Two weeks ago, we kicked off a 4-part series called The Content Marketing Burrito. In Week 1, we discussed how the taste of your Content Marketing burrito – how Google and readers value your company – is in the Meat: Original, Valuable Content.
In Week 2, we covered the sometimes flavorless, but essential ingredient to a world-class, effective Content Marketing burrito, the Beans: Public Relations.
This week we’ll touch on two very important taste-bud exciters: the Pico de Gallo and the Cheese.
The Pico de Gallo: Advertising
I chose to begin with the spicier Advertising topic because a very important element in advertising applies to SEO (The Cheese).
When you hear the word “Advertising”, you think of it in the many varieties you consume it: on the radio, on TV, billboards, in the newspaper, in your mailbox, on most web sites you visit, etc.
What Really Sells
Everyone has their styles and theories advertising. Some think a funny or clever ad sells. Some think sex sells. Some think mystery sells. I will tell you what kind of messaging has been proven to sell time and time again, but you’re going to hate it: plain, simple, tell-it-how-it-is messaging. This concept is taught in the book found on every professional ad writer’s bookshelf, “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This!” by Luke Sullivan. The concept of tell-it-how-it-is advertising is also found among blogs across the globe that cover small business marketing, including this article on About.com.
If you’re a small business and you want to create a pay-per-click ad, which I highly recommend, you’ll stew over what to make it look like and what to have the ad say. You may even hire a friend in marketing to help. Don’t waste your time and money. KISS: Keep it simple, stupid. You’re a digital photographer? Your ad should say just that: what you do, where you do it, who/what you serve (i.e. weddings, family portraits, etc.), and ONE statement that separates your photography business from the hundreds of others, like your price, your professionalism, your quick turn-around times, whatever.
The Follies of Business Owners
Nearly every business owner I’ve met, whether operating a small or a large business, has the same flawed thought process about advertising: “I want it to be better than or similar to the other guys.”
Have you ever seen a Pepsi commercial with a polar bear? No (unless you count this short-lived slap at Coke an ad for Pepsi.) Have you ever seen a Burger King commercial with a clown? Nope. Have you ever seen a Target commercial with a smiley face? Never. Why not? Because smart marketing executives know that you should never compare your advertising to your competitors’. You’re two different companies, you should advertise like two different companies.
However, after reading the above statements about not advertising like your competitors, many business owners go down the dark, results-less path of being too unique and alienating their consumers. For example, I led the brand messaging for a company that provided “patient communication software” to healthcare practices. However, the CEO and founder of the company believed wholeheartedly that his software was truly unique; different than the rest of the patient communication software. He desperately wanted people to believe his software was more than patient communication; so he called our offering “Patient Engagement”, and he refused to deviate from that label despite research that proved it meant nothing to prospective customers.
Your customers are interested in a general product and they know what that product is by the time they see your ad. By renaming your product or service from “Photographer” to “Memory Capturer” in your advertising, you miss out on everyone interested in hiring a photographer, defeating the point of your ads in the first place.
What Kind of Advertising Should You Do?
The question everyone asks, but few understand. It all really, really depends on your target audience. If your customers live in northeast Wyoming where internet connectivity is sparse, smart phones are rare, no local TV station exists, and the local newspaper and radio stations rule the town, then you have your answer. If your target audience is mid-twenty-somethings in Manhattan, look into flyers and posters at clubs across the city. Catch my drift?
Several media experts recommend pouring money into all types of mediums in search of results. Roy Williams of Entrepreneur.com outlines your options and their reliability in terms of results. But generally, all you have to do is take a look around your target audience, maybe poll a few customers, to find out which media they regularly visit.
Then, of course, there’s the tricky subliminal advertising you can do: advertising without actually advertising. CBS is a perfect example. You know, the TV network, err … the radio network. Or are they a billboard company?
For the tenth time in the last 11 years, CBS achieved the title of “Most Watched TV Network” over ABC, NBC, and Fox, according to 2013 Nielsen ratings. It’s probably because CBS has better programs and lineups, right? Or, is it possible that millions of Americans have been subliminally advertised to by CBS for years, far more than their competitors. Consider this:
CBS owns 400,000 billboards in the U.S. – mostly in major cities – and each one has the CBS logo at the bottom.
CBS owns the most radio stations in the U.S., with a top FM and a top AM radio station in every one of the top 50 media markets. During the twice-hourly station identification spot, you hear “a CBS radio station”. Who gets a free spot on your local CBS-owned radio station every half-hour? CBS’s local TV affiliates.
On my 30-minute drive to work in Salt Lake City, I probably see the CBS logo 10 times and hear it at least once on the radio. I don’t hear or see any other TV network’s name. When I get home from work, can you guess which TV station I turn to?
How can you do what CBS does? It’s simple: partner advertising and small sponsorships. Shell out a few hundred bucks to have your ad in the local high school gym if your target audience is teenagers or parents of teenagers. Sponsor a local 5k for charity or an elementary school’s read-a-thon. These small sponsorships get your brand name in the minds of those who frequently see it without realizing it. Eventually, they’ll look into your business without realizing it.
