- Content Marketing IS Marketing
Of all the developments on the horizon for content marketing in 2019, it is perhaps a shift in paradigm that is most significant. Simply put, content marketing is marketing. Whereas 10 years ago, content was a good thing for marketers to have as an aside to traditional strategies, it is now synonymous with marketing as a whole. Without quality content, marketers cannot establish the two-way communication that is essential to today’s successful consumer relationships.
- Video Is Vital
Video has enormous capacity to capture and keep consumers’ attention. Marketers of the future cannot survive without it. In particular, YouTube (where all marketing videos should land first) has become the second largest search engine, with Google in the first place position.Consider these recent statistics:
Clearly, the production and distribution of video content is vital to a viable content marketing campaign. Even if your content is generated by a smart phone, any “action!” is better than none. You can become more sophisticated when time and funds allow, but get rolling now!
- Personalization Is Paramount
According to Psychology Today, feeling understood is even more important than feeling loved. Knowing who your audience is and what makes them tick is the heart and soul of successful marketing. Marketers who employ highly targeted content are far more likely to create lasting relationships with their customers and prospects than those who are taking stabs in the dark. A 2017 study showed that 79% of companies that exceeded their revenue goals had a personalized digital media strategy in place.No matter how things change in the digital marketing realm, the guiding principle is sure to stay the same: reach the right audience with the right message at the right time in the right way. Personalized content does that best, and not only do consumers welcome targeted messages, they expect it.
- Artificial Intelligence Fosters Real Relationships
While it may seem counter-intuitive that a machine could help form real bonds, nothing could be truer when it comes to marketing with artificial intelligence. Not only does AI (robots, chatbots, algorithms and, eventually, the Internet of Things) shoulder a lot of the “grunt work” traditional marketers had to do, freeing them up to focus on consumer relationships, it also facilitates a more personal, “human” customer experience.Among other capabilities, AI-based marketing can:
- Customize one-to-one with consumers’ demographics, timing and intent
- Offer audiences personalized website and social media experiences
- Enable natural language processing (voice search)
- Gather and catalog large quantities of data to create accurate customer profiles
- Identify valuable leads
- Personalize up-sells and cross-sells
- Serve relevant messages to prospective customers
- Generate personalized emails based on customer preferences
- Judge and respond to human emotions in real time through affective computing technology
- Data Is Compulsory
Analytics will play an even greater role in 2019, as increasingly sophisticated tracking reveals pinpointed consumer insights that marketing budgeters have come to demand. Knowing exactly who is engaging with what content, for how long, on which platform or pages, and when, is invaluable information that businesses now require in determining their marketing ROI. Marketers of the future must be able to supply this information on a regular basis, not only to produce the highly personalized content discussed above but to satisfy client expectations.
- Strategy Is Key
As marketers come to embrace the reality that content marketing is marketing itself, they must also define goals specific to their content. This calls for a guiding, documented strategy. Sixty-five percent of the most successful content marketers have a documented strategy, identifying goals such as lead generation, thought leadership, and SEO. But, as different companies have different goals, no one content strategy fits all. Once unique goals are identified, a documented plan keeps content on task, on track, and intentional about achieving objectives. A documented strategy also allows team members to see what content is and is not working. “Documented strategy is self-correcting,” says content strategist Michael Brenner.
- Customer Journey Leads the Way
Have you ever engaged with a brand to the point of purchase, only to feel abandoned after your wallet entered the picture? That’s a common experience among consumers and one that content marketers must eliminate. The traditional marketing funnel that starts with anyone and everyone and ends with a monetary transaction is moving toward a more fluid, sustainable model. This new version emphasizes customer success throughout the buyer journey, regardless of purchase. It’s about relationships; appropriate content allows marketers to transition from vendors to partners, earning lasting consumer trust and loyalty.
