Introduction to Content Marketing for Small Businesses: An Austin Copywriter White Paper

introduction to content marketing for small businesses whitepaper

Are you a small business owner interested in learning more about content marketing? If you’ve heard that content marketing is a good way to promote your business and improve your brand reputation, but want to learn more before you get started, this white paper lays out some of the basics.

Content marketing allows your business to attract new customers and develop relationships with current customers by offering something of value to them.

With this white paper, An Introduction to Content Marketing for Small Businesses, you can get a feel for whether or not you’re ready to get started developing and deploying a content strategy for your business.

If you have questions, feedback, or would like some help developing quality content to promote your business, feel free to contact me at kristen@austin-copywriter.com.

5 Reasons Blogging for Your Business is Worth It

business bloggingThere was a time when much of the population could hear the word “blog” and shrug it off as a silly word tied to an activity primarily practiced by a subculture of writers, hobbyists, and narcissists. Blogging for business is a fairly recent development in the short history of blogging.

Blogging didn’t start as an activity tied to professional advancement, it was a way for individuals to express themselves in a public forum, in the hopes that like minds would find their words and choose to engage. Now blogging has evolved into something hard to categorize. It plays an influential role in politics, news reporting, and marketing.

Blogging can be an intimidating practice for a small business to embrace. It’s not something you can put some work into now and finish – it requires regular maintenance.

The continuous production of fresh, quality content means either a serious time commitment, or the monetary investment of working with a freelance writer. Any business on a budget is likely to wonder: is it really worth it?

Though doubts are understandable, the benefits of blogging for your business are considerable. Five especially notable reasons blogging for your business is worth it:

1) It’s important for SEO.

Google values quality content. A website that produces a steady stream of content lets the search engines know that it’s active. Good content can encourage links back to your site, and a blog gives you the opportunity to develop a content strategy around relevant keywords for greater SEO benefit.

2) It helps build brand recognition.

A blog enables you to grow your online presence. It helps people find you more easily and often, and provides valuable information that they will come to associate with your brand.

3) It lets you show your expertise.

You know more about what you do and the industry you’re in than most people. A blog allows you to demonstrate that. By sharing what you know, you show people that you’re qualified and they can trust you and your business to know what you’re doing.

4) It can inspire customer loyalty.

A business that offers up something of value for free demonstrates a desire to help out customers that’s not all about profit. Giving people an answer to a question they have, or information they didn’t know they needed yet is a good way to build up the kind of good will that inspires long-term customer loyalty and positive word-of-mouth.

5) It’s an important component in a good social media strategy.

Social media’s another trend that’s evolved to become an important component of business. It offers you a way to engage with customers and potential customers, and gives you an avenue to distribute the content you produce. There’s little point in putting time into developing a social media presence, unless you can figure out a way to add something of value to the ongoing conversation. Blog posts are one way to do that.

Google + and the “End of Search”

Who likes hyperbole! Well, people who like provocative headlines, for one. Wired has a current article on “The End of Web, Search, and Computer as We Know It.” The gist of the article is that the way we interact with the internet is changing, moving away from static pages and individual searches, and more towards streams of steady information. The author calls this the “lifestream.”

“This lifestream — a heterogeneous, content-searchable, real-time messaging stream — arrived in the form of blog posts and RSS feeds, Twitter and other chatstreams, and Facebook walls and timelines…All the information on the internet will soon be a time-based structure”

You may or may not find the article’s argument convincing, but it does seem to tie in to an issue I’ve been hearing and thinking about quite a bit about recently – the recent rise of Google +.

When Google + first surfaced, it seemed primarily designed to compete with Facebook. It aroused plenty of curiosity and a good number of people gave it a try, but when it came down to it, it couldn’t compete with the main thing Facebook had going for it as a social media platform: people. Everyone was already there, and failed to feel a mass compulsion to switch it out for something new.

Now Google + is embracing a new identity. By linking Google + usage with your authority in terms of how Google determines ranking, Google + is quickly becoming a content distribution platform, with a strong influence on SEO. Or, another way of seeing it, via Copyblogger:

“Google+ is less social media platform and more backplane social layer that transformed all Google products into features of Google+.”

In other words, Google is aiming to leverage Google + into the frame through which all our internet activity is experienced. Potentially moving people away from the traditional search experience, and into a more customized version of the web – perhaps in a way that resembles the “lifestreams” described above.

