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Content marketing for small businesses


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There are many definitions for Content Marketing. The reason for this is that while it is a relatively new buzzword, the concept has been around for a long time. In fact, many small businesses that remain uncertain about Content Marketing and its relevance, and - more importantly - value, are already doing some form of Content Marketing.
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Content marketing for small businesses

  1. 1. Content Marketing for Small Businesses: Content+ Creating Conversations & Completing Conversions
  2. 2. Contents 1. What is Content Marketing? 2. What are the benefits of Content Marketing strategy? 3. What is “quality content”? 4. How does Content Marketing work? 5. What results can Content Marketing achieve? 6. Why use a Content Marketing agency? 7. Takeaways 8. Authors 9. References © ContentPlus 2012 1
  3. 3. What is Content Marketing? There are many definitions for Content Marketing. The reason for this is that while it is a relatively new buzzword, the concept has been around for a long time. In fact, many small businesses that remain uncertain about Content Marketing and its relevance, and - more importantly - value, are already doing some form of Content Marketing. One definition of Content Marketing is that it is a way of creating and sharing content to promote ideas, engage targeted audiences and encourage them to take action. integrated approach to marketing quality content at the centre variety of tools and platforms - online & offline 3crucialelements 2© ContentPlus 2012 Chapter 1 Looking at the anatomy of Content Marketing, it is clear that content is what brings the web to life. It is the substance which gives each website a solid skeleton as well as flesh on the bones. Content forges the criss-crossing neural connections within a website and the voice box that allows you to communicate with others.
  4. 4. © ContentPlus 2012 3 In short, content is at the heart of an integrated approach to marketing: powering social media, search and shaping the way customers engage with your brand.
  5. 5. Hemera/Thinkstock © ContentPlus 2012 What are the benefits of a Content Marketing strategy? 4 “Content Marketing” is not the only phrase that describes this process. Branded content, custom publishing, corporate media, branded journalism - these terms and many others along the same lines all also describe Content Marketing. Any business that creates or publishes content for the purpose of helping to convert a consumer into a customer is “doing” Content Marketing. The ones that do it best are those with a solid strategy to underpin all their Content Marketing efforts and integrate the various channels they use to maximise the results they achieve. One of the most powerful things about Content Marketing is that, unlike traditional media such as TV ad campaigns, it allows the Davids of the business world to take on the Goliaths. Chapter 2
  6. 6. © ContentPlus 2012 5 “It’s really the small ones that have a great opportunity to widen their reach by being visible online. The kind of business that can’t physically be open 24 hours, seven days a week, can effectively be open to online customers seven days a week, 24 hours.” Dan Cobley, Google UK managing director 1 For small businesses, content is an opportunity to connect with their existing customers and reach out to prospective ones. Content is crucial in creating conversations and completing conversions. And content doesn’t only make money - it can also help businesses save time and money. Seven in ten SMEs told a Lloyds/BDRC survey they derived efficiency benefits from an effective web presence. Little wonder that more and more businesses are looking to invest in Content Marketing, with spending hitting an all-time high of more than £10 billion last year2 . Improved search performance Maximised online conversion Increased brand reach Enhanced audience engagement Competitive edge In summary, the main benefits of using high-quality content in marketing are: Six in ten organisations had planned to increase their Content Marketing budget in 20123 , with SMEs at the heart of this drive to maximise the impact of their online presence.
  7. 7. © ContentPlus 2012 6 What is “quality content”? Google makes upwards of 500 changes to its algorithm every year, most of them tweaks which, in isolation, are barely noticeable to the average business. The Panda update was a big shift in search engine results, aimed at addressing low-quality sites which rank well, and Google showed clear intent. Ever since the Panda update, it has continued to tweak its algorithm in line with what Google Fellow Amit Singhal calls the “Google mindset”4 . “We aren’t disclosing the actual ranking signals used in our algorithms because we don’t want folks to game our search results; but if you want to step into Google’s mindset, the questions below provide some guidance on how we’ve been looking at the issue.” - Amit Singhal While Google may be notoriously tight-lipped about how its algorithms assess site quality and then determine rankings, Singhal has made it clear what is classed as quality content. When assessing a site, Google considers the following questions: Chapter 3 Would you trust the information presented in this article? Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature? Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations? Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines? Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis? Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site? Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors? Would you trust the information presented in this article? Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results? How much quality control is done on content?
