I’ve recently returned from a very nice three-day break to Florence in Italy, where Mrs R and I enjoyed great weather, fantastic museums, a luxurious city-centre hotel and wonderful food. Bellissimo!
In an unashamed plug, our holiday was arranged by a great independent travel agent by the name of Gill Nicholls, who is part of the Travel Counsellors network. I was introduced to Gill as part of Southerly’s work for Bizcrowd – the online community for UK businesses created by RBS – which sees our editorial team contact brands that have joined the site and write articles promoting their wide range of services.
Just like any customer intending to make a purchase, before contacting business owners we intend to interview, Southerly’s writers conduct some research.
And just like any customer, we invariably start with that business’s website, Facebook page and Twitter feed. Therefore, it still amazes me that I very often find out more information about the brand or company from articles written and published by third-party sites, rather than online properties the company itself owns.
I was reminded of this in Italy when Mrs R and I enjoyed a fantastic meal of beef cooked in Chianti at a tiny restaurant moments from our hotel, which incidentally had a rooftop pool commanding incredible views of the city. Thanks again, Gill.
The restaurant’s walls contained numerous yellowing newspaper clippings of articles that I presume were written in praise of the establishment. I say presume because my Italian is limited to a just a few words and phrases. Unfortunately, Valentino Rossi (holder of nine motorcycle Grand Prix Championships and Italy’s greatest modern day sports star), Mario Balotelli (ex-Manchester City footballer and not Italy’s greatest modern day sports star) and Gianni Versace (fashion god) are not enough to gain directions to the Galleria dell’Accademia (home of Michelangelo’s statue of David), let alone translate promotional content.
And here, at long last, is the point of this blog post. If third-party reviews, endorsements or user-generated content has been written about you or your brand and published on another digital channel, use it as part of your content marketing strategy.
Thanks to the power of Google’s search engine, this free publicity material is far more accessible than yellowing newspaper clippings. Not only that, providing external links to such content on your own online properties can do wonders for your SEO. What others say about you is often more valuable than what you say about yourself, and this is certainly true of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update.
Why? Getting external links – or hyperlinks that link back to your site – is one of the most important objectives for attaining high rankings because such links are one of the hardest metrics to manipulate and thus, one of the best ways for search engines to determine the popularity of a given web page.
And just like in the offline world, if you provide links to a third party site on your webpage, the chances are they will return the favour.
Even if promotional content about you or your brand that appears on third party sites do not contain a link back to your site, all is not lost. Testimonial-style content in the form of positive reviews or interviews and case studies written by third parties provides your company with independent endorsement and promotes your brand as a thought leader. Why would a third party bother to write about you if you didn’t have something interesting to say?
Or to put it another way consider this: it really doesn’t take much for a customer to write a complaint letter; it takes an awful lot for them to take the time to write a compliment. And other people know this.
That’s not to say your content marketing strategy should not include original work of your own. In fact, it is the multitude of original works of art by the likes of Botticelli, da Vinci and Michelangelo that attracted me to Florence.
But it was the positive third-party reviews of the city’s many attractions that persuaded me to finally visit it.
Footnote: I apologise to the Galleria dell’Accademia for breaking its rules and secretly taking this snap of David, but I wanted an original photograph and not one taken by a third party!