This is a guest post by Scott Mclay, who has been around the digital industry for the last 9 years and has worked for both agencies and freelance.
Content marketing has been one of the fastest rising SEO disciplines over the last year, with search interest reaching its all-time highest point in January (2013). One of the main challenges our industry faces is knowing what it takes to create a successful campaign.
A successful campaign does not have to cost you an arm and a leg, some successful campaigns revolve around a few small changes to a product description or adding an image for comedy value (everyone has seen something like this) in such a way that it looks like a user error or a ticked off employee set out for revenge.
Some of my favourite strategies were created on little or no budget, and most likely had quite a bit of luck to get noticed by the twitterati, but hey every project needs an element of luck to get the wheels turning.
Over the last few months content marketing has started to grow on me as new ideas start popping into my head, the one issue being that when pitching these to a client you need to show them how you would turn these ideas into a successful campaign.
If you apply the following ideas to your next project I’m sure it will help you / your clients get on the road to success.
Ok so you have an idea for a cool infographic that everyone will love? Think again, most infographic’s get lost in the crowd. There are so many “great” infographics out there that haven’t managed the success that was first predicted, most of these don’t get links past the initial seeding strategy.
Sadly once infographics became the next big thing every Tom, Dick and Harry started to spit them out at a higher velocity than Felix Baumgartner managed on his descent from space. This eventually led to Matt Cutts coming out and saying that the links from these could be discounted in the future.
Just remember there is more to content marketing than infographics!
Martin Jordan, Marketing Director at Equator added:
“As with a lot of content themes, they become commoditised so very rapidly. From the basic “Keep Calm” memes through to the over-stylised infographic, things go from cool to crap very quickly in internetland.
Worse still, when handed to an overzealous SEO-er, they’ll likely take the creative and brand element right out of it and boil it down to basic linkbait. One needs to remember that, whilst SEO is an important element of Content Marketing, so too is the end user.
We must not treat them with disrespect – whether it is in the form of past-their-best memes or infographics that have no relevance with the product or service they are ultimately offering (think “History of Music” for a holiday company !?!?). As SEO continues to evolve, brand and the consumer-factor becomes a more important factor as Google looks for other signals beyond the link and the consumer looks for something genuine to share. Lest we forget.”
The first step to making content shareable is to make it easy to share, provide social buttons that take no more than a click, although this is kind of obvious it is something that some people fail on.
If you are an ecommerce website that sells clothing allow your customers to tweet the fact they have just got that dress they always wanted with a link straight back to your product page.
That is the easiest content marketing strategy right there, with the bonus being that the tweet could go out to 1,000s of your target demographic (creating that must have item) and sales of that product could increase. Turn this up a notch and allow the user to post a picture of them wearing that item along with a review and you have the chance of loads of free content.
The next tip for making shareable content is to include the target demographic at some stage of the process, either using key influencers for your research or making the content interactive and ever growing. This ensures that the end user knows that all the data has come from real people and not made up sources like most of the lower quality campaigns out there. With every piece of content out there with genuine information there will always be 10 more that are just made up – although if you are aiming for the comedy factor you can pretty much ignore this tip.
One important rule for interactive projects that revolve around user generated content is to get spam filters in place and some sort of moderation system as some SEO’s will just see this as a way to piggyback on your success or even try to ruin it i.e. my first thought is always can I inject code into this?.
Chris Gilchrist, Owner of HitReach added:
“To take including your target audience 1 step further you could crowd source the entire process. I documented Johanna Basford doing this just yesterday on the Koozai blog and it almost guarantees buy in from the contributors in the form of a share or even better a sale.
It’s almost the same as the clever ‘X-Factor approach’ where they charge you just to vote during the process then produce a piece of content at the end you’ve basically already proven you’re willing to buy. Win Win.
If you’re struggling to create the content to share in the first place you could always get your customers to produce it for you. After all who knows the product better than some of your staff will? Plus if one of them is a key influencer you can be sure you’ll get links, traffic and become the go-to resource.
American Muscle are doing this and offering $200 off future purchases when customers create a high quality installation guide which meets their standards. They get content and a repeat customer!”
As the number of content marketing campaigns increase, so does the number which provide no SEO value to the campaign, sure they provide other KPI’s such as social media mentions/impressions or raw traffic, but if people are sharing and linking there is no reason why you shouldn’t take advantage of this from an SEO perspective.
A large volume of campaigns seem to be undertaken by either a social team or a content team with very little SEO knowledge, meaning that although they have had a great idea and its proving to be a success ,the knowledge of how to harness this for additional purposes just isn’t there.
The main cause of these campaigns doing nothing for SEO is the fact most of them are created on orphan pages which are not hooked up correctly to the main website, i.e on a sub-domain or a speciality created directory deep in the website.
The best tip I can offer for this is to retain the header and footer of your main website – yeah it might not look the best but I’m sure designers can factor this in when creating the drafts.
Andrew Steel, SEO Manager at Equator added:
“In order to get maximum value from any content marketing activity, it is important to keep the over-arching objectives for conducting the activity in the first place, front of mind – typically to promote your product, property (website etc) or service.
Therefore, remembering to promote what you are really offering, including appropriate links and selecting the right location to place your content is key to maximising the return for the time you invest.”
Getting your content out there, in front of your core demographic is always the main goal, but many of the campaigns I see seem to use services like sponsoredtweets.com. These types of services do help get your message out, but usually have virtually no impact on your KPI’s, if you want to get your content seeded properly you need to look for a better solution.
One way I seed content is to contact authority figures within the industry, these can be bloggers or business owners (depending on your product/service) and ask them if they would tweet your message out – be nice and they are more likely to do this, some may ask for money but if you pick the right people then it’s going to be worth your while.
The main reason I go for this tactic is due to the fact I know that my message is going out to real people that are within my target demographic and there will be a higher chance of interaction from each tweet – getting you that little bit closer to reaching target KPI’s without much extra work.
Lee Stuart, Client Services Director at Caliber Interactive added:
“A fantastic way to ensure that any content your produce has the propensity to become popular is to actually ask your peers either by industry (SEO folk) or vertical (what your client does) to contribute to your content whilst it’s still in development. Obviously there needs to be something in there for them! – I call this peer sourcing”
To be honest all my favourite campaigns all come from the same place, Richard Kershaw has created some great content over at wish.co.uk including one for Valentine’s Day so if you are looking for inspiration look no further.