Many SEOs are turning to content marketing to replace or supplement their link-building efforts, but consumers think most of this content is clutter. How do you stand out? Columnist David Freeman has some advice.
Links have always commanded significant focus when it comes to increasing organic search performance. Over the years, SEOs have built them by any means possible — legitimate and otherwise.
Recently, the market has adapted to significant algorithmic shifts and adopted a content marketing approach to link building. This move has led brands and SEOs to create huge volumes of content, often in a silo, with the pure purpose of building links to drive organic search performance. This approach rightly focuses on hitting channel KPIs, but it overlooks the wider business performance implications and consumer needs.
Meaningful Brands is Havas Group’s measurement of brand strength, and over the last 10 years, the Meaningful Brands have outperformed the stock market by 206 percent. This year, for the first time, the study has looked at the role of brand content and whether or not it adds value. The study found that content delivered by brands is underperforming to such an extent that it’s having little impact on business results or people’s lives. Eighty-four percent of people expect brands to produce content. Yet 60 percent of all content created by the world’s leading 1,500 brands is poor, irrelevant or fails to deliver; most content is seen as clutter by consumers.
Following are four tips on how to make link-building efforts through content marketing more successful, by applying a holistic lens and focusing on building a connection with the target audience.
1. Define the strategy and KPIs
You know you need to engage the target audience throughout the purchase journey, and any strategy needs to outline how to achieve this. For instance, what are the informational content requirements at each stage of journey? What authority/link requirements allow a brand to compete for top ranking positions?
To measure success, a clear framework is required that separates channel and business KPIs. For instance:
- Owned KPIs: Volume of linking domains, domain authority and engagement metrics such as time on page and bounce rate
- Social KPIs: Share, likes and tweets
- Business KPIs: Leads, brochure downloads and conversions
2. Understand the audience and the purpose of the content
To create content that resonates and builds a connection with your target audience, you need to:
- understand your audience through personas, ideally augmented with emotional intelligence.
- define whether the purpose of the content is to engage with a retained audience or attract a new audience.
You can then apply the learnings from the Meaningful Brands research, which show that in addition to content that educates, informs, inspires, helps and rewards, 84 percent of people expect brands to provide content that:
- tells stories.
- provides solutions.
- creates experiences and events.
With strategy and KPIs defined, you must build a deep understanding of target audiences and a clear idea of the type of content they want to engage with. Once you have this, the ideation process can begin. The shape of the ideas will inform whether existing content and campaigns can be repurposed or expanded (a worthy consideration if we keep in mind that 60 percent of content that brands produce is seen as clutter), or whether new content is required.
Regardless of whether new content is created or existing content is repurposed, the content should be remarkable and add value to the target audience. Achieving this will hit the sweet spot of delivering against both business and SEO KPIs.
3. Connect across channels
To be truly useful to your target audience, it is vital to leverage an owned, earned, shared and paid (OESP) approach where we specifically identify who and where our audiences are, when you should talk to them, and with what messaging. In doing so, you have the opportunity to repurpose your content across the OESP spectrum to drive the maximum possible engagement.
With this in mind, a collaborative approach is required, where content no longer operates in silos and teams collaborate around a single content plan. Hero, Hub and Hygiene is a widely accepted framework that facilitates this:
- Hero: Larger campaign-based content that captures your audience’s imagination through entertainment, storytelling and experiential events
- Hub: Content designed to increase trust and authority by drawing in influencers and their audiences
- Hygiene: Informational content designed to educate, inform, provide solutions and be helpful
This ensures that campaigns are fully connected across channels, with the common primary objective of adding value for the target audience, with channel KPIs forming secondary objectives.
While it may seem basic, a shared content calendar is the initial step in driving this approach, as it:
- diarizes all content, PR, events and social plans and sparks collaboration across teams.
- maps consumers’ topical interests, allowing content to be deployed at the right time.
- highlights cultural events.
4. Adopt the mentality of ‘less is more’
As explained earlier, consumers believe that 60 percent of the content that brands create is clutter. To elevate organic search and business performance to the next level, you need to adopt a consumer-centric approach and create far less content, but ensure that the content you do create is more impactful and lives across channels.
Ultimately, you need to ensure everything you do is focused on delivering against the types of content that your target audience wants to engage with, whether they are looking to be entertained or educated. This will drive overall business performance. If your content delivers this and is also seen as remarkable, the content should sell itself as part of the outreach process, ensuring that you hit your SEO KPIs without needing to create content in a silo just for SEO.
[Article on Search Engine Land.]
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