similar, but distinct from brand visibility. Rather than a sheer volume of attention your brand is getting, reputation is about what people think of you. So with good, informative content, people are going to see you as more authoritative in your industry. You have this kind of subtle way of bragging through content—look at how much of an authority we are on this subject! Look at how much we love our customers! And since it’s indirect, not an advertisement, people trust it more.
More time spent on-site. Publishing more content for your website makes your website bigger, with more indexed pages in search engines. And as long as you keep your readers interested, more is better. It means the average user’s going to spend more time hopping between your pages, learning more about your brand, and you’ll have more opportunities to eventually nail down a conversion. Speaking of which…
Higher conversion rate. Conversions are where you make your money, so obviously the more you get, the better. You might have a landing page or contact page, or product pages doing a lot of the work for you here, but don’t underestimate the power of a call-to-action in a well-written blog article, or Youtube video, or podcast radio show. Do this consistently, and your conversions will go way up. But content marketing doesn’t just give you more opportunities for conversions, it actually increases the rate at which visitors convert, because it strengthens the credibility, authority, and trustworthiness of your brand.
SEO visibility and traffic. So, there are a couple of search effects that come with a good content marketing strategy. First, as you’re publishing more content, you’ll have more pages on your website, which is going to make your site more relevant for a wider range of search queries.
I like to think of every new published page of content as like dropping another hook in the water. The more you have, the more opportunities for “bites” you have from search engines! But if the page is the hook, then the bait is the quality of the content itself; and without good bait, you won’t catch any keepers. So don’t try to publish content with the mindset of only getting as many hooks in the water as you can – the better the bait, or quality of that content, the better the catch will be.
The other main SEO benefit is the inbound links and brand mentions, which can be linked or unlinked, that result from content marketing. Much of your content marketing is going to happen off-site, which I call off-site content marketing, so that presents this opportunity for you to link back to your own domain. Even unlinked mentions of your brand name are thought to have an impact on SEO.
Referral traffic. Those same links and mentions can result in really good referral traffic over time. I’ve found that providing links to relevant articles or eBooks on SEO.co within the context of other articles I’ve written is a great way to drive referral traffic.
Social traffic. Social traffic works very much the same way. As people read and share your content, you’ll see traffic from those social media channels.
Greater customer retention. This is especially true for certain industries, like SaaS, where your customers need more information to stay engaged with your brand, such as new strategies, or even help and troubleshooting guides. Give your users what they want and what they need, and they’ll stay loyal for life—and as we all know, customer retention is crucial for long-term growth.
Now, there’s one more major benefit to content marketing, but it kind of warrants its own section, so I’ve got it on another slide here.
Okay, so here we have the principle of compounding interest as it applies to content marketing. In my opinion, this is what really separates content marketing from the pack in terms of different marketing strategies. Now, in the financial world, you have this principle of “compound interest,” where you earn interest on an investment, let’s say, at a consistent rate, but every time you earn interest, you’re actually earning interest both on your principal investment and the other interest you’ve already earned. This creates an exponential growth curve, rather than a linear one, which results in tremendously better long-term benefits.
Now, here’s a graph that shows ROI from traditional paid advertising, where you’re paying for clicks, visits, or even just impressions—and the price you pay doesn’t really change much. You earn X value for every Y dollar you invest, and then the transaction is complete. Maybe you retain some of those clients you earned, depending on what type of service or product you offer, but once you stop funding the ad, it disappears entirely and any traffic from it stops immediately.
Comparing the two graphs, you can see that PPC has the advantage for short-term value, but content marketing is the clear winner when it comes to long-term value.
With content marketing, you have a couple principles that make content closer to a compound interest returning investment than a linear one.
First, you have this concept of permanence. In a traditional ad campaign, it stays up for as long as you pay for the ad, but when you stop funding it, it goes away forever. in content marketing, you produce a piece of content, share it, perhaps throw a small marketing budget towards it to get eyeballs on it, and then you never have to spend any more effort or money on it—but it keeps earning you traffic, leads, sales, and all the other benefits we talked about over time, especially if you syndicate it after its initial publication (I’ll get into that more later).
Second, you have this ballooning effect of popularity. When you first start out, nobody’s really going to know who you are, but eventually you’ll develop a reputation, people will recognize your brand, or your name, if you decide to use your personal brand, and you’ll start to build a steady readership and social media connections with your readers and other influencers. Over time, every new piece you publish, even if you put the same amount of effort into it as your other pieces, is inherently more valuable because you’ll be able to leverage a pre-existing and constantly growing audience and network of other influencers.
