Sometimes you have to feel sorry for a fellow entrepreneur. Imagine what it would be like to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a beautifully designed company website, and figuring it was worth every penny because it reflected your brand perfectly. But then imagine how you’d feel when you realized that the site wasn’t drawing anywhere near the traffic you had hoped.
The hard truth is that great web design won’t attract traffic to your site. And, as I wrote in a previous column, attracting visitors is the essential first phase in a four-step approach to doing inbound marketing in a way that will win over today’s digitally driven buyers. The key to that is quality content. Without that, you’ll be among the losers in the new marketing war.
Fine, but what the heck is quality content? To understand that, you first have to understand the most common ways people find websites these days. A research study by Forrester revealed that search engines and social networking top the list:
Here’s how the quality of the content on your website can influence the two most popular ways that companies are found online:
Search engines: Their job is to deliver answers to search-engine users’ questions as quickly and efficiently as possible. Search engines understand that when people search, they have a question and are looking for answers, even if it doesn’t seem like that’s what they’re doing. The search queries may not be phrased to make it obvious, but they really are questions. So, for instance, if someone types “Honda dealership Burnaby,” they’re really asking the question “Where are the Honda dealerships in Burnaby?”
The better the quality of the answers a search engine delivers relative to its rival, the more often people will use that search engine. Accordingly, Google has let it be known that “Google ranks content¦not companies.” The leading search engine doesn’t care if your company’s name appears in the search results, unless it’s in response to a branded term in the search query. So if you want your company to rank highly in the search results for a given term, you need to offer better answers to common questions than most other websites do.
Social media: At my company, we consider social media “word of mouth enabled by technology.” This essentially means that social media is merely a more powerful way of sharing information. And there are two primary types of information that people share: experiences and content. The better the quality of a piece of content, the more likely it is to be shared. And most people are far more willing to share great content online than their personal experience.
One of the great things about content is that, unlike other forms of media, it’s cumulative. If you create content today that has a long shelf life, it can continue to attract traffic months and even years later. No other form of promotion can claim that.
But you can’t merely load good content and expect it to perform for you. Different content plays different roles in inbounding marketing. Let’s consider the three most popular types:
Product, service and/or location pages
These pages about your company’s specific products, services or locations should address key similarities between your business and others, and key differences. A similarity may be something like, “We have hundreds of bicycles in stock, including Schwinn, Trek, Giant and more.” A key differentiator may be, “We offer across-the-counter tire exchanges on all bicycles bought here” or “We have an exclusive on the first and only bicycle made of cardboard.” (Yes, it really exists!) As a result, these pages are designed to sell, and you can ask for the sale with these pages.
Due to the fact that they’re typically about a particular product, service or location, visitors to these pages are typically later in the purchase process, and ready to purchase. As a result, make sure that your site has unique pages for each product, service and location you have. These sort of pages typically perform well in search engines, but not in social media. After all, how often do you share the product pages of someone else’s business with your social network?
The main goal of these pages is to permit companies to display their knowledge and thought leadership, and to show some personality. With blogs, readers expect companies to be objective, and your company will lose credibility if its blogs stray into outright sales pitches. Since blog posts are often designed to teach, entertain and announce, they are shared very frequently via social media, and have the potential to attract much traffic. The traffic, however, is much earlier typically in the buying process, and further from making an actual decision to purchase.
Google has recently signalled a key change relevant to blogs. On May 27, the Google page shown in response to the query, “How can I make my site rank better?” changed its verbiage from “In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages” to “In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share.” (Italics added.)
This is a change worth paying attention to. Google knows that blog posts are the sort of content that is widely used and shared, so it’s clearly suggesting that blogs’ importance in Google rankings will be increasing. That makes this a good time to focus more on blogging—or to get started on it. (Click here for my advice on common blogging mistakes to avoid.)
This refers to content that is typically more comprehensive and definitive, such as ebooks, white papers, webinars and checklists. It’s content that’s so valuable that prospects will often be willing to exchange their contact information for it.
Often you can attract traffic to your site by submitting your premium content to other sites. For instance, if you have an ebook, get it listed on one of the many ebook directories out there, which will drive downloads. And because premium content can be so valuable, people are more likely to share it, so it can therefore also perform well on social media.
In my next column about the new model of inbound marketing, I’ll detail how you can capitalize on all the additional traffic you’ll attract with content, and turn it into a consistent predictable revenue stream.
Jeff Quipp is an expert on integrated or inbound marketing. He is the founder and CEO of Search Engine People Inc., a Pickering, Ont.-based digital marketing firm that has been on the PROFIT 500 ranking of Canada’s Fastest Growing Companies for the past five years.
More columns by Jeff Quipp