The term ‘content marketing’ gets thrown about a lot.And I’m not surprised.
There are over 2 million blogs posted every day, and each has the objective of capturing someone’s attention.
Somewhere along the line, the purpose of creating content has been lost.
Content marketing has been associated with pushing out as much information as possible, instead of focusing on what content actually needs to be produced in order to achieve business growth.
On top of that, only 34% have documented their results. Which is crazy.
These results suggest there is still ambiguity around the role content marketing plays in b2b lead generation, but more importantly, in how marketers can leverage content to attract and convert prospective customers.
Luckily, this post breaks down everything you need to know about b2b content marketing; from why companies use it all the way through to how you can measure its success.
Let’s get started…
What is content marketing
Here’s my favourite definition:
“Content marketing is the process of developing, publishing, and distributing useful information that engages prospective customers and propels them toward purchase.”
Anne Murphy, Director of Marketing Content, Kapost
Content marketing refers to offering such valuable content in the eyes of the target customer that when the purchasing decision comes around they buy from you.
The main difference between b2c and b2b content marketing is that good b2b content offers insight that can be applied to work – whereas b2c doesn’t have to.
This doesn’t mean you can’t post a self-promotion piece once a while, but gone are the days where you talk at your audience. You need to join the conversation and add real-life value to make an impact.
How is content marketing used?
These stats from Hubspot show exactly how effective content marketing can be in generating traffic and leads:
Okay, sure – creating content is a good way of showing your company has good knowledge, but what are the practicalities of content marketing?
How does it cultivate an audience?
And, how can it be applied to generate revenue through customer acquisition?
Let’s dig into the mechanisms behind how these businesses achieved their success.
Writing for search engines
One approach to content marketing is combining search engine optimisation (SEO) and content creation. The objective being to get your company’s website to appear in search engine results pages when users search for information relevant to your industry.
Unbounce is a good example.
When starting out, Unbounce acquired roughly 80% of their customers through their blog.
They wrote relentlessly about best landing page practices, user experience and conversion optimisation – and as they provide landing page software this was highly relevant to their audience.
They then were able to turn that initial traffic (that came from search engines), into loyal customers.
How to write for search engines – step by step
According to Copyblogger, SEO content is one of the most misunderstood topics in online marketing.
The truth is, as long as your website has a sound technical foundation, writing content that ranks highly is quite straight forward.
It’s best if you think about it in three parts:
Once you’ve identified a topic to write about, you need to ensure people are actually searching for phrases related to that topic.
This is called keyword research.
Take the Unbouce example.
During content ideation, they would have identified where the need for content was.
A simple way to do this is to enter AdWords and click tools > keyword planner, and they then click on the search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category section
This list is golden, as you can see the types of queries that are already getting loads of search traffic. For example, landing page best practices are getting up to 10k search a month, with medium competition.
This method of content research lays a solid foundation for understanding your target markets’ content requirements and plays a vital role in the success of the following strategy.
For the sake of this article’s length, we’ve only touched on keyword research, but here’s a few great resource you can use to further your learning:
- How to do keyword research by moz
- How to do keyword research in 2017 by ahrefs
- Keyword research for SEO by Backlinko
2. Onsite optimisation
Once your keywords have been chosen, you need to make it easy for search engines to identify that your content is based on these keywords (for example, this post is optimised for the keyword “b2b content marketing”).
This is called onsite optimisation.
Here’s a condensed infographic from Backlinko – which perfectly illustrates how each web page can be optimised for its keyword.
But before you go any further, please note ‘writing for search engines’ doesn’t mean creating average content and optimising it for high traffic keywords.
That’s a vanity metric which carries no merit converting leads.
Instead, combine writing for search engines with extraordinary content, and watch your web traffic return for more. Only then will you start to see the fruits of your labour.
You’ve now laid a good foundation for your SEO content. The next step is ensuring that when users type this keyword into Google, they’ll find your post at the top.
Onsite optimisation accounts for roughly 15% of the factors determining search engine rankings. The remaining 85% is determined by offsite optimisation – otherwise known as backlinks.
For those who haven’t come across backlinks – they are simply hyperlinks from other websites to yours.
Backlinks help Google determine which sites are most relevant to users’ searches.
The domain authority of the site who provides the backlink determines the weight of its impact on the rankings.
Think of it like this:
keyword selection and onsite optimisation are like putting yourself forward for an award, backlinks are like votes.
Take a looks a Google’s mission statement.
Google’s emphasis is on making the world’s information accessible and relevant. To do this Google has to rely heavily on backlinks.
Their reliance on interlinking content is the whole reason the internet is referred to as the ‘web’ (I know, mind blown)
And there’s more…
Backlinks to specific content doesn’t only raise rankings of that page, it increases website domain authority as a whole.
