Content marketing is an effective way for small businesses to gain a leg up on their competition. It provides the means by which a small brand can gain the trust of its audience and generate valuable leads. In a world where large corporations have seemingly endless resources with which to market, small businesses need every possible weapon in their arsenal. Content marketing is a way for a business to take its future into its own hands, become viable and grow.
What Is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is the use of targeted content for promoting a brand, products, and services. It involves communicating valuable content to an audience that has a specific interest or pain point. Although content marketing pertains mostly to digital means of communication, a printed publication is a form of offline content marketing.
How Small Business Owners Can Benefit from Content Marketing
The two primary goals of any small business are to bring in sales and grow its brand recognition with potential new customers. Content marketing is a strategy that helps achieve both goals. The benefits of a sound content marketing strategy are enough to boost a small business to the head of its niche.
Improve Search Engine Rankings
Search engines like Google and Bing rank websites on the internet using algorithms. A bot is sent to scan each website and give it a score in accordance with the standards placed by the search engines. Google's goal is to present its users with the most relevant content for the topics they search for.
On the flip side, business owners try and adhere to Google's standards and preferences in an effort to rank at the top of results. This requires adjusting meet the requirements of the search engines. The trick, however, is figuring out what exactly Google is looking for.
Search engines do not explicitly state what criteria they use in ranking websites. Beyond a handful of general guidelines, it is up to website owners to arrive at the best possible structure through trial and error.
Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process by which website owners cause their online property to climb the rankings. The closer a business's website appears to the top of search results, the more leads it will generate.
SEO involves a multitude of actions that come together to produce a successful strategy that generates revenue. Selecting a good domain name for a business comes before the creation of the website itself. Getting other websites to link back to a business's site is also important. Overall, guaranteeing a good user experience for website visitors should be at the forefront of a small business owners SEO.
While many other factors contribute to SEO, posting content that adds value to a relevant audience is the most effective strategy. The more valuable content a business publishes on its website, the larger the net it will cast in the sea of potential customers.
Writing quality content involves having proficiency in the subject matter. It also requires keyword research. Each article published needs to contain terms and phrases, called keywords, that the search engine will use to determine the substance of the content. Every business has a main keyword as well as many related keywords. A keyword comprised of three or four words (or more) is called a long-tail keyword.
For example, an accounting firm's main keyword may be the word 'accounting.' Assuming the accounting firm is based in Tulsa and aims to acquire clients from the local area, relevant keywords include:
For starters, most small businesses should focus on five to ten main keywords. In the specific example, the total list of relevant keywords may grow to over a hundred terms. By creating informational content on each keyword, the firm can target internet users searching for solutions on these terms.
When a business creates high-quality content that helps prospective clients solve a problem, search engines like Google reward the website. Google monitors user behavior and looks for use patterns that correspond with customer satisfaction. If a user types in a term, clicks a link in the search results and consumes the content, this tells Google that the user is satisfied.
Google measures user satisfaction by looking at certain metrics that govern user experience. How long users spend on a business's website, how many different pages they visit, and how they engage with the content determines how Google will rank the site.
The higher a website ranks for a keyword, the greater the share of clicks it gathers from the total users that search for that specific keyword. With almost 30% of users clicking on the first Google result, it's obvious that small businesses would want top billing.
Reaching the top result for a keyword isn't something that happens overnight. Search engine optimization is an ongoing process and achieving a top result can take up to a year. It's reassuring to know that users visit results other than the top one. While a business waits for its SEO efforts to bear fruits, it will still be able to obtain visitors as the website rises through the list of results.
A successful content marketing strategy helps a small business build authority in its field. Large corporations spend millions of dollars to cement themselves in the minds of consumers as leaders in their niches. They buy brand equity by bombarding the market with advertising on the internet and offline.
Small businesses don't have that luxury. They can, however, create value by publishing content that provides solutions to pain points. An HVAC firm that teaches its audience to conduct basic maintenance helps homeowners save money. People appreciate it when someone helps them.
