It’s no secret that content marketing is growing in importance by the day. But many marketers don’t have a good understanding of why content creation matters. I’d like to share a few ideas about why content marketing has gained so much ground over the past few years. Bonus – increasing your knowledge of why content creation is important should help you to create better content.
Enough with the ads already!
That’s right, people are tired of ads. All kind of advertising – print, television, and especially web – now draw skepticism and annoyance. In general, consumers are just fed up with the hard sell. They’re tired of companies pushing products without offering any additional benefit.
Part of the reason for this disillusionment lies in new technology. Viewers can skip past TV commercials on their DVRs, and they can click through or scroll past internet ads. Plus, the modern world offers so many distractions that it’s hard for any ad to hold anyone’s attention. When was the last time you sat through a full set of commercials without heading to Facebook or getting in some Angry Birds time?
Many businesses have turned to content creation as a way to circumvent these challenges and offer something useful to the consumer. The main goal of content marketing is to engage and inform customers without seeming salesy AND to make sales. It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s not. If you create content with the goal of entertaining and informing, sales are likely to follow. That is, if you have a decent product or service to offer, your high-quality content will draw prospective customers to you. In essence, you become the authority first, sales then follow. More on that in a bit.
Content creation isn’t a risky strategy
Many businesspeople shrink from the very idea of content marketing because it seems risky. After all, doesn’t it waste a lot of time and resources? And on something that doesn’t directly promote your product?
In truth, content creation is much less risky than it seems. Paid advertising actually takes more time to develop in most cases. And it is often more expensive. For TV and radio advertisements, you have to pay for airtime in addition to the costs of designing your ad. For print ads, you have to buy a spot in a relevant publication with a wide readership. And web advertising can be paid for in a variety of ways, including PPC (pay per click), but it isn’t cheap.
In contrast, content creation can be free or close to it. You likely already have a website. A blog is a way to fill out your website with additional relevant content to draw in consumers. You can also post articles, blog posts, infographics, videos, and more on your social media accounts.
If you have the tools to develop your own content (writing ability, intermediate design capability, the ability to speak to an audience on camera), quality content can be had for free, or nearly so. But even if you have no writing, design, or speaking abilities, content development is not expensive. In fact, it typically costs less than traditional advertising.
If you have even a few employees or business associates, there’s a good chance that one or more of them has these skills. Even if you don’t have anyone on your team for content creation, you can hire talented freelancers at a reasonable price.
The thing is, most marketing is expensive no matter what. So when people have a negative reaction to the idea of content marketing, it usually has to do with their own perception of what content is for.
SEO is NOT just keywords
The idea that search engine optimization is all about peppering in keywords is so 5 years ago (not to mention it will actually hurt your SEO efforts). Today it’s all about providing value to your audience. How does Google (and other search engines, but let’s get real – mostly Google) know?
Google is constantly working on algorithms that move the most useful websites to the top. Today, Google’s algorithm includes way more than just keywords. It analyzes the words on a page in an AI fashion. As in, it can comprehend almost like a human brain.
Additionally, Google and other search engines have gotten much better at recognizing how a particular piece of content answers a complicated search query. So those of us who were trained to search for short, simple phrases need to rethink the way we structure our content. While you once would have typed “oldest writing civilization” instead of “which civilization was the first to develop writing”, the latter now works just as well.
The bottom line is that SEO now revolves around relevance rather than keywords. So your content should offer a relevant answer to a given query (or, ideally, a range of queries).
Content marketing establishes you as an expert
Don’t we all want to be seen as experts in our field? Whether you offer a product, a service, or a B2B service, content marketing helps by showing expertise. When you demonstrate your value in this way, you establish confidence and encourage your audience to think of you as a trusted authority.
When you think about how to best create content for your audience, you must consider how they get from an idea to a purchase. In the early stage, consumers are likely to conduct simple searches and seek basic information. Later, they will look for more detailed guides to help them better understand the product or service they seek. Finally, they will seek comprehensive information about a specific product or service.
You can be there at each step if you invest in quality content. You sell light fixtures. A customer wants to know about the basic features of wall-mounted lighting. You offer a straightforward article with a list of features to look for. Later, they want to know about different materials, colors, housings, wiring, and more. Bingo – you’ve got a comprehensive buying guide, complete with pictures. Ultimately, they’re ready for a purchase but want to apply their recently gained knowledge to specific products. Fortunately, you’ve outlined the details of your products thoroughly.
