The two words you are most likely to hear in every marketing strategy meeting you will attend this year: content marketing. It is no longer a case of when content marketing will be relevant (because that time is now), but rather how you will be using its relevance and effectiveness to drive digital marketing ROI in 2014.
Why Blackhat SEO no longer works
Tricking Google into ranking your (or your client’s) website high on the SERPs may have seemed like a quick and easy way to get results a few years ago, but hindsight has shown digital marketers that Google favours the user – and what the user wants, the user gets. The way in which users have altered how they search (and the devices they use to search on Google) has resulted in Google evolving its algorithm to reward those websites that satisfy users’ search queries the best.
The beauty of relevance
Google tracks user behaviour from the way in which they enter their search terms (via keyboard or voice), and how they peruse the options that appear in the search results. If they click on one of the results, but immediately return to the search results, Google interprets that page as a poor or irrelevant answer to their query, and ranks the website lower for that particular search term or phrase. If the user clicks on a relevant webpage, remains there for a while and interacts with the page (by commenting or engaging with the social indicators), Google interprets this page as a good result for that particular query, and ranks it higher.
Speak to the Hummingbird
In September 2013, Google announced the presence of the Hummingbird algorithm, which is all about search result relevance, except that it is built on quite an intricate search methodology. It uses conversational search to help provide users with the most relevant results. For instance, instead of simply typing “shipping logistics Johannesburg” in the Google search bar, users are more inclined to search as they would speak.
Whether they are using a voice search function on their mobile phones, or whether users have cottoned on to the idea of asking Google a question, they are more inclined to search like this: “where to find shipping logistics services in Johannesburg”. Using the Hummingbird algorithm, Google not only supplies the relevant search results to that search query, but also attempts to predict which results will be relevant to the user’s next search query – based on what users who came before them did.
What to do about content marketing in 2014
You and 91.99% of the marketing community will engage in producing content marketing in 2014. That’s a lot of content. As part of your content marketing strategy, it would be advisable to spend equal amounts of time and money on not only creating that content, but on organising it in a way that users will be happy to consume it – create copy, imagery, video, interactive material, and use any other technology that will distribute your content and create a better experience for your users.
And speaking of user experience and technology, it would be advisable to create content that can be accessed on any device. For instance, if you are hosting your video content on YouTube, don’t forget to make your videos available for mobile – it’s surprising the number of people who still forget to do this.
Make content marketing work for your clients and your rankings
1. Find out what information your clients want from you.
Watch their behaviour and comments online, do a survey, or openly request in an open forum the content topics they would like from you. Giving your audience exactly what they want will ensure that you proactively build and maintain your online reputation. Without simply taking a shot in the dark, you’ll be satisfying your audience’s need for information, which will also put you in Google’s good books.
2. Create an editorial calendar
Working three to six months in advance, determine what content you’re going to post and when, and stick to this calendar. It will give you an accurate idea of how long you have to create which content, and when you need to distribute it online.
3. Content is information – not sales
As marketers and salespeople, it’s difficult to remove ourselves from the idea that we call it content marketing when it’s actually free information that we provide to users to benefit them – it has nothing to do with us. Tough as it may be, transform your mindset to recognise that content marketing is not about using content (information) to sell a product, but rather to show audience members what your brand is about. It’s about providing information and if you can entertain at the same time, then you’re well on your way to content marketing success.
4. Distribute content regularly
Even if your audience’s response may be slow in the beginning, Google will notice your regular posting of content – this regularity will count favourably towards your SERP ranking. As your audience interaction on your website increases, so too will your rankings, specifically because of this user behaviour.
5. Encourage brand interaction
Humanise your brand and encourage users to interact with the personal side of your brand – especially since the primary medium is the Internet. Brand interaction provides you with a direct link to your target audience, which not only means that they are interested in what you represent and are offering, but that the trust has been established and your audience will continue to come back for more.