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It is both the art and the science of using rich, information-filled content to attract and retain customers. Content marketing is today’s undisputed king, replacing search engine optimisation, public relations and advertising as the new marketing strategy of choice.

Content marketing as science

Lets start with a little test…

Q: What’s black and white and read all over?

A: Google

With Google’s latest search algorithm, ‘Penguin’ now in full swing, it has never been clearer that Google intends to penalize sites that don’t have fresh, interesting and unique content. Sites that are using anything other than ethical Search Engine Optimisation techniques are also going to be hit hard.

So What?

Well, so what indeed? Without Google’s support, your site may never been seen again, as over 90% of all searches are delivered in the UK by Google. The second largest search engine is You Tube (and in case you didn’t know it, You Tube is owned by Google)

  • The Penguin algorithm clearly states that duplicated content is a no go – so no point starting to think about syndicating your content all across the World Wide Web in order to get it seen. Only the primary resource, with the author clearly identified will get any credit in the Google world.
  • Penguin also builds on the previous algorithm, Panda (See the black and white trend?), where the value of content degrades over time, meaning its no longer valid to release your website and sit back and wait for clients to see it.
  • And believe it or not, but Penguin is also going to penalize sites that are ‘over-optimised’, which means that its no longer going to work to try and trick Google into thinking your website is full of interesting content by using titles and image descriptions that allude to some valuable content that simply isn’t there when the customer arrives at the site.

This is good right?

Well of course it is if you are an Internet consumer – and who isn’t? It’s a good thing. Even a great thing. Because Google is so intent on serving you the most up to date, relevant and interesting content, consumers are bound to win. Google has no choice. The value established by Google is that it serves independent and valuable content entirely dependent on your search query. In fact, in the simplest of terms, this is all it does. So there is no chance Google will damage it’s reputation just to help us marketers.

So it’s good for consumers, but not so good for us marketing types and really bad for the pure play SEO and PR agencies. You now need to provide interesting and informative content. It needs to be varied in its format and needs to be updated regularly. Which put mildly can be a right pain in the neck!

Content marketing as Art

We have all been to a party and found ourselves stuck in a corner with the party bore. It is all about him and the great things he has done. You cannot get a word in edgeways, but when you do, it’s simply to excuse yourself and leave. Well, it’s the same with most websites.

“I do this”, “I did that”, “I can do this”, “I was first to achieve this” blah blah blah.

At no point has this site considered what you might be interested in, or considered what you are doing here. And that’s where content marketing as art arrives at the party.

Its simple really, its all about engagement, establishing a rapport where the customer and the organisation have something in common.

So, content marketing is very much like a conversation? It is about approaching someone with a topic that will engage, entertain or interest them. Think of yourself in that social setting where there are many people you don’t know. In order to break into a conversation circle, one of the first things you need to do is figure out what they want to talk about.

And lets not forget there are many ways to tell a story, and content marketing is about all of these.

  • Consider a video – after all, you’ll be giving your SEO a huge boost, as you may recall Google owns You Tube and Google looks after sites that look after You Tube. Apart from the SEO benefits, which are great, your customer will be more engaged and you will give them a much nicer experience, which in turn will turn them into friends of your company and even advocates.
  • Imagery is also a good way to get their attention and get the message across in a more engaging manner. So ok it doesn’t use as many senses as a video, but its easily achieved, more affordable and perhaps safer.
  • Blogs are a great way to keep a conversation fresh and lively. But don’t set out on a blogging mission unless you are committed to keeping the content up to date. Not only will Google penalize you, but also your customers will see very quickly how little enthusiasm you have if you write furiously for the first few weeks and then all of a sudden you disappear.
  • …white paper, FAQ, byline article, podcast, webinar and of course, not least of all, your written content.

Understand your audience

Writing content is really where the art form comes to life. Understanding your audience, writing for their personas, keeping the style appropriate to their level of understanding, offering lists and bullet points to keep the content ‘punchy’ and allowing them to comment and share are all essential tools in the written content toolkit.

And this is where the art is more complex than the science. The Science is a prescribed set of rules, to be followed and never abused, whereas the art is free, It allows you to show expression, trust, soul and above all engaging.

Content marketing is tough, of that there is no doubt, and Google says it’s just the beginning as The Penguin update is just a part of the flurry of updates that they are going to roll out this year.

Of course there is an easy answer to these issues.