Content marketing is a form of storytelling that is used to promote the sale of products. It has been around for hundreds of years. Of course, it wasn’t always called content marketing, but the principles were the same.
A couple of years ago, the Content Marketing Institute did some digging and found the earliest example of content marketing was in 1732, when Benjamin Franklin started publishing his annual Poor Richard’s Almanack to promote his publishing business. In 1882, the Edison Lighting Company published a bulletin to tell people about the benefits of electric lighting.
Fast forward to the 20th century, and in 1968, the Weight Watchers Magazine was launched – one of the first consumer magazines to be sold in newsagents.
Remember the Lego Movie in 2014? It was probably the first example of a major film that was also an extensive content marketing operation.
How does it work?
In the 21st century, content marketing has moved into the digital age, and it makes use of podcasts, webinars, videos, websites, blogs and social media. In anything that involves writing, SEO (search engine optimisation) plays an important role.
If you own or work for a business that markets its services or products online, a professional writer, with a comprehensive understanding of SEO, can stimulate more interest in your products than a traditional advertising agency.
In 2018, New Media Campaigns examined a study that confirmed organic SEO is about ‘5.66 times better than paid search ads’.
In other words, ranking highly on Google by optimising your content will bring a lot more potential clients to your door.
An expert writer will help your brand grow organically by piquing interest in your products or services through the use of content marketing. They’ll also help you cultivate more meaningful relationships with your customers because you’ll be treating them as equals, rather than advertising targets.
A good writer can stimulate interest in your products by writing authoritatively about topics that relate to those products. A travel agency might, for example, publish an article on its website about how travel can change your life – indirectly marketing itself as an agency that knows about health and wellbeing as well as how to sell flights and accommodation.
How to reach a wide readership
In the age of social media it’s inexpensive and easy to publish stories, podcasts and videos where they will be viewed by thousands of people – especially for a business that has built up a steady social media following.
If the travel agency publishes regular stories on its channels about a wide variety of travel experiences, readers (potential customers) soon regard the agency as an authority and are more likely to purchase from them. This isn’t conjecture, it’s statistically true.
Does content marketing work?
Global marketing research and advisory company Demand Metric found that content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing, while generating approximately three times as many leads as traditional marketing for every dollar spent.
According to Demand Metric, about 60% of people will seek further information about a product after reading about it online.
Content marketing statistics from Hubspot found that 55% of marketers said ‘blog creation’ was ‘their top inbound marketing priority’ in 2018.
Blog posts have proved to be an ideal content marketing tool and the Social Media Marketing Industry Report from Social Media Examiner found that 66% of marketers currently use blog posts in their social media channels to acquire new customers and generate sales.
Why you really do need a professional writer
A professional writer is an expert content creator. They’re articulate, strategic, research-focused and original. They’re storytellers who write with confidence and authority.
Expert content writers know how to weave sentences together. They’re experienced in charming readers and beguiling them with ideas; and they know how to make Google happy.
Professionally trained writers are skilled in SEO writing. While it’s essential to understand how SEO can accelerate content in the SERPs (search engine results pages), it’s also important to know why a business needs to do more than insert optimal keywords.
Keywords are an element of online content strategy – not the focus of it. Other factors, such as authoritative linking, alt text, originality, length of text and visual graphics also play a crucial role in optimising online content.
Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines rate the most important factors of website page quality as ‘Expertise, Authoritativeness’ and ‘Trustworthiness’. High-quality website pages, Google says, ‘need enough expertise to be authoritative and trustworthy on their topic’.
This is what expert writers do every day. They’re able to produce high-quality content on demand because they’ve fine-tuned their creative processes. They can locate reputable sources and factually correct information in the time it takes an inexperienced writer to churn out a paragraph.
There’s also a legal aspect to writing that is rarely mentioned, but it is important.
Trained writers understand the significance of factual accuracy in writing, especially when describing people, institutions and companies.
