In 2008, Seth Godin said “Content Marketing is the Only Marketing Left”. 11 years later, it is safe to say he is still right. Even more so. Especially for startups and SMEs.
In the world of giant PPC spendings, content marketing is how SMEs and startups compete with big companies in the digital world.
Content marketing is how good marketing is done in 2019.
Content marketing is not just a marketing tactic or an addition to your digital marketing stack.
Content marketing is the foundation of link building, lead generation, sales, branding and customer engagement/retention, among other things. Just like in basketball, a good sensible offense is the first step to playing good defense, a good content marketing strategy is the foundation of any digital marketing effort.
Obviously content marketing makes you more money by generating more leads and increasing sales, but it also;
- establishes you as a thought leader
- cuts costs as it is cheaper compared to alternative forms of marketing and generates sales more efficiently
- pulls in unexpected customers
- builds valuable relationships with your audience
- helps make a personal connection
- positions you as a helpful resource
- enhance your brand image
- shows people your human side
- boosts customer engagement
- attracts people with real interest in your brand
- attracts job seekers and helps you to recruit the right employee
- improves your customer experience
- helps grow a long-term audience
- creates informed buyers
- gives you the opportunity to experiment
- gives you more control over your message
- is recyclable and a natural fit for buying psychology
- makes it easy to create additional value in the future
- gives you the opportunity to find out what’s important to your customers.
The list can go on but if you are reading this article, chances are you don’t need to be convinced about the importance of the content marketing. Because, the big question in content marketing is “how”, rather than “why”.
47.000.000 pieces of content are shared online every day. An average internet user is exposed to 20.000 ads each day. 50% of all content receives less than 8 shares. 75% of all content fails to generate any backlink. How can companies and startups create and execute a content marketing strategy that actually works?
Table of Contents
Important Notes and General Marketing Principles
Let’s start with the basics.
If you are a company or brand (not a content marketer or marketing agency); before worrying about content marketing, make sure that you have a general marketing strategy in place. You need to understand what your goals are, who you’re targeting, and what content is needed, in that order.
No type of content will be able to do anything for you unless you already have a working marketing funnel or validated lead generation systems and customer lifecycle process in place. If you do not have those, you will need to pay someone to build one or pay freelancers to constantly test things out. The best content marketing in the world does nothing for you if you don’t have landing pages or funnels and sequences and/or sales team that convert.
Again, the best marketing in the world does nothing for you if there is no demand for what you are doing or selling. At the end of the day, it comes down to demand. If 1000 well-targeted unique visitors see your content or product/service and none of them take action; then there is nothing a content marketing agency/expert can do for you. At that point, you need a business consultant to validate your business, not a marketing expert.
If your company is starting from scratch or you do not have a working funnel in place, your content marketing will look like “testing this” and “testing that”. This is why every marketing agency or marketer would prefer to work with a business that’s been around for 3 or more years and has steady cash flow as well as a sufficient marketing budget. Any kind of digital marketing activity requires building momentum and content marketing is no exception. If a company does not have a marketing channel currently operating and converting, it takes time to build. Marketing is all about trust and trust takes time. People need to hear or see your marketing message at least seven times before they buy from you.
“Half the money you spend on marketing will deliver results, the other half will be a waste; the trouble you don’t know which half.”
In content marketing, slow and steady wins the race. If you are tight on resources (time, money, patience and so on) you better spend your resources on PPC and Social Media Marketing where you can get a more immediate return on your investment and analyze the results better.
Many companies view content marketing as some kind of “magic black box”. They know they need to do it and they probably heard somewhere that “content marketing is effective”, so they throw money at it and hope they’re doing it right. This is also called “pay-and-pray”. If you are thinking that creating a bunch of articles without any defined planning or strategy will somehow help you grow your business, be ready to make some expensive mistakes and completely wasted labor hours. Without proper planning and distribution, your content marketing will not get anywhere.