Furthermore, a business that exhibits its ability to help its audience builds authority in people's minds. Consumers are more likely to trust a business that has helped them in the past. A business that shows its competence through its content positions itself as an authority in its space.
Sales are the lifeblood of any business. Small enterprises are even more dependent on their ability to generate leads that turn into sales. Content can play an integral role in guaranteeing sales.
This is especially true in today's competitive digital environment. Simply launching a website with a handful of pages describing the company isn't enough. Small businesses need to capture the interest of their target markets by appealing to consumers' needs.
Product reviews are a great way for consumers to become better acquainted with a business's products or services. One of the top concerns potential buyers have is the degree of certainty to which they can trust a product. An extensive product review can educate prospects on the item's features. It can also inform prospects what benefits they will enjoy by purchasing the product.
A business that sells fireplaces, for example, won't find much success in merely displaying their products with a brief description. On the other hand, if the business were to focus on all aspects surrounding home heating, sales will skyrocket. In this case, content ideas include:
Not only will the company generate sales through building a loyal clientele, but it'll be increasing its potential revenue sources. It can diversify its catalog to include kits for sealing air leaks. There is also room for an affiliate partnership with a provider of fireplace wood. Expanding its services to include maintenance or removal and disposal of old fireplaces is a possibility.
This can all be achieved through the use of easily readable, educational content followed by a strong call to action. To close a sale, the prospect needs to be called upon to complete a specific task.
Calls to action vary by how far away from a sale the prospect remains. For instance, “Add to Cart” is one click before the purchase is complete. A second call to action will be required after that. Something like: “Pay Now” or “Check Out Now” will call upon the user to close the sale.
Other calls to action may ask the visitor to sign up for a newsletter, submit a request for a consultation or agree to receive push notifications. In these calls to action, the prospect is being placed into different points of the sales funnels. The end goal remains the same: converting the prospect into a customer.
Reduce Marketing Budget
Large manufacturers and service providers have nearly endless funds they can use to promote their brands. It isn't wise for small businesses to try and compete with large competitors dollar for dollar in the advertising space.
However, advertising competition can be inefficient even between small businesses. Ad costs can skyrocket as small enterprises vie for the same pool of consumers. The Law of Diminishing Returns dictates that such competition will cause a smaller return on investment as the businesses ramp up their advertising efforts.
Furthermore, ads are only displayed when they are being paid for. When a campaign runs out of funds, the audience doesn't see them and isn't receptive to making purchases. Web Content, on the other hand, is available at all hours of the day and during every season. As long as a potential client has a need and can run an internet search, they will come across organic content.
Enhance the Effectiveness of Paid Campaigns
Not only does content marketing reduce the need for robust advertising budgets but it makes paid campaigns more efficient. When businesses run ads, the prospect is privy to a short message in the ad. By directing your prospective customer to an informational landing page or video presentation, the additional content works synergistically with the ad.
A small business with a large content catalog is worth more as a brand than one without any content. Consider the example of two Italian restaurants in the same city. One restaurant has a three-page website with the following sections: About, Menu and Contact. The second has a blog where it provides historical information on its recipes, ingredient profiles and presentations of staff members.
Of course, factors such as food quality and reputation factor into any comparison. However, a person conducting a Google search on their mobile phone will likely choose to dine at the second restaurant. The second business owner has taken the time to build their brand equity and it shows in their online presence.
Create Income Streams
Content marketing opens a business up to new potential income streams. A weekly blog post can easily lead to the development of a paid newsletter service or additional offerings. A gym that provides its patrons with a free monthly newsletter can sell personal training sessions through their digital communication. It can also sell a weekly meal plan that can be tailored to each customer's specifications and stats. What upsells could your business be making more of?