Think of a site like TechCrunch or Mashable, who can publish a single article about just about anything, and get hundreds or thousands of social media shares. It’s not necessarily because the content was so amazing that it deserved that many shares, it’s just because those brands have developed the loyal readerships, trust, and influencer networks that balloon the power of every piece of content they publish.
Collectively, these factors make it so content marketing pays off in a non-linear growth pattern, which means its long-term returns are just amazing.
Your sense of scale and ballooning authority are valuable at the later stages of growth, but when you first start out, you’re going to feel like you’re on an island. You’re going to have very few (if any) readers and a very (very) small audience. There’s no getting around this. Content marketing is the best strategy for long-term payoffs, but in the short-term, it’s unlikely to give you instant results. You’ve got to be committed and patient for this to work.
As you continue your campaign, and your content catches the interest of readers through paid or organic channels, you’ll grow your audience steadily. Think of it as building roads and bridges to the island you started on.
Alright, now let’s take a look at how you can actually build a strategy like this. I’m going to be breaking this down into a few main sections, but the two most prominent are ‘on-site’ and ‘off-site’ content.
So your on-site content is everything that you have on your website itself. Now, there are a few main considerations you’ll have for the type of content you’ll want to provide here:
Original. You want to make sure that nobody else has done this before. If you publish something that someone else has already covered, people aren’t going to have any reason to read it. So, how can you make it original? That’s up to you. Do some original research, come up with a unique idea, experiment with something new—just make it stand out by making it different.
Practical. I could write about how much I love ice cream, but nobody needs to know that. However, people do need to know about content marketing and how to start up their own content campaigns. On some level, your content should be practical for your audience—give them advice, tools, or information that’s useful to them.
Detailed. Nobody wants that fluffy content where there are a lot of words on the page, maybe, but it’s not really saying anything useful. Give your readers concrete examples, creative illustrations, and specific data points. The more detailed you are, the better.
Engaging. You can have good content that still isn’t engaging—you need to grab your readers’ attentions and get them really invested in your content. You can do this by making it more visual, or making it more entertaining. The real key here is to make your content more approachable overall.
Consistent. I don’t mean blog writing the same thing every week, because obviously you still need to be original, but there has to be some kind of similar thread between your content—the same voice, the same style, the same realm of expertise—give your readers something they can grow familiar and become comfortable with. That will keep them coming back for more.
These are the five main areas you’ll really want to zero in on, and they apply to your off-site content, too.
Your on-site content is where you’ve got to start. Nobody’s going to start accepting guest posts and submissions from you or your brand until you have some published proof of your content’s quality and your brand’s expertise. You can’t just show up claiming you’re an expert; you have to show people that you know what you’re talking about, and usually that means building up a cache of on-site content, sort of like a resume.
On-site content also gives you more creative liberties than external publishers will. There are no requirements to follow (other than the ones you set), and you won’t be limited in terms of how often you want to publish, word counts, things you can and can’t say, etc.
Beyond that, on-site content gives you all kinds of opportunities for customer acquisition and retention—you’ll be able to include more calls to action, give your customers more value for their money, and really just strengthen your current customers’ perceptions of who your brand is and how good your products and services are.
The best way to publish on-site content is with a blog on your website, and that’s why I’ve pictured the SEO blog here. Make your blog your content hub. I recommend using WordPress because it’s very user-friendly, and can be augmented with a ton of useful plugins.
Off-site content, on the other hand, is a different animal in terms of the steps you need to take to execute it.
The basic idea of off-site content is to publish content on behalf of your brand (usually a personal brand) on other publications. These publishers should be related to your industry or somehow reach your target audience. It’s a long, slow, methodical process to guest post on some publications, but there are a ton of benefits to doing so.
What you see here is my author profile and archive at Inc.com, one of the places I contribute occasional columns. The visibility you can get for your personal brand and your company brand when you’re represented on national publications like this is well worth the effort.
Off-site content is where you’ll get the real brand visibility and reputation boosts; getting your brand’s content featured on reputable publications within your industry will improve your brand awareness, trust, credibility, conversion rates, and all the other benefits we covered previously as well.
