For any business with an online presence, content marketing is a term – and an activity – you really can’t avoid.
Here at Converge, we’ve written before about how “putting the creation and publication of useful, original, relevant content at the heart of how you market your business” allows you, in effect, to sell without selling. Instead, by demonstrating your expertise and sharing nuggets of value, you build credibility, trust, and a reputation as the go-to guys when someone has a need for what you offer.
As we explained previously, a big part of content marketing is what you share via your own channels, such as stories on your blog, videos on your website, and the short updates you share on Twitter or Facebook – and the importance of all that isn’t going away.
Increasingly, though, there are also many valuable opportunities to post articles and longer content on external platforms. LinkedIn is an obvious one, as is Converge, of course. In fact, just today we’re celebrating our 400th piece of member-posted content!
So, what are the advantages of posting content on a platform that isn’t your own website or blog?
Benefitting from brand exposure
One of the main reasons, of course, is brand exposure. Posting on Converge, for example, lets you get your latest news and insights in front of fellow member businesses, as well as others who might not have come across your company before.
At Converge, we disseminate member content across our Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn channels as well – spreading the word about your business even more widely, and making it easy for others to share and engage.
Driving traffic through links
Certainly, getting links back to your website is another benefit of posting your content on external sites. These may or may not carry ‘link juice’ – many platforms these days use a ‘nofollow’ attribute to prevent the transfer of PageRank – but your main motivation anyway should be to drive clicks from real readers. After all, the ideal scenario is for someone who has read your content to be sufficiently impressed that they want to click through to find out more about your business.
For instance, Converge members CannySites.com and Chester-le-Track recently collaborated on a useful and original piece of content at CannySites.com’s Holiday & Travel Directory platform, giving readers lots of tips on how to find cheap UK rail fares. Already, the article is driving real clicks to Chester-le-Track’s booking website by successfully portraying that business as ticketing experts who will work hard to find the best deal for their customers.
Experiment with long-form content
At more than 1,300 words, that particular article also ticks the box of being long-form content.
The received wisdom used to be that online readers had a short attention span, and that 400 or 500 words was usually sufficient for a piece of web content. That’s been changing, though, with analysis by Backlinko last year revealing that the average Google first-page result contains a hefty 1,890 words. Notably, Backlinko concluded that “publishing comprehensive, in-depth topical content may improve rankings”, while others have highlighted the potential of longer content to build brand authority and generate social shares.
Obviously, not every story that you want to tell through your content warrants that many words – and the worst thing you can do is pad out an article for the sake of it. Nevertheless, there’s definitely merit in experimenting with longer, more detailed pieces of content alongside shorter, snappier ones.
Top tips for posting content on external sites
So, you’ve got a topic or a story you want to write about, and have chosen a channel where you want to share it. How do you make sure that piece of content delivers the engagement, clicks and brand authority that you desire?
To help answer those questions, we’ve been analysing all the Converge member articles published between October last year and now. Overall, it’s really heartening to see the high standard of content that our members share, and drawing from that good practice we’ve come up with some tips on things you can do – and things you should probably avoid – in order to make the right impact.
1) Tell a good story
It sounds obvious, but you don’t want a reader to get to the end of your article and be thinking “why did I just read that?”
Looking at the content shared by Converge members, there are plenty of press release-type stories – which are a good way of celebrating good news and bigging up North East business – alongside lots of articles sharing tips and advice. Either way, you need to make sure the reader takes away something interesting and useful, and isn’t turned off by too much self-promotion.
If you’re a law or accountancy firm, for example, there’s often merit in posting an article about something important and topical that’s happening in the industry, to show that your business has its finger on the pulse.
Equally, evergreen tips and advice that won’t go out of date – more like what you’re reading now – are effective if you want to drive interest, page impressions and clicks over a longer period.
2) To duplicate or not to duplicate?
Duplicate content – basically, publishing the same article on different websites – is an area around which there are lots of search-related myths. Again, to understand the impact on search results, it’s best to go straight to the horse’s mouth and remind yourself of what Google says about it.
At Converge, we find that a lot of members publish entirely original content on the platform – which, of course, we like a lot! – while others reproduce blog posts or news stories that they’ve already published on their own websites or other channels.
In short, either approach is fine; Google is only bothered by duplication if it believes that it’s part of “deceptive” practices to try to manipulate search. However, if it sees the same content in more than one place, Google points out that it might end up showing users one version over the other. So, for instance, an article published on Converge or LinkedIn might show up instead of the identical content on your own site – not necessarily a bad thing at all, but useful to be aware of at least.
When they republish existing content on Converge, many members use the call-to-action button at the foot of the page to link back to the original article. That’s exactly the right thing to do, and helps communicate to Google – and the reader – how the different versions link together.
An alternative approach that works well is to ‘repurpose’ content from one place to the other; so, telling or summarising the same story, but reworking the wording and tailoring it for the audience in question.
As well as mitigating any duplication issues, you may find that readers are more likely to click your link if it’s taking them to a more detailed version, rather than an exact copy, of what they’ve read already. Don’t overdo the brevity, though – even with a summary article, you need to make it long and interesting enough that the reader doesn’t feel short-changed.
3) Choose a striking image
Whether your article is on LinkedIn, Converge or any other platform, you want to use a photograph or graphic that catches the eye, is appropriate for the story, and, if possible, has been created by you.
Stock imagery has its place, but many Converge members have discovered that an original photograph – such as one that shows the staff members featured in the story – is more likely to grab the attention of both human readers and Google.
Brand blogger Jeff Bullas has reported that articles containing images get 94% more page views than those without, so assuming the platform you’re using allows you to upload an image, be sure to take advantage of that.
4) Don’t fall foul of copyright
A lot of businesses still get themselves into trouble by using copyrighted images without permission or credit – another reason why your own, original photographs are a better bet.
Remember, just because a lovely photograph appears in Google image search, it doesn’t mean you can use it. Nor is it enough to reproduce the picture anyway and include a link back to the original source – you really do need to get permission first.
A handy tip is to filter the Google results to show only those pictures already ‘Labelled for reuse’ (click on the ‘Tools’ menu beneath the search box, and then on ‘Usage rights’), or use a site such as Pixabay, which features hundreds of thousands of Creative Commons images that you can use without any worry.
5) Check your copy for accuracy
If you’re looking to portray your business as an industry-leading, high-calibre outfit, nothing is likely to detract from that more than dodgy wording, grammar or spelling!
Try to understand the house style of where you’re posting, too. For example, at Converge we use sentence case for all article titles – Rather like this – to promote a consistent look across the site. However, other platforms, especially in the US, may prefer title case – Rather Like This – so just be alert and adaptable. Shouting ALL IN CAPS is never a good move, though.
Don’t be too worried – recognising the importance of presentation, we do keep our eyes open for typos and glitches that slip through the net in our member articles! Nevertheless, it’s always better to be right first time if you can, so be sure to read through your copy before clicking the ‘submit’ button – you'll be surprised how many obvious mistakes can be spotted and dealt with this way.
Of course, with the best will in the world, not all of us can be language gurus and grammar fiends. So, consider asking a colleague to give the content a once-over before you publish it – a few simple corrections or changes could improve its impact no end, and make sure you’re grabbing the audience’s attention for all the right reasons!
Written by Graham Soult
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