Across every industry, whether selling to consumers or other businesses, organizations are embracing content marketing. Many are evolving their marketing departments to include roles like Chief Content Officer and Brand Journalist. Along with this, the digital marketing industry is fast-developing best practices and new tactics to understand and leverage the psychology behind how users engage with content online.
While most digital operators realize the synergy between content marketing, search engine optimization and social media exists; many organizations still don’t fully grasp how to integrate them properly for maximum effect. As content marketing evolves and does so swiftly, there are also some misconceptions about what content marketing really is.
In this post, we’ll look at some of the realities of incorporating your online marketing effectively. We’ll offer ways to focus on the best of search, social and content marketing and the common myths that keep impactful integration at bay.
Be the Best Answer
In this day-and-age, hungry users are bombarded with information all day every day. But the key there is “hungry”. We can assume people WANT the information, products and services you have, otherwise you wouldn’t be in business. But the digital world is noisy, it’s consumers are busy, and it’s competition is fierce. In order for organizations to be credible, and cut through the crowd of their competition; they’ll need to focus on optimized, socialized and publicized content. While SEO delivers rich, relevant, at-the-ready answers to buyers via search, social media offers an opportunity to engage and connect directly, and publicity through influencer relations provides credibility and additional reach: they ALL rely on content to achieve success.
Another assumption we can make, in addition to consumers having a desire for what you offer, is that consumers go to the internet to answer questions. 60% of online consumers START their buying process via a search engine. It is the goal of a search engine to offer the most relevant and authoritative result for any and every possible query. This means, it should be the goal of your organization to “be the BEST answer” to every question related to what you do.
SEO is the Ketchup, Not the Burger
More than keywords and links, search engine optimization is an important part of the success equation when it comes to content marketing. While SEO has traditionally been able to drive online marketing performance on its own, search engine updates to address content quality and the more conversational nature of search behavior have combined with the growing popularity of social networks to change the SEO landscape forever.
We all regularly hear of the algorithm changes happening within Google consistently. While keeping up with this fast-paced chase of cat and mouse can be daunting, this is how Google maintains their household name for the best possible place to answer any possible question. And you want to be a part of that action. Still, while SEO has traditionally been able to drive online performance on its own, Google’s updates have increasingly emphasized content quality as well as addressed search behavior that is able to assist an increasingly “conversational” searcher. Combine this with the growing popularity of social media networks – and Google HAS addressed this too – and the SEO landscape now looks quite different than it did even a couple years ago.
Think of SEO this way: If a customer-focused content marketing program is the burger, then SEO is the ketchup. It touches nearly everything and enhances the overall flavor of the burger. But on it’s own, it’s not something that tastes that good.
Chicken or the Egg?
SEO to drive content, or content to drive SEO? Well, unlike the chicken before the egg analogy, the SEO to Content relationship has transformed to reveal an actual answer/ In fact, content marketers are focused on creating more content or creating content as a means to attract links. When social media became popular in the SEO world, the idea was similar. Social networks and media use was focused on attracting attention to further attract links, not to create relationships, engagement or inspire transactions and referrals – like its clearly utilized for now.
Understanding the difference between mechanical strategies and meaningful results is an important distinction when working on your content marketing strategy. Understanding this nuance can mean the difference between a keyword cluster of shallow content, or a content portfolio that serves real customer interests and proudly represents your organization.
Cultivate Your Opportunities
Your marketing, by its nature, should be opportunistic. At Paramount, we talk all the time about “developing online opportunity”. The truth is, in the universe of online marketing, new opportunities arrive daily. Competitive advantage is more cut-and-dry than ever. Which is why it’s vital to employ an opportunistic approach to your online marketing. For example, at Paramount, each time a major trend in online marketing emerges, from blogging to social media to email automation etc, we have almost instinctually adapted and engineered our discovery to realize every possible and legal workaround or tactic to create a marketing advantage for ourselves and our clients. This opportunism has extended to the not-so-new trend (but new buzzword) of content marketing as well.
Operating within the guidelines of best practices, such adaptability is a highly valuable perspective to have. Truthfully, to have success, this perspective has become a must-have. Too often opportunism bleeds into manipulations outside the scope of search engine guidelines and the risks can turn out to be brutal for a business.
But here’s the good news: Google is a battleground for optimizers and those with real experience have been able to adapt successfully can become some of the most valuable marketers you will ever find.
Being both creative and analytical as well as lateral thinkers, marketers with an opportunistic (and optimized) state of mind are particularly good at finding solutions to complex marketing challenges. But there are still many optimizers that are stuck on content marketing as “more fuel for keywords” or social media as link building. Both should be avoided. If you hear this often from your digital marketing team, you may consider challenging your crew to update their approach.
Social + SEO Focused Content Marketing
There are plenty of benefits for engaging a SEO focused agency for content marketing and social media implementation. They each play essential roles for content amplification at all stages of the buying cycle. Here are a few common characteristics of each:
SEO Focused Content Marketing
- Organic amplification is “built-in” to content creation
- Content promotion, link building and social promotion
- Good SEO is good user experience
- Technical optimization
- Performance is focused on search KPIs and conversions
- More content equals more search presence
- Topics derived from actual search demand and real-world FAQs
- Keyword managed content plans tied to performance
- Continuous cycle of performance improvement using search analytics
Social Media Focused Content Marketing
- Amplification is often organic but increasingly paid
- Influencers engaged to co-create and promote through social
- Performance is based on views and engagement
- Conversion and ROI are more difficult to measure with confidence
- Topics focused on brand and messaging
- Shorter form content: status updates, blog posts, image tiles
- Topics managed by social content calendar
- Social monitoring surfaces new, real-time content opportunities
So, what should you focus on?
We preach goals and accountability. For an integrated approach, here are three of your most important considerations to ensure content works for your customers and your brand.
- Attract – How will your piece of content attract exposure? Will it function as an on-going narrative? Will it be a part of a sequence tackling a complex explanation? Will it be connected to other content objects through links, curation, or repurposing? Where content is promoted on social networks will matter for attraction as much as what phrases and questions are used for search engine optimization.
- Engage – How will you make the content object meaningful to the reader? So meaningful that they interact, react and respond to it? What context needs to exist in order for it to be so relevant that it inspires action? Social Media and Search both play a role in developing the context for engagement. When they interact with what they find, does the customer think, “That’s exactly what I was looking for”, or something else?
- Convert – Often overlooked is how the optimized content object will persuade the viewer to take the next step? Each content object can play a role in walking the reader from one stage to the next in a genuine but automated customer relationship. From awareness to purchase to advocacy, conversions are happening at each stage whether it’s a simple as social share, subscribing to a newsletter, downloading a white paper, or more committal as in signing up for a webinar, filling out an inquiry form or making a referral.
Within your content plan, explore and implement ways to make these actions easy and intentional for the target audience. An optimized content plan means being accountable to the customer’s discovery of you. Don’t inspire them to consume your content and leave them hanging. Make sure you’re always looking at better things to do with your viewership once they arrive at your content.
Remember, content is the reason search engines started in the first place. Taking an optimized approach to integrating search engine optimization, social media, publicity and influencers with your content marketing programs means you are always searching for ways to increase performance. This process of always refining your strategy will ensure your content is accountable for attraction, engagement and conversion. With that focus on accountability, an investment in high quality, optimized and socialized content will pay returns for years to come.