As a business owner, you know that you should be doing certain things to marketing your business online; content marketing like blogging, creating videos, press releases, building links, connecting with other industry professionals, branding through social communities, consumer and client engagement.
So let’s say that you’re even acutely aware of the need for all of that – but where do find time?
With all the work on your plate, your to-do list probably resembles the pre-trip checklist for the maiden voyage of the Titanic, and “don’t sink” is #1. Everything else is supposed to keep #1 going strong. The problem is getting all of the tasks done in order to stay afloat.
And now we want to add content marketing and mobile marketing…and social media marketing on top of that?
Online Marketing – Monkey See Monkey Do.
With the wide acceptance of social media use in business, a lot of small business owners are getting on board with a blog, with social media accounts, with mobile marketing and more. Their goals tend to be similar – they want to improve business. Unfortunately for many, what they wind up with is less business and a lot of wasted money. If they’re lucky they maintain the status quo.
So what’s the problem?
The main issue copycat marketing. A business owner sees a competitor doing something and they decide to try the same thing because it seems to work so well. This goes on all the time with social media marketing through Facebook and Twitter. It’s also the reason why many small business owners start up a blog.
(This version is doctored a bit with some personal thought thrown in. The original post can be found here)
If you’ve ever seen the movie Jerry McGuire, you remember the blue mission statement. This is the moment in the movie when Jerry McGuire (played by Tom Cruise) wakes up in a cold sweat and writes, what he believes, to be the future direction for his sports agency.
Well, Coca-Cola’s marketing mission statement is Content 2020, a content marketing brainchild of Coca-Cola’s Jonathan Mildenhall, VP Global Advertising Strategy and Creative Excellence, who recently stated that:
“All advertisers need a lot more content so that they can keep the engagement with consumers fresh and relevant, because of the 24/7 connectivity. If you’re going to be successful around the world, you have to have fat and fertile ideas at the core.”
Fat and Fertile… I like that. It embodies the full concept of what people want in content online. They don’t want skimpy ideas. They don’t want ideas that are like Chinese food, leaving you hungry right after. They want plump, delicious, fat and fertile content.
I took a great deal time reviewing the included videos in this post, and I would encourage anyone with an inkling of marketing savvy (business owners especially) to set aside some time to review them.
They’re that important.
Why Content 2020 Is So Vital
Content 2020 feels like one of those internal memos a la Jerry McGuire, directed toward their internal marketing team. At least it seems that way. Like they’re laying out their game plan for the future. At the core though, it’s clear from this that Coca-Cola is investing a great deal in content marketing.
- The company needs to move from creative excellence to content excellence
- They aim to develop content that does more than populate pages – it aims to make a commitment in making the world a better place
- The goal is to develop value and significance in the lives of people – while also driving business objectives for the company
Any business that wants to move forward and stay competitive in the changing marketplace, where online marketing, content marketing and social engagement are key, will need to stop relying on 30-second-TV-centric strategies.
If content marketing is good for Coke, then it can be good for your business as well.
Authentic Japanese – A Hundred Little Things and More
I have a friend who lives in Michigan, near Detroit, in a city called Canton. One of his favorite restaurants is a local authentic Japanese place called Matsuchan. He told me an amazing story about how he found it and why he loves it.
According to him, he has eaten there twice a day. Once, three times. The small restaurant is tucked back into the corner of a plaza and has about 8 tables. It’s small, but not crowded. Sometimes it’s empty but there are plenty of times where it’s packed and people are waiting despite plenty of alternatives within a quick drive or walk. What is the secret to the success here, what makes it worth the wait?
After listening to him relate the story, I can say there is really no specific reason. The energy of the owners is more than likely part of it, but customers at their tables don’t typically interact with them – they’re cooking. It’s more than likely the hand-fitted gestalt of hundreds of small decisions surrounding caring management that make a real difference.
I have to share the story on this restaurant though. My friend found this particular place when he was scheduling a last minute date night for himself and his wife. They wanted something different, so he started looking up “restaurants canton, mi” in Google. There was the usual list of big brands and some small places. Down at the bottom of the map listing was Matsuchan.
They like Chinese, but had never had authentic Japanese. He told me the simple description – they served Japanese ramen soups. Immediately you start thinking about ramen from Wal-Mart and you cringe a little but then he told me about the reviews. Quite a few, all rated very high. People traveling from all over, talking about how they always go to Matsuchan when they come home to visit. So they went.
And he loved it.
You see, the problem with a lot of small businesses now is that many of them aim to get bigger, which transforms them into a chain. At that point, business owners and marketers begin to make decisions they feel are intelligent, smart compromises. That’s when the college degrees collide with that unknown “mana” and things get boring quick. It’s that point that you’re not the little location people love, but you become something else.
