19 December 2011 - 11:55am | by Vertical Leap

Content-driven search marketing: the future of search

Content-driven search marketing: the future of searchContent-driven search marketing: the future of search

In the beginning, there was SEO. And it was enough to secure decent organic rankings and deliver traffic to websites that were, in the main, online catalogues for products and services.

Paid search was another option available to businesses seeking to capture customers on the point of making a purchase decision.

The information featured on websites tended to be sales focused, limited to product or service features, usually coupled with strong promotional messages designed to push visitors into a purchase as quickly as possible.

Then it became apparent that search engines were starting to pay more attention to the volume of supporting copy on a website, and this was widely acknowledged as an organic ranking and paid search quality score factor. To combat this, businesses entered a new stage of online marketing, with copy creation largely an exercise in achieving a search position, or filler for a landing page. Whilst this may have been enough to satisfy the search engines, it did little to support brand representation or customer loyalty. There was a general absence of strategies for visitor attraction, persuasion (beyond competitive pricing) or nurture.

Times change. Now, businesses and marketers are becoming increasingly switched onto content marketing and social media as a means of reaching and engaging their potential and existing customers. We’ll look at these in more detail in a moment.

The reason for this shift in focus is simple. The quality, rather the mere presence of content has steadily risen in importance and we believe it is the critical factor in gaining traction with customers and search engines. Online consumers are increasingly educated, demanding and selective. Added to this, search engine algorithms are becoming quicker and more sophisticated in identifying and banishing poor quality and low value websites from their top rankings.

So now businesses must adopt a content marketing strategy that extends to their online activities. Fresh, regular updates of original content that supports a proposition and offers value (through an opinion, industry news, impartial information or advice) to its audience will achieve essential search engine visibility. A good content strategy also engenders brand loyalty early in the buying cycle, demonstrating industry authority and trustworthiness, rather than rushing to make a quick one-off sale at the end. However, effective content marketing demands dedicated, ongoing resource, which is why many businesses employ professionals to write their content (we’ve built a team of professional in-house journalists to meet the needs of our customers).

Throw social media into the mix and businesses are being forced to radically reassess their online marketing strategy.

The advent of social media as a channel for businesses to reach and market to individuals has created huge opportunities. It is often quoted as the fastest growing marketing channel*, offering unprecedented levels of engagement and dialogue with prospects, customers, industry peers and suppliers.

Many industry experts have gone so far as to say that the proper exploitation of social media will render SEO obsolete. Well, we disagree.

Having a presence in social media channels is fine, but you still need to be found before you can begin those conversations...and in fact, 48% of technology consumers cited search engines as the primary method for sourcing information, opposed to just 18% for social networking sites.**

So, now we have search marketing, content marketing and social media. But which is best?

All of them. We’ve devised our own method to bring together the best techniques available to businesses.

We call it Content-driven Search Marketing, because, as the name suggests, it is powered by content that reaches out, engages, informs, educates and secures long-term relationships with an audience. This reach is achieved through an integrated approach using search engines, paid search channels (PPC, Display, Mobile, social media advertising) and social media. Search engines and social media are like the layers of a cake, with content marketing the tasty butter-cream centre, and businesses simply cannot achieve results today by employing any one of these techniques in isolation.

It works: A very quick case study 78% organic traffic rise, £1.5m revenue in four months for easyCar.com
easyCar.com uses Content-driven Search Marketing to occupy every corner of the car hire market, maintaining a widespread presence in the top Google rankings, and continually reinforcing brand awareness and authority through the publication of industry news, commentary and developments. This is particularly crucial in optimising the peak seasonal trading periods for the company, the biggest being the summer holiday months. In just four months, Content-driven Search Marketing delivered a 78% traffic boost and £1.5m revenue from organic search.

In conclusion; only by covering all these bases with a unified strategy can a business dominate the online market.

*Coremetrics report ‘Comprehensive Measurement, the Key to Social Media Marketing Success’ **Forrester Tech Marketing Navigator, Q1 2011

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