6. Content Marketing
The Beginner’s Guide to Content Marketing
“Content is King,” they say. In fact, “Content is everything!”
In this content marketing lesson you will learn about:
- Content Marketing and how it will help your business?
- Content Strategy
- Content and the Marketing Funnel
- Building a Framework and a Content Team
- Content Ideation, Creation, Promotion
What is Content Marketing and how it will help your business?
Content is NOT about writing to rank higher, or infographics, or even long-form articles. Rather, content is all about communicating a message to the audience in different forms – blog posts, newsletters, infographics, eBooks, podcasts, YouTube video, etc. Content marketing is using that content (any of the type mentioned above) to meet a marketing goal of your business such as acquiring potential customers, retention of existing ones, and/or raising awareness about your brand or products.
Why Your Business Needs Content Marketing Strategy?
- Builds brand awareness. It gives your audience something to talk about. When people are talking about you, they are educating each other about your company, passing links and recommendations around.
- Boosts website traffic. Creating content will bring more people to your site, where they will find more about your company, products, and offers.
- Boosts conversion ratio. When you create content for a particular audience, you are shortening the distance between those people and your products and offers, making it more likely that they will make a purchase from you later.
How to Build a Content Strategy?
To build your content strategy, you will need to follow these steps:
- Define your VISION: First, determine where your company is going to be in 3 to 5 years’ time, and create a plan to realize that vision/goal.
- Define your AUDIENCE: Identify people you are going to talk to or whom you are already talking to. Know their age, gender, location, where they are on the Internet, what channels they use the most, who they listen to, and what their needs are.
- Audit Content: Take a look at the content you’ve already created (manually or a crawler like Screaming Frog that pull all URLs from your site). Then, organize and tag your content depending on these criterions:
- Topic – What the content is about, does it talk about your offers or mostly educational?
- Length – How long the content is and does it affect how it’s viewed and shared?
- Tone – Is the content serious, funny, cutesy, or full of jargon?
- Relevance – Is the topic aligned with your business? Does it talk about your business?
- Datedness – Is the content evergreen or will it be outdated in few months of time?
- Features – Analyze the types of content included and how they are delivered – does it have a video? Infographics? Lots of illustrative imagery?
- Add Success Metrics: Next, add success metrics to each of your posts by traffic, engagement metrics, social shares, and other conversion indicators.
- Analyze data to identify patterns and gaps: Look for trends to see what successes you can build on and where they need improvement.
- Set goals: Once you have identified your overall goal and compared it to how well your existing content is achieving that vision, then it is time to close that gap by setting a few goals for your content. Make sure your goals are meaningful, measurable, achievable, and time-bound. For example, “create and publish the most visited guide on driving more leads to your company website by the end of Q2” could be your best goal.
- Align your brand with your style: Include your brand, style, and voice guidelines. For example, which part of the brand name to capitalize, should the tone of the content be conversational, that you use Oxford comma, among other things?
- Document your content strategy: Just like style guides, your content strategy has to be documented properly to help new strategists and writers from spending most of their time reading through it.
Content and the Marketing Funnel
The concept of the funnel is that the number of people will grow smaller as they move closer towards the first transaction with your website. At the top of the funnel, many people will become aware of your brand. The middle of the funnel is smaller, and only a few people are going to pay for your products and services. The bottom of the funnel is even smaller as many paying customers may decide to stop purchasing from you.
As a marketer, your mission is to make that funnel as solid as possible, guiding your potential customers towards conversion.
Finding the Right Team for Content Marketing
The next step is to find the right team for content marketing who will be responsible for content ideation and execution of your content requirements. For your team, you might need to hire content strategists for creating personas, brand and/or style guidelines, someone whom you can consult to get you started. Or they could be writers who are familiar with your subject matter and who can create impressive content. Those writers could be one of your own existing employees, and others might be expert at churning that content into HTML and optimizing it for SEO.
If you are a solo entrepreneur, there is not much of a team. You basically do everything. For those of bigger scale, here are some common team structures recommended by Hubspot.
- Small SME Business, Marketing Team of 3, Some Content Marketing Budget
At this stage, the work remains similar to a team of 1. You could assign each employee an individual area or even assign 2 employees to content marketing. However, as the team is still small, all employees should share and contribute to all 3 responsibilities.