Content marketing; strategy, creation and implementation, is NOT cheap. Just like anything else in the digital world, just will get what you pay for. If you pay peanuts, you will get monkeys. If a content marketer or copywriter can deliver 3X or more on marketing spend consistently, they know their value and will charge accordingly. Same for a copywriter who can 5X your click-through rate. Nobody that delivers results consistently and is earning your business a 300% ROI or more (and using premium digital marketing tools that costs hundreds $$$ every month) is going to do so for a $15-$20 an hour after-tax with no benefits. You may think you can try to ”find a diamond in the mud” but that is rarely the case.
Good content marketers know that serious results can only come with the budgets to back them. If a content marketer accepts to work with less than $5,000 a month in spend (content strategy+creation+distribution) he will be very upfront with you that it will probably take months to get any kind of notable results. Your budget usually determines what you can do and how quick you can do those things.
In short, content marketing (or, any kind of marketing) is not a magic stick, rather it is a “science”. When implemented right, it generates great results in a substantial amount of time. But, no content marketing can make up for a bad sales team, bad customer support or bad product. Understanding these and being realistic will really help you along the way.
What is Content Marketing?
Wikipedia defines content marketing like this;
A form of marketing focused on creating, publishing and distributing content for a targeted audience online.
And I think this is a brilliant definition. In short content marketing really comes down to these; targeting – creating – publishing – distribution.
- Targeting -You have to pick and define personas who you think will be interested in your product/service and you have pick topic ideas for them.
- Creating – You have to create an epic piece of content that your audience will love reading.
- Publishing -You have to present your content in a way that is appealing and easy to read.
- Distributing – You have to bring your content to people where they spend their online time.
‘No wind favors he who has no destined port.’
You shouldn’t dive into any content marketing campaign without knowing exactly who your potential customers/users are. If you do, you might be wasting time and money on people who are not interested in your business or products. Before making any effort with content, you have to decide who do you want to be aware of your product/service?
“When you speaking to everyone, you are actually speaking to no one. If “everyone” is your potential customer, then no one is your potential customer.
When creating target groups, most marketers look at the numbers. I think it is a big mistake. It is important to target the “right” people, rather than “lots of” people. It is a big world, you can happily ignore most of the people in it”.
If you do not have an existing audience, it is a good idea to target a small but passionate group of people, rather than shooting for the stars. Your initial target group is probably going to a combination of different interest, such as ”LGBT soccer fans who live in Colorado.” It is probably not millions of people, it is a very targeted group who are most probably very passionate about their values and lifestyle.
A good concept to study around about subject is 1000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly. In his words;
A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author – in other words, anyone producing works of art – needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.
A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce.
They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up.
They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.
You need to find 1,000 people who would be interested in buying what you create. If you can do this, you can make enough money to live comfortably for the rest of your life and you can see where you can go from 1,000.
But how to find 1,000 True Fans?
By persona creation and keyword research.
Buyer personas are the foundation of an effective content marketing strategy.
A buyer persona is a detailed description of your target customer. A fully fleshed out buyer persona includes everything from demographic information to hobbies, and from career history to family size – all written as if the persona were a real person. It is a segment of fictional characters. To create efficient content is to imagine a fictional character.
A marketing persona is a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience. For content marketing purposes, you need personas to help you deliver content that will be most relevant and useful to your audience.
It is important to be realistic when creating personas though. We live in the real world and your persona is exposed to your competitor’s marketing messages as well as yours. A persona is basically someone who has a higher probability of engaging with you and your customer/user one day and feel happy about it.
How to Create Personas?
You can create buyer persona in two ways; by analyzing numbers and by talking to your target audience directly.
Conduct traditional market research – If you have the budget to do so, investing in focus groups or one-on-one interviews with your target customers can provide great data for your buyer personas.
Send out questionnaires – You can also generate a tremendous amount of information by sending questionnaires containing the questions listed above to your existing customer base. If possible, consider offering a small incentive (like a coupon or free sample product) to customers that complete your survey.
