How to Use Content-Based Marketing in SEO
Content marketing, you hear about it everywhere you go. But what is content marketing exactly? And how can you use it in your SEO work? In this article, danish SEO expert Henrik Bondtofte try to give you some concrete answers.
What is content marketing?
Let’s start by pinning down precisely what content marketing is. The concept is used in many, widely different contexts. Therefore, it’s not surprising there is so much confusion about over what the terms cover.
Content-based marketing is when content has been optimized to target some specially identified audience. When we say optimized we mean content which is relevant and contains information valuable to your intended audience. The primary purpose of content marketing is not to sell directly, but rather to attract, communicate to and engage with your target audience, thereby creating positive experiences and associations. The end game may well be sales but as a spinoff effect.
Content Marketing for the purposes of SEO
When dealing with content marketing in light of SEO aims, we’re working on several levels. Firstly, we’d like to make our content visible to more searches, meaning more hits on our website and increased exposure. Add to that the desirability of increasing the number of incoming links and other signals of approval such as likes, shares and +1’s on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
At the same time, content marketing necessarily entails branding, an integral and unavoidable element of SEO. The better your brand, in other words, the greater your credibility, and the better your chances of garnering links and social media recommendations and a consequent improvement in search engine placement.
In other words, you’re forced to work in several different disciplines when utilizing content marketing for SEO purposes: branding, link-building and search engine placement.
You’ve probably already heard of the concept ‘Evergreen content’. This indicates content that is always current and relevant for your target audience.
By producing ‘Evergreen content’ you can spare yourself many hours of typing. Instead of rushing to the keyboard every time something new happens in your branch, you can draw a constant stream of visitors to articles which are always current and retain their relevance.This means that you are always building on your visitor base rather than chasing them with constantly updated content.
One of the clear advantages of ‘Evergreen content’ is that the articles you write can potentially generate new links for ever, or at least as long as the content is relevant. Even though the content is described as evergreen, it doesn’t mean it will always stay that way. In some branches, the SEO business, for example, some central, essential facts and conditions will evolve over time and here you need to update your content from time to time.
SeoMoz – Beginner’s guide to SEO (3,406, now 3,407, unique websites have chosen to link to this article. Until now – the number is still growing.)
The ultimate resource
Thorough, comprehensive articles which touch on every aspect of a topic can be a really good way to attract visitors as well as incoming links. Imagine a bunch of short articles, each illuminating a certain subtopic within a subject, and then imagine all that information bundled together as one large article. Which one do you think people will want to link to? The short fragmentary articles or the ultimate resource article where all the information you could want has been gathered together? Comprehensive articles are the ultimate link-bait.
The majority of blog posts on this website have been written according to the above principle.
Answer questions – Boost your visibility
Something as simple as setting up a Q&A page is also content marketing. The aim with a Q&A is to pre-empt your target groups concerns and challenges and provide answers to their most pressing questions. If you can answer their questions satisfactorily there’s a good chance that the people who find your answers useful will share that information with others, either on social media or perhaps even linking to your article.
Websites such as Ask.com and Quora have extremely high visibility by using this tactic exclusively.
Share content with video or sound
Content marketing is by no means confined to the written word. All content which you can use to market yourself, your business or your product qualifies as content based marketing. Both video and sound can be really good ways to spread your message or share your knowledge and market yourself at the same time. Most often, you’ll find you reach a whole other group than you would using your regular communication methods, and it can be rewarding on several levels.
Example: ‘The Industrious Geeks‘ is a great example of such an approach. Two danes, Mikael Rieck and Soren Riisager produced around fifty podcasts on the topic of online marketing which they then made available for free on iTunes and shared with anyone who wanted to listen (but only in danish, sorry!). This helped them gain recognition as leading experts in their field, at least within Denmark.
Mikael Rieck followed this up by recording readings of articles about online marketing which he found interesting and useful. Not necessarily written by himself, you understand. What happened then was that people began to associate Mikael Riecks voice with the entire discipline of online marketing. His voice has become, in Denmark at least, synonymous with his area of expertise.
I’ve made something similar with Soren Riisager called Search Geeks (danish language only). Again, the theme is online marketing but we’ve chosen to narrow the focus in order to elucidate every aspect of the concept ‘search’. We do this by holding our discussions on Google Hangouts and uploading them afterwards to YouTube. In this way we catch both live viewers and those who discover our recorded videos later on. And the more videos we make, the broader the exposure. We host the videos on YouTube and a separate website. Right now, the website and the videos are already ranking nicely in organic search results.
Publish an Ebook or White Paper
No doubt you’ve already downloaded a ton of free ebooks yourself, as they’re distributed widely nowadays. A good ebook attracts links and gets shared on social media as well as generating ‘mentions’ all across the internet.