- Mid-Size Business, Marketing Team of 9, Dedicated Content Marketing Budget
Once you have established a team of 5, this would be an excellent time to delegate specific responsibilities to specific individuals. Here is a possible structure:
- Blogging: 2 employees
- Long-form/premium content/offers: 1 employee
- SEO: 1 employee
- Design: 1 employee
- Large / Enterprise Business, Marketing Team of 3, Significant Content Marketing Budget
It is not uncommon for some companies to have content marketing teams in excess of 18. In fact at HubSpot, they have a team of nearly 100. However, the structure remains similar to the structure of what an 18-person content marketing team may use.
There is, however, one difference, which is the design function is now part of a separate team. This makes sense if you find that
- Designers’ time needs to be shared among all colleagues on every team.
- The majority of your content creators are able to do basic designs on their own using software like canva.com and do basic fonts and typographic edits.
- Your budget includes room for outsourced functions like having an agency on retainer for contracted design work.
A great idea is the bread and butter of any content strategy.
Where do ideas come from?
Ideas are all around us. Sometimes, you need to focus a little bit, other times you need to let it sit a little bit. Here are few tips for you to build best ideas:
Content Marketing Source #1: The Swap File
Keep a file of ideas, approaches, techniques, and images that inspire you or you would like to learn from. Refer to this file whenever you need inspiration. Reviewing ideas that inspire you can help you get primed up for a brainstorming session.
The file can take any form: a folder, an app (Pinterest, Trello, and Evernote), a physical file, or anything else that works for you.
Content Marketing Source #2: Brainstorming
- Gather two or more brains around a shared goal – in person or online. Break up a large group (5 or more) into smaller teams and have them report back to the whole.
- Include members from other teams.
- Include people who are not familiar with your subject in your brainstorming session because they will come without preconceived notions.
- Include your designers or developers. Switch up your groups until you find the right mix.
Tips for Running a Great Brainstorming Session
- Break the ice: If your group is quieter, try one or two icebreakers to get them into brainstorming.
- Find the spark: Look for ideas that spark interest, stir desire, grab interest, and inspire action.
- Capture all the ideas: Take notes, pictures, capture ideas on a whiteboard or any other place where groups can refer back later. Use tools such as Scapple, MindMapper, bubble.us, and Storyboard for brainstorming sessions (for Mac users).
Content Marketing Source #3: Competitive Research
Find out what is working for your competitors.
In your research, you want to know:
- What is trending? – To make sure you are focusing your ideation on the right keywords, enter a few keyword variations on Google Trends. Do you wonder why we chose to create a content marketing guide instead of content strategy? Look at the graph below:
- What content is getting more links?
To find which pages on your competitor’s website are getting more links, use Open Site Explorer. Also, learn where those links are coming from. Within the OSE tool, use the link opportunities tool to find places where your competitors are getting a link from but not you. This is a very useful tool for content marketing research.
- What keywords drive more traffic to a website?
Go to Similar Web to find which keywords on your competitor’s website are driving them more traffic, and also to know their top referring sites. Or go to Ahrefs to find which types of content are top performers on your competitor’s site. Or simply use Simply Measured to perform your own analysis on your competitor’s website.
- Who is following whom on social media and what do they usually share?
You can use tools such as Followerwonk to analyze who your competitors are following and who follows them. Buzzmo is another good place to analyze what content is popular on social media. On Facebook, you can search for “Pages liked by people who like
How to Recognize the ‘Right’ Idea?
Now that you have a notebook full of ideas, let’s look at those great ideas and select some top contenders. You want to:
- Skip anything that bores you.
- Make a separate list of the ideas that grab your attention.
- Think about whether this idea can be turned into a series of blog posts or one piece of content
- Look for ideas that are relevant and impactful.
- Set aside anything that does not fit within your parameters – time and budget, for example.
What Types of Content Are Valuable?
Anytime you are stuck, just consider this graphic to know what people find valuable about content.
If your content ideas are not meeting these criteria, keep trying. Often times, something you were working with requires only a small tweak to make it work. Other times, you will have to start from fresh. But it is all worth it when you find an idea that rocks your reader’s world.
How to Avoid Content Fatigue
The Internet is crammed full of content. More than 2.5 million blog posts are posted every day, according to Worldometers. That means your content is up against a big competition to get noticed.
Do not let it discourage you, though. Instead, let it push you to create even better content.
What Makes Great Content
According to Dejan Marketing’s research, here are some reasons why most of your readers only skim your content and not read every word:
So, what makes content really great?
Great content is as Mathew Brown puts it is:
- Relevant and recent: Just don’t simply write about How to Lose Weight, but write about The Best New Science for Weight Loss in 2016.
