The following is a guest post by Louise Dickens. Her bio is at the end.
“Content marketing” is becoming a common phrase amongst social media, marketing and SEO blogs across the Internet. But what does it actually mean?
If you’ve been in this field for a while now, you’ll know that content marketing has been practised for a fair amount of time, although our understanding of what it means has evolved over the years.
The real reason why content marketing has suddenly exploded though, is because Google turned it into a pretty big deal.
The introduction of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm at the end of 2013 upset a load of people. Why? Because it cracked down on the ‘dodgy’ practises of link-building and keyword stuffing and emphasised on original content. This had led to the “Content is King” situation that we find ourselves in now.
Definitions of “content marketing”
The problem is, content marketing means different things to different people; just as the word “content” itself applies to multiple forms of media.
Here are some definitions from the leading bloggers in the SEO and content marketing category:
“Content marketing’s purpose is to attract and retain customers by consistently creating valuable content with the intention of changing and enhancing consumer behaviour.” – Content Marketing Institute
“Storytelling for sales.” – Pushing Social
“Content marketing means creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.” – Copyblogger
“It is a strategy of producing and publishing information that builds trust and authority among your ideal customers. It is a way to build relationships and community, so people feel loyal to you and your brand. It is a strategy for becoming recognised as a thought leader in your industry. It is a way to drive sales without traditional ‘hard sell’ tactics.” – Neil Patel
As you can see, each authority has interpreted content marketing to mean something slightly different.
But to truly understand content marketing, we need to first define ‘content’.
So, what is “content”?
Content is an umbrella term that refers to all the material you create as a company. That will probably include information about you and your products/services, but if that’s the only type of content you are producing, you’re going to find it A LOT harder to build and grow your audiences.
You need to start creating content that your target audience will love. How do you do that? You think like your target audience.
Think about yourself when you’re not at work. What do you like to know about and read about? What interests do you have and what brands do you follow on social media, and why?
Figuring out what content your audiences want is the first step to content marketing. Once you have this information, you then need to start producing creative content that your audience will love.
Examples of content you can create:
- Blog posts
- White papers
These are just a few examples of content that is craved by audiences. Obviously the type of content you can create will vary depending on your niche and budget, but if you’re not producing this sort of stuff already, you should seriously start considering it.
Case study: How content marketing can get you noticed
Some companies have started taking content marketing even further, by producing content that barely mentions their own brand at all!
Look at HotelContractBeds, for example. They are a contract furniture ecommerce store (not the most interesting niche let’s be honest!), who created a piece of content called Busted! Caught by Customs.
Busted! Caught by Customs is an interactive page listing the most unusual objects confiscated by customs officials; this piece of content is the perfect example of great content marketing.
Obviously, the majority of people aren’t all that interested in contract furniture – but learning that a woman tried to smuggle 75 live snakes in her bra is social-media-sharing gold!
This piece of content even got mentioned in the Daily Mail, which is a publication HotelContractBeds would have probably struggled to get mentioned in otherwise.
How did they do it? First, they picked a subject of interest related to their industry. As a hotel supplier, they wanted to produce a piece of content that reached out to a new audience and help get their name out there.
They realised that the average traveller was interested in just that – travel. Not the hotel they were staying at. With that in mind, they brainstormed and researched topical and popular themes in travel – and Busted! was born.
To promote this content, they did all the usual self-promotion you’d think of. They wrote a blog post and linked to it on their social media pages. But they realised that this wasn’t enough.
So what did they do? They made a list of influencers and target media who they thought would be interested in their content, and they outreached to them. Plain and simple.
In essence: put your content in front of people; they won’t just find it themselves.
The most important thing to take out of this today
You can’t just create a great piece of content and leave it at that. If it was THAT easy, everyone would be doing it and Google would probably release another update!
You can have the best content in the world, but if nobody sees it, it might as well not exist.
Chances are, you’re going to spending quite a bit of time and/or money on your content (if it really is original), and your boss isn’t going to see a great ROI if it only gets a couple of views.
You need to promote your content, by using a combination of social media, email and outreach techniques.
In a comment exchange on Cyrus Shepard’s blog post How to Rank: 25 Step SEO Master Blueprint, Hannah Smith, from Distilled, reckons that if you spend 40 hours creating a piece of content, you should spend another 40 hours promoting it – That’s how you start to build your brand and see results.
So now I’m interested in what you think. Do you agree? Disagree? Have some examples of how content marketing has worked for you? Let me know your thoughts!
Louise Dickens works for Aptitude as a content marketer.