Chapter 8: Content and Inbound Marketing
Content and inbound marketing have risen to prominence in the last few years. Content was once considered necessary, but less important than building links and other tactics that attracted traffic. Today, high quality content is the cornerstone of your interactions with customers and how sites achieve top rankings.
Content marketing has become synonymous with inbound marketing, or the concept that quality content is the best way to attract customers, links, and social interaction. In the inbound marketing sphere, marketers focus on creating strong website content, social media updates, email marketing campaigns and more. High-quality, authoritative content builds your brand and visibility, and carefully designed landing pages use persuasive copy and strong calls to action to move prospects through the buying funnel. Here’s a closer look at what businesses need to know about content marketing.
What Qualifies as Content?
Content refers to a broad range of creative tools that your business creates to educate, attract and delight customers. It includes but isn’t limited to:
- Web page content
- Blog posts
- Articles and guest posts
- Social media updates
- E-books, white papers, and reports
- Brochures, tips sheets, and product FAQs
- Sales pages
- Videos and micro-videos
- Pictures, infographics, and animated GIFs
Choosing which types of content are right for your customers and right for achieving a specific business goal is at the heart of effective content marketing. Experimentation is one of the best ways to find your voice in the market, both on your site and in the broader digital landscape. Don’t be afraid to try different formats until you decode the approach that’s right for your specific situation.
The Difference Between On-Site and Off-Site Content
The on-site content versus off-site content discussion raises a simple, but important question: what type of content is going to best position you for SEO success? If you’re writing great content, should you be posting that on your own site or posting it on other sites with a link back to your own homepage? The answer is, of course, both.
Fresh, quality content on your own site is the cornerstone of most successful content marketing strategies. It’s important to have flagship pieces on your own site that help you rank for your businesses top keywords and core concepts. Off-site content is one of the best ways to earn visibility for your content and brand. Doing both together will create the synergies that make you what Laura Roeder calls “business famous.”
Guest Blogging for Brand Building
In the last two to three years, one technique that’s picked up steam is guest blogging. The idea was simple: find a site that’s related to your niche and offer to contribute a post in exchange for a link back to your site. On the surface, it’s an effective and relatively harmless way to accomplish your goals. But like everything in SEO, it has the potential to be abused and that’s exactly what happened. An industry popped up around guest blogging that was shady and smacked of the article marketing abuses of past decades.
Panic ensued when Matt Cutts released a video exploring how guest blogging had been misused and going so far as to say that if you’re using guest blogging for SEO and link building, it’s time to stop. If you’re doing low quality guest blogging with poor quality content on low-end sites, this is an important wake-up call.
There is, however, an important caveat to this point. There are a number of reasons that site owners and entrepreneurs should continue with guest blogging – but it’s not to build links or for direct SEO benefit. Instead, it’s to focus on brand building. One of the biggest benefits of guest blogging is getting your material in front of new audiences. When readers see your material on a blog they like and trust, they’re likely to review your materials. This drives traffic, engagement, new followers, and potentially customers and links. But think of guest blogging as a primarily brand building effort, and use care in choosing the sites that you associate your brand with.
Promoting the Content That You Create
One of the most important aspects of any content marketing strategy is developing your content promotion strategy. If no one sees the content that you’ve created, it’s of limited value. While it may ultimately be found through organic search, it’s possible to add rocket fuel to your content by doing some strategic promotion. This has two benefits: the byproducts of links and shares are likely to help your organic performance and at the same time, decrease your dependence on waiting for search engines to notice and promote your content. Here are some different approaches that are effective in getting your content noticed:
- Social media promotion: Promote your content through your social channels. Make it easy for readers to share by including social share buttons and a call to action encouraging them to share the content if they enjoyed it.
- Connect to the broader conversation: Use social media features such as hashtags to connect your content to the wider conversation that’s happening about your topics. Websites such as hashtags.org can help you find the right hashtags to promote your content.
- Include in your newsletter: Newsletter subscribers often pay attention to different things than the people in your social feeds. Periodically send out round-ups of great content (your own and other people’s that you’ve curated) for extra exposure to your content.
- Targeted outreach to influencers: Another strategy that’s extremely helpful for getting attention on your content is following up with influencers in your space. If your content is truly relevant to their audience and high value, a share or personal email can make them aware of your work and prompt them to promote it to their audience.
An important tactic for promoting your content is social media marketing. We’ll look at strategies for effective social promotion and engagement in the next chapter.