In other words, it’s a really good idea to write an ebook on your branch/subject and distribute it free. Unsurprisingly, a lot of people in my branch have written and published free ebooks.
My colleague Nikolaj Mogensen recently published a 30 page white paper about search term analysis (in danish, sorry!), to which I also contributed with some input. Nikolaj received no fewer than 250 new newsletter subscribers the first day alone. Because I had also contributed to his white paper, I was happy to share the book among my network. The other contributors did likewise.
I’ve always worked with sponsored content and decided therefore to create a type of base which would allow me easier access to bloggers. I set up a Facebook page called “Sponsorprodukter til Bloggere” meaning sponsored products for bloggers. Right now the site has 600 bloggers ready and waiting and to whom I can send products in return for a review. I’ve deliberately chosen not to demand a link-back, firstly, because it would be a breach of Google’s guidelines and, secondly, because about 80% choose to do just that anyway. Using this method, I’ve managed to create several hundred incoming links to my own projects.
Always be first with new developments
It rarely happens that people who don’t create new content – for example, news distributors – make a name for themselves. However, if you are always the person who has the latest news and knowledge on your blog or website you can create a niche for yourself that will ensure you get both links, enhanced branding and lots of visitors.
While SEOMoz is the preferred website for more in-depth articles and investigations, Search Engine Land has established itself as one of the leading sources of search related news. They’ve done this by always being among the first with the latest news, as well as participating in, and writing about, important events. There aren’t many SEM conferences which they don’t cover live.
To become a guest blogger is an enormously method of content marketing. Buy going out on the net and guesting on relevant blogs you hit an entirely new audience and increase your chances of gaining new followers and incoming links, ones you might not have gotten otherwise.
When you appear as a guest blogger, it’s customary that you link to your own website and social media profiles. This usually happens under the author bio rubric, where you control both links and anchor text. Remember, when guest blogging, to tag yourself [your articles?AC] with rel=author so that any positive responses to your article attach to you as author in Google’s eyes, particularly when you use platforms other than your own.
A few months ago I wrote an article on AuthorRank. It received such a good response I was presented with the opportunity of publishing it, in English, on Michael Aagard’s blog, Contentverve.com. It turned out to be a pretty rewarding move. At the time of writing the article has no fewer than 86 incoming links and has been ‘reprinted’ by a popular online iPad ezine. My name was mentioned in a large number of influential, international blogs and I was invited to several, invitation-only forums and gained lots of new followers. And what about social media? Take a lot at the figures above the article.
Illustrate and make available
If you identify a need for information which is difficult or time-consuming to source, this can be a golden opportunity to get links and create publicity. If you can inform and help resolve specific problems, and do it visually, then there’s a great chance you can promote your video or info-graphic on relevant websites.
The new cookie law is both difficult to understand and explain. Law student, Halfdan Timm, saw the inherent potential in this and created an info-graphic (in danish, once again sorry) for his website, juf.dk, which people could freely use in return for a link-back. His info-graphic covered all the salient points in the new legislation and helped a lot of website owners to avoid breaking the law. Not surprisingly, many have chosen to use the info-graphic and to link to juf.dk.
Compared to traditional advertising and marketing, PR has greater credibility because a journalist rather than a business is seen as the source of the information. Some of the things you can utilize in your press work include interviews, expert opinion, surveys, contributions to highly current news stories and so on.
Rather than using a generic service like Presswire to distribute your material, it can be advantageous to choose journalists from specifically identified media to whom you release your story first. This enhances interest in publishing your story. Afterwards, you’ll find other media often pick up the story as well.
A couple of years ago, I noted the growing number of fake web stores that cropped up in search results in the days leading up to Christmas. I did some research and published the results on my blog. I made sure that the blog post was complex enough so that traditional media would be unlikely to publish extracts from it. Then I made a press-friendly version of the article, linking to the original for more in-depth information and analysis. It worked – the press swallowed my press release whole and posted plenty of links to my blog article. If I had released a comprehensive article to the press, the chances of generating active links would have been slim.
Interviews, top lists, prizes and more
Interview the leading figures in your branch. This could, for example, be the top ten tips from the best experts on xxxx. Or the top ten blogs worth following. These two strategies have one thing in common – because of the mutual advantage which accrues, the people you mention will most likely have a vested interest in promoting your material, too. You share followers with them and vice versa.
In this article I’ve covered a number of ways you can use content based marketing in your SEO work. I’ve chosen to highlight some methods and examples but there’s lots more out there. Practically speaking, the only limit is your imagination. One of the most important foundations for successful content based marketing is to work on it continuously. In other words, it shouldn’t be a one-off effort but a constant distribution of quality content. That’s the only way you’ll beat the competition.
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