As marketers, we work tirelessly to move the needle on what often seems like a laundry list of metrics. We look at...
Why Excellent Content is Critical to Successful Digital Marketing
By producing excellent content, you achieve these 4 benefits:
- Educate target audiences about the products and services you offer, and on relevant subjects related to those products or services
- Improve your SEO rankings
- Build backlinks to increase traffic to your website
- Complement your social media strategy
If you’re bombarded with e-mails asking you to buy things without clearly explaining WHY the product or service being offered is better than others on the market or the company promoting its wares or capabilities is unique or markedly different from competitors, or HOW your operations can benefit, join the club.
The quality of such content prevents advertisers from maximizing demand for what they’re selling. To prevent yourself from falling into that trap, you should make certain that every piece of content you generate, whether it’s an eNewsletter, targeted mailer, blog post, sales literature, technical data sheet or product flyer, allows you to answer YES to these questions:
- Is WHAT you’re promoting clear to people reading my communication? (i.e., features & function)
- Is it crystal clear WHY you should buy your product or service? (i.e., benefits, desirability of company’s mission)
- Is it obvious HOW to use your product or service? (i.e., are your target audiences sufficiently educated about what you’re promoting, or does your communication require a “teaching” component?)
Put another way, is the excellent content that you’ve worked hard to create making a positive impression on target audiences, and are you a company that people want to support because you’re knowledgeable, helpful and caring?
The Definition of Excellent Content
“Excellent content” is a subjective term. What resonates with you may be different than what grabs my attention. Nevertheless, if your content contains the WHY, HOW, WHAT elements, it should interest prospects and established customers in your product or service because it’s sufficiently engaging and informative.
Most of us have the “informative” (WHAT & HOW) parts down pat because we have a deep knowledge of our business. What’s often lacking in communication is the “engaging” (WHY) part, which is where assistance from marketing professionals can be helpful. That’s because their training and experience lend themselves to seeing things from different perspectives and putting a creative spin on your products or services that may not have occurred to you or any of your team members.
After all, if your strength is running a business, solving engineering challenges, developing new products, or any other line or staff responsibility, you may not have the time or inclination to focus on marketing, and that’s fine. In my experience, the most effective executives and managers know what they don’t know and delegate those tasks to others.
You can also determine the quality of your content by the amount of inquiries you receive after sending eNewsletters, targeted mailers or other communications to customers and prospects, assuming your contact lists are current. You can also see if recipients of your communication are commenting about it on social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter or commenting on related social posts you’ve created on those platforms.
The feedback you receive directly from customers and prospects, or indirectly through their lack of response, can help you tailor messaging for upcoming communications and maximize the impact they have on your target audiences.
In this age of digital communication, it’s easier and less expensive than ever to alter messaging and content in real time because it’s no longer necessary to print thousands of catalogs or brochures, for example, and be “stuck” with using them for months, or years, due to the cost to modify and reprint those pieces of sales literature.
Improve Your SEO Rankings
Search Engine Optimization (SEO), or appearing high on the first pages of Google and other search engines when customers and prospects type into search boxes specific terms or words related to your business, is a mystery to many people outside of the marketing field. Although there are many facets to SEO, it’s not as complicated as you might imagine.
An effective SEO strategy begins with structuring your website’s content for readability, including headers, boldface and italicized text, emojis, images, and bullet points. These design elements should make people want to read (or skim) your content and engage in a conversation with you instead of being scared off by large amounts of text and fleeing to competitors’ websites.
Keywords are Key
Keywords -- the words and phrases that people type into search engines to find what they’re looking for – can help your SEO ranking. Although keywords are not considered “content” in the traditional sense of the term because they’re small quantities of information that aren’t given much thought by people outside of the marketing world, keywords are critical to your website’s effectiveness, and by extension to the health of your business.
You can help to ensure that people find you on search engines’ first or second pages through organic, non-paid search as opposed to pay-per-click advertising by making certain that the words and phrases potential customers are likely to type into search boxes appear in your website’s text and headlines.
By doing so, the search engines’ “spiders,” also known as web crawlers -- Internet bots (software programs) that crawl websites and store information for search engines to index – facilitate the listing of your web page above other web pages with similar content, making it easy for potential customers to visit your website rather than sites ranking below yours.
By putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and thinking about which words or phrases people looking for your product or service would likely type in search boxes, and making sure those words and phrases are included in your website’s text and headlines, you’ll be in a stronger position to “get found” through search than you would be otherwise.
