The Online Marketing Summit 2013 was recently concluded in San Diego, CA. In this and future posts, we’ll be sharing with you some of the most important takeaways from the presentations and workshops there.
Daryl Colwell, Vice President at MediaWhiz, gave an excellent overview of content marketing in his presentation, “Content Marketing Like a Pro: Tactics and Techniques to Increase Search Engine Visibility.”
Colwell has been marketing online for 12 years and using content marketing extensively as part of clients’ integrated marketing campaigns. Entrepreneurs and beginners in content marketing have a lot to learn from Colwell.
Content Marketing Basics
Colwell defines content marketing as:
Content Marketing educates prospects and gets them to realize that you are the best option for what they really want or really need.
The first part of that definition, educating prospects, does not sound like marketing at all, does it? It’s key in content marketing to take the mindset of educating, rather than selling.
But the second part, convincing prospects you’re “the best option” to meet their needs or wants, has the same end-goal as the marketing we know.
Colwell explains that the selling part is accomplished by making you, the marketer or small business owner, the authority who is honest and provides value — even to someone who isn’t interested in buying your product or service. That said, Colwell emphasizes that your content – such as blog posts, videos, ebooks, infographics or special reports – should ultimately generate leads for your business. You shouldn’t be producing content for content’s sake (what’s the point?). While your content is not purely sales driven, it should bring leads into your sales funnel.
I especially appreciated what Colwell says about the long-term nature of content marketing. It isn’t a one-off effort. Rather, it’s a long-term investment, one that businesses should be prepared to commit themselves to on the long haul. It’s true even for small businesses and solo-preneurs. Like PR, you may not immediately see the benefits of content marketing, especially if your efforts come in spurts. You’ll fully realize the value of content marketing through consistent and sustained effort. And then the results grow exponentially, like a snowball gathering speed and increasing size as it rolls down the mountain.
Content Marketing and SEO
One of the biggest benefits of content marketing in terms of online marketing is search engine optimization (SEO). Even if you get dizzy thinking of backlinks, and the idea of on-page and off-page optimization confuses you, don’t despair. Without being an SEO expert, you’ll get good search engine rankings for your target keywords, if you do content marketing right.
Colwell outlined 5 steps to improving your SEO with content marketing:
Step 1. Define the target audience
Effective communication begins with understanding your target audience, and it holds true for content marketing as well. Research your customer’s buying patterns, know what they find compelling, and then link that to your product’s or service’s benefits. Seems so straightforward and logical, and yet many people don’t do this.
Step 2. Write about topics your audience cares about
How do you know what topics your audience is hungry for? By finding out what they’re searching for online. Use a keyword tool, such as Google’s free Keyword Tool, to discover topics of interest. Other good content topic sources are Q&A sites, like Yahoo Answers and Answers.com. I would add that nothing beats speaking to your customers directly, what are their frequently asked questions? What are the questions they should be asking? Addressing those key questions first helps gain your prospect’s trust in your company.
Step 3. Offer incentives for readers to share content
Make it easy for readers to spread your content (add “Share” buttons on your blog, for example) and focus on why the content is helpful to your audience.
Step 4. Leverage influential and authoritative authors
Find influential authors in your industry and invite them to guest post on your blog. (We can think of other ways to partner with the influencers in your market — but that’s a topic for a separate post)
Step 5. Develop your backend SEO setup
Make sure your content is properly tagged and marked up for your target keywords (the ones you discovered in Step 2).
Content Marketing Best Practices
Colwell ended his presentation by summarizing the top 10 best practices in content marketing:
1. Know your audience.
2. Include images.
3. Commit. (related to content marketing as a long-term investment)
4. Engage the right buyers with the right content.
5. Repurpose content. (think of how you can create once, and leverage in other ways)
6. Create series.
7. Measure ROI and leads.
8. Track trends.
9. Be timely.
10. Reference industry influencers.
In a future post, we’ll share highlights from presentations around social media marketing – watch out for it!
In the meantime, you can learn more about the Online Marketing Summit 2013 here.
What is your most pressing question about content marketing? If you’ve been doing content marketing, what are the most difficult challenges you’ve faced? Share your experience below, or on Twitter or Facebook.
Elena is founder of a technology PR agency that works with startups to billion-dollar companies. She is passionate about helping marketers and small business owners with practical publicity strategies.
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