Content Marketing can help promote your business on several levels – some intuitive, and others requiring an understanding of how search engines determine where to place your business website and social media channels in SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages). If you want to have a firm grasp on how your marketing agency is proposing to spend your budget, take a few minutes to go through the mechanics of how Content Marketing really works for potential customers – and for search engine robots.
“Content Marketing” Defined
Content Marketing is an approach that focuses on the creation and distribution of content to help promote the online presence of a business or brand. The content is intended to be educational, entertaining, or otherwise valuable to anyone who is a potential customer for your business. The goal is to make this content widely available to these potential customers, and offer them something useful when considering who they might do business with; without this value, the content falls more in the realm of direct advertising.
To understand how beneficial Content Marketing is for the online presence of your business, it helps to define the term “content” in this context, and explain how search engines such as Google use it to determine the relevancy and credibility of your business.
Types of Content for Content Marketing
Content Marketing is often thought of as the copy, or the words, you find in posted articles. However, copy can also be used in conjunction with graphics, videos, and even music when applied appropriately, and published in a variety of formats. For example, a video without any copy and uploaded to a company’s YouTube channel can also be content – although even these videos often have some accompanying text.
For the best results, your social media channels and all your published content should link back to your website. Not only does this make it easy for a potential customer to follow up and learn more about your business if and when they choose, links are also a major factor in how a search engine determines whether or not to include your company in the top search results. (More on how search engines determine that later in this article).
For Content Marketing efforts, the most common types of content include:
- Blog Articles that are about your company’s areas of expertise, and are posted to a blog that is hosted on your company’s website
- Blog Articles that shared as guest posts on other industry-related blogs
- News Articles that are either directly related to your business, or are related to your business industry’s current trends and news with a mention of your business within the copy, and then published on industry and news-related sites (usually done with a syndication partner to efficiently publish the article to more than one site)
- Press Releases that are directly related to your business, and are used to announce upcoming events and speaking engagements, awards and recognitions, new contracts, special offers, new staff hirings or promotions, or other news related to your business, such as expanded office hours or new office locations
- Business Quotes from someone that works for your business and which are included in a news or blog article related to your industry to be published on industry or news-related sites or blogs
- Infographics that are a combination of graphics and copy, usually very brief and intended to be eye-catching, and are published on your company website and/or blog, through your company social media channels, and in some instances as an accompaniment to a guest blog article, news article, or press release
- Marketing Videos that feature animations, copy, music, still photography, and/or video (either clips from videos previously shot for your business, or stock video footage related to your company’s industry) that explain or highlight a particular service your business offers, and are usually published through your company’s social media channels, and in some cases may accompany a news article or blog post (if appropriate)
- Social Media Posts that are created and formatted directly for your company’s social media channels; for example, a Tweet that announces an upcoming business event, or a LinkedIn post with summary, image and link back to a blog article that’s posted on your business website
The Importance of Content to Potential Customers
Content provides a number of ways to promote your business in a natural, organic way. In addition to the direct value the content can provide a customer, each piece of posted content also serves as an avenue back to your business website, where they can learn more about what your business offers. As you may have guessed, you’re better served when you focus your efforts on creating quality over quantity. When done well, good content can do one or more of the following:
- Provide Customers w/Value. Your online content is a reflection of what your business can do for customers, especially content in blog articles, marketing videos, and some social media postings. By providing customers with something of value, such as tips on what the best flooring options are for remodeling a kitchen, you are giving them something useful – for no charge. This creates a positive impression, either knowingly or unknowingly, and in some cases respect for your business.
- Establish Business/Customer Relationships. Content such as blog and news articles, marketing videos, social media posts, and in some cases business quotes and infographics, all help establish a relationship between your business and your potential customers. This is natural extension of providing value to customers with your content, and can be augmented by monitoring social media channels for feedback and for opportunities to engage with potential customers directly.
- Keep Your Business Relevant. Consistently publishing content also keeps you in front of the eyes of potential customers, and unlike traditional marketing, it does so when they’re actively looking for related information and are more likely to become a real customer of a business in your industry. It does follow one of the same tenants as traditional marketing: it repeats your business name over and over, and associates it with sought-after value (as opposed to simply cramming your advertising message down customer throats when they aren’t interested).
- Keep Customers Informed. Content such as press releases and social media posts keep your potential customers informed about the latest services your company is engaging in, which has correlations to the previous bullet about relevancy as well.
The Importance of Content to Google
The goal of Google (and other search engines) is to provide people with valuable content and information they are looking for online. That means, good content is extremely important to Google. If Google search results didn’t provide the people using the search engine with good content, those people would turn to another search engine – in other words, they’d give their “business” to one of Google’s competitors.
The same concepts hold true for Yahoo!, Bing, and all other search engines; they all strive to provide users with the most relevant and valuable information they can. And in the search engine business, the results have to be provided extremely fast – in less than a second. This means that there’s no possibility for a team of humans, no matter how large that team, to sort through the billions of possible results currently in cyberspace to determine what might be the best SERP for each search request. Instead, all search engines need to rely on their robots and algorithms.
