Content Marketing for Small Businesses: A Definitive Guide
Content marketing has changed how most companies do business.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, 93% of B2B companies say content marketing generates more leads than traditional marketing strategies.
Fifty-eight percent of B2B marketers view themselves as unsuccessful with their content marketing efforts (Source: TopRank)
Many small business owners don’t believe content marketing can work for their businesses.
Often, they’ve tried content marketing, albeit it briefly, failed to produce the result they were expecting, and have written it off, entirely.
Content marketing matters more than ever, and as Google continues to favor companies that market their brand with original, high-quality content, that’s not going to change anytime soon.
As Search Engine Land writes,
Small businesses have historically been slow to adopt the content marketing strategies that corporate marketers use. But as SEO has evolved significantly in recent years, it has become clear that small businesses need to include how-tos, e-books, comparison guides, and other content marketing techniques to remain competitive in the rankings.
The thing is…
Contrary to what you may believe, content marketing can and will work for any small business.
And in this article, you’re going to learn why it can work for your business, too.
3 Content Marketing Myths You Need to Discredit
As a digital marketer, I’ve heard every excuse imaginable over the years as to why content marketing doesn’t work…
…and many of them couldn’t be further from the truth.
Here are three of the most common I’ve heard:
Myth #1. “Content marketing won’t work for me and my business. I’m in [INSERT INDUSTRY HERE].”
If you’ve ever Googled a marketing problem (for instance, “How to generate more traffic”) you might have noticed a recurring theme:
Marketing advice that’s written, by marketers, for marketers.
It’s no wonder then, so many business owners in blue- and white-collar industries have failed to keep up with the latest trends in marketing, or worse, given up entirely.
As you’ll see in the next section, content marketing can and will work for almost any industry.
And that’s not all…
The more niche your market, the better opportunity you have to dominate it with content.
Because so few people are doing it.
And those that are, haven’t mastered it.
That allows plenty of room to nestle in and reap your share of the traffic and business.
Myth #2: “I don’t have time to invest in content marketing.”
If you said your biggest challenge with creating content is it takes too much time, you wouldn’t be the only one.
In fact, a survey conducted by TechValidate found 63% of business owners reported time as their number one issue when creating content.
The reality, though, is when business owners say they don’t have time, what they’re really saying is they don’t have priorities.
There’s a reason companies like SumoMe invest 20-45 hours in their content: it pays off.
This article, alone, picked up 623 backlinks and ranks for more 1.7 thousand keywords:
It isn’t just marketing companies that are investing in their content, either.
Take Kraft Foods, for example, the American manufacturing and processing conglomerate.
Their return on investment from content marketing is four times better than any other form of advertising.
And they’re not the only one.
Using customer referrals.
When Marcus turned a popular customer question (“How much is my pool going to cost?”), into a blog post and ranked for his target keyword, he was able to turn many of his visitors into inquiries (and eventually, customers).
While numbers like that are uncommon, it does illustrate an important point: answering your customers’ and prospects’ most pressing questions in the form of content, can be a sound investment of your time and energy.
Myth #3. “I’ve tried content marketing before, but it didn’t work.”
It’s a trap I see so many business owners fall into…
A business owner reads a blog post on how to generate more inquiries through content marketing and decides to give it a try themselves.
They get excited because this could finally be the strategy they’ve been looking for.
So, they test it out, write a blog post, and…
No increase in traffic.
No increase in conversions.
And certainly no increase in revenue.
They throw in the towel and move onto the next “shiny” object that’s popular that week…
If that’s ever happened to you, you’re not alone.
Here’s the kicker:
When it comes to effective content marketing, it’s rarely the process that’s faulty; it’s the execution.
Understand, it’s not enough to write a blog post and publish and pray as Brian Dean would say; you need to follow a strategic process.
Without one, or a constant iteration and improvement of that process, it’s unlikely you’ll make a return on your content.
Content marketing takes time to do well, and show up in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs).
(Often, beyond anything you ever could have imagined)
Now that we’ve debunked the 3 most common myths, let’s take a brief look at 3 small businesses that have mastered content marketing.
Content Marketing Case Studies: $2 Million in Revenue and a Position #3 in Google
Below, are two small businesses from, what many may consider “boring” industries—pool construction and pest control—who were able to generate more inquiries and increase their revenue, just by harnessing the power of content marketing and committing to it.
(Side note: I’ve had many business owners in these industries and others say content marketing wouldn’t work for them, until they say result. Consider your market as you read the following case studies…)
Case Study #1. River Pools and Spas
As mentioned above, Marcus Sheridan leveraged content to marketing his pool construction company and net over $2 million in annual turnover.
What I didn’t mention, though, was he achieved such a feat during one of the biggest economic downturns of the 21st century: the 2008 economic recession.