That’s where people are starting to wonder why there are 60 different noodle bowls in other restaurants when you get by with just a dozen – like Matsuchan.
“Maybe we should stop service cola drinks with free refills and focus on traditional tea instead, to make money while offering an authentic product” …kind of like Matsuchan.
This is the secret to success for any business, no matter where you’re located. You may be able to carbon copy several of the competitive advantages of other businesses, but it’s impossible to recreate the magic that occurs from hundreds of smart little choices made by caring management – where those decisions are customer-centric.
Too many businesses are scared to invest real time and energy into making hundreds of little decisions that can make them extraordinary. Instead, they settle on what works fast, and what creates fast results. You can see it in the way the business is run, and you can certainly see it in the online marketing they do.
The most amazing thing is that Matsuchan doesn’t even have a website. They function off a simple Google map listing. Their focus is in the kitchen, on the food and on the customer. They aren’t overdoing it with social media marketing or online marketing, because they know they don’t have to. They keep it simple, and that seems to do them just fine.
What does your business look like? Have you made hundreds of little decision like Matsuchan that create a business that is irresistible?
The Power of Content Marketing
After optimizing your website or landing pages, the next step is drive traffic and improve the visibility of that content. Turning the attention of the search engines to those pages easy, but building relevancy in order to move those pages to the top of the search results takes a little more effort.
Content marketing offers a number of benefits to supplement your on-page SEO and optimizations.
- It builds relevant links from external sites
- Draws organic search traffic based on keywords chosen
- Improves reach into various sectors of your market (target specific interests)
- Present solutions and solve problems in pre-buy phase for customers
- Supports your internal linking strategy through blogging or article directories
- Creates multiple channels for engagement
- Brand yourself as an expert in your industry
- Create channels for opening dialogue with customers
You can’t just start content marketing once your site goes life, however. You need to put some thought and effort into the type of content you’re creating and how much. The right research will reveal how much content, where to put it, what will appeal to your audience, etc in order to build out a well-rounded content marketing strategy.
Researching your Content Marketing Audience
The first step is to build a model of your target audience. Who are they, what do they like, how do they spend and shop, what are their general interests, what are their focused and favorite interests. What do they dislike. Age group, income level, education level, etc. That buyer persona will turn you on to common questions, concern and pain points. You should already have a fair amount of information like this from your website copywriting.
You can use this data to find out where a lot of your customers search online, where they spend their time and the types of media they prefer. I.e. are they video lovers, do they read blogs, do they prefer their news from major sources or do they turn to social media for news from friends and trusted individuals.
Choosing your Content for Content Marketing
Based on your research you’ll need to determine what type of content will provide the best reach into your audience.
- Audio/Pod Casts
- Video (promotional, how to, etc.)
- Articles on-site and off-site
- Mobile Applications with content
- eBooks and Market Reports or White Papers
- Forums and social media tidbits
There are numerous ways to publish content. You will often find that your content strategy contains a mix of many of those options. You should never focus all of your attention into one. Don’t just do blogging, and don’t just send out press releases. The greatest reach will come from a combination of several channels depending on your audience.
How Much Content is Enough for Content Marketing
Your keyword research as well as your competitive research will clue you into how much you need, along with the number of landing pages you’re promoting. For a site with only one or two sales pages or product pages, and a small number of keywords, you can tone down the level of content marketing to a few blog posts a month, a monthly PR, newsletter and a few articles.
For a more aggressive marketplace with a lot of keywords and products to sell, you may want to push for more visibility. I’ve worked with clients in the past who chose daily blog posts, a weekly newsletter and a press release twice a month. That was stacked on top of article marketing and regular video production.
Ultimately it comes down to how hard you want to push for visibility. The search engines love fresh content, so the more quality content you create for your content marketing the better your chances of becoming relevant and visible for your target keywords.
I often find myself wondering the point of having a website if no one can find it. The occasional visitor might stumble on it, but is there a reason to pay for hosting if you cannot get your site up to the front page with your keywords? Small business owners are typically the worst offenders, though it’s not intentional.
In most cases, they feel they don’t have the time or budget to build and maintain a professional website for their business. Instead they settle for less. The result is an unpolished, unprofessional website that simply isn’t visible in search. Whatever time and money put into it is wasted. If those unprofessional sites do gain some traffic and visibility, they’re likely doing more harm than good because of the quality of the design (or lack thereof).
Not only do you have to think about the aesthetics of your site but you need to think about the content and how you can optimize and supplement your website content in order to improve your visibility -and- your conversion rates. (i.e. turning visitors into customers)
Here are some simple tips to get you thinking about how you can improve your search presence and the user experience to boost your SEO efforts.