- Long form: Instead of writing the same summary of a topic that everyone has on their site, dig deeper into your information just like Wait and Why did with the Fermi Paradox.
- Evergreen: The more time and energy you are investing, the more you want your content to last. Regularly update your content just like Moz do with their Beginner’s Guide to SEO.
- Personal: People like to read content written specifically to them. For example, you could use IP addresses to target your reader’s area, just like The New York Times did with their The Best and Worst Places to Grow Up.
- Customizable: Allow your audience to control their experience, just like Land Rover USA did with their website.
We all have written something before, but the creation phase of the content marketing strategy is where you get to see your great idea take shape. Before you start writing something down, you want to get a little bit organized, and that’s when an editorial calendar kicks in.
Creativity and organization go hand in hand, often feeding each other. A good writing schedule gives you and your writers the time and space to be wild as well as creative, and there is no wrong way of creating a content marketing editorial calendar as long as it meets your needs.
There are different types of documents that can pass for editorial calendars. The simplest calendars have post titles written out on each day. You can even use a wall calendar for this.
Complex editorial calendar, on the other hand, can include everything – from content ideation to writing, review, and publishing.
Another thing you need to consider is content governance to keep your content efforts focused and following a plan. Governance states who is looking after your content, who will evaluate its performance, who decides to update (or remove) older posts? Who manages your CMS and workflows in your team?
All these things can be managed daily by team members, or you could hire one person to overlook the overall strategy.
Once you have your editorial calendar and someone in charge to look after the creative process, now you need to find someone to write the content. They could be one of your in-house authors, guest authors or freelance writers.
Each one has their own pros and cons. For example, in-house authors are paid by you as part of their salary while freelancers are paid by you on per piece basis. Or the communication investment could be less with in-house writers while it could be more for guest and freelance writers.
No matter which route you take, it’s always a great idea to ask your writers to be professional about communication, payment, and deadline.
Tools that will help you with Content Marketing Creation
- Editorial calendars: You can use Google Docs or Excel to set up your editorial calendars for your content marketing, but Trello does a wonderful job gathering a lot of information in one card and drag and drop into one place. Google Calendar makes for a great tool when there are deadlines attached to pieces of content.
- Ideation and Research: Find out what is trending and what your visitors are reading using BuiltVisible’s Content Strategy Helper. With Portent’s Title Maker, you can turn your keywords into crazy ideas. Next, use Survey Monkey to gather information about what users think about it before you start your content marketing. Or, use Storify to find out what people are saying about your topic across a wide range of platforms.
- Formats: Not all your content needs to be in words. Use Google+ Hangouts, Screencasts, and presentations to make your content interesting. Not everyone’s a reader; some audiences prefer visual and interactive content, so make something for everyone.
- Graphics & Illustration: Complementary illustrations can help your ideas get across easily and make your content more readable. Don’t have access to in-house graphic designers? Well, you can pull a screenshot using Skitch and dress it up with Pixlr. Finding free stock images is also not difficult (just ensure to give credits to the creators). We suggest Free Images, Morgue File, and Flickr’s Creative Commons.
Finding Time to Write Content When You Do Not Have It
Writing requires a lot of energy, especially if you want to do it well. The best way to go about this is to break each project down into little tasks. For example, if you are writing a blog post, you could break down it into these steps:
- Fill in outline
- Rewrite and complete post
- Edit and review
- Write a compelling headline
- SEO check
Quality, not Quantity
Remember, less is always more. You never get another chance to make an impression. Your potential customers are searching for you right now on the Internet, but if they find somewhat informative article stuffed with keywords and spelling and grammar mistakes, they will go somewhere else.
In addition, make sure your content goes through one cycle of editing by someone other than the original author.
Ensure proper SEO. Good writing will naturally include similar keywords (synonyms) rather than repeat those keywords again and again. This is the fastest way to SEO mastery.
Once you have your draft ready, do this SEO check to make sure you have covered everything:
- Use your keywords in the title
- Use your keywords in the headlines (h1, h2, h3, etc.)
- Make sure your keyword appears at least once in the body of your content
- Use alt image text with your keywords in it.
- Final revisions and edit
- Select a relevant image (optional)
Promoting Your Content
Now let us know the best way to connect your content with your audience.
Building your audience
You can use Followerwonk to search for Twitter bios and build a list of influencing people in your industry.
