Whenever the topic of best practices for marketing and SEO comes up, too many people want to throw their hands up in frustration because limited budgets, lack of the right personnel, or finite bandwidth prevents them from accomplishing everything they think they need to do to be successful. Articles and people giving advice are always quick to point out that to get the most out of something, you can’t just skim the surface, you need to take a deeper dive into whatever you’re doing to make it worth your while. Instead of taking an “all or nothing” approach, consider these creative solutions and best hacks for making the resources you have work best for you.
Content Marketing – Tailored For the Small Team
Because there are so many pieces and moving parts associated with content marketing, some people in smaller organizations have given up and declared, “I can’t do it alone”. However, at its core, content marketing is something any size organization can do successfully – by keeping a few best practices in mind.
“Content marketing is just about creating content that your audience wants,” advises Erin O’Brien, COO. “It’s about creating something unique, engaging, informative, or that solves a problem and then making sure your audience can find it.”
From an organic traffic perspective, this means following good SEO practices and avoiding creating spammy content or resorting to spammy practices. Over the past few years, search engine algorithms have morphed to reward good content that serves the needs of users. As long as you know who your audience is and what they’re already searching for, you can create effective content to serve a variety of goals. Once you’ve created a piece of content, leverage that message across mediums and channels to get the most out of the work you’ve already done.
“The Found Friday series that we do is actually a really great example of this,” notes Erin. “The series gave me a way to create content on a regular basis and a way to stay engaged with the audience by providing information on current, relevant topics.”
The premise of the Found Friday series was to broadcast a topical conversation with Ray Grieselhuber, CEO and Founder, or other industry influencers as a live event. The live event is then used as a resource for content creation around the same subject. It can be shared as a video, written up as a blog post, or put into a slide share, or ebook along with content from other episodes around the same subject.
All of this content comes out of one 30 minute episode once a week that’s centered around conversations our audience is already having on social media and around the digital space. Once the content is created, it can be shared, promoted, and re-promoted through email campaigns, on social media, on SlideShare, on YouTube, and on our own website. Any piece of content that is particularly popular can be used in redirect campaigns or may become a topic for advertising copy.
Organic Search Data for Audience Engagement
It’s not so much whether or not to gather and use SEO data for strategic marketing, it’s how to get the data you need with the personnel, tools, time, and budget you already have. Content marketing and SEO data, such as organic traffic data, provide marketers with insights into what target audiences are already looking for on the web. Matching audience needs to content creation is the cornerstone of effective content marketing.
“For example,” states Erin, “If you have a list of keywords that are based on features, and your audience really seems to gravitate towards this one keyword and feature all the time – that may point to either product decisions about where you should be building, or how you should be promoting things. Your decisions will be based on what people are naturally gravitating toward.”
Traffic and search data can also show you where you have created a disconnect with your audience. You may discover that you’re not engaging your audience because of how you’re discussing a topic, how you’re promoting your content, or the quality or consumability of your content. There’s a lot of information that can be gleaned from organic traffic data that you can’t get from paid media results.
Although you might get initial traffic from paid efforts, once you stop paying, you will stop seeing returns. On the other hand, really good evergreen content that has a long life span is more valuable over time than any paid promotion can be.
For brands with limited resources, spending time and money on creating one or two really great pieces of evergreen content that are constantly viewed and considered resources by your target audience will have more value than producing something that’s highly topical and gone in a week or two. Good, evergreen content will continue to show value as you repurpose, re-promote and reuse it over time because you’re pulling your audience in through their own interests instead of pushing them in through paid promotion.
Bare Bones Analytics to Get the Job Done
Data gathering and reporting doesn’t always have to be done on a large scale to be effective, but there are a few critical pieces of information you will need to inform strategic decisions:
- Holistic keywords – keywords broken out by what you want to measure and how your organization is structured. Keywords are the backbone of SEO and will be how you measure content effectiveness. Keywords can be grouped by:
- Pair keywords and content – for each of your keywords, know which piece of content is the best match. Know which piece of content is the most findable for any keyword or topic.
- Improve rankings of existing content. If you’re not ranking on the first page consider:
- Are you targeting the right keywords?
- Have you found some specific phrases or questions your audience is asking?
- Can you get more traffic from the same content in a different medium, such as turning a blog post into a SlideShare?
- What medium (blog post, SlideShare, video, landing page) is ranking on the first page of search for your topic?
- Is your content structured correctly?
To improve the overall structure of your content, fall back on traditional, white hat SEO techniques. Ensure that all the elements within the page are optimized to be found. Sometimes improving headers, tags, and other basic SEO elements can make a big difference – especially when we’re talking about fractions of differences between content and ranking. Making those small adjustments can, at times, give your content the boost it needs.
Marketing, PR, and Sales With an Army of One (or two)
In small organizations, one or two people might be doing it all – from marketing to advertising, to sales, to PR, and maybe some of the SEO. Of course, those of us in small teams want to cut through the clutter and get down to what will make the most difference in the time we have.
