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Quick question: if you could invest in only one marketing tactic, what would it be?
My advice? Focus on content marketing.
What is content marketing? In basic terms, it’s the creation and publishing of content related to your business and/or industry. Usually it’s writing (or videotaping) and maintaining a company blog.
Why is content marketing so valuable? Because if it’s done properly, you’re providing useful and relevant information to those who flock to Google and other search engines looking for answers to their questions.
Every business wants to be ranked near the top of search results for keywords or phrases most relevant to their business, products or industry. Google used to use the number (and quality) of links from other websites as the most influential factor when they ranked websites. That was before they discovered unethical “black hat” SEO companies were artificially manipulating results through the use of fake websites called “link farms” as well as other tactics. Now Google has overhauled their algorithms and begun rewarding websites that produce relevant and fresh information.
How does this actually impact online marketing?
When done correctly, companies that produce regular content (such as blog posts) on a consistent basis often see a huge jump in traffic.
Why does this have such an impact on online traffic? The speculation within the industry is that Google wants to reward websites that provide information that is most helpful to users searching for the best answers. So if you’re a healthcare practice that consistently provides quality answers to questions asked by potential patients, Google will index your content and reward you by showing it to a larger audience.
How well does this work? Take a look at the Google analytics for one of our clients, an OB/GYN clinic. They began blogging on a consistent basis just over two years ago. As you can see, the number of sessions (basically site visits) increased from approximately 10,000 to more than 45,000 per month. The number of pageviews jumped from around 16,000 to 55,000+. The average duration of each site visit decreased from an average of 1:05 to about 35 seconds – we think this number changed because of the huge increase in mobile users/visitors (those looking up the site for its new address and directions. Still, in nearly every other key analytic category we’ve seen impressive results.
Now, can we say that blogging is the only reason for such dramatic results? Probably not. We are implementing other tactics for them that also contribute – but these are also based on the strategy of creating and sharing content via social media channels, newsletters and other outlets.
While nobody (other than their engineers) completely knows how Google’s search algorithms work, the company does release information and provide general guidance to webmasters who want to follow best practices (and earn high rankings). And they have confirmed that sites that consistently produce information most relevant to their users are conforming to their recommended best practices.
Good content creation doesn’t just happen overnight. It requires careful thought and analysis based on your industry, customers and trends. As a business owner (or manager), you are already an expert in your field – you already know what questions your customers (or patients) ask most frequently. Use this knowledge to plan out your first 5-10 articles or posts. Think about which questions you get asked the most related to your business or industry. Most likely, there are hundreds (or thousands) of others who are asking the exact same questions – but in Google. Don’t you want to be the one providing the right answer?
If you don’t have time to write the posts yourself, consider investing in a freelance writer – it’s probably not as expensive as you think. Check out the site Zerys – you can post your topic, number of words desired, tone of article, etc. and have writers bid on the project (usually on a per word basis). It will take some trial and error to find the writer(s) you feel work best for your situation – and it will also still take time to edit and massage the articles most likely. But if done correctly, it will get you 80% there.
Building and managing a small business is hard work. Believe me, as a fellow business owner I understand the challenges most SMBs face when you have one (or a few) people wearing multiple hats trying to keep up with all of the demands that come with the responsibilities. In an ideal world you will have the budget and resources to manage multiple marketing programs that help increase your visibility. But if you only had to pick one – go with content creation.
(This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared in My Edmonds News)