Whatever your business, there are four compelling reasons to invest a significant portion of your marketing effort into the generation and promotion of good content tailored for your audience:
1. Content is essential for SEO
In fact, tailored content based on an understanding of your audience is the most important part of SEO. Search engines seek good content above all else. Almost everything they do is an attempt to identify the best content and determine what it is really about.
Text is obviously very important to search engines because it contains words. If you are producing other sorts of content (video, animations, graphics) then you should supplement it with good, descriptive text to help search engines. In addition to the text they find on a page, search engines use links to identify the topic of content and to measure how important the page is compared with other related pages.
Links are treated almost like votes by search engines. The quality, quantity and context of links are used to help identify topic and measure popularity, but all links are not created equal. Some carry more authority. A link from cnn.com carries more authority than a link from your sister’s brand new blog about her hectic life.
At the moment links are the most important signals search engines use. Producing and promoting good content is an effective and sustainable way to gain good links for SEO. Social media signals are growing increasingly important to search engines – and good content is much more likely to generate social media activity too.
SEO is the best way to invest your marketing budget - and good content is the foundation of good SEO. Without good content your campaigns could still drive visitors to your website. But they will not drive engagement and social sharing.
2. Content is the most compelling thing you can do
On the web nothing moves people like content. Rich copy, images, video, animations and interactive content can inform, educate, reassure and entertain us; can make us laugh or move us to tears.
Content give us feelings that we want to share with other people – and social media makes it easy to share with our whole social network in a single click.
An organisation may be capable of something truly amazing – for example a charity may even save a human life. But without content to convey the story and the associated emotions nobody will ever know or care.
3. Content is essential for effective Social Media campaigns
Socialising means communicating. You can’t be social unless you have a message to communicate. Even a short, 140 character tweet is a piece of content and some tweets are compelling enough for people to share virally.
The most fundamental function of the web is to enhance content by linking to other content. Your tweet can link to a blog post, image or video – in short, a bigger, richer piece of content that might be very sophisticated and truly captivating.
You might host that content on your website to generate social engagement there and boost search engine optimisation for your website. Alternatively you might feature your content on somebody else’s blog. Or put it on a social site like YouTube or Pinterest, where it can take on a life of its own. An effective content strategy includes plans for both on-site and off-site content.
4. Content is the most shareable thing you can do
In spite of the explosive growth of smartphones and apps it is still very rare for people to share offline content routinely or extensively. At the most somebody might take a photo of a very captivating poster – or lend a magazine to a friend.
But, as discussed above, online content adds a whole new dimension to sharing. It can be linked to, driving not just referral traffic but also search engine optimisation. It can easily be shared on social media websites, where it can take on a life of its own. Blog posts can be automatically and instantaneously syndicated all over the world using RSS feeds.
The future of the media is personal, social, instant and free access to content. The media giants of the future will be individuals, groups and businesses who provide good content and make it social and shareable.
Marketers are already seeking new ways to bridge the divide between offline and online content and interactive display ads and QR codes are early, somewhat clumsy attempts to enhance offline activity with online content. But the future of online/offline integration looks much more exciting. I’ll be talking more about that in future posts.
I mentioned that businesses will be among the media giants of the future. Because they have access to capital, man-hours and skills, businesses might turn out to be the most important content providers of all. Content is just as important for online stores as it is for bloggers and media organisations – in fact it is even more important because traditional product pages are not usually very compelling. Making online stores compelling requires compelling content: every online store should have an active blog and every product page should be rich in content in the form of text, images, video, animations and interactive media. In the case of interactive media, HTML5 is an important technology and online stores have yet to begin exploring the possibilities it offers.
Remember that your content needs to be tailored to your target audience. Below are two examples of content that is more generic in nature but compelling nonetheless. The number of YouTube views and Facebook Likes speak for themselves…
Creating and promoting good content is the most fundamental and important part of your online marketing strategy. That is no exaggeration and it should come as no surprise. But it is a sad fact that most marketing budgets do not fund content generation adequately. This is a shocking and inexcusable mistake that reveals a widespread misunderstanding about what really drives interest, engagement and sales online. Most marketing budgets allocate significant resources to the most popular online marketing activities – notably SEO, PPC and Social Media campaigns. Those campaigns are absolutely essential to an effective marketing strategy – but the key to making them truly successful is effective online content.
- In the case of SEO and PPC, ask yourself, “How compelling is the page people land on?”
- In the case of social media campaigns ask yourself, “Why will people share this?”
If you’re wondering why your website doesn’t get hundreds of Facebook Likes or Tweets, or why nobody is sharing your social media posts then you should stop wondering and take a good, long look at your content.
- How exciting is your content?
- How special and unique is it?
- How difficult would it be for a competitor to make content that is significantly more compelling?
- How can you deliver content that captivates your customers and sets new standards for online content within your industry in the future?
Those are questions you need to ask in order to understand the strengths, weaknesses opportunities and threats within your content strategy and the wider marketplace. By answering those questions you take the first steps in formulating a content strategy.
What? You have no content strategy whatsoever? Then drafting a formal strategy should be the very next thing you do today! Make sure you engage with senior management and the people with the industry expertise and creative skills to develop your content. Humbly ask for their ideas and input. Get them to buy into the strategy and take ownership of their role in it. Evangelise the important of good content and champion a culture of passion for content within your organisation.
Good foundations of content can support a strong online strategy, enabling more effective online campaigns. Good content also boosts the power of offline campaigns, enhancing them with increased engagement – and providing more shareability than isolated and sometimes languid offline campaigns ever could. Good online content supports integration and collaboration between digital and offline channels.
Weak foundations of content are not capable of supporting campaigns effectively. You will need to work much harder to build campaigns that work without a good content strategy. Campaigns founded on poor content are often forced to resort to low-quality, unsustainable practices like spam – because the content is just not good enough for anybody to genuinely link or share.
Do you really think your product page is going to go viral? With 50 words of copy that exist on 50 other websites? With one poor-quality image? At the very least you need to build out your product copy to make it more unique and informative. Ideally you would add more images to give people an experience that immerses them in your products.
You don’t need to invest in a movie director, a writer or a photographer to create good content. Just use the product and industry knowledge already there within your business.
Just make your content simple, human and informative. Better still, make it compelling, entertaining and easy to share. Above all, make sure your content is tailored to the needs of the people you are targeting.
Good content begins with a good understanding of the audience. If you don’t understand what your audience considers to be compelling and shareable content then you should get to know them a lot better.
- Begin by asking your customers or target audience what they would consider to be compelling and shareable online content.
- Then build it for them.
- Finally, promote it. Make sure the target audience know about it. Make sure the people who influence them know about it too.
This process is the most important part of your online marketing strategy.