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13 Content Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses

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13 Content Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses


Content marketing is hot today.

Look at the meteoric rise in interest over the past 20 years, according to Google Trends:

1-google-trends

Many small businesses have successfully grown using content marketing. Beardbrand, Luxy Hair, Lodge Cast Iron—the examples are endless. 

If you’re a small-business owner, you’re probably wondering if you should be using content marketing for your business too. 

In this post, I’ll run through some reasons why you should do content marketing, plus 13 ideas you can apply to your small business. 

Why should you do content marketing for your small business?

Here are three reasons why you should consider content marketing for your business.

1. Get more traffic

No matter what you sell, there are only so many people who are willing and able to buy at any given moment. 

So if you’re only targeting people who are directly searching for your product, your traffic will be limited. 

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Take, for example, our own toolset. We have five main tools:

2-ahrefs-tools

Altogether, these pages account for ~10,000 monthly visits, which is only around 1% of our total search traffic.

3-ahrefs-tools-traffic

If we had simply relied on those five pages, our business wouldn’t have grown. 

Instead, we’ve created hundreds of pieces of content that now rank on Google for more than 140,000 keywords and generate more than 930,000 search visits per month. 

4-ahrefs-organic-traffic

This is how we’ve grown our company to eight figures in annual recurring revenue (ARR).

2. Improve brand awareness

As we’ve established, most people don’t look for products and services directly. Instead, they look for solutions to problems or answers to questions. 

So, when you create content around these problems or questions, you can use this opportunity to introduce your brand to your potential customers. A prospect knowing your brand means you’re at least one step closer to turning them into customers.

Here’s an example. Billy Blogger started a blog and is frustrated at how his blog traffic isn’t increasing. So he searches for “how to increase my blog traffic” on Google and discovers our article.

From there, he learns that one method to get more traffic is to write about topics with search traffic potential. He also discovers that he can use our free tools to do that. 

With just one article, we’ve turned Billy Blogger from someone who didn’t know we existed to someone who now knows our brand. Repeat that at scale, and you can see how content marketing works to improve brand awareness. 

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3. Reduce your marketing costs

Content marketing can be cheaper over the long term. 

Take again, for example, the Ahrefs blog, which receives around 260,000 search visits per month. If we had to acquire all of that traffic from Google Ads, we would have to pay an estimated $355,000 per month or $4.2 million per year. 

5-ahrefs-blog-traffic

Considering that our content marketing team isn’t paid $4 million in annual salaries, we can say that content marketing is cheaper over the long term. 

Recommended reading:Why Is Content Marketing Important? 5 Reasons

13 content marketing ideas for small businesses

Convinced that you should be doing content marketing? Here are some ideas you can consider implementing.

1. Answer questions people are searching for

We’ve established this earlier: Potential customers don’t search for your products directly, but for questions they want answered. 

So your goal is to figure out what these questions are and create content that matches them. 

How do you find these questions?

The easiest way is to enter a relevant keyword into our free keyword generator tool and switch the tab to Questions.

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6-keyword-ideas

If you’d like to see more questions, then you can use a professional keyword tool like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.

  1. Enter a relevant keyword into Keywords Explorer
  2. Go to the Matching terms report
  3. Switch the tab to Questions
7-questions

As you can see, there are over 260,000 potential questions you can create content for. If you want to narrow the list further, set the Keyword Difficulty (KD) filter to a maximum of 10. 

8-low-kd-questions

Eyeball the report and pick out those most relevant to your business. 

2. Create a statistics page

Journalists and bloggers are always looking for data to back up their claims. This is why businesses and websites publish data studies and original research—their goal is to get mentions and links from these authoritative websites. 

See also  Google Updates Advice on How to Control Titles in Search Results

But as a small business, it can be difficult for you to publish original research. There is one way around it, and that is to curate data. 

That’s what we did when we published our post on SEO statistics. To date, it has accumulated a total of 2,700 backlinks from 1,300 unique websites:

9-seo-statistics-stats

It also ranks #1 for the keyword “SEO statistics”:

10-seo-statistics-serps

Learn how we created this page and built links to it in this video series:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTF6OBwidhc&list=PLvJ_dXFSpd2u_ABxIRO6RVK3ucKyzn96Y&ab_channel=Ahrefs

3. Write for other sites in your industry

There are important topics or questions you want to rank high on Google for. But some of these can be very competitive. As a small business, it can be difficult for you to compete, especially when it seems like other sites have endless budgets. 

