Quality content has always played an important role in maximising the rate at which website visitors become paying customers. The explosion of social media and changes to Google’s algorithm mean it has also become one of the most significant factors in how much traffic a website attracts in the first place.
The value of a first page search listing is huge and accounts for why paid-for search is worth almost 50% of the UK’s £10bn digital advertising market. The top placed listing in natural search results attracts up to a third of all traffic for a given search term. More than three quarters of clicks go to sites listed on the first page of search results.
While many businesses buy their way to search engine prominence, others seek to engineer their way up the rankings through link chasing and other technical tricks to improve their natural search position. Getting this technical piece right is important, but the key differentiator now is the quality of content and the value it offers.
Google has placed greater emphasis on content quality by rewarding websites that do the best job of engaging and informing their visitors with a more prominent listing. Research shows that businesses publishing quality content online attract up to eight times more web traffic than those that don’t.
The rise of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other forms of social media has added to the importance of content quality. With millions of people sharing blogs, news stories and videos every day, content is an increasingly common way in which people discover new products and businesses online through friends and other trusted connections.
We have seen this first hand. A campaign for one of our telecommunications customers delivered a 96% increase in web traffic in the first year of our engagement. While much of this came from a 93% increase in organic search traffic, it also experienced a 205% increase in referrals from social media.
Our work for another B2B brand, an international cleantech company, saw social media referrals increase to a level that matched traffic from paid search last year, albeit at considerably lower cost.
The confluence of these two factors has prompted greater investment from businesses in creating compelling news stories, long-form thought leadership and rich video content. But while 87% of UK marketers say they use content marketing in their businesses, just half say they are gaining any benefits from it and fewer than 5% have successfully embedded it across their businesses.
How to make content marketing a success
1. Embrace change
Content marketing moves marketing on being a push function that risks irritating prospects and breaching increasingly stringent data privacy laws, to one in which the internet becomes a magnet for customers with the right problems for you to address. For many organisations it represents a challenge to the status quo and a redirection of time and resource.
The support of a senior business leader is useful for marketers who want to make content an important part of their marketing mix. The best content initiatives tend to have the support of an engaged executive sponsor who can help articulate the need for change and encourage people from across businesses to lend their support.
2. Think news and content variety
One of the main marketing challenges lies in producing the kind of compelling content that people will actually read and share. The best campaigns start with a thorough understanding of the audience and the kind of advice they might be looking for online.
The type of content produced can also have a big impact on campaign success. Roaring Mouse analysis reveals that content with a good hook and the other core components of a media story attracts more than three times the volume of visitors and page views than other forms of content on average, and also retains the attention of visitors for longer.
News content is particularly powerful, attracting around four times more views on average than thought leadership pieces or customer case studies. Visitors are almost ten times more likely to begin their first interaction with a corporate website on page containing a news story than they are with these other content forms.
That isn’t to say that other forms of content don’t have value. Case studies and long-form thought leadership articles are particularly good for retaining the attention of visitors, proving credibility and demonstrating expertise.
3. Look long term for maximum impact
One of the biggest challenges business tend to encounter when engaging in content marketing activities lies in scaling these activities. Pilot projects can fail to gain wider acceptance for all manner of reasons: ranging from a shortage of ideas and creative resource, insufficient support from business leaders and a reluctance to move on from more traditional ways of doing things.
Smart analysis of pilots is crucial for overcoming some initial objections, and they should be given sufficient time to prove their value. Content marketing can start demonstrating progress within a few short months, but they should to be treated as a longer term investment if they are to become a reliable and repeatable source of new business opportunities.
Maximal value from this approach to marketing comes from consistent posting of fresh and informative content on a regular basis, and achieving a critical mass of insight that can be searched for. Each piece you post contributes to the power and value of a website, and each subsequent visitor and share provides further proof that you are the right organisation to do business with.
4. Be at one with the data
While reporting might not be the most fun task, it is one of the most vital for a successful content marketing campaign. At the most basic level, you need to understand which activities are best for attracting attention and website visitors, and what topics gain greatest levels of engagement.
It is also useful to understand which social media channels, groups and discussions deliver the greatest amount of traffic and engagement. The best campaigns treat content marketing as a two way conversation, by engaging visitors in conversation on social media, paying attention to responses, acknowledging comments and answering questions posed. They use these interactions as inspiration for future posts and seek to turn visitors into prospects by providing additional insight in return for an email address.
5. Seek support where necessary
One of the particular challenges associated with content marketing is that it requires a range of skills. Marketers with excellent analytical and technical skills often need more creative support, while those with a background in copy writing or journalism often need help with the more analytical and technical processes.
While good content marketers have access to both the creative and analytical capabilities required to generate genuinely engaging content, the best are also able to take their organisations with them on the journey. Turning a website into a magnet for new customers requires real leadership to create a strategic framework to drive maximum impact and cross functional teams necessary to sustain campaigns over time.
Businesses that do this well don’t rely entirely on one person to come up with ideas and produce the content. Instead, they engage the support of colleagues in functions such as sales, product and customer service, each of which will have their own understanding of customers, their issues they need solving and the stories that can be told.