Your website serves as your business’s digital identity on the internet. It provides a format for you to list your products and services, a little bit of information about your company and its founders, perhaps an address to your physical storefront, and a means of contact for customers who want to get in touch with you.
What if I told you your website could accomplish so much more? Chances are, you’re not taking advantage of your digital footprint in the world and, in so doing, your business is missing out on organic traffic that’s interested in what you offer (more on that later).
I want you to do something before you keep reading this post. If your website utilizes some form of analytics service that tracks incoming visitors, load it up (if not, you’ll need to do some educated guesswork). I want you to look at the data for last month and note how many unique visitors came to your site. Then I want you to compare that number to how many returning visitors came back to your site. I’m guessing it’s only a small percentage of visitors that returned to your site. If my guess is wrong, you’re doing something right, but the advice in this post will help you make both of those numbers even higher.
Typical Business Websites
When I began my freelance career, I scoped out dozens of local businesses I intended to pitch my services to and found their websites were all fairly similar. The navigation menu looked something like:
Home | About | Menu/Products/Services/Buy/Store | Contact Us
Every once-in-awhile, I’d stumble upon a business’s website with a navigation menu that had a little special something:
Home | About | Menu/Products/Services/Buy/Store | Contact Us | Blog
The main service I offer clients is writing blog content for them (and this post will explain why that’s a great service for businesses). Naturally, I’d glide my mouse cursor over to the “Blog” link and click it, only to be presented with a blog that either hadn’t been set up yet or with a post from 2014 as the blog’s most recent update.
Let’s come up with an example and say your business sells computer parts. Let’s name this fictional company as “ABC PC.” For this example, it doesn’t matter whether or not you have a physical store; we’re just going to focus on your website. It obviously has a home page, where you might have the most recent sales or featured products displayed. There’s probably an About page that talks about why the company was started, the leadership and management team, and your mission statement. There’s a storefront that lists all of the products you have for sale, each with a small description of specifications and uses. Then there’s a Contact Us page with a form or link to an email for customer complaints and suggestions and other pertinent contact information.
Sounds like a typical website, right? You get sales through it and the website gives your business a digital presence. Nothing wrong with that.
But you’re overlooking content marketing and what it can do for your business, primarily through a blog.
What is Content Marketing?
The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as:
a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
Instead of pitching your products or services, you are providing truly relevant and useful content to your prospects and customers to help them solve their issues.
According to the above definition, do you think our example website serves as content marketing?
How might people get to ABC PC’s site? If they know of your company, customers would go direct to your site by typing in the .com. You’d probably get some customers to your site by searching for obvious keywords or phrases: “pc parts”, “computer parts for sale”, “where to buy pc components”. But what about people who aren’t specifically looking to buy PC parts yet, but probably have a reason to at some point?
Most industries are rife with competition. That’s the nature of our capitalist society, and nowadays, with the prevalence and ease of setting up a company and website, it’s easy for potential customers to go to any one of your competitors’ websites.
Content marketing, in essence, is a fairly simple concept to understand. Content marketing means you create value for your target audience by providing relevant, useful, actionable content that establishes and builds relationships with your target audience.
How do you market your business right now?
- Ads, either in print or online? They’re expensive, not always seen by your target audience, and…they’re ads. I’m not arguing against the effectiveness of ads – they can deliver a decent ROI on occasion – but do they help to build your brand or establish a relationship with your audience that causes them to trust your business? According to a study by Technology Advice and Unbounce, 79% of online users almost never click ads, 90% of users have not made purchases or submitted personal information after clicking an ad, and 27% of people feel that ads make a company appear untrustworthy.
- Direct emails/newsletters? This is tough, because you first need to get prospects and customers to sign up (but if they do, they’re probably interested in your business and products). Don’t, under any circumstances, buy an email list and email unwitting and unwilling people. As an aside that we’ll get to later, direct emails can be a great method for content marketing.
- Social media? This method allows you to interact and engage with your target audience, but it’s fairly informal and takes effort.
There’s nothing wrong with any of these methods for marketing your business, nor with any I haven’t listed. But content marketing is an avenue you need to explore because it gives your business a unique voice, connects you with your audience, establishes your business’s authority in your niche or industry, and generates web traffic.
Content Marketing with a Blog
To follow our earlier example, one of my favorite sites to buy PC parts from is Newegg. At first look, you wouldn’t assume Newegg ran a blog, but it does. Take a few minutes and browse through the content on Newegg’s blog, then think of your favorite company and head to their site to see if they have a blog, too. (If they don’t, do them – and me! – a favor and share this post with them!)
What types of content do you see? In Newegg’s case, they post news about their company, featured articles, product overviews, a learning center, and buying guides. All of these categories are avenues Newegg utilizes to create real, useful value for their customers.
