This isn’t a watered down list of ten generic content marketing tips.
This is an interview with a controversial author whose criticism, whether correct or not, is heeded by leading authorities within the digital marketing field.
We’re talking about Greg Strandberg.Greg Strandberg
Why do they take note?
He’s also an authority when it comes to content marketing and SEO, hence why his critiques are heeded.
When he’s not berating top social media sites and writing works of fiction, he’s providing seriously useful advice that small businesses would do well to take note of. So we caught up with him to get some tips on how small businesses can enhance their content marketing efforts.
If you currently neglect your content marketing you might think again after this interview:
You write about an incredibly varied range of topics. This goes against the conventional wisdom of finding one niche. Has this helped or hindered you?
I think this has hindered me. Let me use email marketing as an example of why.
Many times we’re told to give away a free eBook to get email subscribers. Well, what do you do when you’re targeting several different and unassociated industries/groups?
The people I gave my free ‘how to teach English’ book to were not at all interested in my marketing books, and vice versa.
That’s the problem you’ll experience if you focus on too many things.
Would you suggest small businesses specialise or keep their blog general?
I think it’s clear you want to specialize.
What are you good at? Take it a step further – what are you better than everyone else at?
That’s the specialisation you want. So many sites have generalised content (Social Media Today is one that does this a lot). This does nothing for your user…unless your user will always be a flock of beginners.
That’s just not going to happen as you’ll grow along with your content. That’s why I’m able to write about more advanced content marketing and social media marketing concepts – I’ve done all the easy stuff and it bores me.
Yep, that’s the handle – you often have to go through the beginner round of content creation before you get to the advanced stuff. Sometimes we call this learning as you go.
If you focus on what your specialty is, however, you can often skip this beginner round and dive right into the more advanced stuff.
Should small businesses blog?
Let me tell you what happens 50% of the time I start talking with a potential employer. They give me their site address, I go there, and I see no blog.
The other 50% of the time the blog has a handful of posts, most dating to 3 months ago or with 3-month gaps in between them.
Who is this helping?
It’s helping no one, other than that small business’ ability to be lazy.
People want fresh content about your industry – give it to them!
Nothing is going to drive traffic to your site like a good blog. And nothing’s better to share over social media.
My advice for small businesses that want to get started is to use that silly desk calendar you have, the kind that takes up the whole desk. Write down ideas for each day or a few times a week, develop a theme, and stick to that schedule.
In a month you’ll see a noticeable increase in traffic – if you’re social sharing – and you’ll be eager to fill up that month’s silly desk calendar sheet.
How do you suggest small businesses promote their content?
I’d suggest using social media. Start with the big three – Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Don’t focus on your page or personal account so much as groups where lots of people are. Find hashtags that are relevant to your niche or industry.
Commenting on blogs in your industry is good if you’re just starting out. Guest posting is still a viable strategy for gaining exposure.
Mainly, it comes down to your content and your ability to share. Since no one knows who you are yet, identify about 10 key influencers in your industry or niche and figure out what they do. Then craft some content mentioning them and share it. That usually helps get traffic and exposure.
Boy, those ideas are sure old, however. The truth is that building traffic take months or years and you’ll be talking to yourself for a long time.
That’s where persistence comes in, and the ability to keep going when you don’t want to. I’d say close to 75% of people give up so if you don’t you’ve got a lot going for you.
You’ve been open in your criticism of top digital marketing sites for putting out “shoddy content” how can small businesses keep their content fresh?
It’s so incredibly frustrating to see big sites put up tired advice that we’ve been seeing for a year or more. That reflects badly on them, their authority, and their supposed “expertise.”
This is great for small businesses, though. Figure out the holes in the shoddy content the big sites put up. Study comments to see what users hunger for.
Most of the big sites ran out of ideas years ago. They hired writers and most of those writers ran out of ideas as well. It’s why we see the same stuff all the time.
How can you avoid that? How can you stand out?
Try telling stories that are unique to you and if you can throw in themes and motifs and parallels and metaphors within your niche you’ll do well. People like it when you can use stories to make associations. It’s easier for them, especially if they can visualize.
That’s getting a lot more into the lizard brain, but that’s what you want to target. Stories have been told since caveman days and they work. Plus they’re a lot more fresh than the shoddy content we’ve been seeing so much of lately.
Have you got any SEO tips for small businesses?
Use Google maps to identify outlying areas like counties, boroughs, smaller towns, and other areas people are searching from. I always do this when writing content for others.
For instance, on a cleaning services site I’ll want to get all the outlying areas of London. Someone might be typing in their particular town or area, not just “London cleaning services.”
Also, with Google’s semantic text feature many users just click on what Google gives them after they type a few letters. Find ways to benefit from this.
If you were starting a small business tomorrow, where would you start with your content strategy?
I’d focus on my local area so I can begin pulling in as much mobile traffic as possible.
I’d use Google Geo Analytics to study maps of where my traffic is coming from. I’d identify my top 3 competitors (or more) and figure out their message, content strategy, and social delivery methods.
I would develop better goals and a better schedule. I wouldn’t waste time on posts that my users don’t care about (which I find are “me” posts or self-promotion posts).
Do you use any tools to aid your writing?
I think of tools as crutches that businesses and individuals take on. They think leaning on them helps, and maybe it does. But how long are you going to walk with them?
My legs work fine so I just don’t use them.
How would you suggest small businesses streamline their social media?
The easy answer is tools.
I’m not going to give you that answer, however, because I think it’s silly. Why would you want to add in more things you have to understand if you’re trying to make your life easier?
Pen and paper – that’s all you need. Figure out a schedule. That takes a plan. To form a plan you have to sit down and think. Sometimes adding in other people and talking helps too.
This is how you’ll develop that strategy and posting schedule and message that everyone says is so important.
I personally believe a lot in trusting your gut and forming your content around what’s happening now. I also don’t like the idea of automation, as I’ve seen it go wrong so many times.
No, to streamline your process you need to sit down and have clear goals and a vision of what you want. I think too many skip this step.
What one piece of advice would you give to a small business looking to grow their traffic?
Be consistent. If you’re going to do something, keep doing it. This is important for blogging when you’re starting out and building trust. It’s important on social media accounts so users don’t forget about you.
Find Greg’s regular work at his Big Sky Words blog. For more helpful digital marketing advice subscribe to our fortnightly newsletter below!
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