- Get your own domain, do not co-host somewhere else. Do not use free domains. Having your own domain shows professionalism.
- Keep an eye on your performance. Google Analytics will help you determine the point of origin for your best traffic, how long they stay, how they exit and other metrics.
- Get involved in the community such as through forums. When you participate there are opportunities for giving out links to your site to build your link profile.
- Use a blog you’ve started for blog marketing – link back to your site pages in your post.
- Update your blog on a regular basis, you never know when it will take off and people could start linking to it.
- DMOZ may not be as popular as other major search engines since it is edited by humans, but many of the major search engines still use this site for indexing.
- Complex java script can confuse search engines when they are indexing your site, avoid it at all costs.
- Flash sites can cause similar issues with search engine indexing. Keep dynamic content that is strictly visual to a minimum.
- Target good keywords with low competition. Use tools for research such as Google Adwords keyword research tool.
- Include your keywords in all areas of your site. This includes your title and Meta description, alt tags, footer, and the body of the content. This greatly increases your relevancy when indexing.
- Surround your keywords with relevant words that pertain specifically to the topic. Sometimes site excerpts are displayed in search results as opposed to the meta description. Keep the info in context and help them find what they are looking for. Be the solution.
- Avoid keyword stuffing – Keyword stuffing is considered a spammy practice used to manipulate search results. If your content is flagged for keyword stuffing you can suffer a penalty to your rank and even have your domain removed from the search index.
- Door way pages or splash pages are tools commonly used in black hat and gray hat SEO. The search engines, particularly Google, frown on their use. If you use one, drop it and create a home page that offers real value.
This certainly is no master primer, but these little things are good to keep in the back of your mind as reminders on how to handle yourself and your marketing campaign. Try not to get your eyes glued on the big picture and remember the little things that have a tremendous impact on conversion, site design, visibility and SEO.
Blog Marketing – Going Beyond Words
If you want to make your blog marketing work for you, and build a sustainable reader base, then you need to consider the SEO (search engine optimization) side of your content. While SEO can get a little complicated, especially for small business owners that aren’t “up” on everything related to optimization, you don’t need to know everything from top to bottom. You just need a handle on the basics for effective blog marketing.
Blog Marketing For the People
It’s important that you fine tune your content so that it’s geared toward your target audience. Believe it or not, if you’re in line with what your audience wants to hear then the SEO almost takes care of itself through blog marketing.
If you do want to tweak your blog marketing with SEO beyond the optimization you get just from writing targeted messages, follow these key elements:
Excerpts – This is your post, summed up into a brief description that is shown to the user when they do a query through a search engine. Descriptions are important if you want people to click through your content. The description should be sharp enough, while containing your targeted keywords, to snag the attention of the readers and the search engines.
Keywords – You don’t need to do hours of keyword research just to figure out what to write about. If you know your target audience then you know what kinds of lingo they use when they’re searching for content. This distinction has to be made so that your audience can find you when they’re searching online. Use your targeted keywords when blog marketing to improve your odds of being found online.
Links – It’s a universal truth that if you want to improve the position of your blog, and you want a higher rank, then you need links pointing to your site. Links come from sharing strong content that people want to link to and share. Links carry a lot of weight with the search engines because it makes you look like a credible source and an authority in your industry. More links = more trust = more value = better rank.
You should also link among your posts to drive traffic within your blog, as well as to your company site. To gain the most benefit, your links should use keywords as the anchor text, regardless of where they are pointing in your site. This will help you establish relevancy for your targeted keywords. Just make sure that the destination page is relevant to the keyword you use as your anchor text.
By linking your current blog marketing posts to older posts, you can encourage your readers to stick around a lot longer. They’ll also be able to accurately judge your authority and expertise on a topic which will make them more likely to respond to your Calls to Action such as subscribing to your newsletter, opting in for an eBook, clicking affiliate links, etc.
Tags – Tags are used different in a number of blogging platforms, so their relevancy can waiver. Either way, you need to use tags that are relevant to your content as well as for the audience. It’s recommend that you limit your tags to about a dozen per post, otherwise you risk undermining their effectiveness.
Categories – This setup helps your visitors jump deeper into a subject by reviewing all the posts or topics under a specific category. Instead of wading through your content they can dive right into what interests them. Google also has a thing for categories and indexes them accordingly, using a category system to help “categorize” your own content within its database for relevant indexing at a later date.
It’s not rocket science, but SEO is as much a science as it is an art. There’s no perfect way to do it, and no two pages will be optimized in the same manner. Remember that above all else, your blog marketing is all about writing content for your target audience. If you do that with these target elements in mind you’ll have no problems improving the relevancy of your site, blog posts and overall visibility on the web.