Content Marketing has become more popular in the digital marketing space and everyday a bigger portion of marketing budgets are going toward producing content for the purpose of distributing online. For those unfamiliar with the term Content Marketing, it is simply what it sounds like. It is the creation and distribution of content in order to engage with an audience in your target market. Web content can be blog posts, infographics, white papers, photos, graphics, etc. For the eCommerce retailer seeking to sell more furniture, shoes, jewelry, whatever it may be online; it may seem odd to focus time writing blogs rather than engaging in other marketing opportunities. Depending on their budget they may be right. But for those that have the time, resources, and budget to execute a content marketing strategy it can pay significant dividends. In this article we will dive into the different goals of Content Marketing and points for online retailers to consider when choosing a strategy.
In most cases when you hear the terms Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Social Media Marketing, even “Branding” it likely means executing some form of Content Marketing. Depending on the channel you hope to gain presence in, or the business goals you hope to achieve, Content Marketing should serve a unique purpose. We have found that when a business is creating content online it is usually for one of the following goals; for searching, for sharing, or for branding. We’ll unpack what each of these mean and how the end goals can greatly affect the execution of your Content Marketing strategy.
Content Marketing for Searching
Search Engine Optimization is one of those ambiguous terms that seems to constantly be changing. Recently, Content Marketing has become synonymous with SEO, as optimizing your content to be found via search engines is often the primary goal of most Content Marketers. Optimizing your content for search engines can be daunting but it helps to simplify it by looking at it from the search engine’s point of view. A Search Engine’s primary goal is to connect users with content that best answers the questions they are searching for. Whether the search is “Restaurants Atlanta”, “how to tie a fishing knot”, or “brown shoes”, all searches are essentially questions with the intent of finding an answer.
In order to market their brand to potential customers searching online, many companies write content in the form of blog articles written to answer topics that their target buyers are potentially searching. Utilizing the keywords and language their target buyer may use in searching, companies look to compete to be deemed the most relevant for that search in the eyes of the search engines and the searchers. Because it is often difficult for retailers to compete on search terms directly for their products like “portable iphone charger”, creating content for searches that are less competitive like “how to make your iphone battery last longer” and providing relevant and valuable content is a way of inserting your brand in front of a potential customers as a solution to their problem at the time of search.
Here is an example of Amazon doing just that…
There is a laundry list of different strategies and techniques to try and beat out the competition for highly sought after search terms, but with search engine’s continuously updating their algorithms, SEO techniques seem to change as often as the seasons. However if you ask us, the best way to keep rank and stay safe from the next major algorithm update is to focus on creating content that is perceived as highly valuable to your target audience and is structured to be easily consumed by both your audience and search engines. When deciding on a Content Marketing strategy designed for search it is important to remember that producing valuable, search engine optimized content is a resource intensive strategy and up and front investment that can pay significant long term dividends but rarely bears any short term results.
Content Marketing for Sharing
The type of content as well as the process of creating content intended for sharing can vary greatly from content created for search engines. Because of the browsing nature on social networks, versus the searching or shopping nature on search engines, the content we are looking to consume on social media is very different. Your Social Media audiences are browsers looking for entertainment and education and are less likely to be shopping or searching to solve a problem. Focusing your content on entertaining and educating your target audience on the topics you believe they are interested in (or have researched and know), is your best method to gain traction on social networks.
Creating content with the primary goal for being shared across social networks is once again an investment retailers and eCommerce stores would have to make into something that is not as straightforward as buying an advertisement. Although this “digital word of mouth” approach is a strategy that can have an exponential impact on your business in a way most paid advertising can not. Therefore it is important to remember creating content for sharing is not about selling products to those shopping, but about increasing awareness of your brand through the promotion of your content from an online audience. Therefore unlike focusing on search engine keywords and topical phrases, you will want to focus on designing content that has a propensity to be shared ideally with those that are considered your target buyers.
An example of this strategy would be a relatively unknown retailer selling let’s say home decor. They have little to no audience online but would like to reach middle age women in the south who are interested in decorating their homes. So they start creating content that they believe has the propensity to be shared by those that do have an online audience of their target buyers. They determine their best bet is to create content for sharing by southern women lifestyle bloggers. With this in mind they create a post highlighting the “Top 5 Facebook pages to follow for the Southern Woman”, and feature who they believe to be the best bloggers in this category. Once published on their own blog and Facebook page they share with the bloggers mentioned in the article. Because the bloggers are put in a good light in a well written and “non-salesy” piece of content, it has a high propensity to be shared by these bloggers to their audience. This will in turn be exposing the relatively unknown retailer to their target buyers in the bloggers audience for the cost of creating and sharing a blog article on Facebook.
A real world example in the interior design space…
Content Marketing for Branding
Creating content with the end goal of “Branding” is an investment in which you can recognize the returns in the shortest amount of time out of the three… however it is nearly impossible to actually “recognize” anything. The goal here is to create, curate, and distribute content that ideally positions how your brand is perceived by your audience. It is less about gaining reach and exposure to an audience via shares, and more geared towards defining the brand in the audience’s mind. So… pretty intangible, but deemed by most as very valuable.
Similar to the goal of sharing, this type of content is often distributed to a community or existing audience, but the purpose differs in that you are not creating content to gain new relationships but rather build upon and solidify the existing relationships within your audience. A good example is Patagonia’s online branding strategy. They execute on all three strategies we have outlined, but do an exceptional job on branding via their Instagram account. Lifestyle images of rock climbing, skiing, and extreme outdoor activities are the majority of the images you find on their account… whether they are in Patagonia gear or not. These are reinforcing their brand as apparel for the active outdoor lifestyle and instilling this in their audience’s perception of them.
We hope that breaking down the three core goals of Content Marketing in which we believe is for sharing, searching, and branding helps demystify this marketing strategy for those online retailers considering this approach. Like any other strategy it is an investment of time and resources, and one that often requires a long term commitment. However when executed properly Content Marketing can be an investment that lays a foundation for long term growth and pays out returns for many years into the future.