Meaning, the more content you produce and acquire backlinks to, the more likely you are to raise the rankings of your product pages as well – which is a huge win!
Yes, that’s exactly why everyone has been telling you to get a company blog for from the past 5 years. Creating linkable content is the best way raise your website rankings across the board.
How to get backlinks
So how do you actually go about getting backlinks?
Now that’s a question.
There are many strategies to acquire backlinks to your content, but again for the sake of this article’s length I’ll refer you onto someone my favourite backlinks sources:
- 7 proactive ways to get backlinks by Quicksprout
- 6 smart ways to get backlinks for SEO by Crazy Egg
- 8 ways to get backlinks by spying on your competitors by ahref
Keep the conversation going with social media
The second approach to applying content marketing to grow your business is through social media.
It’s easy for social media to become a reactive task, and post only when it’s necessary. This is especially true in the b2b marketing, where it’s typically viewed there is less to say.
That said, 79% of b2b marketers who have implemented and executed a coherent social media strategy have found it to be their most effective marketing channel. Similarly, the same group announced if they had had extra budget, they’d spend it on social media.
So what? Everybody talks about social media’s success in creating leads, but how can you do it?
Take a step back and be honest with yourself.
When you post on social media, do you post self-promotion pieces, or do you post informational content you’ve spent hours on or thousands of £ on ‘selflessly’ creating in order to fulfil a gap in your consumer’s knowledge?
Yeah, I thought not.
Take a look at these stats:
47% of buyers viewed three to five pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep.
51% of B2B buyers rely more on content to research and make B2B purchasing decisions than they did a year ago
Modern b2b buyers are more reliant on content to inform their purchasing decision than ever. Therefore, your social media strategy needs to act as a medium which produces timely and high-quality content, in order for you to win the business.
Think of content marketing through social media as planting a seed. You can’t harvest the results straight away, but given and effort the time to grow can provide great results.
That said, there are still many reasons why companies choose not to pursue content marketing. Here are the top 12:
A common misconception amongst smaller business is that you need to only post links to content they create and that takes users back to their website – which stunts their flow of content, or even worse, means they start creating mediocre content.
The truth is, offering and sharing quality industry information from other industry publications (not competition) is a surefire way of increasing your company’s credibility.
It shows an unbias in the pursuit of providing the most valuable content to your following. And then when come around to post your own content, you have a platform of expectant and loyal listeners.
Not only that, but it’s much cheaper and easier sharing others content, especially when you don’t have a large budget to play with.
The secret sauce, just content SEO, is to find out where the demand for information is and cover it from every angle until the reader couldn’t possibly need any more information on that topic – then simply provide them with your product which solves that problem.
Content marketing and email
The above focusses heavily on creating information-rich content to increase traffic and build relationships.
This final approach focuses on how you can integrate content with email marketing to expedite the sales process. This method is the easiest to quantify and can be a powerful tool for turning loose prospects into paying customers.
Let’s get started…
Have you ever been sent to a landing page that looks like this:
This is known as ‘gated content’.
Gated content is used to get you to enter your email address in exchange for information.
This information typically comes in the form of white papers, cheat sheets or eBooks. Something higher ticket than blog posts, that warrants the commitment of entering an email address.
Look at this real world example from Ubounce:
They’ve created an e-book on the ‘12 proven ways to convert with overlays‘.
This research-heavy content is a great example of what people will enter their personal information to receive.
Once the user has entered their details to receive this asset, Unbouce is then able to drop their details into an automated email sequence.
The purpose of this email sequence is to slowly push the content downloader towards purchase.
This sequence may look something like this:
This is a simplified example, but as a rule of thumb, a user needs to engage with 3 ‘educational’ content emails before they are ready to receive a ‘buy our product’ email. This process can take up to 18 months to achieve results, but with the right email nurture stream it can be well worth the wait.
Here are a few resources to help you craft your nurture stream:
- 6 steps to building an effective email responder sequence by business to community
- The definitive guide to writing autoresponder email sequences by the Sales Copy Lab
- B2B lead nurturing for dummies by Oxtopus
Driving traffic to gated content
We’ve identified that gated content is needed to drive email sign-ups, but how do we get users to the landing page?
Sure, it can be approached with the same SEO and social strategies outlined above, but there are more instant ways of driving downloads.
Yep – paid ads.
If you’re looking for some quick wins whilst building our your SEO and social content strategy, integrating paid search and gated assets can deliver some ‘top of the funnel’ leads ready for nurturing.
It’s not enough to just create great content and expect the money to come in.
There is so much information on the web competing for attention, that hitting the publish button on your company blog is no longer going to cut it.