But there’s one way around it: take advantage of these sites’ authority to rank. 

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How? Most big sites are constantly looking for great content to publish. So use that opportunity to create a guest post for them and rank that page for the keyword you’re targeting. 

Here’s an example. A few years back, I wrote a guest post for SmartBlogger. Even though it’s been some time, that post still ranks #5 for the keyword “niche website” and generates around 250 monthly search visits:

11-niche-website-traffic

Since that post promotes our tools, we’re basically introducing our brand to more new people. 

12-smart-blogger-guest-post

Here’s how to find sites that you can potentially “guest post” for:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Content Explorer
  2. Search for your topic

For example, if we search for “keto diet,” you’ll see around 3 million pages you can target. 

13-keto-diet-content-explorer

But that’s too many pages to look through, so let’s set a few more filters to narrow down the results:

  • Website traffic: 500+
  • Words: 500+
  • Language: English
  • One page per domain – Checked
  • Exclude homepages – Checked
  • Exclude subdomains – Checked
  • Live & Broken – Only live
  • Filter explicit results – On
14-content-explorer

This reduces the number of pages to ~21,000. Since you’re looking for authoritative sites to “piggyback” on, you can also set a Domain Rating (DR) filter for sites with a DR of >60.

15-content-exploerr-results

Evidently, 4,000 pages is a much more manageable list. Go through the list and pick out those sites that are likely to accept your guest post pitch.

Then find the website owner’s or editor’s email, reach out, and pitch your topics to them. (Remember, it should be those you want to rank for!)

Recommended reading: Guest Blogging for SEO: How to Build High-Quality Links at Scale

4. Rewrite or update outdated content on other websites

Riffing on the same idea: What if, instead of pitching an entirely new guest post, you pitch to rewrite or update an older piece of content on other websites? 

Not only can you rewrite the article to naturally include your product (with permission from the editors, of course), you can “piggyback” on these sites to rank for the keywords you want. 

Our chief marketing officer, Tim Soulo, suggested this some time back:

Here’s how you can find authoritative sites that have outdated content you can offer to update:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Content Explorer
  2. Search for a relevant topic
  3. Check Exclude homepages
  4. Check Exclude subdomains
  5. Toggle Filter explicit results
  6. Set the Language filter to English (or the language you write in)
  7. Set the Published filter to an outdated period (e.g., 2010 — 2015)
  8. Set the DR filter to something high, like 50
16-content-explorer

Look through the list and see if there are any articles you can offer to rewrite. Find the website owner’s or editor’s email, reach out, and pitch to them.

5. Update your content

As you’re updating or rewriting content for other websites, don’t forget to do that for your own too. 

Some of your content may not rank the first time, and that’s perfectly fine. Simply rewrite and try again. 

The easiest way to figure out which of your content needs rewriting is to use our free WordPress SEO plugin.

Then follow the guide below to learn the best way to republish your content.

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Recommended reading: Republishing Content: How to Update Old Blog Posts for SEO

6. Partner with influencers to create content around your brand

Check out this video: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSaZRXaLxBE&ab_channel=Wah%21Banana

It may look like a comedy sketch, but it’s actually a clever skit designed to promote a video projector. 

Content marketing doesn’t always mean creating your own content. You can also partner with others, such as influencers, to create content for your brand too. 

From YouTube to Instagram, TikTok to Twitter, there are many ways you can partner up with influencers to create content. For example, a restaurant that invites influencers for a tasting session can get itself featured in a review.

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If mega influencers are out of your reach, don’t worry. You can always work with nano or micro influencers to reach more people at lower costs. 

Recommended reading: Influencer Marketing: Definition, Examples, and Tactics

7. Promote your content

You can’t create content and expect people to magically find them. It doesn’t work that way. Instead, you have to put it in front of your target audience. You have to promote it. 

