When I started publishing online back in 1998, I didn’t have a shred of traditional marketing experience.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but that ended up giving me a huge advantage.
The first marketing book I read was Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing in 1999, which sparked my “aha” moment regarding how the Internet worked from a marketing standpoint. Godin made it clear that the Internet was a direct-response environment that required an evolved form of direct marketing.
You didn’t buy mailing lists. You built audiences.
Likewise, my company, Copyblogger Media, began as a one-person blog in 2006, and has evolved into a software and training company with over 100,000 customers. We’ve always been an audience-driven enterprise, which is why we call ourselves a media company — despite acting quite differently from most media companies.
I’d like to convince you to think like a media company, too — an emerging breed of new media company, that is.
At Copyblogger, we don’t have sales, social, marketing, media, or SEO departments. We have an editorial department, and editorial makes all of those things happen (and more) as part of one seamless process.
It’s All One and The Same
The struggle many face with online marketing is a misguided impulse to put various tactics into separate boxes instead of seeing each as an aspect of one overarching strategic process. The result is often a disjointed, ineffective mess that leads companies large and small to question the return on investment of online marketing in general.
To this day, I see people referring to content marketing, social media marketing, and search engine optimization as three different things — as if each is a tactic that can get you there alone.
The smart way to practice effective online marketing is to treat social media and search engine results as aspects of a holistic strategy that centers around compelling content.
In other words, content, social media, and SEO are the three primary aspects of the online marketing process. In a socially-driven, post-Panda and Penguin online world, content has become a necessity, but it’s still only one part of a three-part content marketing process.
Let’s look at each part and examine how they relate to one another.
The fundamental element is content, which serves as the foundation of your online marketing strategy. Not just any content, but valuable information uniquely tailored to speak the language of your intended audience while simultaneously addressing the problems and desires that this audience expresses.
Content must answer their questions, alleviate their fears, and encourage their desires. But above all else, it must inspire and challenge them to transform their lives from the ordinary to the new experience that your solution provides.
Your initial goal should be to create audience-focused content as if social media and search engines didn’t exist. Content marketers have done this successfully for a long time — dating as far back as 1895 — because they’re experts at persuading people to want what they’re selling. On that point, realize that this persuasive content is what will get shared by the right people in social media.
Effective social media marketing amounts to content distribution. Luckily, that’s what social networks revolve around.
People want content. Sharing content has become one important aspect of social media status, and content curation has made select editorial voices into powerful conduits.
Social sharing provides signals to Google about which content is high quality; but more than that, social media provides networked, word-of-mouth publicity. Content curators — and those looking for authoritative citations — look to these social indicators for clues about what to link to, and natural, authoritative links are the original signal Google looks for.
You create content that your target audience loves. That audience proves it by sharing your content on social networks and linking to it from their own blogs and websites. Google picks up on these signals and understands that you’ve created something that users might want to find when searching.
Google continues to get smarter at weeding out false signals that seek to boost unworthy content. Still, on the whole, Google isn’t much smarter than your average 5-year-old at determining content relevance for ranking purposes — not without a little help from you.
No matter how much people love your content and provide natural signals to indicate as such, it’s up to you to gently tweak your content so that Google can correctly interpret which users might want to find that content when searching.
The entire content marketing process is what SEO has become. The good news is, higher search engine rankings are just one of the benefits of an integrated content marketing strategy.
The Power of Audience
Ask any businessperson charged with exploring effective online marketing tactics and strategies, and they’ll say they want traffic and leads. That’s what ultimately results in sales and profits, right?
Content marketing, when done correctly, will get you traffic and leads. No doubt about that.
But the true allure of content marketing is in building an audience. Rather than the constant rat race of conventional online lead generation, an audience puts your business into an entirely different space within your industry. Instead of buying access to an audience from the media, your company becomes the media. In the process, you build an owned media asset (your content-rich website) that gets more powerful and valuable each month and each year that you continue producing content.
Soon, you’ll be reaping the benefits from your owned media asset that make the initial goals of traffic and lead generation seem almost quaint. And that’s when things get cool.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.