Companies in every industry are fighting for new customers and clients. They need to get noticed – a low cost way to drive business and improve revenue. It’s a tough economy with a limited number of potential customers and a considerable amount of competition. For a company to succeed, it needs to attract as many customers as possible.
Only ten or so years ago, traditional methods of marketing included:
- Television and newspaper advertising
- Direct mail campaigns
- Yellow pages
- Word of mouth
- Storefront sign
For the most part, the “old-school” of marketing consisted of two strategies:
- Paid Temporary Advertisements – Paid ads and marketing campaigns with a finite lifespan.
- Free Limited Marketing – Storefront signs and other free methods of marketing with a very limited reach.
Neither of these was particularly effective. Advertising was expensive and not a long term strategy. One television spot could cost $2,000 or more, and once it was over it was over. Either pay another $2,000 or call it quits on TV.
Free methods were more cost efficient, but extremely limiting. A storefront sign is still a great way to get free business, but potential customers need to walk/drive by your store and be enticed into entering. A bad location, bad parking, or simple bad luck and you cut your potential clientele down to zero.
The Internet Has Changed Marketing
There is still a place for television advertisements, storefront signs, etc., but the invention of search engines has made the Internet the most effective method of marketing for many businesses, and right now, the most efficient efficient form of online marketing is content marketing.
Online Marketing Methods
There are several ways to market online that are similar to traditional marketing methods, but ultimately provide better value. These include:
- Pay Per Click Marketing – With Pay Per Click, you pay search engines for each click of a targeted keyword. You can get a lot of targeted traffic this way so you’re not wasting dollars on non-customers like you may be with offline advertising.
- Ad Space – This involves purchasing ad space on a relevant website. You can create an image ad, buy a space on a website catering to your target audience, and invite targeted visitors to visit your site.
- Affiliate Marketing – A very simple and very profitable way to recruit an army of marketers that will drive traffic to your website. Pay a percentage commission for each sale they help generate and you can scale your marketing rapidly.
- Content Marketing – Instead of going to people and asking them to visit your site, you create highly valuable content that engages readers and becomes highly ranked in search engines. It can be text content like blog posts and free reports or videos for YouTube or your landing pages.
But even these strategies have flaws. Pay per click marketing is still very temporary and can be a money sink if you don’t know what terms to target or neglect to track the effects of your campaigns.
PPC ads are generally ignored these days, affiliate marketing requires careful oversight, and purchasing ad space is harder because of ad blockers and high conversion techniques used on sites where you place those ads.
The one online marketing tool that has worked well for years and continues to work well is content marketing. It works well for small businesses, marketing companies, SEO firms and big corporations alike because all customers and prospects have one thing in common – they need something and if you can give it to them for free, they’ll keep coming back.
How Does Content Marketing Work?
The key to a successful business is ensuring you rank well in search engines.
A website that ranks well in search engines receives free, targeted traffic that lasts for months or years instead of just days. These websites bring in exponentially more leads than with previous marketing methods.
SEO or “search engine optimization” refers to any method used to rank a site in Google, Yahoo! or Bing for a specific keyword. All of these search engines have algorithms that use many factors to decide where your website should rank.
Some websites rank on the front page and receive thousands of hits. Some websites rank on page 35 and receive one hit a month. It all depends on whether or not you have built a website that is valued by (aka “optimized for”) search engine algorithms.
In the past, SEO involved countless tricks and techniques. Keywords were used at high densities on landing pages. Links were created linking to sites to “trick” Google into thinking they were very popular. As you can imagine, anything automated or DIY quickly became a hotbed for spammers.
The websites that showed up on the front page of Google for various keywords were often terrible websites that delivered very little value to the visitor, but used a lot of search engine tricks to get ahead.
It didn’t take long before search engines wised up and realized that what makes a good website isn’t the volume of links pointing at it or the number of times a terms appears in the content.
A good website is one that provides real value to a visitor – one that answers the questions that visitors are asking, and what they’re hoping to find when they type a search phrase into a search engine.
Enter content marketing.
What these search engines realized is that the best websites all had one thing in common: interesting, unique content.
By content, we’re talking about anything that is of interest to a reader. For example:
- Informative articles
- Blog posts
- News articles
- Facebook and Twitter Posts
- Home page/service pages
“Content” is anything that gives your website depth. It’s what people are looking for when they visit a site. When someone performs a search, they’re not looking for a spammy single page website that happened to use search engine optimization techniques.
