By guest blogger Sally Falkow, Social Media Strategist
Content has always been a major part of PR, but now it’s become an integral part of all marketing. According to research from the Content Marketing Institute, 91 percent of B2B brands and 86 percent of B2C brands use it.
But it’s still an emerging tactic and far too many companies are “flying blind” – just pumping out content without any strategy. (Only 37 percent of B2B marketers and 38 percent of B2C marketers have a content marketing strategy.)
Your audience finds your content in many ways, but one of the main ones is through search. And since Google dominates the search market, it pays to develop content that meets Google’s quality guidelines and ranking rules.
When Larry Page and Sergey Brin started Google, their purpose was to organize the information on the web and make it possible for people using the web to find relevant content. As early as December 1998 “PC Magazine” reported that Google “has an uncanny knack for returning extremely relevant results.”
Every Google update to their algorithm, and all their rules about how to write content, have one aim in mind: to improve the results they give their users.
The Google Algorithm
“Algorithm is a technical term for what you can think of as a recipe that Google uses to sort through the billions of web pages and other information it has, in order to return what it believes are the best answers.” Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Land founder, and editor.
There have been several major updates to the Google algorithm, but in fact, they make constant updates and tweaks every day. Luckily there are certain basic guidelines that always apply, and these are the rules you need to work with when creating content.
- Unique, original content. (The Panda update introduced ranking penalties for sites that use mass content producers and those that steal or duplicate content.)
- Trustworthy content from an authoritative source. Trust is often evaluated by the quality of the links pointing to your content.
The Google blog gave these questions as a guideline for creating trustworthy content:
- Would you trust the information presented in this article?
- Is this article written by an expert/enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it shallow in nature?
- Is the site a recognized authority on the topic?
- Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
These rules apply to all your content – web pages, newsroom, articles, press releases, and blogs.
The Penguin update focused on the difference between owned and earned links. That’s something PR practitioners should be able to grasp quite easily. It’s about the value of third-party endorsement and why editorial overage of your brand carries more weight than an ad.
When you produce and publish content about your company, you obviously present the brand in the best possible light. It’s called ‘owned media.’ It could be your website, your blog, articles you write or your social content, such as posts on your Facebook page. Even when that content is syndicated to other sites, or distributed on the wire and picked up by other sites, it is still owned media. You produced it.
When someone else with no vested interest publishes good things about a brand, it has much more credibility than what we say ourselves. That’s earned media. Media relations is all about earned media. We know how that works; it’s one of the core functions of PR.
Using that same logic, Google regards any link that you put into a piece of content about the brand (press release, article, blog post, infographic) as an owned link. You created the content and you placed that link there. No getting away from it – that is owned, not earned. Any link that you created is owned.
Google is all about earned links. Inbound links, those links from other sites pointing to your content, have always been a large part of Google’s ranking algorithm. Google looks for third-party endorsement. They check to see who links to your website, blog, Facebook page. A link is regarded as a vote of confidence in your content. It’s like getting the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval”.
Google only counts what they call natural or editorial links – that’s earned links. In the very same way that you earn media coverage, you now have to earn links. Every time a reporter uses your press release content and includes a link to your site, that’s an earned link. Your media relations activity just expanded – it has to include getting those earned links.
Blogger Relations and Influencer Marketing are also good ways to earn these inbound links. Reach out to a list of bloggers or influencers in your field with an offer or a useful, interesting piece of content, and resulting mentions with a link are earned links.
The best way to earn links is to create outstanding content that people will want to mention, share, and link to. Google’s first rule for ranking content is high-quality, original content that has depth and substance.
News Content and Search
“In the U.S., roughly nine-in-ten adults (93%) get at least some news online (either via mobile or desktop), and the online space has become a host for the digital homes of both legacy news outlets and new, ‘born on the web’ news outlets.” Pew State of the Media 2018
Every business owner, marketing manager, and PR practitioner should know how to write and distribute news releases so they rank well in web search engines and news search engines.
