You know by now that publishing a diverse mix of content is the best way to build brand awareness, drive website traffic, and increase conversions. But what if you don’t have a huge content marketing budget like many larger brands do?
Fortunately, content marketing doesn’t have to break the bank. Any small business can use it and see a positive return on their investment.
Your potential customers are already out there looking for good content. They want answers to their questions, expert advice, and inspiration. In fact, around 70 percent of customers would rather learn about a company through an article than an advertisement.
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty of content marketing for small business, let’s first break down what content marketing is and why it matters.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is the process of using blog posts, videos, infographics, webinars, podcasts, and other forms of content to serve a variety of business goals, from engagement and lead generation to sales and customer advocacy.
When developed strategically, content is able to move your leads through the sales funnel to ultimately drive you more sales.
However, content marketing is rarely used on its own. The development of our content is important, but so is the way you promote it. This is why content marketing is often closely paired with social media marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
While the pursuit of content marketing excellence does require businesses to commit time and resources, the benefits of content marketing make it well worth the investment.
Benefits of Content Marketing
Digital marketing is all about making connections with your target audience, and there are few better ways to do this than with content marketing.
In short, content marketing helps:
- Drive website traffic
- Generate leads
- Build trust
- Establish your brand as an authority
- Increase sales
How to Use Content Marketing
Companies use content marketing in a number of different ways. From the blogs on their website to the videos they share on social media, content marketing is all over the place.
Many companies focus primarily on their blog or website when creating content. However, there are many other ways you can diversify your content marketing mix. Using different forms of content in your marketing strategy can help you attract even more high-quality leads.
Always pay close attention to the way your target audience is engaging with your pieces. Through accepting their feedback, shifting your strategy, and continuously researching topics, you can create an awesome content marketing plan that helps your business reach new heights.
Optimize Your Website for SEO
It’s important to get your website right, because it’s often the first impression people get about your business.
First, make sure your content is optimized for search engines, because if your content is difficult to find, you’ll have no visitors to convert!
- Include keyword-rich content and product descriptions.
- Optimize your website for mobile.
- Ensure web pages load quickly.
- Make your site easy to navigate.
- Insert relevant metadata.
Check out our detailed guide: Content Optimization: How to Optimize Content for SEO.
While it takes some effort and strategy to play the SEO game, you don’t necessarily need a big budget to get big results. What you do need to do is:
- Create fresh, quality content
- Build backlinks to that content
- Create locally relevant content
- Use social media to provide search signals
1. Create Fresh, Quality Content
The saying “content is king” has become a tired cliché, but there’s a lot of truth to it.
Nothing is better for SEO than a steady stream of fresh, engaging, valuable content on your website.
Think about it: the goal of any search engine is to provide the most relevant information for every search. When your website is regularly updated with new and useful content, that content is assumed to be more relevant by search engines. You end up with bonus points in the ranking game and better spots in the search results.
In some ways, SEO is a lot like life: you can get ahead with good connections.
While fresh and relevant content should be the cornerstone of your SEO strategy, link building is another essential tactic.
It may seem tempting, but don’t take the shortcut of buying big batches of links. Search engines don’t favor these purchased links and you risk being penalized. Take the slow and steady approach by reaching out to relevant bloggers and organizations with an inquiry or press release.
Backlink building is a lot of work but is a key signal for Google.
Related Read: The Complete Guide to Link Building
3. Create Locally Relevant Content
People get most of their information about local businesses from online searches, so it’s important to send the right “signals” to search engines to get your business good visibility in your community. Adding local keywords to each of your pages is a good start, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
You should also:
- Claim a page for your company on Google My Business. If you already have one, confirm that your contact information and business hours are correct.
- Include your business contact information on each page of your website.
- Ask customers to leave reviews. Customer reviews on sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp can make a big difference in your search ranking, so it’s worth the effort to reach out to your existing customers and encourage them to provide a review.
Social media has a bigger effect on your SEO than you may realize.
When your content is liked, shared, tweeted and commented on, the search engines take notice. This engagement signals that your content is relevant and important. As a result, you’ll receive a nice boost in your rankings.
So, take the time to cultivate a strong social media presence on at least one platform: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are all good choices, but some platforms are better suited for certain industries.
Optimize Your Website for Conversions
Next, optimize your site for humans. What is the next step you’d like visitors to take? Would you like them to subscribe to your email newsletter, visit a product page, or sign up for a free trial? To improve conversions:
- Make sure your unique value proposition is clear on your homepage or landing page, highlighting the benefits of your business and why visitors should choose you over the competition.