  8. 8. © ContentPlus 2012 7 Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care? Does the article describe both sides of a story? Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced? Is the site a recognised authority on its topic? For a health related query, would you trust information from this site? Would you recognise this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name? Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic? Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious? Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend? Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content? Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopaedia or book? Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail? Would users complain when they see pages from this site? Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics? For small businesses publishing content, these pointers can be broadly be translated into four top tips: Think of the user and make the content as useful and valuable as possible for them. This means publishing content that is accurate, up to date and set out in a clear way. Be original. Generate your own news and publish your own ideas and thought leadership pieces. Add relevance by commenting on industry news and its relevance for your audience, inject variety by including multimedia such as video and showcase your personality in blogs. Stay above board. There’s little point in trying to ‘game’ search engines and trying to rank higher, so avoid keyword stuffing, link schemes - which Google continues to target through the ongoing Penguin update - and other dodgy practices. Make an effort. That means investing enough time into creating content, but also ensuring it is spelled correctly, grammatically and factually accurate, clear and concise, and interesting. “Analysis of website figures shows a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half.” Internet entrepreneur Charles Dunscombe, as quoted by the BBC in 20115
  9. 9. © ContentPlus 2012 8 How does Content Marketing work? Content strategy Preparation Content creation Distribution Monitoring Chapter 4 Without a clear end goal in mind, it will be impossible to determine the effect of Content Marketing - let alone whether the effort was worth it. It is only when a strategy is carefully mapped out, detailing exactly who is targeted with communications, what objectives you have in respect of that audience and what kinds of messages are likely to have the necessary effect that Content Marketing will perform optimally. There are five basic stages of successful Content Marketing:
  10. 10. © ContentPlus 2012 9 Content Strategy Businesses should also formulate their strategies based on their resources and capabilities. Plans should be realistic and goals, while ambitious, need to be achievable. There is no ‘ideal’ default content strategy. The right approach will depend on each organisation and its particular objectives. Are you a customer-facing company looking to increase traffic to your product pages? Are you a business-to-business site aiming to generate leads? Or are you are a charity looking to increase the reach of your existing offline message? The right content strategy will provide the best fit for your objectives and your organisation. The next step is building a working brief: selecting a balanced blend of content types, establishing the right style, the appropriate tone and identifying the channels which will give you access to the audience you are targeting.
  11. 11. © ContentPlus 2012 10 Preparation The technical set-up is also important. Depending on the strategy, this could be as simple as setting up a standard Wordpress template for blogging, or it might be a more complex affair such as integrating an XML news feed into a website. While it is good to lay the foundation for Content Marketing, do not let an unfinished site or time-consuming integration deter you from starting to create content as soon as possible after the strategy is in place. Also, bear in mind that platforms for delivery and promotion are bound to change over time, requiring updates and other changes. The substance - the content - remains the most important factor. Content creation Content can take a wide range of forms, each with its own style and appeal. That covers different media, different tones and different channels for distribution.
  12. 12. © ContentPlus 2012 11 Used individually, these content types can target specific audiences and be tailored to match the broad objectives of the organisation as well as achieve specific goals. For example, an opinion piece may be used to convey thought leadership (broad objective) as well as engage a particular group on LinkedIn (specific goal). While individual pieces of content can be powerful on their own, it is when they are combined with supporting material as part of a Content Marketing strategy that they can achieve maximum results. Example 1: IT Support Organisation interested in Lead Generation A B2B organisation looking to generate leads will focus on credibility and visibility. In-depth features, regular industry news pieces and insightful, analysis-led interviews written in an authoritative tone can create a powerful package. Content can be pushed via suitable industry-focussed social media channels such as LinkedIn. Example 2: Online Dating Start-Up looking to Increase Traffic Traffic will arrive at a well-optimised site with compelling content. Regular irreverent, conversational blog posts can create engaging content that people want to share and respond to. More in-depth, evergreen landing pages providing a destination point for this traffic as it arrives on site, ensuring people stay longer. Eye-catching Infographics or vox pop style pieces with people about their experiences can provide authenticity and personalised feel to the content, building engagement.
