By Michael Harbron, for Edwardsturm.com.
When ultimately the end of the funnel is money, I often question businesses outside of the publishing industry on why they want to market their content. I ask them, “Is pushing that blog going to make you money?” Mostly the answer is no. Indirectly it can make you money, but it’s a long term game, which most fail to understand. Unless you have 5-20k in advertising budgets per month it’s unlikely you’ll make the money you need to retire in 10 years, so what’s the alternative for the smaller business?
I’m going to say a phrase that will have millennials or search experts shaking their heads. It’s literally about old fashioned link building/SEO. You want your business on page 1 for keywords that directly result in sales. Exactly the same as how Adwords works. If you’re a dentist in Los Angeles, as a business owner, you want to be on page 1 of a search engine results page for ‘Dentist in Los Angeles,’ simply put. And it’s not up for debate.
To expound on ‘content marketing’ further. I’ve seen clients get placed on the Huffington Post or on other major publisher sites and that hasn’t yielded a lot in results. It drove a ton of traffic, but it didn’t really generate sales. Why would it? It’s not like what you’re selling is exactly what all those people want. Unless you’re on the front of the New York Times or Oprah’s Favorite Things, it’s unlikely that the blog feature you just obtained through your marketing agency is actually going to do anything. What these placements are really good for is authority, another marketing factor that most fail to understand.
For the past 15-years, I’ve watched the dawn of search engine optimization and how it has evolved over the course of time. I’m a firm believer that old fashioned SEO still works (I’m discounting anything that was shady, i.e. link farms and such) and that good old fashioned link building will continue to build the authority of your site.
“I’ve Gotten a Lot of Backlinks, Why Aren’t I on Page 1 of Google?”
So, what happens when you’ve done all the link building you can, all the outreach you can, and optimized your site to its fullest potential – and you’re STILL not on page 1? Then there’s a missing piece to the puzzle. One of your competitors, i.e. the person who’s on page 1 when you’re not, likely has a link or piece of content somewhere that you do not.
Using Content Marketing and Bloggers to Build SEO
Here comes the content marketing part. First you have to establish the relationship. Or – pay for the privilege. Crossing a blogger’s palms with silver is nothing new, and the fact that you can do this to bypass the schmoozing, pitches, and lunches to get what you want quicker is a fact of life. Bloggers need to make money too and if they don’t think your content will have streams of folks coming to their site to give them more ad revenue, then you can bet they’ll accept a few hundred bucks to feature your content. Whether the content is subject to their ethical approval is another matter that has nothing to do with this piece. (By the way, I did not pay to write this article, as a marketer, you’ll be asked for your opinion).
If you don’t have dollars to pay for that privilege, then start building a relationship with the blogger. Twitter is an ideal way to react and show interest in a blogger’s work. Get to know them, be interested and genuinely build up a reason for them to work with you. OR – send them a piece of content that is so good, they’ll really want it featured on their site. You will, however, have to negotiate the link. That’s the most important part (again, not up for debate); the link should mention your brand name. If you find that your competitor has the link written in a certain way, then you also need to match it, like for like.
The whole point of content marketing in this way is to garner more link power and more authority for your site, so that ultimately you pop up on page 1 for said qualified organic keywords.
Native Ads Are Ruining Click Through Rates
The other aspect of content marketing, and this took a huge turn in 2015, is paid content. You’ve seen the ads – ’You’ll Never Guess What They Did Next’ or ‘These Pills Helped Me Lose 10lbs in One Week’ – they’re awful stuff. They come from networks called Outbrain, Taboola, and more – but essentially you see them on a lot of publishers’ sites at the bottom of pages in various squares or patterns that entice you to click through to their websites with a common tactic known as ‘click bait.’
Give a crappy piece of content a good title and you’ll have people clicking through. Tease them with an overloaded website that takes forever to load, has a lot of ‘click here to see the answer’ pages and you’ve suddenly captured your audience, leaving them on your site for at least over a minute, which decreases bounce rates and gives the publisher good stats for their advertisers.
People got sick of this tactic and publishers saw a steady decline in April – June of 2015 which, contributed to a lot of websites losing their traffic. My theory (as no one really seems to claim to know why the ‘big data drop’ happened) is sites such as Outbrain, Taboola, etc are allegedly to blame.
Boosting Posts on Facebook
I’ve seen this work and I’ve seen it not work. I’m a fan, but your audience must be there to begin with. My own agency has around 800 likes on Facebook; I don’t care much about my numbers though because it’s not where I make money. I’ve tested boosting posts in order to target marketers, CEOs, and other demos and it didn’t bode well.
However, I’ve used it with some of my publishers who have audiences in the millions and it works a treat.
Thus my advice for paid content is to grow your audience first. Engage them, garner their trust and the rest will follow. Just make sure you tailor to the reason they followed you in the first place. If you’re a comedy publisher, make things funny.
While it’s always important to have fun with what you’re doing and to enjoy your work, make an effort to remember the bottom line. Try make everything you do work towards the same set of goals and if you’re playing the long term game, don’t forget to play the short one as well.
Agree or disagree with this? Let me know. Write your thoughts in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.