- Topic Clusters Boost SEO and Consumer Trust
As much is known about search engine optimization, there is still so much to learn and understand. (Read our two-part primer on SEO.) But one trend is emerging that deserves particular attention: topic clusters. For brands to position themselves as trusted, respected thought leaders, they need to build content around certain core topics. Deliberate information architecture clearly and methodically demonstrates that owned content is authoritative and attention-worthy – gaining valuable notice from both search engines and consumers.Topic clusters center upon pillar, or hub, content to which more granular sub-topics are connected via hyperlinks. As for SEO, when one cog in the wheel does well, the entire cluster gets a boost in the rankings.
- Distribution Drives Success
What good is great content if no one sees it? Distribution is as important as content itself. As long as there are multiple channels of dissemination, casting a wide net continues to be good practice. While social media has gotten the lion’s share of powerful reach, marketers need to remain proactive, open and enthusiastic to all forms of distribution. Perhaps your content could benefit from email marketing, special events, speaking engagements, print, TV or radio ads, or even direct mail (yes, it’s still worth the cost and effort). As author and marketing expert John Hall puts it, “Passive distribution – or worse, distribution you do as an afterthought once you realize no one is engaging with your content – won’t cut it.”
- Quality Content Is King
“Content Is King” is well on its way to becoming a cliché. But just because a glut of content is out there doesn’t mean it’s all good. In fact, much of it is not good at all. No matter how far technology takes us, there is still no substitute for quality content creation and sensitive application to products, services and niche expertise. Just as poor, irrelevant content will drive a wedge between B2B and B2C possibilities, truly meaningful, engaging content that speaks to audiences where they are – or where they want to be – will build bridges that lead to lasting consumer relationships.
Our team of experts is here to help you navigate the future of content marketing – today.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
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.
Last week, we went over the basics of search engine optimization. This week, we share what’s changing.
WHAT’S COMING (or already here)
Searches from a mobile device surpassed those from a desktop three years ago. In fact, a BrightEdge study found that last year, 57 percent of traffic from its clients came from smartphones and tablets, and that percentage is increasing all the time. Quite simply, what mobile-first indexing means is that search engines will soon begin ranking websites based on their mobile versions first, because that’s how most people access the Internet.
What this means for marketers, according to SEO and marketing consultant Bridget Randolph, is that “the lack of a mobile-friendly experience could impact negatively on the rankings of a site, and a site with a better mobile experience would potentially receive a rankings boost even for searchers on a desktop.” Sites without responsive design (adapting desktop web content to mobile devices) could suffer in the search listings.
Voice searches, like the kind 55% of teens and 40% of adults conduct every day, also significantly affect SEO. That’s because Siri or Alexa (or whomever your digital assistant may be) most often reports from those sites with featured snippets, and only the best content earns featured snippets.
Have you noticed when you search for something on the web nowadays that a bordered paragraph of information on the subject shows up first? It looks something like this:
Featured snippets receive a “position 0” on the SERP because they come even before the coveted position 1. They are earned and (here’s the great news) have less to do with link metrics and more with content quality. Sites with content the search engines deem most able to answer users’ questions or meet their needs are the most likely candidates for featured snippets. Generally speaking, the tactics that increase opportunities for a position 0 are appropriate keywords that answer who, why, what, where and when as well as implied questions, such as “does,” “makes,” “costs,” etc. If you need a little inspiration, answerthepublic.com is a great resource that offers a list of questions most commonly asked about a certain topic.
Said Stephen Spencer, author of Search Engine Land and other books and material on SEO, “Surprisingly, it is not unheard of for URLs ranking on page two of the Google SERPS to get a “position 0” result” with a featured snippet.” Anticipating the right questions and providing clear, concise answers to them affects not only search engines, but, ultimately, consumers as well. And that should be the only goal of SEO
SERP feature bonanza!
