While many elements of online marketing have changed over the years, content marketing is one that has more or less stayed the same. Sure, we have different ways of sharing that content. One example is social media marketing, which has become a powerhouse and continues to grow as new platforms gain popularity. But, the use of content remains consistent at its core, giving us what is perhaps the most stable form of marketing available.
That doesn’t mean there has been no change in how content is marketed. Just the way it has shifted to fit an expanding web has shifted both the way information is presented, and how it is received by the reader.
What Is Content Marketing?
A better question (and a harder one to answer) is ‘What is content?’. In the past, this was not a question at all because we had a very solid definition for what content entailed. Once upon a time, content was regarded as information published by experts (journalists and public figures, or novelists). Experts were someone who had a sturdy history behind them, in a particular area, and they had used this as a foundation to build their credibility.
Today, we have a much different definition of what constitutes content. Anyone can make it, anyone can publish it. More importantly, anyone can establish themselves as an expert by using it. Now, the implication of that fact used to make others nervous. One example is the initial reaction of journalists to the political or event bloggers that were popping up on the web a decade ago. As of today, a fair amount of content shared by news sources has actually been broken by those very same bloggers.
Since the definition of content has changed, the definition is much broader than it ever was before. Content, in the context of the online world, can be anything, from an article to a photo. As long as it holds relevance to readers, and it has the potential to spread through social media, I would argue that it is content. And so, it is perfect for content marketing.
You can find an interesting article on content prior to 2004 at Content Marketing Experience.
Again, What Is Content Marketing?
Because of the evolution mentioned above, content marketing is much easier to define. It is simply using whatever content you publish on the web as a means of generating visibility and monetizing those views. There are definitely better ways to put it… Here are a few great definitions I have come across:
Zemanta: “content marketing is creating and sharing valuable, relevant content with prospects for the purpose of turning them into customers and regular buyers.”
Rand Fishkin (this one is GOLD): “Content marketing isn’t just about attracting customers. It’s about attracting and appealing to anyone who might influence (!) a potential customers.”
Quora: “content marketing is the umbrella of all techniques that are used to generate traffic, leads, online visibility, and brand awareness/fidelity.”
- Content marketing versus content strategy as discussed at Quora
- 5 Ways to use Content Marketing to Build Your Authority Status by great Jennifer Mattern at DirJournal
That being said, content marketing is all kinds of marketing you already know – done through content.
Basic Content Marketing Channels
How you actually “market” is going to vary, but you should be utilizing the basic tools for anyone on the net:
No matter what you have heard, SEO is not going anywhere. It remains the main tool for marketing your content online because search engines are still able to provide your glamorous content with steady exposure.
Perhaps my favorite quote on this topic came from James Gurd in a recent interview with eConsultancy. “Content Marketing is not SEO, but it is complementary and should be integrated.” He makes a good point, and it should be a lesson to those who mistake SEO as spam, when used with quality content.
Another thing to mention here is of course Google Authorship – which is verifying your authorship with Google. It’s not yet a ranking factor, but it can definitely boost the exposure of your content since verified content shows the author’s photo in search results and thus increases its click-through!
Link building has evolved incredibly. Now it’s no longer cool to say “build links” – we say “attract links” or even “deserve links”… And the best way to “attract” links is… right: Through awesome content people keep referring to!
Content-focused link building tactics include:
- Ego-bait (and various types of it; here’s a good case study: How I Got an 80% Success Rate on My Latest Outreach Campaign)
- Guest blogging
Social Media Sharing
This is the big one. Go to your Facebook friend feed and see how many third-party links are being shared. How often have you shared links to content yourself? The two forms of marketing go hand in hand, and I see them as an extension of one another. You should have social media profiles across major and niche communities, and you should be using them to spread content as far as possible.
Tools and further reading:
- Kikolani’s eBook on promoting each piece of content as well as Dan Zarrella’s “Science of ReTweets”
- Viral Content Bizz to get essential core votes to get the word out
Content Marketing Channels
Because content types may vary broadly (moreover, you can re-package your content into many types), there are lots of specific channels where you can market your content. Below listed are just a few possible channels – what’s more important is that there’s a third-party case study with each channel that you can use to learn how to market your content there and sky rocket your strategy!
One of the most amazing bloggers on YouTube is Lisa Irby. Her content is always immensely useful. Check out one of her recent video, for example, that introduces content promotion tactics. It’s a must for everyone building websites for profit!
Lisa is an excellent example of a great content marketer. Read her tutorial and personal case study on using YouTube as a content marketing channel!
Slideshare is one of the most under-utilized content marketing channels. Everyone starting a project is rushing up to create a Google Plus page and a Twitter account but how about utilizing and re-using your own presentations?
Read this very detailed guide “How to Milk SlideShare Homepage for All the Traffic You Can Handle” from Anna Hoffman as well as her personal stats!
Have you ever heard podcasting is about to die? Never believe it! People still love listening to what you have to say – especially while on the go!
If you do videos or Google Hangouts, podcasting is another brilliant idea to reuse that content to another channel: iTunes!
Michael Stelzner is one of the best examples of brilliant podcasters. Here’s his own guide starting a successful podcast.
What Is The Future of Content Marketing?
It is hard to say, but I would venture a guess that it will more or less stay the same. Providing high quality content is the consistent root that has never evolved. Low quality content has always been seen as spam for SEO manipulation, and search engines have been adapting to catch it. This has led spammers to switch to scraping articles to sell as their own, a problem Google addressed with the creation of Google Authorship.
This shows a pattern: content marketing and production will remain steady and the same, but the standards for finding scams will continue to adapt. All you have to worry about is writing high quality content, publishing it with authentication, and waiting for the benefits.
>>> Further reading: “Content marketing trends”
To me, content marketing comes down to one principle: If you make something good, people will like it. If they like it, they will share it. Nothing in that rule is difficult to understand and it is a simple principle to follow. You should just be doing what you should have been all along-> providing readers with something awesome they will want to show others.
What do you think of content marketing? Let us know in the comments.