I’ve talked about building relationships with your target audience and content marketing is an incredibly effective way to do so. I won’t skirt the truth: Newegg is obviously trying to sell the products they recommend on their blog. Who could blame them? But the difference between selling products through an ad (or even just a listing on your site or store page) and through an article about choosing the perfect generator is you’re giving your audience recommendations as to the best product for them and their situation. You’re helping them choose what to purchase.
I know there’s plenty of times I’ve gone to a store for something – a gaming mouse, for instance (and because I’m a nerd) – and I wasn’t able to choose which product to buy. Oftentimes, different products have similar specifications and are near-enough in quality and price that I can’t decide which one to buy. One product might have a benefit for a specific application over another product, but I wouldn’t be able to tell from just a short product description or in-store pricing/spec sheet. So I’ll go home, do some research, read some reviews, and then buy the product I think suits me best…and probably not from the retailer I was just at, either.
Writing a buying guide, product comparison, or how-to guide makes your target audience’s job easier. You’re providing real value to them by aiding them in making a choice. You don’t even need to specify which product you prefer they buy; just give an honest break-down of how to decide which they should buy, and you’ll go a long way to establishing a relationship with them because you show that you respect their decision enough to aid them in reaching it.
Content doesn’t even have to be about a product you sell (and it shouldn’t always be, either). I used to sell life insurance and Medicare supplements, and some of the best days I had in the field were when I made no sales but helped prospects understand that planning for their retirement and death was important. They understood that I was in the sales industry, but I created value in myself by using my expertise to help my clients solve a pain point. This is the same concept as content marketing.
Using our PC parts example from before, let’s say we’re going to write a blog post that doesn’t specifically point out products we want to sell, but instead creates value for our target audience of people who would be in the market for buying computer components. A blog about “How to Build a Custom Gaming PC” would be a great post for visitors of our site to reference to, even if they weren’t (yet) buying our products. They could refer to our guide while preparing to purchase the parts necessary to build a killer gaming PC and then use it for instruction while assembling all their parts together. Who do you think they’ll think of when they’re considering making a future part upgrade, or looking to add on to their PC that we helped them build? Us. Because we helped them along the way by providing a valuable guide they could refer to. We established our authority and expertise in our niche and industry.
Blogs Drive Traffic to Your Site
If you buy ad space online, how much are you spending and what’s your ROI? Are you getting a decent ROI, or is purchasing ad space costing you money without bringing in the sales? We’ve already established the pitfalls of online ads – they can work and be effective, but there’s lots of associated negatives, too – but content marketing on a blog is a more efficient way of bringing traffic to your site, increasing your site authority, and establishing relationships with your audience. This type of traffic is organic. You’re not advertising for it; people visit your website because they search for terms related to what you have to offer and the content you write about.
Content marketing costs 62% less than other forms of marketing, on average [source – Web Talent Marketing]. And it’s all entirely under your control. You dictate the type of content you want, what you want featured, the products and services you want to spotlight – everything is in your hands, because all the content is posted on your blog and your website.
How does a blog help increase traffic to your website?
You’ve probably seen the acronym “SEO” – Search Engine Optimization. The Big Chief of SEO, unsurprisingly, Google. When a user types a keyword or phrase into Google, the search engine pulls up results related to that search term. If I search for something like “tv buying guide,” the first link that comes up is a guide to Best Buy’s TV buying guide.
The second link in those results is to a guide on CNET. If Best Buy didn’t have content posted in the form of a TV buying guide, the next-highest search result is to a guide by CNET. CNET could link to TVs sold by anyone, not necessarily Best Buy, so Best Buy would be losing out on traffic that could otherwise be driven to their website from something as simple as writing and publishing a buyer’s guide for products they offer for sale.
When it comes to SEO, Google prefers long-form content. Blogs are the perfect venue for providing such content. If you’re writing about a certain topic, you’ll be utilizing keywords related to that topic. Blogs are the perfect format for search engines to, well, search when users input relevant keywords into a search engine, and if your content is deemed valuable and useful by Google’s algorithms, your site authority is weighted more heavily and the chances of users being driven to your site increase.
Bear in mind that Google punishes sites that engage in bad SEO practices. Stuffing an article with keywords in an attempt to cheat Google’s algorithms will actually serve to hurt your SEO. Your best bet at improving SEO is by publishing frequent, relevant, and valuable content related to your niche or industry, and roughly 1000-1500 words long. Basically, providing content your visitors want to read will help drive them to your website and allow you to establish relationships and convert that traffic into sales.
