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5 myths about content marketing and SEO

In this post, I’m going to debunk some of the myths surrounding content marketing and SEO.

Let’s start with some definitions:

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is 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.  Content Marketing Institute

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is “the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of the traffic that you earn through the organic results in search engines.” Moz

As you can see from this, these are 2 very different disciplines. They do, however, have one thing in common, they are both intended to drive traffic and sales.

The changing landscape of SEO

SEO has changed beyond all recognition in the 8 years I have worked in the industry. When I started out as an SEO copywriter in 2008, SEO (specifically link building) was all about article marketing – creating crappy, keyword-stuffed content and throwing this mud at the wall in the form of article directories. Much of this content had little editorial integrity and was never read by anyone.

Google’s algorithm was not sophisticated enough to detect this rudimentary tactic, and as a result, it was reasonably easy to get a website to rank.

Fast forward to 2016, and it’s a very different story – to get results you need to produce quality content that earns genuine links due to the value and insight it offers. There are no short cuts and no easy answers.

The rise of content marketing

Content marketing has exploded in popularity over the past few years, as demonstrated by the Google Trend graph below.

Meanwhile, many prominent SEO agencies have rebranded, losing any mention of SEO from their names. This reflects both the shift in mindset of those within the industry and the growing demand for more holistic online marketing, which encompasses a range of services, including not just content marketing and SEO, but also CRO and social media.

One of the biggest drivers of this growth and shift in focus from SEO to content marketing has been the diminishing, or in many cases negative impact of traditional SEO link building tactics such as article marketing. These have now been largely replaced by content marketing.

Myth: Content marketing has replaced SEO

This argument is flawed for a number of reasons:

• If there is no consideration of SEO, specifically keyword and link placement in content, there will be no tangible SEO benefit to even the best content marketing.
• The impact of content marketing without any thought to SEO will arguably have much less of an impact than it might with SEO.
• Content marketing cannot fix technical SEO issues with your website.

Myth: Content marketing is the new SEO

SEO as a discipline has been around for less than 30 years, Content marketing has been around for over 100, so how can content marketing be the new SEO?

Content marketing is an important part of the savvy SEO’s playbook, but it is not a silver bullet and is certainly not the new SEO.

Myth: SEO guys should do SEO, content marketing guys should do content marketing

The mistake that many people make when considering SEO activity is to treat it in silo, rather than as a key part of the whole marketing mix. We’ve seen brands historically do this with copywriting, social media and PR.

To be successful, you need all departments to work together, as Copyblogger’s Brian Clark explains:

At Copyblogger, we don’t have sales, social, marketing, media, or SEO departments. We have an editorial department, and editorial makes all of those things happen (and more) as part of one seamless process.

Myth: I should spend my entire budget on content marketing

As great as content marketing is, it can’t be denied that the ROI from it can be difficult to measure. You should spend a decent chunk of your marketing budget on content marketing, but don’t neglect other areas that can also drive traffic and sales.

Myth: SEO is dead

Google processes over 1 trillion search queries every year and 15% of these are queries it has never seen before. SEO is definitely not dead!

Conclusion

If done correctly, content marketing and SEO can be complimentary, but they are not one and the same, you need to do both. Content marketing has not replaced SEO, SEO is, and will continue to be as important as it has ever been.

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How does web content influence the buying process?

We all know that content is a vital part of any website’s conversion path, but exactly what effect does this content have on each stage of the buying process? And how can you, as a business owner or manager, take advantage of these effects to drive sales in your company?

First, it’s important to understand each step the buyer takes towards making a purchase. The buyer’s journey can be divided into several stages, which are widely considered to be awareness, consideration and decision. Let’s take a look at these in more detail.

Awareness

In the first stage of the buying process, consumers have just realised that they have a problem or need so they are undertaking some preliminary research. They want to be better informed about the general issue they’re researching before moving on to more specific solutions.

Content at this stage should ideally come in the form of a wide range of informational pieces, such as general blog posts, introductory ebooks, industry white papers, how-to lists and videos, infographics, slideshows, resource round-ups and glossaries. This kind of content will introduce people to your brand and demonstrate your industry knowledge and authority. It should also make up the majority of your content, as most visitors to your site will be in this initial stage of the buyer’s journey.

Example: if you were the owner of an independent computer store, you could create blog posts such as “Five things to consider when buying a laptop” and “The top 10 laptops for the everyday user”. This would attract web users who are interested in purchasing a new laptop, inform them of the general options available to them and make them aware of your business.