Who knows if internet usage will move in this direction as predicted, but it’s inevitable that time, the evolution of technology, and people’s ideas of how technology can be used mean our relationship to the internet is bound to change. It’s important that businesses and marketers keep an eye on those changes as they occur and adapt marketing efforts to accommodate consumer behavior.

Content Marketing in 2013

That content marketing is a growing force is no surprise to anyone who follows trends in marketing. Blog posts and articles citing the benefits quality content has on branding, SEO and customer loyalty abound.

Nonetheless, it’s nice to be able to match some numbers to all the talk. Business Bolts performed a survey of 265 individuals, a mix of small business owners and marketing professionals, in order to gain a sense of how businesses are approaching content marketing in 2013.

You can find the full report on their findings here.

Most of the results aren’t especially surprising, but serve to back up arguments copywriters, marketers and SEO professionals have been making for some time:
content marketing trends

  • Content marketing is good for SEO

77% of respondents said content marketing helped increase web traffic, and 71% said it helped them achieve higher rankings

  • Content marketing is good for ROI

Although there are challenges in many cases to tracking the relationship between content marketing and sales, 59% said they believed that content marketing helped them up their sales numbers.

  • Content marketing strengthens brand awareness

70% reported this benefit, another that’s hard to track, but crucial for small business success.

The good news for freelance writers and content developers: many respondents expressed a desire to find good content producers.

The bad news: few have made content production a high budget item. Most (61%) reported still doing the majority of their content development in house, but of those that worked with freelancers the amount they’re paying is piddling. 14% spend less than $15 for 1,000 words, and 17% spend between $16 and $25.

It’s clear that businesses have a growing awareness of the benefit good content provides. Hopefully, their willingness to value those helping them reap that benefit will increase in time as well.

Top 5 Marketing Mantras for the Digital Age

Marketing Mantras for the Digital Age

There are some ways that the internet has irrevocably changed marketing, and ways in which the changes are just an amplification of things that have always been true. In both cases, it’s good for businesses to have a handle on how best to approach marketing in the digital age. Here are five marketing mantras important to keep in mind for effective marketing in the digital age.

1. What you say matters less than what you do

While this isn’t new to the internet era, it’s more true than ever. You can talk about how awesome your product is and how you’re company’s the best at what you do, but if your customers on review sites and social media don’t back up your claims, you’re out. Word of mouth works faster and travels further in the digital age, meaning a business with consistently disappointing service won’t get very far.

2. Quality content is crucial

Google decides who wins and loses in the online arena and they’ve decided the winners are those offering the greatest value to their audience. To gauge that value they measure metrics like: how many visits a site gets, how long visitors stay on the site once there and the number of people who feel inspired to share the site with others via links on their own sites or social media. Google’s algorithm measures worth by popularity. The most popular sites tend to be those offering blog posts, videos, articles and other types of content that are entertaining, educational, inspirational or otherwise valuable to visitors, which brings us right up to #3.

3. Marketing is more consumer driven than ever before

You can’t make people pay attention to you. The amount of ad saturation facing the modern consumer has trained many to simply tune out the billboards, subway ads, and literally skip over commercials on tv. The internet allows people to hone in on precisely what they’re looking for — you can’t demand that they pay attention to your business, but you can work to make sure you show up when they’re looking for the types of products or services you can provide, or any information relevant to your industry. Someone that stumbles upon a florist’s useful blog post on the best flowers to choose for different types of occasions is more likely to choose that florist for her next event now that she knows their name and level of expertise.

4. Marketing is more targeted and trackable

Companies are welcome to throw huge quantities of their marketing budgets at media with large and varied audiences like tv, radio and billboards for as long as they please. For smaller businesses that need more value for their money, the internet allows you to focus your marketing efforts on people that are already looking for what you’re selling and better track just how they found you so you can measure ROI.

5. Competition has changed

With Google’s algorithm largely determining which businesses gain the greatest visibility in the digital age, businesses must pay attention to how Google measures website worth. Their goal has consistently been to provide the best possible user experience, meaning that insofar as the Google search engine is doing its job, the consumer wins. If your goal is to offer the best products or services, the best customer service and the most valuable content on your site you’re likely to beat any competitors with less honorable practices to the top of the list. It’s not an exact science, but it’s a pretty good bet that the businesses with the best practices will succeed.