Content marketing is proven to be one of the most cost effective and efficient ways of creating brand awareness, maintaining relationships with the target audience and in some cases, even acquiring new customers.
The internet dominates the world of digital marketing. Online articles can live on forever, making it crucial for brands to publish only quality content to their blogs. Of course, this means that most businesses are doing the same thing, making it important for brands to plan out their content creation thoroughly.
When planned and executed in a strategic manner, content marketing can actually boost the traffic to a business website, increase the social following and even displace market competition to take the position of an industry authority. It’s necessity have increased over time.
Content marketing strategy
At its core, your content marketing strategy is your “why.” Why you are creating content, who you are helping, and how you will help them in a way no one else can. Organizations typically use content marketing to build an audience and to achieve at least one of these profitable results: increased revenue, lower costs, or better customers.
On the other hand, content strategy delves deeper into the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.” Note that content strategy often goes beyond the scope of a content marketing strategy, as it helps businesses manage all of the content they have.
In contrast to the other two, a content plan is very tactical. It documents the specifics of how you will execute your strategy, and who on your team will be handling each task. It’s important to understand that you need a content marketing strategy BEFORE you build your content plan. Think of it as a marketing plan that specifically relates to content; thus, it should include details such as the key topic areas you will cover, what content you will create, when and how to share your content, and specific calls to action you will include.
Do I really need a content marketing strategy?
Yes! As we’ve learned through our annual research, not only do you need a strategy, you also need to document it. Those with a documented content marketing strategy:
- Are far more likely to consider themselves effective at content marketing
- Feel significantly less challenged with every aspect of content marketing
- Generally consider themselves more effective in their use of all content marketing tactics and social media channels
- Were able to justify spending a higher percentage of their marketing budget on content marketing
Types of Content Marketing
Blogging for business is arguably the best type of content for marketing. A blog typically lives on a website and can attract lots of search traffic because they’re topic specific and full of rich content.
Once you know how to write a blog post, publish frequently and provide high value content that answers a persons’ search query better than your competitors. When you align your content with the needs or challenges of the visitor, your post will grow in the search results and produce better leads.
When starting out with your blog, be careful to avoid common blogging mistakes such as typos or not writing to the needs of your audience. These items can cost you visitors and worse search rankings.
Follow best practices before posting a new article and check out blog post tips when you need to refresh an old post with new ideas. Creating great content plus following a few rules can have a big impact in search.
You know videos as highly engaging content that gets shared all over the internet, YouTube and social media. In fact, people are more likely to watch a video, then read your blog post. Also, people are more likely to share your video on social media than other types of content.
Though videos are a larger commitment on your time and resources, they often have a huge impact worth including. So, video is a must have in your content strategy.
Ebooks are content offers used for lead generation and you see them all over. Prospects visiting your blog can download ebooks by clicking a CTA (call to action) and submitting a lead form.
Typically, the ebook is relevant to the blog post being visited and provides an in-depth view of a topic. The ebook content is of the highest value, extremely helpful and the tactics shared actionable by the user.
In marketing, a case study summarizes a customer’s success story. It’s an accounting of where a customer starts with a business challenge, the steps taken to overcome and all the way through to a successful outcome.
Fact – prospects are drawn to success and case studies show how you rise to meet challenges and deliver results. They also help advance prospects when they are in the “Consideration” or “Decision” stage of their buyer’s journey. They are proof positive of the results another might expect when engaging with your product or service.
White papers are typically smaller content pieces hyper focused on a specific topic. Think of them as an authoritative report often on a complex issue that summarizes the content for easy consumption. These also make great lead generation content offers.
Templates are awesome for lead generation offers. They make for great starting points for prospects to succeed at a certain task and save them time. A few template ideas can be in the form of:
- Presentations – PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Slides
- Documents – Word, PDF, Google Docs
- Spreadsheet – Excel, Google Sheets
- Images/graphics – Photoshop, Illustrator
A podcast is a great way to share your content in audio form. The podcast format continues to grow and is easy to create, host, share on social media and embed within a blog post.
SlideShare is a LinkedIn service for hosting professional content. The most common form of content are presentations, but you can also post infographics, documents, and embedding videos from a LinkedIn Feed.
A user can upload files such as PowerPoint, Word documents, Open Office and PDFs. SlideShare content can be viewed directly or embedded in a blog post or shared on social media.
