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As we discussed last month, content marketing has become one of the hottest topics in marketing today. “Content marketing” is fancy lingo to describe the many different ways (primarily digital) businesses are using content to engage with prospects in a non-sales capacity and build long-term customer loyalty. Content can take many different forms: articles, blogs, e-books, whitepapers, case studies, videos and webinars, to name just a few.

The rise of content marketing has been a boon for me personally, as there is now tremendous demand by businesses for high-quality content of all types — especially in the business and financial realms where I specialize. Two years ago, I was hired by a PR firm to write content for their client’s online financial newsroom. Turns out the founder of the PR firm is one of the world’s most recognized experts when it comes to digital public relations and content marketing.

Content Marketing Best Practices

Sally Falkow is the CEO of Meritus Media, a digital PR agency. Having seen the content marketing work Sally and her team have done over the past couple of years for her client, I decided to give her a call and pick her brain a little about content marketing best practices.

First, a little background on the project I work on with Sally. Each week, I write fresh new articles on financial and retirement planning for her client, which is an investment firm. After regulatory review, the articles are uploaded into the “newsroom” section of the firm’s website. This accomplishes several key goals.

The most important is that consistently updating the newsroom with fresh, original and quality content boosts the firm’s search engine optimization (SEO) results tremendously. “Google has said many times that what they want to see is original, well-written and fresh content,” Sally told me. “They are looking for sites that provide the best results for a searcher’s query. For their algorithms, this means sites that have a large volume of original content that has some value.”

Not too long ago, many companies were creating vast amounts of “junk” content that was stuffed with keywords but had little if any real value. Software programs that “spun” one piece of content into dozens of different articles by switching words around were also popular. But Sally says Google’s recent new rule updates have brought these techniques to a screeching halt. “It took Google a little while to deal with this, but now they’ve come down with a big stick. If you want to boost your SEO with content now, the content has to be original and of high quality.”

Posting new content consistently is vital to maintaining a high SEO ranking. “Sometimes we have delays in getting articles through compliance and miss a week or two of posting,” Sally said. “When this happens, our SEO rankings go down immediately.”

Social Media Content Support

Supporting your content via social media is also critical, Sally adds. “We work hard to get outside links to the newsroom and to get people to share it using social media, whether this is by liking it on Facebook, tweeting it on Twitter, pinning it on Pinterest or sharing it on Google+.” Her client’s newsroom has 226 Google+ 1s and it has been pinned on Pinterest 186 times and tweeted more than a thousand times.

But posting the articles I write in their newsroom is just the tip of the content marketing iceberg for Sally and this investment firm. They create new and different kinds of content out of many of the articles I write for them, like info-graphics and slide decks, and post these on sites like Docstoc and Slideshare. Then, of course, they like, tweet, pin and share these as well.

Blogger outreach is another big part of the content marketing equation. “The idea is to identify relevant bloggers in your industry,” Sally explains. “Then create content that will elicit responses from them, and encourage them to write blog posts about and link to your content. You want these friendly bloggers to become your brand ambassadors.”

To summarize, three things are critical to the success of your content marketing program:

1. Creating unique, high-quality content.

2. Consistently posting your content.

3. Sharing your content via social media and blogger outreach.

“Well, Duh…”

Forrester Research did a study on why people return to a website, and the overwhelming answer was because it had good content. “Well, duh,” Sally quipped. “Did they have to do a study to figure this out? Lots of companies don’t hesitate to spend big money on site design and programming, but they hesitate to spend on content. But I don’t think anyone is coming back to my client’s newsroom because it looks pretty.”