Content marketing can be a great way to create long term growth for your business, but many businesses struggle with how to get started.
Marketing is generally more effective when people take time to create a strategy and break it down into easy to follow steps.
According to Content Marketing Institute, 60% of the most effective content marketers took the time to create a documented strategy. So before you dive head first into content marketing, take the time to create a strategy to make sure your content is effective in helping your business achieve its goals.
Here’s an overview of how you can develop an effective content strategy for your business:
Set Your Goals
The first step in developing a content strategy is deciding on your goal.
Some common content marketing goals are:
- Improve SEO rankings
- Generate thought leadership and grow influence
- Get more leads and convert them into sales
- Increase inbound traffic and brand recognition
Although all of the above are important, marketers will perform better if they decide which goal is the most important to pursue. Clearly defining your goals will help you determine the best way to approach your content marketing.
For example, if your goal is to drive more inbound traffic and generate brand awareness through content, then you might create a good amount of keyword targeted content to drive SEO traffic. On the other hand, if thought leadership is a priority, then you might focus more on creating original content or doing data-driven or research-based articles.
Understand Your Target Avatar
Another important step to take when creating a content strategy is to understand your target avatar. Good content marketing is often designed to attract your ideal customer, so knowing who that customer is and what they are interested in can help you craft more effective content.
Without a defined target avatar, your content operation may become inefficient as some of your content may not be targeting the right audience.
So how do you create a customer avatar?
You can start by brainstorming the pain points and interests that your ideal customer might have.
Visit forums and social media sites to see what kinds of questions people in your niche are asking. Check out competitor blogs and content to see what types of articles they are writing.
Do some keyword research to find out what search phrases people are using to find answers to their problems.
Write down a list of pain points and interests and you will have some great ideas for content that you can create to attract your target audience.
If you already have customers, you can also use surveys or phone calls to interview your clients and learn more about them and the problems they face. Speaking to actual customers or potential customers is a good way to gain insights into their day-to-day struggles and the kinds of content that they might want to see.
Research and Plan Your Content
One of the most important steps in developing a content strategy is creating a content creation plan. You need a systematic plan to create content on an ongoing basis so that you can stay consistent with your content marketing efforts.
Consistency is very important with blogging and failing to be consistent can cause people to lose interest and forget about you.
Neil Patel mentions that he blogged consistently and published articles 5 times a month through May 2009. But when he slowed down his blogging frequency, his traffic dropped from 45,000 visitors a month to around 35,000 visitors a month and it took him 3 months of consistent blogging to bring the traffic back up to where it was before.
Here are a few simple ideas that you can use to never run out of great content ideas:
1. Content curation – Content curation is a great content creation strategy that can apply to just about any niche.
Follow competitors and industry news sites to keep up with the latest developments in your niche. Bookmarking, social media and content sharing sites can also be a good way to find new and exciting content.
You can add value when you curate content by adding in your own insights or analysis. You can also be a valuable resource for your audience if you are quick to share news or other insightful articles before your readers discover them through other channels.
2. Keyword research – If SEO is a goal, then keyword research can be a good place to start when looking for content ideas. Find keyword phrases with good search volume that are related to things that your target customer might search for.
Do a quick search to see what other content comes up and then strategize on how you can create content that is better or different than what is currently ranking.
3. Analyze competitors – Another way to come up with content ideas is to analyze competitors. Follow their blogs by subscribing to them and pay attention to what content appears to perform well for them.
You can also identify content gaps by looking for topics that your competitors haven’t written about yet. Comments and questions on their blog could indicate good opportunities to create content on topics that your target audience might be interested in.
Create the Content
Once you have a content creation strategy, you can start writing your content. Most organizations focus on written content because it is easier to produce than other content types (like video or podcasts) and can also drive search engine traffic. A survey done by Social Media Examiner also reveals that 58% of people prefer written content over visual and video content.
However, you may choose to create other types of content depending on your goals and your niche. If you are selling food products, then using images and videos might work better than simply using text content alone as your target audience may be active on sites like Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook.
If you really want to maximize your reach, you can repurpose your content into different formats. For example, you can turn your blog posts into videos and upload them to YouTube, Vimeo, and other video sites to increase exposure.
Here are a few things you may want to consider when creating content.
Images and Media
Will you include images and other media (like videos or audio) within your articles? If you do use images, will you need a graphic designer to create them?
Studies show that articles with images get 94% more views than articles that don’t have them on average. However, adding and creating images also takes time and resources which can slow down the content creation process.