Check your website and social media analytics – While analytics programs can’t tell you who your target customers should be, they can provide demographic data about the people who are currently interacting with your site and your social profiles.
Talk to your employees – Your customer-facing employees likely have a wealth of information about the people they work with, but you won’t know unless you ask!
Guess based on past experiences – If you’re short on time or money, you can always answer the questions based on your own observations. While this data may be subject to observer bias, it may be enough to inform your future marketing initiatives.
Here is the 10 indispensable data points that I recommend using in all content marketing projects.
Ethnicity or Origin
Location (Country and City as well as Urban, Rural, Home Type etc)
Level of Education
A Sample Persona Creation Questionnaire
- Which gender is my ideal customer?
- What age is my ideal customer?
- Where is my ideal customer from?
- What education level did my ideal customer reach?
- What ethnicity is my ideal customer?
- Are politics or religion important to my ideal customer?
- What are my ideal customer’s interests?
- What are my ideal customer’s values?
- What are my ideal customer’s desires?
- What is my ideal customer’s job title?
- What are my ideal customer’s struggles?
- What are my ideal customer’s internal challenges?
- What are my ideal customer’s external challenges?
- Where can I find my ideal customer?
- How does my ideal customer spend money?
- How much does my ideal customer earn?
- Does my ideal customer have pets?
- Does my ideal customer have children?
- Is my ideal customer married?
- Is my ideal customer LGBTQIA+?
- Is my ideal customer religious?
- How does your audience spend their time when they’re not engaging with you? Do they love reality entertainers, Latino music or NBA players – or are they too busy with outdoor sports to even notice those guys?
- What brands does my ideal customer like? Do they Walmart or Whole Foods? Forever XXI or Louis Vuitton?
- Does my ideal customer live in urban, suburban or rural?
- How big is my ideal customer’s family?
- What is my ideal customer’s primary goal in life?
- What is my ideal customer’s secondary goal in life?
- Is my ideal customer liberal or conservative?
- Does my ideal customer watch Fox News or CNN?
- What causes or charities do my ideal customer care about?
- Does my ideal customer care more about saving puppies or donating blood?
For example, if you were a coffee shop called “Free People” in San Francisco, you might want to create a buyer persona like this:
This profile paints a clear picture of the type of people this coffee shop might want to target: A young, millennial, hipster, socially conscious individual.
Another user-persona example; so-called “book nerd”. A perfect persona for an online bookstore.
Before you even write a single word of content, you have to know which keywords you want to rank high on search engines.
The keywords that you choose to target can make all the difference for your business so do your best to make sure your keyword research game is on point.
A dream keyword would be highly-relevant, high-volume, low-competition and high-buyer intent.
Here is the characteristics of the keyword that you want to target;
1-Relevance – You do not have to target “exact matches” every time but the keywords that you choose must be relevant to your audience.
2- Search Volume – More searches means more visitors and more visitors means more customer.
How many searches is good? It is impossible to tell if a search volume is high enough or not. I know the keywords with a search volume of 1.300 but actually represent a several billion dollar industry. There are still niches of the web that can grow multi million $$ businesses with less than 100 visitors/day.
3- Competition – If a keyword represents high business value, there will be more competition naturally. It is always a good idea to assess the competition and search the long tail or alternative versions to find the keywords that are in the sweet spot of medium-volume and medium-competition.
4- Intent – Search intent is probably the most underrated aspect of the keyword research. Words like “download”, “free” “for students” “torrent” “pdf” “crack” usually signals low buyer intent. You not necessarily looking for a customer who is at the end of the funnel, looking at the results with his credit card in his other hand but you do not want to have free-riders as well.
Keyword Research Example
Let’s say I am a “Personal Financial Advisor” and I am located in “Atlanta, Georgia” and serve clients both “face-to-face” and “online” and after spending some time doing keyword research and I came up with 8 keywords. Now I am trying to decide which keywords I should prioritize and which ones I shouldn’t even bother at all.
