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Content Marketing: Are Links More Important Than Conversions?
Since the advent of content marketing, marketers have realised the importance of defining the correct target audience. Typically, if you speak to a business about who their target audience is, they will often begin to profile their average customer. However, should this audience be defined only as people interested in buying the product or service? Or, is it as I would contend, better to focus on the people who are likely to consume, promote and share the content? If it is the latter, obviously this will broaden greatly the size of the audience. That said, sometimes the audience can encompass both these categories, which is perfect from a marketing perspective because your creative content can not only attract links and shares, it can also drive conversions.
Catering for Niche Audiences
However, some niche products and services have an extremely limited audience in terms of the number of people who are actually interested in buying them. For example, if you are undertaking an organic SEO campaign for a site that sells industrial valves, the market online for this product is likely to be extremely limited compared to mass market appeal of verticals such as fashion, retail, travel and consumer finance.
But, just like a household retailer or travel company, the valve manufacturer may still have the same aspiration of ranking on the first page for their target keywords, no matter how limited the search volume is. Thus, they also need to earn high quality links in order to achieve first page rankings.
This considered, any content marketing campaign needs to focus on getting link placements from high profile, authoritative sites that have a genuine following. The fact that the referral visitors from these placements are unlikely to want to buy or even view the product should not be seen as a handicap on the campaign as they should (more importantly) be interested instead in consuming/sharing/linking to the content.
Looking at this from a longer-term link building perspective. The promotion of the content should be seen as the most important goal of the campaign. Ignoring this fact and attempting to build unremarkable industry specific-content with the aim of appealing only to people interested in buying valves, is likely to fail. The reason for this is that the content will have no point of interest, hook and therefore no broader appeal.
Content Must Have Relevance to Your Brand
That said, it is also important to note that creative-content must still have some kind of logical tie-in with the actual product/service on offer, else it will look odd why it is there in the first place.
For example, if a financial comparison site publishes a piece of unrelated content illustrating the “Top 50 cosmetic surgery disasters of all time” it might get some degree of interest, but there is no logical link back to the core product offering. Publishing this content will only serve to demonstrate a lack of creative thought or ingenuity. As large-scale publishers, who may otherwise have been interested in sharing or linking to the content, will likely refuse based on the fact there is no logical tie in with finance.
Even if you do create a piece of content with a logical tie-in with the main product/service, there is no guarantee that the referring traffic will convert. However, as mentioned above, this as a marketing exercise conversion should be a secondary goal compared to the overall success of the campaign, in terms of links and social activity. Those visitors have clicked to view the creative content, and will hopefully share and link to it.
The high profile influencer or publisher who sent the traffic is endorsing your creative content not your product or service. If you get some great link placements from these publishers, that will have the causal affect of increasing your rankings for the target key terms. Which in the long-term, will yield more conversions than publishing industry specific content with a very narrow appeal.
So. Why are links more important than conversions in Content Marketing?
To conclude, the overriding goal of a content-based link building approach is that it needs to be successful and earn genuine, editorial link placements. Although there are lots of other KPI’s that can be put in place, if you want rankings and more organic traffic then you need quality links. The audience is of course vitally important and when working within industries with mass appeal, you really can create content that will have a direct appeal to the potential customers, as well as earning quality links. However, customer conversions should not be the overriding aim, the overriding aim should be to create promotional content that is popular and will obtain high quality, editorial standard links.