I’d be willing to bet anyone who’s had any success online is either utilizing content marketing without realizing it or figured it out after the fact.
We discovered content marketing by accident.
Today I’m sharing a first-hand account of Elle & Company’s blog transformation along with some takeaways for how you can implement content marketing for your business.
When Lauren first created the Elle & Company blog in January 2014, we had no idea what we were getting into. We knew that blogging would be a way to generate leads and potential clients, but we didn’t know how to get from point A to point B; we had no clue which content we should be sharing in order to make that happen.
So we began experimenting and we wrote the most random assortment of crappy content, trying to figure out what the heck we were doing. It pains Lauren that I’m sharing these, but y’all need to see what I’m talking about.
Anyone care for a weekly recap to the tune of Fresh Prince of Bel Air? Yeah, that actually happened. Or how about a recipe printable? Because, you know, that’s sure to draw in some branding clients.
It may shock you, but none of this content helped us achieve our goal of finding leads and booking clients. Something had to give. We had to come to the realization that after 6 months, what we were doing wasn’t working.
So we changed our approach.
We began to ask ourselves, “What are the questions a potential brand design client would be interested in finding the answer to?”
A person interested in hiring a designer would need proof that Lauren knew what she was talking about in the area of brand design, so she began to share design content about color psychology, fonts, characteristics of a strong logo, etc.
Once she started writing about design basics, she started getting a few more design inquiries. We were onto something.
Now that clients were coming through the door, Lauren also used the blog to share her projects. With each portfolio post, she kept that same question in mind: “What are the questions a potential brand design client would be interested in finding the answer to?”
So instead of only posting a lot of pictures of the final design with an intro paragraph, she began to share more details about the process and a behind-the-scenes look at all the steps involved in bringing a brand to fruition.
We decided that the Elle & Company blog should solve potential clients’ problems within our niche (which, in a nutshell, is content marketing).
Around that same time I started doing some research (a.k.a. a little social media creeping) to develop a profile for the average Elle & Company reader, and the results surprised me: 90% of Lauren’s followers were bloggers and business owners, themselves.
With this new information, our content strategy pivoted. In order to pique the interest of more small business owners and bloggers and drive more potential clients our way, our content needed to answer the pressing questions on their minds. We needed to provide what they would be looking for and give them answers to their pressing questions like:
- How do I increase traffic to my website?
- How do I attract potential customers?
- How do I create high quality blog content?
- What type of content should I create in order to build trust?
As soon as we had success with one thing in our business, whether it related to social media, client process, pricing, blogging, etc., we would share about it knowing that other business owners could mimic our strategies and find success, too.
After receiving positive comments (like the one below), gaining more shares on social media, and seeing an exponential growth in readership each month, it didn’t take long to discover that our new transparent approach to blogging needed to become the bread and butter of Elle & Company.
And that’s when things took off.
It’s no wonder our previous approach to blogging failed miserably. It wasn’t benefiting anyone; they had no reason to care.
But by focusing our content on the needs of our potential clients - business owners and bloggers - we were able to answer their questions and solve problems they faced on a daily basis.
As a result of all of our efforts, Lauren started getting more design inquiries than she could handle. We were facing a new problem that everyone hopes to one day face: demand exceeding supply.
Content marketing transformed Elle & Company for the better and it continues to play a vital role in the growth and strategy of our business.
Your content shouldn’t be an afterthought. If you make the decision to take your content seriously, here are some of the benefits you can bank on:
Content marketing connects your audience with what they're looking for
People are selfish.
I mean that in the least offensive way possible, but whenever you get on a website you either want to learn something, be entertained, or connect with people. You are looking for something. Odds are your audience doesn't care about what you did last weekend.
Every internet user knows this on a subconscious level and if you are consistently posting content about yourself, you're going to have a very difficult time growing your blog.
Understanding why people get on the internet to begin with will help you create better content. Leverage people's selfishness by giving your readers information that only you have.
I once heard someone say that if you want to make a million dollars, start thinking of ways to help a million people.
The best bloggers understand that providing their readers with information that will help them succeed is mutually beneficial. Also, useful content keeps your audience coming back. The best content marketers know their audience is the most important aspect of their blog.
Here are 3 diagnostic questions to consider when you're brainstorming your next blog post:
- What do I know that could potentially benefit my audience?
- Did I write this for my readers?
- What is the takeaway from this post for my readers?
Content marketing improves SEO
There's nothing like getting information about SEO straight from the horse's mouth. Google's SEO Optimization Starter Guide says:
Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any other factor.
Users know good content when they see it and will likely want to direct other users to it. Organic or word-of-mouth buzz is what helps build your site's reputation with both users and Google, and it rarely comes without quality content.
The quality and usefulness of your content has the most influence over your website's SEO. Those are Google's words, not mine. Search engine algorithms are getting more complex and keeping it simple is probably the best course of action.
Poor quality content means bad Google rankings. Great content means great Google rankings.
Content marketing increases site traffic
The traffic will come once you start producing quality, useful content. People recognize good content when they see it.
An increase in traffic is a natural byproduct of great content. Although your traffic may not come instantly, consistently creating quality content will eventually increase your traffic.
Content marketing positions you as an expert
Content marketing will also position you as an expert in your blogging niche. High quality content will earn the respect of others, and rightfully so.
Hard work, education, and research are what make a person an expert in a given field, so don't feel like you need to convince anyone of your expertise. Your expertise will be recognized by others in due time.
Content marketing gives you opportunities to promote your business
Everyone has been spammed at some point. Spam is annoying because it is an unwarranted, pushy sale forced on you.
So what if you did the exact opposite of that by giving away tons of free, useful content and rarely promoting your products? Answer: People will be more interested in reading about your promotions. Constant promotions on your blog aren't useful.
Can your product solve a problem that your readers are facing? Promotional opportunities emerge when you give away helpful content.
You earn the opportunities to promote by following the 80/20 rule. The 80/20 rule is giving away content 80% of the time and promoting products 20% of the time. If you're just starting out as a blogging business owner, you may want to consider something more like a 90/10 rule.
Either way your valuable content must be given away significantly more than your promotional content.
And to be honest, what you are selling is inconsequential. As long as you are pumping out content that people in your niche are interested in, they’ll at least listen to your pitches.
We've seen firsthand the transformative power content marketing has had on our business. By changing your approach to blogging and considering first and foremost how you're meeting the needs of your audience and answering their questions, you're sure to see success from it, too.
Has content marketing improved your business? If so, how?
Jake Hooker is the content strategist and business-minded half of Elle & Company (at least that’s his formal title). He’s also The Collaborative’s initiator and editor-in-chief. Because he pours time and effort into the Elle & Company site and social media accounts, he isn’t very active on social media (but he might be persuaded to do so if enough of you show interest in the comments).