I will input my keyword in an excel file and I give each keyword a score from 0 from 100 according to their relevancy, volume, competition level and intent.
Relevancy – If the keyword is super valuable, it gets 100. If it is not relevant at all, it gets 0.
Search Volume – There is no arbitrary number here, so you can’t say 1000 search per month is good or bad. The volume will depend on your industry. Some industries have high search volumes but low value and some industries have lower search volumes but high value. In my industry, 1000 searches per month is a very good volume, so what I do is I divide the search volume to 10. If search volume is 720 per month, then search volume score is 72.
Competition – There are SEO tools to measure the competition for keywords but I prefer to assess the competition manually. What I do is, I analyze the results on the first page of Google, the metrics such as Domain Authority, Page Authority, backlinks to domain, backlinks to ranked page, social shares and it gives me a rough idea if my site/page can rank on the first page for my target keyword or not. For example, if the competition is super high for my keyword and I have to compete with DA90 websites with thousands of backlinks to the page, it is a 0. If the first result is a DA12 site with only 2 backlinks to the page, it is a 100. If you are not on the first page of Google for your search term, so may as well be on the 10th page, so there is no point in spending any money or time for a keyword that you have a good possibility to rank in the first page.
Intent – Search intent (also known as commercial intent or keyword intent) is the ultimate goal of the person making that specific search on a search engine. You want your targeted keywords to have a higher commercial intent and try to stay away from keywords that include common “free rider” keywords, such as “free” “download” “torrent”. This way you will have a better chance to serve you content to people who are more interested to what you do and stay as much possible away from people who will never buy anything from you in a million years.
Do I Need a Financial Advisor? – Perfect keyword! It is perfectly relevant with what I do, search volume is satisfactory, competition is beatable and search intent is very commercial. My go-to keyword!
Personal Finance Tips – Still a very good keyword and topic idea. It is relevant enough and search volume is good. Competition is a bit tough and search intent is a bit top of the funnel. Still workable though.
Financial Advisors in Atlanta – Another good keyword, even though this keyword has a relatively low search volume, it has good relevancy because of proximity and search intent is very commercial.
Personal Finance Advisor Salary – An O.K. keyword. It doesn’t have good commercial intent and competition is on the high side, but volume is good and relevancy high. Also, writing about this subject can help me gain credibility and position me as an expert in my field.
How to Select a Financial Advisor? – Sub-par keyword. Though it is relevant, the search volume is very low and competition is okay, commercial intent is not that high and search volume is really low. I may come back to this keyword once I run out of content ideas but I can really find tens of other keywords with better search volume and higher commercial intent.
How to Become a Personal Financial Advisor? – Not a very good keyword because of the low commercial intent. It would help me gain credibility but as I already picked another keyword to work on for that matter (Personal Finance Advisor Salary), I will skip this keyword.
Personal Financial Advisor Jobs – People who are using this search term are either Personal Financial Advisors looking for a job or people planning to be a Personal Financial Advisor and exploring job opportunities. Not relevant at all either way so I will skip this one.
Personal Finance Book PDF – By all means, “skip”. Zero commercial intent, as “PDF” is an alert for low search intent. When a keyword has zero search intent, I do not even bother looking at the other metrics, I just skip and not be bothered with this keyword at all.
As you see, I graded each keyword and now I have a clear idea of which keywords to target and in which order.
Where to Find Keyword Ideas?
Ahrefs Content Explorer – Ahrefs Content Explorer allows you to see the most-shared and most-popular content about any industry, keyword, topic. Enter a topic or keyword related to your industry and you can sort them with backlinks, social media shares, age and so on.
Another thing you can do with Ahrefs Content Explorer is stealing competitor contents. Enter a competitor domain and see which content performs the best for them, which topic and areas they cover and or do not cover so that you can make better-informed decisions about your content marketing strategy.
