In my discussions with companies considering our SEO service, I sometimes detect a hint of hesitation about us writing thought leadership articles on their behalf. The question I can see forming in the client’s mind goes something like: “How can I get comfortable with the idea of an outside service writing content that represents MY company?”
The question is a good one; it is usually fueled by the suspicion that the person I’m speaking to – the CEO, Co-Founder, or Marketing Director of the company – could produce better content themselves. And if that’s the case, why would they hire us to do it?
Let me begin by confirming your suspicions: yes, if you sat down for 2-3 hours per day 3 times each week, wrote a thought piece, ran it by an editor, re-read it to make sure your original message was preserved, found an image that represents the spirit of the piece and you have the rights to use, and then published it to the web, you could do it yourself.
Hopefully you’re getting my drift. Creating true thought leadership, the kind that Google rewards your site for, requires more than finding a few free minutes of your time, or telling a talented member of your team to jot out a piece in her free time, or even bringing on an intern; it requires a real infrastructure.
Consider some of the practices that make our content marketing service successful:
- We don’t just edit for spelling and grammar, but for intangibles like insight and emotional appeal. If you find yourself completely taken by an article, it’s probably because that article shared an insight that you hadn’t ever thought of. Or, it might have roused your emotions. If it did neither, it’s very unlikely you’ll remember that piece, let alone share it with your friends and colleagues. That’s why we have an item on our editing checklist specifically about insight and emotional appeal. Every article we produce must have both.
- We coordinate our writing with outreach to bloggers and webmasters. In the context of Google’s algorithm, other websites need to validate your content by linking to it, or else it sends the signal to Google that your content is not all that valuable. A website with the best content in the world but no links from third party websites has a nearly 0% chance of attracting visitors from Google Search. When we build links for clients, there is often a person tasked with reaching out to other websites to ask if they’d consider linking to our clients’ articles. That person needs to be in close communication with the team that creates the content in the first place, as we often write content with specific bloggers and webmasters in mind. If we are trying to earn links on behalf of an IT Support firm, for example, and we know that a particular blogger is really interested in VoIP, we might choose to write about VoIP that week so we have a better chance of impressing that blogger and therefore earning a link from her.
- We publish thought leadership articles at least 3x per week. A few years ago, we noticed that Google gave a significant bump in rankings to websites that contributed to the Internet’s store of knowledge on a particular subject as opposed to simply rehashing what has already been written. A brilliant innovation on Google’s part, this algorithm shift helps them reward websites who produce excellent content regularly, while demoting lower-quality or “filler” content. Much ado was made about this algorithm shift on SEO forums, nicknaming it Panda and calling it the end of SEO as they knew it, but in reality it was just helping Google to deliver the best content to its searchers. Amidst the many nuances of the Panda algorithm shift, we noticed that producing content 3x / week or more got our clients a lot more organic traffic. So that’s what we do now.
I’ll stop there so as not to give away too much of our proprietary process. But as you can see, it is elaborate, and much more effort than most executives are willing to put forth – even though they start out with greater expertise on their subject matter than we do.
So how do we become knowledgeable about a client’s business? There’s no magic to it. We start with a writer who is experienced in the client’s industry. Then, our writing team meticulously reads through the client’s website, consults outside sources, and studies what competitors are doing. In the end, the articles we produce are probably more effective for marketing purposes than what most executives and experts could have written themselves. Great content requires accuracy, yes, but also clarity, persuasiveness, emotion, and storytelling. If a thought piece contains all those elements, it will convince potential customers that a company is a leader in its space far better than a dryer piece that has slightly more depth of expertise.
Ultimately, CEOs, executives, and Marketing Directors are busy people with plenty to do without taking on the responsibilities of a professional writing team. If they can trust their content marketing firm, it could become an invaluable asset to their business.
But naturally, not every content marketing firm deserves your trust. Very few of them are as diligent as they need to be to impress both Google and your potential customers. If you’d like to know if a firm is doing it right, ask them about their practices and compare them with the ones described in this article. Also, request some samples of their work. In 2015’s online environment, where Google gives special treatment to great content producers and penalizes average ones, you can’t afford anything short of excellence.