Here’s what we do every time we publish a new piece of content: 

  1. Share it on all our social channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)
  2. Include it in our weekly Ahrefs’ Digest newsletter
  3. Get each individual author to share and/or create a Twitter thread about it 
  4. Run ads (Facebook, Quora, etc)

You’ll have to do at least this much to get your content out there—or if you’re a small site, even more. I recommend following this checklist, which includes content promotion tactics to help you get the word out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoVYweKH4ck&feature=emb_title&ab_channel=Ahrefs

8. Create a comparison page

Like it or not, your customers will compare. After all, they’ll always want the biggest bang for their buck. 

So what you can do is to create a “versus” page where you compare the pros and cons between your business and a competitor’s.

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How do you know who your customers are comparing you with? Here’s how to find out:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter your brand name
  3. Go to the Matching terms report
  4. Under the Terms menu, choose “vs” (or some other term that signifies comparison)
18-vs-keywords

For example, if we’re ConvertKit, we can see that people are comparing us with other email marketing services like MailChimp, Flodesk, ActiveCampaign, and more. 

From here, you can choose to create one page each for every comparison. That means you’ll have a page for “convertkit vs mailchimp,” another for “flodesk vs convertkit,” and so on. 

While that’s the most common way to do it, it’s not the only way. At Ahrefs, we decided to go counter-intuitive and create one page for all our comparisons.

19-ahrefs-vs-page

So far, it’s been working for us, and we’re ranking for most of the comparison-related queries:

20-vs-page-keywords

One page or many—the choice is up to you. 

9. Interview industry experts

No matter how familiar you are with your industry, it’s almost impossible to know and understand every inch of your niche. 

Here’s an example: We wanted to tackle the topic “Google penalties” on our blog. But we are fortunate enough to have never encountered a Google manual action. So even though we have SEO experts on our team, that makes us “unqualified” to talk about the topic. 

So we reached out and interviewed experts: 

21-google-penalties-experts

We have done this a number of times—for our posts on SEO consultants, SEO job descriptions, and more. You should do the same too.

Not only does this help you cover topics that you may not know much about, but you’ll also be in a better position to improve your website’s expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E‑A-T)—which are important for ranking higher on Google. 

Recommended reading: What Is EAT? Why It’s Important for SEO

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10. Target seasonal events

Events like Valentine’s Day, Black Friday, Singles’ Day, and Christmas are when people are more than happy to splurge. Creating content around these events can generate awareness for your business—and potentially capture these trigger-happy customers who will spend on your products. 

Here’s how to find seasonal topics to create content around:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter a few relevant keywords
  3. Go to the Matching terms report
  4. In the Include box, enter a few holiday keywords (e.g., Black Friday, Father’s Day) and choose Any word.
22-seasonal-keywords

From here, eyeball the list for relevant topics you can target, then create content that ranks for them.

Recommended viewing: Holiday SEO Tips to Maximize Organic Traffic

11. See what people are discussing on Reddit

Known as the “front page of the internet,” Reddit is a huge community with 430 million users. The beauty of Reddit is that it is neatly split into multiple sub-communities—known as subreddits—that span a variety of interests. 

That means that a community about your niche is likely on Reddit. If you can find out what people in your community are discussing, you can create content around those topics too. 

For example, let’s assume you run a site about the keto diet. If you browse through the subreddit r/keto, you’ll find a couple of cool topics you can write about. 

23-reddit-keto
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Here’s something even better: take these topics and enter them into Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer to see if they have search traffic potential. 

25-vegetarian-keto-recipes-traffic-potential

Then create content that ranks for them. 

12. Create a glossary

If your industry has a lot of specific and difficult terminologies, you can consider creating a glossary that defines and demystifies them. 

For example, the SEO industry has a lot of terms that people outside the industry may not fully grasp. That’s why we recently published a glossary of SEO terms that people should know. 

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Since we published that post, its traffic has been gradually increasing:

27-seo-glossary-traffic

Ideally, your glossary should internally link to your own posts about those topics—just like what Wikipedia does. So if you don’t have those posts, it’s time to start creating. 

As you can see, the best part about creating a glossary is that it basically lists out all the topics you need to cover. With a glossary, your content calendar is practically set for the next year and beyond. 

13. Use Google Trends to find “out of the box” keyword ideas

Google Trends is a great way to discover topics that are trending in your industry. You can cover these topics before other sites do. To do that, simply search for a relevant keyword and scroll to the Related queries section.