Ideally, you should add images into your articles when you can use them to add value or to use them to more clearly demonstrate what you are discussing in the article.
Another important thing to think about before writing an article is how long it will be. Will you write really long in-depth articles or will you write more frequently by creating shorter articles?
SerpIQ did a study in 2012 by analyzing over 20,000 keywords. They discovered that the average word count of top ranking results was over 2,000 words. Buzzsumo also discovered that longer content tends to get shared more on social media.
Does this mean that long-form content is better?
Not at all.
Long content might be appropriate for something like an SEO guide where searchers are looking for in-depth information. But short form content may be more appropriate for things like recipes.
People are also more likely to read short content and it is usually easier to create a higher volume of content if you keep your articles short. In fact, some publications, like Entrepreneur, prefer that writers keep articles under 1,200 words.
When deciding on content length, start by observing how long competing content is and also decide on your overall goals. If you want to compete with other top ranking content, then you will often have to create content of similar length or longer. However, short content can be good if you want to create a higher volume of content.
To be consistent with content creation, decide on a publishing schedule.
A study by Hubspot shows that businesses that blog 16 or more times per month generate 4.5x more leads than businesses that only blog 0-4 times per month. However, blogging less frequently can give you more time to create authoritative content and promote it.
How often you publish is up to you, but deciding on publishing frequency and setting up a content calendar will help you stay consistent, which is important if you want the best results. A few businesses do well by publishing once a month, but most businesses should aim to publish at least weekly.
Editorial Guidelines and Content Creation Processes
Many businesses will write up some editorial guidelines that discuss details like how long an article should be, what topics are covered and any other requirements for content. Creating this documentation can be helpful when bringing on new content creators or if you allow guest posting on your blog.
Creating other processes and training for internal use might also be a good idea to help your staff writers with the content creation process.
Optimize Your Content
Before hitting the publish button, be sure to optimize your content so that it helps you achieve your goals.
Even if SEO isn’t a primary goal, you can easily improve the chances that your content will rank by doing some keyword research and inserting keywords into your article. Using a tool like Google Keyword Planner can help you discover keywords that might be worth including in your content.
Read over your article and use a tool like Grammarly to check for spelling and grammar errors. Rewrite sentences that aren’t clear and break really long sections into shorter paragraphs to improve readability.
If you have conversion goals (like increasing email opt-ins or generating sales), then be sure to optimize your content for conversions as well. Include your call to action at the end of the article and places within the article. You may want to consider using highlighting or images to draw people’s attention to your call to action.
Promote the Content
When creating a content strategy, you also need to create a content promotion strategy. Creating content is wasted effort if your target audience is unable to discover it.
Content promotion is especially important when you are just starting out. Getting inbound links to your blog and having people share your content can drive traffic to your site and allow you to grow your audience. While growth may seem slow at first, it can accelerate over time as you accumulate more inbound links and more followers.
As more and more people become aware of your content, you can shift more of your resources towards content creation. Established sites like Hubspot, Entrepreneur and Martha Stewart already have a strong following so when they create content, many people will share and link to it without being asked.
So how can content marketers promote their content? Here are a few popular ways to promote content effectively.
1. Paid ads – Paid ads can be a fast way to get your content in front of your target audience and grow your email list or following.
You can target cold traffic using Facebook ads to target people based on their interests or Google ads to target searchers based on keywords they type into the search engines. You can also use retargeting to show ads to people who already visited your site in the past.
2. Social media and communities – After creating content, be sure to share it on social media and in communities (if it is allowed). It will become more effective if you spend time in those channels engaging other users and sharing other content.
3. Email marketing – Another effective way to promote content is through email marketing. Have at least one email opt-in form on your blog so that people can sign up to get notified when you release new content.
4. Other channels – Some other channels to consider for content promotion include guest posting, email outreach, and PR.
Keep your eye open for other channels to promote your content. You may want to experiment with promoting content on different channels and add new channels into your content promotion process as you go along.
5. Promote through multiple channels – To maximize your reach, promote your content through multiple channels.
Whatever channels you choose to promote your content, be sure to create a content promotion process so that you know exactly what to do after you publish each piece of content.
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In the end, it’s consistency that is most important with both content creation and promotion. If you do well with both, it will be difficult for your website’s traffic to not increase!
Clayton Johnson is the CMO of The HOTH SEO company. He has over 8+ years experience in the SEO industry and has spoken at events like SEJ Summit. The HOTH has been featured in Inc 5000, Forbes, SMX, Pubcon, Content Marketing World, Affiliate Summit, Brighton and more.