What is Content Marketing? Making Content Work For You

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What is content marketing? You have to focus on your audience like a DJ. I revisit the definition in an in-depth way.

As a digital marketer, I understand the important role that content plays in SEO (search engine optimization) and utilizing online networks (e.g. social) to spread brand messaging. Ultimately, the end goal is to grow your bottom line. How does content marketing get you there? What business objectives does it help with? What is content marketing? I address all of these questions in this article.

Plenty of content marketers will tell you what you want to hear. Only a few of them are honest about the business problems content marketing really solves. What I’m getting at is that content needs to facilitate ROI (return on investment). You should expect conversions to increase over time.

Among SEO experts, there has always been a debate on whether content is truly king and how much of it is needed on a consistent basis. Many bloggers publish infrequently at minimal levels, while a small percentage do so regularly and at high volumes.

Who is better off and where is the ROI with all that content?

“Content shock” is an idea I investigated whiles back in one of Michael Schaefer’s books. The concept was fairly simple. Basically, the more content that is produced on the web, the harder it becomes to penetrate markets or reach a target audience. That is because people have a threshold for content consumption.

Today I still find the idea to be true. Though it does not mean that content marketing isn’t effective. Rather it demonstrates that there is much more competition online. You have to work a little harder and need more content of high quality to matter. Hence, companies that publish at higher levels will theoretically fare better than others.

Goal setting is key. Ensure there is a clear objective behind every piece of content you publish. Too much content on your site, whether good or bad, can be hurting you if there isn’t a clear purpose for it. Better to publish content strategically.

Revisiting The Meaning of Content Marketing

Content marketing is the use of digital information or other sorts to earn consumer attention. This includes but not limited to the use of blogs, videos, images, newspapers, television, radio etc. to reach an intended audience.

That is how I view it. No need to limit our thinking of what content marketing is. Certainly, it is not limited to channels like social media or search engines but can also include TV, newspapers, and magazines.

The main difference between pure old school advertising and content marketing is whether there is also an unselfish motive involved. In other words, does it provide value to the viewer or reader before they even decide to pull out their wallets? Are you putting the needs of your audience first?

Outbound and inbound strategies work together. They both rely on content but the difference is in the approach. For example, if you sent cold emails to prospects and asked them to get on a call with you, that is a pure outbound tactic.

However, if you sent cold emails to people and referred them to your latest article, it is a mix of both inbound and outbound approaches or perhaps, hybrid.

All that being noted, digital mediums are still the best tools for content marketing. They are cost-effective and can reach a wider audience over time. One way or another, your efforts should translate into sales or leads that become paying customers. Again, that is why being strategic in your approach is paramount.

How to Make Content Work for You

Knowing the objectives of your business is the first step. Then create content that serves your business goals but places the audience’s informational needs first. Every publication, PDF, image or even status updates must fit into the larger picture and audience-focused.

Typically content is created for one or more of the following reasons.

  1. To earn links (or backlinks).
  2. Educate an audience.
  3. Drive engagement.

Let us look at why a business may decide to create content based on the above- reasons.

  1. Links are a major search engine ranking factor so they will help you obtain higher positions on the SERPs (search engine results pages). The primary way of naturally earning backlinks is to publish useful content.

  2. Educational content attracts more visitors from search engines because informational search queries make up most of the searches.

  3. On-site and off-site audience engagements are critical for the growth of your online presence. Avenues like social media (second largest source for organic traffic) or external blogs present affordable advertising opportunities.

The goal of SEO is to rank higher on the SERPs to attract consumers and content marketing helps you archive that objective. Higher positions normally translate to more business, providing that you are targeting the right keywords.

Business Goals That Content Marketing Solves

One of the most pressing concerns for any new business is defeating obscurity. No one is going to buy from you if they don’t know who you are (aka brand awareness).

Even the most established companies have to regularly run brand awareness campaigns to ensure their brands remain in the minds of consumers.

Content marketing solves the obscurity debacle more efficiently because it has a sort of compounding effect to it. Your traffic drops whenever you stop paying for advertisement placement. However, content such as a blog post will continue to garner attention for years.

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Furthermore, consider the following benefits.

  • Get more website traffic because you rank higher on the SERPs for relevant terms.
  • Attract more prospects from search engines that become paying customers because you are meeting them at their time of need (shop or purchase stage of the sales funnel).
  • You will build a loyal audience and encourage advocacy by publishing valuable content consistently. People naturally talk about others that help them.
  • Content marketing raises your reputation and authority among consumers, including trust in search engines.
  • Your overall marketing cost will decrease because content marketing is more affordable than other advertising methods.

Content Marketing is a Means to an End

Excellent content will almost always lead to an increase in website traffic. However, how you convert your visitors into paying customers is what will determine your ROI. Marketing is person-to-person (or human-to-human). Write for your target audience before thinking about SEO. Never restrict your thinking of what content marketing is.

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