Imagine if Google announced that links were no longer an SEO ranking factor and therefore wouldn’t carry any form of value. How would this impact your strategy?
A knee jerk response might be to downgrade content as a priority. But once you’ve taken off your SEO goggles, you’ll likely ask yourself what other uses content has beyond link building?
Content that reaches, engages and converts your audience directly as well as excites journalists enough to cover it across their audience-relevant publication is the sweet spot. But if we solely focus on one over the other, we’re doing brands a disservice. To maximise the outreach potential of your campaign, both publication and audience outreach should be baked into your promotional strategy.
The answer? Integrated campaigns.
Content consultant Chris Scott explores how powerful these can be.
What is an integrated campaign?
An integrated campaign uses multiple online channels and added techniques to hit the trifecta of link building, audience engagement and maximised reach in one fell swoop.
To ensure each factor reaches its full potential, you can distribute integrated campaign content via online media channels in three ways: owned, earned and paid.
This is the act of promoting content via channels that already belong to you such as:
- Your website – publishing content, so it’s visible to those who organically visit and engage with your site.
- Your social channels – posting content to your followers, aka a pre-engaged audience.
- Your newsletters – sending emails out to your distribution list.
While promoting content across owned channels can be effective, it won’t allow you to reach a new audience unless your existing base shares it.
To build an owned audience, you must first earn it. Earned methods include:
- Social shares – every time your owned audience shares your content, it reaches a new audience beyond those who’ve already engaged with it. If what you’re sharing is engaging, there’s a good chance this new audience can move from earned to owned.
- User-generated content (UGC) – user-generated content comes in the form of comments, reviews or general online responses to marketing activity. If you get your audience so engaged, they are actively generating their own content about your brand you’re onto a winner.
- Digital PR/outreach – placed alongside these other methods, you can see that Digital PR and outreach is a small but important piece of the puzzle. If link building is your core goal, this piece might hold more weight than the other methods, however, you should exclusively rely on it.
Paid distribution involves paying a media owner – be it a publisher, social network or influencer – to distribute your content to their owned audience. Payment takes many forms, but it will usually be a Cost Per Click (CPC) model, whereby the advertiser is only charged when a user engages with your content. Done right, paid distribution can be immensely effective. Here are some methods:
- Social advertising – the creation and deployment of clickable ads that reach audiences across social networks. With the ability to narrow down who the ad is sent to by determining demographics such as gender, age and location as well as interests, social ad audiences are highly targeted. But be warned, your audience are likely using social media at their leisure and may find ads annoying. Creating non-intrusive content that they find genuinely interesting can combat this.
- Native advertising – a few years ago, native advertising had a reputation as being a cheap method of earning a vast amount of low-quality traffic and was often associated with clickbait-y links in the sidebar of online magazines. But things have changed. Native suppliers, such as Outbrain, have created an advanced algorithm to enable advertisers to reach a much more targeted audience. Natively embedding your content within a publication that appeals to your audience can bring readers over to your site, leaving you able to kickstart the engagement process. You also have ownership over the content and can communicate your brand messaging, which is not always the case with digital PR as you could be at the mercy of the publisher’s interpretations.
- Influencer marketing – influencer marketing involves paying an influencer to endorse your campaign to their loyal fan base. Unfortunately, gone are the days when an influencer of significance promoted your brand for free in exchange for a product. But an influencer’s audience trusts their judgement, viewing them as an expert in their niche, so it can be a very impactful method.
Combination is king
Hopefully, the above has proven that all your eggs shouldn’t be in one basket when it comes to running content marketing campaigns. To really ‘win’ at creating content, the goal should be to engage and convert your audience alongside building links. By combining your distribution channels, you can make your content work even harder. Here are examples of how that can look:
- Earned/Owned – you create some killer content, promote it on social media to your owned audience. They share it to their audience, who engage with it – thus earning that user.
- Earned/Paid – a publisher writes an awesome review of your product – you’ve earned it. But there is an opportunity to propel that review with some Facebook advertising, therefore allowing a paid, targeted audience to engage with it. Another method would be to run a digital PR campaign that gets covered far and wide – excellent. It then gets pushed further with some paid promotion and – if the content didn’t produce any coverage (it happens) – you can save the day with some paid traffic and engagement.
- Owned/Paid: create content, publish it to your website and work with Outbrain to natively distribute it to a targeted audience.
- Owned/Earned/Paid: create your content and leverage owned, earned and paid channels with a fully-integrated campaign. You can gain additional reach with email marketing, building links with digital PR, engagement with social media, brand messaging with native and authority with influencer marketing.
How to overcome potential barriers
Working for a brand or agency, the same barriers involved in activating an integrated content promotion strategy apply – particularly if you work within the SEO team.
Ultimately, you’ve been employed to enhance organic performance. But not all of these promotion techniques enhance organic performance. To this we argue: why wouldn’t you want to invest in activity that is going to help you reach the overarching objective?
Well, the problem lies in the objective.
The key is working with budget holders to educate them around how content is being sold short when it’s being created purely for only one job. Map KPIs to each campaign and channel that go beyond organic performance, setting the remit to reach, engage and convert your audience. The end result is a business case that’s hard to argue with.
Finally, when developing content campaigns, ensure you’re working with other wider channel teams from the outset to ensure the smooth integration of additional distribution methods.
- Building a small number of quality links to key pages that require them is more beneficial than a high number of links to pages that don’t
- Create content your target audience will engage with, not just to build links. Naturally, publications your audience read are more likely to cover it
- Once you have content your customers engage with, maximise its potential. Push it through a combination of owned earned and paid channels – not just outreach
- Adapt content KPIs to overcome barriers during sign off on wider channel distribution.