Understanding what your audience is looking for, how you’re currently doing it well, and how other people might be doing it better is the backbone of good brand communication. Knowing how you stack up in the market and against your competitors will not only lead to better content marketing practices, it will lead to better advertising, and more effective PR. Creating your messages according to what your audience is already talking about, and how they’re talking about it leads to better messaging strategy and, ultimately, better results from all efforts.
Focusing your efforts on the messaging that you know is working and not putting as much, or any, effort into the messages that aren’t resonating will allow you to spend your time and resources wisely and maximize your impact. The message that resonates is the one you can start to leverage in other areas. If a blog post is getting a lot of traffic, leverage that topic from a PR standpoint, or use keyword phrases in a Google AdWords campaign, Facebook ads, or other content forms such as ebooks and SlideShares, whatever else you’re doing that works with your audience.
“We have a Keyword Activity chart on the homepage of the GinzaMetrics dashboard that shows which keywords are improving in ranking for the week. Besides tracking our improving and declining content and keywords, the chart shows us which of our competitor’s content is improving most for our targeted keywords. I use the tool to see if a competitor has created some content that’s rising in rank around something that I care a lot about. I pay close attention to what they did right because, obviously, they’re resonating with the audience that we share,” notes Erin.
Track competitor content ranking to discover:
- What’s working for your audience in terms of both keywords and content.
- What’s working for your competitors that you can learn from.
- How you can take that messaging and create various types of content.
Of course, you never want to simply copy something your competitor has said, or rewrite a piece of their content, but you can use the topic to develop your own unique and relevant messaging to engage an audience that is already interested in the subject. Using those same messages throughout all of your efforts maximizes everything – your time and your impact.
Not Just More Visitors, the Right Visitors
Counting new visitors and page views is a legitimate way to measure your effectiveness week to week or month to month. For many businesses, just getting one or two of the right visitors who convert can mean the difference in thousands and thousands of dollars. Of course, exposure is very important for overall awareness of your brand. But, when we’re talking about real engagement and visitors that become customers, it’s a lot less about the quantity of the visitor and more about the relevancy.
“If I shoot 10,000 arrows towards a target and they all land somewhere in the general vicinity of it, those aren’t the arrows I care about. I care about the few that made it inside the target and I really care about the one or two that are closest to the bullseye,” explains Erin.
Using keyword groups, specific keyword phrases, and specific keywords as opposed to general keywords and phrases may result in a smaller volume of visitors, but the audience you attract will be more likely to adopt the solution you provide. Your content is likely to convert better because you’re attracting the best possible audience by creating a piece of content that answers a very specific need. If you’re associated with a smaller brand, you will naturally get smaller traffic numbers than a larger, well-known company. The goal is to attract and retain a highly engaged audience and talk to them about solving a specific problem. Focus on competing for conversions instead of simply increased traffic and search volume.
Not All or Nothing – Just Do Some Things Well
For those of us in small teams, it can be frustrating to read articles, or look up information on best practices and be told over and over that if you can’t do it all or you’re not doing it perfectly, you’re wasting your time.
“I’m definitely a proponent of don’t do something if you can’t do it well,” notes Erin. “But there’s a difference between doing something well and doing the entirety of something. It’s like going to the gym. If you can’t go for a full hour, don’t decide you don’t have time for exercise. Get up for ten minutes a day and do something. It’s going to make a difference and you have to start somewhere.”
The analogy holds true for content marketing and SEO. Start with the things that you can do and start showing some wins and then grow from there. Start somewhere and start with what works best. If you find there’s a lot of engagement from your audience on one social media channel, start there. Get the ball rolling and then if you find you have extra time, look to see where else your audience is engaged and start a conversation there.
If you don’t the have resources, be that money, personnel, or time to fully use an analytics platform, look for places where you can get the data you need. It may be with a free tool, or some providers, including GinzaMetrics, will provide you with low-cost, monthly reports. It’s not everything you can get from a platform, and it’s not daily crawls, but it’s a start.
So Get Started
Knowing where to start and what to do to get the most out of initial efforts can be confusing at times. Here are some tips about the first steps and best practices for effective marketing and SEO.
- Create a list of targeted keywords.
- List all the keywords already driving traffic to your content.
- List your feature names, product names, solution names.
- Create a list of your most direct competitors.
- Review their messaging.
- Note what medium they use most successfully (blog, SlideShare, video, etc..).
- Create a discovery board.
- List the social channels where people are asking questions/starting conversations in your industry.
- List the words/phrases they are using.
- Create content to answer their questions.
- Discover what’s working best with the content you already have
- Repurpose the same message in a different medium
- Try distributing your content on different channels
Do you have a marketing or SEO hack that’s worked well for you? Let us know. If you need help getting started with monthly reports, or if you’re ready for a marketing intelligence platform, we can help.