Recently in one of our weekly marketing meetings, an unnamed senior level manager asked about all the blog posts that we put out on a weekly basis and if they were having positive results. They do require a lot of time and effort, and it is not always easy to see or measure the return you get for this time, and as we all know, time is the most valuable asset we have.
We also see this with many facilities and instructors. They do not take the time to put out content because they cannot see the (immediate) return on investment (ROI). So let’s take a minute to address content marketing and how it affects search engine optimization (SEO) for dive centers and instructors.
What is content marketing? The short answer is: delivering valuable content to your audience and buyers that can position your brand at the foremost thought of your customers. I would argue that content marketing is actually the art of providing relevant, useful content to your customers (or potential customers) without selling, and more importantly – interrupting them. Instead of pitching a product or service, you are delivering information that informs and educates your customers before they buy.
So what does this mean? This means that buyers are searching for information that helps them make an informed decision. Businesses that provide this information will WIN! Now does this mean you get to publish a couple articles about scuba diving and your sales are going to triple next quarter? Absolutely not. This is a very long term strategy that takes time, patience, and consistency, along with proper execution. (Execution requires a solid website. Here are some website tips: 7 Reasons Your Website Sucks!)
Okay, you are not sold yet? Let’s look at some numbers. (-Source: GroupM)
93% of all consumers search prior to making a purchase.
86% of searchers conduct non-branded queries.
90% of buyers click on organic links VS. sponsored ads. (Organic search results are listings on search engine results pages that appear because of their relevance to the search terms, as opposed to their being advertisements. In contrast, non-organic search results may include pay per click advertising. -Source: Wikipedia )
How do you start? Content marketing starts with blogging. A blog is the single best organic way to attract new visitors to your website. In order to get found by the right prospective customers, you must create educational content that speaks to them and answers their questions.
How do you find these questions to answer? Don’t ask “What you can write about?” Ask, “What questions do you hear every day?” Content should be entertaining if not educational, but don’t risk your success by trying to create cute, clever, fun content. Produce content people are actually searching for! Now there is a ton of research out there that you can use to hedge the success of your content. For example, studies show that content that addresses the following concepts perform well.
Cost – i.e. How Much Does Scuba Diving Cost?
Problems – i.e. The Problem with Scuba Diving is ______
VS – i.e. SDI Nitrox VS TDI Nitrox
Best – i.e. The Best Places to Dive Near Me
Tips – i.e. 5 Tips for New Scuba Divers
Reasons – i.e. 5 Reasons to Learn Sidemount
Don’t sell. Try not to be too “salesy” in your articles. That goes against the entire content marketing strategy and concept. The idea, as @GaryVee would say is to: jab, jab, jab…. right hook. This is equivalent to give, give, give without asking for anything in return, at least not immediately. Provide value to your user, and they will in-turn become customers – eventually (hence the right hook part). You can even go as far as producing counter-intuitive content. For example, The Dangers of Scuba Diving. This is a very real concern for most people who are not familiar with the sport, so why not address it? Now you can always address it in a way that explains the risks of scuba diving, but also by explaining how you can mitigate these risks with research and choosing well trained instructors and solid dive training programs.
Here are some more tips for content creation.
Ask your staff! Seems pretty straightforward right? Your staff is on the front lines and can provide you with real customer questions and concerns they hear every day.
Google Suggest. Google Suggest is the name of Google’s autocomplete function. If a user enters a letter or a word in Google’s search field, they are automatically shown associated terms in a dropdown menu. These suggestions are generated based on current search trends, along with other factors like location and language. There are ways to manipulate this function such as changing your geo coordinates within your browser. Or using the asterisk (*) as a signal to Google to fill-in-the-blank. Google treats the asterisk (*) as a placeholder for one or more words – it can also be referred to as a single or multiple word wildcard operator, because Google treats the asterisk as a placeholder for any unknown term(s) for which it tries to find the best match(es).
Google also gives you related searches at the bottom of SERPs (search engine results page) which can also be a great resource for content ideas. Most people don’t scroll to the bottom of the first page, and as they say, “the best place to hide a dead body is on the second page of Google.” But you can actually find some good ideas by just browsing the SERPs.
There are plenty of other tools out there to use as well. Here are just a couple to help you get started.
Don’t forget about YouTube’s search function too. It works the same way for video content. Video content, specifically mobile video content is one the fastest growing digital marketing mediums. When you add in the growth of social media platforms that deliver video, you can see why.
The bottom line is your customers begin their buying process online, usually by using a search engine to find something they have questions about. So you need to make sure you’re appearing prominently when and where they search. To do that, you need to carefully, analytically pick keywords, optimize your pages, create content, and build links around the terms your ideal buyers are searching for.
So, in a world where website traffic directly correlates to revenue – yes, it is working!