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What is Content Marketing?

by Fraser Cain on May 28, 2012

Marketing is all about traffic. It’s about the various methods you’ll use to help new people find your website. This can include display advertising, paid search programs, affiliate programs… even word of mouth.

But one of the most effective methods of marketing you can engage in is content marketing.

Content marketing is about creating material on your own website that’s so good, it drives visitors to your website; either by virally sharing your content with other people, or discovering it though the search engines.

An effective content marketing campaign focuses your efforts on your own website, making the website itself an effective and compelling destination.

The downfall of traditional SEO

Traditional search engine optimization (SEO) is hyper-focused on keywords – and links. A search engine optimizer would decide on the handful of keywords that matched their product, and then use every tactic at their disposal to boost a website up in the search rankings for that keyword. The goal, of course, was to reach #1 in the rankings for all the “money keywords” and win the lion’s share of the traffic searching for those keywords

For example, let’s say a website sells energy-saving windows. A traditional SEO campaign would focus on the handful of keywords that would direct targeted traffic at the site: windows, window replacement, insulated windows, etc. Once the on-page optimization was complete (keyword in the title tag, internal links, etc), the SEO campaign would focus entirely on off-page optimization; essentially getting as many links as possible pointing at the page using the keyword as the anchor text.

Since Google’s algorithm relies on links as “votes”, signalling high-quality sites within a network, this methodology was easily exploited by SEOs willing to get as many artificial links as possible. This battle for links became an arms race, with each SEO attempting to outdo the competitors.

More links = higher rankings.
Higher rankings = more traffic.
More traffic = more money.

But Google and the other search engines have considered artificial links as a violation of their terms of services. They only want you to get links naturally from other webmasters linking because they consider the content to be of extremely high quality.

Even though Google considered artificial links to be a violation, most SEOs gathered links because they thought the search engines would be unwilling (or unable) to catch them.

But in the Spring of 2012, Google released an algorithm called “Penguin” that was targeted directly at the link building networks, penalizing many of the sites that engaged in this behaviour.

Content marketing as a viable alternative

Content marketing, on the other hand, has the marketer focusing their efforts entirely on their own website. Instead of attempting to manipulate the search engines through artificial link building, you create the kind of content that’s worth linking to. This content supports the core product and service of the site, helping make it more easy to use or understand.

You make the kind of content that the search engines want to display as the search result for various keywords. You create videos, articles, apps and games that people will share with each other, taking advantage of the viral nature of the internet.

This content is also a natural fit for the social networks (Facebook, Twitter, and Google+). Experiments have shown that actively shared content on the social networks contributes to search engine discovery and rankings. And with Google’s new author rank algorithms, the personal authority of the content creator may play a roll as well.

Back to our example of a company that sells energy efficient replacement windows. Instead of battling for links off-site, they create content on-site. Imagine a comprehensive database of every window manufactured in the US; including competitor products. A contractor could search for the existing window details and then filter for potential replacements. Or what about an online course that teaches anyone to replace their windows. The website could also offer tips and tricks to save energy beyond merely replacing the windows.

Some of this content will take off virally, spreading through the communities on social networks and discussion forums. Just look at the success of sites like Wikipedia or the Internet Movie Database (IMDB). Their content is so good people want to share them.

More content is food for search engine spiders. The more concepts you target on a website, the more likely you are to be ranked for long tail search variations that you never expected. This traffic flows into your website like a rising tide, creating more prospects and eventually clients.

Content marketing is the safe alternative

As we’ve seen with the recent Penguin and Panda penalty algorithms, Google is perfectly willing to punish websites that violate their webmaster guidelines. In the past, marketers created link building campaigns. Now they’re performing link removal campaigns, trying to get back into Google’s good graces.

By focusing purely on the content of your website, you’re following not only the letter of Google’s rules, but their underlying spirit. You’re creating content that makes the internet better and drives targeted traffic to your website: through social channels, viral sharing, and the search engines.

You also create a basis of traffic which is diversified and sustainable over the long term. Even if something happens and one stream of traffic is reduced, the underlying content still brings in the visitors.

Content marketing is the inexpensive alternative

Compare the costs of content marketing with any form of marketing, and you’ll see it comes out ahead.

Back to our window manufacturer example. Let’s say the company is paying $3/click using Adwords, or another paid search campaign (and that’s a low amount in hot markets). And let’s say that they convert 1 in 10 visitors into customers. This means their customer acquisition rate is $30/customer. The moment they stop paying for traffic, they stop getting customers.

But in the case of content marketing, it might only cost $100 to get a really high-quality article written that helps people calculate their window replacement energy savings. But that article will bring in social and long-tail search traffic for years, earning its costs back many times over during its lifetime. As long as it brings in more than 4 customers, it’s a better long-term investment.

So how do you do content marketing, exactly?

The process of content marketing involves the following:

  • Identify all the concepts and keywords that relate directly and indirectly to your website
  • Create content that matches the needs of people searching for those keywords
  • Build a community, or interact with existing communities that revolve around those concepts

Rinse, repeat.

This sounds overly simplified, but that’s because it avoids all the complicated off-site link manipulation. The complexity comes from organizing all the keywords and concepts you’re targeting, as well as creating the highest quality content you can manage. But if you focus your efforts on making the best content you can, solving people’s problems, the traffic will grow and grow.

Too Long, Didn’t Read?

  • Content marketing focuses your efforts on your own website only. No link building.
  • Content marketing is effective, safe and relatively inexpensive.

How Keyword Strategy can help you

Keyword Strategy is designed to help you with your content marketing efforts. Use our tool to gather thousands of keywords and then track your efforts over time. Discover the keywords your customers are using to learn more about your product. Keep track of your rank across all your keywords, and see which ones you still need to work on.

You can try Keyword Strategy free for 30-days to see if it’s right for you.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

kmunyavi June 16, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Great advice there!

mizzangel July 24, 2012 at 6:52 am

I am considering placing content on my website that is not original (it already is on other websites) The content perfectly fits my products and service of the website. You think this is a good idea or stick only with original content?

yupr September 14, 2012 at 5:45 pm

good one!
I do like this strategy , but I could not find right person to manage content on my website.

jack636 September 22, 2012 at 2:01 am

Fraser,

In time, this post of yours will become a classic.

It’s getting late in 2012 and the “Gurus” are still promoting things like the latest SENuke CX2 (or whatever it is) software to game the SERPS.

I’m with you in that the individual internet marketer is better off spending his/her time providing quality content that people can actually use rather than spending their time trying to game Google into thinking their crap is better than the other crap out there.

Jack