When you’ve got all the steps of the buying process covered, you’ve gained a customer. And that’s what content creation is all about. It might seem like a convoluted means to an end, but is the traditional way really so much more direct? After all, the old-fashioned way – putting out an ad and hoping it sticks – isn’t as direct as it might seem.
Here’s what the numbers say
In case you’re still not convinced, there is plenty of hard data to bear out the importance of great content. Here’s one telling statistic – leaders in content marketing experience 7.8x more growth in site traffic by year than non-leaders. That’s right – 780 percent more growth.
This figure doesn’t speak to what that added site traffic translates to in revenue or profit or marketing costs, but it says volumes about what content is for. Good content brings eyes to your site. Great content not only keeps them there but keeps them coming back.
And as those visitors come to trust you as a source of valuable information, they’re building a relationship with your brand. So when they do need the product or service you offer, they’ll think of you first. That’s why 7.8 times more traffic might not translate to an equivalent jump in short-term sales. But it should still result in solid long-term growth.
More and more people are relying on ad blockers to keep pesky internet ads at bay.
Not only does the use of ad blocking software limit the likelihood of your ads being seen, but it should tell you something about how internet users feel about ads. And that feeling isn’t good. As a general rule, online advertising offers little to the consumer. It might generate a few clicks here and there, but most people will see it as an interruption on the way to their ultimate destination.
This is where content marketing really shines. Instead of getting in the way, quality content allows you to be the ultimate destination. When consumers arrive at your site through their own initiative, they come with an open mind and a receptive attitude. Meet their needs with useful information presented in an engaging way, and there’s a good chance they’ll be back.
Conversion rates are almost 6 times higher for adopters of content marketing.
One study showed that companies witnessed more than 5x increase in conversion rates when they made content marketing their primary focus. Those who engaged in content marketing but with a less well-developed strategy saw only a 0.5% increase.
This illustrates the importance not just of creating content, but of creating the right content. A quality content marketing strategy requires multiple steps. You must first identify your audience and evaluate their interests.
Then you have to thoroughly research a topic of interest and present it as an expert. Since you’ll often, if not exclusively, be covering topics relevant to your industry, you should already have some expertise. However, additional research is often needed to back up your pre-existing knowledge with current data.
Finally, you must publish your content to the relevant platform. That could be your website, social media accounts, YouTube, or a third-party publication. Or you might send your content out in an email. Often you’ll choose more than one of these (e.g. putting up an infographic on both Facebook and your website).
Content creation is more than just blogging
These are the most popular content marketing tactics reported by B2C businesses:
- Social media (90%)
- Illustrations and Photos (87%)
- eNewsletters (83%)
- Videos (82%)
- Website articles (81%)
The type of content you create and the way you share that content should depend on your industry and target market. A couple of examples:
You own a boxing gym frequented mostly by twenty-something males. Your gym has a monthly email newsletter with workout tips, and you put together a series of YouTube videos demonstrating techniques. You also publish your newsletter and additional content on your gym’s Facebook page.
You own a craft store, and your target market consists of 25-60 year old women, as well as parents and kids. Your website has a crafting blog, where you share ideas and examples, or give step-by-step instructions for specific projects. You also share project ideas on Pinterest.
Google’s top-ranked content pieces average a word count of 1140-1285 words each.
Again, the length of your content pieces will depend on your specific needs. These include your industry, audience, and the specific type of content. However, you should keep in mind the goal thoroughly covering the topic without filler.
It’s often beneficial to establish a conversational tone in your written content. But don’t “pad” your blog posts, articles, and newsletters with small talk. Too much of this and your readers are likely to get the impression that you don’t know what you’re talking about. True experts have no need for padding. They get to the point and cover the topic from all angles.
When developing a content piece, try to put yourself in the shoes of your audience. Your goal should be to answer all the right questions and answer them well. If you struggle with this, try asking non-experts what they would want to know. Consult friends and business associates to see what parts of your written content are confusing or incomplete. If needed, hire an editor to help you better develop your ideas. It will pay off.
The bottom line of Content Marketing
When it comes down to numbers, content marketing does work. The cost is in line with (and often cheaper than) traditional marketing. And it attracts at least as many customers.
The world of online marketing is constantly changing. For now, at least, the numbers seem to bear out the idea that content is worth its weight in gold. And there’s a good reason for that. Quality content offers consumers something they never got out of traditional advertising. They get real value – in terms of information, education, and entertainment. If you can harness this powerful means of consumer engagement, you’ll have a big advantage over your competitors.