Whether you’re in marketing, sales, a business owner or wear all three hats, you likely have heard that marketing content plays a critical role in driving sales and revenue. Why is it so vital? According to Gartner, “Content fuels every customer experience and marketing channel, driving audience awareness and engagement to accelerate the achieving of business goals.”
There is a caveat, however. Not all marketing content is effective. In a Semrush survey of 1,500 marketers around the world, nearly 80% said their primary goals in 2020 were to use content marketing to generate more quality leads and attract more website visitors. Even so, half cited those goals as their biggest content marketing challenges. Clearly, there is a disconnect between strategy and execution.
So, what is marketing content and what makes great marketing content that actually moves the needle? It starts with SEO, otherwise known as search engine optimization.
Why Is SEO So Important?
There is a singular goal for an SEO strategy: generate qualified leads that sales can convert to customers to increase revenue. By leading your audience to the right information at the right time (before and better than the competition), sales has a greater opportunity to close deals. It doesn’t happen overnight and no strategy is a sure thing, but it does improve your company’s chances of increasing revenue.
While referrals are still a powerful sales tool, most people search online for what they want – whether it’s to read reviews, compare brands and prices, and educate themselves. You want people to find your content when they search. This is referred to as organic traffic.
There are plenty of backend strategies that help people find your marketing content, but you still have to create valuable content that gives people what they came for in the first place. By optimizing your content for search engines, you have a greater chance of getting eyes on your content.
Give Searchers What They Want
It’s easy to generate content that promotes your brand and products and services, but that’s typically not what online searchers are looking for. Effective marketing content 101 is to generate content that answers their questions – the who, what, when, why, and how. When they find what they searched for, they tend to come back for more, giving you the opportunity to build a loyal audience who trusts your brand as an authority and market leader.
That audience is more likely to convert to a customer. And when you succeed at continually delivering relevant content to them – content that interests and engages them – they are more likely to become a loyal customer who then shares your content with others. Ah, the marketing cycle of life. The holy grail.
How do you write compelling content? You answer the questions your research shows that your audience is asking. The data points for this are typically keywords and keyword phrases your audience uses in their search, such as “What is digital marketing” and “How do I write great marketing content.”
Your audience is also the search engine. You have to get on its radar, too. Part of your SEO strategy is to help search engines understand the intent of your content and view you as an authority as well. The prize for such efforts? Highly coveted page rankings that offer you a better opportunity to be found by your searching audience.
Finding Your Keywords
One of the most frequently asked questions we get from clients is, “How do we find our keywords?” There’s no one tool to find your primary keyword or keyword phrase. Part of the formula is to know your audience, getting feedback from sales as to what prospects and clients are talking and asking about most.
What is your industry, your market, your product or service category, words you often use on your website to explain your brand? What terms do your competition use? All of these and other words give you a good starting point.
But when you really want to get to the meat, there are several content marketing tools that can be used simultaneously to add deeper insights into which primary keywords you should go for. Unless you have a savvy internal marketing department, you’re likely to lack all of these tools or know how to effectively use them, as they can be quite complex.
But, they are effective and reliable. These tools each take a different angle, so we leverage them to get a comprehensive picture for our clients. Google Analytics is a free tool that’s fairly easy to use to study your own website effectiveness, but it won’t show you what your competition is doing or how your content compares.
For that, we like Semrush. It uses AI- and machine learning-based traffic analytics, revealing insights like all of the variations of keywords and their search volumes by year so we can see how those keywords are trending, keyword difficulty, and how many results showed up for that keyword. The bigger the number, the greater the search volume for that keyword.
To confuse things a bit, there are also secondary keywords that are related to your primary keyword. They support your primary keyword and help the search engine understand the purpose of your content.
You may be surprised to know that it’s not always wise to focus on the most popular keywords, at least not at first. The more competition you have with a keyword or keyword phrase, the less likely you are to gain any traction against more established brands. Basically, your content has to be better than most everyone else’s and your backend efforts spot on to rank ahead of them. No pressure, right?
How Do Keywords Work?
As you write new content or update existing content, you use these focused primary and secondary keywords strategically as you answer your target audience’s questions. Each section should cover a potential topic your audience wanted to learn.
How do you know the topics to discuss? Again, there are multiple software tools that help you discover this, but the main objective is to know who your audience is and what they are looking for so you can cover those topics. You have to understand where your audience is when it comes to the sales funnel.
Are they even aware of a concept or is your point to introduce it, such as with a first-to-market product or service they didn’t know they needed. Are they just starting out and seeking to educate themselves on the basics, or are they further along the buyer’s journey and are comparing products and brands? The typical buyer’s journey involves several stages:
- Awareness Stage: The buyer becomes aware they have a problem.
