This piece is the third and final installment in a series on search engine optimization (SEO). The first two parts of the series focused on optimizing toward specific geographical areas – local (Part 1) and international (Part 2). This final article will center on content marketing and why quality content is so important – because informative articles are much of what’s used these days to gain search engine prominence.
Our focus over the years has started to turn toward social media and its ability to aid “conversational marketing.” Content marketing and conversational marketing are in a sense one and the same. Quality content generates quality conversations. If people like the information and entertainment you are providing through your website and promoting through social media, they will be likely to share it with others and more likely to trust and engage with your company – resulting in higher sales.
Content is not just about conversation, though. It is also about getting the attention of search engines. The SEO packages we offer at Superb Internet (alongside web hosting, colocation, and other services) all include, as a core component, the production of quality content. This is because the search engines will give you higher prominence if you are adding strong, original copy to the Internet. “Content is king,” as they say, not just because it makes you more relevant on Facebook and Twitter, but also on Google, Yahoo!, Yandex, and other search engines.
Google Authorship will further integrate social and search by combining its search engine with author-specific tags tied to its social media arm, Google+. Essentially, the relevance of your content, the prominence of the writers or “authors” on your site, and the extent of the conversation your material generates through social media will form a trifecta that determines how high you rank various places online.
Marketing, like all aspects of interaction, is adapting to fit the new expectations of an audience that is increasingly surrounded by digital media and the ability to rapidly share ideas, information, and entertainment with friends and business associates. What has resulted is innovation, but also a sense of confusion about exactly how to meet the needs of new communication tools and sensibilities. Today, then, let’s explore what content marketing is all about and why so many businesses are implementing it.
Before I get into that, though (following up on the format I established in the first two parts of this series), I will present a couple more non-traditional approaches that can increase stickiness on your site. Below is the fifth such Attention Grabber to help you stand out online and give your site’s first-time visitors a great immediate impression.
Outside-the-Box Attention Grabber #5: Baby-Friendly Sounds & Swirling Colors
Have you considered making the landing pages to your website more baby-friendly? Babies now represent 28% of online traffic, and needless to say, they have difficulty understanding traditional sales pitches, preferring happy sounds and swirling colors. Be sure to incorporate these elements into baby-friendly pages:
- A delicate balance between soft, cloudy pastels and bright, bold hues: babies are easily bored, so ensure visual diversity
- Advisable sounds: laughter, rain, cat-purring, nonsensical doting grandmother noises; inadvisable sounds: screaming, cackling, explosions, and growling.
- Always be closing: Make it clear in your terms and conditions on the landing pages that if the baby blinks twice and smiles, s/he owes you $39.95 per month, due in full when the baby turns 18 years old.
10 Tips to Understand Content Marketing
The following 10 tips can be helpful in your efforts to drive traffic to your site by generating quality content that gives you a lift on Google. My main objective here is to convey a broader understanding rather than a specific systematic approach.
- How Content Brands Your Company: As Frank Strong of Copyblogger notes, we tend to think of a brand as the name of a product or service – but that isn’t really what it is. A brand is a perception of the product. The perception is, simply speaking, a combination of the image in statements made by the company (as developed by content marketing, TV and radio advertising, etc.) and user interaction (as developed by conversational marketing such as social media, user-generated content such as third-party blogs, reviews, word-of-mouth, etc.). Content marketing allows you to grow and change people’s perception.
- Contributing Value: In everything you do with content marketing, think about how the information might be useful and/or enjoyable to your audience. This article, for example, is intended to get across information while also occasionally being silly – so it aims for fun and functionality at the same time. Content marketing is, in a sense, one and the same as conversational marketing because you are attempting to strike a chord with your audience. That way, people want to discuss your business with their friends, and their experience is more memorable. “Content is currency – something we trade for our audience’s attention,” says Strong. Offer value to receive value.
- Non-Traditional Advertising: Reaching out to your audience through online content is an alternative to traditional advertising; according to Social Media Today, that’s a good thing. A 2012 Nielsen survey found that 92% of people trust recommendations from friends, and 70% trust online recommendations by strangers. Compare this to 47% trust in TV and magazine ads, and 46% trust in newspaper ads. Getting a conversation started online is a point of access where consumer trust is high.