An infographic is a visual representation of data in the form of images, charts text snippets. This method is more compelling and communicates information on a topic in an easy to understand visual. Also easy to embed within a post and share on social.
Social media really needs no introduction. However, for those of you blogging, this can be a great vehicle to extend the reach of your content to a new audience.
First define which social platforms your audience uses. Then publish original content aligned with your content topics and needs of your tribe.
For those struggling to create social content, look no further than your own backyard. A pro tip: take your existing blog posts or other forms of content and break them up into social postings. It’s content already written and approved and easily repurposed for social.
What should my content marketing strategy include?
Think of a content marketing strategy as an outline of your key business and customer needs, plus a detailed plan for how you will use content to address them.
While there are no definitive “templates” for building a content marketing strategy — each one will be unique to the business that creates it — there are five components that they commonly include:
- Your business case for innovating with content marketing: By communicating your reasons for creating content, the risks involved, and your vision of what success will look like, you are much more likely to gain executive support for your strategy — and to get permission to make a mistake here and there as you figure out what works best for your business.
- Your business plan for content marketing: This covers the goals you have for your content program, the unique value you are looking to provide through your content, and details of your business model. It also should outline the obstacles and opportunities you may encounter as you execute your plan.
- Your audience personas and content maps: This is where you describe the specific audiences for whom you will create content, what their needs are, and what their content engagement cycle might look like. You may also want to map out content you can deliver throughout their buyer’s journey in order to move them closer to their goals.
- Your brand story: Here, you characterize your content marketing in terms of what ideas and messages you want to communicate, how those messages differ from the competition, and how you see the landscape evolving once you have shared them with your audience.
- Your channel plan: This should include the platforms you will use to tell your story; what your criteria, processes, and objectives are for each one; and how you will connect them so that they create a cohesive brand conversation.
How often should I update my content marketing strategy?
Some parts of your strategy should stay consistent even as your content marketing program grows and evolves — namely, your mission and business goals. In fact, these two things are so key that you may want to put them on a note so you can keep them in view whenever you are working on your content.
However, other aspects of your content marketing strategy will likely benefit from being reviewed and updated periodically. To ensure that your content marketing program remains on target, consider revisiting your channel strategy, core topics, and team processes on an annual basis — or more often if you are just getting started.
Elements of a content marketing strategy
- Defined target market and customer personas
The most important element that should form the base of a content strategy, is to know who it is for. This is where defining your target market and customer personas comes in.
Before defining any aspect of the content strategy, it is important to determine who your business is targeting in the market. Ideally, the target market is defined as the general demographics that would be interested or could be convinced into purchasing your products/services.
Then using those demographics, you further streamline the data to define who your ideal customers would be – where is the person located, what services is he looking for, what is he engaging with actively on the internet, what does he do, whether he has the resources to afford what you offer and their sales/purchase triggers.
Since content marketing is aimed at catering to the audience’s interests, values and common challenges, defining customer personas can really give you a head start. But an important thing to keep in mind is that these customer personas should be regularly updated with the changing market trends.
- A documented content strategy
The very next step that a marketer should take is to define the content strategy and document in completely. Most marketers assume that starting a blog and becoming active on various social channels is all that is required to be done.
The truth is, a well defined content marketing strategy includes market research, analysis of the kind of content consumed by the target audience, the type of content you can curate or create for them, the sources of information and syndication, the times and days of publishing the content pieces, and ensuring that each piece adds value to the end goal of the business.
Another thing that most marketers make a mistake in, is assuming their content strategy needs to be independent of all other efforts – email marketing, social media marketing, advertising and offline marketing. On the contrary, it is important that each aspect of the marketing strategy works towards the same goal and adds value to it.
- Consistent quality content production
The next core element of a successful content strategy, is to consistently produce quality content as per the laid down plan. It is necessary that a marketer defines a timeline for which the content strategy is created and how it would be executed to completion in that period.
But in the struggle to keep up with the content strategy, a marketer must not forget to ensure that each piece needs to add value to the target market in some way. The generation today is equipped with access to internet and if they don’t consider you a reliable source of information, they’re most likely to leave.
Every content piece needs to be equally informative, interesting, entertaining, relevant and contextual to the digital campaigns. It is important to offer a seamless informative experience to internet users today.
