There was a cry that was heard amongst many in the search engine optimization world on April 24th, 2012, as if thousands of SEOs suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. It was the day that Google Penguin broke link-building…
…or at least that’s what many thought. Some of us, the ones who were focused on quality rather than quantity, the ones who would work a couple of hours to get one strong, contextual, organic link rather than building tens of thousands of bulk links in the same period of time – we came out better off than we were before the algorithm change.
Google reiterated the importance of inbound links at this year’s SXSW convention and those who survived the SEOpocalypse have found that the right types of links are more powerful than they ever were in the past. Link-building has, in many ways, been replaced by link-earning. You don’t generate links anymore. You generate and expose the content that is worthy of being linked to by other websites (not to mention being shared by individuals, but that’s an entirely other body part to discuss later).
If we’re going to treat search, social, and content marketing strategy as a living organism, then inbound links would be the food that fuels the body. From a purely SEO perspective, it’s what generates the authority that Google and Bing holds so high on their ranking algorithms. As long as it’s done organically and there are no nefarious tactics used in the process, there’s very little risk involved. The upside is huge.
From a social perspective, links can drive the traffic that is necessary to get people in front of your content. Assuming the content is good enough to get links, it’s probably deserving of social media shares as well. Those shares continue to help with search engine rankings but they also help with the purely social marketing area as well.
Last but not least, it does give your website credibility in the eyes of consumers. When your website is featured in a respected website, your potential customers who see the link will be impressed. It’s subtle, but it’s also very powerful.
In the near future, I’ll be going over each of the other parts of the marketing body. In the meantime, take a look at your content and inbound link “earning” strategy and ask yourself a question:
“If I were a website visitor and came across this content, is it valuable enough for me to want to link to it from my site?”
The merging of search, social, and content marketing into a single digital marketing strategy has been happening for years. Intuitively, many of us have been guided by this fact to create the type of strategies that bring the disciplines together appropriately. As the evolution of the three reach a tipping point that is breaking down a good chunk of the practices of the past, it has become paramount to gain an understanding of how everything works together and why the flow of data between each has such a tremendous effect on digital marketing as a whole.
To do this properly, it’s becoming necessary to break it all down into units. The easiest way to understand this is to compare digital marketing strategy to a living organism. Every action has an effect of some sort on all of the parts. With this comprehension, you’ll be better equipped to make decisions about how to craft the overarching strategy as well as how to organize the individual actions.
A Quick Breakdown
If the model to make this work is like a living, breathing organism, then understanding what the different units are can help you grasp how it all plays together. We’re going to be breaking them down individually then bringing them together as a whole. In preparation, here’s a partial list of the individual units that we’ll be covering.
Site UI and Navigation
Social Media Profiles
Social Media Shares
Customers and Visitors
Over the next few weeks we will be breaking down how each of these works individually to support the whole. In the meantime, start thinking along the lines of holistic processes rather than individual tasks. While the tasks themselves are important, how they affect the entire body of marketing processes is the key to finding success.
Content marketing is hard. It requires your business to take up the role of a publisher. Now, that’s not something businesses or brands are used to doing traditionally. Most of the marketing now focuses on the “inbound marketing” phenomenon and that requires patience, extreme focus on generosity, establishing trust, and providing value. It also calls for the need for thought leadership and an ever-demanding presence over the web (including blogs and social media).
All of that is hard work.
Is there a way this can be made easy for you as a business owner? They say technology is a savior, so do tools exist that help to pump up your content marketing efforts?
Here are some web-based tools you can use to accelerate, streamline, and organize your content marketing efforts:
Content Aggregator Tools
To develop content, you’ll need an influx of incoming content. You’d basically need to read a lot to write as much as you ought to. How do you practically crawl over the web to consume so much information that’s spewed out everyday? You get smart and use an aggregator tool!
You can start with LinkedIn’s Pulse, move on to Flipboard for your mobile, TrapIt (claimed to be the world’s most advanced content curation app), set up good sources through Feedly (an alternative for Google’s now-dead RSS reader), and finally wade through Reddit manually.
By working with these tools, you make content available to you at all times. Read, repurpose, develop content on your own string of ideas, or gather information from other content on the web to make your own brand of valuable content. Curation is a pill for content creation and aggregator tools help you do just that.
