Content marketing is a part of online marketing based on creating, publishing and promoting content in order to achieve specific business goals. It is based on valuable and relevant information for a target audience.
Nowadays, content marketing is mainly used to create a specific bond between companies and their customers. Through content marketing campaigns, companies aim to build brand awareness and brand loyalty with their leads and customers. It is their way of educating their potential customers about their product/service and informing them about the benefits. Once customers get familiar with product, it is easier for them to identify with the product and accept it.
There are three important phases of content marketing:
Each of these phases is based on only one element - valuable and relevant content. This kind of content is of paramount importance.
Why valuable and relevant content is key
Today, anyone can be a writer. You simple need a pen or a keyboard (or even a typing machine if you prefer that option) and you are ready to start writing. However, great content cannot be produced by anyone.
For example, many beauty bloggers write to express their views on new makeup products. How valuable their content will be for you depends on the information you were searching for and the info they provided. The same goes for relevancy - if the title promised content about mascara and you want to read it because you want to find out more about mascara, but instead you end up reading about cars, will that be relevant for you? Of course not.
It is very important to understand that only relevant and valuable content can result in reaching business goals. This kind of content, for example, a simple product review, can persuade a person to make a final action - purchase. Thus, writing for classic sale and without any meaning for the readers can have a more negative than positive effect on your business goals.
Why your business should rely on content marketing
Of course, if businesses couldn’t benefit from content marketing, they wouldn’t use it, right?
One of the many reasons why any business should make use of content marketing is the fact that content marketing can be less expensive for a business than any other online marketing channel. In addition, content marketing can also have a huge impact on other marketing channels.
For example, an article with great keyword strategy can impact search engine ranking, which can lead to better business positioning in the search engines. A great article can be easily shared through social media, which can also influence brand awareness through different social media. And finally, a great article can help build better reputation and customer trust.
Taking into consideration the benefits you can have with only one part of online marketing, the sooner you start investing in quality content (by yourself or by content writers), the sooner you will reap its benefits.
Creating a content marketing strategy
A good online marketing strategy focuses its activities on content marketing. Marketers tend to start with a goal they want to achieve, pack all valuable information into an article and then continue distributing it through various online marketing channels, from email to social media and beyond.
Like any other strategy, content marketing strategy should be based on planned activities a marketing team should do in order to achieve business goals.
Think of the audience you want to target
Before you can start writing for your audience, it is very important to understand your audience. This means doing in-depth research into their interests, behavior, basic information etc. The more you know about your audience, the easier it will be for you to understand what they are searching for. Once you know what they are looking for, you will know exactly what you need to offer them to get their attention.
Getting to know your audience is a process. It will not happen overnight and it will not end once you start writing. To get the best results, marketers continuously follow their audience and pay close attention to their behavior and habits as well as their changes. You can always start by using your previous knowledge (your previous and current customers) and Google Analytics (if you have set it already) and continue doing research on your own
Set clear goals for your content marketing campaigns
As soon as you have basic info (the more, the merrier) about your audience, make sure you set clear goals you want to achieve with your content campaigns. Go with measurable goals you can easily track with Google Analytics or any other tool you plan to use.
When you know to whom you are going to write and what you want to achieve (what you actually want to say), it will be much easier to approach the content you want to create and share.
Plan your content
When we talk about content, we usually talk about blog posts, ebooks, guides, infographics, webinars and other valuable written sources of information.
At this point, you already know whom you want to write to, what you want to achieve with your content and how you can format it (as a blog post, infographic etc). Now is the perfect time to dive into the core of content planning - planning information (topics) you want to share. You’ll need to decide how you are going to manage it or if you are going to assign this task to someone.
