Content Marketing For Small Business
Content marketing has a colorful history. I love the infographic from the Content Marketing Institute that illustrates how back in 4200 b.c., we find perhaps the first sign of content marketing in writing on cave walls. These writings can be loosely translated to “6 Ways A Spear Can Save Your From A Wild Boar”.
But back in 1895, John Deere published a magazine called The Furrow, which was published solely for the purpose of being a valuable resource and guide for their customers.
Note the key term here — valuable resource.
When John Deere published the The Furrow in magazine form, mainly because this was the only way to get content into customers (and potential customers) hands, their focus was to teach farmers how to be more productivity farmers, and more profitable business owners. Defining the core essence of content marketing.
Dive a bit deeper here with John Deere and The Furrow, and you really have an example of B2B content marketing. After all, John Deere was marketing their farming equipment to business owners (the farmers).
How Far We’ve Come With Content Marketing
John Deere is a great study of the long standing value of content marketing. Although they started back in the 1890’s with their printed magazine, they have evolved the delivery of the The Furrow to be effective in today’s digital landscape.
You can find The Furrow now in digital form. And taking one look at this digital publication and you’ll see how it is, quite simply, a blog. You can find other forms of their digital content being shared on the John Deere Facebook page and Twitter profile.
This highlights the ‘lack of barriers to entry’ that exist for anyone – small businesses, enterprise companies, even individuals – to get started with a content marketing campaign. All it takes is:
- a desire to provide valuable content to an audience of existing or prospective customers.
- consistent, high quality production of content over time.
How Content Marketing Impacts Your Business Website & Brand
As John Deere discovered back in the late 1800’s, producing valuable content that “helps”, is a great way to build brand authority. Translate this into today’s modern age of digital content and websites, and it likewise contributes to building authority into your website.
Here’s a quick, simplified workflow for how content marketing contributes to building brand authority in today’s digital world:
- You write helpful blog posts from your business website.
- Google crawls and indexes your new content.
- People on the web see your new content, like and share it across social media.
- Other websites link back to your content.
- All of this activity (like’ing, sharing, linking) builds authority in Google’s search algorithm.
- More authority means higher rankings for a wide range of relevant, high impact keyword phrases.
- Higher rankings translates into more traffic from a high quality targeted audience.
- Your audience grows, and this cycle is perpetuated.
It’s the exact same workflow that John Deere implemented back in the 1800’s, except in today’s digital landscape, the workflow directly impacts the growth of your brand through your website.
Local SEO for Small Business
Content marketing for small business becomes an important strategy when you consider the recent changes in the way Google displays search results for locally targeted queries.
Most small businesses, and even large enterprise companies, find their customers centered around specific geographic areas. This is certainly not always the case as you have natural online / e-commerce sites such as Amazon and Craigslist.
But for the most part, small businesses or all types find their customers centered around specific geographic and metro areas.
Google understands the relevance of this, and as such, has altered their search results to favor locally targeted businesses.
The local search results in Google, when Google determines a search has local relevance, now takes precedence over the traditional organic search results both on desktop computes and mobile phones.
Here’s an example showing the impact and presence of the local search results:
As you can see, for the local search phrase “atlanta personal injury lawyer”, the local search results are displayed above the organic search results on both the desktop computer and mobile phone.
Even more important, Google now displays only the top 3 local search results for any given search phrase. And from my perspective, the top 3 local search results are really the new #1 search result in Google.
Why Local SEO is Relevant For Small Businesses Today
All of this points to the relevance of local SEO for small business. When your small business desires to have a presence in a geographically targeted market, the local search results become extremely important to reaching new customers.
- a popular location for tourists and visitors from around the world.
- located on the New Jersey shores.
Our taxi cab client repeatedly reminds us that their only concern is being found in the local search results of Google. That is, when someone searches something like “taxi cabs toms river nj”, their only concern is being found at the top of the local search results.
And as I mentioned already, the top 3 (letters A, B, & C), are the default display for local search results. So when the taxi cab company says they only care about the local search results, what they are really saying is they only care about being found in the top 3 local search results.
Fortunately, we’ve been able to drive this client into the letter A / #1 local search result for their targeted keyword phrase.
Our client is “Toms River Exclusive”, and as you can see, they are ranked letter A / #1 in the local search results for one of their most profitable keyword phrases.
Mobile Local SEO Search Results
Even more important are the mobile search results for locally targeted searches. The screenshot above shows the search results from a desktop computer. But when you view the same search results from a mobile phone, you get an even more relevant display, especially for this particular client.
The mobile local search results in Google prominently display a “call” button. This means, when someone makes a locally relevant search, more than likely they will be presented with the top 3 local search results, and in more cases, they will only be given the option to “call” that business.
Here’s the same search results from my iPhone:
One important observation here is that in order for me to see even the #3 / letter C search result, I would have to slightly swipe down my screen. So, in this case, it’s perhaps even more appropriate to say that the top 2 local search results (letters A and B) are the most prominently displayed local search results for this particular query.
How Content Marketing Impacts Local SEO For Small Business
There’s been an unfortunate disconnect in the past that puts content marketing and SEO in two different spheres. Some have even stated that “content marketing” is overtaking “SEO” in Google.
But the disjointing of content marketing and SEO is completely false.
In fact, the most authoritative SEO technique is one that is founded on a strong content marketing initiative.
Neil Patel at Kissmetrics did a great job of illustrating the relationship between content marketing and SEO.
At the fundamental strategy of SEO and content marketing, there are some differences to note.