Far beyond the “10 blue links” of Google past, moz.com identifies 16 features that commonly appear on Google SERPS. In addition to featured snippets are: Adwords (paid); In-Depth Article; Local Teaser Pack; Shopping Results; Knowledge Card; News Box; Site Links; Knowledge Panel; Related Questions; Tweet: Image Pack; Local Pack; Reviews; and Video. And there will certainly be more tomorrow, because Google is always working to be the best provider of information.
Increasingly, users don’t even have to go to an actual website to get the information they need; it’s all right there on the SERP. This is good for Google, but it’s also good for SEO writers because, for the most part, these features are earned, based on proximity to the searcher, reviews, and quality content that best answers consumers’ questions or provides the information they’re seeking.
More content creators and participants in conversations on social media are mentioning businesses or brands without including links to them, and search engines are increasingly using linkless backlinks (links to other sites) as ranking signals. This is primarily because unethical SEO practitioners were using backlinks to “suck up” to other brands, without a genuine intention to send consumers to the sites that best suit their needs.
Search engines caught on and are now rewarding linkless mentions, because they demonstrate natural engagement with a brand. Engagement enhances brand reputation, earned through quality, accurate, fresh content and robust social media activity. It can’t be “bought,” and the search engines know it. It’s kind of like a flower shop owner recommending a hair salon to someone without letting the salon owner know they’ve done so – they did it because they genuinely endorse the quality of the salon and not because they’re expecting a reciprocal favor.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
As with many things nowadays, AI is powering more aspects of SEO. While not without their flaws, AI algorithms can understand entity salience, semantic distance, and phrased-based indexing. All that boils down to is that AI is able to determine content relevance based on relationships between commonly associated words. For example, advanced algorithms can recognize that copy containing the words “jays” and “seed” is more apt to be about birds than sports. On the flip side, copy that includes “jays” and “hockey” is more likely to be about athletics.
Read Part III of our blog next week, when we’ll discuss what’s on the decline in SEO and what will always be relevant.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
SEO has been known to cause a fair amount of FOMO (fear of missing out) among marketers and content creators. That’s because there is constantly something new on the SEO horizon, and it can feel almost impossible to keep up. Ceralytics chief strategist Brandon Andersen calls SEO “an ever-changing monster that is both exciting and terrifying.”
Still…that’s no reason not to try to tame the SEO beast and share some of its latest (at least as of this writing) developments. So, here goes, from the basics on up. If you already know the basics, feel free to wait for Part II next week, when we will discuss what’s changing in SEO.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization is the process by which content creators attempt to increase the organic, or unpaid, visibility of their websites so that search engines will rank them higher on the SERPs (search engine results pages) that appear when users enter their search words. How able a website is to provide relevant answers or information affects where on the SERPs it will land. And because 92% of searchers click on sites with a page one position, landing there is paramount to SEO.
What is a search engine?
A search engine is essentially a software system that searches the Internet for information. When someone says, “Let’s Google it,” they’re referring to the search engine (Google, in this case, which is now as much a verb as a noun) that’s going to give them what they’re looking for. Google, YouTube (which merged with Google), Bing and Yahoo are well-known search engines, but there are several more out there crawling for information.
What is crawling?
While it’s all very technical, a search engine crawler (also called a spider or indexer) is a program or automated script (a list of commands that can be executed without user interaction) that methodically scours all the web pages on all the websites across the Internet to bring updated data to the various search engines. Search engines compete with one another to be the best provider of online information, which is why they’re so darn picky about their rankings.
How do search engines rank websites?
It’s a secret. Really. Search engines rank sites with algorithms that involve hundreds of different signals, but the developers behind those algorithms don’t want to – or have to – disclose their practices. This is primarily to prevent SEO manipulation, the deceitful and unethical practice of attempting to rank higher among search engines by stuffing content with superfluous keywords, backlinks, adjusting HTML attributes, or other measures that ultimately mislead consumers to sites that don’t really offer what they’re looking for.
Read Part II of our blog next week, when we’ll discuss what’s coming to SEO (or already here), what’s waning, and what will always be relevant.
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.