Consideration

The consideration stage is where buyers evaluate the different options available to them. At this point, they’re probably aware that your business offers a potential solution to their problem, but they also know that other vendors do too. They will start to look at individual products or services and companies in-depth and this stage is arguably the most important in the entire sales process.

Recommended content for the second stage includes expert guides and ebooks, webinars, podcasts and reviews. Through these, potential buyers should start moving towards the realisation that your business is the best choice and that you have the specific solution to their problem.

Example: again, let’s look at the example of an independent computer store and a consumer looking for a new laptop. The consumer would now be ready to look at individual laptops in more depth, so a video review of the latest Microsoft Surface Pro or an in-depth guide to the latest Asus ZenBook could keep them on your site, show your extensive knowledge, and help move them towards making a decision.

Laptop buying guide - Best Buy
Laptop buying guide – Best Buy

Decision

At the third stage, buyers decide exactly what they want to purchase. They know basically everything they need to about the product or service and your company, but they need a little reassurance or something extra before they finally make the purchase. Testimonials, case studies, special offers, demos and comparisons work well at this stage, helping to alleviate any worries the consumer may have and show that you’re the business to go with. In order to close to stage, you should focus on tangible deliverables.

Example: the consumer looking for a new laptop would by now have narrowed down the laptop they want, or the store they want to go to, to a couple of options. You could have a vendor comparison page on your site that shows why you’re a better choice than the big chain stores, offer the option to try out the laptop in-store and provide a special coupon code in an email for a discount.

Repeat custom

Once you’ve gained a customer, you need to do your best to ensure you don’t lose them. After all, gaining a new customer can cost anywhere from five to 25 times the amount of retaining a one, so this additional stage is extremely important. To promote repeat custom, you need to have excellent support, listen to all feedback and offer continued value. Surveys, promotions, competitions, newsletters, giveaways, feedback forms and email marketing are the types of content you should be utilising at this stage.

Brand advocates are one of the things you want to be aiming for, as they will shout your company’s praises from the rooftops, generating custom and goodwill in the process. You can nurture advocates by giving existing customers a motive to share your content and your business’s information through the aforementioned kinds of content and outstanding customer service.

Example: in the case of the independent computer store, they could send customers follow-up emails after their purchase, asking them to review the product or offering discounts on laptop accessories.

Tracking

When utilising content marketing throughout each of these stages, you should monitor how effective each campaign and piece of content is. Use tools like Google Analytics, Buffer and Marketo to keep track of all your marketing activities and the results they bring. Use the data you gather to make changes to your content marketing plan as you go along. Make sure you’ve identified some key metrics that will clearly show how successful your activities are; for example, the number of leads generated from a particular post, and the number of Facebook likes accumulated from a campaign.

As a business owner or manager, you want to attract and retain as many customers as possible and, as you can see, content is invaluable for this at all stages of the buying process. You need to ensure you have a clear content strategy that helps buyers come to the decision to choose you, so make sure you’re investing your time and money in content marketing – it has the power to transform your business!

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Workshop Gamestorming with Sunni Brown on June 6th 2013 in Amsterdam organized by Business Models Inc. More than 40 participants are experiencing visuals thinking games for strategy and innovation. Part of the Bootcamp Business Model Canvas the Game. www.businessmodelsinc.com

Bootcamp Business Model Canvas the Game, June 5-7 2013 in Amsterdam. 6 renowned game developer teams are working on the ultimate game for the Business Model Canvas: Ranj, Weirdbeard, Little Chicken, RageSquid, FirebrushStudios, Headcandy. www.canvasthegame.com

10 easy content marketing strategies for small businesses

Content marketing can be a challenge, even for businesses with big budgets and plenty of resources. For small businesses, it can seem like an impossible task. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try though, as a little planning, hard work and perseverance has the potential to deliver great results. With that in mind, try these 10 easy content marketing strategies to give your online presence a boost.

Update your blog regularly

In order for your content marketing to get maximum results, you need to create content regularly and consistently. You can start out slowly, perhaps one blog post every three days, or one tweet each day, and then gain momentum. Ideally, you should be aiming for at least 11 blog posts per month, as research by Hubspot shows that small companies posting this frequently receive almost three times more traffic than those posting around once a month, and twice as much traffic as those posting two to five times a month.