They’re looking for a website with real depth – with articles that help them learn what they need, words that tell them what they’re looking for or how to answer their questions, and information that will keep them on the page.
So search engines have changed the way they value websites. Rather than reward websites that offer no value simply but that used SEO marketing techniques, search engines now reward websites that have a lot of useful, interesting, and unique content.
That is the heart of content marketing. Content marketing is the act of developing a website that is so full of information that search engines rank it high in their results, and you get the free hits that come from it.
There are other components – your content needs to be talked about, so a good content marketing plan includes strategies to drive engagement and retain visitors when they land on your site.
A good content marketing plan still involves generating links to your site through guest blog posts and a select number of high value marketing tactics that still work quite well.
But at its core, it’s still all about the content.
Other Benefits of Content Marketing
Content marketing isn’t just about getting your website ranked well in Google. There are tons of other benefits, including:
- Individual Page Hits – Every piece of content you write has the potential to get visitors. Content marketing involves writing many articles about things that are of interest to the reader. If you run a pest control company, for example, you should have articles like “5 Tips for Avoiding Bedbugs” and “7 Ways to Remove Ants.” These articles also attract their own searches and their own keywords. Each one has the potential to draw new business.
- Visitor Relationship – New content also creates a strong relationship with your clients and visitors. When someone visits your page, they should have positive associations with who you are. When they see interesting and useful content, they’ll be more likely to stay on your website and consider your services. They’re also more likely to send your services to others.
- Perceived Expertise – When you publish a lot of interesting, unique content, people take notice. The more you write and the better it is marketed, the more people come to trust you for their needs in that field. Maybe Jonny or Sue don’t need an exterminator this month, but they know someone who does and your website convinced them you know your stuff – voila, a free referral.
This is what content marketing does. It provides you with everything you need to build a successful website, and ultimately a successful business.
This isn’t just another trick to pull the wool over on the search engines. It works. Google’s search gurus tell us it works and applaud people who use the techniques we’ve described above.
Types of Content for Content Marketing
Content comes in many forms. Simply blanketing your website with as much text as possible won’t necessarily garner the results you’re looking for. So, it’s important to integrate variety and create content that people will want to share with each other. Some of the content we develop for our customers includes:
- Informative Articles – Informative articles are the pulse of content marketing. These articles are not sales pages, but provide value to the reader and build site depth. Examples include: “5 Tips for Writing an Informative Article” or “How to Improve Your Hits in Google.” These articles are specific to your industry, and they turn your website into an information hub for anyone in your area or in need of your services.
- Blog Posts – Blog posts are often informative articles, but they can also be shorter and occasionally provide casual information like updates about your business or products, brief observations, etc. A blog is the single best tool you have for building a relationship with your audience on your site.
- Location Pages – Location pages are a keyword goldmine. The idea is that, when you operate in a city or metropolitan area, people don’t always search for the name of that city. If you operate in Peoria, Arizona, you should market for that keyword as well as nearby Phoenix. For example, we rank well for “New York Content Writing” but not everyone searches for “New York.” That’s why we developed other location pages, like “Manhattan Content Writing” and “Brooklyn Content Writing.” If someone is looking for a content writing firm in Brooklyn or Staten Island, we want to be there.
- Home Page/Service Pages – Finally, don’t forget that your home page and service or product pages are also a very valuable form of content. These don’t just inform readers, but sell them on your specific expertise.
- Social Media – Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube are incredible valuable when it comes to creating relationships, driving referrals and keeping your name relevant for people in your area. None of these sites needs to be very time consuming, but the value they offer is immense when done right.
- Videos, podcasts, and photos are also a form of content marketing, and a great choice for companies with the budget for multimedia marketing campaigns. While podcasts, videos and photos don’t rank the same way as written content, they do offer immense value and can greatly improve on page statistics that tell Google your site is doing its job.
Giving in to What Google Wants
Every change Google has made in the last three years has been tailored towards rewarding content. Google continues to say that websites should have valuable information. It wouldn’t be a surprise if someday, content replaced essentially every other form of SEO – we may be there already.
