Do you remember when it was easy to trick search engines into ranking your website high for a search term? Or the time when it was sufficient to insert your keyword all over your website and you'd rank high in search listings? The good ol’ days of purchasing a domain name that was literally your top preferred search term to rank for, and stuffing your website with that same keyword and tricking Google into listing your website first are long gone and the rise of content marketing has taken over.
I first became interested in SEO (or Search Engine Optimization) several years ago. What I loved about it was that I felt like it was a puzzle; a constantly changing enigma wherein I was always trying to figure out what the Google algorithm wanted in order to see my website as valuable and in-turn rank it highly within its search results. I quickly learned that SEO was ever-changing and evolving. Google was constantly looking for ways to improve user experience, and because of that, they were constantly improving and building upon their algorithm. Nowadays, Google’s algorithm is ultra smart and SEO has taken a backseat to content marketing.
What is Content Marketing?
For those just diving into the business part of photography, simply put, content marketing is the act of creating and sharing unique and valuable content that is relevant to your profession and publishing that content on a regular basis for the benefit of your ideal audience. Basically, content marketing is the practice of creating valuable content on the regular, and disseminating it for free to your target audience.
With that being said, it’s becoming hard for small business owners and creative entrepreneurs to keep up with the trend of content marketing because we’re now having to dedicate more time to creating unique and valuable content for our audience to consume. To the horror of photographers everywhere, people are not as interested in our photography as we want them to be, and simply showcasing our work is not enough to get us the business we need. Not only that, but professionals are hesitant because they don’t feel they have a voice, don’t think they have anything of value to offer, or don’t know what their audience is looking for. Because of that, people shy away from content marketing, which is a shame because a recent study found that content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and produces three times as many leads.
Ok, That's Great, but What Really is Content Marketing?
I am SO glad you asked. Let me tell you. Content marketing can be anything from blog posts, to guest blogs, newsletters, webinars, behind the scenes posts, personal life posts, lists, interviews, vlogs, podcasts, and so much more. If the idea of content marketing is intimidating to you, chances are you’re not considering the fact that much of what you already do online can be considered content marketing. The trick is to utilize what you’re already doing to count toward your content marketing efforts. So, without further ado, here are a few tips for those of you just diving into the wonderful world of content marketing.
Know Your Target Audience
I often use the phrases "target audience" and "ideal client" interchangeably, so bear with me when I talk about this. If you don’t know who your ideal client is, you need to back up and define who you’re talking to whenever you create content online. And I don’t mean simply and generally defining your ideal client, I mean SUPER dialing in every detail of your ideal client so you know what you’ll be saying in your content and why you’re saying it. Knowing your ideal client is extremely important to the foundation of a professional photography business, and it shouldn't be overlooked. Let me give you an example, if I know that my ideal client is a 25-35 year old woman who is recently engaged and interested in having her wedding in Vegas (my stomping ground), loves the desert, and doesn’t want something cheesy (wedding scene from "The Hangover," anyone?), then I know I shouldn't write an article suggesting tips on the best places to have wedding photos taken on the Las Vegas Strip. It doesn’t suit who I’m talking to and I’d be much better off writing an article about tips when having wedding photos taken in the desert.
Consider Creating Content that will Appeal to a Larger Market
I may sound like I’m contradicting my first point, but stick with me. Creating content that you know your ideal client would find valuable, but will also appeal to a broader audience is extremely valuable. It may seem counterproductive to write an article that people will search for, and find, on a national level— knowing good and well that if your business is in Florida, someone who lives in Washington is probably not going to hire you for your photography services. However, creating valuable content that a person nationally searches for and stumbles upon your website (causing them to interact and click through to your website) shows Google that your website is, in fact, valuable and therefore may rank it higher in its search results on a local level, driving more local traffic to you. A great example would be if a local plumber wrote a blog post with tips on how to keep a toilet from becoming clogged. People nationally will benefit from the content without probably ever hiring that plumber that doesn’t live in their town, however, the benefit for the plumber is his website ends up ranking higher in local search results because of all the interaction he gets nationally from his toilet tips blog post.
Create Content Creation Habits
Like exercising a flabby muscle, creating content takes practice to become a habit. Content creation requires "breathing room" and ample time to allow your creative juices to flow. You need to be intentional about setting time aside every day to create content. Usually, morning is best for content creation because your mind is fresh, and you can start your day with some creative output. Consider pre-planning your content for the week. When will you write a new blog? What days will you plan to make a podcast? What times and days will you post on social media? All of this can go onto a weekly content planner.
Feeling Uninspired or Like You Don’t Have Anything to Offer?
We all go through times of feeling uninspired. Try re-purposing old content. Rewrite a blog post you’ve already written and put a fresh spin on it. Update old content and re-share it. If you’re feeling uninspired, try taking a break. Step away from pouring creativity into your projects for a bit of inspirational time. Reading an inspirational blog or listening to an inspirational podcast can work wonders on reinvigorating your creative juices. Above all, remember that nothing is new under the sun. Don’t beat yourself up because you can’t think of anything completely original. Leaders of content marketing go YEARS without ever thinking of something completely original. Content creation takes time to perfect. Put your own voice and spin on topics that you know your audience will benefit from.
Don’t Sell To Your Audience
Well, not right away at least. Think of content marketing as a way to get your audience in the door, to bring brand awareness to the forefront of your audience's mind. You need to feed them a TON of valuable free content before you begin selling to them (but you should have an end-goal in mind of eventually selling to them either a service or a product). People will buy your services and products because you’ve built trust with them through good content marketing. Don’t blow that trust by immediately trying to sell to your audience.
It's time for a mindset shift. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by content creation, stop creating content because you know you have to create content and start creating content that you know will help your target audience. Start with, "How can I serve my audience?" Most of us are in a service based industry - so start genuinely serving your clients by creating content that you know will help them and enrich their lives.