The phrase “content is king” has generated a lot of excitement among online marketers. While there are great debates about the accuracy of this phrase, the point is that the content is slightly different from other areas of marketing, such as social media and SEO, in which many of them actually exist only because of the content.
Think about it.
On the one hand, without content, SEOs would have nothing to optimize search engines. The metadata they add to posts is an attempt to help robots like Google and Facebook understand the complexities of the content they are indexing. Every link earned by every marketer points to content, and the keywords that people type into search engines are an attempt to find – yes – content.
Every email, tweet, landing page and product description – all are examples of content, and one of the best ways to describe what everyone has in common has been brilliantly summarized by Ian Lurie of Portent, Inc.:
Content is at the heart of what we do as marketers; we talk to our customers, our customers and our readers, and what we tell them, whatever form it takes, is our content.
So, what is content marketing? Well, it’s quite simple. Content marketing is the use of that content – any one of them – to help achieve a marketing goal for your organization. This can be the acquisition of potential customers, the retention of existing customers, making more people aware of your brand or your products or really anything else. We’ll cover many of the most popular and effective ways to do all of those things in the rest of this guide.
How can content marketing benefit my company?
One reason some companies have hesitated to allocate resources for content marketing is that it can be difficult to really understand the benefits of content marketing. Getting people to think more about their business certainly looks great, but the results are quite hazy. In that case, it helps to start thinking about how many benefits content marketing can bring. Let’s start with the ones that are more intangible (although not less important):
Content creation provides your audience with something to talk about. When they are talking about you, they are teaching each other about your company, passing on recommendations and links in the process. This awareness of your brand is selling gold.
Respect and admiration in the industry
“I was really skeptical about what I was hearing about the latest ‘productivity hacks’, but Harvard Business Review just published an article confirming that they really work, so maybe I need to try them out!”
The respect and admiration of your audience will take absolutely time to build, as they require trust. After proving your knowledge and (even more importantly) your integrity, you can become the guiding light that people turn to when everyone is simply contributing to the confusion. Sites that don’t care about quality – sometimes called content factories – are forced to give bad or misleading advice, causing readers to scratch their heads and wonder who to trust. This should be you. The authority you gain transfers to your products or services, increasing the likelihood that customers will choose you over the competition.
Indirect customer conversions
“What a cool post; I’ve never heard of this company before. Huh; do they also make software? I wonder what it does?”
If you’re creating content targeted at potential customers, you’re bridging the gap between these people and your products, increasing the likelihood that they’ll make a purchase later. This is true whether or not your content mentions what you are selling.
“Hey, would you mind setting up a social media promotion for this white paper I just wrote?”
“I think this is the first time that we have collaborated on a project.”
Content marketing is a foundation on which entire marketing campaigns can be built. Content creation offers you, a content marketer, a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with teams that you may not talk to often. You can work with design / UX to create fantastic illustrations. You can work with engineers to ensure that your content is displayed the way it should be online. You can work with social and community teams to ensure that wonderful content is effectively promoted, and this is just the beginning.
There are also some benefits that show more tangible results and are easier to measure:
Traffic can be the obvious benefit, but it is also one of the most important. Creating great content will take people to your website, where they (hopefully) will also find information about your company and your products / services.
The number of ways in which content benefits SEO is too large to count here. In short, great content attracts editorial links, which tell Google that you are important and authoritative. Google can also crawl your content, getting a much better idea of what your business is, allowing you to return your site for more relevant queries (including many long-tail queries). The list goes on, but it all comes down to this: without content, what is there to optimize search engines?
Direct customer conversions
Really great product descriptions that convince people that you have a unique value to offer them – that what you have can increase them – will increase the number of customers like almost nothing else.