Changes to Google’s search algorithm have pressured marketers to weed out practices that deliver no value. Old school SEO practices of link building and keyword stuffing have gone the way of the dinosaur. This ongoing evolution has ushered in the age of Content Marketing. The use of targeted, quality content not only increases site rank and traffic, it establishes credibility and positions you as an expert in your field. But in the rush to jump on the Content Marketing bandwagon many businesses have missed the mark. Content Marketing is not a series of articles that promote your business. In fact consumers’ ability to sniff out an ad is a highly refined talent and one that will negate your efforts at content marketing if you adopt a faulty approach.
The Failed Approach to Content Marketing
I was doing some research the other day and came across a local plumber that has employed, what would at first glance appear to be, a robust content strategy. Lot’s of fresh content with titles that appeared to be in the long tail area of what his demographic might be asking questions about. But upon closer examination I found the content to be a thinly veiled (read obvious) bait and switch. An article that appeared to be about “How can I change my garbage disposal” was nothing more than a heavy handed attempt to scare consumers. It warned that they may be severely injured in several ways if they attempt to do it themselves. It also featured several plugs as to why they should hire the author’s business to perform this perilous task for them.
It Was Nothing More Than a Bad Ad
Consumers can smell it and content as an ad stinks because it seems duplicitous. A display ad is easy to spot but content as an ad forces me to expend the effort of reading it to determine it was an ad. It’s an example of quasi Content Marketing that is destined to fail and ultimately be a complete waste of money. Sadly this is what many businesses view Content Marketing as; another way to run an ad. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Bring Genuine Value
Genuine content marketing is about delivering real value to consumers. If we carry the previous bad example forward, an excellent way to deliver value about installing a garbage disposal would be to outline the process and highlight the typical pitfalls. For example I have swapped out a disposal and I knew from several friends who had done the same, to be sure to remove the drain plug that is installed that will allow dishwasher drainage to flow through the disposal. Many people miss this and disaster ensues. That is the type of angle that will win you points as an authority as a business that is willing to share its knowledge. Now there is nothing wrong with wrapping it up by promoting your business but it needs to be a soft sell. At the end of the article the consumer may decide this is not really something they want to try and an opportune whisper that “we can help you with this” is a perfectly good approach.
However the important thing to remember about plugging your business in your content is that not everyone who reads it or ends up on your site is a potential customer. Great content will draw people in from all over the world and needs to be positioned in such a way that they are willing to share it and see it as a the voice of an expert whose information is valuable and worthy of sharing. For this reason it’s often best to leave the plug out of the content altogether and use your sidebar periphery content as a vehicle for sales. Since it will be adjacent to the content, someone who is in your area and sees you as a possible vendor to fill a need they have can easily be directed to relevant contact information with a strong Call to Action in a sidebar widget.
Do It Right or Don’t Bother to Write
Content Marketing is important for just about every business. Consequently, businesses are pummeled with vendors who promise magic results with minimal costs for content. Don’t let hucksters sell you a bill of goods. Genuine Content Marketing can deliver powerful results on several fronts, but only if it provides real value to your audience. Consumers know when they are being played, so respect them and share your knowledge. They will reward you with site traffic and credibility that you can then convert into sales.