In 2014, content marketing is expected to become a much more widely used marketing tactic. In fact, in a recent survey, 74% of brands expect to increase their content marketing spend in 2014. However, as Jason Falls rightly pointed out, content marketing alone will fail.
Over 2013 and the first part of 2014, many brands have been pummelled online. Facebook’s updated algorithm now means brand pages receive on average a pathetic 2% organic reach. Meanwhile, Google released a series of algorithm updates resulting in brutal penalizations of previously high ranking sites who had been using shady tactics in the past. With all the hype around content marketing, there is the risk that businesses and marketers will see it as a golden egg, and then cut expenditure on SEO and Social Media, which are actually both vital channels.
The truth is, content marketing thrives when incorporated into a wider digital marketing strategy, but fails alone. In this article we’ll look at the benefits of a combined content and social strategy, and exactly how to go about running your campaign.
The Benefits Of A Combined Content-Social Strategy
It is an unfortunate fact that many small businesses begin content marketing using their blog, but stop prematurely after seeing poor results, with no-one sharing their posts, no-one leaving comments, and no noticeable business being generated.
Without a plan for properly promoting your content, you are unlikely to be successful with content marketing.
There are a wide range of benefits from ensuring your content marketing is deeply integrated with the work of your social media team and your SEO company. Notably, is the fact that old school SEO is now much less effective. Gone are the days that an SEO company could achieve high rankings on a large scale, competitive campaign by manually building links, thanks to Google’s constant stream of aggressive anti-spam, anti-link scheme algorithms.
Many SEO companies are now not only incorporating content marketing into their campaigns, they are actually making content the focal point of them. This case study by Gael Breton shows how an SEO campaign actually became more effective by removing the manual link building side of the campaign entirely. Content marketing is now an essential component of an effective SEO campaign, because Google values high quality content. If your site isn’t useful to users, that’s a big reason why it might not be ranking in the search results.
The social media benefits are also huge. The truth is that social media requires content to operate effectively. One of your aims for social media marketing should be to drive qualified traffic to your site, and a high quality article is one of the best ways of doing this.
Quality content also allows you to build relationships with industry influencers and leverage them to grow your own following, as well as driving qualified referral traffic from their blogs.
Planning Your Content
The most important stage of content marketing is the planning stage, and unfortunately this is the step that many people get wrong. While you could pump out a short, 500 word article every day about whatever issue comes into your head, an effective plan of how you’ll deliver value to your audience can multiply the effectiveness of your content in it’s ability to build awareness of your firm.
The first step is to know your audience. What problems do they have that need solving? Imagine your customer as a patient at a doctor’s surgery. They usually have a problem which needs solving. Imagine your article as the doctor, diagnosing a problem and finding some solutions for them.
You could now write a brief 500 word article on this topic, but is that really the best use of your time? Probably not.
Instead, you should focus on writing an MVP, or Mass Value Post, a technique advocated by Rizvan Ullah. Google loves quality content, and if you produce the definitive resource on your topic, you have the potential to receive large numbers of quality backlinks both now and in the future. The more value you offer in your article, the more your audience will share and link to it, and in turn the more Google will love it, resulting in better rankings.
One method of deciding what write about is by performing a bit of competitor research. Search for the keywords you’re looking to write about, see what your competitors are writing about, and then produce a piece of content that’s even better than theirs.
The result is a ‘linkable-asset’, a term that an SEO company would use to describe a high quality piece of content, that if found by an influencer or blog owner in your niche, would want to link back to. You can read more about this strategy here at Backlinko, which author Brian Dean refers to as the ‘skyscraper technique’, and has been used to more than double traffic in just 14 days!
It is a good idea to have your SEO consultant or SEO company help with the keyword targeting which essential to make the article a success, but then let your in-house expert on the topic write the article itself. To truly produce ‘great content’ that will offer value to your audience, an expert on the subject is needed.
