Think back, if you can, to the pre-Internet days. Remember when businesses relied solely on TV, print and radio to market their message? There was no opportunity for interaction, and consumers were forced to receive commercial messages whether they wanted to or not. Insert the Internet, and that all changed. Now, consumers don't have to listen to commercial messaging if they don't want to hear it; they can leave your webpage, visit a competitor or turn their device off completely. When it comes to modern marketing, it's all about directing users to your avenues, keeping them there and encouraging return visits. And the best tool for this is publishing content (think blogs and infographics), a.k.a. content marketing. Not only will great content improve your SEO, it can also generate much-wanted leads.

Best practices for content marketing

1. Frequent original content

Put simply, content marketing is a marketing method that centres on creating and distributing applicable, quality content on a consistent basis. The goal is to attract and retain a clearly defined audience, which can, ultimately, drive sales and increase your brand's visibility. Focusing on publishing this original content is what will set you apart from the sales pitches and spam from some of your competitors.

2. Smart, varied distribution

When it comes to your communication method, go where your prospects are. Depending on your industry and consumer base, this might include publishing content on your website, third-party sites, launching email marketing or newsletter campaigns, utilizing social media platforms and more. But don't try to do it all. Choose a few avenues to focus on (in time you’ll figure out which ones work the best). This way, you can target your specific audience when they want it, and in the medium that they prefer to consume it.

3. Engaging content

Because there is so much content being published daily, it's unrealistic to simply post a few paragraphs on your website and expect it to go viral. Take time to understand the behaviours, needs and interests of your consumers, and how you can get your content into their hands and have them come back for more. Experiment with your publishing schedule, topics of interest and communications methods until you see results. Then stick with what works.

Enrich content to generate leads

If you consistently develop applicable, quality content that resonates with your consumers, you’ll easily have them coming back for more. And when it comes to web traffic, a returning visitor means more to your business than a new one who never returns. If you regularly create content for your consumers, and let them know that it’s available (via a cross-channel mix of communication methods), you can out-market your competition.

Your content will quickly become a social object that your customers (and potential clients) can interact with; bonus points if they share it with their friends and colleagues! Your online material has the potential to ignite interaction in different ways, and plays a crucial role in the decisions consumers make.

Optimize content for SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) means affecting how your website (or web page) ranks in a search engine's unpaid results. In other words, it’s the race to first position on Google. To influence your ranking, the most important rule of thumb is to frequently publish top-notch content on your site. This encourages visits, and keep users coming back. Original and engaging content is what will set you apart from competitors, and give search engines something to index that can’t be found anywhere else. 

Further, consider the longevity of your content. A timely news article might perform well in Google while it’s topical, but your SEO results will drop soon after. To deliver long-term traffic, focus on creating content with useful information that is likely to perform well in a search over the long term. From there, higher search rankings will result in more visits to your content, more links and improved rankings.

When developing content, try to avoid using jargon or too many technical terms in your writing. This may supersede what searchers are looking for. Instead, incorporate the keywords your customers use to describe your offering. These are the same keywords they’ll type into Google when looking for alternatives. If you need to do some research to figure out your keywords, there are free online tools like keyword.io and Google’s own keyword tool. 

As you progress in developing your content marketing strategy, remember to focus on quality over quantity. Avoid pumping out content just for the sake of it, and instead create genuine content that resonates with your readers. Incorporate keywords relevant to your business, as well as images and videos that are likely to hold your readers’ attention for a longer period. For the same reason, ensure long articles are broken up into easy-to-read sub-sections with headers and bulleted lists, where appropriate.

At the end of the day, the quality of your content is what will drive traffic. Don’t let your content marketing strategy become consumed by SEO goals. Ensure you meet basic content demands first, and strive to achieve SEO results through quality material for readers. Knowing how to create effective content (and how to get it in from out your target audiences) should be the goal of your business’ content marketing strategy, with leads and improved SEO as the desired results.