- Consideration Stage: The buyer defines their problem and considers options to solve it.
- Decision Stage: The buyer evaluates and decides on the right provider to administer the solution.
Your topics for a particular piece of marketing content will depend on what stage your target audience is. For example, if they are in the awareness stage, a blog that introduces and defines terms and challenges for that topic would be a good idea. Likewise, if they are in the decision stage, a blog with a list of differentiators or pros and cons would be more relevant.
Does Content Length and Frequency Matter?
We take a couple of different strategies when it comes to content length and cadence. We either write longer, guide-like blogs that cover as many relevant topics we think our client’s audience may be looking for, or we take a deeper dive into a handful of topics in a shorter blog. Each can be effective. It just depends on your objectives.
Speaking of long and short, another question we often get asked is, “How long should blogs be?” There is no magic number; however, we achieve the greatest success with blogs that are anywhere from 1,000 words to 5,000 words, depending on the objective.
Our regular blogs typically range in length from 1,200 words to 1,500 words, while our guides are anywhere from 2,000 words to 5,000 words. These lengths allow us to adequately answer those potential audience questions and establish our clients as thought leaders.
Inevitably, our clients want to know what they should write and how often they should push it out. There is no magic bullet on types or cadence of content.
You have to consider the goal of the marketing piece. Is it to increase brand awareness, revenue or your customer base? Reduce churn? Improve customer engagement? A blog or infographic is great to increase brand awareness, define problems and solution options; whereas a webinar with an associated email campaign and landing page are ideal to improve customer engagement and reduce churn.
If you want to own a topic, a well-written, long-form piece of content will bring you more results than four shorter blog posts. On the other hand, if you’re selling software and want to boost sales, you have a wide range of products or services, or you cater to a variety of industries, you shouldn’t write just one topic a month. You need to write one for each of the pain points your brand addresses. And if the pain points differ for each of the customer personas, you’ll write ones for those.
Yet even as we say SEO is critical, one of our best pieces of advice is to focus on revenue, not keywords. SEO is just one channel to drive revenue, albeit an important one. YouTube videos, social media, influencers, email, and webinars can all help drive conversions and revenue and should be part of a larger content marketing strategy.
What Goes into the Content to Make It Great?
While the Google algorithms used to rank content change periodically, one principle remains the same: Google rewards great content. It can be any type of content, but it has to be great if you want it to impact revenue. That means it’s relevant and valuable to your audience.
Of course, we have our own secret sauce when it comes to optimizing our content for SEO. One of our go-to checklist items with blogs is always linking to reputable sources when we use statistics, quotes, research, etc. (and we always do).
Remember, the goal is to establish your brand as a thought leader and market authority. By backing up your claims or introducing concepts from widely-respected sources, you are showing the search engine and your readers that you and your sources are credible. You’ve done your homework and provide content they can trust.
Sources can come from industry experts (such as American Marketing Association or Harvard Business Review), government entities (think US Bureau of Labor and Statistics or the CDC), research and analysts firms (like Gartner and Accenture), mainstream media organizations (such as Forbes and Inc.com), or Internet/social media companies (like Google or Facebook).
There are hundreds, if not thousands of possible reputable sources, and each industry will have a list of its top ones. The essential thing to remember is that the general public needs to think of the sources as credible.
And when it comes to blogs, you’ll get more traction with the search engines if you don’t self-promote too much. Reserve mentioning your brand or branded products until the last paragraph of the blog, where you can add a call to action (CTA) to direct people to your company contact page.
If your blog content is too salesy or self-endorsing, the search engines and your readers view it more as marketing fluff than objective, helpful, thought leadership. Save that kind of language for your website pages and social media. Those are channels where you want to communicate who you are as a company, the challenges you solve, how you uniquely solve them, and what customers can expect when they buy from you.
Think of your content as a simple guide or blueprint that covers a broad range of topics. Your marketing pieces can offer information beyond what you’re selling. By discussing industry trends, challenges and opportunities in a neutral way (and linking to sources), you set your brand up as a trusted authority with credibility. Plus, it presents a bigger pool of possible topics to discuss other than just your value propositions.
The True Purpose of Marketing Content
Our clients are often confused when we tell them that marketing content doesn’t close deals. In the end, your goal with any marketing content is to get invited to the dance. It’s your best way to get attention and set your sales team up for success.
Remember that the best-written content always wins. If you can pique your audience’s interest and get them to take the next step in the buyer’s journey, sales has a greater opportunity to convert them to a customer.
This requires sales and marketing to be aligned, working together to identify customer pain points and the best ways to communicate how your brand can uniquely solve their challenges. Do that, and you’ll see more conversions and increased revenue. Need help navigating your content marketing strategy? Zilker Partners can help.