  13. 13. © ContentPlus 2012 12 Businesses should take at least as much time promoting content as it took to create it, according to the Content Marketing Institute strategist-in-residence and author of Managing Content Marketing, Robert Rose. He calls this “marketing the marketing”6 The best channels for this promotion of content will be determined by the content strategy, but the rule of thumb is simple: go where your audience is. Social media plays a key role in how consumers discover, research and share information about brands, services and products. Every day 27 million pieces of content are shared via social media, with nearly a quarter of all social media messages containing links to content7&8 . Creating the right kind of engaging, quality content can tap into this network, enhancing the reach of your brand and joining the conversation online. Social media also works as an amplifier for content’s role in search. Google’s Matt Cutts has confirmed that the search giant is increasingly considering social signals such as Facebook ‘likes’ in its search algorithm9 . It views such recommendations as validation of the credibility, value and relevance of a site - all factors that Google is determined to promote in its results. Distribution Constant assessment of progress and efficiency is of crucial importance. This means using analytics programs effectively and intelligently to gain a good understanding of how the audience interacts with particular types of content. You can also track the rate of improvement in metrics such as visitor numbers, bounce rate and dwell time over a specified period. Other metrics that are likely to play a role include the movement in search engine rankings for targeted keywords as well as the volume of social media follower numbers. Monitoring
  14. 14. © ContentPlus 2012 13 Hand in hand with monitoring goes the fine-tuning of the strategy. This is often an area where small businesses outperform their larger rivals: strategic adjustment requires agility and the ability to adapt. Content strategy needs decisive action when conditions change or when the achieved results fall short of what had been expected. These five stages of Content Marketing should run in a continuous cycle. Content Strategy Preparation Content Creation High Quality Content Distribution Monitoring
  15. 15. © ContentPlus 2012 14 “First and foremost we care about trying to get the stuff that people will really like – the good, the compelling content - in front of them.” Matt Cutts, Head of Google’s Webspam team and Search Quality, Dec 201113 What results can Content Marketing achieve? Chapter 5 Search engines dominate the way we use the web. Every month more than 131 billion searches take place10 , with an estimated 91 per cent of adults using search engines. Nine11 in ten people will also use a search engine to check out local services, stores and products12 . What’s more, search is getting better. Google and Bing epecially are more sophisticated than ever at returning the right kind of results users want - and that means top-quality content. For a website to be visible, content is crucial. There is no magic bullet for search engine optimisation (SEO), but content is central to a range of factors that determine performance. Well-written copy, which is information-rich and competes on the right keywords, can drive traffic to your site, mak- ing you more visible to your target audience. Good content is also more likely to be shared, liked and linked to – all of which has an impact on how well pages are ranked in search. Quality content creates a virtuous circle: more people can find and then share your site. “If a website doesn’t have a lot of visible content above-the-fold or dedicates a large fraction of the site’s initial screen real estate to ads, that’s not a very good user experience. Such sites may not rank as highly going forward.” Matt Cutts, Head of Google’s Webspam team and Search Quality, Jan 201214
  16. 16. © ContentPlus 2012 15 Informative and compelling content is something consumers engage with. Seven in ten people say that Content Marketing makes them feel closer to the sponsoring company, while 60 per cent say content helps them make better product decisions15 . Nor is this restricted to consumers. According to Roper Public Affairs, 80 per cent of business decision-makers prefer information in the form of articles over advertisements16 . Sites which have good quality content inspire greater trust. Dr Jakob Nielsen, a leading expert in web usability, says visitors decide in less than ten seconds whether or not to stay on a site after they arrive on it the first time. Poorly written, inaccurate or amateurish content is an immediate red flag. Long-term impressions a socount. If you populate your site with the latest thought leadership, quality interviews and insightful analysis, it can mark your organisation out as an authority in its field, and a high-value brand. Content Marketing is a powerful tool for assisting reputation management, working across search and social to inform, educate and engage your audience. A Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey of over 25,000 consumers from 50 countries found that 70 per cent trusted online consumer opinions, rising to 90 per cent among people they know17 . Trust is of the utmost importance when it comes to conversion as well: eight in ten respondents to an study said they would not interact with a company if they had concerns over whether the business could be trusted. Relevant and accurate content that shows the publisher understands the consumer’s needs was rated by respondents as a key factor in establishing trust and ultimately leading to conversion18 . Monitoring Credibility & Trust It’s not enough just to be heard – you also need to listen. Social media and search channels offer the chance to learn about your customers. That can come from the comments section on your blog, the reaction on Twitter to an opinion piece or identifying the key search phrases which leads most people to your site. You can also harness the wealth of statistical information that content yields through web and social traffic. If you mine the data effectively, you can learn what makes your audience tick and hone your marketing strategy. Content Marketing is not just about boosting traffic, it’s also about understanding who your customers are, what they are looking for and how you can meet that demand. Remember, 70 per cent of search traffic comes from the long tail19 and a niche can be a great place to be. Customer Understanding
