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Julia Spence-McCoy

What Content Marketing Is All About (Hint: Not Keywords)

Julia Spence-McCoy

You’ve heard the buzz phrase a thousand times before: content marketing. The term seems to be everywhere you click these days, with top-notch marketers emphasizing its importance time and time again.

You’ve written a blog post here and there, and you even post on your Facebook page when you remember and have the time. When you do find a spare minute to update your audience (or lack thereof) on your newest blog post, it normally involves promoting some kind of sale, reminding people they need to buy your service or product, or you happily proclaim that business is pretty great for you this year. That’s all content marketing is, right? Blog about yourself, rinse and repeat.

If this is your current content marketing strategy, consider this your wake up call. Successful content marketing techniques are carefully crafted, thoroughly tested and reaches target demographics at a deeper level than simply posting, “Our product is awesome, please buy it.”

If generating conversions from your blog was that easy, we’d all be content marketing rock stars. However, in the real world, content marketing is really both science and art. Sound complicated? It can be if you don’t know the underlying reason why you’re marketing content in the first place. 

Content Marketing Misconceptions, and the Mistakes You’re Probably Making

It’s easy to get caught up in tactics that supposedly enhance your online content. There really is no single element that sends your content conversions skyrocketing; it’s more of a combination of techniques and testing.

With that said, here are some content marketing misconceptions that can send your efforts straight down the drain.

Misconception #1: Keywords Convert to Kick-ass Content

Now that you understand that there’s a lot of depth to content marketing, it’s time to throw another buzzword into the mix: keywords. The truth is, you do need relevant keywords for optimization (SEO) purposes. However, it’s vital to keep in mind that keywords are a small piece to the content marketing puzzle. If you solely focus on keywords for your content marketing strategy, you’re heading down the road of no return with both your audience and the search engines. Real people can absolutely tell the difference between over-optimized blogs and quality content. Guess what else? Search engines know the difference, too.

If you’re writing keyword-based content only because you’re trying to rank on Google, your strategy will eventually crash and burn. Nothing will make your audience click the back button faster than fluff sprinkled with meaningless keywords. Not to mention, it’s getting a lot harder to rank using keywords alone these days. Search engines are pretty smart on detecting spam, and it’s unlikely you’ll slip under the radar for long with this technique.

Content marketing is not about overusing keywords to cheat the system. There are correct methods to incorporate keywords, but basing your entire strategy on one word is a surefire way to kill your efforts.

Misconception #2: Content Marketing Has a Beginning and an End

Content marketing is an entirely different animal than setting up a Pay Per Click ad and calling it a day. While content marketing may have a beginning, there really isn’t an end in sight if you’re doing it right. Don’t let the concept of eternal content marketing scare you; you want to consistently market your content so your message is always in front of the consumer. Whether your message is conveyed on a blog post, a video or an article, consistency plays a big role on successful content marketing strategies.

Misconception #3: Content Marketing is Not a Long Term Solution

The-LocomotiveWhile times certainly change and businesses must morph their marketing strategies to effectively reach their audiences, it’s unlikely that content marketing is only a fad. There’s evidence for this, with the first form of content marketing emerging in 1867. Yep, 1867!)

The breakthrough marketing strategy was brought to light by Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, with a publication called The Locomotive. The goal of the publication was providing helpful information on equipment operation risk and problem solving. The publication had a clear target audience with people who needed quality information from professionals.

Of course, the digital age has slightly changed the way we market content today, but the strategy itself is here to stay.

Misconception #4: You Don’t Have Time For Content, and You’re Fresh Out of Ideas

You make time to run your business, but you also need to make time to work on your business. This means making important marketing strategies a priority.

Yes, content marketing is time consuming. Yes, it can be difficult. Yes, you will run out of ideas along the way. However, keeping yourself on a schedule and using a content calendar can make the process much easier.

If you honestly can’t spare another minute on your marketing, consider hiring a professional. Content marketing is an investment, but it’s one of the smartest ones you can make.

What Content Marketing Actually is, and What You Should Be Worrying About

There’s good reason for the buzz centered on content marketing. With Google’s algorithm putting tremendous weight on quality content, content marketing is becoming the superstar of search marketing practices. Those who are investing heavily in technical search engine optimization strategies might want to consider investing a little more in content marketing. While technical SEO benefits still remain, content marketing is undoubtedly one of the most powerful online marketing strategies you can incorporate.

If you’re going to spend good money on ranking your website with SEO, content marketing can take your website to levels that traditional SEO can’t touch. For example, no one is going to share your meta description on Facebook, no matter how wonderfully written it may be. No one is going to click through to your website because you properly utilized your H1 tags and your audience doesn’t care you’re using internal linking to build SEO juice.

