It’s no secret that content marketing is one of the most effective ways to reach new customers. It drives traffic to your site, helps establish you as a leading voice in your industry, and gives audiences useful, actionable content that they need to solve their problems.
But did you know there are plenty of other, not-so-obvious benefits to content marketing as well?
Today we’ll be taking a look at four unexpected benefits of content marketing. We’ll go over how these tangential content benefits can help you grow your business, and outline some things you may want to consider before launching your next content marketing campaign.
One of the most beneficial bonuses offered by content marketing is increased brand affinity, in which consumers feel passionately about and share the values of a company or brand.
Brand affinity is the Holy Grail for marketers. Individuals with high brand affinity aren’t just into your products or services – they’re into you as a brand in a major way. They love what you sell, frequently tell their friends and family about how great you are, and will vouch for your products without any prompting or coercion whatsoever.
“Say no more, fam.”
In short, customers with high brand affinity are your superfans, and they’re arguably your most valuable customers.
And when it comes to prospects, the ones who feel an affinity for your brand will be much more likely to become a customer if they've already learned about you through your content. We've seen that click-through rates are dramatically higher when you look at audiences who know your brand well:
Reputation plays a huge part in developing and sustaining brand affinity. It’s not enough to merely make or sell high-quality goods or services. You need to become a trustworthy voice in your industry – and one of the best ways to do that is by producing high-quality content.
Shared values are central to the idea of brand affinity. Content not only helps drive traffic to your site, but also affords you the opportunity to demonstrate what your values actually are as an organization.
Social media management app Buffer is an excellent example of this principle in action. In addition to producing one of the most fascinating, data-driven blogs in digital marketing, Buffer also consistently demonstrates its commitment to values such as transparency and work-life balance by providing readers insight into how Buffer functions as a largely distributed team.
This commitment to transparency includes reports and data that, until recently, many sites and publishers found shocking, such as salaries of the entire Buffer staff (including the executive and management teams), as well as revenue figures, fundraising goals, and equity structure. Blasphemy!
This goes beyond humblebragging or radical transparency as PR – it’s a practical demonstration of openness and trust, qualities that Buffer values highly as an organization. It’s also interesting to see how Buffer’s operating revenues were affected by the move toward a radically transparent organization.
Regardless of what kinds of content you publish, it’s crucial that you develop a unique voice. The reason so much content on the web is bland and instantly forgettable is because far too many sites are afraid of actually taking a stand on an issue or putting forward a specific point of view.
I’m going to challenge you to go one step further by sharing and demonstrating your organizational values in your content.
Take WordStream, for example. We know that online advertising can be daunting enough without adding layer upon layer of complex terminology and industry buzzwords, so we don’t use them. We try to be as straightforward and accessible as possible with our content, and we apply these same values to every facet of the company, from our relationships with Google and Facebook to how we onboard new customers.
We also know that, as effective as they can be, PPC and digital marketing can be… well, a little dry. That’s why we try to lighten the tone of our content by including memes, gifs, and the odd Star Wars gag.
What matters to you as an organization? Start there, then see how your content can actively reflect those values.
In a perfect world, people browsing the web would come across your content organically thanks to your painstaking SEO efforts, carefully read every lovingly written word on your blog, then buy tons of stuff on your site.
Sadly, this isn’t quite how content marketing works.
Fortunately, one of the most tactically advantageous benefits of content marketing is that it allows you to create highly refined remarketing audiences based on your site traffic, a super-effective technique for increasing your conversion rates.
One of the best things about remarketing is that you can create custom audience segments based on virtually any criteria that matter to you. When it comes to content, behavioral signifiers can be extraordinarily valuable, especially if you’re segmenting your database by intent or conversion funnel stage.
Messaging can – and should – change depending on visitors’ behavior
For example, we use content remarketing to create custom lists of all sorts of segments, which then feed into ongoing campaigns or our various nurture pathways. We use lists of people who read the blog on a regular basis, but have yet to download one of our guides. We have lists in which people have downloaded several guides on particular topics and also visited certain pages of the site, such as our Product or Pricing pages. We have lists of people who graded their AdWords account after reading certain articles, or reached a certain stage in one of our conversion pathways but didn’t actually convert.
In short, your content analytics are a treasure-trove of invaluable user data that you can use in your other marketing campaigns.
Creating a remarketing list using analytics data from your content is largely the same as using other data sets to create remarketing lists.
Of course, you’ll need to decide which kind of remarketing segment you want to create – PPC, Facebook, Google Display Network etc. – as this will affect which kind of tracking cookies you’ll be using. It’s worth noting that, in most instances, the Google Analytics tracking code is more versatile than the AdWords tracking code, as the Analytics code can include visitor behaviors while the AdWords code cannot.