There are some distinct advantages to having your news releases found via search engines:
- You know the people reading the release are interested in that subject because they asked for it by keyword.
- Online releases can be tracked – for the first time, you can get statistics of how many times your press release was viewed, read or downloaded. With Google Analytics you can see what visitors do once they get to your site and how long they stay.
Top 10 News Sites
You might be surprised to know that Yahoo! News tops the list for news. They’ve been number one for many years. Google News is nipping at their heels, but they have not managed to grab the top position. So your first goal should be Yahoo! News.
NEWS SITE MONTHLY VISITORS
- Yahoo! News 175,000,000
- Google News 150,000,000
- Huffington Post 110,000,000
- CNN 95,000,000
- New York Times 70,000,000
- Fox News 65,000,000
- NBC 63,000,000
- Mail Online 53,000,000
- Washington Post 47,000,000
- The Guardian 42,000,000
As you can see, some of the mainstream media websites are high on the list and you should be building relationships with journalists and bloggers from these publications.
Yahoo! News still has human editors and they pay attention to rising searches and trending topics. So be sure to include this as part of the research for your release.
Google News is growing their audience too. They’ve risen from number 10 to the second position in just a few years.
According to Google executives, Google News “algorithmically harvests” articles from more than 50,000 news sources across 72 editions and 30 languages. Their news content is seen by millions of people every week, providing hundreds of thousands of business opportunities every day.
Those opportunities are not only available to media publishers. Google News indexes press releases, so these opportunities are available to businesses and organizations too. Just make sure your releases comply with these Google News guidelines:
- Timely reporting on matters that are important or interesting to our audience. Google News generally doesn’t include how-to articles, advice columns, job postings, or strictly informational content such as weather forecasts and stock data. Google News is not a marketing service, so they won’t publish content promoting a product or organization.
- Unique articles: Original reporting and honest attribution are longstanding journalistic values.
- Authority: Write what you know. The best news exhibits clear authority and expertise.
- Accountability: Users tell us they value news with author biographies and clearly accessible contact information, such as physical and email addresses, and phone numbers.
- User-friendly: Clearly written articles with correct spelling and grammar also make for a much better user experience.
- Links: When our crawler scans your site, it looks for HTML links with anchor text that includes at least a few words.
Since almost every business in the U.S. is using content as part of their marketing strategy,you’re competing with a flood of content every day. Make sure that you start with an intelligent content strategy and that every item of content you produce is tied to a goal, has depth and substance, is original and interesting, and has eye-catching visuals with it.
Sally Falkow has been in public relations for more than 30 years and is accredited in PR (APR) by the Public Relations Society of America. Over the past 15 years, she has immersed herself in new technology and digital PR – most of her work today is as a social media strategist and trainer.
Isn’t it interesting that today’s marketers have to capture their online audiences within seconds, or risk losing them to another site, yet so many people devote endless hours to binge TV?
New research says it’s neuroscience. Because we humans are uniquely capable of empathy, we can also become engrossed in others’ discomfort or elation – even those we don’t personally know – adapting to and internalizing their psychological perspectives. According to cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken, the hormones cortisol and oxytocin rise when we’re in the grips of a good story, and we actually crave the long narratives that today’s best television can provide.
So, what does all this mean for modern marketers? How can we leverage the natural human gravitation to compelling stories to engage them in our brands?
Just as storytellers like Alfred Hitchcock (and creators of today’s binge-worthy productions) are masters at orchestrating exactly what they want audiences to see, think, feel and predict, successful marketers can lead consumers in the same way with engaging content based on intimate knowledge of their prospects. But first, lest you assume “leading” means “manipulating,” it must be done earnestly and with the utmost integrity – and nary a whiff of a sales pitch.
