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INTERNATIONAL: Content Marketing — Focus on the Customer

by Debi Hazelden, September 17, 2012

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Many organisations have difficulty creating great content once, let alone creating content on a regular basis. Fresh content helps with your search engine optimisation strategy and also shows your social following that you are active and engaged in the industry.

Most people neglect how search engine optimisation and social media can advance engagement between the buyers and what the brand offers. It can be an opportunity to provide new and helpful information to current and potential customers.

While many businesses struggle to come up with content ideas, it’s a good idea to create an editorial calendar to organise a steady flow of content. Brainstorm ideas and put together a spread sheet of what will be created and on what date.

Below is a diagram of what your content strategy might look like:

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Research Customer Segments

It’s important to understand your consumers and the people you are trying to reach with your marketing campaign. You need to understand your customer's:

  • Online information discovery patterns.
  • Consumption.
  • Engagement preferences.

Find out how your consumers discover and seek out the resources that motivate them. Know the social platforms they are active on and tools they use to engage and recommend things. You need to be proactive, adaptive and have an integrated approach.

Most organisations get by with disconnected SEO tactics and a difficult to measure social media strategy. The challenge for many is to create high-quality content on a regular basis over a long period of time.

Keyword Research

Perform keyword research to find the keywords that attract targeted traffic to your website. Start by brainstorming a list of seed keywords, and use important keyword modifiers, Google Suggest, Google Insights and keyword research tools to expand on these and come out with a list of relevant keywords to target.

Theme your keywords and also categorise these into the three stages of purchasing something: hunting, shopping or buying terms -- what is the intent of each keyword?

Hunting: The hunting stage has recently shifted from search to asking people on social media. The whole front end of traffic that used to hunt using Google has moved to Facebook. Social has become the stage before search.

Shopping: Help customers refine their purchasing needs; understand and educate through search and social media.

Buying: Customers buy products through organic search, paid search and social media. Customer loyalty can be built up through social media.

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You can also work out the estimated market share your website has for each buying cycle to find where you have opportunities. Use the total search volume from Google AdWords and the actual traffic for each keyword to see where your opportunities are within the decision process.

Content Strategy

You need to understand your customer needs across the buying cycle: hunting, shopping and buying. Connect relevant stories with interested customers and this will lead to shorter sales cycles, better customer relationships and more word of mouth.

Create content for each buying cycle to capture this traffic (e.g., hunting: guide pages; shopping: comparison pages; buying: quote pages).

Find a Competitive Advantage

Use out-of-the-box creative, analytical and lateral thinking to proactively solve marketing problems and find a competitive advantage. How can your company differentiate itself from its competitors? At the same time, sync messaging to engage and influence people so the brand becomes the most relevant solution for their category.

Best Practices

  • Use keyword research to optimise internal content.
  • Gather data.
  • Assess competitors weaknesses. Competitors are anything that takes the attention off your content.
  • Monitor search results and the content mix over time.
  • Are you being discussed? What are the questions?
  • Who is saying what? Where are they saying this?
  • What relevant topics are being covered?
  • Rogue employees talking?
  • Where is the noise? Which social media websites are being used and who are the influencers?
  • Are competitors being discussed? What are they saying?
  • Find answers and interact socially. Customers are not interested in interruption marketing, they want to be educated and entertained.
  • Educate at all stages of the buying cycle, not only the product but how to buy the product.
  • Follow a logical conclusion to buy.

Content Plans

Plan your content, take a look through your existing content and check where the gaps are. Create an editorial calendar and prioritise where there is a high degree of interest and relevance. Incorporate other marketing activities and promote content socially.

Example content types include:

  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Blogs
  • Case studies
  • Newsletters
  • Social content

Publishing options include:

  • Syndication
  • Social networks
  • Video sharing
  • Industry publications
  • Email / newsletter
  • Syndication

Social platforms include:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • YouTube
  • Flickr
  • Newsletters
  • Slideshare

Content Creation Options

There are many different ways to find ideas to create fresh, useful content. Survey customers to find out what they are interested in learning, or look at Yahoo! Answers to find questions people are asking. Ask your customer service staff to take note of frequent questions or check what people are asking you and your competitors through social media.

  • Analytics: Take a look through your analytics and see what the popular keyword searches are, and if you could capitalise on this by creating new content for specific keywords. Also look at the most popular articles in Analytics; perhaps create more content around a popular topic or create a sequel to a popular blog post.
  • Internal site search: Track your internal site search using Google Analytics and use this information for new content ideas.

Optimise and Promote

Search Optimisation is Critical

Remember that what can be searched can be optimised. Search is the best opportunity to connect customers with your brand content! Companies need a holistic content marketing and search engine optimisation program to drive diversity of content and media types as well as inbound links.

There are a few things marketers can do to make their business information and digital assets easier for search engines to find and index, including:

  • Rich snippets and microformats (structured data),
  • Feeds (RSS).
  • Sitemaps (XML and HTML).
  • Files types that search engines are able to index.

As long as there are search engines and internal search capability on websites, optimisation will be imperative for improving the performance of marketing from a content perspective.

Optimise for Your Customers

More isn’t always better. Content needs to be visible in places where customers might be looking for it, or be likely to be influenced by it. If content is placed in the right spots, it also means a better experience and more customer interactions.

  • Give customers the information they want in the formats they will respond to.
  • Content needs to educate, influence and inspire action; it is the mechanism for story-telling!

Be Seen in All the Right Places

More content isn’t always better. The content you create needs to be visible in the right places. Place content where customers might be looking or might be influenced by it. This means a better experience for the customer and a higher rate of interactions.

Purchasing a product is just the start of a social engagement with the customer. This social interaction needs to extend across the life cycle that takes the customer to evangelist of the brand.

Make the effort to discover your customer’s experiences through search and social media and evaluate what works and what does not to ensure ongoing optimisation.

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Top Takeaways

  • Research your customers to find out where they hang out online and what they are interested in learning about. 
  • Complete keyword research to find the keywords your customers are using. Categorise these into the three buying cycles — hunting, shopping, and buying — and make sure you have content on the website to target the users in each phase. 
  • Brainstorm ideas and create an editorial calendar to cover all buying cycles. 
  • Engage and share valuable content with your customers on their social platforms. Building customer loyalty through great customer relationships and ultimately create shorter buying cycles for your business.

For permission to reprint or reuse any materials, please contact us. To learn more about our authors, please visit the Bruce Clay Authors page. Copyright © 2012 Bruce Clay, Inc.