Income streams can arise from opportunities that content marketing provides which would be otherwise impossible. In the example of the gym, training sessions and meal plans can be sold at
the gym. However, offering an app that helps people in their daily regimens can be built into a business of its own. Fitness competitions, championships and excursions can all grow from a dedicated content strategy. These additional services can place a gym ahead of its competition and build new revenue streams and new spin-off businesses altogether.
Brick and mortar businesses can expand by providing training, online service and support, education, and even entertainment. The possibilities for new revenue streams are limited only by the business owner's imagination.
Expose Business to Other Market Segments
Most small businesses have a small scope within which they operate. Due to their budget or smaller staff, it's difficult to service a wide range of needs. As a business grows, the potential for expanding into related niches becomes more viable.
Content marketing allows small businesses to explore the potential of delving into other niches or markets. The ability to measure the effectiveness of content through data, known as analytics, allows for an audience's interests to be identified.
A shoe store may elect to broaden its offerings to a wider audience. Including clothing and accessories can increase sales and bring more customers through the door. This can be done gradually or as part of a rebranding on the part of the store owner. Publishing content on how the new products complement the customers' style can tie the new products in with the shoes that current customers are familiar with.
Target More Specific Segments
Contrary to the previous benefit, content marketing can also be used to drill down into more specific sub-niches. By tailoring content to specific topics, business owners can determine which new market segments are ripe for the picking.
For example, a belt-making business can explore new products by posting articles on other types of accessories. If a series of posts on gun holsters gains traction and the analytics support it, catering to gun owners shouldn't be a big inconvenience in terms of production. On the contrary, it may prove to be more profitable. In this respect, publishing content is an efficient way of conducting product and market research.
Types of Content to Use
Content comes in many forms. Different audiences will respond differently to each form of content. It is in the interest of the business owner to determine which types of content suit their business best.
Blog posts are very versatile. They allow businesses to devote attention to specific topics and analyze them thoroughly. They may include images, embedded video, and infographics to make the information more visually appealing.
Writing engaging blog posts is a way of increasing a brand's visibility while strengthening SEO. By doing adequate keyword research and including actionable information, a blog can turn lukewarm visitors into rabid clients.
Social Media Posts
Social media posts are similar to blog posts but reside on the platforms where they are published. Due to the constant flow of information on social media sites, any content posted is relatively temporary. Exposure depends on the number of users that will see the post shortly after submission. With tens of millions of users posting daily on social media networks, it is easy for any single piece of content to get lost in the noise associated with newsfeeds.
While having a presence on social media is recommended, small businesses should choose their battles wisely. Spending time and effort on a platform that isn't productive for a business should be avoided. Facebook is good for most businesses while Instagram and Pinterest can be rewarding for businesses with plenty of visual content. B2B providers should focus on LinkedIn as a general rule of thumb.
Lists are a popular form of content that never gets old. Websites like Buzzfeed base their entire existence on lists as this type of content is among the most shared on the internet. Small businesses can create viral lists that are relevant to their target audiences. A list that gains traction on social media can spread a message wider and faster than any other type of written content.
Lists don't necessarily need to be in text format. Slideshows, animated GIFs and videos are compelling methods of creating eye-grabbing lists. The most effective lists tie the consumer's needs to the business and its offering.
Infographics take complex information and simplify it in a visually appealing way. Statistics, processes, and product features can be displayed in intuitive graphics. Due to their user-friendly nature, infographics can go viral on social media and bring a windfall of sales.
Interactive content is a way to engage customers on a website. User participation is a way of pre-qualifying a sale. When a website visitor spends time interacting with a brand, they become invested and are more likely to move forward with a purchase.
A contact form is the simplest way if interacting with prospects. However, more engaging methods of capturing a potential customer's interest are usually necessary to produce conversions.
In the example of the gym used earlier, an app that produces training programs based on the user's inputs would go a long way. An accounting firm could create a tax calculator. A guitar store might offer a function that converts sheet music to guitar tablature.
With video content accounting for approximately 80% of internet traffic in the United States, it's safe to say that it is a popular medium. Mobile devices make video content accessible to virtually any audience.