Google Keyword Planner – Offical search volume information from Google.
Google Trends – Google trends is the place where you can find what people are most curious in time.
KeywordTool.io – A free tool to come up with keyword ideas, questions related to your keywords and Youtube-Amazon-Instagram-Twitter searches. Very valuable.
Online Forums – Online communities such as Reddit can give you lots of keyword ideas that you can never find on Google Keyword Planner or any SEO tool. Sub-reddit and Quora topics are a great place to start keyword research.
Facebook and Linkedin Groups – Facebook and Linkedin groups are amazing places not only for networking but also keyword/topic discovery. You can engage with your audience directly on Facebook Groups, directly ask them what are their struggles and problems and also come up with new ideas just by watching the discussion.
Fundamentals of Writing
John Wooden wasn’t a great basketball player. But, he is widely considered the best basketball coach of all time.
“You do not need to be a horse first to become a jockey.” In the same way, you do not have to be a great content writer to manage a successful content marketing campaign.
Writing is not my greatest strength. I am not a great content writer. I can write a good email copy, I can write a good blog post, I can write a sales copy. But, I prefer to focus on the content strategy and content distribution part of content marketing as I can easily find people who can do the writing part much better than I can.
But, I know how great content is created and what a great piece of content looks like.
Here is the truth: Not everyone can write a new Harry Potter. But with enough effort, everyone can write another article about ”5 Best Exercises For Burning Belly Fat”. While creative writing is truly a respectable ”skill”. copywriting (or, business writing) is more of a ”science”. Copywriting is a planned, brushed out, commercial type of writing.
Content Elements & Structure
There are five elements of a great piece of content.
- Title(Headline) – An effective title is an indispensable part of an effective content strategy. A great content starts with a great title. The best content in the world will never go far if no one clicks the headline. Your title should be unique, clear, specific and intriguing. You can try to place a number, a power word and a benefit to your title as well.
- Body – This is the actual body of your content, your words.
Introduction – Try to present the problem in the first few sentences of your content. This is your chance to either catch or lose them. Be relatable, briefly mention the benefits & tease how to get them, briefly introduce the topic and promise to teach people how it works
Sub-headers / Chapters – Start chapters with a brief introduction to the subtopic. Detail the benefits and give a summary of the chapter. Sell the value of the content, show results & benefits. Make it actionable, give plenty of detail
Conclusion – Contrast your solution with common inferior approaches. Add a brief summary and a motivational line.
- Tone – You have to match your audience’s tone and vocabulary to become more engaging. Use an academic and encyclopedic tone if your audience is university professors, a more juvenile tone if you are targeting college students.
Do not get too personal – Your reader should feel like you are either talking to them or talking about them in most of the content unless you are telling a relatable personal story. Remember, this is not your diary.
Keep Your Audience in Mind – you only know your audience best so decide how much information they want, how much they already know and what they trying to learn from your content. For example, the level of this article is “intermediate”, I do not explain what is SEO, what is a website or what is digital marketing, but I still try to touch the bottom-ground and keep it simple as much as possible so that more people can benefit from it.
Use a simple vocabulary – you have a better flow when you use simple vocabulary and your content is easier to consume.
Keep your sentences as short as possible – a simple rule thumb here is this, if you can’t finish reading a sentence before running out of breath, then it is too long.
- Goal – You have to decide if you want your content to, A-) attract relevant search traffic from our target audience B-) generate links to the website to help you improve our rankings and search visibility C-) gain traction and authority in the space, grow your brand presence through social media. You will NEVER achieve all of these 3 with a piece of content. You will RARELY achieve two of these with one content. But aiming all these three with your content is a sure way to failure. Trying to create a piece content that will go viral on Facebook, generate 1,000 links, and also have long-term search value sounds like a great deal but it is like trying to scratch your ear with your elbow.
