Content marketing is the new buzzword for 2015. I hear it thrown around in tons of meetings, SEO articles and podcasts. But what I have found while consulting with multiple clients is that is a grossly misunderstood concept. This is ironic because the process on the macro scale is very simple.
On the micro scale however, it can get complicated. Implementation is always harder than it seems.
So what is content marketing?This article is going to tackle content marketing from an SEO perspective. Alternatively we know that good content is likely to be shared, passed around and good for branding. This is intuitive, but since nobody has cracked to code to consistently create viral content I want to focus on how we can use content in a consistent, trackable, and accountable manner to help us rank for KW's that are even sometimes totally unrelated to the content.
Content marketing is based around the idea millennials don't like to be advertised too. The younger generation isn't into getting pitched product. However, they are interested in being entertained with humor, information, visuals, music and more. Content marketing on the macro scale is the process where a company creates a piece of content centered around their industry, promote it, and build links to it. Naturally the content often starts to garnish a small amount of niche traffic coupled with link building the page authority of the content begins to rise. Then the company internally links with a juicy SEO optimized anchor text to a landing page they are targeting. Then like magic the rankings start to increase.
In fact the amount of traffic the content produces and how qualified said traffic is: is largely non - important. The purpose is to create something statistically more likely to succeed when doing outreach and link-building rather than generate direct income. This is because it's harder and harder to get people to link to a blatant product page with a blatant optimized anchor text, and the younger generation is getting savvier and savvier sniffing out things of this nature. So are blog owners and webmasters.
So how do I do it?
Well lets show an example first so we know we are on the same page. Infographics are a perfect example and here is a recent one about travel agents I worked on.
Notice that juicy anchor text at the bottom? Mmmmmm so juicy I can taste it.
First things first, you want to research and decide who your target audience is. Do this by surfing reddit, facebook, google groups, related blogs and so forth. Get an idea of what type of content the industry likes and/or needs. Also track down all the email addresses and contact information for a slew of influencers within your industry. This is a constant task as you want to build a list of influencers over time as you can re-use this information over and over.
Next, create your content. Self explanatory.
Afterwords place the content on your site as its own page or a blog post, add a juicy optimized internal anchor text that links to a SEO page you are targeting and start promoting. Blast emails to your list of influencers, reach out on facebook and twitter, post and promote on reddit and consider spending some money on promoting it to initially to get the ball rolling.
Next is the most important step.
Communicate with the community. Chances are people are going to comment and give feedback. Regardless if the piece is immediately successful or not, chances are it wont be, begin taking notes on how you can refine the content. Remember that content marketing is a consistent slow grind.
Rinse and repeat. Eventually you might even get a heavy traffic influencer out of your efforts.
What about the pieces that didn't go viral? Are they a waste?
Good question, the answer is a resounding no. In fact, these "non-viral" are exactly what we want and our primary objective. Seem counterintuitive? I understand, let me explain.
First off, 99% of all content on the internet doesn't go viral, so don't get frustrated or down on yourself. Viral content by its very nature is impossible to nail down an exact creation formula. This is because as soon as a recipe for viral content indeed becomes viral, its potential to work a second time is nullified almost entirely because in fact it did work once already.
Its a paradox.
Humans always want something new, we all have ADD and we have insatiable appetites when it comes to consuming media. So what worked for viral content yesterday, means that today and tomorrow statistically the cards are stacked against it when attempting to achieve the same virality again.
Content is like drugs, we never get the same high we get the first time we see a new angle on content. With every iteration we build up a tolerance to that specific angle and the entertainment high we experience lessens and lessens. Thus propelling us on the never-ending search for more stimulation. So the only option left to us is to experiment, experiment and experiment. During the experimentation we hope for a lottery win along they way while purposely putting all the "unsuccessful" pieces of content to work.
This is what us content marketers do. You will never, I repeat never crack the code for consistent viral content because the moment you crack the code, the code stops working.
So what do I do with all this content that didn't go viral? Why am I wasting my time with content then in the first place?
