There are many moving parts involved in marketing, and the online elements increase in importance with each passing day. Much of what happens online now revolves around content. It’s how you get found, why people pay attention, and how you start to exchange value. Without a content platform to build from, a great deal of effort in other stages will be wasted.

People today have come to expect to find information about any product, service, company, individual, cause, or challenge they face by simply turning to the search engine of their choice. So if they’re not finding content that you’ve produced, there’s a pretty good chance you won’t be worthy of their trust. Which brings us to the two most important categories when it comes to content strategy: building trust and educating your customer.

Here are four ways you can build trust online:

1. Blog. This is the absolute starting point for your content strategy because it makes content production, syndication, and sharing so easy. The search engines love blog content as well, and this is the place where you can organize a great deal of your editorial thinking. This can easily be expanded and adapted to become content for articles, workshops, and ebooks.

2. Social media. You need to claim all the free opportunities to create social media profiles on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, but also in the online communities for such magazines as BusinessWeek, Entrepreneur, and Inc. Building rich profiles and optimizing links, images, and videos that point back to your main site is an important part of the content-as-strategy play.

3. Reviews. Ratings and reviews sites such as Yelp, MerchantCircle, and CitySearch have become mainstream, user-generated content hubs. Throw in the fact that Google, Yahoo, and Bing all allow folks to rate and review businesses, and you’ve got an increasingly important category of content that you must participate in.

4. Customer testimonials. These are a powerful form of content. Every business today should seek customer testimonials in multiple forms: written, audio, and video. This content adds important trust-building endorsements and makes for great brand-building assets out there on Google and YouTube.

Here are four ways you can provide content that educates:

1. The point-of-view white paper. Every business should have a well-developed core story that’s documented in the form of a white paper or ebook. This content must dive deeply into what makes your firm different, what your secret sauce is, how you approach customer service, and why you do what you do.

2. Seminars. Presentations, workshops, and seminars (online and off) are great ways to provide education with the added punch of engagement. Turning your point-of-view white paper into a 45-minute, value-packed session is one of the most effective ways to generate, nurture, and convert leads.

3. FAQs. There’s no denying the value of information packaged in this format, but go beyond the questions that routinely get asked and include those that should get asked but don’t, particularly the ones that help position you favorably against your competition.

4. Success stories. Building rich examples of actual clients succeeding through the use of your product or service offerings is a tremendous way to help people learn from other individuals and businesses just like them. When prospects see themselves in a success story, they’re more likely to put themselves in that boat.

One thing we know for sure is when people want to find a business, they go online and search for it. You, as the marketer, need to make this easy for them and become a master of online local marketing before your competitors do. This means you must be very, very focused on winning searches that are done with the intent of finding something local. This includes showing up in mobile browsers and on maps.

Here are five steps you can take to build a strong local search presence:

1. Make your web pages scream local. There are many ways to make your website pages localized. This is one of the underlying elements that tell the search engines that yours is indeed a local business.

2. Claim and enhance your local search profiles. The local search directories at Google, Yahoo!, and Bing want you to claim and build rich information for local profiles. This makes their job easier when people search for local businesses.

3. Participate in the ratings and reviews game. Lots of local business directories exist with the added feature of user ratings and reviews. If you’re not paying attention to the major sites and monitoring what’s being said, you may be losing business because of one poor review.

4. Update your listings and citations. Citations are mentions of your business and address that appear on other websites. These are a key component of the ranking algorithms because they help assure your business is truly local.

5. Own a social network topic group. Start a local niche group, and build a community of users around the local theme on social media sites such as Flickr, Facebook, LinkedIn, Meetup, or Biznik. If you can find an area of interest to others, you might be able to build a useful and vibrant local tool while greatly enhancing your own local presence.