6125992630_a37d5b6e80_o

How does content marketing generate leads?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you will have heard the hype surrounding content marketing. What might be less clear, however, is why exactly you need to be doing it.

As with most forms of marketing, measuring the ROI on campaigns can be tricky, which makes it tough for many small and medium-sized businesses to justify the spend.

If you are smart about it, however, we believe that content marketing can generate a tangible return in the form of what matters most, leads. Read on to discover the benefits and specifically how these benefits drive leads:

Content marketing drives traffic to your website

Leads generated by: Conversions, enquiry forms on landing pages, sign ups.

Think about the queries your customers might enter into Google, then answer these with useful and insightful content. In this content, where appropriate, link to relevant landing pages that offer your product as the solution.

Content marketing and SEO go hand in hand, and SEO remains as one of the most tangible sources of leads for many businesses. To rank on Google, you need content that utilises relevant keywords, links to your site from quality sites, technical optimisation (e.g. keyword-rich tagging) and consistent output. This is what content marketing is all about – it uses keywords, introduces links, improves the user experience and requires consistency. Do all this properly, and you’ll see your rankings on the search engines improve significantly over time. This increase in traffic will lead to more people contacting you about your services and signing up for your content (such as blog posts and email newsletters).

Content marketing builds brand awareness

Leads generated by: Potential customers becoming aware of your company and thinking of you when they have a requirement.

No matter how big your company is, branding is very important and can help build trust and confidence from your customers.

Content marketing is one of the most powerful branding tools at your disposal. Over 50% of marketers who create and distribute content say it has increased their brand visibility. Content acts as a branding platform, giving you a way to develop your own unique voice and communicate with your target audience. Through your content, you can present your guiding principles and solidify your value proposition, giving readers the information they want to know while showing your company in a positive light.

One excellent example of a company using content marketing for effective branding is the social media management system Hootsuite. The company aims to be fun, informal and easily accessible, and their content helps them achieve this, with blog posts such as ‘Five secrets to success from Santa, the ultimate entrepreneur‘ and ‘How to ask for things on social media‘. Their parody of the Game of Thrones opening speaks to their millennial tech-savvy target audience, many of which will be fans of the show and enjoy the way Hootsuite links it to all their favourite social media platforms. This kind of positive branding will lead to more people becoming interested in your business, with them turning into leads when they follow or like your social media pages or sign up for your emails.

Take a look at Innocent Drinks’ brand story for another good example of branding done right.

Content marketing increases readership and subscribers

Leads generated by: Readers turning into subscribers, creating opportunities for you to sell to them through social media and email marketing.

If you’re creating top-quality content, you’ll begin to gain a readership. These readers will most likely find your content through search engines, social media, paid advertisements or links from other sites. In fact, research shows that 71% of people are more likely to buy from a brand they follow on social media. So you need to be producing content and sharing that, along with other relevant content from third parties, on your social media pages.

With an increased readership comes an increase in subscribers – AKA leads. High-quality content keeps readers coming back for more, so more of them will sign up for blog post notifications and newsletters. You can utilise these leads to make sales, by sending them product or service offers that are relevant to them and emailing them special deals. It’s vital to avoid spamming your subscribers though, as it will undo some of the work you’ve done and damage your reputation. Check out Simply Business’s fantastic guide to email marketing if you’re wondering where to start.

Content marketing builds trust and authority

Leads generated by: Increasing trust in your brand and improving your reputation, leading to more people engaging with your social media accounts, increased enquiries and more subscribers.

If you are consistently producing great content, readers will return to your site and you will begin to gain their trust and build authority in your field. As well as attracting visitors to your site, this should also peak influencer and related companies’ interest. This can only mean good things for your business, as word of mouth should result in even more new leads from people joining your mailing list, asking about your services and joining the conversation on social media.

Authority and SEO go hand in hand. As your brand becomes more well-known and respected, Google will pick up on this with the increase in links, social media mentions and traffic, and push your site up the SERPs. Building authority will take time and effort, but it’ll be worth it in the end.

In a nutshell: Content marketing helps your business to reach more people

You’ll see that there’s a common trend with all the above points: they revolve around more people becoming aware of your business. And as the saying goes, “any publicity is good publicity”. With content marketing, you can enjoy all the benefits of traditional advertising and more with a much smaller outlay. You can use blog posts, infographics, videos, photos and social media to get information related to your company’s services out there, and wait for the increased number of visitors to start converting into leads. There’s no need to pump out content for the sake of it though; quality is much more important than quantity, so focus on content that will provide real value and insight to your visitors without being ‘salesy’.

Don’t underestimate the many benefits of regular, quality content for your company. As well as generating leads, research indicates that content marketing costs approximately 62% less than traditional marketing methods – who can say no to that?

Read More

16533522150_71454a509f_o

How to plan a seasonal keyword marketing plan

The chances are that you’re aware of special days in your calendar when there is a spike in sales or general user interest. But are you missing these predictable peaks as part of your SEO strategy?

