As I often tell my clients and students, marketing has changed more in the last 5 years than it had in the previous 50. Major shifts are occurring in how we engage with our audiences, one of the largest of which is the growing importance of content. Back in 2005, after I launched my first agency, we would often teach the principle of value-added marketing. Essentially, this meant adding value to a relationship (typically with content) in exchange for time and attention rather than stealing them through interruption. We had some success with this concept, but it didn’t quite resonate because of the time it took to create content. It was much easier to pay for advertising than engage with content. In fact, a quick search on Google Trends shows that there were relatively few searches for “content marketing” between 2005 and 2011.
Then all of that changed in 2011. There was a spike in searches for the term “content marketing” that continues to this day. This begs the question, “what changed?” The short answer is 3 cuddly animals happened by the name of Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird, all three of which are major updates to Google’s search algorithm. In these updates, Google eliminated the ability to “game” the system when it came to search engine rankings, causing marketers everywhere to have to figure this whole content marketing thing out.
Today, there is a convergence of multiple different marketing tactics including Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Public Relations, Social Media, and Email Nurturing. All of these are converging around a common thread, which is content. In many ways, content has surpassed your own website in importance because people will see your content long before they even visit your website.
To illustrate, let’s say that you are in real estate and create a piece of content about the drivers of growth in your area of town. You then share that piece of content over your social media channels and engage your audiences in discussion. In addition, you leverage your social media channels to engage with the traditional media in order to encourage them to write an article about your content or that cites your content as a source, which is otherwise known as public relations. Once a journalist writes about your content, he or she will link to it within the article, which will help drive your search engine placement. Lastly, you share that content with your email database and ask them to share it with their friends… through social media. Nothing operates independently, but all are intertwined around content.
Today, the only way to improve your rankings on search engines is through creating and sharing great content, the kind that other people want to link to. What drives business social media and helps you cut through the noise is content. Rather than constantly being pitched stories by PR practitioners about the latest software release or the new office in Hong Kong, journalists are looking for great stories, ones that will engage their own readers. They are looking for content. The only thing that keeps people subscribed to your email newsletter is great content. It is content that makes the marketing world go ’round today.
If you find your marketing efforts are sagging and are generating poor results, start with your content. What kind of stories are you telling? Are they relevant to your audiences? What types of stories would resonate? Is there other people’s content that you can leverage to build your own audience?
Want to fix your marketing? Start with your content.