Guest Blogging is not Content Marketing

Like many of the digital folk reading this, I read a lot of blogs, books and pretty much anything that piques my interest. Hell, I’ve even been known to drop into the occasional Google+ Hangout. Doing the rounds, there is a common theme on approaches to content marketing.

Though the wording changes from article to article they generally all follow the same rule: use Google and some advanced queries to pull up websites that return [“KEYWORD” “submit guest post”]  or [“KEYWORD” “Write for us”] or something else along those lines.

I have some news for you. You’re doing it wrong.

1.      Content marketing and guest blogging are not interchangeable.

I’m going to keep this simple and use a pretty conclusive description of content marketing from the Content Marketing Institute:

Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

Content marketing is about understanding your audience – what motivates them, what interests them, and what doesn’t. It’s about using this intricate knowledge of your target audience to interact and engage with them through content to reach an end goal.

For many search marketers, herein lies the problem.

2.      Using keywords and search strings for guest blogging is not content marketing.

The idea of using keywords to determine content placement might have worked nicely back in the 2000s where article marketing was as far as content got but we’re in 2013 now. You need to step up your game and here is why:

Sustainability

If guest blogging continues in this almost ‘article marketing’ fashion, search engines aren’t going to like it, and when Google don’t like something, they do something big to combat it. You only have to look at the evolution of the search engines algorithms last year alone to see this in action.

There are already a few grumbles in the blogging community about the future of guest blogging after an interesting post from Jeff Foster on ProBlogger entitled Why Blogs that Allow Guest Posts Will Be Penalized in 2013, which outlined the wrong way to offer guest blog spots.

Deep down we all know that this isn’t really how we’re supposed to be using content, so let’s all move away from what is – let’s face it – borderline spam. Matt Cutts and others in the Googleplex have already hinted that they may take action on what they have said on this topic before.

Opportunity Cost and ROI

Does anyone ever convert from these guest posts? Does anyone ever read a 450 word guide about buying a cordless electric water kettle and run out to buy one armed with their new found knowledge?

Doubtful. If you’re looking to generate a real ROI for your clients, you need to start thinking about the audience exposed to your marketing messages rather than a “DA50/PR3” link opportunity.

I spoke to Pam Kozelka from the Content Marketing Institute about her thoughts: “Many SEO agencies have already taken up the content marketing banner…but SEO-related content is only one small part of the content marketing lifecycle.  There are so many different areas during the buying process that require content outside of the practice of SEO”

Content creation can be really hard and can take a long time so why are you wasting your time and copy budget on scaling low level guest blogging. Invest your time in something worthwhile that people actually care about, focus on getting it in front of the right people and watch your conversion metrics and – more importantly – your client’s bank balance improve.

Need more convincing? Check out this story of content marketing that propelled the author to #45 in the Amazon author rankings and drove more sales of a book than TV and newspaper coverage.

Your customers demand better

At the end of the day, the content you create leaves a lasting impression on your clients and potential customers, and this should be at the front of your mind at all times.

Understand your customers. Research their interests, their wants, their needs and produce content to match to improve the whole user experience. Help potential clients through their purchase decision-making cycle by offering content at each stage to inform and guide them. It is only through solid knowledge and understanding of your customer that you can even contemplate creating content worthwhile for their needs.

Pam Kozelka adds: ”Your customers don’t care about you, your products or your services…they care about themselves.  If we want to get involved with our customers’ buying journey, we better be solving their problems through epic content.”

Understand your industry. Remember: content is much more than blog posts. Does your industry fit neatly into the traditional content market or will you need to be more innovative to be interesting?

A great example of this is Blendtec’s fantastic Will it Blend? content. Not only is it a tremendous example of how a boring industry can do content, but also how it can do it successfully. The amount of coverage the campaign has gained is astronomical, with over half a million YouTube subscribers and over 219,000,000 views on their YouTube videos alone. Traffic to the company’s website has increased by 650% since the introduction of the videos, while Blendtec’s online sales have increased five-fold.

With the recent advancements in Authorship we all know that content is here to stay, but as digital marketers we have to put the user first and allow them to be the focus of our content creation.

What are your thoughts on content marketing and creation? How are you making the most of your content budget? Let me know in the comments below.

Bio – Andrew Isidoro – Search Strategist at Box UK