Is your approach to SMB content marketing backwards?
Whether a business is local or not, content drives the bulk of digital marketing. Google rewards quality websites, which transcends into relevant and authoritative content. A successful content marketing campaign involves topics that resonate with the intended audience, creates buzz on social media and attracts high quality links. Yet, the approach that many people are taking to content marketing is backward. What do I mean?
Most marketers come up with their topics and then research.
If you want to really kill it, though, you should do research, then choose your topic (not the other way around).
First Things First: What to Research
1. The information people care about
My start in the industry was as a freelance writer and then I went on to manage a fairly large content team of 40 writers and editors. Therefore, I know what it’s like to be the one developing content and also the one delegating the writing. Most often, content creation goes something like this, “hey, I’ve got a great content idea! Let’s write about….” The article is written and shared on social media, but gets little traction. The article definitely doesn’t attract any links. So, what happened? No one stopped to research whether that topic was interesting to the audience. They approached the content backwards. Avoid that trap.
Many SMBs don’t have the budget or bandwidth to conduct extensive market research (i.e. focus groups, questionnaires, field studies, etc.) to figure out what their customers care about. Talking with the customer service and/or sales departments can help provide clarity into what customers care about. You can also use tools and there are plenty of free ones. The ones mentioned below will give you an idea of what your target audience is asking and talking about.
Bonus tip: search for forums and online discussions about your subject. There are online groups on just about any interest — from wine to vacations to cats. Today, more people identify with and engage in subcultures. Through your research, you can see firsthand what people are discussing. For example, a couple of months ago, my son’s hamster was sick. After coming up empty handed after searching for a local vet who would treat these little critters, I went online. I ended up on a forum centered on “hammy lovers” and found a wealth of information. We were able to nurse the hamster back to health.
2. The influencer(s) in your space
For the purpose of this tip, I’m defining an influencer as anyone who has a wide reach in your targeted area and his/her advice influences the masses. There are a variety of tools that can help you identify these people, including BuzzSumo, Hashtagify.me and Google. In terms of Google, let’s say you have an organic product that is targeted to families. You will want to search for multiple terms that will put you on the right track to bloggers, reporters and social media influencers. For example, if you search for “organic parenting blog,” you might find results similar to the following:
From this point, you would visit the blogs to get a feel for the audience and topics. To dig deeper, you would also research these individuals on social networks to get an idea of their overall influence. This research will put you on track to discover the type of content these influencers are sharing. You would then use that information to develop content these influencers would likely be interested in.
Bonus tip: if you have a great topic that you want to get in front of reporters, promote it through a Facebook ad. You can target an audience that includes reporters in a specific location with certain interests. Even if you have a small budget, you can still get your content in front of the media.
3. The type of content your targeted websites like
Links still matter and play into the trust score of a website. That’s not news. However, getting these links can be a big pain if you’re an SMB and in an industry that doesn’t get a lot of online attention and engagement. Make it a little easier on yourself. Instead of creating content and then reaching out to a website for a link, first figure out what kind of content they like and who their audience is—then create your content.
In addition to reviewing the website and the type of content they link to, you can also use a tool to determine their outbound links. SEOChat has a great tool for this tactic—you will need to check one page at a time to see where it links out to.
You can also use a tool to analyze the audience of the business you are targeting, through their social channels. Twitonomy is a great tool for analyzing Twitter.
Bonus tip: if your email to the website contact doesn’t get a response, pick up the phone and call him or her. Hardly anyone calls, so you will definitely stand out. Focus on building a rapport on the phone by making it apparent you are familiar with their website and audience. Your conversation should be centered on how you can help the website (i.e. relevant information or advice) versus how they can help you with the link.
Next, Create and Market That Content
Now that you have done your research, you can start on content development and marketing. Because you have already done your homework, not only do you know what to create, but also who to promote it to and what websites to target with your content. It is a lot easier — and the chances of success are a lot higher — when you have already done the extra legwork, as described in the previous section.
Watch your success as you change a backward approach to content marketing to one that pushes your digital strategy forward, reaches your audience and attracts more links.
Mindy Weinstein is the founder and president of Market MindShift, as well as a national speaker, trainer and digital marketing strategist. She teaches part-time at Grand Canyon University and has been a search geek since 2007.