- Ask (Call-to-Action) – Here is where you take a first time visitor or an existing customer and get them engaged to take action. This is your ask. Make sure that you are clearly delivering your value proposition while using a command verb; click here to buy this knife set, subscribe below to download this great guide, apply now to enroll, and so on. This should be obvious if you are familiar with Human Psychology 101, do not be passive and use sentences like, you can get this here or this product is available here. Tell them exactly what do you want them to do.
Content Writing Checklist
- Is your title striking and explanatory?
- Did you include your target keyword to your title, the URL and first 50 words?
- Are you really talking to your customer or user? Are you using the language and the vocabulary that they use? Are you talking the way that they are talking?
- Does your voice and tone fit your target audience?
- Does your content have a ”flow”?
- Did you use too many buzzwords?
- Did you use too many passive sentences?
- Do you have any unnecessarily long sentences?
- Do you have any unnecessarily long paragraphs?
- Does your content have a proper structure? (intro-body-conclusion or intro-body-ask)
- Did you use subheadings properly?
- Did you include relevant visuals such as images, videos, slideshows, quotes?
- Did you really deliver your message clearly to your audience? Did you really make a point?
- Is your content really (I mean, really) valuable? If someone from your target audience spends 15 minutes reading your piece of content, is that really going to be a 15 minutes well-spent?
- Did you proofread your content and check for grammar mistakes? Or better did you have an editor proofread your content?
Types of Content
How-to Guides & Tutorials
A how-to post is written with the aim of providing detailed and practical advice about the way to do something. How to posts and tutorials are still the most-common content format and there are literally hundreds of ways to write them, in questions-answers format, in lists format, or plain text format.
They tend to be longer with multiple sub-headings and they are usually evergreen posts.
A good how-to post should be clear, useful, formatted nicely with easy to digest sections and it should include a mix of content and visual elements to keep it interesting: text, bullet points, infographics, quizzes, images & videos, quotes and slideshow.
Listicles (lists posts) rule the internet now. They are visual, light, easier to consume and shareable. Listicles usually have an eye-catching title, and start with a short introduction, followed by list items numbered and a conclusion; lots of images placed here and there. Most shared listicles all have a catchy title, lots of images, a compact text and between 10-20 list items.
Surveying people about a topic relevant to your audience and publishing the results of the survey on your site. Most people find content that contains data and numbers more trustworthy so they will be more aligned to read, engage and link. Survey-result contents work great for link building and they tend to rank high on Google for “question” type keywords.
The story of a particular customer/user and role you or your product/service played in solving one of their problems. A case study usually includes testimonials, screenshots, industry data. It is very important to include social proof as well. And make sure that you have achieved a significant result for the client/user that you are mentioning in your case study. Writing a mediocre results case study is worse than not writing it at all. Make sure you are actually telling the story of your customer/user, rather than bragging about your product/service. Try your best to make your case study look like a story, not a boring technical post.
Interviews are authority-setting contents as they provide great value to your audience and boost the credibility of you or your product/service.
A good interview content should be more than just emailing the expert a list of question and publishing his answers. Try to have a phone or video interview as long as it is possible. Do not conduct a banal interview, try to get more conversational. Have a list of questions that you are planning to ask, start with chit-chat and ask your questions as they are appropriate.
News content about you, your product/service, your industry, your customers or anything else that can be interesting to your audience. You may try to add a little sauce with a little commentary or a catchy headline as well.
Opinion and Editorials
A piece of content that either defends rejects and idea or opinion. Written by journalists, newspaper employees or academicians. Rarely used in business. Usually have a more political and controversial tone.
Example: The Stacey Abrams Revolution
91 percent of people regularly read online reviews before making a purchase and 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Whether it is a product/service review or a comparison post, online reviews are big part of online buying journey.
An expert roundup post is like a combination of an interview and a listicle. Similar to interviews, you come up with an interesting question such as “If you had to xyz, what would be your approach / what tools would you use” and then send this question to different experts in your niche through email or social media, asking them their input on this subject. Once you have the responses, you gather the answers and create a post. It is as easy as that!
