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How Quality Content Helps You Win Trust and Influence Customers—Seriously

Today’s digital marketing leaders are all about content marketing. Here’s why you should buy into the hype.

You’ve heard SEOs say it time and time again: Content is King. But what does that really mean, anyway? What kind of content are we talking about here, and what can it actually do for your business?

First of all, know that your business likely already has some type of content in place—whether it’s strategic and properly optimized is another story. At a fundamental level, content consists of anything your company puts forth to convey messages to target audiences. That includes any text currently on your company’s website. It also includes blogging, social media posts, e-mail marketing, whitepapers, infographics, video and more.

But these days, not just any content will earn you customer favor. At its core, truly rich digital content—the kind that’s rewarded in search engines and generates traction among audiences—consists of far more than just words on a page (however targeted those words may be). As search engines become more and more sophisticated, traditional SEO tactics like keyword-targeting and link-building alone aren’t enough to keep your page in prime SERP-territory. In fact, today’s algorithms are so advanced that Random Acts of Content (aka pages that are duplicative, stuffed with keywords or provide no discernible value) can actually get your site penalized, kicking you out of Google’s good graces altogether.

To bring it back full-circle, content marketing is worth your investment for a variety of reasons. For starters, quality content keeps users on your site longer, giving them more time to interact and potentially do business with your brand. It optimizes your sites for peak searchability, builds relationships with target audiences and can convert real, measurable leads. Think of it like this: Rather than spending ample time chasing after your target audience, with the right content strategy, you can essentially lure the customers to you.

Content Gets You On Google’s Radar (And Keeps You There)

When it comes to SEO, every business vies for valuable Page 1 real estate. But today, search engines are savvier than ever, and only award that prime visibility to pages deemed truly deserving. Though constant algorithm advancements continue to refine the “winning” formula, search engines are trending in a clear direction: Reward sites offering useful, high-quality content, and penalize those with irrelevant or low-quality content.

What is High-Quality Content, Anyway?

Google’s ultimate goal is to populate results a user will find most helpful to their particular query. Since crawlers can’t actually digest page content themselves, they rely on certain cues to help determine where a page falls among the ranks with trillions of others, allowing the crème de la crème to rise to the top. Content is considered “high-quality” if it’s deemed relevant, substantive and authoritative in regard to the topic at hand.

To decipher what’s quality and what isn’t, search engines have evolved to the point where they’re now able to analyze context rather than just individual words, helping better understand user intent. Perhaps Amit Singhal, Google VP of Search, describes Google’s latest algorithm, Hummingbird, the best: “With more complex queries, the algorithm can better understand concepts vs. words as well as relationships between concepts.” And that’s just one update. The big picture: Search engines are now all about context, context, context.

These updates don’t mean keywords and link-building SEO tactics are suddenly obsolete. The difference is that now, Google judges a page’s quality based on the total package. So for example, if my company sells home furniture, I can’t create 10 different pages with “Leather Sectional Couches” in the title and throughout the body, but that ramble on about my love for fantasy football in between. I can, however, create 10 pages that target “Leather Sectional Couches” as a key term, but provide relevant context that’s rich and not just filler text—for example, the pros and cons of Leather vs. Suede, tips on how to make a large couch work in any room, and possibly even a fun-to-read blog post on how leather sectional couches can be perfect for watching the Sunday games. It’s all about making your content relevant to the reader.

The Fuel Your SEO is Waiting For

All that in a nutshell: Quality content is now one of the most important factors in determining your site’s PageRank. Advanced algorithms judge pages not just by links and keywords, but also by the quality of the content those elements are woven into. By offering up more high-quality content, you give you give Google more credible resource to crawl when filtering search results, making you more likely to wind up among the elite.

Content Brings Customers to You

A million customers could be searching for the exact products and services your company offers—but how can they discover you if you don’t put your company out there for the finding? If leveraged correctly, content can earn you valuable face-time with Google AND with target audiences, drawing potential customers directly to your company’s pages through a variety of channels.

Consider a blogging program, for example. By posting regularly on a company blog about topics that are of interest and provide helpful information to your target audience—yet that still relate to your business and expertise—you increase your chances of landing on a customer’s radar even further. In fact, according to research, blogs give sites on average 434% more indexed pages—that’s huge. Research also shows that companies with blogs had 55% more visitors than companies without.

Whether you’re launching a blog, writing guests posts for another blog, expanding upon existing site pages or posting to social media channels, the more information you put out into the Webosphere, the more content search engines have to index. And the more content search engines have to index, the more you enhance a) your company’s visibility and b) opportunities for target audiences to stumble upon your company and interact with your content.