Videos can provide solutions to a target audience's pain-points. When internet users are searching for a solution to a problem, a well-made video attracts the consumer's attention.
Video content can also take on the form of a documentary-style presentation of a brand. Consumers are always eager to get a look behind the scenes. A glimpse of a production process or the company can make people feel safer about their purchase.
For brands that can pull it off, humor is a great way of generating leads. Offering a feel-good note to people's day can build powerful brand equity as long as the content of the video is successfully tied back to the business.
Podcasts are exploding in popularity. If a business is active in a niche with enthusiastic participants, a podcast can strengthen the bond between a brand and its audience. Coming up with podcast episode ideas is easy and the equipment necessary requires minimal investment.
With people eager to learn more about their interests, interviews with industry experts can provide endless episode ideas. Furthermore, podcasts do not require a large time investment. A weekly one-hour episode is enough to generate interest in a brand. By uploading on multiple podcast streaming platforms, the episodes will be easily accessible and widely shared by loyal followers.
When done right, newsletters are a valuable weapon in a business's content marketing arsenal. They help small businesses stay in regular contact with their clientele.
The key to a successful newsletter is finding the optimal frequency. Sending out one communication a month may be enough for some niches but be too infrequent for others. That's why it's important to get audience feedback and adjust accordingly.
Without an attention-grabbing title, a newsletter doesn't have a chance of achieving its purpose. Newsletters need to be as personalized as possible and elicit an emotional response. The goal of sending out a communication to audiences is to build on their enthusiasm, not hassle them with needless blabber. Businesses that get this concept right end up making newsletters an integral part of their brands.
Implementing a Content Marketing Plan
As with any successful plan, content marketing that produces results requires planning, monitoring and evaluation.
Determining Business Goals
Valuable content is great for audiences. However, the business needs to be clear on what its goals are when engaging in a content-centered strategy. Potential business goals include increasing revenue, reducing expenses, growing active customer lists, and building brand equity. The more specific the goals, the easier it will be to build the mechanics for implementing and monitoring the process.
Settling on KPIs
Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, are metrics that measure the progress toward an intended business result. They provide the focus for strategic decisions that have the potential to benefit a company.
Effective KPIs provide evidence of progress towards a goal. They track the efficiency of a strategy and offer comparisons that demonstrate the degree of progress.
KPIs that are useful for content marketing include:
Defining Target Audiences
For a small business to remain sustainable, it needs to focus on market segments that will ensure its profitability. This requires homing in on target audiences that have the desire to purchase from the business but also have the financial ability to do so.
For example, most people dream of owning a luxury automobile but not everyone has the purchasing power to buy one. A Ferrari dealership would be wasting a lot of time and effort by writing content intended for the general public. Instead, creating an exclusive blog for the affluent will prove to be a much more profitable strategy.
Business owners can determine target audiences depending on several factors. Disposable income is one but not the end-all-be-all. Demographics, location, and degree of specialization are all criteria that can differentiate audience segments. This requires market research as well as a detailed look at what the competition is doing.
Selection of Content Channels
A business can create the most compelling content and still fail in its marketing strategy. This can happen due to selecting the wrong channels through which to promote the content. Not only are there a multitude of content types but there are also many ways to distribute content.
Facebook, YouTube and Instagram are three of the major social media platforms. Services like Pinterest and LinkedIn are also potential channels for publishing content online. Furthermore, there are many blogs on which small business owners can guest post. Online influencers provide another outlet for a business's content. Doing adequate research into the strengths of each channel and how they apply to a business is key in succeeding with content marketing.
Establishing a Schedule
The internet is a superhighway of communication and millions of pieces of content run through it each second. For a small business to succeed in getting its message across, it needs to publish its content at the most opportune times.
Whether it's social media or e-mail, the constant flow of content on people's screens is overwhelming. For a small business to make its mark, it needs to attract users in the small window of opportunity that the prospect is likely to respond. It is like trying to catch the attention of someone who works shifts and spends most of their free time in the outdoors. Catching them at home requires the luck of the draw.