Expert roundups can be very effective depending on your niche and people included in the roundup since it comprises of advice from multiple experts.
Resource & Guides
A resource or guide is a list of the solutions or tools that you recommend with a short description of what they are, how they work and why your audience will benefit from using them. It can be any kind of resource from software and web hosting, to books, training programs, and conferences you recommend. The only requirement is that your recommendations must benefit your audience.
Example: MBA Resources Page on MBAwave
Though it is currently overused and even abused by marketers, turning data to beautiful visuals is a great way to reach some segments of your target audience where you can’t reach with text, audio or video. Infographics are very shareable and work great for link building as well.
Example: How to Stop Worrying – Infographic
Another trendy content type, thanks to Buzzfeed. You can engage your audience with quizzes, personality tests, polls and give them a voice in the content you produce with quiz-type content while also providing a fun and engaging experience.
Social Media Posts
Social media posts can go viral at times and let you reach to thousands of people with minimal effort and spending. For example, the tweet below reached to more than 230,000 people. Crazy number, considering I spent less than 30 seconds creating the tweet.
Posted on relevant discussion forums, forum posts can provide great benefits, be it lead generation or website visits or e-mail subscribers. The key thing here is “relevant forums”.
Adding slideshows to your content marketing mix is a smart decision for reaching people who prefer to consume content as a visual presentation rather than plain text. You can create a slideshow from the scratch or you can turn an existing piece of content to a slideshow to reach a different segment of potential customers. Slideshows are very useful for explaining complex matters as well.
I always feel skeptical about considering “video” as a pure form content, because, I think you can say “video is the most popular form of content marketing today”, but you can also say “video marketing and content marketing are different things”. This is mainly because how you prepare a video and blog post are totally different processes, how people consume both types of content is different and also how Google ranks and video and a blog post is different. I guess covering video marketing will need a whole different article.
Again, the same thing with video marketing. Though there is no escaping that podcast are incredibly useful for credibility, delivering message and link building, they are a bit out of the scope of this article. If you are interested, here is a great guide by Scott Britton about podcast marketing.
Bonus: Repurposing: Creating Content without Creating Content
You do not always have to create content to have new content.
Sounds confusing, I know.
Let me give you an example.
- Let’s say you interview an expert or a big name in your industry (here is the key; the initial content must be super-valuable so that you can re-purpose it and still have good content.) for your podcast. And you publish it in your podcast distribution channels, as usual, your blog, SoundCloud, podcast directories and the other channels you use.
- You also record the whole podcast with and post the video to YouTube and Vimeo.
- You take the excerpts from that video (short 20-30 seconds content, like teasers) and post them to Facebook-Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram.
- Create a short blog post related to interviewing (e.g. – 3 Things I Learned From Interviewing Name-Surname) – embed the podcast audio and video to your blog post as well.
- Search Quora for questions related to your content and link back to the original podcast or your blog post.
- Transcribe the interview to text and publish it on Reddit and Medium
- Create quote graphics from the video and publish on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram
- Try to turn some of the conversations to an infographic, if applicable.
- Create a quick slideshow about the interview and share it on Slideshare.
See what I did there? I turned one interview to 9 different content formats with minimal effort and spending – I squeezed all the juice out of my orange. I did my best to got more out of my content investment.
If Content is King then Design is the Castle
Good design makes more people read your content, it increases conversion rates and trust.
Here are the elements of good design;
- Make sure the content is the main focus on the screen. One sidebar is fine – preferably on the right side but two sidebars is a no-no.
- Do not create a mish-mash with the colors. Try to use white and tones of one dominant color (shades of blue or shades of green etc.) but do not use too many different colors. Also, stay away from the pale gray color as much as possible.
- Do not have too many banners.
- No pop-ups.
