What is content marketing, exactly — and how can it help your business?

A primer on content marketing, with more to come on SNEWS
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In a vast and sprawling digital world, outdoor brands and retailers are recognizing the value of quality content as a part of their marketing.

Today, so-called "content marketing" is a $44 billion dollar business (for reference, consumer electronics is about $208 billion and the entire outdoor industry is about $800 billion). While the trend has grown hot in the digital age, it isn't new. Content marketing has always been used to drive sales (think of Patagonia's mail-order catalogs where its products are surrounded by environmental chronicles), but today’s e-commerce space significantly has increased its revenue potential. Today, content marketing is one of the most sought after marketing channels for brands, particularly those with existing audiences.

While the words content and marketing can mean many things, it’s important to understand what the term “content marketing” means in a business context. According to the Content Marketing Institute, the definition of content marketing is as follows:

“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience — with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Perhaps the most important part of this definition is the fact that it drives profitable customer action. If content marketing efforts don’t have an objective of profitable customer action (read: sales), it’s not content marketing. It’s just content.

Also important is to distinguish content marketing and social media marketing. For many marketers, social media marketing is a subset of content marketing. For others like Toby Murdock, author of the article above, content marketing is defined as a marketing activity where “brands model their behavior after that of media publishers.”

"Brands have their own massive digital audiences and are beginning to recognize their potential as publishers,” said Kyle Cassidy, director of editorial at the Clymb. “The thing is brands aren't trained as publishers and that's where content marketing comes in.” The Clymb operates a lifestyle blog that reaches over half a million unique visitors a month. While that blog traffic rivals that of even the most prestigious of magazines, it’s the ability to convert traffic into sales that allows the program to continue.

Here are some tips to consider while on your journey to a successful content marketing campaign.

Figure out your goals
Content marketing campaigns can be crafted toward specific goals. Some brands care more about increasing e-commerce conversions, while others are more focused on driving brand awareness. While both are tied to the bottom line, these two different goals require different approaches.

A strictly e-commerce focused content campaign will take more of an SEO approach meaning less focus on imagery, video and other uncrawlable formats of content. A brand awareness campaign may focus more on distributing beautiful imagery and video.

Understanding your goals will help you start crafting the format of your content.

Build metrics around those goals
Once you’ve figured out your goals, figure out how to measure success toward that goal. Say that the goal for a year-long content campaign is to increase e-commerce revenue by 20 percent over existing increases, with a secondary goal of driving a million new impressions to the brand. Now work backward and figure out what tactics you’ll use to get to that goal. We’ll start with e-commerce revenue.

The easiest way to increase e-commerce revenue with content is by increasing Organic Search Traffic through blog articles. Blog articles drive traffic and links and collect PageRank. That PageRank can be redirected into Product Pages, increasing their ranking and thus, traffic.

According to a study by Chitika, a page that is ranked No. 3 on a Google search has three times the traffic as a page that is at a rank of No. 7. Another study by One Click Ventures found that pages with a ranking of 1-3 have nearly twice the conversion rate of those in the 7-10 ranks. If we assume that traffic times conversion times order value is revenue, then going from a rank 7 to a 3 can increase revenue for that particular page by a factor of six.

Those specific revenue increases can be measured using Conversion Tracking tags within Google Analytics. Depending on the number of SKUs you want to track, a qualified developer should be able to configure your Google Analytics within a week, so you can start measuring ecommerce performance from the campaign.

Now let’s look at measuring brand awareness. This is much easier. On a blog, simply look at the new visitors brought in by articles. While it’s likely that many of those visitors are already familiar with the brand, many of them are not. Regardless, every reader is voluntarily engaging with your content as opposed to say, a banner ad that they’ve learned to block out.

If your goal is to get a million qualified impressions to your brand and your blog is doing 100,000 unique visitors a month, then you’ve exceeded your year’s goal. Once you’ve established your metrics for success, build an execution plan around those metrics.

--Yoon Kim

Tune into SNEWS this Friday for nine more tips on the nitty gritty of content marketing for active lifestyle companies.

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