Fact: As SEOs we have far more power than we realize. Especially now, most of us do a lot more than simply build links or worry about rankings. We have the added power to attract a large number of potential leads to our clients’ websites through our outreach efforts and we bring about increased sales volume much quicker than waiting for core terms to rank high on page one.
Through what we’ve been terming content marketing, which is really something PR agencies and media agencies have been doing for decades, we can effectively reach our target demographic to raise awareness and interest in our clients’ business. Think of it as SEO, all grown up.
For a content strategy to be truly effective, we need to build a following and an audience. And to build the audience, we need some big ticket items to attract the crowds.
If people don’t know we exist, they won’t ever see our blog or articles or social media, no matter how great they are. Why create for just scores of people when we can reach thousands?
When the goal is to attract larger audiences for your content marketing efforts, either to turn these visitors into new leads or just for the SEO value to be gained from earning links and social media shares, you need some heavyweight content bait.
The most important thing to keep in mind is to not just rely on these link bait pieces alone, but to have them as part of your overall content strategy. One‐on‐one outreach for the one‐off link bait pieces has been getting increasingly harder and has a limited scope.
Creating a solid content strategy that consistently provides value to your target demographic and new visitors and then using the occasional high value content bait that stands out gets a lot of shares on its own merit and is what will have the greatest impact.
However, coming up with great ideas that cut through the noise and stand out can be the hardest part of our jobs. As everyone else steps up their content marketing efforts, how do you come up with ideas that captivate the masses? If you’re going to invest large chunks of your budgets on creating share‐worthy content, then it’s natural to want to get the maximum mileage from each one.
Here are three great broad categories to use for your next brainstorming session. Remember, think of the core idea first and then decide upon the medium. Would it work best as a video, an in‐depth report, an interactive piece, a blog post, an infographic or something else?
Channeling the idea through the right medium that your target audience is most likely to consume the information in will help you set yourself up for maximum success.
Take Inspiration From Proven Concepts
A popular quote states: "There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt." That applies quite well to content marketing, where it can often make more sense to seek inspiration from well‐liked content rather than sweating it trying to come up with a silver bullet of your own that may or may not work.
Hollywood is a great example of taking a core concept and coming up with fresh and interesting versions; take a look at this funny yet insightful infographic put together by Patrick Garvin for the Boston Globe:
The advantage in SEO is that we can instantly gauge the popularity of a piece by the amount of social shares and buzz to find the proven concepts. Take a look around the web at related content that has been a hit online, and find ways to put your own spin on it.
Can you take that hit idea, approach it from another angle and make it your own? Since the idea has already proven successful, if you can improve upon it while still keeping it fresh and interesting, you’ll likely have a hit on your hands too.
Here’s an example. In March 2011, Mint put out a clever and well‐shared infographic on tipping etiquette around the world.
It got thousands of shares on Facebook and Twitter, and worked incredibly well to drive people to the Mint website.
Cut to August 2011, and Business Insider put out their infographic on Tips for Tipping Etiquette, which was an exceptionally well put together guide on tipping etiquette based on frequency and service offered, in an easy to read chart format.
Both are guides on tipping and both provide a lot of value, albeit in different ways. While it is unknown whether the folks at Business Insider had seen the previous infographic by Mint or not, online readers still got a chance to find value in and enjoy two different infographics on tipping etiquette.
Top Tip 1: Seek a winning concept online, come up with a clever new way to tell that story, and you shall find SEO success.
Do the Unexpected
Whether it is seasonal holidays or having a typecast industry that shares similar content, going with the unexpected can make your content stand out. When an abundance of like‐minded content exists, going against the conventional take on things might seem risky, but it can really pay off. Often the curiosity factor of a completely different topic can drive a lot of clicks and shares.
As an example, in the run up to Valentine’s Day, the Internet was overflowing with mushy articles, marketers flogging the usual chocolates, jewelry and flowers, and it seemed like everyone had romance on their mind.
How then to come up with a Valentine’s Day concept that would get noticed? Well, create a guide on Why it’s Good to be Single, of course!
By simply taking a complete 180‐degree approach on what the net was talking about, the infographic instantly became a hit. As an added bonus, it scored additional links by stirring up a little bit of controversy and resulted in some debates between those whom the concept resonated with and those who were very pro‐relationships. A little polarizing content can do wonders for SEO.
Take another example of the UK‐based holiday villa rental company, Premier Holidays. While most would expect blog posts along the lines of fabulous holiday destinations, swanky dream villas or travel tips, they scored a massive hit online with their piece on 5 creepy beach sculptures to scare off sunbathers.
This piece got over 500,000 hits from StumbleUpon alone, translating into very effective link bait, and got a lot of new visitors to their site.
The prize for going the unexpected route for content marketing has to go to OfficeMax. The office supplies chain struck link bait gold with their genius, cheekily‐named ElfYourself animated Christmas cards, earning fans such as Ellen DeGeneres.
Hardly what one would expect from sellers of office supplies, the ElfYourself phenomenon did wonders for bringing links and raising top of mind awareness for the brand. The goodwill it built is just priceless, with ElfYourself still showing incredible usage year after year since its launch in 2006.
Top Tip 2: Take the road not being taken to find link bait success. Look at what content is populating the web and find a way to take the unexpected, 180‐degree approach to make your content stand out.
Tap Into People’s Emotions
At heart, we’re all quite similar. We want to be inspired, to feel appreciated, to be loved, to feel heard, to be understood, to laugh, share and succeed.
To truly resonate with the internet audience, find a way to tap into the hopes and dreams of your target demographic. Find a way to show how you understand them, can share their joys or can relate to their frustrations.
If you can create something that resonates with your audience, then it is almost guaranteed to be a success. After all, likeable companies are more likely to win sales.
As an example, Grasshopper, sellers of virtual phone systems, launched their Entrepreneur Movement and created a short but brilliant video that just works. With this single effort, they earned tremendous brand recognition, connected with their existing customer base, grew their audience and earned new business.
This video has received more than 1 million views on YouTube and has been shared thousands of times across the net. Showcasing the brand’s personality and showing what they stand for instantly made it more relatable, and in turn it helped their SEO efforts and sales.
Another well‐known example is from Google. They did a brilliant job with their Super Bowl ad that not only effectively showcased their different search features, but had an effective emotional hook that the audience related to, resulting in almost 7 million views of the ad just on YouTube.
A great example of a company giving their customers a voice and making them feel heard is from Starbucks. They launched My Starbucks Idea, where anyone can share their ideas and get a response.
To make it more powerful, they list the suggestions they have incorporated as well and make each person feel their contribution was valuable. By looking to incorporate customer suggestions to provide a better experience, they found a way to improve customer loyalty.
Top Tip 3: Showcase your personality and relate to your target demographic and you will win not only more business but also more links.
Have additional ideas? Share them in the comments below.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!