Robots and Algorithms
Even for a team of robots to return a list of search results at such an incredible speed, they need to do some work on the off hours. In fact, the robots need to “crawl” the internet constantly and return what they discover back to Google for indexing. That way the indexed results can be made available almost instantly to anyone using the Google Search Engine to find nearly anything that exists on the Internet. (So no, the robots don’t go racing out when you click “Search”; instead, you’re really searching indexed information the robots previously returned on previous crawls).
To sort through and index all this digital content, the engineers at Google have created an ever-changing algorithm to determine which results (links) to return when a word (Keyword) or phrase (Long-Tail Keyword) is entered as a search term. Over 200 factors are included in this algorithm, including:
- How clear and understandable your content is to the search engine robots that crawl the site (through proper back-end coding, meta-data, and relevant terms in the content itself)
- How relevant the content on that site is to the search term(s)
- How recent, or current, the content is
- How many visitors a link has previously received (called the click-through rate), and how long these visitors stay on the associated site (called the bounce rate)
- How many other sites (and how many other “credible” sites) have linked to the content (called backlinks)
Relevancy and Credibility
All of this is done to determine which content is most relevant and credible – which is an incredibly complex feat for a machine to do, and which results inPageRank (among other designations). The exact factors, and weight of each factor in the algorithm, is proprietary. If it wasn’t, a competitor could theoretically set up their own Google search engine that would produce the same set of search results (the links returned on SERPs). Obviously, that wouldn’t be good for Google as a company. Their algorithm is their “special sauce”. However, Google engineers and developers do earnestly provide enough information to help Web Designers, Web Developers, Content Developers and Internet and Content Marketers create content and websites that aligns with what they believe results in the best experience for anyone using their search engine. In that sense, everyone wants the same thing: good content.
How an Agency Can Help Your Content Marketing Efforts
So now that you know how it all works, why hire an agency to assist you? You may have savvy marketers and talented writers and graphic designers on your staff already, maybe even a videographer… why not create your own Content Marketing blueprint in-house, develop the content in-house, and then distribute it yourself far and wide across the vast landscape of the Internet?
The short answer is, you absolutely can. If that’s how you want to invest your (or your employee’s) time. We have a favorite question that you can hear from time to time at GRIM Digital Media as someone explains this concept to a client: “I may know the basics of how to paint a house, so why should I consider hiring a professional painter to do it for me?” In short, because I’m better served – financially and personally – spending my time on other things. For your business, the answer may be similar. You may very well paint your own house, change the oil in your car yourself, mow your lawn, grow all your vegetables, build your own furniture… you get the point, eventually you will run out of time and will need to choose what to ask for assistance with to get it all done – and get it done correctly and skillfully.
So that’s what you need to decide; where best to spend your time and efforts. And where best to invest in assistance. When making that decision, here are some things you should consider:
- First, it’s a matter of time. Did your business hire personnel to spend their time on Internet Marketing? If not, what time are you taking away from the work you did hire them to do in order that they put their time and energy into ongoing content development and marketing tasks?
- Second, Content Marketing is both an art and a science. This is what many people hired by Internet Marketing agencies spend all of their time on, because it’s the industry we’re in – and we’re constantly learning new techniques and ways to make marketing a business successful because we have the time to spend researching and living it, day in and day out.
- Third, most Internet Marketing agencies have strategic partnerships with other companies that can help make the tasks more efficient and cost-effective. Syndication partners help publish content across a large number of sites, and content and social media partners provide content and tools to manage the effectiveness of campaigns so you can see how best to adjust your strategies over time.
- Fourth, most Internet Marketing agencies can help you with additional online strategies. While Content Marketing is at the heart of almost every online promotion strategy GRIM Digital Media puts together, it’s not the entire picture. With the rare exception, you need to have an engaging website that keeps visitors’ attention, informs them about your services, and makes them want to contact you to learn more about what you have to offer and eventually do business with you. You also should have technical onsite SEO in place to further increase your creditability and relevancy with search engines; it’s the companion strategy to Content Marketing to help your site get discovered by more potential customers. In some cases, it’s beneficial to augment these tactics with Pay-Per-Click or an Email Marketing Campaign. Internet Marketing agencies can help advise you and create a custom and comprehensive strategy that meets your budget, based on their experience of what works and when it works best.
Good Content: Good for People, Good for Robots
Without Content Marketing as a substantial component of your Internet Marketing strategy, your business is missing out on the primary underlying component of how Google and other search engines interact with the Internet and display content in the form of links to potential customers. If you’re researching online marketing, you’ll also hear about the value of Social Media Marketing, which is great for interacting with customers, as a platform for sharing of positive reviews, and for discovering consumer trends. You’ll also hear about SEO (a vague term if there ever was one), and in particular the technical, or onsite or on-page, SEO techniques.
These all include credible, valuable and powerful techniques for any business that wants to increase their online presence and attract new customers. However, if you position content development and publishing as the primary force behind your online marketing efforts, you’ll quickly uncover how it intersects with the tenants of both Social Media Marketing and SEO. And you won’t be missing out on the exact thing (good content) many potential customers are looking for when they go online. Or the thing that Google openly explains it’s trying to bring to your customers (good content). Create and distribute consistent, quality content and you’ll find it’s good for your business, your potential customers, and even the robots.