What is content marketing: 15 definitions from industry experts

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On the Internet, the concept and application of content marketing has been around for more than 15 years now. Still, only those who provide content marketing services seem to know exactly what this form of marketing means.

What is content marketing? What does it mean? How do you define content marketing? How does it benefit your business? Why is it better than conventional advertising and marketing? How much time, effort and money does it take for content marketing to show any results? Should it entirely replace conventional advertising and marketing?

Different industry experts have different definitions, but the gist remains the same: you publish and distribute helpful content and people begin to recognize you or your brand due to that content. You become a valuable presence in their lives. This way, when they need products and services that you provide, they know whom to approach.

This is not a complete definition, but it is the gist of content marketing. I have explained my own views on what is content marketing.

Why is it important to know what is content marketing?

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If you want to use something for your benefit, you need to know it. You need to know it beyond tweaking.

Do you know Michelangelo used to dig up corpses, cut them and explore various parts to understand the dynamics of the human body from the inside so that he could carve out immortal sculptures? Gross, but you understand the need to understand something.

It is one thing to know what works for others may also work for you, and it’s a totally different thing if you actually understand what you are doing and what it is going to lead to.

Marketing methodologies that have existed for years don’t need explanation. For example, you know what is advertising. You may not know its intricacies and the stuff known to the MBAs, but you have a fair idea.

You know that advertising targets certain individuals and uses certain channels. You know that when people come across your advertisements they come to know of your product or service and if they need it, they approach you. You have a total understanding of why you want to advertise on a billboard on a busy highway.

It’s very straightforward (actually, it is not).

With content marketing things are not as straightforward. Yes, it is simple, yet, difficult.

Difficult, because, for an average businessperson or entrepreneur, results are not direct.

If I tell you to publish 50 blog posts covering all your topics so that your target audience is educated and then some among this audience may turn into your customers and clients, it may seem very vague to you.

If I tell you that through content marketing you can have your own broadcasting channel you may ask why the heck does my small business need a broadcasting channel?

If I tell you that through content marketing you can establish your authority and create an influential presence for yourself on the Internet you may ask, why do I need to put in so much effort if I can simply advertise?

These are all valid questions. But the answers to these questions exist contextually. Here is the context:

  • Advertising isn’t as effective as it used to be a few years ago.
  • Most of the Internet users skip ads or have developed a blind eye towards them.
  • Most of the TV viewers have the ability to skip ads these days. They do.
  • Advertising is getting prohibitively expensive, especially when you are paying for every single website visitor.
  • People trust opinions more than they trust advertisements.
  • Word of mouth is more powerful than advertisements.
  • 88% B2B marketers use content marketing because they know it works.
  • People have a limited attention span and you need to remain in front of them using various creative ways.
  • Apropos to the above point, people skip or ignore ads and the only way to remain in front of them is by providing interesting, useful and high-quality content.
  • You need content marketing for SEO.

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Interestingly, the last point is immediately understandable to people. Yes! SEO is something that can be measured.

You explain to them how many web pages and blog posts it’s going to need to improve SEO for a particular keyword and they immediately understand. But tell them to have the same number of web pages and blog posts to improve conversion, and they give you a blank look. That’s because they don’t understand what is content marketing.

Why is it difficult to define content marketing as a single definition

It is difficult to define content marketing as a single definition because every individual, every business, has its own way of implementing a content marketing strategy. There is no set definition because content marketing is contextual.

Do marketing and advertising have a definitive definition? I don’t think so. Whatever works best, is used by content marketers.

Content marketing explained by 15 industry experts or influencers

On this blog post I’m listing definitions of content marketing from 15 industry experts or influencers. They aren’t necessarily people. Some are even companies.

Why do I call them “industry influencers” or “industry experts”? Some are working on million-dollar content marketing projects. Some have written books on content marketing. Some run popular blogs on the topic. Some are very popular on social media for thought leadership. Some have completely replaced conventional advertising with content marketing throughout their global operations.

They speak at conferences. They travel the world trying to convince businesses to adopt content marketing. Basically, these people know their stuff. They are the flag bearers. They are the pioneers. They are the trendsetters.

I must state in the beginning that I haven’t directly sought these definitions from experts and influencers themselves. I have picked them from various sources on the Internet.

While doing my research the biggest problem I encountered was that some of the attributions have been made randomly. I needed to check multiple times whether someone who has said something about content marketing was actually said by the person or the company, or not.

To my best knowledge, these definitions of content marketing come from right persons and companies. Do let me know if there is a discrepancy and I will quickly mend it.

So, here it goes…

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1. “Content marketing is the process and practice of creating, curating and cultivating text, video, images, graphics, e-books, white papers and other content assets that are distributed through paid, owned and earned media. These assets are used to tell stories that help brands build and nurture relationships with customers, prospects and other audiences to drive awareness, generate demand, influence preference and build loyalty.”

Gartner

2. “Content marketing is a strategic marketing technique that aligns business and consumer information needs with relevant content. Content can act as a means to attract, engage and convert a specific targeted audience. From blogging and social media to white papers and eBooks, marketers use a variety of content marketing tactics to consistently inform and persuade their customers–without trying to sell them something outright.”

Top Rank Marketing Blog

3. “Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience–with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Content Marketing Institute

4. “Content marketing is the process of developing, executing, and delivering the content and related assets needed to create, nurture, and grow a company’s customer base. Stages of the content marketing process include: strategy; content development; asset development; and channel leverage across outbound marketing, inbound marketing, and sales enablement.”

Curata

5. “Content marketing means attracting and transforming prospects into customers by creating and sharing valuable free content. The purpose of content marketing is to help the company to create sustainable brand loyalty and provide valuable information to consumers, as well as create willingness to purchase products from the company in the future. This relatively new form of marketing usually does not involve direct sales. Instead, it builds trust and rapport with the audience.”

Wikipedia

6. “Great content marketing offers something valuable to an audience with no obligation to repay that offering: entertaining, insightful, relevant, useful, well-produced and well-written writing, graphics, video and audio.

It seeks to first find the right audience, and then establish a relationship with them in order to build trust, so that when it gets to business time, they choose you over a competitor.”

Pawan Deshpande from Curata

7. “Content marketing is the process of developing, publishing, and distributing useful information that engages prospective customers and propels them toward purchase.”

Anne Murphy

8. “Content marketing is all about marketing that’s left.”

Seth Godin

9. “Content marketing means creating and sharing valuable content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.”

“Official” definition from Copyblogger Media

10. “Content Marketing provides consumers with useful information to aid purchase decisions, improve product usage and entertain them while achieving organizational goals without being overtly promotional.”

Heidi Cohen

11. “Content marketing is a strategic marketing and business process focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience, and ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Hubspot

12. “Content marketing is all about the creation and distribution of high-quality content that attracts and engages audiences online. Like other traditional forms of marketing, content marketing is typically used to drive customer acquisition, deeper engagement with current customers, and for brand awareness.”

Outbrain

13. “Content marketing is an umbrella term covering a set of strategies, techniques and tactics to fulfill business and customer goals by using content across the customer life cycle and the business functions in a consistent, integrated and continuous way.”

i-scoop

14. “Content marketing is about delivering the content your audience is seeking in all the places they are searching for it. It is the effective combination of created, curated and syndicated content.”

Michael Brenner

15. “Best way to sell something: don’t sell anything. Earn the awareness, respect, and trust of those who might buy.”

Rand Fishkin

Why definitions from so many people?

If you have read various opinions or definitions on content marketing above, you must have noticed that more or less the gist of the definition is the same. Everybody is pretty much on the same wavelength regarding what is content marketing.

Why it is necessary to get point of views of multiple people is because they are in the thick of things. They are the pullers and pushers of content marketing. They are constantly defining and redefining content marketing. This is why, the more views you get from the experts, the clearer you get (or more confused).

Audit Website Content: 5 Reasons You Should Do It Regularly

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You should definitely audit your website content if, one way or another, your company has been publishing content on its website and blog for a few months or for a few years.

Why is it important to update your website routinely?

It’s because there are big chances that when you published your content for the first time, you didn’t get it right.

Maybe you didn’t optimize it for the right keywords. Maybe you wrote the content (or got it written) in a hurry and didn’t pay much attention to optimization and conversion. Maybe there are lots of spelling mistakes because someone who wasn’t a proficient writer worked on your website content back in those days.

Maybe you need to update anyway because your content is now outdated.

When you decide to or agree to revise your web pages and blog posts it doesn’t mean so far you have had inferior-quality content. Just like your office needs regular maintenance, so does your website. In fact, I’m pretty sure in the past 5-10 years you must have redesigned your website or blog multiple times.

Click here if you are looking for website content auditing services.

The same goes for your content. What you thought back in 2008 might be totally different from what you think in 2017. Your content should reflect your thinking.

Where to start?

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If you are auditing your website content for the first time it is but natural to wonder where to start?

What is content auditing and how to do it on your website

I use WordPress.org to manage my website and blog and there is a nice plug-in that allows me to export all the links into a text file that I later on import into an Excel sheet. You can create different columns to track your progress.

It is very important to know why your content exists. Does it simply fill up the pages because blank pages would look odd or does your content really have a purpose in life?

If you don’t know why you have published content on your website it will be very difficult to audit because then what’s the purpose of auditing it when you don’t know what to look for and what changes to incorporate to achieve what results?

So decide first.

Coming to a general question, why do people publish content on their websites?

Broadly there are two reasons:

  1. To have better SEO
  2. To have better conversion

Without content there is no SEO. It’s your content that tells the search engines what your website stands for.

For this you need to optimize your content using the right keywords. Whereas there is no need to obsess over your keywords, you should have a fair idea of what people are looking for on search engines to find businesses, products and services similar as yours.

You can decide for which keywords your chosen web page or blog post should get search engine traffic and then search for those keywords and see whether your link appears on the first or second page or not.

If it doesn’t, mark that link for a revision. Keep revising your links until they begin to rank well or at least you think that on the basis of your content, they should rank well. I say this because your rankings don’t just depend on your content; they also depend on the number of incoming links and many other factors.

So, before starting, prepare a list of keywords and search terms you think people are using to be able to find you (or your competitors).

Then you study how well the content converts. Is it able to convince people? Is your writing up to the mark? Is the tone professional as well as conversational? Do you have the right information? Are you linking to URLs that no longer exist or you shouldn’t be linking to?

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Once you have all this information with you, you can start auditing your website content.

It can be a great advantage if you have been using something like Google Analytics to keep track of the traffic you are getting. Google Analytics tells you what sort of traffic is being drawn to your website. It will tell you if you are getting traffic for the right keywords or not. Google Analytics also tells you what links are getting traffic for what keywords.

5 reasons you should audit your website content

Although above I have briefly explained why you should routinely revise your website content, in this section I’m going to compile 5 reasons why it is beneficial to your online business that you routinely audit your website content and update it.

1. For repurposing your content

To stay ahead of your competition you constantly need fresh content. But content writing ideas are finite. Even content generation ideas for various formats are finite. But, you can get some new ideas from your existing content.

Go through your existing content and see if you can repurpose it – complete web pages and blog posts or some of their parts. Read How to repurpose old content.

2. For improving your SEO

Are your web pages and blog posts attracting traffic for the right keywords? If your important web pages and blog posts are not ranking well, maybe you can give it another try?

Maybe this time you can use a tool like Yoast or SEOPressor.

Maybe you could incorporate some longtail keywords. Maybe you can optimize the title and the description.

Maybe the first time when you created those web pages and blog posts you didn’t use alt tags with the images.

Maybe there are some inner web pages and blog posts you can interlink.

There are scores of things you can do to improve your SEO during your website content audit.

3. For improving visual appeal

This is something that I have been doing recently with my website content auditing. I’m revising almost all the web pages. I’m not happy with the images I have used with many web pages. So, I am now creating new images. In fact, I’m inserting many more images.

Previously I used to have just one image. Now I try to use at least 3-4 images.

The idea of using more attractive images came to me when I actively started using Instagram.

4. Improving overall quality

We are all constantly improving (at least I would like to think that). We learn new things. We realize that we have committed mistakes.

While auditing your website content you will realize that there are lots of quality gaps that can be filled. You can rewrite and rephrase paragraphs. You can remove unnecessary text. You can add some new text. You can make your paragraphs and sentences shorter. You can make the language simpler. You can remove difficult or needless words.

5. Streamline your information flow and structure

Even if your content is great, if it is not creating a story flow, it is not going to serve you well. For example, you have a home page or a landing page communicating a particular message. From there, are you linking to a page that takes your story forward. Have you organized your content according to your sales funnel? Is your content organized in a logical sequence? These things can only be improved if you have lots of content to audit.

Some content marketing experts believe that there is no sense in creating new content unless you have audited your existing website content, and I think this makes sense.

When you audit your website content you learn what you want to do and what you want to discard. If you don’t study your existing content you won’t realize what mistakes you are committing and then you will carry forward these mistakes into your new content.

How often should you audit your website content?

It depends on how much content you have. If you have thousands of web pages and blog posts it doesn’t make sense to audit them every month. Since auditing is an ongoing process, you can also mark web pages and blog posts that don’t need auditing so that the next time you audit your content, you know which links you shouldn’t bother with. Otherwise, I think once a year it should be sufficient enough to audit your website content.

Is content marketing merely a PR exercise?

content-marketing-means-educating-like-a-friendNo, I’m not asking this question. Avinash Kaushik has raised this question in his recent newsletter. Actually, he has taken an example from a Think with Google web page and has dissected various sections of the page to illustrate that the writer has merely thrown around his verbosity without communicating anything concrete. Here is the web link to Avinash’s latest newsletter update.

The title of his newsletter is very apt: “Stop telling me Jesus was great”.

What it means to say is, through your content, stop telling something people already know. Stop telling that has been told thousands of times already. Tell something that I don’t know. If you are simply regurgitating everybody else’s message, through your content marketing you are just indulging in sophisticated PR exercise to get traffic to your website.

There is a reason why I’m talking about Avinash’s newsletter. The example that he has given is not of content marketing but of landing page copywriting.

From the landing page copywriting example, he has tried to deliver a larger message – your content marketing should be about communicating something which is highly useful, and hasn’t yet been communicated.

The Think with Google link actually makes no sense. It tries to deliver a very weighty message but in the end, ends up conveying nothing. The writer seems to be too impressed with himself or herself.

He first mentions three pointers published on the Google link: 1: Accumulate and integrate. 2: Unearth insights that matter. 3: Turn data into action.

Is there something new what is being said above? Doesn’t everyone these days tell you to use data to get insight? Aren’t organizations and even political parties using big data to decide what is the next step they need to take?

Anyway, I’m not writing this post to talk about what Avinash has to say about this particular link and it would be better that for that you read his update on the link above. I’m interested in the last para of his newsletter:

There is one major flaw in my analysis above. Perhaps the point of Content Marketing is to selfishly engage in Public Relations exercises. Hence, there is absolutely no attempt at understanding what the audience wants/needs and no attempt at creating anything that solve for anyone except the pimping company. The only goal is to cheat the audience of their precious attention. This strategy would be odd, but if that is your explicit strategy then nothing I’ve said above applies.

I can understand his general comment on the state of content marketing, that it is often used to create a senseless presence on the Internet to draw traffic from all over the web and when people actually arrive at the website, no purpose is solved. In that sense, you may like to read 3 Most Important Objectives of Content Marketing.

But pertaining to the Google link, it is a copywriting failure rather than a content marketing failure.

Content marketing is definitely not merely a PR exercise. It is an educational exercise. You educate people so that they can make a better decision.

I will give you an example from my client without revealing his identity:

My client is offering a service that is being offered by thousands of other service providers. But there are some features that only he is providing.

His problem is, his target audience doesn’t even know what problems it is facing. For his content marketing, he needs to

  • Make people aware of the problems they are having.
  • Explain to them what they are losing due to the problems they have.
  • Tell them that an efficient solution is available.
  • Tell them that that efficient solution is available with my client.
  • Convince people into going for that solution.

So, it is a complete educational process. Through ongoing education, I need to tell the prospective clients of my client what they are missing if they’re not working with my client.

Efficient content marketing empowers your customers and clients. It gives them solutions they’re looking for. It also gives them solutions they’re not looking for presently, but they need those solutions.

This should be achieved in very plain language unlike the Google link above. Live examples should be given rather than simply making claims.

Show, don’t tell, is the fundamental principle of content marketing.

10 SEO Content Writing Tips for Your Small Business

10-SEO-content-writing-tips-for-small-businessDo you know that being a small business SEO content writing can easily be the strongest tool available to you? Some tips listed on this blog post can help you to great extent. Remember that these tips are not written in stone and every business may have its own unique requirements. But they can get you started in the right direction.

Content writing for SEO can cut down your advertising and marketing costs. It can significantly improve your search engine rankings. It can increase your business without increasing your costs. It can make people trust you more.

What is the difference between SEO content writing and normal content writing?

In terms of creating high-quality content for your website or blog, there isn’t much difference as far as the list of tips goes. Well-written, relevant content is automatically search engine optimized. Search engines like Google love quality content that solves people’s problems. Just the fact that you are publishing lots of content that solves people’s problems, can significantly improve your search engine rankings.

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Other than that, the fundamental difference between SEO content writing and normal content writing is, you take search engine guidelines into account when creating search engine optimized content so that it becomes easier for search engine crawlers and ranking algorithms to access your content, process it, and then rank it for related keywords and search terms.

You can write high quality content without caring about search engine guidelines. Although your content will be good and once people can access your content and your content may even be able to convert visitors into buyers and customers, you won’t be able to get good search engine traffic, especially if there is lots of competition.

So, normal content is good content, and SEO content is content that is good but is also search engine optimized.

Why SEO content can work wonders for your small business?

As a serious small-business you might be spending lots of money on advertising. If you seek traffic from search engines you must be bidding on different keywords using AdWords. This can be very expensive for your small business.

In AdWords, you may have to pay $2-3 per click for your main keywords. And the problem sometimes is, your main keywords may not even get you much business compared to your secondary or longtail keywords. Still, you spend money on non-performing keywords simply because you want to see traffic to your website.

Looking for an SEO content writing for small business?

contact-for-more-details

SEO content writing can increase search engine rankings of your small business website organically. Once your search engine rankings improve organically by diligently following these tips, you start getting traffic from search engines without having to pay for every click. Once you have gotten one of your links featured in the top 10 results on Google, whether you get 10 clicks or 10,000 clicks, it’s all free.

The good thing about organic search results is that people prefer to click organic results rather than advertisements. So even in terms of getting more traffic from search engines, organic listings are much better than paid listings.

But how do you make sure that your small business website or blog gets good search engine rankings through your writing?

Listed below are 10 SEO content writing tips for your small business that will increase your search engine rankings, and also improve your conversion rate.

1. Do keyword research before writing content

What keywords do people use to find your website or your content? What search terms do they use? This is one of the most important tips.

You can make a list of keywords and search terms using common sense and little bit of research. You can also use paid and free tools to do keyword research.

One of the most widely used free keyword research tools is the Google AdWords keyword research tool. Although most of its suggestions are intended to encourage you to bid on as many keywords as possible and hence, the suggestions are not as accurate as they should be, it gives you a good beginning, and lots of ideas.

Even if you don’t want to use any tool, do a broad search and then scroll down to suggested searches on Google. This tells you what search terms people are using that are related to your main search term.

2. Start writing SEO content around the keywords you have finalized

Remember that the most important aspect that Google considers for ranking is the quality of your content. No amount of SEO content writing is going to help you if you don’t have quality content on your website. If it is difficult for you to create compelling content using your keywords, in the beginning, just focus on the quality aspect.

Just make sure that the keywords or search term you are targeting appear, most preferably, in the beginning of your web page or blog title. After that, let your creative juices flow.

Once you are satisfied and you feel you have written whatever you wanted to write, start incorporating your keywords. Ideally, if you’re focusing on the core topic, most probably you will automatically end up using your keywords. If not, you will have to creatively incorporate them. Don’t overdo it. Your total number of words to your keywords ratio should be around 3-4%. Overuse of your keywords can get you penalized.

If you use WordPress for managing your website and blog, there is a good add-on called SEOPressor. It gives your content an “SEO rating” and if you are over optimizing – over using your keywords – it lets you know.

Having said that, it doesn’t actually matter how many times you use your keywords as long as you contextually use them. Just don’t overuse them.

3. Create a compelling title for your web page or blog post

Remember that it’s your web page title or blog post title that initially draws people to your website or blog. In the search engine listings, it is your title that appears as hyperlink. In fact, one of the biggest reasons why you should use your keywords in your title is because when people see the keywords they have just used in the title, they tend to click the link more. Even when you share your link using your social networking profiles, it’s your title that appears as the main hyperlink. People will come to your website after you title grabs their attention. Consequently, coming up with keyword-rich compelling titles is a big part of effective SEO content writing.

4. Also focus on longtail keywords

When writing SEO content, don’t ignore your longtail keywords. In fact, you should create dedicated webpages and blog posts dealing with your prominent longtail keywords. But even on your present piece of content, use a mix of your primary keyword and longtail keywords. This will prevent you from over using your main keywords.

It is also recommended that you use LSI keywords. LSI stands for “latent semantic indexing”. In terms of SEO content writing, it means using alternatives to your main keywords. You can use synonyms. You can use alternative expressions.

Read How does incorporating keywords increase your search engine traffic.

5. Mostly focus on providing answers to questions

provide-answers-to-questionsWhen using search engines, people don’t use specific keywords. They normally type questions (or say, if they use voice search). So, provide answers to these questions. Make a list of all possible questions your prospective customers and clients may ask before doing business with you and then publish all the answers using questions as titles.

6. Use conversational style in your SEO writing

use-conversational-style-when-writingPeople don’t use novelish language while surfing the web. They use very common, conversational words. A good example: when people are searching for “bananas” they don’t search for “an elongated yellow fruit”.

Even when they are searching, they use very common words pertaining to your business. You should also avoid using jargon because whereas jargon may make you look cool, it may lose you customers.

You can use a tool like Hemingway Editor to grade your writing. It says that content writing with grade 6-8 is better and gets you good search engine rankings. “Grade” here means, writing with grade 6 can be easily read by a 6th grader.

7. Use a well-defined structure

Use a well-defined structure means using headlines and sub-headlines wherever needed. Organize your thoughts in bullet points. Use quotes wherever necessary. Write simpler sentences and smaller paragraphs. Link to inner pages with appropriate anchor text. Use bold type a few times to highlight your main expressions. Stick to a particular length.

8. Use images to graphically convey your feelings

Long streams of text seem to bore people no matter how informative your text is. Insert images at crucial points. They act as a welcome distraction. They also help people refocus. Don’t use totally unrelated images. If you are comfortable using an image editing tool, create a mix of graphics and text.

9. Focus on something unique when writing SEO content

The more generic your content is, the harder is the competition it faces. Narrow down your targeting as much as possible. Search engine optimization for the search term that isn’t being used by many is much easier.

