This post was originally published on SearchEngineJournal.com by Juila McCoy
While most marketers understand that creating content is key to ranking well, few understand that content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.
Today, many people come to content marketing expecting to throw some money at it and see results in a few weeks. While this may sound like the ideal outcome, it’s far from realistic.
While content marketing is one of the most effective types of marketing in existence, success doesn’t happen overnight, and only the brands that understand that content marketing is a long-term approach will succeed.
Content Marketing by the Numbers
If content marketing isn’t instant, why do so many people flock to it?
The answer is simple: it works.
In a world where more than 200 million people are using ad blocking software, and virtually every television set allows us to skip commercials, it’s getting tougher and tougher for brands to reach clients. Luckily, content marketing offers what is practically the only surefire way to get into their heads and their pocketbooks.
While it’s true that consumers don’t want to interact with invasive, obnoxious ads on their screens, they do want value, and they want information.
Content marketing is successful because it gives them both of these things, and it doesn’t immediately ask for anything in return.
Instead of hard-selling clients or trying to force them into purchasing something in a kitschy, sleazy way, content marketing supplies people with relevant, informative, quality content on the topics they’re interested in learning.
In this way, it boosts conversions, encourages traffic (leaders in content marketing enjoy 7.8x more site traffic than non-leaders), and helps customers develop a real and lasting relationship with your brand.
If its success rate weren’t enough to make virtually everyone fall in love, content marketing is also drastically less expensive than traditional marketing. While it costs about 62% less than outbound marketing, it generates three times the leads.
Today, 88% of B2B marketers use content marketing, and those numbers are only growing. As the years roll by, and the demand for quality content and minimal advertising continue to increase, it’s a safe bet that the popularity of content marketing will grow, as well.
How I’ve Learned that Great Content Takes Time
In 2015, I created and published a piece on 25 recommended copywriting books for my copywriting agency, Express Writers. I wrote it around several great long tail keywords on copywriting books, composed solid information, added high-quality links that ranked over 50 on the MozBar DA—as well as links back to our site.
Published originally in 2015, even though it was well-written, informative, and comprehensive, it was slow to take off. At the end of the day, the piece took seven months to rank #2 organically in Google for four long-tail keywords:
The rankings we have on those long tail keywords are killer—and totally worth the time and investment. We earned far more back than the cost of that one piece of content.
This has happened time and time again; we’re sitting at #2 for “what copywriters do” with this infographic, published specifically for that keyword in mid-2015. It took us until January—six months—to see it rank #2 for that keyword.
Safe to say, there’s a lesson I learned here, which is this: great content takes time.
You simply can’t push it.
Because there are so many factors that go into ranking content and appearing organically in SERPs, it’s a waste of time and energy to walk away from content that doesn’t rank immediately. Don’t get too impatient to wait on the ROI and rankings of a solid, long-form piece of content. If you give up too early, you could cut a potential primary source of traffic that’s worthwhile for Google and real readers that could happen later down the road.
So with that in mind, be patient. Great content is often slow to rise, and unstoppable when it hits its stride.
How Great Content Begins to Rank
It’s not enough to just respect the fact that content often takes a while to show up in the SERPs and start raking in the conversions for your company. You’ve also got to understand why this is true.
Even if it’s well-optimized, after you publish a post, it doesn’t just rocket to the top of the SERPs. Instead, it goes through a complicated process of interpretation and categorization. This applies even to the content created by huge publishing houses, like The New York Times, although it’s fair to say that this material generally completes the process much faster.
When you publish content, the following must happen for it to rank:
- The content goes live and is read and linked to by other bloggers, marketers, and real readers all over social.
- Google’s crawlers interpret these links as the trappings of authority and relevance, and your content starts ranking in organic search results.
- As your content makes its way up the search results, people start clicking on it in higher numbers.
- More people start visiting your page, and Google sees that people are spending time there, commenting, and saving the page. All of these things contribute to higher search rankings.
This is a cyclical process that needs to happen over and over again for a page to stay at the top of the SERPs. In addition to being cyclical, this is also a gradual process that may take months or even (in our case) years to come full-circle. It all depends on how much traffic you already have established, and how much leverage your content has among your readers.
A 5-Step Process for Long-Term Content Results
Content marketing doesn’t heap its blessings on you all at once, but it’s a worthwhile venture – even if it does take some time. With that in mind, follow this five-step outline to ensure that your content marketing program continues to deliver results for the long-term:
1. Start your following by publishing frequently at first
If you don’t already have a large following behind you, it’s wise to consider posting a bit more often now than you otherwise would. This serves two purposes. First, it gives Google more pages to index, which can help give you a boost in the SERPs. Second, it populates the SERPs with your content, which makes it more likely that readers will stumble across your material, and help it rank by clicking, sharing, and commenting.
If you’ve never considered how frequently you should blog, the answer entirely comes down to your preferences and goals. While it’s true that blogging regularly boosts your business (companies that published 16 or more blog posts each month earn 3.5 times as much traffic as their competitors), the exact schedule will depend on things like your existing traffic, your distribution platforms, and the type of content you publish.
Regardless of what number you land on, keep in mind that posting more frequently than you otherwise would is a smart way to give your content marketing strategy a boost.
2. Optimize all of your content for SEO
No matter what you do, content still has to go through that complex ranking process I mentioned earlier. While you can’t do much to hasten that along, you can ease it slightly by ensuring that all of the content you publish is well-optimized.
By including things like meta content, relevant long-tail keywords, images, alt information, and quality links, you can help search engines interpret your content, and facilitate faster, more prominent rankings from the get-go.
3. Publish evergreen content on a regular basis
While it can be tempting to write one-off news pieces that resonate with current trends, one of the best ways to build out your content marketing strategy is to publish evergreen content that will maintain value long past its publishing date.
When it comes to publishing evergreen content, you’ll want to tailor it to the topics your readers are the most interested in. With that in mind, turn to your Q&A page or your blog comments to gain topic ideas.
Once you’ve got a few highly relevant, useful topics in mind, publish long-form, in-depth content on them. In addition to providing value for your existing readers, this will also allow your site to continue providing value to new readers, and can eventually come to account for a major portion of your overall traffic.
According to Kerry Jones, the Associate Marketing Director at Frac.tl and the author of a recent Marketing Land piece, many of the articles she published four years ago continue to hold first-page Google rankings. Keep that in mind the next time you set to work publishing content.
4. Focus on quality first, and quantity second
While it’s smart to publish often as you’re building your content marketing strategy, if it comes to a decision between frequency and depth, you should always shoot for the latter. While frequent content is great, quality content is the best, and you’ll get a higher ROI for your efforts if you focus first on creating the best content you’re capable of.
5. Be patient and keep working
Again, content marketing takes time to hit its stride. While many marketers get frustrated when they don’t see results in a few months, this is normal. As long as you’re publishing quality, well-optimized, relevant content, the views will come. Keep this in mind if you start doubting the validity of content marketing.
Content Marketing: The Most Effective Long-Term Strategy There Is
While content marketing isn’t an overnight solution, that’s precisely what makes it so valuable.
The prominence, authority, and ranking you gain from outstanding content marketing can’t easily be taken away.
Because of this, brands and marketers that put in the time to build truly successful content marketing strategies are in an excellent position to enjoy rankings, traffic, and conversion over the long-term.
Featured Image: Image by Julia McCoy
All screenshots by Julia McCoy. Taken September 2016.