What is Content Marketing, and why do I need it?

And does it work?

It’s a question we are often asked.  In this article we focus on content and content marketing, understanding the difference and how to make it work for you. 

To the casual observer, web content and content marketing may appear similar, yet there are significant and fundamental differences. 

Content marketing is not just another blog. It’s not a webpage of ad hoc content created at random, and definitely not something pulled together to meet an SEO requirement for regular updates. It’s certainly not anything that has been written up with little or no consideration for the end-user.

Simply put, content marketing is a method of creating and sharing informative or useful free content, with the objective of either attracting new clients or transforming existing prospects into customers.

To understand content marketing, you first have to understand that marketing is more than just selling.  For content marketing, the focus is more about the conversations we have with our customers.  It means becoming a trusted source and consistently publishing content which delights and inspires your customers so they actually want to read, share and talk about it.  

Done well, content marketing helps companies create sustainable brand loyalty, provides information, builds trust and creates an environment where customers are engaged and willing to purchase products from the company in the future. Building trust and establishing and maintaining relationships provides consumers with the information required to make an informed purchasing decision. 

Content marketing examples

We love Ahref’s, we use it every day as a preferred tool in our SEO arsenal. They have an excellent article that showcases content marketing examples and how you can replicate them.  We recommend setting aside ten minutes to read it – 7 Inspiring Content Marketing Examples (And How To Replicate Them)

We believe this particular article is a great example of content marketing done well. First and foremost, it’s extremely well written and provides useful information and resources. It’s over 3,700 words long and includes 3 videos, lots of images, annotated screenshots, infographics and more. It is a brilliant example of content marketing done right.

But does it work?

Although not as powerful as the case studies they’ve highlighted, their article provides a useful insight of a more realistic approach.  It has secured numerous backlinks and delivers a steady stream of over 100 users each month via organic search.

Importantly, these articles were produced at the time when content marketing as a tool first gained notoriety. It rode the initial wave of searches but continues to provide valuable traffic. It establishes Ahrefs as a leader in the area, and subtly promotes their tools as a way of recreating content marketing success, but is written in a non-salesy way.

The benefits of Content Marketing and SEO

The value of content marketing becomes evident when you consider the role content plays in helping your business build and improve search engine optimisation (SEO). Optimised content helps improve SEO outcomes, plays a vital role in improving visibility for your business online and supports your brand.

The differences between Pure content marketing and Pure SEO

In their purest forms, SEO and Content Marketing are two distinct disciplines.  The focus of SEO is narrower and more technical while content marketing is broader and more holistic.

However, for SEO to be a success, it requires brilliant content, and for Content Marketing to be a success it requires the nuanced SEO techniques of research, optimisation, backlinking etc.

  • Research is a fundamental element for identifying good topics for content marketing. Using Google Trends, and tools like Ahrefs to uncover keywords that can be included in your article will drive organic traffic.
  • Regular, quality content is required for any SEO campaign to be a success. Gone are the days of pumping out 500 words of generic content to fulfil an arbitrary quota. It’s pointless to publish something that will not drive traffic to your site and won’t be read by anyone.
  • Backlinks are needed for any SEO campaign to succeed. Not all backlinks are created equal, and nothing will generate high-quality links than a juicy piece of well written, well researched and useful information. It is not a case of writing something similar to everyone else, it has to be better, and provide more information.
  • Onsite optimisation is the unsung hero of SEO and Content Marketing. If you’re going to all the trouble of investing in a piece of quality content. Don’t upload it and cross your fingers hoping someone will find it. Ensure that it’s been optimised.

Understanding your Content Marketing audience

Topic research tools are great, but if you don’t understand your audience your work may fall on deaf ears.

To succeed in business, it’s vital to know who your target audience is. Some businesses go as far as building a profile of their ideal customer. We have! We know her name, her job title, her responsibilities within her organisation, what’s she’s looking for in a digital agency, and importantly, we know how we can add value and make her life easier.

It is important to know this because the content on your website should be targeted at this person. So, before you embark on a topic research expedition, take a step back and ask yourself the following:

  • Who benefits from this content?
  • What does your target audience look like?
  • What questions, concerns, doubts and problems do your potential customers have?
  • How can you help them?

Some companies go as far as sending questionnaires to their existing customers. This is great if you have the time and resources, otherwise, it’s better to leverage the years of expertise and sales experience you have in-house.  Talk to your people and ask them to help formulate a guide for the type of content you should put on your website.

Additionally, you should consider what part of the buying cycle people are when they arrive on your website:

  1. Familiarity stage: Your potential customer is not yet interested in your goods or services, so introduce yourself, tell them something new or interesting and build trust.
  2. Evaluation stage: Your potential customer is interested in the type of goods or services that you sell. This is your opportunity to establish yourself as the leading provider in your particular area of expertise.
  3. Decision stage: Your potential customer has decided to buy the kind of product or service that you are selling. Now is the time to provide content that makes it easy for customers to make an informed decision and choose your product or service rather than choosing one of your competitors.

Content Marketing tips for success

It’s unlikely you’ll get it right the first time, which is why we suggest you never set and forget a piece of content. Ensure you monitor it and look for insights.  The feedback will help you with your next piece.

The great thing about content is that not only does it benefit your SEO campaign, but it also complements your other marketing activities. You can use it for:

  • Social Media posts (LinkedIn loves quality content)
  • Advertising in Social Media
  • Native Advertising
  • Retargeting
  • Database building

By increasing exposure to your quality work, you will find that you will attract the type of audience you set out to, and convert them into customers much more easily than other forms of traditional digital marketing might.

But what are the benefits of Content Marketing

Hubspot’s 2018 State of Inbound Marketing report reports 74% of marketers prioritise an inbound approach to marketing, with companies reporting their inbound ROI, is almost quadruple that for outbound traffic.  Content marketing allows you to:

  • Increase the visibility of your brand and improve brand awareness and recognition
  • Establish lasting relationships and create loyalty and trust with your target audience
  • Add value with no strings attached
  • Build authority and establish your reputation as an industry expert
  • Drive traffic to your site which improves lead generation
  • Open up a channel of communication through social media shares and comments
  • Enable customers to seamlessly transition through the purchase process faster

The most effective way for a business to successfully market their products or services is to provide content which educates the reader or delivers solutions to their biggest challenges. If a prospective customer finds you through the content you provide freely, you create a connection built on trust.

Sharing your knowledge and expertise freely with no strings attached is a tried and true philosophy of successful business the world over. Simply developing connections, building relationships and establishing trust is an effective marketing strategy that will lead to more business.  Best of all, happy customers are your best advocates because they appreciate what you have to offer through the first-hand experience.