Consumers rarely make purchasing decisions without doing their research. And today, most start by searching online to gather the information they need about local businesses, products, services, and even business owners. The insights and information these prospects find through online content – like blogs, social media, online reviews, and even paid advertising – may eventually determine whether or not they contact you. That’s why it is so important to have a comprehensive content and online marketing program in place. An effective content marketing plan will earn a prospect’s trust through valuable, helpful, and credible content.
Here are three types of online content that do just that.

1. Informative Blog Posts

By writing a blog about your particular industry, you present yourself as a thought leader, not as a salesperson. Consumers love blogs because they can contain entertaining content like videos and infographics as well as educational and helpful articles that provide them with sought-after information about a particular subject. When writing a business blog, be sure to feature ideas, insights, and facts about your industry or business, rather than a blatant pitch of your products and services.

Posting fresh, valuable content on a business blog is also a great way to build your business Web presence, grow your presence in organic search, educate prospects about your industry, and promote yourself as an expert. Make sure to include links to your website about products or services you mention in your blog posts so readers can find that information about your business. And, boost visibility and build readership by following best practices like using target business keywords in your copy, sharing posts on social media, and featuring a link to your blog on your website home page and email signature.

2. Social Media Posts

Another form of valuable online content that prospects love is social posts and updates. Platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Twitter, and YouTube are wonderful venues to help break the ice between you and your prospects and provide them with useful content. Consumers love social media posts because they are quick and easy to digest. By engaging with consumers through social media posts like photos, helpful tips, special offers, videos, and more, you’re sharing your thoughts, skills, expertise, and personality with an engaged audience.

Plus, the conversational nature of social media gives your fans and followers a platform to talk to and about your business, so they want to know that you’re listening. Through this shared communication experience, you’re building a business relationship with your prospects and earning their trust – two crucial elements in helping you earn new business. Pro tip: Post engaging content and ask fans to share it with their networks to drive word of mouth for your business.

3. Customer Reviews & Testimonials: Prospects also love to see content from your past and current customers, because it can help them get a feel for what it’s like to do business with you. While word of mouth from friends, family, and work relationships is a still an important source prospects use to learn about local businesses, they also love to search online to find out what your customers have to say about you. In fact, 88% of consumers have been influenced by an online review when making a purchase decision. This is why it’s crucial to manage your online reputation. By monitoring what people are saying about you and your business online via directories and review sites, you have an excellent opportunity to address negative comments to help improve your online and offline reputation. But reputation management isn’t just about managing the negative things people are saying; it’s also important to continually ask happy customers to leave positive reviews about you online. Pro tip: In addition to reviews, also ask for video or written testimonials that you can publish on your website and social media pages to help boost your credibility with site visitors and social fans so they want to contact you.

By creating and posting content that’s helpful, share-worthy, and paints a great picture of your business, you can help provide prospects with information they need, want – and even love!

Are you using these three types of valuable online content to help market your business online?

What types of online content do you share that gets good feedback? Tell us in the comments section.