- Aggressive syndication and easy sharing
Two elements that work together to directly impact the success of a content strategy, are aggressive syndication and easy sharing of the content pieces produced. It is important that you syndicate the content on various digital channels to give it exposure – social media, content management platforms, communities, groups, newsletters, push notifications, etc. But while doing so, it is also important to ensure that all the syndication done is on platforms that have at least some segment of your target audience.
Similarly, each of the content pieces created should be easily shareable. From including social sharing buttons at the beginning, end or along side each content pieces, to giving the ability to email it to a friend or save it for reading later, a marketer needs to ensure easy sharing for the reader.
For example, we display all the social sharing buttons at the bottom and along side the content piece with a floating bar to make them easily accessible to the reader.
But it is also important that in your zeal to get the content piece shared, you don’t bombard the reader with call-to-actions and ruin the reading experience.
- Analytics and reporting
Another aspect that plays a vital role in determining the success of a content strategy, is measuring the results each effort brings. It is important to understand what content works the best on which channel to be able to make the most of it.
Using tools like Google Analytics can help you understand how your target market is responding to your content strategy – the number of visits on blog posts, the source of traffic, the read ratio, bounce rate, devices used to access content, inbound links generated, repeat and new traffic, on-site behaviour, and a lot more. But it is also important to not get overwhelmed by all the data.
Understand which of the metrics are important to your business before collating data points for a marketing decision. A few questions that would help you identify the key metrics include:
– Who is your audience?
– What kind of traffic are you expecting?
– How do you want the reader to interact with the content?
– What is the objective or the end goal the action is adding value to?
- Optimization and improvisation
If a content strategy works, good. But if it doesn’t, most marketers choose to sack it altogether and work on a new one from scratch instead of improvising on the existing one. The one thing that this leads to is resource mismanagement.
Like every other marketing effort – advertisements, for example – content strategies too need to be measured (refer point 5) and optimized accordingly to incorporate the changes. Using existing data and current market data can help create more effective campaigns than trying to collate points right from the start.
How to create a content marketing strategy.
A successful content marketing plan can generate new leads, increase sales, and establish your brand as an industry authority. Well-researched content also improves your credibility as an expert and, most importantly, boosts your search engine rankings.
Instead of simply generating content based on interesting ideas, create helpful content with specific long-term goals that solve user problems. This is only possible with thorough research and planning. If you’re ready-to-use content to your advantage, try this 7-step approach to developing a content marketing strategy. These tried-and-true content marketing techniques can help your business craft a strategy that produces great content and new leads.
– Research your niche.
The first step in creating a successful content marketing strategy is determining how your brand stacks up in your niche. You must consider your brand’s strengths and weaknesses as well as the value you bring to the market. Conducting a SWOT analysis is useful during this step, which helps define your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
A SWOT analysis largely depends on data, so use a tool like Google Analytics to thoroughly examine your brand’s visibility. Bounce rates, new visitors versus returning visitors, and site behaviour are all good metrics to analyse.
A thorough look at your website’s performance helps you identify where you are now – and where you want to be. By eliminating threats and capitalizing on opportunities, you’ll be able to deliver great content to those in your target market.
Great tip as the ideas and views in our world are constantly in flux and always evolving.
It’s also important to research your competitor’s content such as popular blog posts and social media channels. Which types of content seem to foster the most engagement? Competitors’ social media profiles provide useful information about their audience, while their websites offer content ideas. Considering what other brands in your industry are doing and where they’re seeing success can help determine where you need to position yourself.
– Assign clear goals.
For a content strategy to be successful you must focus on well-defined goals. These objectives vary depending on your company’s needs – for example, you might boost awareness around a new blog series on Building a Brand Story. Or perhaps to boost lead generation through an ebook download is your goal. There’s no right or wrong though whichever you choose, your content should align with your business goals.
While broad goals like “I want everyone to love our content” are admirable, they aren’t very specific nor measurable. One of the top content marketing tips is to use the SMART Goals when planning your strategy. Ask yourself, is your goal:
- Time Based
This method is also useful in helping define your content KPIs, or key performance indicators. KPIs are the measurable data points that help evaluate the effectiveness of your goals.
For example, your goal might be to increase traffic by 10-15 percent over the next six months.
