Content marketing is witnessing a steady growth in adoption across various industries. According to a 2017 Content Marketing Institute report, close to a fifth of all B2B businesses spend between 10% to 24% of their marketing budget on content.
At the outset, this does not make a lot of sense. Content marketing is typically used to bring visitors from search engines and social media channels. Each of these referral platforms has limited ‘real estate’ in terms of visibility. For instance, more than 90% of Google search users do not scroll past the first page of the result. So unless your content is in the top 10 results, it goes unseen.
So why exactly is content such an important channel for marketing? Are businesses ROI positive with this strategy or is this another platform marketers spend money on simply because ‘others are doing it’? Let’s take a look.
The three key objectives of content marketing
As it is with any other form of marketing, content too, needs specific objectives in order to deliver results. Every piece of content, be it blog posts, infographics, videos or podcasts that your organization creates must help meet any one of these three key objectives – lead generation, SEO or branding.
If the content you create is not aimed at building search visibility, generate leads or build your brand, then it perhaps is not generating positive ROI.
As we mentioned earlier in this article, Google search results (or Bing for that matter) has limited real estate in terms of the content that is shown on the first page. However, to be one of the ten pages ranking for your preferred keyword, it is important to build backlinks and authority to the page you want to rank for.
There are two types of backlinks that need to be built – internal and external. Take the example of a highly competitive keyword like “CRM software”. Most of the pages ranking for this search term on Google (like this CRM page on SoftwareSuggest) are listing pages that rank various third party CRM tools based on ratings and reviews.
For them to rank on Google, these pages will need to build lots of internal and external links. So while the blog sections of these websites may not have too many blog posts that rank high on Google, they help in building valuable internal links to the primary listings page.
Backlinks from other websites are another important driver of search engine visibility. For example, the author bio section on guest posts contains links to the website owned by the author. Links such as this help in SEO. Content marketing with the help of guest posts like this one is aimed at building such external backlinks.
Content marketing is very often used to capture leads for your business. The premise of the strategy is this – you publish content that appeals to a very niche subset of your customer base. This content is then promoted through social media, email newsletters and also sometimes through search.
Targeted users who land up on your blog post this way are then directed to sign up for a newsletter or download a “lead magnet” in exchange for their lead information.
Content produced for leads is most commonly published on your company blogs. This gives marketers the freedom to decide what kind of lead magnets to showcase and how. Take a look at this article talking about what window cleaners earn in various parts of the UK. The content angle makes it highly attractive for traffic from both social media channels and search engines.
Visitors who make to the page, either way, are then nudged to get a quote for their window cleaning insurance policy.
Content aimed at generating leads does not always have to be blog posts. Videos are becoming an important source of lead generation in recent times. However, since this content is predominantly distributed through third-party platforms like YouTube or Facebook, the Call-To-Action is limited mostly to links in the video description. The conversion rate on such pieces of content is thus likely to be lower.
While lead-generating pieces of content are mostly focused on internal distribution channels, content targeted at brand-building focus on external channels. The objective here is simple – to reach out to target customers who are not yet part of your marketing funnel. By distributing content over third-party platforms, you may reach prospective customers who may be interested in your content and get to know your brand in the process.
As a marketer, this aspect of content marketing is the most exciting because it gives you a lot of freedom to test and track. In recent times, many businesses have started experimenting with their own podcasts, YouTube channels, and self-published books. The understanding here is that as long as you publish content that reaches your target market, it’s a brand-building effort well done.
That also echoes the possible futility of this marketing strategy. Building a brand is a long term strategy. At the same time, it is difficult to measure brand equity with the same objective metrics that marketers use to measure lead conversion rate or SEO rank improvement.Add to this the fact that a bigger brand does not always mean improved sales.You will still need to focus on lead generation and conversion rates to monetize your visitors.
This makes brand building the most dispensable format of content marketing. It is most popular among businesses with disposable marketing budgets. Bootstrapped businesses seldom use content marketing to build their brand.
In conclusion, it is important to remember that writing a blog or producing a video costs money and the ROI of such efforts need to be immaculately measured. Identifying your business priorities and investing in the right form of content is thus critical to ensure positive ROI on your content marketing campaigns.
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