Another good question, this is why we don't create content for the sole purpose of getting traffic. We create content as an SEO tool that sometimes nets us some quick traffic as well. What content can consistently do is create pages that are much easier to build links to than traditional landing pages. Once we build a bunch of links to the content piece it builds up authority which then can passed onto a landing page via internal link.
To be honest, I could care less if a piece of content gets any traffic. I could care less if a piece of content ever directly generates once cent of revenue. If thats what you are judging success by, thats the same as deeming a microscopically accurate laser cutter a useless tool because you cant hammer a nail with it.
Thats not what it was designed to do, so measuring its value by a metric it was never meant to influence isn't going to help. If you want to measure the value of your content, track the rankings of the page it internally links to.
As long as I can build links to it and leverage that authority to rank for a KW that will get me qualified traffic on a different page, then the content is worth its weight in gold. My clients will have more money in their pocket regardless if the content ever gets one single visitor. That of course never happens, with promotion and time content always ends up creating a steady stream of traffic, albiet never overnight.
Wait, I still don't get it? So your saying that your banking on NOT getting much traffic, and thats ok?Yup, sounds crazy right? Let me try an analogy to further explain my point.
Imagine a giant bucket, this bucket holds thousands of gallons of water and you want to fill it to quench your thirst and stock some water away for the dry season. You have two options: you can try to nail down a fire truck and hydrant and just blast the bucket with millions of gallons of water within seconds. Or you can build hundreds of small hoses over time that individually trickle very small amounts of water. But collectively? They can actually potentially produce more water than the fire truck.
You guessed it, the fire truck is viral content. But here is the catch, most of us cant "just get ahold of a fire truck on a whim." In fact, in the world of this analogy fire trucks are elusive creatures who are synonymous with the mythical unicorn. You can't really find them.
The second option is to layout out garden hoses month after month and attach them to as many faucets that you can find. Each hose itself is not going to fill the bucket with much water, and initially progress is going to be slow. But the more hoses you build over time, the rate of incoming water increases exponentially. Also keep in mind each individual hose grows in size over time until eventually some of them evolve into firetrucks in their own right. Sorta like saying, "We cant catch a unicorn, but we sure can build one."
The truth of the matter is building links to content is much easier than building links to product pages. So when you have underperforming content, which you will have 99% of the time, you take a step back, breath and remember the purpose of this content is to create link building opportunities rather than traffic. It will naturally pick up steam over time, and even if it caps out at a certain point, it, combined with the other pieces of non-viral content together do create traffic akin to something viral overall.
Another example would be Glasses.com's virtual try on app. Its a cool piece of technology, something much more involved than an infographic. You would think something novel like this would immediately "go viral" and create immediate traffic.
Guess what? It didn't.
Its taken over a year, but that piece of content is now the 2nd most linked to piece of content besides the home page, and is the consistently one of the top landing pages. Its traffic is moderate, but to be honest essentially none of the traffic it generates converts into sales. It's just people who wanna play around with the app. Like most content, if it generates any traffic, it's usually curiosity and stimulus seekers. Hardly the people about to spend money on the site. You might be asking, "If it doesn't bring any qualified traffic, why would you consider it one of the most successful pieces of content marketing you have ever seen?"
Well that piece of content has built up allot of page authority as it has received natural links and a ton of links I went out and built myself. Because it's exponentially easier to build a link to that content rather than say their Oakley sunglasses page. (see what I did there? ) After the links started rolling in we did some research on what KW would be the most beneficial to push up in rankings, and what page is optimized for that KW. We threw in a juicy internal link with our trophy KW to our landing page and viola, they jumped up into the top 5 for a highly competitive, relevant and qualified phrase.
And that, my digital marketing friends are bringing them heaps of qualified converting traffic.
So if you are working on content, or have an agency helping you keep in mind the point of your content isn't really to get qualified converting traffic, in fact thats probably rarely gonna' happen. With concerted effort or with the help of an inbound marketing agency you can build a bunch of small hoses so to speak and every once in a while you might strike gold and one will mega evolve like a pokemon' into a mythical epic unicorn showering you with traffic and rainbows beyond your wildest dreams. But in the meantime, keep churning out your content, building links to it, internal linking and the qualified money making traffic will indeed come, just not from your content.