Can you do Content Marketing without worrying about SEO? What if no one actually searches for your content in search engines? Here are 5 tips for you if you want to reach potential customers through channels other than search engines (SEO).
I got the idea for this post when I discussed distribution with a friend of mine who’s an engineer as I explained the concept of content / inbound marketing to him. I did the mistake as well and brought up getting found via search engines. While there not a shadow of doubt that it’s incredibly valuable being present when potential customers are actively searching, there are topics which no one googles, bings (is this a thing?) or yandexes (CAN this be a thing?). So how do you get your content to reach the personas you want to reach? Here are a few things you’ll want to consider.
1 – Change the angle or broaden your approach
While potential clients may not use search engines to search for content directly related to your business, you can still work out related topics which you can align with business objectives in your content strategy to acquire and retain clients. Every business evolves around a need and a certain context in which the buying decision makes sense to buyers. There is a reason for which a person or another business (still a person!) buys this type of product or service. You’re looking for an example?
Would you search for content related to cleaning?
Honestly, the only time you’re going to search for something related to a hoover is when you want to buy one for little money. Except if your business is willing to engage in a destructive war on price, this is not the context and mindset you want potential customers to be in when they discover your content, right?
The business Bissell is built around the promise of tackling any mess with their vacuum cleaners. Through a recent contest entitled “gift of time”, the company addressed a broader topic: spending time with those you love the most. You might want to have a look at Bissell’s Facebook page which is quite impressive for a business selling vacuum cleaners…
But don’t take my word for it. The awesome Doug Kessler, who I reached out to says it best:
“One source of great content for even the driest of technology brands is to dig down into ‘WHY you do what you do — then create content that celebrates these values and beliefs. There’s some terrific stuff lurking down there.” – Doug Kessler
2 – Get the Conversation going on social
On social media, serendipity rules. People are almost never actively searching for something, they just get their content devliered to them by the network and friends or accounts they chose to follow. In other words: serendipity rules. In this regard, if you manage to get a conversation going on social, you have a much better chance to distribute your content than if you’d only optimize for search.
[Tweet “On social media, serendipity is king”]
I know what you are thinking right now: that only applies to “sexy”, mainstream brands. There is no doubt that it helps being a conversational brand, however you can build on social platforms to engage people on social networks.
On social media, there are “formats” you can use which will leverage the social aspect of the platform and help you building a community around a theme (I did not write “your brand” on purpose). Gamify your approach to your business and put yourself in your customers’ shoes: why should you bother to participate?
The “relationship” you build with your “fans” or followers will give you the permission of distributing your content to an audience who has opted into being fed content by you. By the way, please do follow Brooke if you are interested in this topic, she’s all about building conversations :-)
3 – Tell stories
Admit it, when you read this one you rolled your eyes. Count me in, same here every time I read posts picking up the buzzword “Storytelling”. While I dont’ think it is a cures for everything, it’s still a valuable technique to get a message across. Instead of reciting what it is by regurgitating the we’ve-been-told-stories-since-the-dawn-of-time-crap, think of it like this: you have a core idea or message you want to get across.
Storytelling is a technique which allows you to use mechanisms to transmit an idea. All these tales you know from your mother or grandmother are in fact boxes which have a certain structure and end with a learning. Now you might think: how can a tell a story if my business sells something which many don’t consider to be sexy at all…
Acknowledge that your business is selling more than a product. It’s selling a solution to a specific problem. These problems are rooted in a whole lot of different contexts, which you can build on to tell stories…
[Tweet “People are interested in people – @jenscornelissen”]
„Stories are the operating system of our society. We feel, learn and remember the best in narrative contexts. People are not interested in organizations, processes or products. People are interested in people. Companies can go on delivering corporate messages by using press releases or standardized Facebook Posts. But that is neither credible nor trustworthy. So why not make your customer, your employee or your supplier a hero and let him tell his very personal, emotional story? In the best case, these ‘little’ stories are linked to an overarching corporate story, emotionalizing the company’s history, values and strategy.“ – Jens Cornelissen.
