Content marketing is an exciting, expanding and ever-changing industry, with more and more organisations creating and publishing their own content to reach out to and engage with customers and prospects. According to eMarketer, $118.4 billion will be spent globally this year on content marketing, social media marketing and video marketing.
The Australian opportunity
In Australia, the opportunity for content marketing is a particularly enticing one. Australia is a huge country with a relatively small population. Compare it to India, for example, and you’ll see that Australia has twice the land mass, but just 2 per cent of the population. Aussies are also mostly spread around the outside of the country putting huge physical distances between people and businesses.
Australia is a land of opportunity for content marketing
These geographical challenges mean Australia’s future has to be digital. There is massive potential for high-speed internet and high quality websites to bring people together and make the country smaller. There is a major government project underway to upgrade the broadband network, bringing faster connections to 93 per cent of homes and businesses by 2021. The National Broadband Network (NBN) has been the subject of plenty of political wrangling, but both major parties agree that quick, reliable internet is an economic necessity.
It’s also something consumers are demanding. Online spending in Australia is growing at a rapid pace, with a PwC / Frost Sullivan report predicting that it will be worth $27 billion by 2016. At Castleford, we’ve witnessed firsthand a growing realisation among Aussie businesses that they need modern, engaging websites and social media profiles to win over an increasingly demanding domestic audience. Right now, overseas websites are setting the bar in key verticals, with Australian brands playing catch-up.
In order to close the gap, domestic companies are recognising the need to invest in their websites and in their social media activity. This has led to growing interest in and demand for content marketing. Whether your site is primarily for e-commerce, lead gen or brand marketing, regularly publishing relevant, unique content will help you win more visitors from organic search; improve engagement and conversion; and keep your social profiles fresh and interesting.
The evolution of search
As organic search continues to evolve, content marketing is becoming the only long-term strategy. Google, which is virtually a monopoly in Australia and New Zealand, has been saying for some time that investing in better content is more likely to win traffic than any of the various tricks and short-term tactics designed to game the system.
Google Penguin placed an even greater emphasis on quality content
Since Google Panda in 2011, the world’s biggest search engine has been rolling out regular updates intended to reward sites that publish useful and relevant content. Google Penguin, which started in mid 2012, wiped out the credit sites used to get for over-engineering their inbound links or their keywords.
Hummingbird in October 2013, which was a wholesale change of the algorithm, promised to drill deeper into the meaning behind search queries to find more specific, more relevant results. As Google gets better both at figuring out what users mean and separating the genuinely good sites from the sites playing the system, creating and publishing quality content will be the only way to do better in search.
Chasing conversion and engagement
But content marketing isn’t just about improved search performance. It’s also about engagement and conversion. One of the really exciting opportunities that Google Hummingbird presents is getting users from search results straight to more relevant pages on your site. As well as getting found, investing in more, better quality content will also increase your chances of converting visitors once they arrive on your site.
Creating more specific landing pages, for example, that dive into a particular topic in more detail, provides a chance to offer users closely-related calls-to-action. The more natural the next step (a purchase, an enquiry, a sign-up form etc), the more likely your visitors will be to take it.
A simple site structure makes life easier for Googlebot
Content marketing should extend beyond your website, but your website should always come first. You need to start with good quality landing pages that describe what you do; a logical site structure that makes life easy for Googlebot and for your users; and regular updates that provide useful, helpful content for your target audience.
But once your site is in good shape, you can use content marketing to reach out to your target market wherever they happen to be. In fact, one of the really cool aspects of content marketing is looking at what your audience is interested in and creating some content on that topic or using that channel.
If Lip Sync Kid has a bigger YouTube audience than you, why not launch your new single from his bedroom? If your audience is using blogs and social media to research a product you sell or a service you provide (and you can bet they are), some useful, helpful content is your ticket to reaching them.
According to Technorati, 31 per cent of people say blogs influence their purchase decisions. Blogs are also used more than news sites, forums and some social media platforms, including Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. As well as reaching your audience, blogs can directly support your bottom line. B2B companies that blog generate 70% more leads, according to Hubspot. Companies that have built an archive of at least 200 articles get 5 times as many leads as companies with 10 or fewer posts.
The content marketing challenge
Just like any emerging industry, content marketing faces a number of challenges. Through our sister companies in the US and the UK, we’ve seen content marketing develop and establish itself in 3 very different markets over a period of 14 years.
Back in the UK in 2000, the idea of creating their own content for the web was a new one for the vast majority of brands. It would have been rare to see anyone doing it on any significant scale and nobody was calling it “content marketing”. As recently as 2011, content marketing was still an unusual concept in Australia, even among marketing professionals.
While that has changed dramatically, particularly over the course of 2013, content marketing is still establishing itself in the marketing budgets of Australian businesses. In the UK and the US, mid-sized and larger organisations will have dedicated budgets for content marketing and will often have a head of content marketing in-house.
Content marketing is starting to win more attention and budget
Australia and New Zealand is not quite there yet, with financial constraints remaining a major hurdle for getting content marketing campaigns off the ground. An Econsultancy report last year revealed that resources (52 per cent), budget (49 per cent) and company politics (38 per cent) were the most common barriers to content marketing.
But as more of the region’s marketing professionals throw their weight behind content marketing, it will be front and centre of most digital campaigns. Increasingly the quest for more search traffic, stronger social engagement and better conversions leads back to content.