However, this past year, I have officially become a cyclist. (I say officially because I have participated in several organized rides.) Even though I’ve been riding bikes since I was able to sneak a ride on my brother’s Big Wheel, I have definitely learned a lot about the art of cycling during the last six months.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered some of these lessons easily could be applied to content marketing and online writing.
You need to talk the talk
There is a distinct language in the cycling world. I’m not a “biker;” I’m a “cyclist.” It’s not a “seat;” it’s a saddle.” Those “curly handlebars” are actually called “drops.” There are terms for ways you ride, other people who are riding, obstacles along the way, and so much more.
When you are writing, know your target audience and their language. Don’t speak to them in corporate talk (unless that is appropriate for who you are trying to reach), talk to them in a language they understand and embrace.
Actions of others affect your performance
When you are riding in a race, your performance can be greatly affected by those surrounding you, especially at the start when all of the cyclists are bunched together. It only takes one unsafe, inconsiderate, or inexperienced rider to make a move that could cause you to fall. Or, you may be stuck behind riders who are blocking your path, causing you to go slower than you wish you could.
This is the same with online marketing. Your competition may make a move that causes you to slip in the search engine rankings or they may submit a PPC bid that causes the cost of your paid advertising to increase. Even your own team (designers, developers, managers, etc.) could implement something on your website that could hide your content or cause it not to be visible to search engines.
It is common courtesy when you are going to pass another cyclist that you should not only pass on the left, but that you should yell, “On your left!” This alerts the other rider that you are approaching and can prevent a crash. Also, often you have to ride on roads next to cars and trucks. You need to obey traffic laws and signals, wear protective gear, and be aware of your surroundings so you can avoid anything that could harm you while you ride.
The same is true for content marketing: be safe. It may be tempting to use a technique to “game Google,” but as we learned after the Panda and Penguin updates, Google is onto you and will tweak its algorithm, as needed, leaving your website in the dust. By focusing on making your content better, you can avoid this pitfalls and worries about updates.
Sometimes you are too close
I was amazed to discover the major differences that little tweaks to your riding style and your bike can make. When I first started to ride, several other cyclists told me that my seat, er, I mean saddle, looked too low for my height. At first, I told them it was fine, but then I adjusted the saddle height and suddenly I was riding better than I had been. You would think that I would have noticed that my saddle was too low, but it felt OK to me, so I couldn’t see the potential for improvement. Sometimes a little third party perspective can make all of the difference.
When you have been writing on a topic or creating a specific website there is a chance that you will become too close to the project and you could lose your objectivity. There is also the possibility that because you are on overload from the project, you may not notice a spelling error or a missing piece in the narrative. Even if you work for yourself, be sure you have a friend or colleague who you can use as a sounding board or a “reader” for your projects. That fresh set of eyes could see errors – or opportunities – that you have missed.
Know your competition level
Not everyone is at the same level. If you are just starting to ride, you won’t be anywhere near the performance level of Tour de France riders. In fact, you won’t be at the riding level as many of the other riders … and that’s just fine. You shouldn’t be at the same level. You are a new rider with a bike that probably costs a fraction of their bikes. There are serious cyclists who ride road bikes that cost $5,000 and there are Tour de France participants who ride bicycles worth $17,000. Of course there is a difference in performance – these riders have invested serious time and money into cycling.
The same is true for your online competition. I’m not saying you shouldn’t dream big, but just because you can reach a global audience on the internet, it doesn’t mean that you should try to reach them. Know who your true competition is. If you sell super-fuzzy handmade baby blankets, don’t build your marketing plan on how you are going to outsell Babies”R”Us. Find your specific market and know your competition there. (Again, feel free to dream big, but make world domination part of your long-term goals.)
My wheels are still spinning
Sorry, I couldn’t resist the corny phrase.
I hope my cycling endeavor has helped your marketing. There are many more lessons I have learned from cycling. I’ll share five more tips next week.
About the Author ~ Amy C. Teeple
Amy C. Teeple is a proud graduate of Heather’s SEO copywriting certification program. As the owner and lead copywriter of ACT Web Consulting, she offers copywriting and social media services. A Jersey girl living in Southern California, Amy considers herself a newbie cyclist (and enjoys other sports and activities). Follow her on Twitter: @ACTeeple.
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