The easiest (and probably the cheapest) way to plan this kind of activity is to use a simple spreadsheet (either Microsoft or Google) and to start typing basic information:
1.Topic that should be covered
2.Goal that should be achieved for each topic
3.What you will measure as a proof of goal achievement
4.Approximate time when this kind of content should go online
5.Who will be in charge of writing, publishing and distributing
6.Additional help that will be needed (e.g. You will need a designer to create a visual presentation of your ebook)
And finally, no matter which online marketing channel you choose to go with, keep an eye on your competition. Do not use this advice as “go and copy what they do” but go beyond that - see what they are not doing and what you can do to present yourself as a unique opportunity for your lead and customers.
Writing like a PRO (Creating Content)
After you’ve spent some time creating a powerful content marketing strategy, it is time to start writing content you are going to use as a tool to achieve your business goals. Mind you, this content is not typical content you can write in 5 minutes and expect a miracle. The content you have to produce in order for your business to have any kind of benefits from it must be valuable, relevant, creative and engaging at the same time. This is the type of content that makes your readers move from passive leads to active customers or community participants.
Do research and choose a topic
Doing research and choosing a topic are good starting points. What you will do first depends mainly on what you already have - if you have selected a topic you want to write about, then the research part will focus, for example, on statistical data that will give your content extra credibility. On the other hand, if you are still not sure what to write about, you can get inspired by researching your competition.
Google Trends and Google Keyword planner are useful tools you can use to plan topics you want to cover. Both of them can give you a good insight into “hot topics”. After you find your hot topic, you can build your whole content campaign strategy on it. Other useful tools include social networks, search engines, news and so on.
Name your content properly
In content marketing, everything starts with a catchy name (title). Let’s say you are writing tips on how to make the perfect chocolate muffin on your blog. A potential reader visited Google to start their recipe search, so he/she typed “perfect chocolate muffin” and your blog, along with several others, showed as a search result. Pay attention to the underlined part.
Let us also take into consideration that your potential readers are in a rush because they urgently need to make some delicious muffins for their friends. What will make them click on your post and not on the other ones? That’s right - the title.
When you are writing a catchy title, you have to think of ways to get somebody’s attention. Here’s some advice you can follow when thinking of a title for your content:
1.Be clear on what you want to talk about in your text (e.g. Organize your kitchen in 30 minutes or less)
2.Use numbers to give value to your content (7 ways you can save on Christmas decorations this year)
3.Go with “how-to” guides (How to write a winning business plan in a week)
4.Tell them a secret (Top 5 secret moves to burn belly fat)
5.Talk about urgency (Only today get a FREE blog planner)
Focus on the value of your words
No matter how good your title is, if your content is not worth reading, you will very soon see a lot of clicks but no actions. At the very beginning of your writing career, this is exactly what you want to avoid.
Focus on your objectives and valuable experience you have, or have heard of, that can give a positive meaning to your content. Be clear, consistent and express your thoughts in short sentences so that everyone can understand you, regardless of their language level.
Start with creating a structure for your content. Each part should have a headline and a goal you want to achieve by telling a story related to that part. Express your personality. It will give a unique touch to your whole story and, most importantly, a value to what you are talking about.
Pay attention to your format and content organization. Follow this simple content strategy:
1.Create an introduction for your topic
2.Find the heart of your content - story you want to tell
3.Finish with a call to action - the reason why you are writing this piece of content in the first place
154% of corporate marketers say that quality content is among the most effective SEO tactics their company uses, while 50% also cite (closely related) frequent website updates. (MediaPost)
Finish with an action
You started creating content in order to get your readers to perform a specific action, and that is going to be your content finish line.
A good way to finish, or as we like to say put a cherry on top, is to end with a question. Every answer you collect helps you learn more about the people who are reading your content. All the information you gathered can be used for creating other campaigns in the future. At the same time, asking a question will give you insights into what your potential customers are searching for, and based on that knowledge, you can adapt your product/service to suit their needs.
Colors have a big impact on the success of a CTA and when it comes to choosing the right one, you have to consider:
1.Psychology of color - blue is a cold color (usually used in B2B industry), whereas red is warm
2.Different color meanings in different cultures - e.g. In some cultures, white symbolizes purity and happiness, whereas in others it represents death and mourning.
