You’ve heard of it, you know you should be doing it, but you’re not sure exactly what it is or how to go about it.
That of course, is the unmistakable sound of content marketing.
The general confusion and uneasiness around the buzzword is not surprising. The term itself has only been in circulation for as long as people have had access to computers.
Before then, nobody really called it content marketing – creating interesting and relevant content was just another way for big brands to reach out to customers outside of the conventional sales process.
So despite being understood differently as time has moved on, the premise is still the same. And it’s quite simple.
People love to buy, but they don’t always like being sold to.
Blatant sales messages alone don’t grow audiences. You need to provide information that is genuinely useful to people. Only then will you earn their trust. Trust that people need before they decide to spend money.
American agriculture giant John Deere (the guys responsible for popularising industrial tractors) has been doing ‘useful’ content successfully for more than 120 years.
Their magazine ‘The Furrow’, a sort of ‘Rolling Stones’ of the farming and agriculture world is not written to make sales.
The goals were (and still are) to help farmers to become better farmers, make a better livelihood, and ultimately have additional income to reinvest in their farms with quality tools and farming equipment – hopefully in the form of John Deere products, no less.
But, the truth is the majority of brands are still trying to find the best way to do content marketing well.
The difference between doing it, and doing it well.
The Internet is awash with half-baked attempts at content marketing with lacklustre blog posts and sales-driven content brushed with a thin veneer of helpfulness that customers can see straight through.
Brands have to do more than share blog posts and Facebook updates to stand out.
To really compete, you need to differentiate from your competitors with a deliberate content marketing campaign, forging real emotive connections with people who are likely to become paying customers.
But before you go ahead and come up with ideas for blog posts, videos, events and whatever else, it’s important to think about your brands’ unique value proposition.
It sounds fancy, but this statement defines the one thing you do better than everyone else, and the main reason anyone should consider using your product or service.
It’s an excellent way to communicate what your brand has to offer by describing what you do, why anyone should care, and how you are different from your competitors.
Here are two examples that are up there:
‘Learn a language for free. Forever.’
There’s no mistaking what Duolingo are here to offer. Now guess how their content helps people?
‘Build your brand. Sell more stuff. Send better email.’
That’s the simple formula MailChimp has used to position themselves as the go-to email marketing tool for small businesses.
In their content, MailChimp go to extraordinary lengths to help people understand the intricacies of writing for an audience, with guides so detailed they could easily charge for them.
Just check out Voice&Tone and the MailChimp Content Style Guide to see for yourself.
The guides are free, and there isn’t even an incentive to use MailChimp afterwards, but when you do finally decide to put your writing skills to good use and invest in email marketing software, your choice is already made.
Yes, Duolingo and MailChimp produce helpful content by their very nature, but the message even for small businesses is still the same.
Once you’ve answered ‘what’s in it for me?’ with a value proposition that tells the world what you are about and how you can add value to people’s lives, you’re already much better poised to come up with genuinely valuable content ideas that people will appreciate.
Without a concrete proposition, there is no big idea. And the idea is the driving force of your campaign and the reason for creating any content.
Only then is it necessary to decide on the right combination of blog posts, videos, landing pages or staged events to bring the idea to life and propel your brand ahead of your competitors.
But what about SEO?
One crucial difference between content marketing today and content marketing before we all had computers, is the presence of SEO.
Wherever content marketing goes, SEO follows. And vice versa.
Search engine optimisation describes the ways in which we can help Google to understand how relevant and authoritative our content is.
So it makes sense that you can’t really have one without the other.
The better the content serves people’s needs as consumers, the better you will rank for it.
SEO is an entire field of work in its own right, so for the sake of making this easier to understand, I’ll keep it quite simple.
Do you want your brand and its content to rank well in Google? Yes? Do you want your content to be valuable to people? Yes?
You’re in luck.
Search engines are continually getting smarter at delivering the right information to people who are searching.
There are in fact hundreds of factors that Google use to determine how relevant your content is, but the top two by a country mile are these:
Help people with great digital experiences, and you will be rewarded with higher rankings for creating content that your people genuinely want to see.
This means it should be written in natural language and cover everything necessary to paint a comprehensive and wholesome picture, preferably with a mix of images and video too.
And if your content is REALLY good, you won’t even need to ask people to link to it. They’ll be talking about how wonderful and interesting it is anyway, which is even better.
Google notices that if a trusted source is recommending your content, you must be trustworthy too.
That’s the ambition of generating backlinks (links pointing to your content), and Google loves them when deciding whether your content is any good.
This is the part where I tell you how we can help
Content marketing is essential to grow your audience, achieve long-term brand advocacy, and ultimately increase sales.
So if you’re interested in any of those things, give us a shout.