Your goal might look like: “Over the next six months, Jenna will work to boost organic blog traffic by 10-15%, by increasing publishing frequency from 2 to 4 posts per week to reach 30,000 new organic sessions by July 1.”
Working with multiple goals for your content is certainly fine, but you’ll want to be sure that each are well defined. Develop a separate plan for each objective, and tailor your content to meet the needs of each.
Measuring Content Performance
How do you know if you’ve reached your goals? This where monitoring content marketing metrics will help you measure your content’s performance. After all your hard work you need to keep a close eye on your metrics and be sure you’ve reached your goals.
Performing this exercise frequently can help see where you need course corrections to your content plan and make adjustments along the way.
– Define your target audience.
No matter which industry you’re in, there will be a target audience your brand will need to connect with. Of course, each one of these audiences has different needs and pain points. This is where creating a buyer persona is helpful. Break down your target audience by demographics, interests, and location.
If you’re unsure of your brand’s buyer persona, look to your sales team for guidance. Most of the time, it’s the sales team that answers customer questions, understands their challenges/needs and has demographic data.
Once you’ve determined which audience you want to reach, look at whom you’re already connecting with. You’ll then gain a sense of which content resonates with your audience, which falls flat and ideas for new content.
– Develop a content plan.
After you’ve set clear goals and established your target audience, it’s time to put this research into action. To get started, consider the hottest trends and what types of content resonate with your audience. Some examples of content include infographics, blog posts, and YouTube videos.
Ask yourself…does your audience prefer long-form content over 2,000 words? Do they often share videos? Are they social activity? These are a few examples of questions to ask while analysing audience trends.
Use an Editorial Calendar
Creating an editorial calendar is a great way to keep track of how and when content is published. Using content scheduling apps allow you to input a series of posts ahead of time, which post on specific days and times.
Diligent management will reveal how your content plan is working to achieve your goals. Timing is everything when it comes to planning your editorial calendar. Don’t forget to include important events like conferences, holidays, and sales, as these present opportunities for generating content. Though it may not be part of your overall content marketing strategy, it still provides a broader and diverse range of content.
– Optimize content for SEO.
When conducting an internet search, most people find what they need on the first page of results. So, it should go without saying you need to optimize content for SEO. Otherwise, it’s likely that your target audience will never find your content.
However, sites that implement a good SEO strategy will be rewarded increased content reach and search engine visibility. SEO makes your content more visible to those looking for looking for answers to their questions.
How Keywords Influence your Content’s Search Ranking
Keywords within the content largely influence your site’s ranking, so think about the words and phrases a customer would use. Factor in what your audience knows about the topic, their interests, and the keywords’ popularity. Reading competitors’ content can also be helpful when determining the most relevant keywords.
High search volume keywords are typically used by hundreds or thousands of websites, so avoid over saturating your content with the same words. Strike a balance when selecting keywords, choosing both high and low search volumes. It’s also good practice to use related keywords so you’re not using the same words over and over in your writing.
If you’re struggling to find the right keywords, using a keyword research tool can be helpful. However, you can simply use Google for your research. When you start typing Google’s auto-suggest feature will start listing popular searches. This can help narrow things down for you.
– Create remarkable content.
After you’ve established your SEO-friendly content plan, it’s time to create the content. Every piece of content you create should be shaped around our first five steps. Keep your keywords and the audience’s needs in mind when generating content ideas. However, avoid keyword stuffing, as search engines penalize content that has an agenda.
All content should be fully optimized to achieve your brand’s goals and ultimately be helpful to your audience. For example, if your objective is to increase thought leadership in your industry, you might blog about a challenge your audience has. Show your audience your expertise through your content to help them solve a problem or achieve a personal goal.
Here are some examples of how you can foster engagement with quality content:
- Place social sharing and “click to Tweet” buttons on your posts, which encourage readers to share the post on social media.
- Add calls-to-action at the end of every piece of content, including video. The CTA should be optimized to achieve a specific goal.
- Create a relevant eBook and use a CTA at the end of a post inform readers of its relatable value and that it’s available for download. These serve as great top of funnel offers to continue the conversation beyond the post.
- Send a well-timed email marketing campaign to your email lists to boost extra engagement.
