Marketers are a funny breed, especially when it comes to theory. We have a quirky habit of building our marketing theories around specific letters of the alphabet.
First we had the 4 P's. And while they served us well for a while, the world rapidly changed and other forces entered the marketing mix. So we replaced them with more contemporary C words (no... not that C word!). Depending on who you listen to, the 4 P's were superseded by the 4 C's, the 6 C's or the 7 C's.
Regardless of the model proposed one thing stayed the same - our propensity to group marketing theory around a single letter. Clever huh? With that in mind I think it's about time the SEO industry based some theory around a letter of the alphabet. Thus it's my pleasure to bring to you - the 5 A's of content marketing.
While I jest about the nature of marketing theory, the topic of content marketing is a tad more serious. Because the fact is that directory submissions only get you so far in SEO today. Even on-page SEO has its limits. At some point, every serious SEO program needs to consider the production of new content as a link acquisition technique. And no... that doesn't mean outsourcing copywriting to India for $5 an article. It entails the implementation of a structured process to ensure high quality content is created for your client. Or as I like to call it:
The 5 A's of content marketing:
When working as an SEO, it's easy to lose the fact that you're actually dealing with people, not spiders. Content may feed search engines, but search engines don't consume content. They index it. People consume content. Which is why every content planning/marketing exercise should begin with an analysis of the audience that the content is targeting. It is people that read, share and link to content (thereby delivering you an SEO benefit). So if you want a good SEO outcome, you need to understand your audience. Before you even think about putting pen to paper, you need to answer these key questions:
- Who are you speaking to?
- What are their key needs?
- What are their key influences and motivations?
- What problems/questions do they have?
- How can you address those problems?
When you understand what really drives your target audience, you'll begin to understand the type of content that will appeal to them. Which is the starting point for every good content marketing exercise.
Ok. So analysing our audience gave us critical insight into what makes them tick. It probably also gave us a bunch of ideas around the type of content that would appeal to them. But before we start writing, we need to take stock of the current situation from a content perspective. Which entails an audit of the client's web site. My preferred technique is to:
- Develop a list of key customer needs, as dictated by the audience analysis.
- Review the client's web site to determine whether those needs that are well met, partially met or not met at all by existing content.
- Naturally, the unmet and partially met needs are the ideal starting place for your content marketing plans.
Web site analytics are your best friend at this point too. They'll tell you the type of content that's currently tickling your audience's fancy...
By this point you should have a pretty good idea of the content you want to produce. But once again, it's not time to fire up the word processor just yet. The audit phase gave you insight into the type of content your client has produced. But what about the content everyone else is producing? Average content rarely delivers positive SEO outcomes. People don't link to average content. They link to spectacular content! Thus, a competitor analysis is needed to scope out the quality of content that already exists in the market. This will ensure you create the best content available in your industry. Once again, my preferred method is to:
- Return to the list of audience needs defined in the first phase of content planning.
- Analyse the content of each of the key competitors in context of the quality of content that addresses the defined customer needs.
- Identify content gaps that are ready for you to exploit. These gaps are your starting point for new content production.
4. Action Plan
Finally... we're ready for action. The previous three phases will hopefully have highlighted a number of content gaps. This is your starting point for new content production. If no gaps exist, you better get cracking on developing the defining information resource in your vertical. Either way, your task is now to define the exact content pieces that you will produce. You'll need to work closely with your client at this point, as they ultimately know the industry and their customers much better than you ever will. Pick their brain for the specific hot topics. Seek input from their customer facing staff on topics of discussion relevant to customer needs you've identified. Your output should be a broad range of content ideas that directly address the audience needs that you are targeting. Finally, decide on the format of content that will best serve your content marketing goal, whether it be a blog post, multimedia, infographic, research report etc.
The final step in the content marketing process is advertising. Because content publication alone will rarely achieve SEO nirvana. Unless you're Mashable, your content isn't likely to spread effortlessly. And good content deserves to be promoted! Good content goes unnoticed every day, simply because it wasn't advertised effectively. A range of different techniques can be applied to help your new content spread:
- Reach out to relevant publications and blogs within your industry. Prior relationships with relevant publications are invaluable. I often advocate paid advertising with publications of high importance prior to content marketing to establish a relationship with the publisher.
- Distribute the content via social media channels. Once again, an established network will deliver the strongest results. Ask your social network to help you share the content.
- Send the content to people that have linked to your content in the past.
- Write and distribute a press release
- If it really needs a kick, consider paid advertising via search engines and social media
Ok. So this one doesn't belong in the content marketing model. But it describes the quality of content you'll produce for your client if you follow a structured content marketing process such as this one. And with a little bit of luck, it'll also describe the outcome for you and your client!