Off-site content is also a perfect opportunity to build links that point back to your website. These pass trust and authority to your site, which makes your site rank higher in search engines for relevant queries.
Now, obviously, there are a few challenges to off-site content that on-site content just doesn’t have. You can write good content, sure, but meeting the quality, tone, formatting, and other requirements of external publishers can be a headache. But if you keep at it consistently, and you build your reputation as a great content producer, you’ll easily be able to overcome those challenges.
Okay, so we’ve talked on-site content and off-site content, and I’ve mentioned that one of the most important factors for content of any type is visibility.
Your job, with any content you produce, should be to maximize its readership in whatever way you can. Over time, that’s gonna mean building up an audience of loyal followers or readers, so that every new follower you earn is another new reader for every piece of content you publish and syndicate thereafter.
There are a few keys to doing this successfully: Post regularly, respond, engage, and incorporate feedback. Let’s discuss each of these briefly.
Post regularly. People aren’t going to follow your brand or subscribe to your page unless you’re posting new content on a regular basis.
Respond. Alright, remember the “social” in social media. If you want people to stick around, you need to show them that you’re listening as well as talking. When someone reaches out to you, or mentions your post, or asks you a question, respond quickly and be personal about it. Show that you really are a person behind the brand.
Engage. If you want new readers, you need to find them and get in front of them. That means being a part of more external conversations, and quite possibly, reaching out to new individuals you think might be interested in your material (at least at first).
Incorporate feedback. Your users aren’t going to like everything you post, but you need to use their feedback to constantly make your content better. This is going to make all your content better, which is awesome, but more importantly it shows that you value your audience and their feedback.
For now, I want to address this idea of getting started from scratch, which I’ll admit, definitely isn’t easy. When you’re launching a new campaign, you’ll have no followers, no external publications, no blog, and heavy investment before you start seeing any meaningful results.
So, where and how do you actually get started? I recommend starting with your on-site blog. Let’s say you reach out to a new publisher to get some of your material featured. Where do you think they’ll look first to see if you’re the real deal? Probably your company blog. Let’s say you reach out to an influencer in your industry on Twitter. After they check out your tweets, where are they going to look next? Probably your blog. So, as soon as possible, fill that blog up with the best content you can muster—think of it as a kind of resume you’ll use to get your foot in the door for all the off-site content marketing you’re going to do.
From there, start with relationships you might already have, even if they’re not that strong or relevant. For example, you might have a connection on LinkedIn with an editor who works for the trade magazine you wish you could get featured in. Work your network to get an introduction, or introduce yourself through LinkedIn or email. Start small, and work your way up to bigger and better publishers and connections. It takes time and persistence, so don’t expect it to come all at once, and don’t give up when your outreach goes unanswered. Use Boomerang for Gmail to remind you when someone hasn’t replied to your email after a few days so you can reach back out to check in. Be persistent and don’t give up until you get an answer, whether it’s “yes” or “no.”
In the same way, you can leverage the people you already know to give your social media profiles a leg to stand on. I’m talking about your friends, your family members, your employees—whoever you can get to follow your social media profiles. Now, social media isn’t a numbers game—you don’t just want any followers, you want good followers with the potential to actually become customers. But when you’re first starting out, people may judge you based on those numbers, so give yourself a starting platform here with some initial followers or likes.
Also, when you publish and syndicate new material, have these people share it with their own friends and followers—it’s the fastest way to start picking up some new connections. Don’t be afraid to ask for follows and likes!
There’s one final but super important point I want to make. Your readership isn’t just a mass of people to broadcast your content to—they’re independent thinkers with thoughts and feelings on your material, and you’d do well to listen to them. You have to nurture your relationship with your audience if you want your readers to stay loyal. That means giving them the best possible content you can, and readily addressing their needs, concerns, and questions.
There should also be a degree of escalation in all your relationships, not just with your audience. Your publishers, your influencers, your readers, all of it—if you want to keep your momentum moving forward, you have to steadily increase your overall investments.
I still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface about what content marketing is and how to do it effectively. I’ve touched on the basics about what makes a good post, or about how content marketing affects SEO, or how to syndicate your content to best serve your audience. These are all topics that merit their own webinars, but I’m hoping this introductory lesson was more than enough to cover the kind of “start to finish” or “10,000 foot view” I wanted to achieve.
If you like this discussion and want more in-depth resources on content marketing, be sure to check out these guides from SEO.co: