It’s safe to say that the digital age has completely transformed how we communicate.
From the advent of smartphones to the rise of social media, everyone’s connected, and always consuming. All of this noise though, means that consumers are increasingly blocking out many messages. The average person comes in contact with some 5,000 ads per day. No wonder we’re developing filters for some of it!
Because of this, smart companies today are slowly transitioning away from traditional methods of outbound marketing. Instead, they’re investing more heavily in content marketing.
Content marketing may sound like a vague concept –or a fancy name for blogging every so often, but don’t be fooled –it requires a commitment of time and resources to get it right. When done effectively, though, content marketing can be extremely effective; your secret weapon for gaining an edge above the competition.
If you’ve been looking to get serious with your content strategy for a while, this guide’s for you. In it, I’ll show you how you can create a winning strategy, and highlight you how you can create excellent content –the kind that resonates with your audience and generates results.
The Importance of Content Marketing
The results are in and the data’s clear.
On average, content marketing will generate 3x the leads as formerly popular outbound methods and costs a whopping 62% less to produce.
That is a significant savings and a huge increase in leads. If you could start using a new ad channel that would bring you 300% more leads, you would jump on it immediately!
Traditional advertising’s main goal is to interrupt customers to get noticed, but content marketing –when done right, is more about sparking a conversation, or building a relationship. It recognizes that successful communication is a two-way street, and it’s designed to offer prospects something they’re actually interested in: helpful, informational, engaging, sometimes-funny –content!
The reader will become more informed, aware, or entertained –while all the while the content will be helping to warm them to the idea of the products that you’re selling. It’s a great way to move prospects on down the sales funnel, and is a far cry from ads, which are more in your face, and therefore far more likely to be ignored.
Businesses that are still inundating their customers with in-your-face advertising and sales tactics that feel cheap, slimy, or underhanded, are living in the past. The same old ads that were used ten years ago simply aren’t going to work anymore.
As Neil Patel says, “In contrast to one-off advertising, content marketing shows that you actually care about your customers.”
“Today, more than ever before, people want to feel like you care about them. The world is louder and noisier than ever before, and attention is our most valuable resource.”
Your customers are attracted to authenticity, transparency, and friendliness. And in a world where these things are becoming increasingly hard to find, this is your opportunity to stand out.
Just to drive the point home, let’s take a quick look at the data.
There are numerous advantages to content marketing, and here are TEN reasons that you’ll want to focusing more on developing your own strategy:
- Sidestep ad overload. In 1984 a person saw an average of 2,000 ads per day. By 2014 that number was up to around 5,000. What happened in response? The ad blocker. There are currently 615 million devices with ad-blocking software according to the PageFair 2017 Global Adblock Report. With excellent content, you can sidestep the issue of ad overload, and give your prospects exactly what they’re looking for.
- Get targeted. Content marketing enables you to target specific audiences. For many businesses, the goal is to get their message in front of as many individuals as possible, but increasingly, businesses are starting to recognize the value of getting extremely targeted with their promotional campaigns. The beauty of content is that it is specifically tailored to a very specific group. Ideally, you want to attract a targeted audience with an interest in your products. You don’t need to convert every reader, but the audience is highly targeted and some of them will eventually become buyers.
- Boost traffic. According to HubSpot, publishing 16 or more blog posts a month equates to 3.5 times more traffic than businesses publishing 0-4 articles. Content marketing and blogging leads to leads. Period.
- Generate long-term returns. It’s not just a one-time return that you’ll get with content, with evergreen content –the returns can last for years. Instead of shelling out $1.50 per click, or whatever it costs for your business, you are able to attract 500 visitors, or, potential customers for the cost of writing one blog post. If you are strategic and focus on creating evergreen blog articles, you’ll get a lifetime return on your investment. That’s something that can never be achieved with a PPC campaign.
- Generate more leads. Small businesses that blog get 126% more lead growth than small businesses without. With 77% of internet users reading blogs, there’s a lot of opportunity with content –no matter who your audience is.
- Improve SEO. Looking to boost your on-page SEO and improve your organic ranking? Content creation is key. Businesses that take the time to populate their web pages with blog posts end up with 434% more search engine-indexed pages than ones without a blog.
- Build trust. Content builds trust and converts customers. Take the time to engage your customers and build trust. It will pay off. After reading recommendations on a blog, 61% of U.S. online consumers made a purchase.
- Provide value. Unlike traditional ads, content marketing provides something of value. Ads are annoying creatures whose sole purpose is to interrupt and distract us. Well-crafted content, on the other hand, is tailored to educate and inform. It’s a soft sell always, and that leads to customers developing a relationship with your brand and remaining engaged with your brand.
- Position yourself as an expert. Another key benefit of content is that it can help you to establish yourself as an expert in your niche. Provide helpful, informative, relative content –and it shows your audience that you know what you’re talking about.
- Get shares. They say a share is worth ten likes. And it’s true! Therein lies the beauty of content; people share it online and it has the potential to go viral. Take a look at your typical Facebook stream, about 90% of outside content shared is links to content. Not a link to a website. The key point is that people share content and not websites. A single blog post much more likely to go viral than a link to your site.
Getting Started With Content Creation
Hopefully, this sells you on the benefits of content creation.
The next step is to get started creating exceptional content –the kind your audience is interested in.
The 3D Content Model
One simple strategy to consider is the 3D Content Model.
Essentially, it’s three easy steps.
- Map your content to a customer’s pain point
- Then use the right type of content for that problem
- Finally, map the content to the buying cycle of the people who have that problem
This allows you to move away from the focus of the marketer, and instead pivot that attention to the person you’re trying to reach.
Remember, that is an essential step you are trying to achieve in your own content marketing strategy. Ensure that your content caters to the right people with the right problem that your product solves.
Naturally, you’ll want to adopt this method to fit your particular audience and marketing theories.
But no matter what content marketing strategy you use, you should always start with the who. Start with your target audience. Only then will you be able to come up with amazing content ideas that’ll attract the right eyeballs.
Here are a few key points to help you maximize your efforts:
- Your Needs Vs Your Customers’ Needs
Realize that there is a difference between what you want to write about, and what your customers want to read. Many businesses make the mistake of writing their blog about their business. Don’t do it.
Your readers care about themselves, not your business, so tailor your content appropriately. Instead take advantage by providing valuable content that your customers are looking for, in exchange for their attention.
This content can be entertaining or educational. Think of an in-depth guide, or a how-to article, or an entertaining video. Basically, anything that is an equitable trade for their valuable time and attention.
- Soft Sell… Always
Content should be primarily aimed at benefiting your customer and not promoting your products. Again, people want to read about things that will benefit them, not about how awesome your business or product is. Provide content that your customer wants 9 out of 10 times, and you will be handsomely rewarded with an engaged target audience.
- Cornerstone Content is Key
What is cornerstone content? It’s pieces that can be organized, categorized, and archived in a way that is easy for your customers to access. Also known as ‘evergreen content,’ it’s resources that provide incredible value to customers over a long period of time.
A great example is Copyblogger and their resources in the sidebar. The number one factor that cornerstone content contributes to is its ability to greatly increase the ROI of your content production. Each individual article contributes a return on your investment over a long period of time.
- Good Content Marketers Replicate
Learn how to research and learn what people want. I recommend starting out by visiting other sites within your industry. Look at their blog posts and see what is creating the most engagement. Also, visit platforms like Reddit or Quora. What type of questions are people asking? This is a fantastic way to perform a needs analysis on your target market. No need to reinvent the wheel, the information is already out there.
Develop Your Content Marketing Strategy
Your content creation strategy is about producing excellent content, your marketing strategy is about using that content. Think of it as the how and where of your content strategy. How you will use your content, and where you should publicize it.
Now, here’s a look at some tips you should follow when creating a content marketing strategy.
- Set Clear Goals –First up, what are your goals with your marketing strategy? Maybe it’s to raise awareness or draw in relevant leads? The more specific, the better. Once you’ve established your goals, you can work backward from there, mapping out steps that’ll help you to reach them.
- Know Your Audience – You won’t be able to create content that resonates with your readers if you don’t know who your target audience is in the first place. So if you haven’t done so already, sit down and come up with your target customers –people that you want to reach with your message. See: Creating an Avatar of Your Target Audience. (If you haven’t yet done this, I recommend starting today!)
- Establish KPIs –Next, you need a way to see if what you’re doing is working. This is where KPIs come in. Start by setting some clear key performance indicators that you can use to track your progress. Click-through rates, conversions, length of sales cycle, and customer lifetime value, for instance, are all KPIs that you’ll want to be tracking. See more content marketing KPIs.
- Figure Out the Best Channels –You’ll also need to determine which channels are best for your audience and brand. There’s no shortage of options out there, but you don’t want to waste time with platforms that aren’t a good fit. It’s important to determine where your audience is. In most cases, you’ll want to at least use Facebook, as there’s a good chance your audience is on there. Their ad platform is also extremely easy to use, and allows you to get extremely granular with your targeting strategy, thereby increasing its effectiveness. (For more on that, see my Facebook Ad Retargeting Guide!)
- Create a Content Calendar –If it’s not penciled in, it won’t happen. Make sure your content gets done by assigning dates to your pieces. This will keep you on track and moving forward. If you have a team working on content for you, this will keep everyone working toward the same goals. You’ll also want to give your marketing team access to the same schedule to ensure that everyone’s on the same page when it comes to topic timeliness as well.
- Determine What Type of Content You’re Going to Create –At this stage you’re probably thinking, “What type of content should I create?”
While there’s no shortage of options here, the best strategy is to focus on a few key types that you feel will resonate best with your audience, and on the platforms that you’ve chosen. Take a look:
As you can see, there are a ton of options.
Don’t let this overwhelm you.
Instead, think of this as an exercise to learn the benefits of each option, and determine which ones are the best fit for your particular endeavor. There’s no one correct answer; many paths can help you achieve your goal of increasing business revenue.
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Promoting and Distributing Your Content
You’ve got your strategy squared away, figured out who your audience is and written some amazing content to solve a problem of theirs.
It is not uncommon for content marketers to lose steam when attempting to get mileage out of their blog content. A scary stat from Buzzsumo states that approximately 50% of web content receives eight shares or less.
The issues can often lie in the lack of a cohesive content distribution strategy. This isn’t the field of dreams folks, you can build it but they won’t necessarily come. This is a game of quality over quantity, and you’d be surprised how far you can stretch a piece of content.
Hence the reason for the popularity behind principals such as the 80/20 rule. This rule states that you should spend approximately 80% promoting your blog posts and only 20% of your time creating them.
The result is a more efficient use of your time and an increased likelihood that your content is going to go the distance.
Now, here’s a look at some distribution tips, tactics, and tools to help you execute your own strategy effectively.
Develop Your Content Distribution Network
You’re going to have to take a hard look at who’s going to see and help promote your content.
Simply put, your distribution network will consist of people who want to hear what you have to say. Analyzing these relationships will ultimately determine how far a piece can potentially go.
No matter where you fall on the scale of “Likes” or “Followers,” nurturing these relationships will be an essential component contributing to your success. Before you worry about your metrics and engagement, take time to consider how you’re going to grow your network such as:
- Joining a LinkedIn group related to your industry and network
- Reaching out to other bloggers directly and sharing their content
- Helping to promote relevant industry content, tagging others, and sharing content
- Maintaining personal ties with people you meet via face-to-face networking who might give you a push
Connections are invaluable. You never know when someone might be able to help you to get your content in front of an even bigger audience. Just remember, it works both ways. Make sure you’re available to help them when they need a hand as well!
Scheduling and Social Sharing
This is not a one-trick pony. You should be continually writing and posting content on a regular basis. Simply writing a blog post and tweeting it out is not going to gain sufficient traction for you.
Scheduling your social media content is an absolute must for those who want to increase traffic and engagement.
News feeds are tricky beasts. You have to first make it through an algorithm, and then hopefully be seen while your customer is happily scrolling through. Be sure to post and re-post with different captions, hashtags, and imagery to keep from parroting yourself to your followers.
Don’t be discouraged because you didn’t get the engagement you were looking for the first time. Persistence is the name of the game here.
Answer Your Audience’s Questions
As I mentioned before, developing problem-solving blog posts are a great way to gain traction. Why not look at a site where problems are often solved: Quora.
Typically most “how to” or “why” queries punched into Google are directed to Quora, to have their burning questions answered, often by real-life experts.
Consider answering an in-depth question, while citing and sourcing your blog post. This is a brilliant move to stretch out your content and expand the umbrella of your distribution network as well.
Note that this is definitely not the area where you want to copy and paste your blog post. That will not gain you any fans on Reddit or Quora. We’re building relationships here.
Another great place to find relevant questions –and subsequently, content ideas, is Answer the Public. You can take your keywords and dump them into the system, and you’ll be able to see long-tail keywords –and questions that real people are asking. You’ll also get long-tail keywords that you can work with, providing inspiration for relevant content that people are genuinely interested in.
For example, by typing in “content creation” this is what you’ll get:
- Why digital content creation?
- What is content creation in digital marketing?
- How much does content creation cost?
The Gift of Content Republishing Hubs
It may seem counterintuitive to publish content beyond the realm of your own blog. But when you look at the amount of traffic platforms such as Medium and LinkedIn are able to garner, it’s obvious why so many marketers are double-dipping their content.
Medium is an “anything goes” type of publication, prime for business, marketing, and opinion pieces. Stories with a human interest angle tend to do especially well. There are multiple brands that regularly publish their blog content to the platform.
Marketers and brands are taking a similar approach to republishing on LinkedIn. By publishing content on LinkedIn’s internal article system, you are getting your message in front of professionals in your industry and market niche.
Getting started with content marketing can seem like a lot to take in at first. But don’t get overwhelmed. Keep it simple and remember the 3-D steps. Identify your audience, a problem they have and solve it. It’s really that simple.
Experiment with a different format, different channels until you find something that resonates with your audience. Don’t become discouraged if something doesn’t work. That’s fine too. It’s all about learning along the way and adjusting and improving your strategy as you go.
All the best in your content creation process! And remember, if you’d like help getting your content out to a wider audience, at Carrier Pigeon, we can help. Our content distribution platform makes it easy to publish content that gets noticed, giving you a long-term ROI on your content creation process. Visit Carrier Pigeon today for your FREE consultation.
Still have an appetite to learn more?
Here’s an exhaustive list of resources to help you out.
Content Marketing Resources
Must-Read Articles for Getting Started With Content Marketing
- Is Content Marketing Right for My Business?- An overview and guide on content marketing. This article helps you determine if content marketing is right for your business and how to apply it strategically.
- 10 Content Marketing Goals Worth Pursuing– They provide 10 benchmarks content marketers need to think about when embarking on a content marketing strategy.
- The Time For Content Marketing Is Now– This is an older article, but still presents some very timely and important information for an individual or company looking at pursuing a content marketing strategy.
- A Five-step Planning Process for Content Marketers– Econsultancy provides a useful outline here for getting your own content strategy build for next to nothing.
- A Step-by-Step Guide to Audience Development– An excellent discussion on consumer behavior and the psychology, and how you can apply that to your strategy.
- Words That Convert: Test, Learn, Repeat– Some words are better than others, learn from the pros what words convert.
- The Periodic Table of Content – This looks at varying types of content and breaks it down into ‘elements’ on a periodic table. An easy way for visual learners to see what types of content there are how long they should make each type.
- The Ultimate Guide to Creating Remarkable Content – This is a monster sized guide from Ramit Sethi. Yes, it seems like it would be pitchy, no its not. Good info in here.
- The Complete Guide to Keyword Research– An essential part of any good content strategy is good SEO. This is a good place to start.
- How to Build an Audience that Builds Your Digital Business– This is Copyblogger’s introduction to audience development and content marketing.
YouTube Channels for Content Marketing
- Neil Patel – Who hasn’t heard of Neil Patel? This guy is literally everywhere, you can read him on his blog and Quicksprout. Not to mention he’s a co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, and Kissmetrics. His videos are of particular interest because he does a great job at short-form content with a TON of info!
- Google Analytics– Yes, I get it. Some of us would rather chew sand rather than watch videos about analytics. Just remember, at some point, you’re going to have to measure and A/B test your content, and ultimately GA is an ideal spot to do that.
- Backlinko– Subscribe to learn from the guru Brian Dean, he provides actionable info on SEO, link building and other strategies.
- The GaryVee Video Experience– True, most of Gary Vaynerchuck’s stuff is about entrepreneurship, not content marketing, however, he drops some excellent nuggets of info from time to time, particularly when it comes to social media strategy.
Websites for Content Marketing Tips
- SEMrush– Besides being a favorite keyword research tools, SEMrush provides in-depth, well-researched articles that help us execute on our content marketing strategy, and not leave anything on the table!
- Moz- The Moz Blog is chocked full of the latest research and is a huge help for analyzing SEO and establishing metrics. Another useful tool from the team at Moz is their Firefox and Chrome extension. A must use for anyone serious about SEO.
- Content Marketing Institute– This is a monster resource that produces almost too much for any human to take in on a regular basis. If you’re on your content marketing game already, this is a great spot to improve your efforts and results.
- HubSpot– One of the oldest and most prolific resources on the web. Choose from any of the three categories on their blog (marketing, sales, and agency), you’ll find excellent info on content marketing in all of them.
- CopyBlogger– Copyblogger has a fantastic blog that helps content marketers to find new, creative content marketing strategies. Another great resource is the Copyblogger FM podcast, a great way to be in the know, while you’re on the go!
Keyword Research Tools
- Google Keyword Planner– The Google Keyword Planner tool is one of the most used and popular keyword research tools out there. Part of its appeal is the fact that it’s free, and integrates directly with Google Ads.
- SEMrush– A paid alternative to Google Keyword planner with a ton of different options. You can add your URL, or a competitor’s URL –and see keywords that are ranking for it.
- Ahrefs– Provides very extensive keyword detail for a low monthly price ($7/mo), another benefit is their use of clickstream data to show how many potential clicks you’d receive from a given search.
- LongTailPro– This is another paid tool that will help you find niche aka long-tail keywords that your competitors may not be going after.
- KWFinder– A new arrival in the KW research market. It features a clean interface and the ability to drive highly targeted traffic.
- SpyFU– An awesome tool for spying on your competition! Search for any competitor, and see their keywords. A great way to learn your rivals’ PPC & SEO tricks and avoid their mistakes.
- SERPStat– All-in-one SEO platform which provides search volume competition, CPC, and keyword difficulty score.
- Ubersuggest– This is Neil Patel’s keyword tool. Bare bones keyword tool but very effective and free!
- Answer the Public– As mentioned above, it’s a great tool for seeing questions that are being asked.
Help Your Content to Rank Well
- MarketMuse– A great resource to help you create content that’ll rank well. This tool will show you what you can do to help improve your content’s chances of ranking higher in search.
- Surfer SEO– Likewise, Surfer SEO is a great way to get data-driven advice. You can see changes that’ll help your posts to rank better through the use of easy-to-follow recipes.
- The Beginner’s Guide To Blogging & Content Marketing – This ebook will teach you the ins and outs of content marketing. See how to source freelance writers, promote your blog, and more.
- The Contently Content Maturity Model – How to adapt to an ever-changing market, remain relevant and compete.
- A Practical Guide to Creating Killer Content – An easy to follow guide on strategy and development that everyone should read.
- Lean Content Marketing: How to Create Content on a Budget– Awesome guide for start-ups and solo-prenuers. Learn to swing above your weight!
More Insane Lists of Marketing Resources
- Content Marketing Tools: The Ultimate List
- The Only Guide to Content Marketing You’ll Ever Need
- 323 Content Marketing Resources: Tips, Strategies, Examples, Tools, & More!
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