Content marketing has been a movement that has seen much buzz the past year. Below you can see a Google Trends chart that shows that massive uptick in search queries for the keyword “Content Marketing.” In a recent survey by Roper Public Affairs, 80 percent of business decision-makers said they prefer to get information via articles, not ads. Seventy percent said content makes them feel closer to a company, and 60 percent said content provided by companies helps them make smarter buying decisions.
Below chart shows Google Trends for “Content Marketing“
In this article I interviewed Ray Grieselhuber, the CEO and co-founder of Ginzametrics, Inc., producer of the Ginzametrics SEO Platform. For the past year, Ray has been speaking and writing heavily about content marketing and why it’s so important for brands to adopt as a core channel in driving qualified traffic and sales. Below are Ray’s thoughts on our top 10 questions to better understand content marketing.
Andy Radovic: The content marketing movement is still relatively new. What’s your quick personal definition of what content marketing is?
Ray Grieselhuber: Content marketing is the process of creating content that your users find valuable and educational and providing it to them, regardless of whether they purchase something from you. The reason it is so effective is because people are more likely to trust businesses that add value first without giving the impression that they expect something in return. It’s an important part of building a relationship.
AR: Why do you believe brands should start creating more content?
RG: When you’re trying to reach consumers online, you basically have two options. You can advertise to them or you can try to find ways to get them to find you. This can be roughly defined as outbound and inbound marketing, respectively. Both involve content, but consumers are much more trusting of and more likely to buy from brands they discover on their own or through their social networks (offline and online). If brands adopt inbound marketing (including social, SEO, and many other channels) as a growth strategy, then providing high-quality content that connects with their target audience is the foundation of that entire strategy. This content can also be used effectively in outbound channels and, indeed, integrating both inbound and outbound campaigns with consistent content across all channels can have a big impact on overall performance across the board.
AR: What types of content are you seeing the most successful in terms of actual business impact (i.e., sales)?
RG: It depends a lot on the industry in question. The B2B industry (SaaS in particular) has probably had the most success recently because response is so easy to measure and sales tend to be highly consultative. In the B2B world, the type of content that works best is blogging, e-books, webinars, infographics, videos, and more. For brands, many of the content types that have been successful in traditional advertising campaigns (TV commercials, magazines) can work very well if they are planned with digital in mind. Planning with digital in mind entails two things: first, understanding the audience and choosing the right targeting (both in terms of message and distribution) and second, taking the time to measure appropriately. In terms of mediums, video and photography can be very effective.
E-commerce firms desperately need to get better at content marketing. Some of the things that helped them in the past (naturally large content base because of their catalog) are hurting them now because of the way that Google now looks down on transactional content (catalog pages, etc.) in favor of actual content that conveys a message or information. We’ve seen some e-commerce firms, especially vertical sites, do well with content that makes them look more like a brand, using video and photography. These sites need to get better at telling the story of the products they sell.
Direct response and lead generation companies suffer a similar problem to e-commerce companies but they also have the natural advantage of being able to acquire many users at scale if they get good at providing education tools and content. These can be things like calculators, infographics, blog posts, videos, e-books, apps, and more.
AR: How “storytelling-like” do you think the content needs to be?
RG: I think it can be very important; especially when you are selling products that are highly commoditized, such as electronics, travel deals, certain types of fashion, and more. If you don’t have strong product differentiation to rely on, you don’t just want to depend on price differentiation. Telling a story about the product, the makers of the product, why you sell that product, and more can really help to connect your customers with your company.
AR: As humans, how are we going to be able to handle this influx of new content? Do you see a continual thread of new technology being created off the back of content marketing that helps us navigate this new world of content?
RG: That’s a really good question. One of the things that has surprised me has been the lack of innovation in recent years around using technology for aggregation and filtering of content. I thought we were on our way in the early days with RSS/Atom and then newer platforms like FriendFeed (acquired by Facebook) back in 2008, but then that innovation seemed to stop among startups. Monetization (or the lack thereof) was probably a big part of this.
Marketers are getting more tools to help them manage the influx of new content, analyze it, and repackage it for their own audiences, but I think the consumers are going to need better tools soon or it could be a risk for content marketing as a whole.
There are many good technologies available for building new platforms to help people manage their content but it’s hard to find them. One strategy is for marketers to focus in on the tools and communities used by the verticals that matter most to them. For the tech and startup community, that would be sites like Hacker News. Pinterest is helping with this, especially in fashion and food. It’s funny that email is still one of the most effective ways to get people’s attention and is simultaneously the most effective way for people to filter/manage their inbound content.
Look out for Part 2 of my Q&A with Ray as he shares tips and tactics to optimize content marketing for your brand.