Tips for Creating Content Value
While encouraging readers to take action through content is important, it’s equally important for them to find value in what they’re reading. Here’s a few tips for creating valuable content for your readers:
· Write catchy headlines.
Writing catchy headlines is a bit of an art. They should be informative, interesting and aligned with what people are searching for.
Like in the Google example above – after performing a sample search, Google will place the “People also ask” box on the search results page with popular search queries. This is a great place to find your next headline!
· Ensure the content covers your topic in detail.
It’s all about the quality. Your content needs to be “better” than the content you’re trying to outrank in search. However, you’ll still need to write the proper volume of words in order to cover a topic in detail. Answer the readers’ questions.
We showed you in Google’s “People also ask” box that users are indeed asking questions inside their search query. Using this little trick, you can quickly find the right questions to write about. Now that you know the problem people are trying to solve for, create authoritative content to answer their question fully.
· Include rich media to add visual interest.
Videos, images, memes, infographics, and other types of rich media content help readers visualize your subject matter. Rich media can also be a great opportunity for visitor sharing on social media.
· Use impactful data to add credibility.
Citing fact-based and research-based data from reputable resources can add credibility to your content. When citing, be sure to credit your source in the content footer. Additionally, a well-crafted case study will give your content lift in value.
· Use internal links.
Internal linking within body copy to relevant blog topics or media you’ve already created is very import. It shows a semantic relationship to other subtopics and boosts your topical authority to Google.
· Use external links.
External linking within body copy to 3rd party sites, blog topics and media created by subject matter experts can help readers find more info on the topic. It also sends good search signals to Google which is a bonus.
To determine whether your content is helping you meet your goals, monitor posts regularly using a tracking tool. Widely available online, post tracking tools reveal which receive the most views, shares, conversions, etc. This allows B2B marketers to create stronger and more effective content.
– Distribute and share content.
From a marketing standpoint, even the most valuable content will be invisible if it doesn’t reach its intended audience. The final step involves distributing and sharing your content to reach the widest audience. The distribution plan determines how, when and where the content will be shared. Some of the most popular distribution channels include:
- Social media (you know the players): Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.
- Pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns: Google, Facebook Ads, YouTube Ads, etc.
- Email newsletters: showcasing your top content and latest postings
- Distribution or publishing sites: Medium, LinkedIn, Quora, Reddit, etc.
Monitoring Brand Mentions
As you distribute your content and gain visibility, other sites may refer back to your content via brand mentions. Try using a brand monitoring tool to see which blogs and media outlets write about your brand or content. Hopefully, they’ll link back to your content with a “do-follow” link. A few brand monitoring tips…
PRO TIP #1: A site only mentioned your brand without providing a backlink. This is a great opportunity to do some outreach asking if they would consider linking back to you.
PRO TIP #2: Even if they’ve only mentioned your competitors brand or their content, this is an opportunity to pitch your content as an updated/more current/more thorough resource replacement. For those savvy SEO marketers, this is referred to as the “Skyscraper Technique” and we acquire many backlinks this way.
Social media sites are amazing and will help reach your audience on a different level. As mentioned in Step 4, content scheduling tools are a great way to simplify the distribution process. Many of these tools allow you to schedule content on multiple sites ahead of time. Plus, most tools offer advanced analytics like social mentions and site engagement.
No matter how you distribute your content, you should always utilize some type of analytics to determine which channels send the most traffic. Identifying the most valuable sources of acquisition is an essential part of any content marketing strategy.
Now show the world what you’ve got.
A good content strategy defines timelines for achieving specific objectives and the steps that a marketer needs to take to achieve them. But both the businesses and the marketers need to understand that a content strategy is prone to changing more frequently to be able to match the interests of the target audience.
Meeting the needs and goals of your business is only possible with a well-crafted marketing strategy for your content. As you grow your content footprint and optimize for SEO, the greater your visibility will be in search results. This is a big win!
Keep in mind it will take time to see results when first implementing these content marketing tips. So, be patient and diligent in your efforts.
Marketing with content is a long-term effort, and it often takes longer than short-term ad campaigns that produce short-term gains. Tracking metrics frequently is the best way to determine whether your efforts are moving you towards your goals. If you have seen no changes after 3-4 months, conduct another SWOT analysis to identify threats, weaknesses, and possible opportunities.
What do you think is an important element of a content strategy?