Google also factors in volume of dynamic content associated with your site to determine your relative subject-matter authority, which can boost SEO. Are you offering valuable insight to audiences? Are you putting out white papers? Are you a thought-leader in your industry? Do you provide useful tips for potential customers? The more high-quality content you generate, the more credible your company becomes to search engines. The more credible you are, the higher you rank in SERPs. It’s a self-feeding system, which is what we call a win-win.

Content Earns You Trust the Organic Way

More than just earning the favor of search engines, for any digital content to be effective, you ultimately have to earn the favor of customers. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Marketing in the 21st century poses its own set of challenges. In a world where customers are constantly bombarded with pitches, pushes and direct sells, traditional advertising isn’t as effective as it once was. That’s where content marketing steps in and shines. Rather than telling prospective customers how great your company is and why they should do business with you, you have the unique opportunity to actually demonstrate that value first-hand, helping customers arrive at that same conclusion on their own.

Today’s Web-surfers are looking for sites offering up information that’s helpful or of direct benefit to them. They’re less impressed by claims of greatness—instead, they want to experience it for themselves. According to research, 61% of consumers say they feel better about a company that delivers customized content, and are therefore more likely to buy from that company—and it makes sense. Think about it: Are you more likely to believe in a company that’s their own biggest cheerleader, or a company that proves they understand you by anticipating your interests and addressing them outright?

For example, if I’m a roofing company looking to stand out from my competitors, I could mention my expert team of contractors on various pages of my site—or, I could demonstrate my company’s expertise by posting a blog about, say, the importance of having your roof inspected before winter. The second approach accomplishes two critical things: First, I’m demonstrating that my company truly understands the necessity of the services we provide. Secondly, since winter is around the corner, it gets customers thinking about whether they should get their own roofs inspected—and if so, since I’ve already demonstrated authority on the subject, they’ll be more likely to entrust that service to me.

Content Fulfills Needs and Build Relationships

Remember that people turn to search engines for a reason. Let’s go alllll the way back to SEO 101 for a second. When a person types something into Google, they’re looking for something specific—whether that’s an answer to a question, details for a specific service, helpful tips, recommendations, etc.

Content gives you a unique platform to talk back, providing the exact answers/solutions your customers are looking for. With the Hummingbird algorithm’s new “conversational search” features, Google can better interpret complex search queries, such as full questions or thoughts. In using those insights to inform your content, your company can help fulfill customer needs, forging a connection between them and your brand.

But content strategies leave much deeper imprint on a brand’s perceived value.

Beyond answering questions and offering up valuable info, content actually humanizes your brand, establishing an individualized voice in an otherwise crowded marketplace. When brands have the opportunity to communicate with consumers, either via blogs, on social media channels or otherwise, they’re doing more than just engaging—they’re opening two-way lines of communications. That lays the groundwork for lasting customer relationships.

Believe it or not, customers notice. According to surveys, 90% of customers find custom content useful, and 78% believe that brands who provide custom content are interested in forging good relationships with them. Quality content on blogs and social media channels is also highly shareable, which helps word-of-mouth. In fact, according to a recent study from Syncapse, 31% of users “Like” a brand’s Facebook page to share their good experiences with others.

Content Converts Leads

Most content marketing “best practices” are rooted in strategies that ultimately improve the user experience. Relevant, helpful, authentic content makes a customer more comfortable with your brand from the start, and the easier you make it for customers to find your content, the easier you make their shopping and decision-making processes. Already, you’ve differentiated yourself from your competition and, plainly speaking, that will ultimately make customers want to buy from you.

But don’t just take our word for it—the proof is in the numbers. See for yourself:

  • 57% of companies who blog have acquired a new customer via that channel. [HubSpot]
  • 92% of bloggers who post multiple times per day have gained a customer through their blog. [HubSpot]
  • 70% of marketers feel that content marketing has increased their brand awareness, 59% believe it supports growth in sales, and 45% say it has reduced spend on advertising. [Business Bolt via iMediaConnection]
  • 51% of businesses have acquired a customer through LinkedIn, 71% through Facebook and 55% through Twitter [HubSpot]

Optimization strategies get content in front of your target audiences, and the quality of your content can help convert those into measurable leads.

Why You Should Feed the Content Machine

According to a recent Unisphere survey, nearly half of the businesses polled reported having a formal content strategy in place.

As search engine algorithms advance, customer marketing preferences evolve and the marketplace grows even more cluttered with noise, it’s clear that strategic, quality content will play a key component in any integrated digital strategy that truly gets a brand seen and heard. To achieve maximum visibility, it’s looking like it’s no longer an option for brands to opt out.

What are some examples of cool content marketing initiatives you’ve seen? Have any techniques worked well for your business? We’d love to hear about them!