- “Too Much Information”? Usage of smartphones has expanded rapidly, and this has made a major impact on how much users search for information. In 2010, about 1/3 of Internet users owned smartphones; at that time, the average person searched 5.3 online sources prior to buying a product. In 2012, that figure became more than 50%; the number of sources checked almost doubled to 10.4. Make sure you have plenty of content to meet that growing need. And always think in terms of customer needs, per Jay Baer’s concept of “Youtility” (you, not me) and how help wins out over hype online.
- Success with Consumers & Businesses: By the time a consumer gets to your website, s/he has made it about 70% of the way to a purchasing decision. Furthermore, per a survey by Roper Public Affairs, 80% of decision makers at businesses would rather read an article than view an advertisement to find out about a solution for their company.
- Bolstering of ROI: Content marketing does not disappear; rather, it is a business using the growth of its website to its advantage. Advertising campaigns – even online ones – are here again, gone tomorrow. Your own content, on the other hand, gradually builds and spreads your messages over time. You also get access to more people because of social media sharing. Additionally, per Social Media Today, a Kapost & ELOQUA study found that content marketing is three times more effective at lead-generation than is search engine marketing (SEM) such as Google AdWords, at 70% the cost of SEM.
- The Numbers Don’t Lie: Advertising Age conducted a survey of 600 marketing professionals. The results suggest that 12% of marketing dollars are now going to content marketing, with increases in those numbers during 2013. Perhaps part of the reason that number is not yet higher is because companies are confused about factors such as who should be in charge of content, exactly how to make it work, and how to measure its effectiveness.
- Difficult to Gauge Effectiveness: One thing to keep in mind about content marketing is that it is not always easy to figure out whether it is working. Of the marketers surveyed by Advertising Age, 8% said they were “very satisfied” with their understanding of the success (or lack thereof) of their content campaigns; 48% said they were “somewhat satisfied.” Keep in mind, that’s not as bad as it may at first appear: it just represents the general confusion as to how to measure whether content is working in a brand’s favor. The CMO of Target, Jeff Jones, says that the company’s webzine A Bull’s-Eye View is receiving over 100,000 unique visitors for each issue, which sounds great; however, “we don’t have a single metric yet, and we don’t have history to know its predictive nature.”
- Determining Who’s in Charge: One crucial component of quality content marketing is that it is consistent throughout the company. That means it’s necessary to have a single person who is responsible for the content as a whole. It’s also wise to have individuals, if possible, whose sole responsibility is to analyze possibilities, develop content, and determine whether campaigns are succeeding. Since best practices are still in their infancy throughout marketing as a whole, you need to create a strong infrastructure internally to ensure you are learning from your mistakes and getting better as you go.
- Strong Writing Backgrounds: Since the word “quality” is so vague, many folks don’t choose professionals to write articles for their companies. Larger companies are turning toward journalists in some cases – such as Coca-Cola, which according to Advertising Age has hired a former TV news reporter to assist with content creation for a stronger base in research and story-telling.
Outside-the-Box Attention Grabber #6: Middle of Nowhere WebCam
It’s always good to include a live feed from the middle of nowhere as a pop-up window on your website. New customers want to know that you are willing to go the extra mile to expose them to uninteresting as well as interesting content. Here are a few pointers:
- Choose a location that is completely nondescript: no buildings, no plants, no human beings – just open space
- Engage your visitors by popping up text – after 10 seconds – that asks, “Why have you not closed this window yet? There is nothing to see”
- Pair the video with an audio track of yawning. This pairing has the power to make the visitor so bored and depressed that s/he is unable to leave your website.
Developing a strong content marketing campaign for your website is not a simple task. However, its effectiveness in building search engine rankings is obvious as Google, Yahoo!, and Bing gear their algorithms more and more to rewarding quality advice, information, and entertainment on sites. SEO is no longer just about link-building through directories. It’s about helping people find what they need online. If you make people’s lives a little easier, they will appreciate it and become more likely to want to do business with you.
That concludes my three-part series on search engine optimization (SEO). Check out Part 1 on local SEO and Part 2 on international SEO to get a better handle on the different ends of the spectrum for your business’s search efforts.