Tell a brilliant story, define your content sweet spot and seek the ZMOT.
Does SEO play a part in your content marketing strategy? If not, it should! Being aware of the trends, learning the key principles and employing the best practice techniques of SEO, or ‘search marketing’, will make your content marketing efforts – whether for B2C or B2B – more rewarding. We’ve got 10 actionable tips for you.
1. Mitigate the loss of real estate
Once upon a time, being in first position in the organic (unpaid) result on a search engine results page (SERP) would guarantee traffic – and leads – to your site. However, Google (I’ll simply use ‘Google’ throughout rather than suffixing each instance with ‘and Bing, and Yahoo’) increased the number of ads (paid-for results) on SERPs. Google also introduced a number of SERP features into ‘position 0’ such as featured snippets (an extended Google result from the site that gives the best answer to the search question) and shopping result carousels, all of which take up valuable SERP space. So, especially combined with the move to mobile, the amount of available search real estate is now minimal. Being in first position is no longer a guarantor of traffic.
But constraint brings opportunity. In search, zero beats one: whoever wins position 0 wins the traffic. Position 0 features are good for the user, but for the content creator this raises the stakes for success or failure: it’s zero, or no visibility. So how do achieve zero? For a start, you produce the best, most useful content on the web about your area of expertise, whether that be investment accounts or distributed ledger technology. And, as I’ll go on to explore, you can mitigate the loss of real estate by bypassing Google altogether.
2. Go below zero
But zero isn’t low enough. The way to people’s hearts, wallets and eyeballs is to engage with them in their ‘zero moment of truth’ (ZMOT). The ZMOT is, says Google, ‘the moment in the buying process when the consumer researches a product prior to purchase’ or in non-commercial content terms, an ‘online decision-making moment’. For example, when the user searches for, ‘How do I beat inflation with an ISA?’ But your brand must be present not only in the ZMOT, but before it, so that when the user performs that search, your brand is front-of-mind. How? By predicting the user’s intent.
So, if you’re a B2C retail bank, you produce useful content about how your target users can beat inflation with savings. You optimise your content for searches around inflation-linked bonds and savings or ‘investing for retirement’. As a result, the user respects and trusts you, knows you’re an authority on savings and investments, and maybe goes straight to your site instead of back to Google to perform a related search (we’ll come back to this). Sounds a bit like content marketing, doesn’t it?
3. Know your audience
If you’re going to engage your user early in the search process (or in marketing terms, before they enter the funnel), in order to give them relevant, relatable content, you’ll need to predict their purchase, or information-seeking intention. So, what keywords and topics are they searching for? Start by googling something and see what predictive searches it returns, e.g. ‘best investment ISA’ produces ‘accounts/performance/returns/2018 lines’ and so on. Also, check the related searches at the bottom of the SERP, e.g. ‘stocks and shares ISA performance tables/ best performing stocks and shares ISA 2017’. This will give you a suite of content ideas, and also help build a picture of your likely audience. Add this ‘netnographic’ research to traditional insight methods, add in some behavioural psychology, and you’ll have some target personas about whom you can mock up mood boards to create cardboard cut-outs of, for example, reasonably affluent couples in their early 60s from the Home Counties.
If your content marketing is successful, you can in fact bypass Google completely. Your goal should be to get direct traffic
4. Be the bookmark
If your content marketing is successful, you can in fact bypass Google completely. Your goal should be to get direct traffic. I mean ‘direct’ as in not through Google, but from users’ bookmarks. Today’s online shopper, or shopper for information, often completes the cycle on a single platform; the funnel can be shrunken or flattened; we go from shop window to checkout in one session. A user might window-shop but they’ll do it entirely on Instagram, and they’ll go straight to a trusted source. But how do you get a user to think of you first instead of doing a Google search where, as we’ve said, they might be lured away by your competitor?
It comes back to content marketing principle of giving the user what they want and need: the most relevant information, with a good UX, in an appropriate tone of voice. Ideally your site machine-learns so as to hyper-personalise content but in the meantime concentrate on producing good content. I don’t need Bloomberg Markets to personalise its content for me; I know it’ll give me great content, so it’s bookmarked.
5. Be you
A tired marketing-to-Millennials trope is to tell them to ‘be themselves’. The principle applies to SEO: if you’re doing good, unique content, then don’t change; Google likes you just the way you are. Sure, unless you’re in a very niche space, you’ll be competing for keywords, but research potential search volumes and relevant keywords to define your content sweet spot, and, as Millennials might say, ‘totally own it’. Do what you’re best at, believe in it, and double, triple-down on it. Resist jumping on bandwagons and newsjacking (will using a Game of Thrones theme for your new distributed ledger technology explainer video make it go viral!”). You could instead splash the cash on a paid ad campaign, but ask yourself, ‘Will that retain users?’ Good, unique content will live forever.
6. Tell stories
Storytelling has become a content marketing cliché.. But it’s not only brands who use this tactic; Google also likes a story. But only as long as your story is worth reading, as long as it’s relevant and as long as you have the right, to tell it. Are you the most authoritative person or brand to recount the story? If so, you can confidently tell the world how your loyal customer achieved their lifelong ambition of buying a yacht thanks to your new investment robo-adviser. Perhaps said customer would be happy to contribute to your video series showing people how to invest with an inflation-beating ISA? Which brings us to YouTube.
7. Optimise for social channels
YouTube is now the world’s second-largest search engine. Which means it’s the second-largest driver of potential traffic to your product. Which means that your content marketing strategy must incorporate video assets, so you’ll need to know how to optimise your video content for search. Which will require employing some basic tactics such as a description and a thumbnail. And there’s not just YouTube; don’t forget producing, and optimising, for Instagram. Then there’s the whole art (or is it science?) of ASO (app store optimisation)…
8. Say hello to voice search
Search is a moveable feast, but one inescapable trend that could relegate SERP optimisation tactics to irrelevancy is voice search. Why would you need to use a SERP if you could just ask the same question to a friendly, omniscient voice? Of course, as yet Google Assistant, or Alexa, can’t serve you up a Game of Thrones-themed distributed ledger tech explainer video just yet. But content marketers should be aware that Google is evolving its algorithms so as to recognise that the way we search is the way we speak. As a result, search value will be based less on keywords and more on natural language and intention. All of which equals the need for content that provides solutions to the questions people are asking.
9. Earn links
You used to be able to fool Google. If Google saw that other sites linked to your website, it would think that your site was authoritative, because people liked it so much that they linked to it. But it was possible to spam the system by buying links. Of course, Google stamped out this practice, so search marketers had to employ organic link-building strategies, such as asking people for reciprocal links. However, ideally people will link to your site without you even asking And to Google, the more authoritative the site that links to you, the better. So, if your contact who has a blog about Bitcoin links to your blockchain content, great, but you’ll need a few thousand mates to equal a link from Bloomberg. But why would Bloomberg want to link to your content? Because you’ve earnt it; because your content is brilliant. Have we mentioned this one before?
10. Remember that Google rewards great content, but it’s not that simple
Keep on being you; keep on creating useful, informative, interesting, well-written, emotive, transformative, x10, skyscraper, big rock, best-in-class content. Google will reward you for it. But it’s not that straightforward. Your content creation and your SEO efforts must be elements of a holistic, multi-channel digital marketing strategy.
Hopefully you’ll learn not only that SEO should be a central part of your content marketing efforts but also that if you dedicate time and effort to it, it will do wonders for your bottom line. And that’s what this whole content marketing thing is all about, isn’t it?
If you’d like to know more about the contemporary content marketing landscape, please see the Editions Financial 2018 State of Play report.