The Cheese: SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
For those who have never heard of SEO, I’ll fill you in with this relatively quick explanation: SEO is the concept of appearing first in a search engine’s results when a person searches online for something. For example, when you visit http://www.google.com and type in “Simpson”, Google tries its best to deliver results of your search that you are looking for, not just anything to do with the word. Also, Google has segmented their search rankings by region. So the top result for “Simpson” may vary between California and New York, depending on which results Googlers choose in those regions.
Through use of Content Marketing plans and web site reorganization, any average Joe could appear at the top of results for nearly any search query. For example, my personal Google Plus page was once a top result for the search query “Dental Marketing” in the southeast U.S. While I am a dental marketing expert, I have yet to visit any part of the Southeast! See what I mean? Anyone can do it. Now, on to the strategies of SEO …
Graph Source: Yelp.com
Don’t simply take that statistic as “everybody uses search engines to find any business”, because there’s more (or less) to the story than that statement alone. Consider these questions to add to the statistic:
If 85% of consumers use search engines, how often on average does the 85% search for a business?
What type of businesses are they searching for?
What percentage of search queries are specifically in search of a business to patron and not just searches for information?
What percentage of consumer search queries are made to search for MY type of business?
These questions are not intended to minimize the importance of SEO. After all, a high search result ranking for your small business directly corresponds to calls to your business.
What these questions should do, however, is open your eyes to where you can attack your competitors in SEO strategy. Your competitors are out there throwing down big money to rank first for just about anything, casting a giant net to catch all 85% of consumers. Be smarter. Put yourself in the consumers’ shoes.
Finding the right keywords.
The first thing to do to start ranking high in search results is determine what search categories you want to rank in. Ask your customers plainly “what does my business do?” Think about labeling your business, but do not think about benefits you provide. Remember the difference between Photographer and Memory Capturer? Your potential customers think “I need a wedding photographer”, not “I need a wedding memory capturer”, nor do they think “I need someone to take pictures at my wedding because I am the bride and I cannot take my own wedding photos.”
Once you’ve identified 2-3 keywords or phrases that best mirror what you think your customers search for online, go to www.google.com/adwords and set up a free account. Then select “Tools and Analysis” from the top bar menu and choose “Keyword tool”. There you can type in keyword search terms and Google will tell you roughly how many times that keyword phrase is searched monthly and how difficult it is to rank high for that phrase. And it’s all free!
Location, Location, Location!
A very important key to selecting your SEO keywords is your location. If you’re a small, local business, location means everything to your SEO efforts. You’re not just a wedding photographer, you’re a “wedding photographer in Jacksonville”, or a “wedding photographer in northern Florida”. By targeting keyword phrases that incorporate your general location, not only will Google rank you higher for that specific phrase, but Google will rank you higher for all “wedding photographer” searches accessed in northern Florida. Remember what I mentioned earlier: Google has segmented its search results regionally based on the searcher’s IP address location. It provides results automatically based on where you are when you use Google, even if you don’t specifically intend to search for businesses in the region you’re in at the time of “Googling.”
Tying Your Keyword Phrases into Your Content
You don’t just pack your cheese into one corner of your burrito, do you? Similarly, you don’t just use your SEO keyword phrases on your web site. You place them anywhere you publish content, from your social media posts to your blogs to your press releases to your brochures. Even in comments you make on social media posts. In next week’s installment on Content Marketing, we’ll discuss how Social Media and SEO mix, but until then, this excellent article by Media Bistro will give you the basics.
The first place you should put your keyword phrase is at the top of your web site, called the H1 tag. Your web site’s home page is embedded with 6 possible H-tags, as they’re called, H1 through H6. Google recognizes and values them by numerical order, meaning H1 is the most important to Google. H1 is your headline, H2 your sub headline, and so forth. Depending on what type of web publishing service you used to create your web site, you may need to Google “How to change my H1 tag”. Regardless, your headline (H1 tag) should use your main target SEO keyword phrase. Using our Jacksonville photographer, your headline could be “The Best Wedding Photographer in Northern Florida”.
Then try to integrate your second keyword phrase and your business name into your H2 tag, perhaps “Choose Smith Photography for all your special event pictures!”
Links in EVERYTHING
Your Content Marketing strategy includes all types of different marketing tactics. But they should all include backlinks to your web site. What that means is that in every blog you write, in most of your social media posts, in every public relations piece and every advertisement, use your target SEO keyword phrases (in a fluid, non-intrusive manner so as to not disrupt the flow or readability of the piece) and link that phrase to your web site. You may have noticed several instances of that very thing in this article alone.
With your Meat (valuable content), your Beans (public relations), your Pico (advertising), and your Cheese (SEO), you are finally ready to wrap your Content Marketing burrito in the fluffy, heavenly tortilla that is Social Media. Check out next week’s blog to wrap up this Content Marketing series.
Guest Blog Post: Zach Zavoral is an award-winning journalist who specializes in public relations, advertising, SEO and social media.