While his competitors were struggling to stay in business, Marcus, and his partner turned to blogging, answering their customers’ and prospects’ most pressing questions:
And in doing so, were able to position their company as the go-to company for swimming pools, picking up thousands of backlinks and keywords along the way:
Take a look at the highlighted area…
They have 97,000 keywords sending them traffic.
Can you imagine how much of a difference it would make to your business if you had 97,000 relevant keywords sending visitors to your website?
That’s the power of strategic content marketing.
Case Study #2. FCE Pest Control
When thinking of content marketing, it’s easy to conjure up images of hours in front of a computer writing thousands of words of content. But that’s not always the case.
Take FCE Pest Control, for instance.
Using a guestographic (a combination of an infographic and a guest post), Mike Bonadio (FCE Pest Control’s SEO), was able to build high-quality links from authority domains (like Lifehacker) back to FCE Pest Control’s site.
As Brian Dean writes in his case study, FCE Pest Control acquired 1,000+ shares and 112+ backlinks, a mention in a highly-respected newspaper (The Bangor Daily News) and saw a 15.15% boost in their organic traffic:
And that’s not all…
After a few weeks, they began ranking on the front page of Google for their target keyword (“exterminator NYC”), and got a place in Google’s local SEO 3-pack (which likely came with an influx of inquiries, too):
The best part?
They did it with just one piece of high-quality content.
(Imagine what more they could achieve if all they did was focus on one high-quality content piece per month?)
While every piece may not hit big like the guestographic, even if even one in four or five hits half as big, it positions your business to generate targeted leads for years to come—all without paying a single dollar ongoing for each new acquisition.
Could you come up with just one great idea to produce each month?
Of course, you could.
As you’ve seen, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in; content marketing will work for ANY market—if you get it right.
Here’s how to do just that…
Content Marketing for Small Businesses: 3 Proven Techniques
If you’re approaching content marketing as a beginner, it can be overwhelming.
- Create a content editorial calendar
It’s no secret that businesses that use blogs receive 67% more leads than those that do not.
According to a recent report published by Altimeter, 70% of business owners lack a consistent or integrated content strategy.
The reason is most business owners don’t have a content editorial calendar.
A content editorial calendar, according to Convince and Convert, is “a shareable resource that marketing teams can use to plan all content marketing activity.”
It doesn’t need to be overly complicated, either.
Having a content editorial calendar provides more than organization; it engineers a high-level of accountability.
There is something powerful that happens when we write down our plan. It becomes tangible for our team, and everyone will be more likely to stick with it as they go along. The editorial calendar will give our team the accountability it needs for building the discipline of creating content day after day.
Having a consistent and integrated content strategy isn’t hard when you know what you’re doing and when you’re doing it consistently.
While it’s hard in the beginning, it does get easier with each month. And with time, you’ll become more consistent and your content will improve as you develop as a strategic content creator.
If you’re certain, though, creating content isn’t for you, you can always ask for help.
- Use the Skyscraper Technique
Coined by Brian Dean, the Skyscraper Technique comprises 3-steps:
- Step 1: Finding link-worthy content
- Step 2: Creating a piece that’s even better
- Step 3: Reaching out to the right people
To find content that’s already performing well in your industry, you could go to a site like Open Site Explorer or Ahrefs’ Content Explorer, type in a competitor that generates a lot of links to their content or your industry keywords.
If you’re a realtor, for example, you might type in the keyword “real estate”:
Next, you would identify content you could potentially expand on. One article, for instance, is called, “10 Tips for New Real Estate Investors”. With over 1.4 thousand shares and 77 backlinks, it looks like a popular piece:
If you wrote an article called, “101 Tips for New Real Estate Investors” you could potentially outrank it and generate more traffic to your site (providing you improved on it and built white hat links to it, of course).
- Use Quora.
If you’re in an industry where a technique like the aforementioned isn’t feasible (say, you’re in a ridiculously narrow niche), answering frequently asked questions about your industry can be a good place to start.
As we saw with Marcus Sheridan, many of your customers will have questions about your services before they’re ready to make a purchase.
A good place to begin with the question-and-answer website, Quora.
Scott Frey, an orthodontist, decided to write a thorough answer to the question, “What is the best time to brush your teeth?”:
Not only did his answer received over 1.7 thousand upvotes…
…he ranks #2 on Google for, “What is the best time to brush your teeth?”
Imagine if you took the time to answer a question in your niche and linked back to your site at the end of your answer…
Whether you invest the time to do it yourself or outsource to an agency, content marketing is one of the best lead generation practices available today.
And with 82% of marketers who blog see positive ROI from their inbound marketing, content marketing might just be the most cost-effective source for business inquiries.
The questions is:
Are you taking full advantage of it?
What have your experiences with content marketing been for you and your business? Leave a comment below.