Interest in content marketing has exploded over the past decade, with good reason. It works.
A study from Conductor showed that education content makes consumers 131% more likely to buy. But it’s not just for B2C, with B2B brands seeing value, too. And it works, for less. One estimate claims content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing, while generating approximately 3 times as many leads.
Sounds like an easy decision to get on board with.
Before we dive into how to do content marketing, let’s take a step back to rehash what it is. We’ve heard all about content marketing and how awesome it can be for your business (see above!). But let’s be clear on what we are talking about.
Content marketing is strategic marketing approach in which companies develop content focused on fostering engagement, building up brand awareness and attracting potential customers.
The content – which can take the form of articles, videos, infographics, images, podcasts, movies, case studies, ebooks, whitepapers, etc. — is aimed at a clearly defined audience.
It can live on social media, blogs, resource centers, microsites, a company’s website or anywhere on the web.
When done well, with unique, interesting content that speaks to your target audience, some of the content marketing benefits include:
Yes, good content marketing takes time and effort.
Good content can’t be slapped together quickly. Plus, you need to have a strategy in place. Just because you have a blog or crank out videos doesn’t mean you are doing content marketing.
Pushing out content without a strategy or defined audience won’t have the impact and success that a defined content marketing strategy will.
Content marketing, like SEO, is also a long term strategy; you won’t see instant results like you do with a paid advertising campaign.
Okay, we know what content marketing is and how it can help us with leads or sales, but where do you start? Before you do anything, you should start by defining your strategy.
First and foremost, what is your goal with content marketing? Is it brand awareness? Are you trying to increase visits to your site? Do you want to establish your brand as an authority in the space with thought leadership pieces?
Have a firm idea of what you hope to accomplish with your content marketing and write it down. You should have a documented strategy in place that can be shared with all your writers, team members and key stakeholders.
SMART goals are best – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time limited.
You’ll need to do some research here to identify who your target audience is and what their customer journey is.
Who do you plan to target with your content marketing? Millennials? Moms with small children? Men over 55? If your answers is everyone – that’s too broad!
You can target more than one audience with content marketing, but you’ll need to define the different buyer personas so you can tailor specific content to the different groups.
Looking at your existing customer demographics can help you define your customer personas, as well as using surveys.
What about the customer journey?
The customer journey includes the many phases or customer stages your audience will have before they convert. These should be generated from the customer perspective and may not directly reflect your own sale processes. It might look something like this:
Each phase should be matched to the goals the customer is trying to achieve, as well as the touchpoints they would have with your brand in each phase.
For example, in the research stage if a customer is trying to figure out a solution to soothe a crying baby, they may come across your website through a touchpoint on Google or Facebook.
Knowing which touchpoints align with each phase and what the goal of the customer is in each phase will help create content that aligns with these needs.
Note: You may have a much more complicated customer journey outlined.
It’s likely you already have some content assets. The next step in creating a content marketing strategy for new businesses and startups is to take an inventory of what you already have.
Existing content can be rehashed and repurposed to tailor it to your target audience. Or perhaps you already have some great content that wasn’t optimized or promoted effectively and received very little interaction and few views. You can breathe into these pieces with minimal work.
Don’t forget about internal collateral that can be repurposed for your audience, too. Identify pieces that are evergreen (relevant all year) and content that is seasonal or outdated.
Remember that seasonal pieces can be dusted off, updated and re-used. You don’t need to create a brand new holiday shopping tips for mom article each year. Instead, update these pieces and save yourself some time.
Once you have an idea of what content you already have, start looking at what competitors have.
Remember that your competitors are both the ones you’ve identified with similar products and services as well as any sites that might be competitor with you for rankings in the search engine results page. If they have similar content, consider them a competitor too.
With a list of competitors in hand, you can begin to look at their sites and categorize the types of content they have.
Do they have a blog, whitepapers, videos, etc? What categories and topics do they cover? What are they doing really well? Content your competitors have that you don’t are your content gaps.
If you have access to a keyword ranking tool, it’s helpful to see what these sites are ranking for that you are not. BrightEdge, SEMrush, AHrefs and many other paid tools allow you to compare sites to perform a keyword gap analysis.
You can pull a list of all the keywords your competitors are ranking for that you are not, remove duplicates and categorize each keyword into themes. This will take some time, but it will give a good idea of themes you aren’t ranking well for and should create content around.
It’s also helpful to get an understand of what content neither you nor your competitors have that your audience is interested in. These are called content opportunities. There are a lot of tools out there to help you understand long tail keyword searches around specific topics.
Here’s a few to try out:
Part of a content marketing strategy for startups will include determining where you plan to distribute your content.