After that, though, you’ll be free to dive into your data, and the rest of the process won’t be much different to the workflow you’re familiar with. However you choose to create your lists, be sure to pay attention to your tracking parameters and frequency caps – but note that some industries benefit from much longer frequency caps.
Unlike most residents of Los Angeles – a city as famous for its horrendously congested highway as its towering palm trees – every website owner wants more traffic.
What’s one of the most effective, yet chronically underutilized, techniques for driving more traffic?
Publishing quality content consistently offers amazing optimization opportunities that static sites cannot, including image optimization. Image search is becoming increasingly popular (and accurate), with more than 11% of Google searches including images on the SERP, yet many sites treat images as an afterthought. This presents the diligent content marketer with an amazing opportunity to capitalize on the laziness of others and leverage image search for greater visibility.
Every single image you include in your content can be optimized to appear more prominently in image searches. This means that every image is a “free” opportunity to rank for certain image queries, which can drive significant traffic to your site over time.
Obviously, this isn’t as important for images like memes or gifs (which you should consider using to lighten the tone of your content or add extra visual interest to otherwise dry topics), but can be extremely valuable for original data visualizations, infographics, charts, and any other visual assets that could be used elsewhere by other sites and publications.
There are some mainstays of image optimization that you should be aware of, the first of which is your images’ metadata.
A sample of the metadata that can be captured and manipulated in a single image file
Every image on the web can be optimized by including metadata – data about data. This includes attributes such as an image’s alt text. This field (which you can access through a CMS such as Drupal or WordPress) is used by web browsers to identify the contents of an image. This functionality is often used by individuals who browse the web using screen readers, which are software programs that enable visually impaired people to understand visual content. However, in addition to being a crucial accessibility aid, the alt text field can also be used to help your images appear more prominently in image searches.
For a more in-depth guide, check out this post on optimizing images for commercial intent queries by yours truly.
Our fourth and final content marketing benefit focuses on social media – specifically, how publishing content on a regular basis can help you create what is sometimes called the “flywheel effect” that can consistently help you grow your audience, establish greater credibility in your industry, and provide you with further conversion opportunities.
Content marketing and social media go together like fish and chips. Publish content on your site, use social media to promote it, grow your audience, rinse and repeat. The real power, however, goes back to the flywheel concept.
Stand back, everyone – I’m going to SCIENCE
A flywheel, as Larry Kim explained in this round-up of his very best paid social hacks, is a mechanical device that powers machinery. Flywheels take a significant amount of energy to set in motion – but once they get going, they can keep going for a very long time with minimal upkeep.
This is the principle behind content marketing and the social media flywheel effect.
A screenshot taken from Larry’s Twitter Analytics dashboard showing follower growth between August 2012 and January 2015
When Larry was first building his (now vast) social media following, it took him almost six years to amass just 12,000 followers. However, once he overcame this tipping point, the pace of growth increased rapidly – so much so that just one year later, Larry had gained an additional 50,000 followers.
This demonstrates the flywheel concept perfectly. The initial investment of time and effort was the energy it took to get the flywheel moving, and the huge surge in growth he experienced subsequently represents the power and momentum of the flywheel in motion.
The same can be said for content in general. Sadly, many blogs, sites, and companies give up on content marketing before they gain sufficient momentum to propel them to the heights they envisioned in the first place. In the figure above, you can see that it took two years of consistent effort before this site experienced any real lift in traffic as a result of their content marketing strategy – but when it did, the results were amazing.
So what can you do?
The first thing you need to accept is that building a social media following takes a long time, and it really sucks. There’s just no two ways about it. Consistently writing and publishing the very best content you can for months or even years without any real movement can be bitterly discouraging.
However, as with so much in life, it’s all about perception. Rather than lament all the time, effort, and money you’re “wasting” on the blog you think nobody is reading and your Twitter account with 200 followers, instead think of this as the initial energy you need to get your flywheel turning. Eventually, the momentum will catch up, and you’ll start experiencing the kind of traffic and growth you want – it just takes time and perseverance.
In short: Great content gives you stuff to post to your social feeds, which shows your social feeds have value and can help you grow those social followings. Then, when you publish yet more great content, you'll have bigger followings in place to expose it to.
Of course, there’s a lot more to content promotion than just brute-forcing it for years and hoping it pays off. For further reading on using social to promote your content and grow your audience, check out this comprehensive guide to social media content promotion.
This is far from a comprehensive list of the benefits of content marketing. We didn’t even talk about how content marketing makes you look cool, run faster, jump higher, and schmooze with the cool kids at parties. Hopefully, though, you’ve got some ideas of your own about how to wring even more value out of the content you’re producing.
As always, get at me in the comments with suggestions, success stories, and anything else about how you’re getting even more mileage out of your content.