Content Creation, Organization and Management
Organized efforts are a must for content marketing and there are plenty of tools starting from project management to content organization. Google Drive is ubiquitous and plugs well into the workflows that most small businesses have. You might also want to check out Trello, Asana and Basecamp for organizing projects, content, and teams. To actually create content, you could use tools such as one of the ubiquitous meme generators, Visual.ly, Issuu or UberFlip.
If you are a business owner, you can use Evernote in a million different ways. Note ideas as you get them or jot down facts you can later repurpose as full-blown resource pages or social media updates. You might also use the web-clipper for content curation.
If you work with a team of social media managers and content developers or freelancers, you could bring your team aboard using Evernote for business and collaborate on ideas, content planning, blog posts, and a host of other things.
Plugging into a Hot Spot
Most of the popular publications now have tons of content already as “pillar content” or “resource pages.” You could visit Social Media Today for syndicated posts and resources. HootSuite has a special section with tons of resources too.
In addition to that, many other websites provide on-site tools for helping you to create even more content.
Further, you could literally create an endless flow of content based on ideas from comments, reviews and user-generated posts on communities, forums or rating sites. If you have anything to do with food and restaurants, for instance, you could use reviews from Yelp for first-hand information and then turn it into list blog posts. For technical niches such as hosting solutions or servers, you could make use of information from comparison engines such as Who Is Hosting This and cite them as sources for your blog posts.
Content from Social Media
Social media is big and it’s a huge resource by itself. Using a tool like Storify, for instance, you can create stories using social media data. Use Swayy to get some of the best content to share with your audience based on their interests and engagement behavior. You might also want to consider a tool such as Curata that can help you find trustworthy content quickly and curate this content to fuel your content marketing efforts.
Even without any of these tools, you can still use the dripping content off social media updates and quickly whip up posts relevant to your business niche or industry. It’s quick, it can be credited, and it works for you in multiple ways. Don’t just create content for social media; make your content attract attention off social media too.
Tools for Other Types of Content
While writing posts and creating content based on text is easier, it’s not the end of the road. There are videos, slide decks, podcasts, magazines, and tons of other forms of content that you should create. There are tools for you to develop this kind of content too. Animoto or GoAnimator are ideal for creating short videos. Using Jing or Camtasia, you can create screen casts to show off your products or provide courses.
While it could be a daunting task to create so many forms of content and pump up your content marketing efforts, you also have a mind-boggling and never-ending list of tools to help you create content. Most of the tools are affordable and you can also pick the tools that fit your purpose or budget.
The question is: the tools exist and the list will continue to grow. How are you going to use them? If you are in business, which of these tools are you using currently? Which of these could turn you into a full-fledged business content publisher?
Having tracked data for the last seven years in the automotive marketing arena, I can tell you a few things that I’ve learned that have brought us to where the content marketing world is today. It’s all about process and answering the questions that consumers are asking and it’s something that, as I’ve said time and time again in the past, needs to be viewed holistically.
Rather than go into a long post about how to make it all sing properly (that’s for future posts), it’s important to understand the content marketing trio. No, they have nothing to do with the Three Stooges, but those who don’t understand the consumers’ mentality might ended up looking like stooges in 2014. This is that important.
To get this understanding, you have to put yourself in the consumers’ shoes. You buy things. Take what you know about that and apply it to the mentality and process below.
If they can’t find you, they can’t do business with you. This is a no-brainer. You can advertise on the various networks, get your branding in place through billboards and radio, put ads in third-party sites across the internet, and a dozen other ways to help people find you, but it’s search marketing that truly answers all of the questions that start with “where”.
Since content marketing can help your search engine optimization tremendously, it fits in as the first of the trio. Most people are probably finding your website by the name of your company. While this is fine, you don’t need to be heavily optimized to be found for your name. It’s the other people, the ones that are doing generic searches for you by product or service in your local area, that can have a double impact on your business. By being better optimized, you are moving yourself up in searches which means you are also moving a competitor down.
This is your website. “What” you’re trying to sell should be easy to determine once visitors get there. The challenge is that having a website that’s just like every other website in your market is silly yet so commonly practiced thanks to the mega-vendors and forced OEM adoption.
There is a psychology that goes along with websites that says, “different is usually better”. If your customers visit five websites, four of which look pretty much alike and the fifth, yours, looks different, they’ll wonder why. It will register, even if only on a subconscious level. If the design and content are compelling, you have an advantage.
