The concept of content marketing has been going around for a few years now, and it has gained a bit of controversy as it circulates. Many marketing blogs and SEO sites recommend it as the primary way to get ahead. Google seems to promote it at every turn. Yet many veteran marketers argue that the term itself is valueless and that the concept is nothing new.
Content marketing as a whole, as an industry, is the idea of creating pieces of content and then promoting that content. It’s just like any other form of promotion. If you’re marketing a product, or you’re marketing a blog post, you’re using the same basic techniques. The difference is that marketing a blog post is a means to an end, rather than the end itself.
Content is a bridge between gaining an audience and turning that audience into paying customers. You can’t, on today’s web, write promotional posts and get away with it. The prevailing attitudes have shifted.
Content marketing is a process that is designed to earn you sales, like any form of marketing. The process looks something like this:
1. Create a website that hosts your product descriptions and online storefront.
2. Create a blog.
3. Write and publish blog posts related to your industry, products and users.
4. Promote those posts via email newsletters, social media and other digital avenues.
5. Attract users with your content.
6. Guide users around your site, from content to content.
7. Build your reputation for trust and insight.
8. Leverage your reputation to convince users that your product offerings are worth the price of admission.
9. Sell your products to those customers and continue to build your reputation.
Now, this is a complex and ongoing process involving virtually every aspect of marketing and search engine optimization. You need to design a powerful website. You need to create useful content. You need to promote in the right way, without alienating users, while targeting those most likely to be interested in your product. You need a product worth buying at a price that’s attractive to users but high enough to allow you to make a profit.
At the core of content marketing, as you can see, is the content itself. Your content is extremely important. You won’t make any headway without valuable content. In fact, value is necessary every step of the way.
Consider the list again. Here’s where value is required for each step.
1. Creating your website. You need value here for your users so you can convince them that your business, your blog and your product are all legitimate and useful. Product descriptions need to be valuable. Service pages should have valuable descriptions of your services, explaining just what you offer and how it compares to other packages.
2. Creating a blog, writing and publishing blog posts and sharing those posts. This is where value really shines through. More on this below, but basically, you need value in your content to make that content worth reading and sharing. If you’re publishing content without value, users will see that you don’t care about what you’re publishing. They’ll extend that attitude to your products and services; you don’t care to offer the best you can.
3. Attract users with your content. Value is important here, because when a user finds value in your content, they are more likely to share that content. They’re also more likely to attribute that value and attention to detail to your company as a whole.
4. Guiding the user experience doesn’t play so much on value, but it does assume that your content is valuable enough to attract readers in the first place.
5. Build your reputation for trust and insight. This is done entirely through valuable offerings.
6. Leverage your reputation and sell your products. Without value, you never reach this step.
If all of that isn’t enough to convince you, you can always just look at the existing industry of SEO and Google’s webmaster guidelines. Google determines where your site ranks in search, which in turn determines how hard or easy it is to gather an audience, keep them around and get them buying your products. What does Google say? Provide value to your users for maximum search ranking. It’s more beneficial to focus on value to your customers than it is to focus on keyword optimization, or link building, or PageRank sculpting, or any other SEO technique. All of those techniques have a place, of course, but that place is supporting your content.