Seasonal events are a golden opportunity to make extra sales and improve brand awareness. In order to do that, people need to connect the event with your business and land on your site. 

This is where seasonal keywords come in. Keywords are at the very heart of promoting organic web traffic. It only takes a few simple steps to tailor them to seasonal events.

The process doesn’t start weeks, or even months, in advance – it’s something you should be thinking about a year ahead.

Here is how to plan your seasonal keyword marketing plan effectively:

One year to go

In order to make things run as smoothly as possible, it’s a good idea to define some baseline points. Your checklist for things to establish at the ‘one year mark’ should look something like this:

Setting objectives


What are you trying to achieve through seasonal awareness? Are you after sales or brand awareness? How will you measure your success?

Budget

You may not be spending money to acquire traffic through ads, but producing content still can cost money. Establish how much are you willing to spend to see results, and start thinking about the kinds of offers you can make to entice customers.

Method

Where is your content going to be placed? Are you just using existing content or producing new pages? Will you need extra content producers? 

Making these points clear a year in advance will make it much easier to manage the subsequent stages; it helps clarify what you’re doing and where you stand.

Six months to go


This is when your keyword campaign needs to begin taking shape. To do this effectively, you need to become familiar with Google’s Keyword Planner. This is a free-to-use service designed for advertisers considering Adwords.

Getting to know Google Keyword Planner


In order to use this tool, you’ll need to set up an Adwords account with Google. It’s free to use, and there is no obligation to start a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign. Once you’ve done that, you can begin to familiarise yourself with the interface. For seasonal info, focus on the ‘Get search volume for a list of keywords or group them into ad groups’ feature.



How to get what you need from Keyword Planner


Draw up a list of keywords that are relevant to the event in question. For example, if you sell chocolates, and your objective is Mother’s Day, search for ‘Mother’s Day flowers,’ ‘Mother’s day gifts’ etc. 

It’s not just about hitting the keywords that are directly relevant to your product, but also the most popular keywords for the event in general. These might not be as useful for direct conversions, but they show you the types of content that people search for in that period and the keywords you can target.

Make a list of the keywords that are relevant, and start thinking about the kind of content and promotions you can build around those topics. 

Now that you have keyword content covered, use the ‘time period’ toolbar to see when the frequency of these keyword searches begins to increase. This tells you the exact time when you should stage your campaign launch.

Get seasonal keyword data and trends with Adwords keyword planner
Get seasonal keyword data and trends with Adwords keyword planner

Five months and counting…

You’ve established your list of keywords, and you know when people will start searching for them. At this stage you might have what looks like a three, or even four, month gap between your six-month countdown and when people actually start typing those keywords into a search query, but that’s no reason to get complacent.

The reason these campaigns have to start so early is that getting content to appear in the results of Google and other search engines is like turning sand into stone; it takes a lot of time and a critical amount of pressure which, in this case, is user exposure.

Giving yourself a good five month cushion also allows time to make revisions to your content. It’s often easier to see where things aren’t working once they’re online, and you don’t want that to happen close to launch.



What about time critical content?


You may have spotted a problem here. On the one hand, you’re planning a campaign that targets a specific event with time-critical offers and promotions, while on the other you’re being asked to get content up four to five months in advance, when there is limited interest. How is that supposed to land with customers? The answer is simple. Your early content is there to hold a place in the search engine results page (SERP).

There’s nothing wrong with putting in relevant, useful, placeholder content well in advance, then switching it to the actual promotional content once the event kicks off. That way you get to appear higher up the rankings and make your pitch as fresh as possible.


Two months to go


The time to start the launch on your promotion is either when you see that spike in keyword searches for an event or two months in advance, whichever comes first (you’ll find it’s usually one and the same).

 So what are you doing to promote your content?

Here is the checklist for the channels that your campaign should cover in addition to the content that you’ve been building up:

Social media

Ideally when the promotion launches, it will ride a wave of social mentions. To give this the best chance of happening, release a few hints early on, and consider reaching out to loyal customers by tweeting and sharing updates on Facebook so that they’re primed to respond at launch. You could even offer special discounts to this proved converter as a reward.



Subscriber emails

Hopefully you’ve been gathering leads and building a subscriber list. Again, give a hint of what’s on the way in your regular emails, and then release a dedicated newsletter that’s just for the event. This way when the promotion hits, it has the best chance of getting early conversions, which will in turn build awareness and momentum.


Use your connections

All those cultivated relationships with influencers and industry websites can come into play at this point too. Make sure you have some interesting content that’s tailored for each promoter, and then provide a link to your specific event, once you’ve got permission, either in the text itself or in your bio.



End game?


So to round up, in this year-long period, you’ve identified your objectives; gathered your keywords; used them to map your promotion launch date; placed your keyword-relevant content where it gets maximum exposure; and released your offers and promotions either through that content or other tailored release methods.