Also, focusing on something unique will help you avoid writing duplicate content which can attract penalty from Google.

Even if it is not possible to offer something totally unique, address a very unique perspective of your product or service and write about that.

10. Keep optimizing your existing content

SEO content writing doesn’t just mean continuously publishing fresh content. You also need to take care of your existing content. Over the years your website or blog must have collected a ton of content. If this content remains unattended, all that effort goes waste.

Make a list of all the URLs that contain marketable content on your website. Check their search engine rankings for the targeted keywords. If over the weeks, months and years their rankings haven’t improved, start rewriting the content from SEO perspective.

Maybe you used some bad practices like needlessly using your keywords and search terms, and you would like to remove them. Maybe over optimized your content in enthusiasm. Maybe you created thin content.

It is a time-consuming activity, but go through every link, check its rankings, and if it doesn’t rank well, rewrite it.

Concluding remarks

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I personally know a client who has cut down his advertising budget by 70% ever since he started relying more on SEO content and less on advertisements.

A good thing about SEO content is that sometimes the same web page begins to get ranked higher for multiple keywords or keyword combinations. If you use AdWords, you have to pay for every combination, but not for a link that ranks higher organically.

Yes, more effort is required. Content writing for SEO take some time to show results, especially when you have lots of competition. But the rewards are great. You get more targeted traffic. Your marketing cost comes down significantly. Your conversion rate improves. Your brand value improves because people begin to find quality content on your website.

Want to know how you can improve your search engine rankings as well as conversion rate of your small business website through targeted SEO content writing?

12 Rules to Make Your Content Marketing Successful

12-rules-to-make-your-content-marketing-successfulWhile trying to find some topics on content marketing on Quora, I came across this old question: Does content marketing work?

This is an old question and it was posted back in 2015 by Neil Patel, but still, almost daily I come across this question on various content marketing forums and blogs.

Publishing content and distributing it is an age-old form of content marketing. In his book Epic Content, Joe Pulizzi refers to The Furrow magazine that was published and distributed back in 1895.  Here is the full story of how the company that sold John Deere’s new revolutionary steel plow used content marketing to sell the new equipment.

The Furrow‘s first issue was printed in 1895, and its reader base grew drastically in the immediate years that followed. The magazine focused on educating the farmers about the latest advancements in the field and also shared solutions to problems that existed then. Longtime Furrow art director Tom Sizemore associates the success of the magazine with their content strategy that focused on the farmer’s problems rather than on John Deere products.

It is said that the Star Wars movies have made close to $5 billion for its makers and promoters, but the merchandise sold in the name of the movie has done business close to $12 billion. This is one of the biggest examples of the success of content marketing – create a platform and then using that platform, generate business.

Just like any other field, content marketing has its clearly-defined rules. Follow the rules and guidelines and your content marketing is going to succeed. Ignore the rules and guidelines, well, at your own risk.

A few months ago I wrote The never changing fundamentals of content marketing. The fundamentals, the rules, the guidelines, or whatever you call them, keep you on the right path. It’s like, when you are cooking a recipe, there are certain ingredients you cannot avoid. Although you can experiment, the fundamental ingredients have to be the same otherwise you will be cooking something else and not what you originally intended to cook.

the-fundamentals-of-content-marketing

Want to make sure that your content marketing is successful? Aside from following fundamental guidelines I have mentioned above, here is a nice post that talks of The 12 simple rules of successful content marketing. In whatever context, in whichever language you talk of these rules, they hardly change. Even their digital existence doesn’t alter their behaviour. These are the rules the above post talks about:

  1. Create unique content: The importance of unique content cannot be understated. The sole purpose of content marketing is to give you a unique identity. If you are publishing something that is available on every second website or blog, how are you going to stand out? You can stand out only when you publish something unique, something totally different from what the others are publishing. Publish fewer blog posts, web pages and social media updates, but always publish unique content.
  2. Tailor your content according to the medium: Content marketing will require you to publish content on different media. For example, you may publish blog posts,  web pages and articles on your own website. Twitter has its own limitation of 140 characters (although this limit is being raised up to 280 characters). Images and shorter updates do well on Facebook. The point is, in order to be successful in content marketing, publish content  according to the medium you are using to publish it.
  3. Create or write relevant content: Is your content useful to people? I publish a content marketing and content writing blog to share my knowledge  of my profession. Suddenly if I start publishing film reviews or recipes, will it do any good to my business? I don’t think so. So, always create or write content that is relevant to your business.
  4. Follow a content publishing schedule: Even when people don’t consciously realize it, they get used to hearing from you at a particular time or during particular days. Also, to optimize your content marketing effort, you should publish your content when there is the greatest chance of your audience coming across it. Suppose, most of the people who follow you on Facebook come online around 4-5 PM  every day. If you don’t publish updates during this time, most of the people are going to miss them. Similarly, if you publish a new blog post every Wednesday, stick to the schedule no matter what. Irregularity makes your brand appear non-serious and non-committed.
  5. Don’t just focus on your blog: Actually, this depends. If most of your business depends on an audience that prefers to read your blog posts,  then definitely you should focus on your blog. But if you want to reach out to a wider audience, you should think beyond your blog when implementing your content marketing strategy. Also, it also helps if you publish your content on other platforms. I routinely try to publish on Medium and Quora.
  6. Closely observe your metrics: Once you start publishing and distributing content on a regular basis, if you are using a tool like Google Analytics, you will start collecting metrics. Analytics data tells you what kind of traffic your content is attracting from search engines and social networking websites. Closely observe your metrics and make changes to your content marketing accordingly. If you are publishing and distributing wrong content (content that doesn’t bring you customers and clients) you will be wasting effort and money.
  7. Optimize your content for mobile consumption: Your website or blog might be getting a big chunk of traffic from mobile phones. Publish your content in such a manner that it is easily readable from mobile devices. Although whether your content is accessible on mobile devices depends a lot on the structural layout of the website or the blog,  there are many ways you can write content that is easier to consume on mobile devices. You may like to read How to do content writing for the mobile-first experience.
  8. Take creative risks sometimes: To stand out, sometimes  you need to write something totally contrary to what you normally write and there is nothing wrong in that. You don’t need to do it often, but sometimes you can take creative risks. For example, what are your views on the various Donald Trump policies and how can you incorporate your views in the basic messaging of your business? How can I connect content marketing and Donald Trump? How can I write on controversial issues without offending my core audience?
  9. Keep it simple: This is especially important if you are writing for business or B2B. Your messaging needs to be to the point and simple. By simple I don’t mean that you publish content only for dumb and dumber. An average entrepreneur doesn’t have enough time to figure out exactly what you are trying to say. Keep everything straight forward.
  10. Stick to your brand message: Vagueness confuses people. The above link gives the example of Nike’s “Just do it!” – their every campaign revolves around this message. Define your core message and then stick to it. For example, if I want to establish my brand for “quality content” then every piece of content that I publish should reflect that philosophy. On the other hand, if I want to establish my brand for “cheap content” then every message should convey to my audience that cheap content is available here.
  11. Respond to feedback as fast as you can: When you publish content, when you express your views, there is bound to be some feedback. People are going to respond. Whether you publish content on your blog or on Twitter, people are going to respond in all sorts of ways. Some responses will be justified and some will be trollish. As you are known for the content you publish, you are also known for the way you respond to feedback.
  12. Create content for your audience: If every piece of content you create and publish is to promote your business, along the way it begins to lose its charm. You desire to earn more and more business takes precedence and this begins to show through your content. Of course you want to grow your business, but let your content do the job.

Just like the proverbial “butterfly effect” there can be millions of factors contributing to success or failure of your content marketing. But, as mentioned above, there are some fundamental rules that are applicable not just to content marketing, but to every field. They can even be applied to your business in the conventional sense.


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