“Consumers are not inherently opposed to brand communication, but they don’t want interruption,” said Column Five Media’s Katy French, referring to brands infusing their stories with a subplot to sell, sell, sell. “Consumers crave engagement marketing…built on trust, mutual respect and common interests. They don’t want to be treated as a faceless dollar bill.”
Modern direct-to-consumer marketers would do well to realize the remarkable parallels between what attracts audiences to today’s binge TV (and yesterday’s epic stories around the hearth) and effective content marketing. Humans’ psychological need for stories makes us predisposed to investing personally in conflict and resolution.
The identification and incorporation of consumer pain points into your brand story, followed by your answer(s) to the problem, feels instinctive to customers and prospects because of their ability to relate and empathize.
Indeed, psychological studies have shown that when we hear a story, our brains change dramatically because we experience them as though they were real, and we become the main character of every story we hear.
Imagine the possibilities of making our audiences the heroes of our brand stories! While they are virtually endless, crafting great stories takes time, effort and skill. Too many companies and organizations hack out content just to have it, while completely missing the boat on how to make it work.
Considering again that pain points and solutions form the framework of any good story, quality content marketing builds upon that foundation with a character(s) facing a problem your brand can solve, a way for that character to access and employ your solution, and lives made better for it.
Tell your story in a distinct voice – yours – across all formats and platforms. Don’t get high and mighty in vaulted language or bogged in marketing gibberish; rather, talk to your audiences like you would your co-workers, your family, your trusted friends. After all, that’s who you want your customers to be.
Like a beautiful, comfortable home you never want to leave, your brand story needs more than a foundation. It needs details, layers, that demonstrate to your audience that you know them, understand them, want to please the punch out of them. For instance, identify what you have in common with your readers or viewers, outside your service or product, and tie those kindred elements into your story.
The End – It’s Only the Beginning
Like the finale of a favorite binge series, leave your audience wanting more, providing them with multiple ways to share and respond to your story. Let there be no end to what you can offer, only beginnings with ever more heroes in your own special tale.
Let our team of experts mold your story, help you tell it, and share it with the world.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
Content marketing is king in today’s world of online communications. But what is it, exactly? While the term is ubiquitous across all of modern marketing, it is still rather mysterious, even to those in the business. In the spirit of the holiday season, let’s lay it out like a wish list—all that we want in successful content marketing, and how to get it
- Audience relationships – Notice it’s not audience purchases. That’s intentional, and it’s huge. Making relationships, not sales, is the essence of content marketing and the reason we do it.
- Engaging content – This is the principal component of developing and maintaining relationships with prospects and customers. Without it, there is no hope of a lasting relationship, or even a first hello. Engaging means interesting, informative, problem solving, thought-provoking, entertaining, delighting…and doing each of these things very well individually and sometimes all at once.
- Knowledge of audience – This one’s as old as the hills, right? Yet, with all the countless messages on the Internet, yours must not only capture attention, but keep it and bring it back time and again. It’s imperative to know whom you’re talking to. Data analytics, buyer personas, content audits and other targeting tools are invaluable to a successful content marketing strategy.
- Audience trust – We are not selling…we are not selling…we are not selling. This should be the mantra of every content marketer. Trust is built by providing content that is engaging, not sales-focused. (Hint: this trust then turns into sales.)
- Audience loyalty – This is the natural consequence of gaining audiences’ trust. Consumers will want to come back to those who engage them meaningfully and will share not only your media, but also their experiences with your brand. Word of mouth is still the most effective marketing strategy of all.
- Transparency – Consumers are anything but ignorant or gullible. They are smart, savvy, and they know what they want and how to get it. They are “prosumers,” and they can smell a sales ploy and false or exaggerated information from a mile away. Without transparency, there is no audience trust.
- Credibility – A close cousin of audience trust is credibility, demonstrating to consumers that you are uniquely qualified in your space and buttressing your expertise with links and references to other respected sources. Any awards, certifications and accreditations you have should also be conveyed.
