If you have attended any digital marketing or SEO conference this year then you will no doubt be familiar with the term ‘content marketing’. You’ll probably be more than familiar with it in fact – sick of hearing it is likely a more apt description.
Whether you’re a brand or an agency everyone in the industry – me included – is beating the same content marketing drum. Search engine web spam updates are the main driver behind this shift from the dark ages of SEO to the industry becoming more in line with what could be considered ‘proper marketing’.
Preaching content marketing is one thing, but how do you actually go about creating relevant, interesting copy that is going to not only pique your audience’s interest but instigate a reaction from them (link/social share)?
Research, research, research
The first step on the journey of a thousand links is research. You must know what your website’s audience is interested in, and also what they’re not. Easy, right? If your website sells holidays then it’s logical that your audience will be interested in content on hotels.
But do you know why type of content your audience reacts to? Are they turned on by list articles and turned off by longer, more in depth prose? Will they share content incorporating videos and ignore infographics?
These are all questions answered by research, and to some extent trial and error. Asking the opinion of ‘influencers’ (people with large social media followings, popular bloggers etc.) is the most effective way to conduct this research.
You can do all the research in the world but if you do not host the content on your website your success is going to be severely limited. Having the content on your website ensures that any links from third party websites will point to your site, and therefore make sure all the SEO authority flows to your page and on through to the other pages on your website.
What’s the big idea?
When coming up with the idea for your content there is the temptation to wait for a world-changing idea to manifest itself on your computer screen. While big ideas are not to be baulked at simple ones can also be very effective.
If absent of your own ideas, simply ‘borrow’ others. News hijacking is a tried and tested content marketing practice. Morrisons excelled at this twice during Wimbledon this year, taking advantage of Andy Murray’s victory.
This is something we do at Search Laboratory as well. For example, at the start of the summer there were murmurings in the media about the danger of the tree disease Ash Dieback. Recognising that this topic was relevant to one of our client’s audience and anticipating that this story would only become more prevalent, we interviewed a university professor, who was the leading expert on this topic and created a blog post for the clients. Subsequently this post was picked up and linked to by regional media, environmental websites and the Huffington Post.
UK Supermarket Morrisons renamed itself 'Murriwins' after Andy's Wimbledon win - a fun example of news hijacking
Think of the reader, not links
Thinking of links and not the reader when creating content for SEO is a shortcut to failure; the content must add value to the audience otherwise it’s pointless. This is not a complicated brief – you are yourself a reader, so just think what interests/excites you, what gets you tapping your colleague on the shoulder and pointing to your screen and try and emulate this.
There is interest buried within even the most seemingly mundane of topics. A good example of this is one our clients, a company that sells vehicle tracking devices. On the surface this is not a topic that appears to lend itself to mass media coverage. However, through its devices the company had masses of data on Britain’s roads and what speeds their vehicles were driving on these.
We worked through 7m individual data points to compare the distance travelled during rush hour with quieter periods during the day. This analysis allowed us to identify the slowest roads in the UK, which we then made into an interactive map that was hosted on the company’s website.
There is news buried in the most mundane topics as Search Laboratory demonstrates with the 'UK's slowest roads map'
Don’t be shy
Once you’ve created your content don’t neglect to market it. Get back in touch with the influencers you spoke to during your research and point them in the direction of your post, explaining why it may be of interest to them. Look to see who else is talking about similar topics, set up Google alerts and monitor social media mentions.
The interactive map of the UK’s slowest roads is a perfect example of this. The map is a great piece of content but without us – and the company’s external PR agency – working to bring attention to it, it would have had minimal impact. Instead through our outreach it was picked up throughout the mass media, including the Daily Mail, ITV, The Sun, Birmingham Mail, MSN and the BBC.
A buzzword yes, but content marketing as both a term and a practice is certainly here to stay and by following the above steps your content should
The above guide is by no means a guaranteed path to success. Not every piece of content you devise will be a roaring success but research, a decent idea and a good outreach plan will ensure you triumph.
Read another blog post by Ian Harris:
How to Successfully Run Multilingual Campaigns