Content marketing is often shunned by its much more transparent cousin of paid advertising. The focus of many digital marketing strategies play it safe in the comfortable bed that is PPC where clients can sleep well, with the evidence that their paid endeavours are the reasons the strategy in question has achieved its goals. The relative opaqueness of an SEO strategy is therefore a common reason for a lack of significant investment in content marketing, with clients unable to dispel the little voice in their head that whispers to them folktales about the irrelevance of SEO today.
The focus of the gold, silver and bronze targets of PPC campaigns has blinded many in the market to the wider podium which also consists of 10 organic places, who are by no means runners up. To ensure your website stands Google’s test of time, providing its algorithms don’t change to state of play too drastically in the future, you have to both increase the number and improve the quality of the external links to your site. This enhancement of your links is one of the most fundamental elements of any SEO strategy and will eventually see your website break from the crowd and rise through the ranks of search engine results pages, true Jon Snow style.
But link building is a long and difficult process for a newly established website and trawling the internet for broken links is not the best use of time. In my blog post therefore, I will take a look at how really good content, actually really good content, can do much of the legwork for you. This is especially relevant for businesses who don’t have much in the way of an SEO budget, but are in a position where their current arsenal of resources provides them with the tools to create fantastically original content to fight the war of organic search and link building – granted, this is not as epic as a war of five kings.
What is link building?
But before we jump into the enlightened insights that I’m about to throw at you, it is essential that we lay down a foundation for what we mean by link building. The concept of ranking for search results pages essentially revolves around the idea of a popularity contest. The top organically ranked page is there because, among many other elements of Google’s ranking algorithm (which annoyingly is mostly unknown), it has a vast number of other sites linking to it; telling Mr Google that this page is the best in class.
Once upon a time, the links of a page were ranked quantitively: the more links that pointed to your website, the higher you ranked. But in the wake of various updates to Google’s ranking algorithm in recent years, it is the quality of the links that affects your organic position rather than the overall number. Google hoped to remove the unfair advantage of paying for useless links by creating a search engine where the results are more relevant and reliable. If you have a tonne of misbehaving peers (the ones who sit at the back of the class and etch their name into the desks) pointing to your website, then Mr Google will not rank you to be top of the class. But when all of the most respectable of your peers link to your site, then Mr Google sees this as a respectable badge of honour and your website as a reliable source. And will therefore bump you to the top of the rankings. Think of the student who happens to be infuriatingly good at everything!
Now, link building isn’t all as black and white as this, as no one in the SEO community knows the full algorithm that Google uses to rank pages and there are a wide range of factors to consider. But it is common knowledge that links play a huge role in such ranking. The concept of link building is a campaign in which you set off on the King’s Road to gain as many links as you can. There are a wide range of approaches that one can take to achieve this, but its most basic form involves sending an email to the owner of a relevant website and asking them to link to your own site.
How does content marketing fit into link building?
Yet this truly Oliver Twist approach is a laborious campaign technique through which it can be difficult to accumulate any meaningful links when you approach the internet, bowl in hand, asking for more. Having said that, the direct request for links shouldn’t be underestimated, but there are more creative and effective ways to link build. Enter, content marketing.
The concept of content marketing revolves around the idea of creating online material that will spark an interest in what you have to say. Rather than directly selling your product, your content offers a space of useful resources that users want to read for a variety of reasons depending on the type of content, for example: they want to learn about a topic based on your expert opinion, they want to understand a new development through a tasty infographic, or most simply they want to watch something funny. Either way, the content is pulling users to your website as they seek to find, read or watch more of the resources you are creating, which in turn boosts the brand of your company and the service you are selling.
In this context, the content you are creating can act in itself as a link building strategy. If you create really interesting, or original, or informative content (ideally it will be some combination of these three aspects) then when users read it, they find it so useful that they share it. They’ll share it on their social networks, they’ll share it on their blogs, journalists will share it in their news articles and the maesters will share it in their ravens. The overall objective is both simple and biblical: create it and they will come!
What types of content work?
But wait! Hold the door! You’re saying if I write a few blog posts I’ll be able to build my links?! Simply, the answer is no. Anyone with a computer can log into their website and start writing a blog, only for it to be lost in the saturated sea that is the internet. There are however tried and tested content types that are proven to work:
- Genuine Content – like: case studies or interviews
I call it genuine to describe the content that is genuinely unique to your company: case studies about the amazing clients you’ve worked with, or interviews with clients or employees that only you would have access to. Presented in an original way, this type of content is sure to be shared; it’s the type of content prospective clients want to see before they enquire. You never know, if it’s a great interview the media may even pick it up!
- Analytical Content – like: guides, data analysis or surveys
This type of content works well because it cannot be replicated by others. A comprehensive guide is great, especially if it’s about a topic that only you know about! Users are likely to turn to these guides when they want to learn about a certain topic. The same could be said about data analysis, if users want to know how something will affect their industry or influence their choice then your analysis is something they will turn to and subsequently share. Even surveys, which will require a lot more man power and resources, are fantastic because they will offer truly unique data that you can present in a way that readers will want to share.
- Interactive Content – like: infographics
This will probably be the most expensive type of content in the case you hoped to commission this work to an external party. Essentially, this content type will be the most successful if done well. How can you present your content in a creative and interactive way? How can you engage users? Why will users want to share it? There’s really not more I can suggest in this respect, as the saying goes: “the only limit is your imagination!” But to help you along, here are some of the best examples of interactive content I have found:
What metrics should I be tracking?
The work to create new and original content would be for nothing however if we couldn’t measure its success. This is especially relevant for those who are still in the thick stew of PPC and are unable to sanction an investment without understanding how it could be successful. The most important concept to bear in mind in this respect is if you are using an SEO analysis tool like Moz, or even Google Search Console, then measuring the arbitrary number of links will not help your campaign. If your content begins to build traction, then unfortunately many of the links to your content will be useless and spammy and as there is no way to burn them all, you are stuck with them. More prominently therefore, you should be measuring those metrics which highlight your website’s traffic. In this case referral traffic would be the most useful, using Google Analytics to see whether there has been an increase in this type of traffic after the launch of your newly created content.
The most important thing to consider is the originality and creativity of your content. Content marketing isn’t about generating a direct increase in sales of services, it is the focus of maintaining and improving your brand. This in turn will improve how well your business performs online. If you would like some help in regards to content marketing and broader SEO optimisation, then get in touch with SilverDisc.