However, by tracking down the person's work schedule and reading a weather report, the period in which they are likely to be at home is narrowed down. This mindset can be transferred to content marketing.
For example, an agency that offers credit improvement services may find it more effective to target its audience at times of the month when people are expected to be low on cash. This normally occurs at the end of the month when most people have paid their fixed expenses. Furthermore, the days following holiday seasons may also be good times for such an agency to publish content. Consumers are more likely to be conscious of their credit after having maxed out their credit cards.
Content creation is the easiest part of the process and also the most time-consuming. Some content requires more research and preparation than others. There is also editing, and proof-reading involved. Large corporations have departments that constantly flesh out huge amounts of content in all forms. A small business doesn't have this luxury and content creation often falls on the back of the owner or employees.
A viable solution for small businesses is to hire a content marketing firm. Entrepreneurs should conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine what suits their company best. Often, it is much more efficient for a small business to partner with a specialist and reap the benefits of leveraging someone else's expertise.
Finding the right content marketing formula requires a lot of trial and error. It also means that best practices are adopted as soon as possible while ineffective strategies are rejected. This is done through A/B testing.
A/B testing is when two different versions are run side by side to determine which one is more effective. In the case of a newsletter, a business might send one version of a newsletter to a segment of its list and another version to a second segment. By monitoring metrics such as open rate and conversions, concrete conclusions can be drawn about the best tactics to pursue.
In this example, experiments can focus on subject lines, tone of voice, font, images, and any other aspect of the mailing. The same can be done with blog posts and videos. By isolating an element and testing it, business owners can find what works for their specific target audience.
Tracking and Benchmarking
If the proper KPIs are set, tracking metrics can lead to meaningful conclusions regarding content marketing. It is important to keep a regular account of the effectiveness of the business's content to ensure that time and resources are not wasted.
Benchmarking against industry standards offers a way of measuring how a business is doing compared to its competition. If a small business puts out three blog posts a month, but its competition published eight posts on average, it may be time to recalibrate the posting schedule.
Keeping track of metrics will help determine the exact course corrections to be made. In the aforementioned case, it may not be clear which amount of monthly blog posts is optimal. It may be that three posts per month offer better results than eight. Benchmarking will help identify counterintuitive changes.
Evaluating and Repeating
An additional benefit of keeping meticulous track of metrics is the ability to reproduce results. A small business needs to know what factors contribute to its content marketing success to repeat them in future postings.
If a business publishes a hundred posts and five are successful, these particular posts need to be analyzed. There is no need for a small business to blindly spend countless man-hours producing content only to blindly arrive at a handful of effective posts.
Finding a Content Marketing Specialist
Content marketing is extremely profitable and cost-effective when done right. As with anything in business, successful content marketing requires the greatest effort and expertise. Most small business owners spend the majority of their time on their enterprise's daily operations. Implementing a winning content marketing strategy can detract from focusing on mission-critical operations.
For business owners that don't have the time for content marketing but want to create value for their organization, hiring a specialist is an ideal solution. Using an agency that specializes in content marketing removes the learning curve associated with the strategy.
To hire the best SEO agency for a small business's needs, owners should find a knowledgeable provider. The agency needs to prove its competence through a list of successful projects it has implemented. Nothing displays mastery of the content marketing sphere more than real case studies and testimonials.
Las Vegas SEO Experts
Las Vegas has a vibrant and growing economy with many businesses vying for customers. Result-driven content marketing calls for small businesses to focus on helping users. Red Zone SEO stands out with their work for small business owners and webmasters all over the world. Red Zone SEO offers a Premium SEO service that includes:
Located in Henderson, NV, Red Zone SEO is listed on Clutch and is accredited with the BBB with an A level rating. You can conduct a website audit for free on their website. They are focused on helping their clients position their businesses at the top of the search results for their niches most profitable keyword phrases.