By Mark Schaefer
The world of content marketing tends to get over-complicated sometimes. I was explaining it to a friend the other day and broke the whole industry down into two simple strategies. Perhaps you haven’t heard content marketing described this way before so I thought I would share it with you today, content marketing simplified.
You have two choices
At the very highest level, there are just two primary ways to build traction for your site through content marketing.
1. Focus on SEO
By providing signals to Google that your site is the home to some topical expertise, you might attract new organic web traffic over time. This is a difficult strategy that requires SEO discipline, quantities of content, and a sustained effort against fierce keyword competition.
An example of this would be the work being produced by huge industry sites like Hubspot or Social Media Examiner. These organizations have pumped out so much relevant, optimized content over years it would be difficult to unseat them in the search results on their topical areas. What would it take for a small firm to win a search war on the term “Facebook advertising?” Yikes. Forget it!
By ignoring Google and writing compelling content that establishes a voice of authority, you can attract an engaged, relevant audience independent of search considerations. In essence, you establish a unique voice that has no competition.
An example of this would be Ann Handley. She puts out a weekly newsletter that is smart, insightful, and sparkling with unique personality. Avinash Kaushik publishes just once a month, but his insights on digital strategy are so comprehensive that it is unmissable. Both content creators reached celebrity status in their industries by a focus on their unique perspectives instead of SEO.
The distinguishing feature of this strategy is providing insight instead of just information. You don’t have to be a genius to become an authority, but you do need to consistently provide a unique perspective.
I probably do a little of both these things.
My main goal for every single post is to provide an interesting insight I will make you think every time you open up one of my posts, or I’ll stop. So the emphasis is definitely on thought leadership.
But I’m also focused on a topical area. At the top of my blog it says “Marketing. Strategy. Humanity.” It’s been there for 10 years. That’s my passion — exploring the intersection between tech and business and people. I want to stay in that “lane” or I’ll lose my audience.
And since I’m in a lane producing content on one theme every week over many years, I’ll probably earn some Google attention along the way in addition to establishing a voice of authority.
Content marketing simplified
My main point is, before you start blogging, or vlogging, or Instagramming your way to fame, step back and consider the competitive landscape, your goals, and the under-served needs of your customers.
The starting point for any content marketing strategy is a clear-eyed analysis of the state of content saturation in your niche. If you’re in a mature industry with an overwhelming amount of content, you’re facing the SEO battle of your life, for example. Good to know that going in.
Figure out at the start — do you need to focus on SEO, establishing authority, or maybe a little of both?
If you’re just starting out on a content marketing journey, I recommend diving into my book The Content Code
, which goes into these key ideas in great detail. It even provides guidance on how to maneuver if you find yourself in a very crowded content niche!
Content Marketing doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does require an accurate strategy based on the realistic competitive situation in your industry. In any event, a strategy based on either SEO or authority takes time, patience, and perseverance.
Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant. The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.
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