“Newsjacking” is an excellent way to help you post frequently. Keep your eye on the news (you can monitor hashtags related to your industry on Twitter) and if any stories break that are relevant to your business, write a piece about them. Don’t just directly rewrite the news story though, ensure you’re giving a new perspective on the story or providing additional information.

Answer questions

One simple way to get started with producing content is to answers questions that your customers frequently have. You could write blog posts with common questions as the title and make tutorial videos that provide the answer to questions related (whether directly or indirectly) to your product or service. People are always using Google to find answers to their questions, and you could provide them with the solution they’re looking for.

Automate

Make life easier by automating as much of your content marketing as possible. For example, you can use tools like Hootsuite and Buffer to post updates on a regular basis and at times your fans and followers are likely to see them. You could do the same with blog posts; if you’re using WordPress, it’s easy to schedule posts to go live on a certain date. To save even more time, there’s also CoSchedule, an excellent combined automation and content calendar tool.

Create a content calendar

Before producing and posting any content, you should make a content calendar. This will ensure you have a clear plan for what topics you will be covering, when, and the person responsible. Curata offers some excellent tips and a free template, and Hootsuite has a variety of useful social media calendar templates you can utilise.

 

Infographics are one of the best content marketing strategies for small businesses
Get visual with an infographic

Make it visual

Content marketing isn’t just about text; visual media, like photos, videos and infographics are highly effective. Research has shown that articles that include images get 94% more views and infographics have the power to double your traffic. It’s predicted that by 2017, video will make up almost 70% of online traffic. With stats like these, you’d be foolish not to include visuals in some form or other.

Do keyword research – and keep doing it

Before you start producing and publishing content, make sure you’ve identified the keywords you are looking to target. Use Google’s Keyword Planner to identify words that are relevant to your niche. It’s free to sign up for and simple to use, but you can use this guide if you’re stuck. You can also invest in a paid keyword tool like Moz’s Keyword Difficulty and SERP Analysis Tool, which offers extra features to make your research more effective.

Once you’ve identified the keywords you want to target, don’t just leave it there. Make sure you go back to your keywords every couple of months and do some more research. You might find that some keywords aren’t ranking or converting particularly well, or there are some new opportunities that you can work on.

Use data

Data-driven content will give your site more authority and increase traffic and shares, so if you have some stats that could be useful to others in your industry or customers, share them. You could make infographics (you can outsource this to a graphic designer for a reasonable fee) that present your business’s data or information in an interesting way. So if you own a bakery, for example, you could make an infographic showing the most popular cakes throughout the year or the amount of ingredients you use.

Utilise CTAs

In order to gain customers, you need to turn visitors into leads, and to do that, you need them to take action. Most of your content should contain a call to action (CTA) – a command like “contact us now” or “sign up for a free trial” that will usually lead to the exchange of information. Frequent blog posts will only be effective if visitors know how to get further information or have an incentive to stay on your site. Keep your CTAs succinct and clear, and offer something extra, for example a white paper, to encourage users to complete them.

Measure, track, tweak

There’s no point in investing in content marketing if you’re not monitoring its success. At the most basic level, you should be using Google Analytics to keep track of how all the content on your website and blog is doing. Look at metrics like number of users, bounce rate, pages per session and average session duration to see how well your site and individual pages are performing. And set up conversion goals so you can monitor your conversion rates for different actions and pages.

Don’t get overwhelmed

One final point: it’s crucial that you don’t let yourself get overwhelmed when you start working on content marketing. If you take on too much at once, you’ll quickly feel like you’re drowning in to-do lists and perhaps frustrated that you’re not seeing immediate results. It’s much better for you to take on the tasks you definitely have the time and resources to do – you can always outsource the other activities when you’re able to.

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6 awesome content writing tools you should be using

When it comes down to it, writing content can be painstaking. Even the most accomplished writers and those buzzing with fresh and exciting ideas struggle. They’ll find themselves staring at that poster on the wall, twiddling their thumbs and wondering where their next 400 words are coming from. The good news is this: there are lots of helpful and creative people out there, and they’ve come up with many handy content writing tools.

Here are 6 tools that we found particularly useful for all stages of the content writing process.

Quora

Use this tool for: Research, generating ideas and adding bulk to content

Get inspiration for content by visiting Quora, a social networking site that operates on a question and answer discussion basis. Sign up, pose your question and have it answered by experts in your industry, or identify trends from grouped topics. The likes of Stephen Fry, Rand Fishkin and Ashton Kutcher are all present and active on the site.

