Content marketing is a digital marketing strategy focused on creating and promoting valuable, relevant content to attract consumers and increase profits.
For many small business owners, content marketing is still a relatively new concept. One of the biggest hurdles to overcome is simply how to get started. With that in mind here is our guide to developing a winning content marketing strategy.
Have Goals In Mind
One of the most important things you must do when developing your content marketing strategy is to set clear goals. When setting your goals you will want to consider:
- Are you primarily looking to increase your brand awareness or generate more qualified leads?
- What is your target market?
- Which metrics (KPIs) will you use to track the success of your efforts?
- What is a realistic time frame in which to complete my goal?
Setting goals right away makes it easier to plan out an effective content marketing strategy. Some content types (like videos and infographics) work better for branding while others (like e-books and webinars) are better for generating leads. Knowing your goals ahead of time will therefore allow you to plan an appropriate mix of content.
Having goals also allows you to monitor the progress of your content marketing strategy. Pick at least 2-3 metrics to help you track your progress towards your goal.
If you want to increase your brand awareness, you should likely focus on metrics like:
- Sessions. How much traffic you’re getting on your blog posts.
- Direct traffic. Once people know who you are, they will start searching for your directly.
- Social shares. How engaged your audience is with your posts.
If you’re looking to generate leads for your business you will want to focus more on website conversions. This will let you know many of your readers contacted your company after reading one of your posts.
At the end of the day, just having a goal in mind isn’t enough. If you don’t track your progress you’ll never really know if your efforts are paying off!
Do Some Keyword Research
Now that you have your goals set, it’s time to start planning your content. To do that we first need to do some research to find out what people are searching for. If you’re unfamiliar with how to research consumer keyword phrases, check out our in-depth guide to keyword research.
After you’ve built a long list of popular consumer keyword phrases, it’s time to start picking topics for your content. Take common consumer questions and build your topics around answering those questions. If you’re having a hard time finding consumer questions, check out Answer The Public. This free tool shows you a list of common questions based on the keyword phrase of your choice.
Pick How Often Will You Post New Content
Once you have a list of topics, it’s time to planning your publishing strategy. For your content marketing strategy to be successful, you need to publish content consistently.
Simply put, the more content you publish, the better your results will be. Companies that publish 11+ posts a month generate an average of 2X more traffic and leads than those that publish 2-5 per month.
Not everyone can consistently publish 11+ pieces of content every month however. How often should you post new content? That depends on how much time you can dedicate to your content marketing efforts.
To write, edit, publish and promote the average blog post takes at least 3-4 hours. To publish the recommended 3-4 pieces of content per week will therefore take between 9-16 hours per week. Most small business simply owners do not have this much time to dedicate to content marketing. For that reason we recommend publishing 1 new piece of content every week (minimum 2 per month).
Organize Your Topics
The next step in building your content marketing strategy is to organize your chosen topics in a way that makes sense. One method we recommend for new content marketers is to start with the most fundamental topics, then build on them with more specific topics.
For example, if you sell social media marketing services you could start with a blog post entitled something like “What Is Social Media Marketing?”. You can then build on that post with other posts such as “Why Should You Advertise On Social Media?”, “8 Ways To Grow Your Social Media Following” and “Social Media Contest Tips”.
Remember that most of your readers (at least at first) will not know a whole lot about the topics that you’re writing about. If you start with more advanced topics, most of them will be lost and stop reading. By starting with the basics, you give your readers a foundation with which to build on. Once they have that foundation you can start getting more into specifics.
Pick The Right Format
There are a variety of different content formats to choose from. The ones that you choose will be based on your goals and your own resources. Here are a few of the most common:
By far the most common content marketing format is the simple blog post. A good blog post will generally be between 1000-2000 words long and include images to help break up the post and reinforce key points.
Blog posts work equally well for increasing brand awareness and generating leads. For lead generation campaigns, use your blog posts to lead consumers through the buying cycle. Capture them with content that answers basic questions about what you sell. Link those posts to other blog posts that help show what sets your product or service apart from your competitors. Those posts can then be linked to content designed to capture lead information, such as an e-book or free trial.
For brand awareness campaigns, focus on topics that are being searched by the largest audiences to maximize your exposure.
No matter what your goals are, the key is to not be too “salesy”, at least at first. When writing your blogs, remember what stage of the buying cycle your readers are in. If you try to hard sell someone that is just looking for some basic info, they will likely be put off and leave your website.
Infographics are images that are used to present information in an easy to digest format. They are a great way to show off data and can be used to easily break down complex topics.
Infographics are also highly shareable and therefore essential for branding campaigns.
E-Books are essentially longer, more in-depth blog posts. They are used as “lead magnets”, that is a piece of content designed specifically to generate leads. Lead magnets like e-books are used as the “second step” in the content marketing process. After reading a couple of your blog posts, some readers will be intrigued and want to learn more. These readers then enter their contact info (usually their name and e-mail address) to receive a copy of your e-book (or other lead magnet). This type of content is essential to the success of any lead generating content marketing strategy.
Podcasts are essentially audio blogs. Some advantages that podcasts have over blogs are:
- They’re more personal. A podcast is essentially a one way conversation between you and your audience. This allows your personality to shine through and makes the experience more personal than reading your thoughts on a computer screen.
- They’re automatically downloaded to your subscribers devices. Your audience doesn’t have to go looking for your next piece of content, it’s automatically added to their device!
- Podcasts can be consumed while driving, walking etc. This makes podcasts more convenient for people with busy schedules.
While podcasts are great for branding, they don’t offer a way to easily link to lead generating content, making them relatively ineffective at lead generation.
Videos are a highly engaging and shareable form of content. They are 40 times more likely than other content formats to get shared on social media, making them ideal for branding campaigns. Video isn’t just for branding however. Integrating videos into your content has also been shown to increase conversions and sales.
Promote Your Content
If you’ve done your job well the SEO of your article will be good and it will start showing up in search engines results. Small business websites will rarely show on the first page of search engine results pages though. To make sure that your content is noticed by your target market therefore requires doing some promotion.
You can promote your new content by:
- Sharing it on your social media feeds.
- Posting a link to it in relevant social media groups.
- Posting a link to it in relevant online forums.
- Including it in your next e-mail newsletter.
- Giving it to influencers in your industry to share with their followers.
- Linking to it from past posts to bring in your existing readers.
Check Your Results
The last step of your content marketing strategy is to check in on your progress. Once per month, login to Google Analytics and check your analytics data to see how people are responding to your content. Some things to look at are:
- Which posts are getting the most traffic?
- What content formats are people responding to?
- How many times was each post liked or shared on social media?
- How many readers turned into leads?
Use these insights to inform how you write and promote content going forward. If certain topics or formats are working better than others, focus more on those. If people aren’t responding to certain topics or formats, think about how you can retool them for success.
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