How to use content marketing: Interview with Lee Odden
The quantity, quality and shareability of your organisation’s content is crucial to your search engine rankings, according to one of the Internet marketing’s leading thinkers, Lee Odden. New Media Knowledge’s Chris Lee caught up with Odden at the recent Search Engine Strategies London expo.
By Chris Lee
Search Engine Strategies (SES) London in February 2011 demonstrated the value of search marketing not only through its impressive turnout of attendees but also in the calibre of speakers. One of those keynotes was delivered by influential Internet marketing expert Lee Odden from TopRank Marketing.
Odden believes content marketing lies at the heart of a successful search engine marketing (SEM) and social media strategy, and he spoke to NMK about how organisations can use content to improve their search engine rankings and generate more sales and new business opportunities.
Do you believe that companies have got carried away with focussing on social media rather than focussing on search engine optimisation (SEO) first? How should they balance SEO/content marketing with their social media efforts?
I think companies that chase "shiny object" marketing tactics are forever prone to get "carried away". It certainly makes sense to pay attention to trends and advice from marketers that are competent at experimentation. It also makes sense to tap into monitoring and analytics tools, conduct research and test. Content is the core of all online marketing. Content is the reason search engines exist. Content is often the focus of social sharing and it's frequently the outcome of social engagement.
Online marketing strategy that works well focuses on an understanding of business objectives, customer personas and what mix of tactics and tools are necessary to achieve measurable results. For some companies, that might mean heavy social media participation and content. For other companies it might mean less social media and more email, advertising and content. Finding the right balance results in efficient and high impact marketing results.
What are the basic first steps an organisation should take to migrate to a content-focused marketing department?
A first step would be to answer the "Why?" questions: What do customers want and need that content satisfies? Will satisfying those needs lead to leads, sales and referrals directly or indirectly? Consumer information discovery, consumption and sharing trends have changed significantly because of social technologies. Companies must understand their customer needs and how those customers prefer to discover, consume and share content. Mapping that out into a content strategy creates a blueprint for everything else.
Another step is to take inventory of what content and digital assets are currently available and develop a content strategy and editorial plan for creating new content to fill the gaps move the company forward in terms of meeting consumer needs. With a content-focused marketing department, addressing consumer information needs will lead to the businesses meeting its objectives.
Who’s doing content marketing best so far, B2B or B2C-focussed firms and why?
There are a good number of B2B companies like PRWeb, StrongMail and Marketo that TopRank Marketing consults with that are doing a fantastic job with their content marketing programmes. Other B2B content marketing successes can be found with companies like HubSpot and Radian6 (not clients).
Additionally, our Agency TopRank Online Marketing has been very successful with content marketing via blogging, information guides, presentations and email newsletters. Our own Online Marketing Blog was rated the #1 Content Marketing Blog by Junta42 and the #2 Social Media Blog by Social Media Examiner last month. We also rate in the top 10 marketing blogs online by Advertising Age. The blog content intersects with email Newsletters, Facebook and Twitter to deliver media inquiries, potential employee inquiries and sales leads.
Give us an example of an organisation that’s moved to content marketing and enjoyed success as a result
J&O Fabrics (a TopRank Marketing client) is a brick and mortar fabric retailer in New Jersey that also runs an online store. They were spending more than they wanted on advertising and looked to Search Marketing as a way to reduce ad spend and increase online marketing efficiency. While we started with SEO, their overall online marketing strategy called for adding more content on category pages, product pages and moving an email newsletter to a blog. By understanding their customer needs for "how-to" articles, new content was added to the blog and cross linked to product pages. Organic search traffic increased substantially, resulting in hundreds of top placements for competitive terms in their product mix. Again as a result of knowing their customers, J&O evolved their online marketing strategy to include how-to content on a YouTube channel, a Facebook Page with contests and promotions, and a Twitter account. The vast majority of website traffic is organic search traffic due to content, links and promotion.
What are your top tips for companies looking to get into content marketing?
After an assessment that warrants a content marketing approach, here are a few tips:
1. Identify the types of content that would be most useful for customers in the different phases of the buying cycle
2. Develop a search and social keyword glossary
3. Map keywords to existing content and create and editorial plan for content that you should have
4. Identify the resources you have and will need to "recruit" internally or hire to address content creation needs
5. Develop processes for content creation, optimisation, promotion and planned re-purposing
6. Match goals with some kind of dashboard for reporting and method of extracting insight out of web analytics and social media monitoring to determine effectiveness
7. Implement feedback mechanisms for content creators to reinforce content types/styles that are producing desired results
8. Continue to refine editorial strategy and allow for on-demand and wildcard content opportunities
9. Make an effort to test, refine, repeat and scare what works. Kill what does not.
10. Educate yourself and your team on best practices regularly through books like Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman or Get Content Get Customers by Joe Pulizzi and Newt Barrett. Also conferences, white papers, newsletters and blogs. Assign areas of expertise to different team members instead of trying to learn everything at once.