For example, if we own a gym, we can search for “weight loss”:

28-google-trends

Scrolling through the list gives us a couple of good ideas we can target, such as “mike pompeo weight loss” and “alec baldwin weight loss.” 

We can take the idea further. If you notice, most of the trending terms are related to X celebrity/famous person. 

Extrapolating this further, we can assume that beyond the current group of famous people seen on Google Trends, searchers are also looking for other famous people’s weight loss regimes. 

So here’s what we’ll do:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
  2. Search for the same term (e.g., “weight loss”)
  3. Set a Word count filter to four words (the length of a person’s name in the Western world + weight loss. If you’re targeting other countries, such as South Korea, you may want to extend it to five words).
29-keywords-explorer

Lo and behold. You’ll see around 150,000 keywords, most of them about a particular celebrity’s weight loss regime. They’re not of crazy difficulty either. These are all great topics to target. 

Final thoughts

The ideas above are a great way to kickstart your content marketing. But if you want to execute content marketing successfully as a marketing channel, you’ll need to have a strategy. 

So before you execute any of the above tactics, I recommend following the guide here to create your own content strategy. 

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Any questions or comments? Let me know on Twitter.





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How To Use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper

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How To Use Google's Structured Data Markup Helper

If you drill down to the very core, every search engine optimization (SEO) strategy has the same aim: convincing Google your webpage is the best answer to a user’s query.

There are a lot of tactics you can and should employ to achieve this, but that’s the goal.

And, as the Google brain has grown more complex, it’s able to display increasingly more detailed and helpful answers.

For example, if you’re looking to book a flight from Chicago O’Hare to LAX, Google can now show you options in rich snippets on search results pages.

Likewise, if you run a concert venue, you can add code known as structured data to your website that will encourage Google to display your events when they’re relevant to web searchers.

If you’re not familiar with the term “structured data,” don’t fret – there are a lot of SEO professionals and web marketers who aren’t.

In this article, we’ll set that right, plus give you tips on using the Structured Data Markup Helper to easily add it to your site.

What Is Structured Data?

As defined in this post, structured data is information (data) that is organized (structured). Organized information is basically what structured data is.

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For SEO purposes, structured data is a specific type of formatting that gives Google information about the meaning of a page.

Following a standardized vocabulary outlined by Schema.org, it is used across several search engines, including Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex.

Structured data can use syntax like JSON-LD, RDFa, and Microdata, among others.

Why Is Structured Data Important?

There are several reasons why webpages use structured data.

For one thing, it makes navigation easier for both search engine crawlers and human users.

This is because it provides the information that can then be displayed on search engine results pages (SERPs) in the form of rich snippets, video carousels, and other special search result features and enhancements.

This leads to faster indexing by search spiders and enhances your site’s search visibility. This can also help improve your click-through rate, increase conversions, and grab more voice search traffic.

In an article for Search Engine Journal, Winston Burton, Senior Vice President of SEO at global search and marketing agency Acronym, detailed the results of adding structured data to the client’s website.

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With no other optimization strategies employed, the client saw a 400% net growth in rich result organic traffic and a 140% growth in impressions for the company’s answer center.

See also  Google Releases its Site Kit WordPress Plugin Out of Beta

Even if this is a statistical outlier, it still highlights the massive potential of using structured data.

What Is Structured Data Used For?

Now that we’ve covered what structured data is and why it’s important, let’s look into some of the ways it can be used.

In an April 2022 Google Search Central SEO office-hours hangout, Google Search Advocate John Mueller dove into structured data and its uses.

If you have 30 minutes to spare, it’s well worth the watch. If you’re in a hurry, the part that’s relevant to the current topic begins at 27:19. Or better yet, read Roger Montti’s coverage of it here.

In this hangout, Mueller was asked a question about how to choose the best format for structured data.

His answer was that it’s not so much about what format a page uses, but rather what kind of rich result is available for the page.

Structured data is very versatile and provides a lot of opportunities for businesses to use it to drive clicks. Some of these you may wish to take advantage of include:

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Knowledge Panels

Used for things that are part of the Google Knowledge Graph, they provide a quick overview of information about a topic.

Screenshot from search, Google, June 2022

As a business, you can use knowledge panels to give users at-a-glance information about your brand name, logo, and phone number, among other things.