The Great Leap Studios Content Marketing Process
Think of Great Leap Studios as your partner in developing a website that search engines love. We’ve developed a system for creating content that effectively leverages your website in search engines and improves your search engine rank dramatically. We’re happy to work with your website and base our content writing and marketing decisions on your website’s current needs.
While every content marketing plan we create is custom crafted for an individual website, here is a general overview of what we recommend for most of our clients:
Step 1: Popular Core Pages on Your Site
We start by building the core of your website’s content first. These are the static pages, designed to attract and convert visitors to customers. Your homepage, service pages, and location pages are the most important parts of your website in the long term.
Our first step is to carefully analyze your audience and location and develop a keen understanding of their frame of mind when they search for a company in your industry. If someone needs an accountant in Chicago, what are they searching for? What content will most help them in their decision making process?
From there we can create targeted, keyword optimized content that is engaging, interesting and designed to drive your readers to take action the moment they land on your website.
Step 2: Add a Blog
A blog is one of the most effective ways to build a strong relationship with your audience on your own website, while adding large volumes of valuable content for readers. A good blog provides answers to common questions, interaction with user comments and a variety of multimedia formats – from video to text to picture based content.
We build and manage blogs using the free WordPress platform and we can recommend or have customized for you a theme that fits your specific needs. We generally recommend a minimum of one blog post per week, though ideally two per week or more will generate the kind of ongoing traffic to your website you need to really have an impact.
Step 3: Email List and Social Media Profiles
Once you have a solid website, clear sales message and a blog where people read content daily, why not enhance the value of your site even further AND capture those leads so you can talk to them again later.
It doesn’t do you any good if someone lands on your website, loves your content and then leaves, never to return. So, in step three we recommend creation of an email list and social media profiles that allow you to capture and maintain contact with your new leads.
We use Aweber to capture leads from opt-in forms placed on your website and then deliver free content to your leads every week, remind them of new blog posts on your site and provide free limited offers that only they can use. Through social media we can directly interact with your prospects, update them about new sales and events and stay active within the community.
Step 4: Consider Static Articles and Authority Articles
From now until the end of time, you should be updating your blog regularly and using it to generate content. Again, ignore the term “blog.” Think of it as place to update content regularly.
But in the interim, once your blog is up and running you should add static articles. These are articles that will always be available in a set location on your website. They’re often articles that are relevant to your visitors in some way.
For example, if you’re a psychologist you may want to have an article about anxiety disorders and treatment that is always available on the sidebar for new visitors.
A blog post about anxiety disorders is useful, but will be pushed off the page by new content after a couple of weeks. If the topic is one your audience eagerly seeks or that strongly represents your business, creating static content is a much more powerful marketing tool.
You can also choose to add authority articles. These are articles of a tremendous length or depth – often 2000 words or more – that are used specifically to generate incoming links. Large articles, like “100 Ways to Save Money on Gas” often get a lot of hits, have the potential to go viral, and are extremely popular with other website owners.
Authority articles can be a considerable investment and require an interesting topic to be successful, but they can be an extremely effective way to improve your search engine rank. Combined with offsite marketing that drives traffic to those authority pages, even one article can have a HUGE impact.
Step 5: Guest Posting
There are other forms of content that might be a good fit for your company. Podcasting, video blogging, infographic creation, and more can all be very powerful content tools for your site.
But once your website is well established, we recommend our clients start guest posting. The idea her is to generate links from other sites in your industry that are similar to yours.
This is more effective than the spammy methods used in the old days because it’s done manually, you can choose which sites will publish your content, and we can create links that target your site or pages directly.
Incoming links from other sites can skyrocket your website in search engines. Guest posts also establish you as an expert and can draw business from those that read your content on those websites.
Step 6: Additional Inbound Techniques
Steps 1-5 are enough for about 90% of our clients. With a solid content plan, engaging blog, lead capture through email or social media and backlinks through guest posts, your site is very likely to start ranking for the terms your audience is searching for.
But for those in the 10% that need more or for those that want to ensure they retain their high rankings for years to come, there are many other strategies we employ, from careful distribution of press releases, to marketing of videos on YouTube, cobranding of your content on other major industry pages and more.
When we create content for your site, we do it with a purpose. No blog post, article or page is ever wasted. The content serves a purpose, solves a problem and builds trust with your audience. From there, generating links is often as natural as asking for them.