In industries such as automotive where the differences in price are measured in small percentage points, the “why” factor comes into play. Most have a page that’s a variation of “Why Buy from Us” on their website but it gets very few visitors. It takes more than that to get a consumer to consider you over a competitor.
This is one of the many places where social media comes into play. When are people most likely to click on the social media buttons on your website? When they’re done. In other words, they might visit a handful of websites and put in leads at two or three of them. Once they’re done, there’s a decent chance that they’ll click through to your social media presence to see what you’re up to from the human side of the company. What will they see? Will it be a ton of ads? Will it be a ton of “look at me” posts?
What if they saw your community involvement? What if they saw your happy customers? What if they saw the local community engaging with you and you engaging back with them? They might look at you and two of your competitors during the course of their browsing. Will you be the most compelling? Does you social media presence give them a good reason to want to buy from you rather than the store down the block that’s posting boring or unauthentic content on their social media profiles?
In future posts, we’ll go into how the holistic method of content marketing can make the whole greater than the sum of its parts, but it’s important to understand that reasons that it’s all tied together. Don’t think search, websites, and social. Think where, what, and why.
Content has been the big play for over a year now in the world of marketing. It’s the glue that holds social media marketing and search engine marketing together and it’s becoming so prevalent that the old ways (the ones everyone started using this year) are already starting to become obsolete.
Don’t get me wrong – the techniques themselves still work. The problem is that everyone is starting to get it. The competition level for content marketing at the small business level has gone from non-existent at the beginning of 2013 to hyper-competitive before the end of the year. It’s too easy, too important, and has too many people talking about it for most companies to miss.
Perhaps as bloggers, we did our jobs right. Now, we’re faced with a dilemma – taking it to the next level. Thankfully, the strategy is pretty much the same with an expansion into a two-style mode. By going with this format, you’ll be able to stay ahead of the competition that is starting to catch up to you.
Style 1: The Local Content
This is the easy part. For localized small businesses, it’s all about talking to to and about those in the local area in order to build buzz. The concept is this: post content that is enjoyable or useful to your potential customers and they will share it on social media as well as generate an occasional link or two.
It’s the style that everyone’s starting to get. Just in the automotive industry alone, we’re seeing multiple dealers in the same city making videos about how to change a Mazda key fob battery, writing articles about their first shipment of Chevy Corvettes, and bringing in local celebrities for interviews and discussions.
Just because so many are starting to do it doesn’t mean that you should stop. It means that you have to step up your game. You have to make your content better, get more people to share it, and post more often than your competitors. It means that you have to work harder than everyone else, but that’s one of the things that are necessary in order to stay ahead of the game.
Style 2: The Broader Content
The goal with all types of content is to become the authority on your topic. We have known for a while that localized content works, but it’s not able to stand alone anymore in most industries because of the competition level. To make it stand out ahead of the competitors, you need to hit the national arena.
This means that you can no longer just be the local authority. You have to get the type of content out there that can resonate with a broader audience. This is only possible if you’ve already mastered the local content style and you have a strong following for it.
Going broad is harder. It requires that the content have a more general appeal. It means that your local following will share it as well and that their friends and family from the rest of the country or world will see it and find value as well.
It could be reactions to national news about your industry. It could be universal help items that are not localized. It could be great videos, images, or infographics that anyone anywhere in the country can like.
It also requires a bit more professionalism than the localized content. An iPhone video might work for a quick walkaround of a new inventory item, but to get the national appeal, it has to be better made than that.
* * *
This is the type of thing that many people fear. Just when you thought you had localized content mastered, hearing that it won’t be good enough to keep the gap large between you and your competitors in 2014 can be disheartening. However, if you really think about it, every new challenge like this is an opportunity to shine above and beyond them.
The rise of content marketing and more importantly the focus that Google and Bing have put on website content engagement have changed the way we view the types of content we put on our websites. It’s no longer sufficient to focus all of your content on the basic search engine principles of keyword targeting. You have to have content on your domain that draws in the important social signals and time spent on site.
This really shouldn’t even be a story. It’s one of those obvious statements that shouldn’t require explanation. If you take the title at face value and make it happen, you’re already a step ahead of most of your competitors.
By now, if you’ve been reading what I’ve been posting the last few months, you know that content marketing is the key to current and future search and social success. Businesses who really want to do what sites like Google and Facebook really want them to do will be using high-quality content on their websites as the hub through which they can make their marketing blossom.