Google and Yahoo searches - Online marketing for franchises

Content is king on the Internet. Period. Content is what keeps people returning to your website. It encourages engagement — actions and conversation — between you and your customers and prospective customers. Content is what others link to; those links generate traffic, and traffic generates business. Content needs to be an integral part of your website structure, and for franchise businesses, it’s necessary that the production of content is built into the overall marketing strategy.

This can’t be just any content though — it must be good content. Good content is that which is relevant to your audience, is unique, and provides sufficient detail for those who see it to take action. As you can probably guess, generating good content takes time and commitment, but being able to do so will make a huge difference when it comes to your online marketing success.

Search Engines Appreciate Fresh Content

Thinking up ideas for good content takes time and can be frustrating, but it’s an important part of any website’s success, not only because it entices people to keep coming back, but also because search engines like sites that provide fresh content. When search engines like Google realize that you are consistently creating quality content, they’ll be more apt to send you traffic, because they’ll know your information is likely to be relevant and up-to-date (as opposed to the information found on a static site that rarely changes).

However, before you go putting a lot of pressure on yourself to publish new stuff all the time, let’s look at some ways and places to find great content. As with anything else in business, developing a strategy will help you put all the pieces in place and sketch out a timeline for regular postings.

Below, we’ll examine the top 11 places to find content that'll contribute to the advancement of your online marketing strategy.

11 Sources for Quality Content

Industry news feeds – You’ll be able to stay on top of industry news without investing a great deal of time and effort by using RSS feeds and news aggregator apps. These free tools automatically receive news from industry media outlets, allowing you to keep tabs on hot topics. It’s best to subscribe to news sources that are relevant to your industry and regularly flip through headlines in order to generate topic ideas. If you’re not sure where to start, as there are many different news aggregator tools and sites out there, Feedly and Flipboard are excellent choices.

Sharing news with customers and prospects will help establish your reputation as an industry leader who is on top of everything that’s going on. You’ll also build customer confidence as your customers notice that you have a wide range of knowledge and are able to offer the best to your site’s visitors.

Customer questions  It's convenient to use customer questions as a source for content ideas. As questions come in from Customer Service, from customers directly (in person, over the phone, or via email), collect all these questions and your answers in one place so you can use them as a springboard for new content.

There are two major benefits of using customer questions as a content source:

  • You’re addressing a topic that you're aware your customers are interested in
  • You’re pre-emptively answering a question that you know others may have

You’ll save time later by pointing others who ask the same question(s) to your existing content; plus, you’ll get additional site traffic from other visitors who can be considered prospective customers.

Social networks  Examining your social networks is another way to learn what your clients and prospects are interested in. Read any comments or questions in addition to what is posted to gauge the type of content others find valuable. If you aren’t learning anything useful, start a conversation with your audience by asking them what they would find valuable. Here are a few great examples of things to ask your fans:

  • What would they like advice on?
  • What are their biggest concerns about a particular product or service?
  • What topics are they most interested in receiving information about?
  • Pose questions such as, “What do you think about _____?" "How do you feel about _____?"

Competitor sites  Check your competitors’ blogs, press releases and social media accounts regularly to keep tabs on the content that they are sharing with their customers and fans. This will enable you to learn about their ideas and their marketing strategies — who they’re targeting, the products/services that they think are opportunities, and the industry trends that they're seeing.

Your own popular content – Use your analytics to see what your most popular content is — what pages have been visited the most, which posts have the most comments, what has been downloaded the most, and so on. This will give you an indication of related topics you might consider writing about. In fact, you may decide to continue writing on one popular topic, but expand on it, turning it into a series.

Google autocomplete - Online marketing for franchisesSearch engine autocomplete – To make finding things on the Internet easier, search engines suggest things to search for based on what you type into the “Search” box. The suggestions, referred to as autocomplete, are based on popular searches.

This is a very powerful strategy for content creation. Since people already frequently look for the topics that come up, you’ll know that if you create related content, future searchers will likely be directed to your site.

Reddit – Reddit is a popular website that allows people to submit and vote on articles that they find valuable. To find topics that tend to receive a lot of attention, search for keywords for your industry — words related to your products/services or ones that relate to topics your customers might be interested in.

SlideShare, YouTube – SlideShare and YouTube are great visual content sites that will give you an idea of how popular certain topics are. You can do searches on subjects related to your industry and see the number of page views any video, slide show, or document has received in order to gauge the interest level for a particular topic.

Question and answer sites – Forum-style question and answer sites such as Quora and Yahoo! Answers can be used when you’d like to see what questions are on the minds of a wide variety of people. You’ll be able to take questions that people frequently post and use them to develop topic ideas for your content. As a side benefit, if you register for the sites yourself, you'll give yourself the option of answering questions and providing a link to your content in order to drive traffic back to your site. By answering questions, you can prove that you’re an expert in a certain area to the people seeking answers and all future readers (who will likely have similar concerns).

Google Trends and Insights  Google Trends is a great place to learn about topics that are currently trending online. There are a host of ways you can cull through the data, including Hot Searches, Correlate Searches, Top Charts, and more. While you may not find something specific that you can use every day, you may find ways to correlate information or tie topics together, thereby capitalizing on the topics that are popular at the time. In addition to Trends, using Google Insights is another effective way to identify hot or trending topics.

11 Sources for Quality Content At a Glance

  • Industry news sources such as Feedly and Flipboard
  • Questions from customers (or prospective customers)
  • Your social media accounts and the people who follow you on them
  • The websites, blogs, press releases, and social media accounts of your competitors
  • Popular content that you've already produced
  • Search engine autocomplete
  • (on which people can submit articles and vote to determine their value)
  • SlideShare, YouTube (sites through which visual content is shared)
  • Question and answer sites such as Quora and Yahoo! Answers
  • Trends and Insights via Google

Start Building Your Strategy

In Part Two of this article, we’ll dig deeper into what topics to explore with your fans. In the meantime, we suggest that you check out the tools and resources listed above and start building your franchise content strategy today.

To stay up to date on the latest franchise news, to learn more about franchising or a particular franchising opportunity, and to gain access to our complimentary collection of Franchise Disclosure Documents, sign up for your free membership to Birkhoff Research Group»

image 1: seosmarty (Creative Commons BY); image 2: Tyler Tate (Creative Commons BY-ND)
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