- Log into Followerwonk with your Twitter account
- Enter a keyword in the search box under “Search Bios” tab
- Use stats such as followers and social authority to select which influencers to approach
Once you have found out the influencers you would like to reach, you go and make a connection with them. To increase the odds of making a connection with your influencer:
- Come up with great series of interview questions
- Or, ask for their input on a piece you are developing in their area of expertise
- Make it fun rather than a chore.
Search for people on the Internet who are posting interesting content that is related to what you are posting. Then engage in conversation with them in the comments. For example, you could post a link to a relevant article on your website.
Try to make your comments interesting. If they are, other writers and commentators will want to read more of what you have to say. Remember, you are building a relationship in the blogosphere. So focus on just that.
How to get started with comment marketing:
- First, find a few authoritative blog in your industry. Do a “keywords + blog” search on Google. Or, use Google’s Blog search.
- Go to the blogs you have selected and then leave useful and relevant comments. At first, avoid leaving behind links. When you have built some credibility, you can always leave links back to your website.
Guest posting done well can be a powerful tactic to build an audience and your authority.
How to get started with guest posting
- Search for sites that have good Domain Authority and Page Authority, and relevant conversations going on.
- Start commenting there and build relationships with those sites.
- Email editors of those sites for interesting blog post ideas relevant to their niche. Avoid looking for backlinks. You are building authority now, not links.
Just because you have stellar content for a particular audience does not mean they will see it during the course of their day. That is where social media kicks in.
- If your content gets published, share it everywhere you can think of.
- Repeat the process.
How to get started with social media
- Select right channels. Not all content is good for Facebook. Some are great for Twitter and others are for both. You should know or have an idea of what your audience wants to see. If not, experiment.
- Post at the right times. Use tools such as Sprout Social, Buffer, and Hootsuite to know what days and times of days your audience is most active.
- Use hashtags (wisely). Hashtags are ways to get more views on the content you are posting. Research for relevant hashtags in your industry and go.
These were all ways to build an audience without paying any money. But there are also other ways to get your content seen by using paid promotion.
Paid promotion includes a wide range of tactics, including paid social, paid search to display ads, and content distribution networks. These tactics are often referred to as “pay-per-click” (PPC) advertising.
Paid social media
Set aside some of your advertising budget for content promotion on Facebook or/and Twitter. Create more than one ad under each campaign to test different ad elements and calls to action, which will allow you to compare results and learn what went well.
Paid search, also referred as Search Engine Marketing (SEM), involves placing ads on search engine result pages. This is a great way to put your content in front of those who are looking to make that purchase. Two of the most common platforms/tools are Google AdWords and Microsoft’s Bing Ads.
How to market content using paid search
- Build your keyword list first.
- Set aside your budget and decide what match types you want to run. Exact match, for example, provides stricter targeting at a low cost per click (CPC), but it will send a very low number of traffic. Broad match will bring more traffic, but it has higher CPC and looser traffic that might not send you the ‘right’ traffic.
- Create compelling ad copy. Make sure your people will be getting exclusive content that others won’t.
Display advertising also referred to as banner ads, allows you to put your ads on the web using an ad server such as Google Display Network or Facebook’s Atlas. They are used in retargeting, where users who have visited your website and then see your ads elsewhere on the web.
How to promote content with display ads
- Determine your target audience first.
- Then, set up a campaign to target that audience. A new retargeting campaign will serve ads to all users who have visited our website once, serving those ads promoting our products and offers. (These users showed interests in one of our offers, so they would be a good audience to promote our next offer to.)
- Create catchy ads copy. Make sure it stands out from the crowd and include a call to action.
One of the ways of making sure your new audience keeps coming back is to make them subscribe to your content. One way of doing that is by collecting their email addresses through a specific call to action (CTA).
For these interested people, you might want to send monthly newsletters with the best of what’s happened since the last edition was out
Also, if you are producing a lot of content in the same format (blog, for example), you can set up an RSS feed so that readers can subscribe to your updates automatically. FeedPress is a cost-effective and simple tool for this.
Depending on your CMS, the steps to set up RSS feed will vary. For example, if you are using WordPress or Drupal, you will need to plug in the XML feed’s URL into your feed manager, change a few settings, and you’re done. On the other hand, if you are using custom CMS, refer to your engineering team to ensure the right code is in place before taking that step. FeedBurner is another content marketing distribution tool to try.
In the next chapter, we will cover affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing imposes low or no risks to a business as you only pay affiliates when a sale is made.