By Marc Purtell | Director, SEO
Content marketing isn’t a new or cutting-edge digital marketing practice. But it has evolved into a vital piece of the online marketing puzzle and is capable of impacting other marketing channels, especially SEO.
In today’s arena of social influence on both humans and search engines, developing and promoting content with real value is paramount to success of any digital strategy. For content to generate revenue, it must provide a value to consumer and engage them in conversations.
There are several best practices you should use when creating new content to leverage its potential as a driver of customer acquisition and a catalyst to organic search success.
Step 1: Define the Target Audience
In order to effectively communicate with consumers, it’s important to understand what they are looking for and what is compelling to them. The first step in content development is to perform some consumer research to identify the customer segment the content is targeted to and how it will best be engaged based on its buying patterns. Sites such as MarketResearch.com are a great resource for defining your target audience.
Step 2: Choose the Right Topic
Once the target audience has been identified it’s important to choose a topic that it cares about. It’s no longer enough for consumers to simply find content; they must engage with it. By choosing topics relevant to your customer’s needs and wants they will be far more likely to promote the content on behalf of your brand.
There are a number of tools that can be leveraged for topic ideas, including keyword suggestion tools and Q&A websites. Keyword suggestion tools, such as the Google AdWords Keyword Tool and Wordtracker, provide a list of queries people are actually searching around a specific topic. Look for search queries with high demand and incorporate them into the content.
Similarly, Q&A sites such as Yahoo Answers and Answers.com, are good places to research the types of questions people are asking around a particular topic. Look for popular questions around the products or services your brand is trying to promote and create content that answers those questions. Accurately answering consumers’ questions builds will build trust for your brand. It increases the likelihood that current and potential customers will engage with your content through commenting and social sharing, which will enhance the SEO value of your content.
It’s also important to choose a topic relevant to your brand. Instead of being a Jack of all trades, position your brand as the authority on the specific product or service you offer. This will ensure proper audience targeting and give search engines direction on the type of search phrases your website should be ranking for. For example, brands that offer health care products or services should not write about finance and vice versa.
Step 3: Incentivize Sharing
In order for your content to be shared readers must have a reason for sharing it.
Targeting the right audience and choosing the right topic are the first steps in encouraging sharing. It’s also important for your content to address the “why” rather than the “what.” This will illustrate how the content or the product being promoted will actually help your target audience. If consumers understand how they can be helped by your content they are more likely t to help their friends as well, thus leading to social sharing and improving the lead-generation opportunities from your content marketing.
It’s important to facilitate this social sharing for your readers. Placing social-sharing buttons, such as the Facebook Like button, Twitter Tweet button and Google +1 button, allows people to share your content with their social communities with a single click. Ensure these buttons are placed in a prominent location on the page, such as directly below the headline.
Step 4: Leverage Influential Authors
Invite authors with existing authority on the topic to provide content to your site. This can come in the form of a guest blog post, a video or email interview, podcast or any number of contributed pieces. The point is to leverage the authority of influencers within your industry in order to build credulity and authority of your content.
Leveraging the authority of industry influences in your content marketing will add trust value to the content and increase its promotion. Industry influencers often have an influential base of social media followers, leading to more social sharing and potential customers.
Relevant authors can be identified by searching the topics in Google+, Twitter and search engines and looking for writers that rank high in the results. Observe the volume of Twitter followers they have and Google+ circles they are included in to see who is the most popular.
Properly mark-up posts written by guest authors with rel=author tags to credit them for the content and leverage their authority.
What are some other best practices you have observed for content marketing success?