Content Marketing

About three or four years ago, online networking changed. We used to be involved in several forums and lists, where we were able to contribute to lengthy conversations, give advice, help people with website problems, and generally make ourselves look like the knowledgeable experts we are. That interaction and relationship development yielded a steady stream of clients, already pre-sold on our services. They knew we were good, and we were the people they wanted to hire, before we even knew they wanted to hire us.

Then FaceBook and Twitter took over. The popularity of instant and short interaction superceded the appeal of lengthy conversations. Now, networking is almost impossible online, because everybody wants interaction condensed into 144 character blurbs. The emphasis of social has trumped business interactions, and the ability to network through these venues for purposes of gaining pre-sold clients is weak in comparison to the old forum formats. It is fickle, capricious, impatient, and since it has the attention span of an immature gnat, using it with any degree of effectiveness (and it may not be a lot), is completely EXHAUSTING, because you have to keep finding “new” and “fresh” ways to get in front of people and get them to notice you among the SEA of other people screaming for their 2 seconds of attention. Oh, there are people who will hotly disagree with that assessment, but they are pretty much ALL people who are selling something related to marketing with FaceBook or Twitter.

Truthfully, this change threw us for a loop. We didn’t realize it right away though, because we still had lots of momentum going from the previous venues, even though they had dried up. We were also doing a lot of local networking through teaching classes, giving presentations, and attending luncheons and after-hours events.

It became baldly apparent after we moved and those local opportunities were gone, that we had to reassess, and figure out what was still working.

About that time, I decided to consolidate some of my domains. I mean, 86 active websites is a bit much to manage when your life is getting busier for other reasons. So I started letting some of them go. That had more of an impact on our business than any other single change we had ever made. Customers and clients simply dried up.

The reason is Content Marketing. I had many websites that were instructional sites on various topics related to our business. I blogged, and I wrote extensively. All of those sites were interlinked with our main websites, and all of them brought us several clients per year.

Now, you must understand, I am NOT talking about quickly content scraping sites, nor am I talking about sites where you post the same overused articles everyone else is posting, or where you rewrite badly written PLR articles (ok, so they are ALWAYS accurate, ALWAYS grammatically correct, but COMPLETELY unoriginal, and lacking in inspiration or creativity). I am also NOT talking about “Article Marketing”, where you paste your articles into article sites that the search engines now completely ignore.

No, what I am talking about is 100% hand-written, unique, creative, personable, helpful, and informative information, which you put into sites that YOU own.

You, saying what no one else is saying. Writing about answers to the questions your customers keep asking.  Writing about your expertise, about things your customers need to know that they might not think to ask. Having fun with it, being yourself.

That kind of writing is like candy to the search engines. They LIKE original stuff. And it is great for capturing less common search terms, which make up the BULK of organic traffic searches. That random, unpredictable, completely spontaneous happenstance that occurs from people just being people, rather than people trying to game the computers into abnormal results. You just create good stuff, and then sit on the sidelines and scrape up the leftovers – which, in the world of the web, are an AWFUL LOT of good quality customers and clients.

This kind of marketing provides a wide range of benefits:

1. About 1% of the search terms used in any given industry are responsible for about 10% of the traffic. And EVERYBODY is going after that SAME 10%! There are a gazillion other terms, which you don’t even have to PLAN for, but which occur naturally in well-written content, which are responsible for the other 90%. They are like seagulls, all fighting over a whale carcass, so thick that most of them can’t even get a nibble, when the whole beach is strewn with fish, which are being ignored as everyone fights over the whale. Forget the whale. Clean up on the fish and it is easy pickin’s in comparison!

2. The clients and customers you get are the ones you WANT. They are ones that looked at the most popular options and DID NOT WANT THAT. So if you are offering something really special, you don’t want people who don’t care about how special it is. They won’t be happy customers. You want the ones who KNOW they want something better, and content writing appeals to them. They’ll dig a little deeper, find you, and be glad they did.

3. The customer is pre-sold. They KNOW you know your business. So you spend less time persuading them of your value, and you are able to get right to closing the deal.

4. You don’t even have to come UP in the first ten pages of the search engines for your main website, and you don’t have to pay for costly ongoing SEO (a single SEO review and optimization, with a short training session is sufficient). If you have other sites referring traffic to it, or other sites helping with the sales process, your main website can have relatively low traffic, and low search engine placement, and you can still clean up. We once had an “SEO expert” criticize our site, and ask us how we got any customers. I told him how I did it, and he flatly told me that there was no way I could make money unless I was showing up on the top positions for the top keywords on my site. He was wrong. Well written content is naturally optimized for the less common search terms, and when you get enough content, it sits there working for you regardless of your position for top keywords.

5. The longer you do it, the more power it has. Search engines like new and fresh content, but they also like old and stable content, as long as it is unique and good quality. So when you write good stuff, and keep adding to it, the power of your writing just grows and grows. Each article is a drop in the bucket, and adds to the existing power. It does this even if each article gets relatively little traffic.

6. When you have content writing as a cornerstone of your marketing, you can feed it automatically into Twitter or FaceBook, via RSS, and increase the exposure. Write once, and automatically cover multiple areas of contact.

Without that, you end up having to find ways to be clever and witty and to market in little sound bytes, instead of being able to be a complete person.

7. A single exposure is sufficient to convert a customer. With most types of marketing, it takes seven or more exposures to a marketing message or individual before someone decides to act. With content marketing, this dynamic changes. Because the exposure is more detailed and more comfortable (they do it on their terms), and because they looked for an answer and YOU provided the one that helped them “get” it. A single article that helps someone understand, or teaches them something they value, or makes them laugh, or which echoes their own feelings on a subject, can do more to persuade in a single encounter than multiple exposures to other types of advertising.

Many things about the nature of the web have changed in the last several years. The nature and expectations of the average web user have changed. But Content Marketing has not changed. Write good stuff. Post it to your own website or blog. Set up more than one, organized by interest, and interlink them. In about a year, it will start to pay off, and it only gets better from there.

Content is still King, and a nice informative or humorous article with an ah-ha moment still has more power to bring in paying customers than any other method of marketing that is not face-to-face.

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