I think it’s safe to say that in light of continual updates (poundings?) from Panda and Penguin, content marketing is all the rage in online marketing circles right now. While some have been forced to march the content marketing path due to these updates, others have been far ahead of the curve and have for quite some time been producing excellent content that attracts customers and natural links. For those just accepting that content is a must I wanted to spell out the three primary types of content that every company should create and have on their site where appropriate. While I know there is a plethora of specific content forms (infographic, meme, whitepaper, video, summary or abstract, etc.) and objectives for these depending on the situation, I think there is value in seeing the forest for the trees in the content marketing world and looking at the broader types of content requisite for success.
As such, I would propose that very broadly there are three types of content required for a successful content strategy. These types include content designed for link attraction, content specific to your product or service and finally content geared towards your target market or audience. Each of these plays a different role and the mix will vary based on the campaign or business, but never should any one type be completely neglected or exclusively used. Let’s take a look at each type and some examples.
Link Attraction Content
Link attraction content is content solely designed to attract links. This would fall at the bottom of the hierarchy if you were to rank the three types of content in terms of importance. This is due to the fact that content marketing needs to be more than just content designed to attract links. While good content should attract links (we’ll get to that in a minute), if your entire strategy is to hastily assemble the latest meme or article to piggyback on hot news, your content marketing strategy needs an overhaul. While these pieces of content aren’t bad things to mix into a content marketing strategy, exclusively following this path won’t bring the results you’re looking for. Rather than find a blog or company that fails miserably by only doing this type of content creation, let’s look at a few examples of link attraction content that is also mixed into a more well-rounded content strategy.
The first example comes from our own SEO.com blog. Last summer we did an infographic on the social media usage during the London Olympics. This is a perfect example of link attraction content as it doesn’t speak of our services as an agency nor does it intentionally target our audience. Despite this, there is still value in doing such pieces of content as can be seen from the links and social shares below.
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The second example is from SEER Interactive who did an awesome mash up on the way technology companies make their money and whether they are profitable. Again, not necessarily talking about SEER’s service offering but content designed to attract links and social signals – which they successfully did!
It could be argued that social media and technology users line up nicely with SEO agencies and that these examples are not purely for links. But while social media users and tech enthusiasts may be more likely to share such content, they are not the target audience of SEO agencies (small business owners, decision makers, marketing managers, etc. are) In the end, both digital assets are perfect examples of pure link attraction content as part of a broader content strategy.
Product / Service Content
The second type of content is that which speaks specifically about your product or service. While some might say this is for landing pages only, an in-depth blog post on specific product questions (pricing, warranty, etc) may be the perfect supplement to a landing page. It will not only bring in long tail traffic but provides relevant content to link back to your mapped page. While this content might not be highly shareable the value shouldn’t be discounted in having this content written about regularly on the blog.
River Pools writes lots of content like this. One example talking about fiberglass kits undoubtedly brings in all kinds of long tail traffic. Further, it is clearly intended to bring in people looking to do their own pool who may, after reading the article, decide that they actually want to have a professional install their fiberglass pool. Unlikely to get shared, but excellent content all things considered!
Another example below shows Pacific Fence and Wire discussing the advantages and disadvantages of vinyl fencing. While they provide all types of fencing, in this article they elaborate on pros and cons of vinyl and probably get some qualified traffic for long tail terms as a result.
Even better than just writing about your products/services for internal linking opportunities and long tail traffic is if you can produce content that weaves in your products in an interesting way. General Electric is a great example of this. Instead of only producing content about their products and all the requisite information such a buying decision would entail, they take it a step further and produce content that puts their products into the bigger picture in a creative and interesting way. Unsurprisingly, the products they sell would help facilitate savings in such a scenario.
Target Market Content
The third type of content is what I’ll call “target market content”, simply referring to the fact that the content itself may not be perfectly about your product or service but is content that your prospective customers may find interesting or relevant to themselves. In short, people who may end up buying your product are also interested in “x” or “y” topic. Going beyond simple demographics and building out a complete persona of your prospective customers will provide these types of content ideas. Mixing in this type of content will help attract your potential customers that may otherwise not be reached.
One example below is the annual Ultimate Flavor tournament by Turkey Hill. Patterned after the March Madness tournament, the idea is to have a contest of ice cream flavors. Presumably it is designed to attract 18-34 year old males who are interested in basketball and also like to eat ice cream. A perfect example of content that isn’t about the ice cream making process or simply a contest to share but rather intentionally designed to bring in potential customers that otherwise have no reason to visit the Turkey Hill blog, like myself.
Southwest Airlines also does this on a regular basis with their “Going Green” posts. These posts as highlighted below really have nothing to do with flying and jet engines, so while it may be a way to positively show Southwest’s green efforts, it is just as possible that Southwest knows that their customers are also those interested in an environmentally friendly lifestyle. With this in mind, Southwest then creates regular green content to bring in visitors who fit this description and who also hopefully then fly around the country on Southwest.
I would contend that there is actually a fourth type of content. This type of content is the combination of the three types we just discussed. Undoubtedly there will be industries that make it difficult to have such content, but whenever possible content that is designed to attract links, ties in your product or service and appeals to the different segments of your target audience are going to be your “home run” pieces. While it may sound obvious, these pieces of content are oftentimes much harder to produce than one would think. Doing so on occasion shows a holistic understanding of content marketing, and doing so regularly can catapult a brand or company from afterthought to industry leader if done correctly and consistently for a prolonged period.
In my opinion the default winner in this category is the Blendtec “Will It Blend” series. It attracts links, brings in people who normally wouldn’t be looking at blenders and demonstrates the benefits of a Blendtec blender.
Having a proper mix of the three types of content will ensure that your content marketing strategy is effectively presenting your product/service as well as attracting real customers and building links that will have the staying power to drive rankings for the long term.