In the end, it’s about leveraging storytelling as a content format. Your different assets, posts, Infographics or whatever the format should buil on narrative structures which will keep the content consumer engaged. If you want to learn more about it, here are a few links:
5 insightful posts on storytelling:
- How to create an authentic brand story that improves trust
- 25 Things You Should Know About Story Structure
- STORY STRUCTURE: 10 Simple Keys to Effective Plot Structure
- 11 Story Structures for Business Storytelling
- What is Brand Storytelling?
4 – Make it remarkable (the buzz factor)
Are blenders sexy? Not really. It’s another example for a market in which many businesses compete on price. That’s the challenge which Blendtec was facing. They needed to stand out in a crowded market whithout a huge budget, unlike their competitors. A blender is not something remarkable in itself. Sure it can be of better quality, more powerful, more reliable and so on, but let’s face it, we don’t believe companies telling us that they’re products are the best anymore.
So instead of “feature f*%&ing”, Blendtec made an ordinary product remarkable. They regularly shatter objects in their blenders, which is actually pretty cool. Ipads, iPhones, Glow sticks or golf balls, nothing is safe. They count millions of views with these videos! (here’s a their top 10)
I’d like to share with you Martin Lieberman‘s input, a smart marketer who knows about the struggles to market “boring” products & services:
“Even though someone’s not searching for your product, it’s important to keep them top of mind for when they DO need you. The Blendtec example is a great one, because those are really fun videos and they share the value prop that theirs are strong blenders that can handle just about anything. And because the videos are so engaging, they get shared a lot.”
If you had asked me if I am an advocate of “making viral content” as a strategy to create value, I would have said no, because there are so many examples of viral campaigns which did not create real value. However, if you leverage a topic which appeals to your niche, it can create value.
Another example you say? Glad you ask.
Let’s say you are a business selling books to implement norms. Not really sexy, is it? Because you want to know what pain points are specific to your potential customers, you design a survey to find out what they are. It turns out those people have a recurring pain point: those people feel like they’re not taken seriously by co-workers who they depend on to implement the norm, because they don’t see a benefit for themselves.
With this insight you could design a campaign which leverages this pain point and produce videos which address the issue in a funny way, something a large number of individuals can identify with, it will spread like crazy within your target audience. Align this video with your campaign objectives, plan distribution (paid, owned & earned) and you have the ingredients for an effective campaign.
It makes a seemingly boring topic remarkable, you’ll make people laugh which cannot be bad for your brand either and you’ll get your content to spread like a wildfire.
The Ram Truck Commercial is a great example of how the brand leveraged identity for their ad so that it spread like crazy (even though it was supported by a huge promotion budget: it’s a superbowl commercial)[ VIEW VIDEO ON YOUTUBE ]
If you want to learn more about why and how some ideas spread more then others, I really recommend J. Berger’s work!
5 – Have you thought of Public Relations to showcase expertise?
I know everybody is all over content marketing right now but public relations will never die. If you don’t have an organic reach and you want to build one using the reach of other media entities, you won’t be able to afford not to use PR in your overall strategy. Sure there are sectors where your personas are less likely to use search engines and look for content, but it’s highly likely that they’ll read industry related press (online or offline), subscribed to a newsletter, etc.
If you don’t have a reach of your own and nobody searches for your content, go where your potential clients consume content. Include PR from the start and deliver some value for readers AND for the media entity! It can be a pretty infographic (I heard they still work quite well), provide insight in a business sector and showcase your expertise, be available for interviews and watch out for journalists looking for interviewees etc.
Content Marketing without SEO – you’ve got plenty of options!
Where there is a will, there is a way. Even if people don’t search for your content, it’s never been easier to get it to them. Many social platforms offer extremely granular targeting options which ensures you don’t pay a fortune to promote your content.
It all depends on your industry and how, where and why your personas consume content. Stop focusing so much on SEO and acknowledge the fact that content also allows us to connect between people.
“The best content creates conversations” – J. Miller
When Content creates conversations and it spreads because it’s remarkable, you yon’t need to worry so much about SEO. There are many brands which have shown that you don’t necessarily need to rely on search engines to get attention…
Maybe you have another insight to share or a tip? I’d love to read about it in the comments!