Why do we do content marketing? Why spend all this effort? What’s the purpose?
No, this isn’t the writer throwing their hands up in the air at the whole idea. These are serious questions because they reveal your marketing priorities.
In our experience, content marketers fall into two broad categories. They are either SEO-focused or client trust-focused. We believe that if you focus on building client trust by solving their pain points, you’ll automatically get good SEO. Focusing on generating trust with clients rather than chasing higher search rankings is the superior route for long-term B2B content marketing success. Here is why we think that.
Search Engines, Notice Me!
SEO-focused content marketers all want high placement on search engines and social media visibility. They use tactics within their content not just to attract the attention of clients but also to convince the search engines that their brand is the best brand.
The theory goes that the only way you’ll ever get found is if you can court the librarians of the internet to placing you top on these lists. You have to play the SEO game in order to get noticed. Getting noticed means getting more share of the clicks and more chances for conversion. Maybe, just maybe, if enough people get to know your brand through a SERP then you can convert some of that traffic from organic into direct.
Content Marketing Institute just wrote a fantastic article about why organic search is one of the best ways to get brand recognition, lead generation, and conversions. We don’t disagree with the reasons they laid out in the article. Good content marketing does improve organic search and creates benefits across the board as the article says.
But did the people in the top positions get there because they wrote SEO-focused content that the search engines love?
Or did they write hard-hitting trustworthy content that happened to tick all of the search engine's boxes?
Any SEO agency can tell you that building ranking is a slow process. For a good content marketing campaign to work, many firms out there will tell you that it takes between 6-12 months to truly get the ball rolling.
After all, it takes time for Google and other search engines to trust you and your content to where they’ll put you at the top.
If you’re a business, what do you do in the meantime while you wait for Google to notice you?
Writing For Clients, Not Computers
SEO-focused content marketing often creates content for content’s sake. The hope is that by producing lots of content with the right keywords you give a business more exposure to search engine crawlers.
If you were running a business where visitors are meant to make a snap purchase decision, this makes sense. Take a lawyer, for instance. Most people who need a lawyer need one right now, so gaining maximum exposure makes sense because a visitor who finds one is likely to call for a consultation.
But that doesn’t happen in the B2B world, or at least it shouldn’t. A top placement might get more traffic but those visitors aren’t likely to convert upon their first exposure to your brand. So what does? Exposure to content on your site that makes a convincing case that you are the solution to solve their problem.
In short, content that’s aimed at increasing client trust. Trust isn’t something that’s developed by a single click or search engine result alone. It has to be built. A high search engine result is just one data point of trust, one that is built on the opinions of the programmers of the search engine.
A good content strategy shouldn’t just focus on SEO rankings. It also has to develop content that pulls in the attention of your audience segments and answers their questions. It has to give visitors something worth reading.
If you can manage that, you get several benefits:
- Buzz among your local audience
- Greater authority
- Interest in other content you create
- And… better SEO due to the increased traffic
If you write content that your audience loves, content which is focused and directly aimed at that audience, to the point where your readers are thinking that you just peeked into their business diaries, then more of that same audience will find you, regardless of SEO.
SEO Alone Doesn’t Generate Trust. It Generates Exposure
There used to be a saying in the 1980s: “Nobody gets fired for buying IBM”. The history behind this phrase is that IBM was seen as the only safe bet for buying IT solutions. If something were to go wrong, they had the strongest reputation in the business.
There was a lot of trust in the brand because IBM was extremely conscientious. They would only take on projects they knew they could knock out of the park and were willing to stick with a client during rocky times. But in reality, the people saying that phrase wasn’t IBM but people who were really afraid of making a mistake and getting fired for it.
These days, the phrase could be reframed as “Nobody gets fired for choosing something from the top of a Google search”. Many people trust that Google will give the right answers every time. But Google has much less skin in the game than IBM did.
If Google turns up a bad result for a business solution and you jump on it, you can’t go back and sue Google for giving a bad recommendation. Google is not omniscient, nor are they going to send out fleets of people to test every new business solution that comes to their attention. Yet there are content marketing strategies that automatically assume that if you get high placement you will automatically make money.
Beware of the content marketer who is only concerned with driving up your rankings on keywords.
Content marketing is all about meeting someone’s need for information at the right time so they’ll trust you.
You have to earn the trust of your audience through other means beyond getting the top ranking on a relevant keyword. You can’t live on exposure alone, just ask any freelancer.
Writing For Client Trust
The process of building trust starts as soon as the customer lands on your site. While the content on your front page may be more in the realm of the copywriter than the content marketer, it still has to generate enough trust, or at least interest, in what you do to get them to stick around.
So how do you write for client trust rather than SEO? A content marketing piece for trust generation must:
- Grab their attention with a topic of interest to the client
- Prove that you understand it
- Provide solutions
Before you can generate trust, you have to generate attention. Content marketers are usually good at this. They know their audience and the sort of things they want to learn more about. Tools like CONCURED are incredible for learning about what’s hot in your niche and getting a feel for what’s on your audience’s mind.
The next step is to prove that you understand the topic. If your reader believes that you don’t understand what you’re talking about, your trust goes down the drain. This is where you have the opportunity to stand out with your own ideas. Many content marketers tend to put in relatable stories to emphasize the fact that they have been where their audience is.
It’s not enough to simply talk about the topic and demonstrate that you understand it. To close the circle, it’s necessary to provide actionable solutions to any of the pain points brought up in the article. Your product or service should be the natural conclusion that people draw, right?
With every piece of content that you write, you should be demonstrating knowledge and understanding of your topic and industry. That generates trust for the B2B client. It gets them closer to making a call into your offices, scheduling a demo, and buying your services.