SEO is mostly adhered to for targeting a specific keyword phrase or phrases. For several of our enterprise SEO clients, they desire to target the most profitable keyword phrase in their product or service category.
This is SEO on a global scale.
And in order to compete at this level, you need a highly concerted effort for targeting the root keyword phrase at the category level.
Content marketing, as illustrated by The Furrow from John Deere, and dating back as far as the late 1800’s, is an initiative to build brand authority and awareness through the use of valuable content.
Search as the dominant source of inbound traffic
But one look at nearly any Google Analytics dashboard for a business, large or small, and you’ll find that organic search is the dominant source for the majority of inbound traffic to a website.
This is where content marketing and SEO merge.
SEO Requires Content
In order to rank for any given keyword phrase, especially the most competitive keyword phrases in your market, content is the fundamental fuel to your rankings.
If you are going to rank for hyper competitive keyword phrases, your rankings must be reinforced by an authoritative presence on the web. And in order to build that authoritative presence, you’ll have to produce enough content that warrants that authority.
One powerful example of content marketing as a way to drive SEO rankings is through the use of SEO silos.
An SEO silo is basically a series of content pieces within your website that support the targeting of a top level product or service page. You’ll identify what your most profitable page is for a targeted keyword phrase, write a series of high quality, supporting content pieces that covers different angles of that product or service, and then link up to your top level / targeted page.
Bruce Clay is one of the founding architects behind the idea of silos, and he put together a great illustration that highlights the structure:
The major theme represents your top level page for a given product or service within your website. This is, in essence, the most profitable page within your website that you want all of the traffic coming to for making a purchase or converting into a lead.
The subtopic pages represent the supporting content for your top level page. These subtopic pages represent the content that drills down into the sub-categories and topics supporting your top level page.
Notice the linking relationship between your major theme, or top level page, and the subtopic or supporting pages. The supporting pages link up your top level page. But your top level page does not link down to your supporting pages.
Taking the idea of SEO silos one step further, and each of your subtopic pages can be linked to each other through the use of an internal sub-navigation menu. You would then have all subtopic pages linking up to the top level page, and linking across to each other.
This creates a highly authoritative supporting structure to reinforce the authority of your top level page.
All of this is underwritten with high quality content. And high quality content takes the form of content that provides value to your visitors.
In other words, content marketing is the fuel that drives a successful SEO silo structure.
Content Marketing For Top Rankings in Google Local Search Results
Finally, let’s bring this entire discussion down to leveraging content marketing for top rankings in Google local search results. In other words, how content marketing drives local SEO success for small business.
The best way for me to illustrate this is to use one of our clients as the example.
We have a personal injury law firm client who has two office locations in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin.
Their primary objective was to rank in the #1 local search results for their most profitable keyword phrase “brain injury attorney” in their respective metro areas.
So the client needed to be ranked letter A / #1 in the Google maps search results for “brain injury attorney milwaukee” and “brain injury attorney madison”.
First, let me show you their local search result placements, and then I’ll illustrate how content marketing drive their local SEO success.
Here’s their letter A rankings in Google local search results for “brain injury attorney milwaukee”:
And here’s their letter A local search result rankings for “brain injury attorney madison”
In both bases, Rozek Law is the top ranked local search results for their targeted keyword phrase.
How Content Marketing Drives Local SEO For Small Business
The local SEO strategy we implemented for this client went far beyond the standard local SEO techniques of optimizing their Google business page and their associated website.
The personal injury law firm market in local SEO is, without question, one of the most competitive markets in the U.S. Thousands of personal injury law firms are gunning for the top local search results in any given metro area.
And in the paid search results (i.e. Google Adwords), you’ll find that personal injury law firms are bidding upwards of $100 or more for just one click. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more aggressively competitive market than $100 plus bids per click in Adwords.
So in order compete at this level, and in order to drive this law firm into the letter A rankings in their targeted market, we had to implement a concerted content marketing strategy.
Local News For Content Marketing & Local SEO
There are many different strategies and techniques to leveraging content marketing for SEO rankings. But keeping with the example above, the client needed authority in very specific metro area markets.
As such, we found that news represented the most abundant opportunity for content production.
There is obviously and abundance of news happening in the Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin markets everyday. And this provided us with a near unlimited resource for tapping into content production.
Since the client is a personal injury law firm, we focused initially on covering accident and injury related news on their blog. And one biggest objective was to target brain injury related news and information. However, there’s not always brain injury related news available in these metro areas, so we’ll occasionally publish national or state level brain injury related content.
We’ve been publishing one news article per day (30 per month) on the law firm’s blog, and each article gets shared across all 8 of their social media profiles.
This content marketing initiative has resulted in not only driving the client into the #1 local search results (letter A), but they are also the #1 ranked website in the organic search results of Google.
Plus, traffic to their website from organic search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc…) is up over 150% month over month, and inbound traffic from social media is up over 450% month over month.
All of this law firm’s success – rankings, increased website traffic, leads, new clients – is 100% attributed to the the law firm’s content marketing strategy.
Without the content marketing, we would not be publishing content on a such a consistent basis. Which means Google would not be coming back to their website to crawl and index the new content. And without the increased crawling and indexing, the law firm’s website would not receive as much authority.
And without authority, they would not be achieving the top rankings in the local and organic search results in Google.
Content marketing is the fuel that drives local SEO success for small business.
In order to compete in today’s search results, your website must have enough authority compared to all of the competing pages for any given keyword phrase (i.e. your competitors). And in order to achieve this high level of authority, content marketing becomes the building block for visitors, links, and social shares. And this activity is the very essence of building authority and rankings for your business.