Studies show that red and green are the most popular colors. However, do not take this color suggestion as something that’s set in stone. Instead, opt for A/B testing to find which color is the “action color” for your audience.
Overcoming writer’s block
Even the best writers experience writer’s block from time to time. It is nothing unusual nor a reason to throw away your writing skills. Even more, it is normal to have days when you have so much to say and days when your mind is quiet.
When faced with “writer’s block”, the first thing you need to do is relax and take a break. Stop whatever you’re doing and go for a walk, make a cup of coffee, play with your pet, watch a funny video, sing loud, do yoga etc. In other words, do anything else that will take your mind off writing. Give your brain enough time to recharge and refresh.
Some of the reasons why you experience this phase are:
1.Constant distraction (e.g. Social networks are often our biggest distraction)
The sooner you find what causes your writer’s block, the easier it will be to overcome it.
A lack of creativity and ideas can sometimes lead to writer’s block. We simply get stuck not knowing what to do next. This is the moment when brainstorming sessions should be your priority, especially if you can have them with different people (your team or family members for example). You start with a problem you want to solve (or your goal) and then dive into random thoughts or ideas. Very soon you will have a bunch of different ideas you can use for creating your next campaign or for further research.
Do not forget to check what your competitors are doing (e.g. Check their business page on Facebook), read news and industry insights, follow industry influencers on social media, check trends on Google Trends etc. All of these actions will give you a great starting point for your future ideas.
And finally, when writer’s block hits, do not:
1.Rely on laziness as a solution to your problem
2.Refuse to work until you are inspired again
3.Blame yourself - some of the greatest writers faced writer’s block too!
Optimization is of vital importance for search engines
No matter how great your title and content are, if they cannot be reached when needed, you will not enjoy the benefits.
When you hear “optimize your content”, most of the time this means you should optimize your content to achieve better search rankings (the most popular search engine is, of course, Google). To dig even deeper, optimize your content to target the right keywords your potential visitor uses to find the information you are writing about.
First of all, let’s learn two basic optimization terms:
1.Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is content optimization for search engines. It helps search engines easily index your content, categorize it based on the information you are giving and serve it to those who search for that kind of information.
2.Keywords are exactly what their name says - key words somebody uses to find the information they are looking for.
Now that we know what SEO is and what it is based on, we can continue optimizing our content to achieve every writer's goal - rank high in search results.
Factors that will impact your search engine ranking are popularity and the quality of your content. If you write something and pay to promote it, you may dominate the search results at the very beginning because of the “insta” popularity. This will tell Google that people are interested in what you have to say. However, if the average time spent on your page is very low (visitors tend to come and go fast), it will give a negative signal to search engines. You will hit top spot in a short period of time, but when it comes to budget and long-term goals, this is not going to bring you much success.
To make sure Google and your visitors know how good your content is, invest your time in producing quality content. Well-researched topics tend to have a few thousand words, which signals Google that you have some expertise in the given topic. Of course, if you write/use the same word 2000 times, Google will know that. A search engine is a machine and as such, doesn’t read your content but has special algorithms to recognise spam content. That said, these algorithms will punish your spammy content very soon.
Besides quality and relevant content, search engines appreciate fresh information. It gives them a signal that you are on top of your niche and that you want to keep your readers up to date. High rankings will be your reward, and you won’t even have to spend any budget to accomplish this.
Keywords, keywords, keywords
If you have any previous experience with search engine optimization, then you probably know that keywords used to be the most important part of optimization. Nowadays, the situation has changed.
Due the algorithm changes by Google, keywords no longer have the same power. If you do not have great content, there is no keyword that will help you achieve your goals nor rank well. In fact, Google punishes everyone who exploits keywords.
So, how to handle keywords with the best intention for your content? Use Google Keyword Planner to plan the best keywords for the topic you want to write about and then approach writing and using keywords as a regular part of your content. Use them when they are relevant to what you want to say and when they are needed. Do not forget to include your most important keyword in the topic title too!