Meta Tags are Marvelous
Meta tags or meta descriptions are another kind of short-form content that’s often overlooked but vital to the value your website delivers to your business. These content descriptors describe for search engines what a web page is about and enable search engines to rank your pages. The snippets of text describe a page's content and appear only in the page's source code which is “behind the scenes” on the WordPress or other software template for each page and therefore invisible to everyone but web developers.
To optimize the power of your website, it’s essential to create meta tags. If you don’t have the time or inclination to do so, the people helping you with website content development and management can write the brief descriptions for you. By failing to write meta tags, you could be missing out on business opportunities by unintentionally decreasing your online visibility.
Likewise, it’s advisable to write alt tags (alternative text) for the photos on your website in case they don’t show up when your website appears on a user’s device, be it a laptop, tablet or smartphone. Alt tags can be a description of the image or the purpose of the image. For instance, an image of a warning flag should have an alt tag that reads “warning” instead of a physical description of the flag, which may not mean anything to people viewing the web page.
Additionally, visually impaired readers viewing your page can understand what images are on the page by using a screen reader software solution such as Orca to read the alt tags.
Owners of websites who fail to populate their sites with meta tags and alt tags do themselves a disservice and risk losing business opportunities due to oversight or indifference.
Another action you can take to improve your SEO is to fix broken links on your site. If you don’t, customers, prospects and search engines such as Google will be disappointed in you and will show their displeasure by taking their business elsewhere or penalizing your search ranking to an extent that you can’t be found easily, if at all.
Think about the last time you got a “404 Not Found Error” message. How did it make you feel about the company on whose website you got the message? Did you visit other pages on the site? Did you go to a competitor’s site instead? If you’re like me, it was probably the latter.
As an aside, there’s an interesting story behind the origin of the “404 Not Found Error” term that has nothing to do with Atlanta and the city’s 404 area code designation. It goes back to the 1980s when a group of scientists at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva, Switzerland, home of the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, started working on what would become the World Wide Web.
To make the Web functional, scientists created a database infrastructure that offered open access to data in various formats. The World Wide Web’s central database was on the fourth floor of a building in the CERN complex — room 404 to be exact. Inside the office, two or three people were assigned to manually locating requested files and transferring them over the network to the individual who requested the files.
Not all requests could be fulfilled because of problems such as people entering the wrong file name. When those problems became more widespread, the people who made faulty requests received a message that read “Room 404: File Not Found.”
Eventually, technology allowed manual processes to become automated, but the error message adopted to be the HTTP standard response code would keep the room number.
Build Backlinks to Your Website
Another way to enhance the effective of your digital marketing strategies is to create backlinks to your website. There are two types of backlinks you can build: Internal backlinks from one page of your website to another and external backlinks from your website to another site. Sites to which you may want to link include those of trade associations and trade publications that are relevant to your business, and sister companies or strategic partners.
External backlinks can help your SEO ranking, and it is important for you or your web team to check backlinks periodically (every month or two) to make sure they’re still intact because it’s impossible to receive notifications when a link becomes broken. If you’re not in charge of website maintenance, you can notify the right person in your company or at the marketing firm you use so he or she can delete the backlink from your site and keep your SEO ranking intact.
Having a broken links on your site, however, can give an impression to site visitors that you’re not focused on details, and that perception can cost you customers as web visitors encounter a broken link on your site and then jump to a competitor’s site.
Complement Your Social Media Strategy
Content from the eNewsletters, targeted mailers, brochures, technical data sheets and flyers you create for promotional purposes can be repurposed as social media posts, particularly on LinkedIn and Twitter as Facebook and Instagram are primarily for consumers rather than B2B customers.
With a little bit of extra effort, you can extract content from the work products listed above and turn them into social posts, or expand upon them and turn them into longer-form blog posts which, if 2,500 words minimum (each photo counts for 200-250 words toward that total) can boost your website’s SEO rankings.
Although shorter blog posts may be informative, you can’t expect them to affect your SEO ranking as significantly as longer posts because search engines, particularly Google with an 88% market share domestically and worldwide, favor large quantities of content over smaller amounts.
Anything Worth Doing Takes Time
If educating target audiences about the products or services you offer in an engaging yet educational manner, improving your SEO rankings, building backlinks to your website and strategically using social media appear to be a daunting task, you’re not alone.
Many business owners and managers feel that way because they are too busy fulfilling their core responsibilities to devote sufficient time to those increasingly essential functions that can affect financial performance.
Rather than neglect the development and maintenance of outstanding content and hope that “things will work out for the best because they always have,” it’s advisable to take the time yourself or delegate the responsibility to experienced professionals who can shoulder the load.
In a business environment where an increasing amount of the buyer’s journey is migrating online, nothing less than the future of your company could be at stake.
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