- Provide clear site navigation.
- Include large buttons and anchor text with clear calls-to-action.
- Make your sign-up forms short.
- Display social proof and testimonials.
Optimizing your website for traffic and conversions lays the groundwork for lead generation.
Keep your Website Up to Date
When Google and other search engines rank your web pages, they don’t just look at content quality and relevancy; they also look at content freshness. To measure this, they consider various factors, including:
- When content was created.
- How often content is updated.
- The number of new inbound links to content.
- The number of website visitors.
- How visitors engage with your website, including bounce rates.
By regularly creating fresh, original content, search engines can see that you’re a reliable source for information and are therefore more likely to rank your content higher.
Ultimately though, the most important aspect of branded content is the value it provides. This is why quality content matters so much.
What is Quality Content?
You might have heard a lot of content marketing and SEO experts talk about the importance of creating quality content. But what does “quality content” really mean? Here’s a brief checklist:
You probably know by now that Google penalizes websites with duplicate content. You can’t copy content from other sources and expect it to have any positive impact on your SEO. Use your own writers or outsource your content creation to professional freelance writers.
Make sure your readers learn something new and try not to be boring. Avoid technical jargon, show your personality, and tell a story. Keep in mind your ideal customer and talk to them like a friend.
If you make up stories about your business, products, or services, you’ll soon be found out. Consumers today value transparency. If you show data, link to the source. If you make a mistake, own it.
Great content is interesting and makes readers see something from a new perspective. Share your opinions. Give people something to think about.
The most successful content encourages people to take a specific action. Decide what you want readers to do, explain how this will benefit them, and then tell them to do it!
Examples of Small Business Content Marketing Done Right
CoSchedule is a content collaboration and social scheduling tool – and they are an awesome example of how to use a blog to generate leads and drive sales.
Not only do they regularly post high-quality content that’s related to their business, but they’ve done an excellent job of creating both top-of-funnel content and bottom-of-funnel content. For example, the “How to Overcome Makeshift Marketing” article is a hypothetical but relatable story that is tailored to their target audience.
2. Saving Lincoln
Saving Lincoln was an independently made movie, that needed to gain a following and generate interest without the a huge budget.
What they did was pretty genius. They created a Twitter account and slowly dripped out snippets of the story and related information to generate interest and discussion.
Every Friday they would Tweet out a cliff hanger and then pick up the story the following Monday.
This is an excellent example of how you can repurpose content by taking something long form and break it up into small snippets.
3. Pic’s Really Good Peanut Butter
As we mentioned, social media is an important part of your content marketing. Pic’s Really Good Peanut Butter is an awesome example of how small businesses can use social media to support their content marketing.
How to Develop a Content Strategy
For every piece of content you create, you need to determine the topic, the format, and the publishing channel. This all depends on your audience. To learn more about your target market:
- Listen to conversations on social media.
- Look at the content topics, formats, and channels of your competition.
- Find out which types of content your audience are already sharing.
- Find out which platforms get the most audience engagement.
- Discover the questions your customers are already asking.
- Conduct surveys with existing customers via email.
- Use Twitter surveys to find out what your audience think about a specific topic.
Try to learn as much as you can about your audience, their interests, and their beliefs. You can use analytics tools to track engagement and sharing statistics, but sometimes asking your customers directly gives you the best insights.
Related Reading: How to Build a Content Strategy
Are You Struggling to Create Content?
As a small business owner, you might struggle to find enough time to create enough content week after week. Here are a few ways to boost content output:
- Outsource content to freelance writers. Around 73 percent of brands now hire someone to help manage their content strategy. Professional writers often specialize in writing for specific industries, and can provide a steady stream of high-quality, error-free content.
- Refresh and repurpose existing content. For example, turn a how-to guide into an infographic, a white paper into a social media series, or transcribe a video interview into a blog post.
- Use customer stories. User-generated content helps to build brand credibility and shows how your products fit into the lives of consumers. Ask your customers for stories, testimonials, and images.
- Take advantage of free content marketing tools. For some examples, visit our post: How to Develop a Great Content Creation Process.
Don’t Give Up
Content marketing may take time and planning, but it’s one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies and can make a huge difference to your business. When you consistently give your audience quality content, it will increase trust in your brand and generate traffic and leads for years to come. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Learn from your mistakes, and build on your successes.
If you’re a small business looking to take your content marketing to the next level, check out Constant Content.