  17. 17. © ContentPlus 2012 16 With the right kind of content you can attract and engage an audience. If you know how to use content strategically, you can add depth to your website, ensuring visitors stay longer and visit different areas of the site, building trust and engagement. According to a MediaCom study, every 30 seconds spent engaged with content delivers an upturn in brand awareness, consideration and purchasing intent20 . Even just 30 seconds of interaction delivered a 28% improvement in spontaneous brand awareness (compared to no interaction), with that figure increasing with more time. Content Marketing is not just about the intangibles: it has a clear impact on the bottom line. Social media and search are a source of leads. Nearly three-quarters of marketers who have been using social media for around three years say that their social efforts have helped them close business deals. Six in ten social network users say they were at least “somewhat likely” to take action when a friend posted something about a product, service, company or brand on a social media site21 . The benefits of inbound marketing over traditional outbound methods such as cold calling are clear. Inbound tactics such as Content Marketing deliver better and warmer leads, they contribute more broadly to brand awareness and positive sentiment and cost less. Hubspot research shows SEO leads have a close rate of 14.6 per cent, compared to outbound sourced leads which have a close rate of 1.7 per cent. SEO leads are also eight times more likely to become customers22 . Brand Awareness Lead Generation & Conversion Effective Content Marketing makes your existing marketing channels work better. Greater web visibility and brand awareness online can send more customers to your physical sites; an effective email marketing campaign can increase the traction and targeting of your telemarketing efforts. Just as search and social should work as complements rather than alternatives, so too offline and online efforts can forge part of a wider strategy if they are properly integrated. Developing and executing an effective content strategy requires expertise and experience, which is where a Content Marketing agency can help. Amplify Existing Marketing Channels
  18. 18. © ContentPlus 2012 17 Why use a Content Marketing Agency? Chapter 6 Biggest Content Marketing Challenge Content Marketing is growing as an industry and accounts for an increasing portion of marketing budgets, with three-fifths of marketers planning to spend more money on Content Marketing in 201223 . Yet it is not without its challenges. Developing and executing an effective content strategy requires expertise and experience, which is where a Content Marketing agency can help.
  19. 19. © ContentPlus 2012 18 So what are the advantages of using an agency? The emphasis on the quality and diversity of content makes editorial expertise a fundamental principle of an effective content strategy. Low-cost options such as writers from India and Eastern Europe are an option but the ‘pile it high and sell it cheap’ approach to content does not tend to produce compelling, engaging content. A full-service Content Marketing agency should have in-house editorial expertise, as well as the strategic, technical and PR skills to deliver sustainable results. Editorial Expertise A confident and capable agency will take care of any legal issues that crop up and assume liability. If you are publishing in the public domain, be prepared to deal with complaints and queries. An agency will know the rules on defamation and copyright, as well as the latest precedents when it comes to new media. Digital Media Law Facebook & Twitter internet libel cases doubled in 201124 Following an article in 2010 by the Daily Mail, which used tweets from civil servant Sarah Baskerville, the PCC ruled that Tweets were not private, even where employees state ‘views are my own’25 Flickr has blocked users of Pinterest from pinning photos without consent26 Social media, proprietary websites and communications in non-paid-for space are all now subject to Advertising Standards Authority regulation27
  20. 20. © ContentPlus 2012 19 Content Marketing is about focussing on the individual components and their interaction as part of a broader picture when it comes to realising marketing objectives. Old school SEO agencies which focus exclusively on off-the-page ‘SEO tricks’ are becoming increasingly outdated. Google is taking steps to penalise this kind of myopic approach to content, which is the antithesis of an effective content strategy, with engineers working on the algorithm to penalise ‘SEO intensive’ practices. Holistic Approach “The idea is basically to try to level the playing ground. So all those people doing, for lack of a better word, over-optimisation or overly SEO [will be penalised] - versus those making great content and a great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better.” Google’s Matt Cutts speaking at SXSW during a panel discussion moderated by Search Engine land’s Danny Sullivan in March 201228 As well as crafting a suitable content strategy, you need the technical integration, ongo- ing consultancy and support, plus the production capability to execute it effectively. At the same time, there should be an ongoing process of recalibration and adjustment. Feedback and testing can help develop your content strategy, refining the way you produce and connect content in order to achieve the desired results. Content Marketing is about providing a combined, coherent – and ‘live’ – service which is more than the sum of its parts. Do it well and the different components can catalyse one another. Joined-Up Approach