Will you have a blog, a resource center, a YouTube channel? All of the above? Which social platforms will you share them on? Are each of these platforms optimized and branded?
Are your platforms technical sound?
Remember to do a basic technical SEO check on your platform of choice – if Google can’t crawl and index your content you’ll lose out on valuable organic traffic, and if your site is too slow you’ll lose visitors and potential conversions.
If you are a newbie to technical SEO, start with some basic tools (many of which are free!) that will help you identify issues on your site. As a bonus, most of these tools will tell you exactly what needs to be fixed.
With a content marketing strategy in place, your next step as new business or startup is to set up an editorial calendar. This should be a living breathing document that can be edited constantly, with room for topics to be moved around.
CoSchedule is a pretty good tool for this.
Your calendar will vary depending on your needs, but typically it’s good to include the topic, who is writing it, which week it is written, which week it is being review (allow time for legal review if needed), which day it will be posted, where it will be posted, the URL, target keywords, title tag, meta description, social media posts, etc.
It’s a good idea to have weekly, bi-weekly or monthly meeting to sketch out upcoming articles.
The cadence will depend on how much content you are making and often you need to edit your calendar. Try to fill in topics a couple months in advance, knowing there will be room for edits.
Topic creation should be a collaborative process. Here’s a few things to consider when filling out your content calendar:
Sometimes it’s helpful to have a large list of potential topics and then vet them down to the best choices based on what’s relevant for your business and the potential search volume of keywords.
With a content calendar in place and a defined strategy, it’s time to get to writing.
You may have a staff of skilled writers and designers, or you may use an agency or freelancers to help you create content. Or maybe you are doing the content creation yourself with a small team.
Either way, keep in mind these tips for content creation on the web.
Skimmable content is best.
Sadly, readers often skim articles rather than reading the entire thing.
That’s not to say people don’t read long-form content (studies show that readers will engage with content that holds their interest, and long form content can in fact get you more traffic) but when writing for the web you should break your content up with bullets, subheads and visuals.
Create shareworthy content.
Is the content interesting and provide something useful, unique or valuable that users would want to share it and pass it along to other readers?
If you are just rehashing what’s already been said, consider beefing up your content.
Choose keywords that closely match what your content is about.
Don’t make the mistake of choosing broad keywords with higher search volume that speak directly about your content.
If you are writing a blog post on why hair salons need worker’s compensation insurance, targeting “worker’s comp” is too broad.
Your keywords should align with a basic summary of what the content is about.
Include semantically related keywords with your content.
What are semantically related keywords? Words readers would expect to see in content about your topic.
For example, if a searcher is researching “training methods for marathons” they’d expect to see shoes, treadmill, stretching, cross-training and other semantically related phrases within the copy.
Use your keyword research tools and look at what is currently ranking to help identify these words.
Optimize your content.
Include keywords in the title tag.
Make sure your meta description entices readers to click thru to the content.
Use keywords in heading tags and throughout the content.
Use internal linking to direct users to related content.
Use your content to convert customers into customers.
Don’t miss an opportunity to include a call to action.
Encourage newsletter sign ups, ebook downloads, learning more about related products, getting a quote, making a purchase.
Calls to action can be artfully incorporated into your content without detracting from the message, often at the bottom of the page or in a sidebar.
Simply publishing your content live won’t be enough to instantly get views and engagement.
You need to cross promote your content across all available channels. Whatever social platforms you are on – Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, SnapChat, etc. – you’ll want to share your content there.
Consider promoted paid posts to boost views.
You can also encourage employees to share content to their own private accounts.
Don’t forget to include content in any email blasts or newsletters you send out.
You can also share content with influencers in the space and look for link building opportunities for sites that might be interested in linking back to your site.
You may also consider using paid ads on Google to promote your content while it grows organic rankings.
Your content marketing strategy should continually be reviewed and updated. Use analytics and keyword rankings to understand which pieces of content are getting the most views and the best engagement.
Content with high engagement but little organic traffic or rankings should be optimized. Content ranking well with lots of views but little engagement or conversions can be modified to include more calls to action and reasons to engage with the brand.
Looks for themes – are there types of content that resonate well your audience like DIY videos? Make more.
Few views for articles on making gourmet meals? Shy away from them.
Take a deeper analytical dive by looking at content that is ranking for quick answers/featured snippets to see what can be mimicked in future posts.
Also worth a read:
Maggie Barr is an SEO Marketing Manager at AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. and a content marketing expert. She is also a former SEO supervisor at SapientRazorfish and has deep experience in helping large brands grow their audiences. Additionally, she was part of SapientRazorfish's 2017 organic team of the year by The Drum Search Award USA, a featured speaker at PubCon 2017, and was honored as one of the 13 most impactful working mothers at SapientRazorfish in 2017.