What I Wish I'd Known Before I Built My Website, Part 4- content marketing plan!

We've been talking about the concerns raised by the business owners who attended T324 owner David Daniels' Learning Lunch at the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce. Content Marketing plan

One topic that we've touched on only lightly was social and content marketing.

Several business owners said they knew they should set their sites up with blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest, but weren't actually sure why.

To the kind of small and medium business owners T324 often works with, the time and effort involved in writing a blog or posting on Facebook sounds flat-out insane.

Why would they create content that gives away their valuable business expertise or use their precious time to  converse with people on the internet who may never become customers?

But imagine how crazy it sounds to a 22-year-old fresh out of marketing school to hear that only fifteen or twenty years ago, a company that makes boxes had to have a full-time ad department that did physical pasteup with tools like Letraset to make ads that were printed in newspapers that would thrown be away the day after they were distributed.

Businesses demonstrated their knowledge base with articles in trade journals that might reach ten thousand people. Now, a piece of evergreen content you create for your site can reach the whole world, forever, for free.

In recent posts we've talked about how the search environment has changed due to search algorithm updates from Google.

Quality content and social proof (volunteer links from social media endorsing your company) now affect your site's ranking tremendously. Before your company's site appears in Google's search results, it's been given a rank based on Google's assessment of your credibility. That is, your value to the user experience.

Socially-shared content marketing like videos, podcasts, white papers and guides that showcase your company's expertise show Google your company is a legitimate search result.

Why should you have to prove your business is legit? Sorry. It sucks. Life isn't fair. But for you as a business owner there's a silver lining to the work of creating this content, and that's lower-funnel inbound leads.

When potential customers find you through content, they pass through an educational filter about your products and values.

The more authentically your content speaks to your business priorities and specialties, the more likely you are to get a lead who really wants exactly what you're selling. Your pre-qualified lead is now lower in the funnel and more likely to convert. That lead can also be an advocate for your business before they've even converted.

When you create articles or videos interesting enough that people will want to share them on social media like Facebook and LinkedIn, those shares generate positive backlinks to your content on your site.

These positively weighted backlinks to your site drive traffic. They establish your brand's knowledge base. They bring you customers who you have introduced to your brand.

In the 21st century, SEO, content and social are where you reallocate your traditional advertising budget.

Your sales team is also getting a huge assist, so think of your online marketing investment as dollars saved in your sales budget. And your sales team is a priceless resource when you go looking for information about what your customers are interested in.

So how do you do this content/social thing? Do you need an expert? Do you need to hire it out?

Well, it depends on the size of your team, your personal enjoyment of writing, and whether you're willing to learn about how to optimize your content. Because, yes, your content should be authentic and reflect your business values, but it should also be optimized so that the information in it is most accessible. There are plugins, guides and handbooks to help.

We love this SEOmoz.com article by Toby Murdock about how to build and operate a Content Marketing Machine.

Doing your own social is a rathole, a time-suck that can lead to despair.

Smaller business owners are best served by outsourcing their social. After all, you didn't publish your own newspaper when you wanted to advertise in one. And there's something about the incremental nature of social media that drives a busy business owner nuts. Interns were made to do your social, as are stay-at-home parents who happen to be interested in your industry or familiar with your business.

You don't want anybody doing social fulltime if you're a small to medium business. The rewards are too unpredictable, with surprise developments like the Facebook Fan Hostage Scandal popping up, and the metrics too uncertain. Unless your business is selling cute dresses, in which case you should hire two smart young people and have them post to Pinterest all day long.

Will having a content marketing plan bring people to your website?

There are no guarantees in 21st century marketing, but a content marketing plan is looking pretty good these days.

Q: Why does content marketing seem to have reached a tipping point this year?

Doug Kessler, Creative Director and Co-Founder, Velocity Partners:

It's tipping because it works. Content is the engine of search, social, outbound and web marketing. It's also the fuel for lead nurturing. It took a while for people to see how and why content is so powerful but it's on every marketer's radar now.

Part 2 of this series

Part 1 of this series