Blogs Convert Traffic Into Sales
Say I’m in the market for a new TV. After searching for “tv buying guide” on Google, the top link is to a buying guide on Best Buy’s website. The buying guide doesn’t tell me which TV to buy – that’s my decision – but it helps me to understand how to choose which TV to buy. The guide breaks down not only the features of different TVs (I’ll get to why that’s not as important as the next point), but also the benefits behind each type of TV. Let’s say I want to find a smart TV so I can watch Netflix without having to hook up a game console, Chromecast, or other device. Once I get to the smart TV section of the guide, I can read all about the benefits of getting a smart TV – all the subscription services I have easy access to – and then, after reading the guide and deciding on the size of Smart TV I want, I can simply click the link to “Shop smart TVs.”
There’s all sorts of ways you can provide links to products and services you sell throughout a buyer’s guide or another type of blog post. What matters is that the content you’re producing is supporting the sales you’re making and establishing a relationship of trust with your audience and customers.
78% of consumers believe that companies providing custom content are interested in building good relationships with them. [source – Web Talent Marketing]
Blogs are Easily-Shared on Social Media
Whether you like social media or not, its influence can’t be denied. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest…these are all services that content is shared on and through like wildfire. Take a peek at my Twitter feed to see how often I share content I enjoyed reading and think my followers would find value in, too.
A well-written blog post that readers find valuable themselves is going to be shared with their friends and family. If your audience finds your knowledge worthy of sharing, the people they share it to are going to take it that much more seriously. Think about referrals you’ve been given by friends, family, and colleagues. You tend to put more stock into those businesses than one you nor anyone else you know has had any experience with, right? The same concept applies here.
Shareability goes hand-in-hand with writing content that your readers are going to find worthy of their time. You need to keep your readers in mind when you write or hire a writer to provide content for your audience.
Establishing and building a genuine relationship with your audience leads to real results for you and your business. According to Web Talent Marketing, visitors to your site from a link shared with them are five times more likely to make a purchase.
Writing for Your Business’s Blog
Now that you know why your business needs a blog (or needs to update that blog you’ve forgotten about – come on, brush the cobwebs off!), it’s time to start crafting some content that drives traffic to your site, converts that traffic into sales, and gets shared on social media to bring in more traffic and more sales (see how that works?).
Where do you find the time to write content?
Running a business is a full-time job. You’ve got inventory to worry about, customers to deal with, shipments to send out – where do you find the time to write content for your blog?
You can either dedicate time to set aside devoted solely to content marketing and your blog, find someone on your staff or that you know who’s willing, knowledgeable, and talented enough to write for you, or you can hire a freelance writer that’ll handle the content writing for you.
Hiring a Freelance Writer
A skilled freelance writer is going to take the time to get to know you, your business, and your products, so that he or she can write content for your audience with authority. Unlike when buying ad space, a freelance writer is going to write about what you want and to your standards. Want a buyer’s guide to spotlight the perfect gifts for dad for father’s day? or a how-to guide about choosing the best contractor for a home improvement project? A freelance writer knows how to write content that your audience will find valuable and knows how to help you establish and grow a relationship with your audience.
Content Marketing Beyond Blog Posts
Blogs aren’t the only form of content marketing, though they’re one of the best. In reality, all of the pages on your site can utilize content marketing in their own ways. And, as touched on briefly earlier in this post, if you run an email list or newsletter, that’s an extremely valuable method of content marketing. Considering people had to choose to sign up for your newsletter, they’re already interested in knowing what you have to share with them, so make it useful and valuable for them and you’ll solidify their loyalty and show off your expertise.
Landing pages before a new product launch or to introduce a sale are another great form of content marketing. These are the pages you see when you visit a website for the first time, advertising a special service or product, and usually with a call-to-action meant to trigger a visitor to take advantage of whatever it is you’re offering. Getting people to follow-through with those calls-to-action can be difficult, but knowing your audience and area of expertise will help guide visitors.
In the case of Best Buy’s buyer’s guide discussed in this article, you may have noticed it wasn’t part of a blog. That’s perfectly fine! In some situations, or up to your preference, you might find it better to devote pages of your website to accomplishing the same goal: content marketing. The methods behind content marketing that we’ve gone over in this post also apply to pages of content on your website.
The most important rule of content marketing is what we included in its definition early in this post: “Instead of pitching your products or services, you are providing truly relevant and useful content to your prospects and customers to help them solve their issues.” As long as you’re providing genuine content with your audience’s best interests in mind, your content will be relevant and useful and drive traffic to your site, convert that traffic into sales, and establish relationships with your customers that create further sales.
You need content…
and I want to work with you. I’m a freelance writer that’s passionate about helping your business grow by working with you to understand what it is you do, who your target audience is, and what I can write to establish your relationship with your audience. I believe in integrity, delivering content to you by an agreed-upon deadline, and in proper SEO techniques that helps – not harms – your business and website. Let’s work together because when you work with me, I make it my business to help your business succeed.
Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions or need any clarification about getting a blog set up for your website!