For one thing, old-fashioned “ads” are rapidly losing their efficacy. Businesses need to be creating content that their potential customers care about, and not just trying to “reheat” old advertisements that are little more than a sales pitch.
The concept of content marketing has been around for a while. In traditional media outlets such as newspapers and television, think about advertorials and infomercials. However, these still smack of advertising, even if the sales pitch is more disguised than, say, a billboard.
The shift in content marketing on the Internet is that the sales pitch is often completely absent—at least in the moment. The larger goal has more to do with brand awareness and creating a relationship with the audience of readers, listeners, or viewers.
So what is content marketing, exactly?
“Content” is anything that builds trust, credibility, and gets people to refer others to your site or even directly to your products or services. In other words, it turns people who read your blog or watch your videos into customers. Eventually.
Then “content marketing” is about creating a relationship with your audience. Making them believe that you are THE source to consult in your field. So when the need solutions that you can provide, they’ll seek you out…and pay you, eventually, when they need something beyond what you offer as free content.
That transition is subtle, and they might not even be aware that they’ve just gone from being a “reader” to a “customer.” Or if they have, they might even be glad that they can finally pay you back for all the value you’ve provided for them up to that point.
It’s difficult to “measure,” however, and tends to follow an exponential curve that is very slow in the beginning. How long does “the beginning” last? It depends on your industry, of course, and how good you are at creating a lot of value content for your market sector. Suffice to say that in competitive markets (health, finance, personal development) it might take an expert 4-6 months to get one or two of their articles to rank on Google’s first page.
What does content marketing content look like?
Content marketing is the idea that you provide value (usually free) content to the cyber world in an effort to establish your authority on a topic. The content can take many forms but is typically written (blogs), audio (podcasts), or video (YouTube).
This content should showcase your knowledge to the folks searching the Internet for the type of information that you provide. So in the perfect scenario, your content is so valuable and so well-crafted that it is deemed “authoritative” by both human readers and the search engine crawlers.
Then with search engine prominence comes more traffic to your site, which means a bigger audience, which means more authority. And then this feeds back into the search engines and your authority snowballs.
Well, that’s theory. There’s more to it, course. For one thing, you can’t just sit back and wait for the search engines to find you. You must jump up and down, and shout at the top of your lungs until you’re noticed. In the virtual world, this often translates to creating a buzz on social media platforms. Using Twitter to drive traffic to your site can be particularly effective.
One thing that you’re hoping for, via social sharing, are back links. This is when people with authoritative channels of their own inform their readers/listeners/viewers of your content by linking to your website or blog. Google pays attention to these links and puts a lot weight on this sort of endorsement. In fact, it’s the quickest way to move up the search rankings.
However, that STILL isn’t enough. You can’t expect these other folks to just link to you for the heck of it. Sure, once in a while this happens, but it happens much quicker if you proactively reach out to them.
Sometimes you even have to pay them, and that’s OK, as long as the arrangement is transparent and relevant to both websites. In other words, if you have a cooking blog and you pay to get a link from a high-authority politically-themed website, that looks suspicious to Google, and you might actually get penalized. Better to get a link from a medium-authority restaurant review site. Not “cooking” per se, but you can see how it’s in the same general category, whereas politics is not.
Don’t Question My Authority
So I’ve been tossing around the word “authority” quite a bit here. You might be asking how do I know which sites are of high authority and which are spammy or just plain weak?
Honestly, just spending a few minutes clicking around a site would tell you a lot. But if you want to take the guess work out of it, the nice folks at Moz have taken the trouble to rank every website on the web for us. If you use Google Chrome, there’s a handy little extension that shows you this information right in your navigation bar: MozBar from Moz
In the past, Google Pagerank was the quick and easy barometer for understanding a site’s authority. No so anymore—they stopped updating their rankings in December of 2013. Unlike Moz’s scale that goes from 1 – 100, Google used a tighter scale of 1 – 10. So the rankings were less dynamic; it took a pretty big jump in “authority” to move the needle by just one number.
However, at this point in time, we can still gain some interesting information about a given website if we compare the two ranking systems.
Let me give you some examples. If a particular site has Google Pagerank of “2” and a Moz rank of “43,” we can assume that this site has been growing the past couple of years. On the other hand, if a site has a Google Pagerank of “4” and a Moz rank of “21,” we see that this site has lost some of its juice, and perhaps has even been abandoned by the owner.
So while Google Pagerank is now meaningless in the absolute, it still has some value when appraising the direction of a website or blog.
Note that brand new sites these days have a Google Pagerank of “N/A.” Ones that began in late 2013 are ranked “0.”
OK, I think that’s enough “content” for one article. Please leave your comments below so we can all improve our knowledge of this extensive topic.