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by James Perrin on 13th November 2012
How is your Content Marketing strategy fairing? If Google’s Panda algorithm update had you in a bit of a quandary, then I’ve no doubt Penguin really kicked you when you were down. Does that sound right? Well this doesn’t have to be the case; it doesn’t have to be the case at all.
Both algorithm updates should have been a warning to you. They were specifically designed to stop any kind of black hat optimisation tactics through the use of poor content, or poor quality links. In light of this, both updates meant one thing – improving your content marketing strategy. So what exactly does that mean?
I spoke about this topic at the Content Strategy Lightning Talks and my slides as well as explanations are below:
Stop with the Black Hat
From a content marketing perspective, black hat tactics now involve any of the following:
This list is not exhaustive. There are plenty of additional tactics to add here. If there are any areas which you think could added, please let me know your thoughts – it’s good to debate what is black, grey and white hat – especially for us content marketers :
Putting the User First
In the old days of producing content, the idea was to create as much stuff as possible to enhance the number of links pointing to a client’s site. Regardless of the quality of the site and regardless of the end user (if there was one at all), your content would have just been created to be read by a search engine. Well, for those of you that may have been disheartened, or disillusioned with the way things were going, fear not, because the idea is to now create content for the end user.
Social media has become inextricably linked with SEO [See: Why Social Should be an Integral Factor for Your Content Marketing Strategy]. To give your Content Marketing the greatest chance of success, it needs to be sharable – so it needs to be good enough for users to like and share. This is where social media and social signals have become so important.
Yet, to achieve this, as Content Marketers, we need to get out of the old mind set. Content is more than just a link, it’s branding, it’s PR, it’s an advert, it’s a way to drive quality users to your site. So, how do you achieve this? Well you need to think broader…
In fairness, the research phase of any Content Marketing strategy is deserved of a blog post in itself (in fact possibly three or four posts depending on the type of research), but this is something to cover in more detail for future posts, so watch this space
Speak to your clients and their PR agencies or your in-house marketing and PR departments to get as many ideas as possible. By making that initial contact you will understand a great deal more about the business. Seek out company or industry related news and events. Establish any previous off-line PR or future off-line PR they have undertaken and work this into your online campaigns. Survey data, product launches, absolutely anything that will enable you to create content.
Alternatively, if you are still struggling for ideas, any of the following tools come highly recommended. Simply enter your keyword, and they will reveal a number of content ideas that you may or may not have already thought about.
You need to know what content has been created before, so perform a competitor analysis. Any of the following tools work really well. You will be able to see similar pages, or your competitor’s backlink profile.
Now you need to know the type of content that’s been shared, and by whom. This will give you ideas as to what type of content gets the best social traction, which you can then formulate into your own ideas. Below are some good tools:
I personally prefer Followerwonk as you can see who are the most influential sharers of content, as well as what they have shared. This will enable you to create highly targeted content that has a greater potential to be read and shared.
Content Marketing Activities and Platforms
Once you have performed your research, you can start to think about your content ideas and activities, as well as the platforms on which they will be published. Thinking broader means more than research, it means thinking beyond article sites – it means thinking about quality. So where to start?
The best place to start is with your own website blog. Creating company and industry related content, hosted on your own blog has great SEO value. Not only are you providing more pages to be indexed, and thus found by search engines and users, but creating quality shareable content will boost the number of links and visitors towards your site. Think quality, not quantity though. At Koozai we went down from 3 posts a day to 1. Our focus was on providing quality to our readership, and as a result we saw a rise in traffic, enquiries and sales.
Any sort of company related news can be complemented by a Press Release or two. Choose a paid or free press release service. Paid services are more likely to be syndicated on quality sites, and thus drive more traffic. However, you can find good free services too. It depends on your budget, and the type of news you would like to promote. Here’s a video on Press Release writing advice:
If you build it they won’t always come, so take your content to where it’s most likely to be seen. Done correctly, Guest Blogging can prove to be invaluable. You’ll be writing for quality sites with existing viewers meaning great brand exposure. The quality of the site means that you’ll obtain a quality link in return, which also means the potential to drive good referral traffic. Here’s a video of mine on the merits of Guest Blogging for SEO:
PR opportunities and mentions
Public relations is becoming integrated into Content Marketing for SEO, and with good reason, it works. Obtaining mentions on top quality sites and in excellent news pieces will give you so much more – brand exposure, high quality links, and great referral traffic. In fact, it’s more than just a link. A mention or citation on a site like the BBC or an industry leading website (without a link) can be just as useful as a link on a lesser-known site. Some good services include Gorkana PR and Help A Reporter Out (HARO). Alternatively, you can just use the hash tag #journorequest on Twitter.
For fun, informative and engaging content, you can’t beat a good infographic. For yours to stand-out, be sure to do something unique, with good data and research. Make sure it is visually noticeable, yet credible and reliable. It’s a great way to get social shares, which will naturally lend itself well to SEO in terms of link building. Take Mike Essex’s How To Learn SEO Infographic. To date this has achieved 83 Google+ Shares, 65 Facebook Likes, 350 Tweets, as well as 132 quality backlinks.
What better way to add real value to your visitor’s experience, than an informative and comprehensive user-guide or Whitepaper? Especially if it’s completely free. This will only work for some businesses, but if you have products and services that will require walk-throughs, then it’s a good idea to provide users with free information to download. Hosting this on your own site will give new and existing users a great deal more to read and share. See For example, see our Whitepapers page for digital inspiration.
Conducting surveys is a great way to create data-driven content. Using any of the services below, you can gather data on existing and potential customers. This will help you to create quality data driven content, such as Press Releases, Blog Posts, Guest Posts, Whitepapers, Infographics etc. The better the data, the more unique your content, and the better quality it’ll be too. Survey creation services include:
It goes without saying that YouTube and other video sharing and streaming services have transformed the way we consume content online. There are literally tonnes of examples where cheap-to-make video content has given small to medium sized business the branding exposure they so desperately wanted. Does Will It Blend ring any bells? Or how about the Dollar Shave Club?
Both videos were made on shoe-string budgets. This just goes to show that even the smallest businesses can get exposure worldwide – you just need a unique idea. In addition to brand exposure, you can gain high quality links, as well as quality referral traffic which could convert into sales.
Image sharing websites such as Pinterest and Flickr were not designed to be spammed by SEOs. No, believe it or not, they were designed for users to share fun and interesting images and pictures with friends. This means that if you have a company or industry event, a product launch, a new range to show off, or even exclusive pictures for your followers, then using these platforms will give your brand exposure as well as the potential for new users to see and share your content – which all helps.
As mentioned, the point of broadening your Content Marketing is to provide the user with quality content that they will then share with their friends and family. A huge part of SEO now involves community building, or asset building as it’s otherwise known as [See: Is Community Building More Important Than SEO?] Ranking first for your desired keywords is the aim, but in many cases it’s not always possible, or necessary. Building a community or loyal brand advocates is just as important in getting your name out there. But to do so, you need to provide them with quality, shareable content.
In terms of establishing ideas, researching competitors and social influencers, as well as a strategy, and a number of activities and platforms on which to publish your content, that’s pretty much it. After this you will need to conduct an editorial plan, as well as track your content with Analytics, further broadening your Content Marketing Strategy. These will be covered in future posts, so watch this space.
In the meantime, if you wish to share some of your own Content Marketing ideas, tools or strategies, then please do comment below.