Quora is particularly useful for gathering quotes to add colour to your content, although of course you should always be aware of provenance. This article by SEMRush outlines the benefits of Quora for marketers.

InboundWriter

Use this tool for: Informing your content creation plan

How often have you and your team sat down to discuss content formulation, only to find yourselves doodling on scraps of paper and making outlandish suggestions that you know are never going to work?

Available as a web app or a WordPress plug-in, InboundWriter is invaluable when you’re forming your content creation plan. It provides marketers with an idea of how well content will perform prior to it even being written, using research data from across the web to analyse how that topic or area of interest is resonating with web users.

The tool can also recommend keywords for you to use; the only downside is that, unlike the other resources detailed in this article, it isn’t free.

We entered “6 awesome content writing tools you should be using” into the Emotional Marketing Headline Analyser. This received an EMV of 66.7%. According to the site, professional headlines have an EMV of between 30% and 40%, while gifted writers rank around 60 or 70%. In other words, it appears that ours is a great title!

Hemingway

Use this tool for: Cutting initial drafts and fine-tuning copy

Ernest Hemingway was one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, and he almost never wasted a word. His unique and tight writing style substituted lengthy, flowery prose for short, minimalist sentences. He also used plenty of repetition and relied on punctuation to convey meaning to the reader.

Nobody expects you to write like a Nobel Prize-winning novelist. Yet this handy little editing tool can give you suggestions on where to improve. Hemingway highlights sentences and words for clarity and readability and flags up use of the passive voice.

Don’t get caught up in trying to impress your readership. As content marketing whiz kid Neil Patel suggests: “you want to write as simply as possible to reach the biggest audience.” Paste your copy into the editor when finished and tweak where necessary.

Yes, we did check this paragraph in Hemingway. Here’s the original copy for an idea of how it works.

AtomicWriter

Use this tool for: Tailoring the voice of your content to your target audience

When you’re marketing a business or topic that you know like the back of your hand, it can be hard to look at it ‘from the outside’, as your readers would.

This brilliant tool, created by Toronto-based Atomic Reach and available as a WordPress plugin, is designed to help you stay on track with your blogging. It syncs with Google Analytics and your social media accounts, using this data to accurately inform how you can tailor your blog content to your target audience.

AtomicWriter is simple to use; just enter your copy into WordPress as usual and the plug-in will give you suggestions on how you can alter your post to make it clearer for the readership you had in mind. Articles are scored with a numerical Atomic Score (the higher the better) and you’ll be given an indication of Audience Match, which determines whether or not you should tweak further.

Quora - one of the best content writing tools
Quora – great for content research

Grammarly

Use this tool for: The final proofreading and editing stage

Not everyone is a naturally talented writer and most of us don’t have the time to be combing through finished drafts looking for errors. However, content rife with errors screams of a business that is unprofessional, so what do you do?

Grammarly is a plug-in that checks and corrects any spelling, grammar or punctuation mistakes it finds in your text. Grammarly works with all major browsers, as well as Microsoft Office, and will appear in any text editors or dialog boxes you open, in the form of a small, green, clickable circle. You have to sign up to Grammarly, but it isn’t intrusive, and doesn’t take much effort to use. The alternative could include simple mistakes such as this, so using this tool is a no brainer.

Emotional Marketing Headline Analyser

Use this tool for: Finding effective headlines

Choosing an effective headline is notoriously difficult. It can often be tempting just to summarise the basics of the article or adopt a lazy, clichéd pun and move on to the next item on your to-do list. However, as Jodi Harris highlights for Content Marketing Institute, there are a number of aspects you need to conform to, all of which seemingly contradict each other.

Advanced Marketing Institute’s free, web-based tool is handy as it gives you an idea of the emotional response your headline will garner with your audience.

We entered “6 awesome content writing tools you should be using” which received an EMV of 66.7%. According to the site, professional headlines have an EMV of between 30% and 40%, while gifted writers rank around 60 or 70%. In other words, it appears that ours is a great title!

The analyser isn’t perfect and it doesn’t really give you an idea of the keywords you need to use, but it’s useful for helping you understand what your readership looks out for.

These six content writing tools alone won’t provide a magic solution, but have a play with them and see what you think. You might learn something new!

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