All of these elements can lead to better search rankings, but there is zero connection to your customers through SEO alone. Instead of worrying so much about alt tags, worry more about your brand’s message and how you’re relaying it to your target audience.

The Right Way to Use Keywords in Content Marketing

Earlier in this post, keywords were put into a semi-negative light. To be clear, this isn’t saying that keywords are worthless. In fact, that’s far from the truth. Without keywords implemented into your content marketing strategy, you might not receive all of the traction your content deserves. You need to be aware of keywords when you’re creating content, but don’t put all of your eggs in one basket with just one keyword.

The right way to use keywords in content marketing is to research a relevant keyword list relating to your website. There are online tools that will analyze keyword data such as monthly search volume, cost per click and competition. Depending on your goals, you can use this data to determine if the keyword in question is worth pursuing.

Going beyond the data driven value of keyword research, there is also a creative element involved that can put a new spin on your content marketing efforts. Keywords are great resources for brainstorming and coming up with new topic ideas. Digging into keyword research can spark some new keywords or phrases that you never would have thought about.

Once you find a keyword you consider as relevant and valuable, be sure to use the term naturally throughout your content. This is where the fine line comes into play with content marketing vs. technical SEO. You need to write for people, not search engines.

Stay Focused on What Matters Most: Your Audience

Successful content marketing satisfies the needs of your customer, and ultimately converts at some point during the process. If your customers’ needs are not being met through your content, you can bet it probably won’t be converting any time soon. Although you can’t count on converting every time your article solves a problem, you’ll make a big enough impact that you’ll be remembered when the customer is ready to buy.

Keep in mind you will be remembered only if your content is quality. Sloppy or vague content will never impress potential customers, and you’re setting yourself up for disappointment in the conversion department.

So, What Does Your Audience Want From Your Content?

That answer varies depending on exactly what you are marketing and your target audience. Customers who are in different parts of the buying process will possess different needs. Before you can truly know what your audience wants, you need to have a solid grasp of your target demographic. Overall, there are some guidelines that will help you get the most out of your efforts, and ultimately deliver what your audience is looking for.

  • Education: Giving your audience valuable content they can learn from speaks volumes for your brand. Instead of taking the route of rambling on about yourself and your business, create a helpful tutorial or answer frequent questions. You want to be an educational source for your customer at every step of the process. Take your educational material beyond the standard blog post by creating eBooks or how to videos. Your customers need to believe you are there to help them, even if that means giving away a few free tricks to make their lives easier.
  • Authority: Your customer is looking for a professional; a trusted source they can turn to when a problem arises. Knowing your stuff (and knowing it well) will encourage your audience to trust your content as a valuable source. You want to remain credible at all times, so be sure to link sources that contain statistical data.You can take your authority status a step further by developing your own study, research or white paper. Being the primary source of helpful and relevant information is about as authoritative as it gets.
  • Connection: Big businesses have a bad reputation of being cold and distant to consumers. You need to make every effort possible to create an emotional connection with your audience. This can be achieved by telling a story, asking your readers questions, or directly involving them on your blog or social media. You won’t hit it every time, but when you do, it’s an experience your customer won’t forget anytime soon.
  • Quality: Touching back on the quality content topic, it’s imperative your content is well-thought-out with top-notch presentation. High quality content is considered to be helpful, engaging or unique. This content must be created without trying to deceive users (or Google), all while using a natural tone while incorporating keywords. Finding that balance may sound like an impossible feat, but it will come with time and practice.
  • Inspiration: Sometimes, all your audience wants is a little inspiration. If they leave your website feeling inspired to tackle a project on their own or try something new, you’ve become an extremely reputable source in the eyes of your readers.
  • Presentation: This may be an element your audience doesn’t realize that they want, but it hits at a subconscious level. How many times have you visited a website that may have had stellar content, but design and presentation was so poor that you were turned off by it? Content presentation absolutely matters. Incorporate graphics and relevant screenshots to capture attention. Pay attention to paragraph lengths, use an adequate amount of whitespace, and don’t overwhelm your audience with too much jargon. Your customers will thank you for it.

Be One-Up, Not Level Down

Satisfying your audience on at least one of these levels will give you a one-up in the content marketing game. Content marketing can be complicated and a little overwhelming, so careful planning and evaluation of your target audience is advised.

Understanding what content marketing is and what is accomplishes can only help in terms of fine-tuning your own strategy. Don’t put tons of emphasis on one strategy (i.e. keywords); try to blend a combination of the above and find what works best for you.

Julia McCoy's life career happened when she left medical school to follow her passion in copywriting and SEO at 19 years old. A solely self-taught entrepreneur, she built an online copywriting agency a year later in 2011, Express Writers, which has grown to include more than 60 talented copywriters and editors with hundreds of clients around the world. Follow Julia's blog for all things copywriting & SEO.

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