- Multiple online media – Social media platforms, blogs, e-newsletters, post boosters, landing pages, interactive forms, visual media, press releases…the list goes on. Your brand needs original and curated content across multiple media to be truly effective in building meaningful customer relationships.
- SEO expertise – Fresh, regularly updated content not only engages your audiences, it influences the way search engines rank your site. Knowing how to employ SEO (search engine optimization) is key in driving traffic to your site and implementing a successful content marketing strategy.
- Responsive design – Audiences have more ways to engage with your brand than ever—desktop, laptop, phone, tablet, and the soon-to-come Internet of Things. Your content marketing must fit people where they are, not only metaphorically, but literally too—conforming to screen size, platform, orientation, and other electronic factors.
All any business or organization really wants is great content marketing. This holiday season and beyond, let our team of experts earn you the best gift of all: lasting consumer relationships.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
The sharing economy has arrived. And if the multiple ways in which it is manifesting itself in the real world (Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Snapgoods, Rent the Runway, HomeExchange, city bicycles, carpool lanes, social media, and the list goes on) is not proof enough, we have only to look at art imitating life, as it so often does.
In a new T.V. drama called “Wisdom of the Crowd,” Jeremy Piven plays a Silicon Valley tech innovator who uses crowdsourcing to find his daughter’s killer by creating a digital platform on which the entire world can share criminal evidence. An Enterprise car rental commercial features Joel McHale donning a wool cap to appeal to the Millennials who regularly use ride sharing. A feature documentary called “Shareconomy” explores the rise of the sharing economy, which the film claims is “revolutionizing society.”
That the marketing industry would also be affected by the sharing culture should come as no surprise. According to marketing guru Jon Wuebben, it is one of the mega trends of the future of marketing. Consumers want to learn from user-generated content, and they want to be the “experts” in the process as well.
Sharing is a natural act, and everyone, no matter their age, wants to belong to a community. Psychologically and emotionally, the concept of sharing – not owning – products, services or ideas does not require much convincing. But how can marketers leverage this human instinct to share to their advantage?
Establish a robust social media presence. Social media platforms epitomize the sharing economy, and vice versa. Entire communities, often made up of total strangers (the opinions of which Millennials have been found to trust over that of friends and family), come together to share comments, experiences, advice, reviews, and more. In today’s world of interconnectedness, your business must have multiple social media platforms in place. While “possession is 9/10th of the law,” as they say, more is needed than simply having a social media presence.
Actively engage your social communities. Make comments, conversations and reviews easy to provide on your website and social media pages. True, this may invite negative commentary (which can be managed by an administrator), but try to respond to and thank these visitors anyway, because people who hear back from a business are more apt to use them again, despite an initial challenge. This may seem counterintuitive, but customers knowing that their voice is heard goes a long way, and a complaint gives you a backdoor opportunity to show how much you value their satisfaction. Inviting reviews also begets valuable insight into your business and prospects, not only by way of your own platforms, but through online review sites as well.
Tap your best customers. Don’t be afraid to ask your most satisfied customers to offer their positive feedback and experiences. This will not only improve your presence on the review sites mentioned above, it will energize your own website and social media. Ask happy customers to post their success stories, or offer to write them on their behalf (with their approval), and be sure to respond back to them for all to see your generous attitude and gratitude!
Solicit audience content. Ask questions of your audiences, invite them to share their experiences with, or opinions about, your services or industry – or provoke conversations about something unrelated to your business. Maybe audiences could offer their best remedies for the “Mundane Mondays,” for example. On your end, don’t hesitate to share something funny, entertaining, thought-provoking, or comment-worthy. Create a “buzz,” but steer clear of anything that could be construed as political. The more user-generated content you have, the better your brand’s search engine rankings and online visibility.
