By Anna Ritchie
If you’re a marketer, you know how challenging (and sometimes frustrating) it can be trying to keep up with the content demands of your target audience. They're coming at you from Facebook, Twitter, your Online Community sites and more. They crave information. They want to connect with you. They want to learn from you and build trust in you before they buy anything from you.
In fact, according to a recent TMCnet poll, 45.1% of attendees during a recent Content Marketing Webinar expressed that “Producing Engaging Content” was their top Content Marketing challenge.
The need to create a high volume of quality content is a top concern for most marketers for 3 main reasons: SEO, Thought Leadership, and Lead Generation. With an Online Community you can potentially achieve these 3 goals, but it needs to be done right.
If You’re Not Appearing in Search Engine Results…You’re In Trouble
According to a recent Telligent survey, 90% of people making buying decisions online, with many using open forums, social media sites and Online Communities to gather information, read reviews, talk to other consumers and even speak directly with the companies themselves. Of course, most searches start with search engines, which means that your company needs to find a way to be at the top of the results list. Of course, there’s the option to invest in pay-per-click ads, but recent research shows that organic search engine ranking (i.e. what comes up in the list when you search for the dog carrier) seems to resonate as a more authentic and credible source than the ones that show up as a search-click ad (research also shows that these click ads can experience high click-fraud and low click-through rates).
You know you need to appear in search engine results. But how do you get there? That’s where the content comes in. Your content needs to be created in high volumes, be developed in an SEO-friendly way, and most importantly linked-to, shared, linked to some more, and bookmarked. The search engines love this, and the more your content gets shared, the more you will be viewed as a credible source of information and the higher your rankings will climb.
A few caveats though. The content needs to be good. In the recent Google algorithm changes many companies learned the hard way that black-hat SEO tricks not only stopped working, but got them penalized pretty harshly. So, the content follow a pretty strict criteria (for ways to develop great content, check out Content Marketing expert Joe Pulizzi’s recent Webinar - founder of Content Marketing World - for best practices).
And, the more content you create, the more likely it’s going to get picked up and shared. All those re-tweets, links to your articles, and forwarding of links matters, and the more content you create, the more chances you’ll have to have those links and forwards occur.
Now that you’re in the top 10 of search engine results, you want to be the industry leader too. This means creating not only high volumes of content, but really educational, informative content. Here’s where Online Communities can be really advantageous for companies, because not only do they integrate all your content into one place, but can (and should) have information about your entire industry. By housing industry information on your site in addition to your own content, your company branding and messaging will surround the news people are seeking, over time positioning you as the industry leader.
Thought leadership is hard to achieve though. It means really building trust with your audience, and engaging with them. Allow for open discussions on your site. Allow people to download educational information for free. Provide reasons for them to come back like promotions, free Webinars, and more. This takes time and, again, lots of content, but the results are instrumental for your company’s success.
Ok, so you’re appearing organically, and people are coming to your Online Community for the great education you’re giving them. Now, how do you actually start to use this to generate profit? First, you can choose to gate some of your content, but be wary; go back to the “Thought Leadership” section and re-read. You need a reputation as a though-leader to get people to trust you- and those people who do trust you are much more likely to be quality leads. By gating every element on your site, you may not necessarily achieve this goal, so think critically about each asset on your site and what the goal is before blocking users from viewing it and sharing it. Now, events (online and in-person) are a great way to generate leads, as are newsletters. These are ways that people can come to your Online Community, check out your great content, and sign up to stay connected with you. These are the people you want on your Community, and the people you want to be engaging with to continue to build your reputation and, back to SEO, keep your content shared.
Quality…Quantity…It All Matters
It makes sense why creating enough content is such a top concern for marketers: because it really matters and can boost your business exponentially if done well. Online Communities seem like the easiest, most integrated way of achieving this solution, and partnering with a third party can be beneficial too because you get that objectivity and perception of being a thought leader – which is sometimes really hard to achieve when distributing content yourself.
Connect with Us and Join the Conversation: What are some challenges you are having with content marketing initiatives? How are you resolving them?