Most people have heard of Search Engine Optimization or SEO, and while almost every business attempts to implement it to increase growth, very few see results. This wasn't always the case, SEO used to include all kinds of simple tricks like keyword stuffing that would skyrocket rankings. Nowadays, search engines have left this kind of tricked rankings in the past to become user-focused. This means rankings now rely less on the SEO of a page and more on how users interact with it. If a visitor interacts with a page in a way that shows they were satisfied with the content, Google will rank it higher in the search engine results page.
This is called matching search intent. Because of this, fulfilling the goal of a search is not the best way to show Google that a visitor is happy with your page or blog post. This probably sounds extraordinarily simple, but that's because it is! If someone finds your content valuable, Google takes note and will reward you for it. This is the magic content marketing!
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is the promotion of a brand through the creation and sharing of content and materials (blogs, video, ebooks) that provide value and capture the interest of potential customers.
Generally, the content you create has a clear relationship to the product you are selling. Squarespace, for example, would not create content with topics like finance or investing. They are a web design software company, so all of the content they are creating is in and around web design. For us (LeadLoft), its growth and fundraising tips. In fact, what you're reading right now is considered content marketing.
Value of Content Marketing
The clearest benefit of content marketing is organic traffic. A blog with thousands of amazing articles can generate millions of monthly visitors from search engines. Many marketers might look at traffic generated and compare it to the cost of traffic from Facebook or Google Ads and extrapolate out the value they have created. But this is not the right way to calculate the value of content marketing.
The true value is brand awareness. Think about it like modern-day branding, you know, the kind of marketing that moves companies to spend $1MM on 10 second super bowl commercials. Because the truth is, most of the value you get from content marketing will not be immediate. The vast majority of readers who visit a blog will not convert in that instant. However, six months or a year down the road when former readers are now in need of your product, your brand will be at the top of their mind.
Calculating the ROI of Content Marketing
Now that we've established that Content Marketing is the new age brand marketing, you might be wondering "How do I calculate the return on my investment?" It's a valid question, especially since attributing branding campaigns has historically been very difficult. If your team doesn't have experienced marketers or engineers, setting up accurate attribution for blogs will be difficult.
Because of the difficulty, we will be writing an entirely separate article on this subject in the future. If you'd like to get updates on it, just subscribe below.
Forms of Content Marketing
Writing a blog is probably the most common way to provide value to your customers. regardless of what website you're on, you are likely to see a blog list in the nav bar or in the footer. This is because the barrier to entry is extremely low, requiring a single writer and possibly one knowledgeable employee, which most companies already have on hand. The goal of a blog is generally to provide value to your customers and this valuable content is generally discovered in one of two ways:
- On Google. Every time you write a blog Google will test it out and see if readers enjoy the blog or if the blog answers the searchers intent. If the searchers intent is answered by your post, Google will rank the blog higher in the results, sending organic traffic to your website.
- The Second use case for this content is generally in newsletters. Once somebody has visited your website and you capture their email, it's common to nurture them with valuable content. This not only establishes you as a leader in your industry but also keeps you in the mind of your customer.
Although YouTube is generally made for consumers, it is uniquely valuable for B2B businesses because most companies stay away from it. In fact, YouTube is the second largest search engine, only second to Google. Lucky for you, the B2B world has a largely overlooked YouTube, creating a massive opportunity for businesses looking to get in touch with their customers. A great example of this is Slidebean where they share weekly videos outlining tips for startups, their largest customer base, and designers looking to get additional tips. Even though YouTube proposes a massive opportunity, founders should keep in mind the cost of producing YouTube videos. Great content on YouTube does come at a cost. It requires far more than a single blog writer to put a production together: producers, writers, animators, editors, not to mention a knowledgeable employee who will have to be pulled away from their main focus.
Ebooks are another great way to provide value to customers. It's not uncommon to find websites offering ten or more ebooks on their site. A couple of examples are Close and Drift. I recommend checking them both out, they’ve done a great job of providing value in their specific industries. I know because I have read most of their ebooks. It's becoming more common for ebooks to be used for lead capture, requiring users to enter an email before receiving the ebook. This is a more intrusive form of content marketing and may even step outside of the branding side of content marketing, but nevertheless, they are providing value to customers at a rather small fee.
Another valuable piece of content companies can offer are templates. This can come as an email template, design template, or anything else that fits the niche of a customer base. I always recommend targeting templates that fit directly in your niche. LeadLoft, for example, is in B2B marketing and we have a large focus on cold email, for that reason, we like to offer cold email templates, design templates, and anything else that aligns with B2B sales or investor acquisition.
SEO is still extremely valuable. But it won't get you to hyper-growth, not even close. It's the case 99% of the time that your website is set up correctly and is already optimized for Google and if it's not, a few optimizations may help but won't be game changers. If it's not set up perfectly, Google will likely figure it out and still rank you accordingly. Visitors on your site don't care about mixed up H1 and H3 heading tags, so neither does Google. They only care about the content the searcher finds value in. If you want to create a steady and reliable flow of organic traffic, you need to start ranking on search engines and that means providing valuable content to the people searching for it.