What is Content Marketing, and Why Should it Matter to Your Austin Small Business?
The Content Marketing Institute, an online resource for any information you might want on content marketing, defines content marketing thusly:
“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
Content Marketing is projected by MediaPost to expand by 116% from the $144.81 billion spent in 2014 to $313.42 billion by 2019. Since consumers are less responsive to normal advertising and “hard sale” sales tactics, this should come as no surprise. Consumers want well-written, informative content to help them make the right buying decisions, without being “sold”. According to a recent marketing study by industry leader Hubspot, “70% of customers prefer getting to know a company through articles over advertising”.
The core of our Content Marketing service is to turn your small business and brand into a publisher of engaging and useful content assets for your prospects by building an information-rich website (if needed) that will give search engines like Google and Bing content assets to assess, then properly index for the keywords relevant to your customers, and therefore your business.
Content Marketing is, above all else, the art and effort of understanding what your prospects and customers are searching for, then strategically delivering optimized content to them. This process must be based on the keywords that you have discovered, through proper research, are driving organic search traffic and conversions.
Next, our strategy is to share that optimized content in a way that is relevant and compelling to your prospects. You do this by socializing your content through your organization’s properly optimized and deployed social networks. The objectives are simple: grab attention and then traffic for your website, generate social signals from social media channels, and earn quality links from other websites.
When we design a Content Marketing campaign for a client, we consider SEO and Content Marketing to be inseparable. Weaving SEO best practices throughout your content ensures that we’re obeying Google best practices, which makes it more likely that your website will move up the rankings list.
Here’s a few of the Content Marketing tactics that we employ for our Austin area clients:
- Use keywords (naturally): Once we have identified the core keyword for the content, we look for synonyms, along with some related keywords. Then we strategically place them in headers, body text and titles. We’re careful not to over-do it, though. Google primarily, but also other Search engines like Yahoo and Bing have been getting serious about content marketing that is “stuffed” with un-natural use of just one or two keywords. Write for the education of your prospect/reader, while also ensuring that those important keywords are included.
- Earn natural Backlinks: Backlinks from low quality or “spammy” sources will almost certainly hurt your website ranking with search engines, especially Google (see the Penguin and Panda Google algorithm updates). Build quality relationships with professionals in or around your industry who will be willing to share your content marketing efforts, and be ready to link to their primary content resources in return. Backlinks from high-quality, relevant websites will give yours a boost.
- Interactive Media: Use images and embed video on all blog posts and your landing pages. ALL MEANS ALL. Images and video have been proven overwhelmingly to increase on page time and conversion. This will lower your bounce rate and improve your Content Marketing’s standing with Google and other Search Engines.
- The power of a properly implemented content marketing strategy is that it provides information and answers that your prospect is seeking when they visit your site. Most sites don’t commit to their Content Marketing efforts, and just throw content like blogs and pages onto their site, then hope. Hope is not a strategy.
Why use Content Marketing?
Even in the face of a mountain of evidence, small business owners in Austin still ask “Do I need Content Marketing for my Austin business? Isn’t word of mouth good enough?” Before going any further, lets look at the Four Steps of the Buying Cycle:
- Awareness. Before awareness, a prospect – YOUR prospect – has a need, but they are not aware there is a solution.
- Research. Once a prospect – YOUR prospect – is aware of a solution, they perform research to educate themselves. A car buyer might try to learn about different types of the type of vehicle that they feel solves their core needs, a homeowner will compare several refrigerators, etc…. before buying.
- Consideration. The prospect – YOUR prospect – now compares these products from different vendors to ensure they’re getting the best product at the best price (this of course falls along the lines of what matters most to the buyer – one may value a “good deal” over quality, another will be vice versa. That’s a longer conversation about buyer behavior, but you should invest in that conversation).
- Buy. Finally, the prospect makes their buying decision and moves forward with the transaction. For most Austin small business owners, the purchase won’t happen online. You have to be sure a connect your content marketing with your sales process.
Content Marketing Excels At Filling The Gap in Your Online Sales Process
Traditional marketing and advertising is great at the second two steps of your online sales process, but Content Marketing is much better at tapping into those first two stages. The buying process has to be addressed step by step, or it’s a failure. You can be great at one step or two steps of your online sales process, but if you miss any of the other steps, you’re leaving money on the table. Content Marketing keeps that from happening.
When you do your content marketing campaign right, your prospects find your content, find value in it, and by the time they contact you, they’ve already decided that they want to work with you (or buy your product or service). You don’t have to engage in high pressure sales tactics, because most of the “sales convincing” work is already done. Now, it’s just a matter of working out the details, sign the agreement, and get started.
Good Content Marketing Strategy Builds Trust
The trust you need for good sales and good service is critical. Good Content Marketing builds that trust. On the other side, the trust that you would usually have to build during a normal sales cycle is already created before you’ve ever talked to the prospect.
The return on investment for a properly implemented content marketing strategy for an Austin area small business can be phenomenal, but you have to work at it. It’s not easy. It takes research, focus, and consistency. You have to be willing to keep getting back up and dusting your self off after you learn lessons. That, or you have to hire an expert so that you don’t have to learn the lessons the hard way.
Content marketing provides additional benefits for your Austin business. You may not have considered this, but Content Marketing supports your other digital marketing channels, if you do it right. Different Content Marketing types (like blogging, landing pages, etc…) provide supporting content for your social media marketing while also contributing to SEO efforts by providing natural magnets for natural backlinks.
You know that you need to build up good content on your website so that it gets found in search engines. For most Austin companies, the bulk of your SEO efforts should be focused on the right content marketing plan. What’s yours?
How Do I Get Started on MY Content Marketing Plan?
There are lots of Austin companies and individuals that offer content marketing strategy services, sometimes paired with SEO or PR services. If you’re too busy to do it yourself, or you just want to be secure in knowing that you’re starting off on the right foot (and don’t want to manage it in-house), hiring a firm might be a good option for you.
But if you want to start doing your own content marketing, the easiest way is to just start blogging. It’s a great content marketing example that is almost foolproof. It will be hard at first, unless you’re one of those savants that can just bust out content with no effort (there are not many). The more you do it, though, the easier it will get. Follow blogging tips from Copyblogger, and you’ll learn the basics of how to build content for your site or blog that will engage prospects and turn them into clients.
Content Marketing: Final Thoughts
The right Content Marketing plan is important for your Austin small business. Just starting is probably the most important step you can take. We offer consulting to help you on your way, with the added benefit of having Sales and SEO wrapped into that, so that you can rest assured that you’re getting started right.