Factual errors that damage personal and professional reputations, and that quote people inaccurately can result in legal action.
You really don’t want to go there.
Finally, there’s copyright. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of understanding about copyright law on the web and how to avoid non-compliancy. The consequences can be expensive and professionally embarrassing.
Copying other people’s content can also affect your relationship with Google.
Advice for writing and sourcing your own content
Copying content from other websites
Don’t mess around with other people’s content. As well as breaching copyright law, it will affect your SERPs and put you into Google’s naughty corner.
Google penalises websites that copy content from other sources. Called ‘scraping’ there are three different types of copying that get Google fired up and your content hosed down.
- Content that it copied verbatim (exactly) from another source. We’re not talking about syndicated or licensed content.
- Content that is altered slightly from its original format on another website. We’re not talking about summarising or paraphrasing, which are legitimate mechanisms for shortening long-form content. We’re talking about deliberately changing a few words to make it appear it is your own work when it isn’t.
- Content copied from a dynamic source that constantly changes. Google still considers this to be copying.
Aside from incurring Google’s wrath, copying other people’s work and publishing it on your own website is a breach of copyright law.
The creator (the ‘copyright holder’) of the photo, illustration or text that you published without permission can sue you and they do. It can be a very expensive risk to take. Just don’t do it. If you do it enough you will be caught out, and it could cost you tens of thousands of dollars or more.
Not all copyright holders issue a ‘Take down’ notice. Some head straight to their lawyer and commence legal proceedings. You will have no comeback. Saying it was a mistake, or that you didn’t understand copyright law, will not cut it.
So what can you do?
If you don’t have a designer on hand, subscribe to Canva and make your own graphics.
Subscribe to a stock photo library, such as Shutterstock or Getty, and license a good photo for a few dollars. Quality stock libraries will have already taken care of any necessary model or property releases.
Do the hard work required to write original well-researched content. Remember, though, that it’s not just about hard work. It’s about understanding what you can and can’t do with the information you find online that has been written by somebody else.
Attributing your source doesn’t make it okay to copy
Let’s say this upfront. Most of the time it is not okay to republish somebody else’s content without their permission.
There are exceptions to this rule. For example, the doctrine of fair use allows for a minimum amount of content to be reproduced without permission. This can vary depending on the country.
In the United States, section 107 of the Copyright Act identifies four areas – criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research – that ‘may qualify as examples of fair use’. The important thing to remember is that there are different views on what ‘fair’ is in this context.
In Australia, fair use is called ‘fair dealing’ and it is not as flexible. The most recent version of the Copyright Act 1968 (Cwlth) is available from the Federal Register of Legislation. It is recommended reading for anybody who publishes content online.
What if you see a graph or table on another website that you’d like to copy for an article you’re publishing on your website?
If you add a link, or a name showing where you got it from, can you copy it?
No – you shouldn’t copy other people’s work without their permission. Sure, lots of them don’t mind. They may even be happy that you’re driving people to their website – but, as a practice, always ask first.
Use the ‘Contact us’ button on a website and write to the owner of the content. Explain why you want to use their content and tell them you will attribute the content with a link to their website.
Note that if the owner of the website does not own the content, you will need to locate the copyright holder. This is where it gets complicated because the copyright holder is the only person who can grant you permission to publish the content, not the owner of the website where you found it. Even if the site you found the content on obtained permission to publish the content, that right does not extend to you. You must seek your own permission separately.
The content owner may want to take a look at your website to make sure their content is going to be published on a reputable site. When they write back with permission make sure you keep a copy of the email for future reference.
Don’t take short cuts
Always aim for the best-quality content you can produce. Don’t take shortcuts and don’t settle for second best.
Content marketing is a strategy that takes time to show results. The better the quality of your content, the more likely you are to get conversion rates.
Two million blog posts are published daily on the web, but this content explosion isn’t as overwhelming as it sounds because superior content always rises to the top.