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Over 10 years, U.S. Waterproofing—an Illinois business—paid a string of search engine optimization experts $200,000 to generate traffic and links to its site.
The contractors wouldn’t explain their methods, and all that cash resulted in an unimpressive growth rate of 5 to 10 percent annually, says U.S. Waterproofing Vice President Matthew Stock.
Stock’s company is a family-owned business with about 100 employees, but in 2011 he launched an ambitious content marketing campaign that led to an enormous growth in its Internet muscle.
By April 2013, visitors to U.S. Waterproofing’s website had leaped to 30,000 a month, up from 1,000 just 17 months earlier. There are now 4,000 links to the website, up from a mere 300 after a decade of doling out cash to SEO experts.
“And I didn’t pay a dime for it,” Stock says.
Is he strutting and chest-thumping? Not in the least. Anybody can do the same, he says. In a RaganTraining session titled “How content marketing saved my family business,” Stock offered tips that might interest many major organizations as well.
1. Not everyone’s a content producer.
Acting on the advice of a hired consultant, Stock began with an approach of turning his entire company into blog writers. That approach flopped.
“I don’t generally hire or need literary geniuses to be selling basement waterproofing,” Stock says. “Many of them don’t have college education. So they struggled with it a little bit, not only in producing the content but also in meeting the deadlines.”
2. Writing pros come cheap.
As Stock was scrambling to write to fill in his staff’s missed copy deadlines, a friend asked, “How come you don’t go out and dig your holes and answer your phones? … You can hire someone to do that for a lower cost than what your time is worth.” Same thing with a writer.
Face it: Newspapers are collapsing. Hobo-reporters are traveling the rails, picking peaches, sweeping floors in cigar shops. They’ll write for food. Or so it seems, anyway.
Point is, you can find a Hemingway wannabe willing to pound out copy for $15 to $20 an hour, Stock says. His time is worth more than that. Maybe yours is, too.
3. Hire someone quirky.
U.S. Waterproofing hired a chief content officer named Warren. Warren funnels ideas, does keyword research, writes, edits, publishes, and handles social media. He also cranks out four blog posts per week for what the firm calls its Learning Center.
To find him, Stock turned to Craigslist. “I tend to find more creative people on Craigslist, and people are a little more quirky,” he says.
With content marketing catching on, it helps to get someone with a voice that stands out.
4. Gather ideas from your staff.
Stumped for story or video ideas? Ask the receptionist at the front desk, your sales staff, the guys who install your automated cat-scratchers or robotic babysitters, the customer service warriors fighting off the Visigoths on Twitter: What are the most frequently asked questions? You’ll get an earful.
If you’re a small organization, start with your top 50 questions, Stock says. If you’re a leviathan, take the first 500. Now write up each answer in a separate article. He has hundreds of articles for a small, niche industry.
Google auto-fills are another great source of ideas. Start typing your brand name or a term from your industry, and see what people are searching.
5. Protect your reputation with content.
Let’s say somebody likes what they’re hearing from your salesperson. The potential customer might think, however, “These guys seem like maybe they’re too good [to be true]. I’m going to Google ‘U.S. Waterproofing’ and ‘complaints,'” Stock says.
Your clientele? If they tried that on you, maybe they’d pull up pages of Yelp harangues and screeds from trolls.
Stock, on the other hand, wrote an article to lure such seekers of bad news: “Why Basement Waterproofing Contractors Get So Many Complaints.” It works.
“I own three of the first four spots on Google, which commands 90-plus percent of all Internet traffic,” Stock says. “So this, in a way, is reputation management.”