It seems like you’re at the end of what has hopefully been a successful campaign. However, it’s not over. Getting this kind of seasonal release right is a cycle, not a linear progression. Your content and landing pages may be irrelevant once the event has passed, but they’re still perfectly placed to perform the same role next year.

Salvage as much of this space as possible by changing landing pages to a more generic take on the special day in question and generalising content to make it relevant to the ‘event’ rather than ‘this year’s event.’

By taking this approach, you’ll make sure your content is in a prime position to perform well a year in advance of your next promotion. With that established, you can go back to your checklist and begin the process all over again!

Read More

9671682290_c666e98585_o

The relationship between content marketing and PR

It’s tempting to see content marketing and public relations as entirely different concepts; as x and y on the same timeline, if you like. Public relations is labelled as an outdated, dying art, while content marketing is the new trend that every business must now focus exclusively on. The truth, as always, is somewhere in between. Content marketing and PR borrow aspects from one another to achieve their end goals.

The differences between content marketing and PR

Both public relations and content marketing focus on the relationship between a business or organisation and its core audience. As Tamara Franklin points out in her blog for Calysto

“at their cores, content marketing and PR are both storytelling disciplines.”

It is in the way in which they tell their stories that these disciplines differ. Traditional public relations is centred around how you portray what you have to sell, whether it’s a product, a business or even a person, to the media, who face the public and tell your story. It is therefore very closely linked to, and shaped by, journalists, broadcasters and other outside influences, who have a large say in defining the reputation, good or bad, of a business. This is why we often call exposure gained through public relations ‘earned media’.

Content marketing removes the media from the equation, jumping the gun and communicating directly with end users the ‘stories’ that they want to hear. These stories effectively sell the brand, while simultaneously educating the audience. Content marketing places power, not in the hands of what PR people call ‘organisation stakeholders’, but directly with the organisation itself, with ‘owned media’ (corporate blogs, social media accounts, company websites etc.) acting as the initial channel of distribution.

Adapt to survive?

While public relations and content marketing are fairly similar in terms of end goals, the advent of the latter practice has meant that PR executives have had to adapt to keep up. These professionals now employ the tactics used by content marketers to tell their tale. To quote Emma Gilbey of Mediavision Interactive:

“In the past, PRs had to rely on a product, press release or the brand itself to tell a story and captivate journalists and influencers. Now, with strong content, PRs can tell a real story in order to secure press coverage.”

The notion of ‘earned media’ has shifted

The mainstream media is one of the most influential ‘noises’ in everyday life. On the whole, people believe what they read in the papers, hear on the radio and see on the television. They are less inclined to believe an announcement posted on a corporate blog, by the director or chief executive of that corporation. As Jean Spencer, writing for Content Marketing Institute bluntly puts it:

“corporate blogs carry a stigma of self-serving promotion, and the general public is still more likely to trust traditional news outlets.”

Therefore, public relations professionals, due to their contacts with influential media personalities, are still useful in terms of getting that big ‘earned media’ break for your company. However, the way in which they do this has changed slightly, and that’s down to content marketing.

Content marketing has proved that, if brands publish quality content that holds value for the consumer, this content will soon gain traction and could reach mainstream media in a more organic way, such as through writing guest blogs for publishers. This is a content marketing tactic now commonly used by PR professionals, as communications director Frank Strong recalls in this blog post. Strong is not alone in terms of having to think outside the box.

Quality content convinces

According to the Content Marketing Institute, the recent entrance of content marketing on the scene mirrors the increased ambivalence consumers have to the traditional world of marketing. Audiences, so they say;

“own a DVR to skip television advertising, often ignore magazine advertising, and now have become so adept at online “surfing” that they can take in online information without a care for banners or buttons.”

Consumers don’t just want to sit there passively and be sold products, they now demand content that is relevant and valuable; they ‘scour the internet for information, reviews and credibility‘ themselves. Once they’ve found this information, they are far more likely to convert. Of course, they think that this decision has been made on their own terms, because the brand-generated content is strong enough to convince.

As Outbrain highlight:

“One of the governing principles of content marketing is think like a consumer — is this something I would click on? Is this content I would share?”

We’re all consumers ourselves, so when we do publish content, quality and insight should be at the forefront of our minds and content marketing – brands publishing their own content – has undoubtedly helped with this. This was a problem in traditional public relations, as PR professionals frantically attempted to reach as many media outlets as possible with press releases and the like, without really paying attention to what the people on the other side actually wanted to read.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are conflicting ideas and opinions on how PR and content marketing link in with one another. Some would say the latter is an update of the former, others believe the two have always existed as separate disciplines, while a few people see content marketing and public relations as two sides of the same coin. Perhaps everyone’s right.

What is clear is that old tactics of advertising and marketing products, services and businesses to the general public have changed immeasurably, with different areas in marketing adopting the ideas that have previously worked so well for their peers. The lines have become blurred.

Read More

14228109324_186f38de00_o

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.

Read More