Shopify does content marketing beautifully. Any business, you and I included, should try to learn from their approach, and emulate parts of it to succeed at content marketing.
Don’t listen to naysayers. Content marketing was, is and will continue to be absolutely crucial for your growth.
Content marketing is the ultimate holy grail of inbound marketing. Whether it is publications like Forbes or Entrepreneur, or businesses like Semrush, Hubspot, Moz, Copyblogger or Buffer, you will find numerous articles about content marketing everywhere. You look at the indicative traffic figures of any big business, and you’ll find almost 40% of their daily traffic comes from search engines. That’s tens of thousands of visitors coming to their platform via searches. And they enjoy this dominance backed by their content.
Entrepreneurs are always trying to crack the secret sauce that would make their content marketing a resounding success. Some succeed, most do not.
So what is it that makes the content marketing efforts of some businesses stand out from the rest? And how can you use that knowledge into making your content marketing something to be envious of?
It starts, and ends with your audience
Your content marketing isn’t, at all, about you. It is about your audience. That is the first thing you need to realise, accept and appreciate.
You can not make your audience want to look for something. They are always going to look for (search for, on Google) what they are looking for. So, if the cornerstone of your content is how amazing your product is, you have just lost access to most of your audience.
If all you talk about is your product, your services and how amazing all of it is, then your content discovery would be a fraction of what it should be. Because in order to find your content, your audience needs to find you first.
The right content marketing strategy acts as a funnel that drives your customers to you. And in order to do that, your content needs to lead to your product, and not the other way around.
Now, let’s head over to Shopify, and see how they do it.
Their content marketing is beautiful, and while they have been able to strike an amazing (and much to my chagrin, envious) balance between creating content for their audience and their product, their content starts with their audience.
If you visit Shopify’s blog, you would find a “quickstart guides” segment. Just have a look at the guides present there.
Now. To get an idea of whether their audience is indeed looking for answers to these, or similar queries, lets head over to Quora and just search any one of them.
After I took this screenshot, I went ahead and filtered the results by “past hour”, “past day”, “past week”, and “past month”. Past day and past hour did not return any results.
Past week returned one result.
Past month returned over a dozen results for the query.
And questions being asked on Quora represent an absolutely tiny percentage of the overall search queries making their rounds.
So that is what Shopify does. Targets the people making these search queries, and serve answer to those queries.
That “Find a product or business idea and get started” guide we saw earlier? It directs to this article on their blog.
It is more than a year old.
It is a 18 page long article.
It pretty much touts Shopify’s platform for every single idea they serve you with.
And yet, it enjoys a slot on the homepage of their blog. Safe to assume it generates a lot of traffic and possibly conversions too.
Why? Because they are answering the question the users came to them with, so users end up getting engaged with the content. Are they promoting their own product and services while answering the question and serving the content? Yes, they are, but that isn’t the main theme behind their content. The main theme remains addressing the query, and then they figured out ways to promote the notion that “Shopify can help you start this business we just talked about.”
The primary focus continues to be on their audience.
Not sure about that? Lets take an example. If you are a service based business, say a photographer, Shopify isn’t the first platform that would come to your mind for your web presence, would it? But it is a valid business nonetheless, one that anyone with a particular set of skills can easily start to dip their toes in the water. So, if Shopify is to answer the question with sincerity, they should mention this category. Let’s see if and how they do it.
- They first addressed the space
- They articulated how a skilled professional can leverage their skills to create a revenue stream
- They suggested ways in which one can create an additional, and possibly a passive revenue stream to augment their earnings
- Then, and only then, they mentioned how Shopify can possibly help them easen the whole process via their marketplace apps.
- Finally, they mentioned an additional business not directly linked to them, but relevant to the person reading this section.
Oh, and to give the users an additional nudge towards Shopify, they ended this section with a screengrab of one of the apps they mentioned.
And finally to hammer in the point that Shopify isn’t just for physical businesses, they threw up an additional read in there:
That is the full circle. They addressed the searcher’s question, they gave him all the pertinent information, they threw around enough hook to get him to start using their product, and they pushed additional resources in case more convincing was required.
Most content marketing we see around us follows the other way round approach
It will start with why you should do something, and then guide you to why you should use their product and services, or it would be focused solely on how their product can help you do X.
Is it helpful to the person reading that content? Yes it is. But it is discoverable only by the person looking for that content as well.
I use gitbook to maintain a draft of these articles. If gitbook were to produce a content around “create a gitbook space to manage and maintain your blogposts”, I would have found it if I was looking for that information. But if someone is looking for “ways to organize your writing”, he wouldn’t even come across it. And that makes all the difference. By making your content about your product, you are severely limiting its exposure to the audience it could help.
Sidenote: I do not know if Gitbook has produced either of those contents or not. I felt like citing an example, and since I was on gitbook, that was the first fictitious example that popped up in my head.
We practice what we preach.
Just look at us. We have just started our content marketing efforts, but almost every single one of our articles would look like something that typically pops up in your Medium feed.
Why? Because when I start writing any article, I try to think of ways in which it can benefit my audience.
Benne Analytics is a web analytics platform. As such our customers are businesses themselves. So any piece of content we produce starts with the question, how can I add value to another business owner today!
We haven’t quite cracked how to guide our readers back to our product yet, and we will continue to work on that. But even if it doesn’t lead back to our product, the core thesis remains the same. It starts and ends with our audience. When it leads to the product, great. But till then, we will adding value, even if it doesn’t bring any direct value to us.
With that, I’ll call it a day.
That’s it for today, see you tomorrow.
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