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What is Content Marketing? Answers to 10 Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re not quite sure how content marketing works, or need help making key decisions to get started on your content strategy, this Q&A will come in handy. From basic questions about using a free platform to the ever doubtful, “What if my industry is too boring?” this post has you covered.

Content marketing is essentially a form of marketing where you promote your brand through different forms of content: articles, blog posts, infographics, presentations, videos, podcasts, ebooks, reports, whitepapers, and so forth. In this post, we’re going to answer the 10 most commonly asked questions about content marketing.

Why content marketing?

Content marketing can compliment search and social media marketing in many ways. For starters, having quality content on your website is a good thing. Google has been putting emphasis on making sure that search results return websites with content visitors will love and removing websites with little or low-quality content. This makes having an on-site blog with unique, valuable content a must if you want to rank well in search.

Speaking of rankings, content can allow you to target more keywords that will drive a targeted audience to your website. For example, let’s say that your company has a custom web analytics tool. You probably target web analytics as your main keyword on your homepage and product page. But with blog content, you can target even more related keywords. Just use Google AdWords Keyword Tool to give you an idea of how many more relevant search terms you could create blog content around.

These are keyword ideas that all include web analytics – if you expand to other relevant terms that fit your tool (social analytics, search analytics, etc.), then you will have even more options.

Your social media campaign will benefit from content as well. As people share your content, they will likely reference you with your Twitter handle or tag your Facebook page which could lead to more followers and likes. Your content will also make for better status updates. Instead of just advertising your latest products and services to customers, you can post links to your blog posts and videos on Facebook, then promote them to an audience beyond just your fans.

Can we build our blog on a free platform?

Yes, you can, but you have to be aware of the limitations. First of all, your content would be housed by the platform you choose. Although sites like WordPress.com and Blogger are probably not going away anytime soon, you could end up scrambling if they do decide to close down. Also, if you inadvertently break their terms or service, your content could be lost if your account is suspended.

You will also lose out on the ability to enhance the functionality of your blog on free platforms. Companies who build their blogs on their own domain using WordPress have unlimited options for adding opt-in forms to generate leads, customizing their template to integrate seamlessly into their branded website, enhance search optimization, and much, much more.

In terms of search, if you were to decide to move to your own domain after starting a blog on a free platform, you would ultimately lose the search value you gained from links to your blog content and the social shares you had received. While some free platforms allow you to redirect your blog to the new site (for a price), most do not.

Can’t we just use our Facebook page or Google+?

The difference between starting a blog on your own website vs. a social network is that you have even less control of your content. Again, if you break terms of service on your social account, you would lose all of your content. You also have to abide by the ever changing landscape of social media. For example, networks like StumbleUpon that used to have a blogging featured decided to do away with it altogether, which means all of the people who had built years worth of content had to move it or lose it.

The other thing you have to look at is the fact that you will lose all of the direct traffic potential of having content on your websites vs. having it all on a social network. Search engines would be more likely to index content on your competitor’s sites over your social networks. And if people can get your best content off of a social network, they will have no need to go to your website where you can increase conversions with custom calls to action.

Should we focus putting it all on our site or elsewhere?

The answer is really both. You should focus on creating awesome content on your own website first, then branch out to other websites through guest blogging, creating videos for YouTube, uploading presentations on SlideShare, publishing Kindle books, and other offsite content marketing. This way, you can reach new audiences, drive more traffic to your website, and give those new audiences something to explore on your own site once they arrive.

What types of content will work for our industry?

Every industry is different when it comes to content that works for them. The best way to find out what will work is to do some competitor research. In particular, find out if your competitors have the following.

  • Blog content with lots of social engagement (comments, tweets, likes, etc.).
  • Video content on YouTube with lots of views, likes, and comments.
  • Infographic content with lots of social shares and backlinks. Use Open Site Explorer to get a quick count of backlinks.
  • Presentations on SlideShare with lots of views, social shares, and favorites.
  • Podcasts on iTunes with lots of positive reviews.

As you research, you’ll likely discover not only the types of content that work well for your industry, but content topics that resonate with your ideal customer base as well.

What if we are in a boring industry?

If your company manufactures camp stoves, you probably won’t want to blog about them endlessly. Instead, think about the people who would buy your product and the things that would interest them. So instead of writing about camp stoves, write about things you can cook while in the great outdoors. Maybe even create a camping recipe book. Invite your customers to submit their own recipes and then you won’t even have to create all of the content on your own.

Who will create our content?

Depending on the size of your company and your available resources, you may choose to have your content created in-house or outsourced. As far as outsourcing blog content, you will the option to have content ghostwritten for you or to give the author credit. Your choice between these two options depends on your goals – and your writers.

If you want to build up your own authority in your industry, you may choose to have the content ghostwritten for you so you can claim the content under your own name. Also, if your writers are unknown in your industry, then you may want to choose to put your name on it as well.

However, if you want to capitalize on a popular writer’s reputation, social following, and Google+ authorship, then you will want to have the writer’s name on all (or at least some) of their posts. Especially where Google+ authorship is concerned – if you have a lot of highly ranked authors on your blog, Google should easily recognize it as quality content.

How can we promote our content?

A common misconception about content marketing is that if you create content, people will flock to it naturally. Content is not a “if you build it, they will come” kind of marketing. You will need to promote your content in order to achieve both the search and social media marketing benefits mentioned previously.

Some great ways to promote the content you create include the following.

  • Sharing your content to your main social networks. At the very least, share it to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.
  • Send your best content to your mailing list subscribers and customer database.
  • Share offsite content (videos on YouTube, presentations on SlideShare, podcasts, etc.) on your blog.

Do we have to keep creating new content?

Yes, but you can also repurpose one piece of content in multiple ways. For example, you could take several blog posts and repackage them as a free eBook to mailing list subscribers. You could take a tutorial and turn it into a screencast video. You could take the audio off of the video and make it into a podcast. You could take the main steps in the video and put them in a presentation. Essentially, you could turn one piece of content into five or more without having to fear the wrath of a Google duplicate content penalty.

How can we find out if our content is affecting the bottom line?

If you have Google Analytics goals set up on your website, you can find out more than just which pieces of content drive and receive the most traffic. For offsite content, you can go to your Traffic Sources > Sources > Referrals to see whether networks like YouTube, SlideShare, or places you published guest blog posts are sending traffic to your website and which referral source leads to the most goal completions. For onsite content, you can go to the Conversions > Goals > Reverse Goal Path to see which content on your own website or blog leads to the most goal completions.

This can be a powerful way to determine what content makes your visitors sign up for your mailing list, contact you for more information, or make direct purchases. And nothing will tell you the value of your content marketing strategy more than that kind of data.

What questions do you have about content marketing? Please share in the comments!