Rich Snippets

Sometimes referred to as rich results, this is the additional data Google shows users in addition to normal search results. This may include things like music, events, or recipes.

Rich Snippets ExampleScreenshot from search, Google, June 2022

For commercial purposes, this is where reviews can be shown. It can also highlight things like products, addresses, and special offers.

Hosted Carousels

Common on mobile devices, this shows multiple “cards” from the same site.

Not to be confused with ordinary carousels, which can include images, video, and other data pulled from multiple sites, hosted carousels use content from only one “host” site.

Google currently supports the following types of hosted carousels:

  • Educational Course.
  • Movie.
  • Recipe.
  • Restaurant.
Carousel exampleScreenshot from search, Google, June 2022

AdWords

If you’re using Google’s automated ads as part of your PPC strategy, you can use structured snippets to give more information to customers.

See also  The Ultimate Guide to Pinterest Marketing

For example, you could use them to provide information about a line of products, included features or services offered.

AdWords exampleScreenshot from search, Google, June 2022

But, before you go inserting structured snippets into your webpages willy-nilly, you should know these are subject to standard Google Ads policies and must meet a number of requirements, a full list of which can be found here.

Getting Started With Structured Data

By now you should see the benefits structured data can offer, so let’s look at how to add it to your website.

The simplest way to add structured data to your webpage is by using Google’s Data Highlighter tool.

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To use this, simply open the tool and highlight data like name, date, location, etc. with your mouse.

Google will note this information the next time it crawls your site and present the data in rich snippets on search results pages.

You can also manually markup elements on HTML webpages. Sound intimidating? It’s not. You just have to have a small working knowledge of coding.

For your convenience, we’ve provided a step-by-step guide to help you through the process:

  1.   Open Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.
  2.   Click the “Website” tab.
  3.   Select the type of page you’re marking up (e.g., job postings, restaurants, Q&A page, local businesses, etc.)
  4.   Enter the URL of an existing page or raw page HTML.
  5.   Click “Start Tagging.”
  6.   Highlight the parts of the page you want to be included in rich snippets and identify them in the dropdown that appears.
  7.   Fill in the required information. For an event, this includes the event name, location, and date.
  8.   After you have finished tagging, click the “Create HTML” button and choose an output format. JSON-LD is Google’s preferred format, though you can also choose Microdata.
  9.   Copy the code or download it. If you are using JSON-LD, paste the generated code into the body of the existing page. If you choose Microdata, replace your page with the generated HTML.
See also  Google Updates Advice on How to Control Titles in Search Results

Some other things to note:

  • To test the generated code, copy and paste it into the Rich Result test, which will show you any missing fields you need to fill in.
  • You can have multiple items on one page, but Google recommends that they are all the same type, e.g., all movies or all job postings.
  • All pages you want to display rich snippets for should be available to the public and not hidden behind login screens.
  • It may take a few weeks for Google to crawl your new page, but once it does it can be shown in rich snippets.

Is Structured Data A Ranking Signal?

Now for the $10,000 question: Will structured data markup help your site appear higher in search rankings?

Unfortunately, no.

In a deep dive into the topic, Search Engine Journal found that while it offers many benefits, there is no direct evidence schema markup is used by Google to determine search ranking.

That said, because it helps search engines more easily understand the content of your website, it can help you show up in relevant queries you may have been excluded from in the past.

Key Takeaways

Traffic is always the name of the game in digital marketing. And leveraging structured data on your website is a great way to help attract visitors.

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Not only does it enhance the appearance of your content in search results, but it can help your site get indexed faster.

Rich results (particularly positive product reviews) can also significantly improve your click-through rate and average time on the page.

If your page is used in a featured snippet, it will show at the top of SERPs.

In addition to the increase in visibility that provides, featured snippets are used to answer voice search queries. That means you’ll be the only result for anyone who uses Siri or Alexa for a query.

The final reason you should use structured data on your website is that it gives you more control over your information.

You determine how Google understands your brand and allows you to control how your information is defined.

Structured data is a useful tool in your toolbox. It doesn’t work for every site and every type of content, but if you’re in a field where it is useful, it’s something you need to be using.


Featured Image: NicoElNino/Shutterstock

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