Content Through Collaboration
When PageRank was invented, it was influenced by the citations found in scholarly literature, where if the work of another author was used, it would be cited. When writing your Mass Value Post, you should use the same principle. Citing other useful resources not only adds authority to your post, it also enhances the user experience, allowing your post to become a hub page on that topic.
There are a number of different ways you go about this:
Ask For Collaborations
One of the best examples is this post, where the author Richard Marriott has contacted influencers in his industry, asking them to take part in his article. When the article was completed, he let them know, and they shared the article, resulting in hundreds of social signals and traffic!
Reference Other Works Then Notify The Authors
This is my favourite method as it’s so quick and easy to do. Simply log all the links you cite in your article in a spread sheet, then let the authors know that you mentioned them. More often than not they will share your article to their audience!
List Resources For Further Reading
If you’ve written a substantial beginner’s guide to a topic, why not add a list of articles for further reading on the subject? Not only will that offer your readers even more value, it will allow you to build relationships with other influential authors in your niche.
Create A Round-Up Article
Create a ‘hub’ article by creating a definitive roundup of the best resources to solve a common problem that your customers have, summarizing each in a paragraph and linking back to the original for further reading.
Use Social Media To Make Your Content Marketing Work
Once you have produced your content and it’s live on your site, the work hasn’t ended, it’s only just begun! You could have the best article in the world but if you don’t use social media marketing to effectively promote it, it’s unlikely to take off.
All of the content strategies above require citing other authors. List all of these in a spreadsheet and collect their contact details, including email, Twitter, Linkedin and Google+, which are usually in their author bios or contact pages.
The next step is to contact each person you mention. I’ve found success using this tactic by being non-needy, and simply letting them know you’ve mentioned them. You could use the following template in your outreach:
Thanks for sharing your excellent article [their article name] which I’ve referenced in my post [your article name].
I have, of course, included a link back your original post.
Feel free to check out my post at [your post url] and to share it if you think it would be useful to your network.
In your spreadsheet, log who you’ve contacted and on which medium, whether email, Google+, etc. and then log your responses.
Persistence Is Key
The best success comes if you are able to get the author’s email, but sometimes this is not possible. If someone doesn’t respond to your message, either with a reply or simply tweeting out your article, chase them up, perhaps on a different medium. For example if you originally contacted them via email or a private Google+ message, try tweeting them instead.
Sharing In Relevant Communities
One thing that can sometimes be overlooked when sharing content via social media is posting it in relevant communities. Google+ and LinkedIn are best for this, each with thousands of active, vibrant groups for a range of niches.
When sharing your content, be sure to do so in a group targeted to your audience. For example, I might want to share this post with groups for content marketing, social media and SEO professionals. However, it can be less clear in other industries. For example if you wrote an article on “The Definitive Guide On Renting Commercial Property”, you might want to find a group for small business owners rather than commercial property. Consider where your customers are, rather than what topic you’re writing about.
Find And Engage Influencers In Your Industry
Industry influencers have the power to expose your content to a large, relevant audience, and learning how to find and engage them is essential. Matthew Barby has written a great walkthrough explaining exactly how to do this here at Wordtracker.
Engaging Your Existing Audience
Finally, don’t forget to share your content with your existing audience across all your social channels. Facebook’s recent updates may have caused some disillusionment with investing in social media, but if done well, Facebook is still a valuable source of traffic. Try these 9 social media tips from Buffer to improve your reach and traffic across a range of social networks.
There is huge potential this year to leverage Content Marketing to grow your site’s traffic and increase leads and sales by incorporating it into a wider social media and SEO strategy, whether you perform it in-house or in partnership with an SEO company. Content Marketing should not be seen as a way to escape the mediocre reach seen recently on Facebook, but instead used to supercharge the effectiveness of your social media and SEO campaigns. If leveraged correctly and using some of the content ideas above, content marketing can allow you to generate better results by working smarter, rather than harder.