Where, What, and Why: The Content Marketing Trio

Three Stooges

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.

 

Where

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.

 

What

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.

 

Why

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?

Holistic

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.

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Move over Google, Facebook will win the Internet


Mount Google

The Internet Mountain

Having worked in the online marketing industry for over 10 years, I’ve seen a lot of trends come and go.  I’ve also seen companies ascend the mighty internet mountain, only to pass out from the lack of oxygen and come tumbling back down.

Currently, there’s little doubt that Google stands atop that internet mountain.  They’re the biggest, the baddest, and the most influential company on the internet, in my humble opinion.

If you want to find something on the internet, you most likely resort to using Google to find that something you’re looking for.  This is especially true with finding businesses.  However, I believe that the war for internet supremacy, while currently dominated by Google, will not ultimately be won by that behemoth.

Who do I believe will be the victor when the dust settles?  Currently, I believe that company to be Facebook.  Now, this could change.  A newcomer could come on the scene and dethrone Facebook.  My real point is; the internet won’t be won by a search company but rather a social media company.  Here is the reason why.

 

Organic Search Bomb

Any business owner that relies on organic internet traffic has probably had the following experience.

One day, a business owner wakes up and sales aren’t coming in as regularly or perhaps the phone isn’t ringing as often as it usually does.  Flummoxed, the business owner does a quick analysis of his company’s online marketing channels and finds nothing out of sorts.  Then, he goes to Google and types in a familiar keyword that brings up his company’s website in the #1 spot.

To his amazement, his website isn’t in the top spot anymore.  In fact, it’s all the way down at number 6!

He quickly calls his webmaster and asks all the usual questions.  Did something happen? Did we do anything? Is something broken?

More and more I’m seeing this happen with my clients.  And the funny thing is, it has nothing to do with what they’ve done, but rather, how they’re now being viewed.  And the one doing the viewing is Google.

Maybe it was a Panda crawl, maybe it was Penguin or maybe it was some other covert aspect of Google’s algorithm that no longer likes the company’s website.  The point is; they’ve taken a hit.  They’re revenues have taken a hit.  And this drop in rankings has caused serious damage to the company.

I’ve seen entire companies fold because of organic search problems.  I’ve seen layoffs and downsizing due to this as well.

 

Social Media: Steady as She Goes

Now, let’s examine how this scenario would play out if the company we’re discussing drew most of their customers in through Facebook.

The business owner wakes up one morning.  His sales are steady, his calls are coming in as expected, and his company is humming along.  He logs into the admin side of Facebook and notices that his “likes” have jumped from 62,125 to over 63,000.  Great news!

He gets his marketing department to develop an online promotion and posts it on the Facebook page.  At which point, a good number of his followers share it, like it, and redeem the offer.

And this brings me to the point of this article.  A company’s followers on Facebook won’t fluctuate due to an algorithmic change on Facebook’s part.  The number won’t shoot down due to something completely out of the company’s control.

Yes, the company’s follower number can take a hit with bad press or a mistake on the company’s part.  But, those actions are not nebulous and they’re usually easy to identify and find a solution.  Unfortunately, the Google algorithm isn’t as easy to decipher.

 

Google’s Ultimate Downfall

As an SEO (search engine optimization) consultant, I read hundreds of blogs from industry insiders and Google employees.  And I’m shocked at the lack of consensus on what actually affects Google rankings.  You could take two “experts” in the SEO field and ask them what are the top 10 ranking factors and you’ll get two very different lists.

This also brings up the point of Google’s willingness to change the rules of the search engine game.  They will make broad changes to their algorithm that affect thousands if not hundreds of thousands of companies and give little or no notice of the change.  (Exact match domains, anyone?)

Whereas, Facebook actually seems to want to help companies increase their reach and exposure. (Graph Search, news feed optimization, etc.)

All of this doesn’t even take into account the fact that people trust a friend’s referral over an organic search result, but that’s an argument for another time.

The bottom line is this.  Companies are built on the idea that they can make projections on revenues.  A big part of those projections is their marketing.  More and more, companies will find that social media offers a steadier, more efficient, and more reliable medium for marketing over organic search rankings.  As this shift continues to take place, you’ll see more companies divert their marketing dollars towards Facebook.

There are already signs of Google losing marketing dollars to Facebook.  And the pace of that loss is accelerating.

I don’t know when Google will get light-headed from lack of oxygen, atop the internet mountain, and come tumbling down.  But I do know that Facebook is well stocked with mountaineering supplies, and they’ve made base camp just below the summit.  They’re just waiting for their opportunity to ascend.

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The Two Parallel Styles of Small Business Content Marketing

Mazda Keys

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.

Change is good as long as you’re on top of it.

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The Trouble with Cryptomnesia

Ernest Hemingway

Cryptomnesia has been on my mind a lot lately. In the course of reading dozens of marketing blog and writing hundreds of marketing words every day, it’s definitely a looming threat to myself, and everyone else in the industry. Cryptomnesia occurs when you remember something you’ve read or seen in the past, but your brain interprets it as something new and original. You don’t know exactly when it will strike, but any sudden, brilliant idea you pull out of the ether is probably suspect. It’s not a pleasant thought, but when you’re reading and writing automotive digital marketing material all day every day, it’s something you should keep in mind.

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Canned Social Media Marketing in an Hour Per Day

Can of Social Media

Under normal circumstance, I do not like the types of social media strategies that try to can them into basic processes with time limits. Sure, it’s good to have guidelines, but I find that they’re normally too limiting to allow people to make the right decisions. This infographic is somewhat like that, but it’s design is just too cool in its simplicity to ignore it altogether.

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The 3 Everlasting Social Media Principles for Small Business Owners

Everlasting Gobstopper

Social media has flooded the world of marketing, overtaking traditional concepts and transforming them into formats unheard of.  Conventional theories of outbound marketing have suddenly plunged in a return on investment, as ventures in new forms of inbound marketing skyrocket for business owners.  However, with such a new structure in a world unknown, small business owners are finding themselves hopping aboard a train with no destination.

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