Working on meta description
Meta description is a very important element of content optimization. You see this short content description when you search for a specific keyword (see the image below). The purpose of meta description is the same as the purpose of any other description - it gives a brief overview of the content they will read once they click on the link.
When writing a meta description that will be seen by potential visitors, there are a few things to keep in mind:
1.Your meta description shouldn’t have more than 160 characters
2.It should contain your most important keywords (but beware of keyword stuffing - search engines will penalize you for that)
3.A description should give a clear overview of what visitors can expect
Promotion as a way of reaching your audience
Once writing and optimization are done, you have to worry about your readers. No matter how great your content is, if nobody is reading it, then creating that amazing piece of content was a waste of your time.
Content marketing is (or it should be) the foundation of online marketing. Any channel of online marketing can be targeted if you have great content. This means that content promotion depends mainly on your target audience not on some specific channel.
Content promotion through an email channel
If you have decided to start promoting with an email channel, every content you write is a piece of gold for your email campaigns. Your subscribers are going to be those people on your list, because they want to hear news from you, and that’s exactly what you can offer them with your content.
How to handle content promotion through the email channel? Here is how we do it:
1.Plan a campaign based on the articles you write
2.Use the article title for your email title
3.Do not copy the entire article, as the recipients can read it without visiting your website
4.Pack some additional, relevant information too (e.g. “Other topics you may be interested in:”)
5.Include a call-to-action to encourage them to go from being a passive reader to an active client
If you write several articles per day, do not spam their inbox with each article individually. Instead, go for one “daily overview” email and then mention all of your freshly published articles. You can do the same with a “weekly overview”, “monthly overview” etc.
Content promotion through social media
Social media is another channel you should include in your content promotion. You can promote your content through Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, Twitter, Google, Pinterest or any other social network. Again, which one you will choose depends mainly on your target audience. Start with a question “Where is my target audience?” and you will know where you have to promote your content.
A few ideas on how to handle social media content promotion
1.Plan your social media posts according to social media “rules” (e.g. Think of a good, but short message for Twitter, rely on the most popular timing for publishing Facebook posts, etc.)
2.Include the most important keywords as hashtags
3.Always mention people who are relevant to what you have written about (e.g. If you based your article on an interview with a niche influencer, do not forget to mention him in your social media post. That way you will not only reach your followers, but his too)
4.Start a community buzz with both a question and the content you want to promote
5.Be polite and ask others to share, retweet or repost your content
6.Keep mentioning your content from time to time, even after it’s published
The best thing about writing great content is that it can be promoted through every online marketing channel. Moreover, if your content is valuable to readers, they will re-share it for sure.
Finally, if your budget allows it, you can always spend some money on paid promotion of your content. For example, you can run an ad on Google AdWords to target your most important content keywords.
Measuring your content marketing success
When we talk about content marketing success and how to measure it, you have to understand two things:
1.Content marketing success depends on other marketing channels
2.Content marketing success can be measured the same way any other channel’s success is measured
Content marketing success relies on other channels.
Content marketing is mainly content writing. Both free and paid promotion options play a vital role in reaching your audience.
Now that you know this, you need to understand not only how successful your content was, but also what influenced that success. Why? The answer is very simple - if social media scored the best results for your content, then you can put a lot of effort into promoting other articles directly through social media and less into promoting through other channels. Your experience gained through experimenting and testing is your most valuable asset that will influence any future campaign.
Content marketing success can be measured the same way any other channel’s success is measured.
There are measures you can rely on after you publish your content, for example, content views and content actions (contacts, comments etc.). All the data you need in order to determine if the content you wrote was a success or a failure can be collected by Google Analytics. Google Analytics is everything you need to track all your content marketing campaigns from the moment you publish your article to the moment you promote it.
1.The top metrics used to measure content marketing success are website traffic (cited by 71% of marketers), revenue (57%), keyword traffic and conversions (46%), and search engine rankings (46%). (MediaPost)