  21. 21. © ContentPlus 2012 20 A Content Marketing agency can provide a broad range of formats and media. It’s not necessary for every site to have every type possible, but a large palette means you can find the right blend. Working with the client, analysing analytics data and drawing on existing case studies, you can identify and connect the content types that will deliver the right results. Content Diversity What makes for a good content strategy is not set in stone. Organisations, cultures and objectives change. So too does the way in which content works online and how it is delivered to users. Social media is the most obvious ‘game-changer’ of recent years, but the arrival of infographics, viral videos and the Panda update have all shaped how we find and share content. Whether change is occurring within an organisation, the online landscape or in consumer tastes, a dynamic, responsive approach is essential. Dynamic & Flexible Approach The right content strategy depends on the objectives, culture and background of each organisation. With a Content Marketing agency you can establish a tailored, ‘live’ service, which reflects your brand and your ambitions. Whether it’s augmenting an existing strat- egy or devising a new one, you can tune an agency to your needs. Build a rapport, establish your baselines for performance and you can reap the rewards of a collaborative, well developed and well executed content strategy. Bespoke Service
  22. 22. © ContentPlus 2012 21 One of the risks of using a freelancer for your content is the lack of contingency and the typically narrow range of expertise. First, there is the question of what happens if they are on holiday, off sick or with another client? Second is their range. Can they produce the mixture of white papers, blog posts and email marketing services you want? What about servicing the different specialist areas of your product range or that one-off infographic you want to produce? Can they also provide valuable analytics information and ongoing consultancy? An agency typically has the advantage when it comes to scale and service expectations. Service Expectations Bringing the Content Marketing process inside your organisation is a bold move. You need the skill set and experience to manage it, the capital to set it up, and the nouse and nerve to handle publishing content in the public domain. Whether it is learning how to sidestep social media pitfalls or knowing your way round the digital media law, there is plenty to deal with. Then there is the thorny political matter of who will be responsible for Content Marketing and which department will oversee it. In-House?
  23. 23. © ContentPlus 2012 22 Takeaways “A way of creating and sharing content to promote ideas, engage targeted audiences and encourage them to take action.” What is Content Marketing? The power of individual pieces of content is maximised when it is underpinned by a solid strategy Content Marketing is the best way for small businesses to compete effectively with large organisations Content is crucial in creating conversations and completing conversions Content Marketing improves search performance, maximises online conversion, increases brand reach, enhances audience engagement and gives a competitive edge What are the benefits of a Content Marketing strategy? Google has made significant changes to its search algorithm in order to present searchers with the most relevant and valuable results Content needs to be accurate, fresh and clearly set out Original content presented in a variety of formats is preferred Keyword stuffing and poor linking practices are detrimental to a good performance in search Content needs to be well written and properly edited What is “quality content”? Chapter 7
  24. 24. © ContentPlus 2012 23 Content Strategy should be tailored to a given organisation and its culture, context and key objectives Blend the right formats, style and media to achieve the right results Research, monitor and react to the performance of your content How Content Marketing works A wide variety of results which can be tailored to individual organisations and objectives, including: • SEO & better performance in SERPs • Customer engagement & interaction • Build credibility, authority & trust • Insight into your customers • Enhanced brand awareness & reach • Lead generation and conversion • More effective offline & online marketing What can Content Marketing achieve? An agency can offer key benefits for any organisation: An agency can offer key benefits for any organisation: • Editorial expertise • Digital media law knowledge • Joined-up thinking • Holistic Approach • Content Diversity • Dynamic & Flexible Approach • Bespoke Service • Scale and Contingency Why use a Content Marketing agency?
  25. 25. © ContentPlus 2012 24 Nathaniel Bertram is Head of Content at ContentPlus. With a decade of experience in online media, Nat is an expert in content strategy, SEO and Content Marketing. He achieved a Distinction for an Executive MBA at Bradford University, including a thesis on online content strategy. Karen Webber is Head of Marketing and Creative. She has worked in the field of Content Marketing in both B2B and B2C settings in South Africa and the UK for more than ten years. About ContentPlus ContentPlus helps small businesses grow online with integrated digital marketing solutions. Tailored to each individual business, the ContentPlus product will help ensure you reach and engage potential customers through high-quality content that works effectively across search engines, social media and email newsletters. Each client has access to their own team of industry experts who are dedicated to their business. Want to know more? Follow our daily industry news articles View our blog Connect with us: Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Facebook Authors Chapter 8
  26. 26. © ContentPlus 2012 25 References Chapter 9 1. line/801311636 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. compare-with-the-rest-of-the-world 7. in_2009 8. time.aspx 9. 10. Percent_in_2009 11. aspx 12. locally-according-to-biakelsey-and-constat-87221242.html 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. virtual-strangers-the-most/ 18. can-it-build-trust-/801421493 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. pdf 25. claims.html 26. 27. 28. authority-asa-q-a