Show notes from podcast episode 37.
What is content marketing?
The practice of creating articles and videos designed to be helpful and of genuine interest to your target customer without explicitly promoting your services or products.
This is a case in point example of my favorite business principle of all time – adding value first. You are giving away value without expectation.
We talk a lot about doing the work that is important but not urgent. The hard work that other companies aren’t doing. The stuff that is important to grow and scale your small business. Content marketing is one of those things.
The good news is that content marketing is mainly implemented by hyper competitive online businesses and it is still virtually unheard of by all but a select few small businesses. If you do this you will be at a huge advantage when it comes to online presence and search engine optimization at a local level.
Most businesses write content like college kids network. Selfishly. They walk around with their hand out. Buy from me! Help me! Me me me me me!
I have news for you. The customers don’t care about you! They are selfish!
Think about the customer and their goals? What if a customer wants to understand a service before they buy it? What if a customer wants to make sure the service provider knows their stuff and is genuinely an authority that can be trusted with such an important job?
But what about the learners? What about the people who don’t want to buy yet and they are just researching and trying to learn something and figure out who they can trust? The people who will be customers a week from now or a month from now but aren’t yet sure who to pick?
These are the customers we’re targeting and this is how we can stand out with great content marketing for our small businesses.
A content marketing campaign is beneficial in two ways:
Gaining trust – content marketing is a beautiful non-pushy sales strategy. Its an opportunity for you to prove to add value first for a potential customer in the form of knowledge. It proves to them that you know your stuff and that you are an authority that can be trusted and hired with confidence.
Google is getting smarter. It’s not just about keyword repetition, bolded headlines, links, alternate photo text, the quantity of reviews on your Google Location, etc. It’s about engagement and bounce rate. What does that mean? A bounce rate is the percentage of website visitors who leave your site after viewing only one page. Google measures this.
Say you google something and you’re looking for an answer to a problem you are having. You click on the first link but its a crappy website and isn’t going to help you but instead is just trying to sell you something. You back out after about 5 seconds and click on the second link. This one is helpful and you spend 5 minutes reading and browsing the site.
Google will recognize this and eventually put that second link you clicked ahead of the first. Google’s goal as a search engine is to put the most helpful websites at the top of search results. That’s what makes it a good search engine. It’s beginning to punish the selfish content writers who are only interested in selling something and reward the content writers who are trying to help viewers solve problems and find the information they are looking for.
The million dollar question – how do we create valuable, relevant compelling content on a consistent basis to our targeted audience to see some profitable action?
Step 1: Find the keywords your potential customers are using to look for businesses like yours:
Do people in your town search power washing, pressure washing or driveway cleaning most? Do they search lawn care, grass cutting or yard mowing most? What words do they use when they type? We don’t know so we need to do some research to find out.
Ahrefs.com is one great resource. Its a paid service that will provide search volume by keyword in your area so you know the most commonly searched terms. Its $7 for a 7 day trial on the site. Your freelance content marketing hire or SEO specialist will likely have an Ahrefs.com account and will be able to help you target the right keywords.
Trends.Google.com is a great free resource for casual studying. You can see what terms have higher search volume in a comparison to one another on a state by state basis.
Watch a YouTube video on Ahrefs and Trends and learn the ropes and how to navigate them.
Step 2: Research your competitors and their content:
Think of a question that a potential customer of yours might type into Google. Lets use the lawn care example again. Type “How to mow a lawn” into Google. The first result (if you skip past the videos on YouTube) is “how to mow a lawn – lawn mowing tips – Scotts”. The company that makes Scotts Turf Builder fertilizer and weed control products. Its a list of 8 tips on how to mow a lawn. Look at any nationwide home services franchise and you’ll see great examples of content marketing.
The goal will be to build out an article that is 10x better than that top result. A better guide means more value and more engagement from your potential customers. More trust from your potential customers.
You can use Ahrefs to analyze the keywords your competitors are ranking for.
Step 3: Think about the DIYers and build guides for them that answer their questions
Remember – someone searching for DIY is still a potential customer. They are just checking out their options.
Make a list of the many questions they might ask your customer service team. Make a list of the many questions a friend would ask you if they were about to try to do the service themselves.
Instead of the sales oriented tight lipped approach you should spill your guts trying to help them. All the knowledge you’ve built up over the years about your specific service should be shared. Build the best resource that you can. Use your keywords and your city name in the title and body of your article. Spend some time on making great content that will truly help them. Next time you offer your service make a little how to video to accompany the article.
Step 4: Intertwine your guides and landing pages with links
Don’t make your landing page 1000+ words. Link to your guides so curious customers can click on them and read more if they desire. Also consider putting them lower on your page so they can stumble upon them as they learn more. Link from your guide to your other guides and other landing pages. Link from your landing pages to other landing pages. Anywhere that you can provide a helpful link with more information you should do so.
Content Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes a long time to kick in and achieve desired profitabile actions from your customers. It’s all about consistent delivery over time. It takes at least 9 months to start feeling the positive effects of great content marketing on your bottom line. It takes an average of 13-17 months. That’s not quick. You have to be willing to delay gratification and do the work that is important but not urgent.
Since this takes time it should be one of the first things you do as you explore starting a business. Don’t wait until you are fully operational and desperate for customers to pay the bills to get started on this strategy. Start it day 1. Its low risk if you do the writing yourself. Worst case that content sits and ages well and the phone starts ringing a few years from now and you re-visit the idea.
If you aren’t a great writer or you just don’t have time don’t be afraid to outsource this to a freelancer who specializes in content marketing. Look at it as an investment. You might need to spend $30 a day on Google Adwords for eternity to get customers or you could spend $1000 a month for great content marketing for a year and be on the first page of Google indefinitely. I’d take option #2 anytime.
Don’t use sales lingo. Write as if you are writing to a friend. No need to hire me. This is everything I know and I just want to help you with no expectation.
Think quality over quantity. It’s much better to put out one great article a week for two years than one small brief not-noteworthy article every day. The ultimate guide to a weed free lawn in Bloomington Indiana. The ultimate guide to a perfect landscaping project in Bloomington Indiana.
Top lists and tip lists are great. 10 tips to a better lawn in Bloomington Indiana. 10 ways you can keep your lawn weed free in Bloomington Indiana. The 10 most common weeds and how to prevent them in Bloomington Indiana. You get the point.
Don’t forget YouTube videos. It’s the largest search engine in the world and a great way to show up on the first page of Google. Don’t believe me? Search “Indiana University Student Storage” on Google and take a look at what shows up. Thats my partner Dan doing a little talk about our business. We made one of those for every school and within about 6 months they were on the fist page of Google. Is it great content? We definitely should have done better. But it has helped us over the years no doubt.
Evergreen content is best. Content that will always be relevant and will drive traffic over time. Don’t put a time stamp on content or talk about information that has a shelf life. Write something that will still be a valuable asset a few years from now.
This is a very dense topic and I’ve barely touched the surface.
Some additional information on this topic – Joe Pulizzi is widely known as the premier authority on the subject. He has a great book called Epic Content Marketing. It’s a little older now so I’d recommend hopping on YouTube and searching “Content Marketing Strategy by Joe Pulizzi”. Phenomenal video that touches on a lot of these topics, why it’s so important and how you should think about it. Go on Google and type in “The Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing”. I guarantee you that first result is a great piece of content.