There's really no way around it. The only technique to truly maximize the effectiveness of your content to be engaging on your website, relevant for SEO, and useful for social media is to think three-dimensionally.
This is Part II in the series about "Killing Birds With Content Stones". Read Part I first.
We all understand that different content has different purposes. Our goal from an efficiency perspective is to accomplish as many goals as possible with each piece of content without taking away from the effectiveness towards one or more of the goals. It's easy to say that a piece of content helps a little with engagement and social but is really strong for SEO. It's another thing entirely to create a piece of content that works well across the whole spectrum.
It's hard. It's not impossible. Here's how.
Asking the Right Questions Before Producing the Content
Before you can produce the content, you have to make sure that the proposed piece is going to fulfill the goals appropriately. For this portion, we're going to use the example of a car dealership who is diving into content marketing. They want to produce content for their website that is engaging to their visitors, that assists in improving their search engine optimization, and that can effectively be used as content to spread through social media.
Some content is born from brainstorming or simply pops in one's head as a good piece of content to post. Other times, inspiration comes in the form of an event. For example, a Ford dealer in Seattle might have a purple Ford Focus drive into the service bay that inspires a marketing manager. They decide that they want to do a picture post about the different colors of Fords. Before coming up with the plan surrounding the content, they have to ask themselves a few questions.
- Will this be a piece of content that's interesting to people who visit my site? In this case, the fact that the topic is Ford vehicles makes it interesting enough, but they can add an additional touch to it if they can keep it localized. Rather than just different colors of Fords, they may decide to make it different colors of Fords around Seattle.
- Can this help with SEO? This is the easy question to answer. For this particular piece of content, since the topic surrounds vehicles themselves, they will be able to link to pages on the website that sell those vehicles. Under the image for the Ford Focus, they'll be able to link to an inventory search for a Focus and anchor it, "Ford Focus for Sale in Seattle".
- Is it interesting enough to be shared on social media? It might be, particularly if the images are strong enough. Getting it shared on Facebook will be pretty easy if at least one of the images is strong. Getting it retweeted will require some clever titling. Since social media in general and Twitter in particular love trending topics, the marketing manager may decide to latch onto a semi-current topic and title the piece, "15 Shades of Ford Across Seattle", playing on the 50 Shades of Gray phenomenon. It's a little risky considering the subject matter of the book, but it's also been played with enough to allow certain discretion.
Now that we have a topic, it's time to determine the effort and timing.
Force it Now or let it Simmer?
There are two options for a piece of content like this. Since it's only time-sensitive based upon the popularity of the title, it's possible to let the piece simmer and grow over time. More on that later.
The first and most common option is to go for it now. We have the concept. Now, let's put the piece together. We should have the image of the first purple Focus (with permission from the customer, of course). Now, we need more. There should be at least a couple more vehicles on the lot that have interesting colors that make the vehicles look great. This is important - by mixing in some in-house images, it makes the overall story more compelling as it pertains to the business itself. Let's say we have 4 images total. Now, we need more.
Most will go to the internet for this, and they may get lucky and find some good images by searching for "Ford Seattle" in image searches. Even better, they may search for "Ford Mustang Club Seattle" and find images there. Wherever you find the images, always attribute the actual source. If you didn't take the picture, give credit to those who did.
There may be a desire to cheat a little and include images of Fords outside of Seattle, but that would be too risky. If there simply aren't enough available to make a valid piece, they may want to append the title to say, "15 Shades of Ford Across Seattle and Beyond". It's a cheat and not ideal, but efficiency is more important than perfection. If you don't have enough content, don't force it.
In this hypothetical instance, the marketing manager has 9 images - four from the dealership and five local cars they found online. Nine is good but doesn't have the oomph of 15, so if they absolutely must get the piece out now and they don't want to settle for non-local images, it's time to find them in the real world. It could be as simple as sitting at the corner and shooting pictures of a couple of cars at stop lights. This seems cheesy, but there's nothing wrong with it as long as you don't have license plates visible. The marketing manager may drive around searching. This is not ideal, but again, this is assuming you want the piece to go out immediately.
What would be ideal is to go with option two: patience. The content will come. Tell the service writers what you're doing and ask them to keep their eyes out. You may even want to be specific - "I need green, maroon, and light blue to fill out the spectrum."
The other technique is to reach out through social media itself. If your Facebook page is vibrant and has a lot of local fans, ask them for help. Tell them what you're doing and ask them to send in pictures of their own Ford vehicles if they have something that matches your needs. Over time, between what happens at the store and what happens on social media, your patience will pay off and you'll have a much more impressive piece of content than if you force it. This is the difference between good 3D and bad 3D. Both deliver the desired effect but one is more memorable than the other.
Make it Three Dimensional
You've asked the right questions. You have the right content. Now, it's time to make sure that it fulfills all of the goals.
- Engaging Website Content - If you have a "fun" section on your website such as a blog, this is where you'll want to place the content. The worst thing that can happen is to take someone who wants to do business and distract them with frivolous content, so by placing it on the blog or in an area designed for "fun" topics, you'll keep the serious visitors serious while still engaging with those who are visiting for other reasons. Keep the spin of the content localized - people love seeing what's close to them on the great big internet. It helps to highlight their surroundings, gives them pride in their city, and offers a way for them to get involved with comments such as, "I saw that F-150 at Target the other day."
- SEO Content - There's nothing wrong with linking to internal pages that are about business. People expect it. While they might not click directly to a search for Ford Fusion inventory, the search engines will definitely follow the link and attribute additional weight to the page as a result.
- Social Media Content - With a proper three dimensional piece of content, there will be an inherent desire to share it. The content must be interesting enough to share and then must be exposed to locals so they can share it as well. This is most effective on Facebook, of course, where the degrees of separation between people makes an image much more likely to be seen by the owner of the vehicle. Have your employees share the page. They can highlight individual images in their Facebook feed. If you reached out to a local car club, contact them or simply post it on their wall with credit going to them as deserved. The art of exposing the content properly on social media is another blog post entirely, but I think you get the picture.
In the next part, we will describe in detail how to get the most SEO benefit from the content. Stay tuned.