Use multiple sharing tools. 89 percent of consumers use search engines (which also point to social media platforms and owned media) to help them make purchasing decisions. In addition to creating engaging social media content, be sure to also have a regular blog, video uploads, white papers, case studies, e-books, etc. that can easily be found and shared.
Incentivize your audience. Offer something truly desirable in exchange for customer engagement. Incentives such as referral rewards, gift cards, discounted prices on services, complimentary lunch/dinner…there are many ways to motivate engagement, and participants of the sharing economy not only want rewards, they expect them.
Think outside the box. Really. Yes, there’s an irony in using what’s become a cliché in reference to new and creative thinking, but a team of creative professionals can help you come up with something your competitors would never envision doing. With the online world packed to the gills with boundless information, companies can’t afford to blend in and stay within the margins.
Be fresh, stay fresh. Once you’ve created and enabled multiple channels of user-engaging, sharable content, it is critical to stay on top of it with fresh, regular contributions. Outdated material and old posts say volumes about your brand, none of it good. Not only does new content help SEO (search engine optimization), putting your site above others when people browse the Internet, it also demonstrates that you’re continually alert, curious, learning, teaching, relevant and “checked in.”
While these pointers are proven tactics for success, they’re not always easy to implement. Let our marketing experts help you make the most of the sharing economy that is here to stay and certain to flourish.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
While the advent of content marketing has opened innumerable doors to earning consumer attention, the glut in the market now requires strategies that go beyond simply producing content. Just having content is no longer unique, and if it’s not effective, it could be counterproductive.
Most marketers understand that content must be relevant to its target audiences. That almost goes without saying. But what is equally important, or perhaps more, is local relevance – ideally, within a five-mile radius. Locality feeds directly into one of the most essential tenets of content marketing: reaching the right audience with greater specificity, particularly in the age of “fake news” and dwindling local media coverage.
That said, procuring local content creates a few complications right off the bat, especially for marketers who rely on content curation or don’t have the human or other resources to get the local scoop. Back to the counterproductive content we mentioned above.
In a sobering article from the Harvard Business Review, writer Alexandra Samuel urges marketers to consider the effects of bad content (that which has no higher goal than culling personal information to make relentless attempts at a sale) on the environmental and social costs of business decisions. “We’ve got to look at companies that pollute the Internet…as an enemy of public health,” she writes. Samuel also acknowledges the importance of paying for quality content. Not in the form of digital ads (gasp!), but by underwriting qualified content creators.
“How can our marketing effort make the Internet better, instead of worse?” she asks. “Creating content that provides real value in terms of information or insight – rather than simply larding a page with search-friendly keywords – is one obvious starting point.” She speaks, too, of “personal responsibility” in creating content marketing.
Let that sink in. Consider how much personal responsibility applies to local content. Say you’re on a cruise overseas with people from all over the world, and someone comments on the banana muffins at breakfast that morning. You might respond that they’re a close second to the ones at your neighborhood bakery, to which your fellow cruiser (residing thousands of miles from you) might reply, “hmm,” or not at all. There’s no mutual connection, and as far as that person will ever know, your local baker’s muffins are fair to middlin’ at best.
Now, imagine you vouch for those wonderful muffins to someone who could sample one on their morning walk. How much more invested in your endorsement will you be, and how much more will it mean to people who can actually engage in the experience?
Added to the benefit of uber-specificity in local content is the opportunity for ownership of an area of expertise. If your community provides interesting, useful information about the environs outside your doors, as well as inside, your audience will come to trust and rely on you in the long run for bigger things (like providing quality living for mom and dad), and they will keep coming back. That’s the stuff of lasting relationships.
The multifaceted advantages inherent in providing stories, photos, tips, reviews, recommendations, developments, activities, outings, events, etc. germane to the local community are huge and should be not be shied from, despite the extra effort in getting local content.
Your marketing team can help you attain and create meaningful content that speaks to those nearby, enabling client-provider bonds with unlimited potential.
Ivy Marketing Group. Come Grow With Us.