Blogging was initially a vehicle for people to express their thoughts on a particular subject, and to allow others to read what they had to say. Blog posts were usually relatively short written expressions of thoughts, sort of like brain dumps, as opposed to classically researched and written articles. A blogger could just sit at their keyboard and let their thoughts go wild.
With the rise of Google’s search engine, marketers began to realize that the more content the search engine robots could find and index, the greater the chance that potential customers would find them. The higher up in the search engine results you could get your content would directly effect the amount of traffic that would be directed to your website. The easiest way to create content in volume was through blogging. Suddenly, companies of all sizes began blogging.
In 1999, according to a list compiled by Jesse James Garrett, there were 23 blogs on the internet. By the middle of 2006, there were 50 million blogs according to Technorati‘s State of the Blogosphere report. Today the number is probably well over 200 million.
The Heyday of Blogging
Marketers quickly discovered that blogs didn’t really have to be very good to rank highly in Google. They learned that Google’s search algorithm’s ranked content based on metrics relating to and revolving around specific keywords. If you placed the right keywords in the right meta tags and used them a lot in your blog post, you had a pretty good chance of ranking highly in the search results for those keywords. Sure, the algorithm took other factors into account (like links, headers etc), but keyword usage and placement in content seemed to be the biggest one.
As a result, marketers began churning out blog posts that were optimized for (and stuffed with) their target keywords. Most of these posts were so badly written (usually by offshore writers whose native language was not English) that no semi educated human would bother spending more than 10 seconds trying to read it. Many of these posts were even generate by machines! But even though they were useless to humans, the search engines loved them and pushed them up in their rankings. Content farms began springing up with the sole purpose of churning out optimized posts that were exactly what search engines were looking for. It was sort of like if stupid cat videos began winning all of the Oscars. Something was seriously messed up.
The Downfall of Blogging
It took them a few years, but the Google search mavens finally realized what was going on and decided to do something about it. They understood that Google’s success depended on giving searchers the answers and information that they really wanted. And searchers wanted pertinent, well written information — not machine generated, uber-optimized, nonsensical gibberish.
So Google began releasing sweeping changes to its search algorithm, named after cute animals like Panda, Penguin, Pigeon and Possum. These updates were aimed at rewarding relevant and informative content and penalizing the useless stuff. Practically overnight, millions of sites were effected and lost their search rankings. Many ecommerce websites that thrived primarily on the flow of traffic sent by Google as a result of their low quality (highly optimized) but highly ranking content were put out of business.
After an awesome and highly profitable run, the days of content farms and low quality search engine bait were over.
Blogging as we knew it was dead.
Long Live Content
Google’s efforts to improve the quality of their search results resulted in reinvigorating blogging, but in a different format. Whereas the ideal blog post used to be between 350 and 500 words, Google now seems to be favoring posts of at least 1,000 words. The reasoning behind that is probably because the longer the article the more information and implied benefit to the reader.
Keyword placement is still important to let Google know what your article is about, but Google’s robots are now smart enough to figure out what your content is about without you shoving keywords down their throat. While optimizing your content with title, description and header tags is still important, the most important thing you can do to get your content ranked highly is to write the most awesome piece of content you can. Great content will get linked to, which will in turn push it higher in the rankings. More importantly, it will help you convert visitors into customers.
Why You Need Content Marketing
Content is more important than ever to help you generate more business. In fact, the marketing gurus even coined a new term to reflect the role of content in marketing – Content Marketing. The term vindicates the role that practical and direct role that content plays in generating lead and converting them into customers.
The theory behind content marketing is simple. When someone is in need of a product or service, he will do some form of research to learn more about the product or service. One of the most popular ways of doing that is by searching on Google. Other ways might be through local directories, relevant publications or through a personal network of contacts. However he chooses to conduct his search, he will probably end up consuming some form of content. It might be a YouTube video, an article in a newspaper, a page on a company website, or an ebook guide … it might even be a good old fashioned print book (yes, they do still exist!).
If the content is informative and engaging, there’s a good chance that the searcher might decide to move forward on his “buyer’s journey” by contacting the seller or service provider.
“Two-thirds to 90% of the buying cycle is completed before a B2B buyer ever speaks with a sales rep.” – Forrester
That’s why it’s imperative for you to provide potential customers with the content that will answer their questions, establish yourself or your company as an expert or thought leader in your field and lead them to contact you.
Content Comes in Many Forms
The content you use to market to potential customers can come in various forms. Here are a few popular ones:
Your website is the hub of your digital marketing efforts. It’s the primary place that potential customers will look for information about your company, product or service. The content of each page on your website must be created with your customer in mind. What information will she be searching for in order to make her decision to contact you? The answer to that question should be translated into website content.
Companies will often invest in professional web design, which is important to establish the image and respectability of their company, but they’ll neglect their content. They’ll either have weakly written content or have no content at all that covers areas important to potential customers. Even if they do write informative content, that content will not be geared towards marketing their product of service. It often won’t contain a specific call to action to allow potential customers to engage with or a way for them to contact you.
Every page on your website should be created from an overall marketing perspective.
Blog posts are different than web pages in that they reflect new and ongoing efforts to discuss topics and to answer questions. Whereas web pages contain information about company, products or services that remains static for the most part, blog posts should discuss new product or service related developments and changes and address (and attempt to solve) current issues as they arise. Each post should also have a marketing objective and contain a call to action (CTA).
Every web page and post should be optimized according to the latest SEO standards to ensure that they have the best chance at ranking highly in the search engines. For specific details on optimization click here. But ranking highly in search results through SEO should be the reason for creating great content, especially when trying to rank for competitive keywords. Focus on providing customers with great content instead of trying to attract and impress search engines.
Guest posts are articles that you publish on other blogs or websites. The idea is to guest post on sites with readers who are your potential customers. Get the opportunity to post on a site with a large target audience usually takes persistence and relationship building, but the results could be well worth the effort. Say you’re a tog trainer — wouldn’t it be awesome to get an article published on the Petco blog (I assume they have one). Besides the potential traffic, there’s a nice SEO benefit in getting a link to your site from another reputable site in your industry.
Resource guides are blog posts on steroids They usually run over 2,500 words and contain valuable information to guide users in a particular subject — like a “how to” guide. If it’s good this type of resource guide will get linked to because it clearly provides a high degree of value to the reader.
The traffic you can potentially get from social media platforms is huge, as long as you post the right type of content. Sharing a link of your latest blog posts is obviously good practice. But sometimes posting a brief update or sharing a photo or image can be much more powerful and successful. You need to be familiar with what works on different social media platforms and create or modify your content accordingly. What works on Linkedin probably won’t work on Instagram.
A great way to show your expertise and thought leadership is by publishing ebooks. They’re also a popular way to bait potential customers into giving you their email address or contact info. They get a valuable resource and you get their info. But perhaps more important than getting their contact info is getting the opportunity to market yourself to them via the book. Which is why your ebook needs to be top notch and written from a marketing perspective. Poorly written or shabbily put together ebooks drive potential customers away. Would you hire someone who publishes and distributes crappy stuff?
Content has become one of the most important marketing vehicles with which to get customers. But it needs to be high quality, informative and engaging in order to both rank well in search engine results and to convince potential customers to contact you. To beat the competition requires creating higher quality content in different formats for different platforms. As they say, content is king — now more than ever.