Content marketing has been a buzzword for as long as I’ve been involved in SEO; yet, over the years, I’ve seen few examples of content done right, especially with affiliates. Sometimes this is put down to lack of budgets or resources, or a resistance to breaking away from the norm. If every affiliate under the sun has ‘unbiased’ bookie reviews, your equally ‘unbiased’ reviews won’t give you a competitive advantage. Mainly, I think there’s a misunderstanding of what ‘good’ content is and the value it can add to your site. In this article, I’m going to focus on blogs. Most affiliates will have at one point decided to set up a blog on their site because they know that content can help gain traffic. The problem is that there’s usually not much thought put into blogging, either outcomes haven’t been properly defined, a strategy hasn’t been set, and ways to convert readers have not been identified. Without this, blogging could end up being a waste of time and money.
With any marketing campaign, you need to first define its business objectives. Why are you doing this? It shouldn’t be because this is just the norm or many marketers recommend it. With a strong blog you can generate additional traffic to your site, create a community with returning visitors, as well as show legitimacy and thought leadership. In this step, you need to identify a USP for your blog. If you’re just writing articles on sports events after the fact, you’re not competing with operators that have big budgets, you’re competing with big sports news publishers that are far more trusted and established than you or operators. You can now start putting together a strategy. How are you going to get readership? Creating really great content is just one element; you need to think about building links to your articles, leveraging social, and using PPC (owned, earned, paid). Also, what do you expect users to do when they land on your blog? Reading and leaving isn’t really a strategy; they can continue reading more articles, bookmark your site to return later, follow you on social. And lastly, what are the ideal outcomes? Here you should think about micro conversions, such as signing up to your newsletter, to macro conversions like signing up to a bookmaker using your affiliate link.
As mentioned above, just having articles on sporting events isn’t enough to gain readership. You need to identify what your competition is doing, be objective about the quality of their content, and figure out if you’re able to do it better. There’s no point in creating a comprehensive history of the Grand National if there are already very detailed resources out there, but if you can access archive news, images, or recordings of past events from libraries, then you’ve got something unique. If you’re writing an article, beyond just assessing the competition and researching your target audience to identify their interests, questions, and where they hang out, you should start with keyword research. While your main site targets transactional and possibly navigational (if you’ve got a strong brand or if you rank well on bookies’ brands) searches, your blog should focus on informational searches. Informational searches (ones where the user is trying to find the answer to a question or looking for more information on a subject) make up between 50-80% of all searches. A lot of affiliates will focus on transactional searches; informational searches offer a much larger search volume and if the content and calls to action on your site are handled right you stand to gain more from these users than the ones that are only after getting the best deal. The key here is quality over quantity; if you don’t have the budgets to compete then invest in one high-quality article (graphic, right media, microsite) instead of writing loads of generic articles that will never get read. Alternatively, find cheaper ways of getting things done. If you’re at an event (or watching it on TV) you can provide live coverage from WordPress on your smartphone, using If This Then That (ifttt.com) recipes to automatically post specific tweets to your blog for a curated list of relevant updates. In fact, you can automate a lot of your blogging efforts using IFTTT recipes.
Once you’ve got something strong to work with, you need to start promoting it through link building, social, and paid. Good content alone will not bring users to your site. You’ll find that building links to your content will be much easier than building links to your site. People don’twant to link to affiliates. You’ll either need to pay webmasters more money for a link, settle for lower quality sites, or use blackhat techniques to gain links. However, when you have something strong to offer, the work gets a lot easier. Use social effectively. Don’t just share your own content – reach out to others to show them it and ask them to share it. Invest in paid social with promoted and sponsored posts. Facebook is limiting the reach of page posts because they want to push their paid platform, so you don’t have a choice but to use paid social. The same with Twitter, as there’s so much noise on Twitter you want to ensure you reach as wide an audience as possible. On the subject of paid, PPC can work very well with content marketing. The keywords you can target are less competitive and cheaper than betting keywords. You can reach a much wider audience with paid search results and display ads than you would otherwise get through search and social alone.
The step that’s often overlooked is the conversion. Your blog should work to convert visitors like the rest of your site does, but having banner ads in the sidebar is no longer effective, as people use adblockers or have banner blindness so your sidebar is often overlooked. In the planning stage, you will have identified what your objectives are so your blog should be built with these in mind. If it’s to get them to read more articles, you should show them related articles and use your articles to refer to previous ones that are related. If it’s to build a community, then take advantage of the many WordPress plugins that enable this. The Selection Sharer WordPress plugin allows users to highlight text on your page and share the page via Twitter or Facebook, quoting the text they highlighted. CoSchedule and MyTweetLinks do something similar and are worth checking out. LiveFyre is a comments plugin that synchs comments people have made about your article on Twitter or Facebook and add them as comments to your site. Including calls to action within your article results in higher conversion rates than having CTAs in the sidebar only. However, when deciding on CTAs on your blog, think about the journey a user would take if they landed on your blog first. Chances are, they weren’t outright looking for a signup bonus, they’re either already part of your community (follow you on social, subscribe to your RSS feed, or bookmarked your site) or they found you through your promotion efforts. At this stage, your CTAs should be about the next best action. This should be personalised to the user and their behaviour to offer them an action that is best suited to the situation. Segment your visitors between new and returning. For new visitors, you’ve got three potential options: 1. get them to join your community by signing up to your email newsletter (give them a reason to give you their email) or, alternatively following you on social; 2. get them to continue reading other articles relevant to their interests to build some trust in you before joining your community; or 3. get them to sign up to one of the bookies on your site by either sending them to the bonus offer page, bookmaker reviews page or sending them directly to the operator. For returning visitors, chances are they’ve already taken advantage of the bonus offers, what you want to do is get them to continue to bet with the operator. This is where you take matters into your own hands – don’t just rely on the operators to turn your referral signups to loyal customers, if you’ve got them to trust you and join your community, you can get them to continue to place bets. So for the returning visitor segments, the CTAs should focus more on placing bets instead of signing up or joining your community.
Content marketing can be a powerful strategy for any online business but only when done right. With proper initial planning you have a strong starting position; you know what kind of content to create on your blog, what goals to set up on your analytics platform to measure success, and what you need to do to achieve results.
“PPC can work very well with content marketing. The keywords you can target are less competitive and cheaper than betting keywords.”
“Having banner ads in the sidebar is no longer effective, as people use adblockers or have banner blindness so your sidebar is often overlooked.”