- Responsive – this should be obvious but I am surprised that still how many sites are not responsive in 2019 considering 57% of web traffic is now coming from smartphones and tablets and that responsiveness is a top Google ranking factor.
- Do not have too many elements. This is one common mistake, but people usually forget what they are trying to achieve with that page. If you have 3 contact forms, 4 lead generation forms, 2 banners, 3 call-to-actions in a page, guess what, people will not take ANY action. This is called decision fatigue. Be clear about what are you trying to achieve with your page. Are trying to have more e-mail subscribers? Are you trying to generate more leads? Are you trying to make a sale? Be clear about your purpose and only have relevant elements on the page. My recommendation would be two different elements maximum, e.g. one CTA and one email subscription form.
Content SEO – Optimizing Content for Search Engines
Even though SEO is a red ocean by itself, you can start with doing your best to optimize your content for search engines.
Search engines are still the lifeblood for many sites. Difference between being on page 1 and page 2 is huge or being on the 7th position or 3rd position can mean thousands of visits every month, hence thousands in revenue.
If you want your content to rank high on search engines, you have to understand the search engines. There are more than 200 ranking factors Google use.
Content SEO Elements
- Title: Your page title is your way of saying to search engines that “this is what this page is all about.” Even though search engines got much smarter in years and Google now use Rankbrain to understand the content better, a good page title is still an important part of on-page SEO. A good page title is descriptive, it includes your keyword and your brand. A good configuration, also the default configuration that Yoast suggests is Page Title – Separator – Brand Name.
- URL: The best URL structure for SEO is short and includes the keyword. If your post title is “19 Adorable Puppy Photos That You will Fall in Love Instantly” and you are trying to rank for the keyword “puppy photos”; then your URL should be; yoursite.com/puppy-photos/
- Heading Tags: Heading tags are used to show search engines the headings on a page. <h1> is the first heading of your web page theme, and it is the title of the page. If that is your homepage, h1 is the title of your website. It is followed by <h2> and <h3> so on; <h6> is the least important heading. You usually never use <h1> manually as it is set to page title by the theme setting in most cases. You may have multiple <h2> on your page or you may have several <h3> headings as subs of <h2> and so on. Heading tags are basic technical knowledge, but you will be surprised how many SEOs still have no clue about how to use them. I have seen blog posts with 100s of <h1>, or the whole post is written in <h6> which is a terrible practice and cause significant penalties. You can read more on heading tags here.
- Meta Description: Think of meta description as your summary on search engines. It is not visible on the front end but visible to the search engines. It is one of the biggest factors in the click-through rate. Do not automate the meta descriptions, try to in a way “sell” your content in 160 characters and make sure it includes your target keyword.
- Keyword Density: Keyword density was a big deal in SEO a couple of years ago. Surely it is not as important as before but it is still a relevancy signal. If your keyword density is below 1% or over 5%, there is probably something wrong with your content.
- Internal Links: Internal links both help your visitors to visit other content and also help search engines to understand your site better. You should keep it to a sweet number too, it is important not to go overboard and only link to your significant content. Do not link whenever you have an opportunity. Be careful with anchor texts as well, too many anchor texts makes your content look spammy and also Google is now smart enough to understand the content of the link that you are pointing to.
- Outbound Links: Make sure that you add at least one outbound link to your content. Linking to high authority sites is a signal that you referenced to reliable sources while creating your content. Try to add at least one followed outbound link to every article you write. Which sources did you consult and which ones gave you the right answer? Refer and link to them.
- Image Optimization: Image optimization makes it easier for search engines to find and understand your images. Add alt attribute (alternative text) to your images and name your images properly. Speaking about image optimization, use a plugin to optimize your image sizes so that your page will load faster, as load time is an important ranking factor.
- Robots.txt – Make sure you allow search engines to crawl your site. If you know what does this mean, great. If you don’t, do not mess around as it is a very powerful thing and cause a significant problem in case of a wrong configuration so either have an expert check this for you or learn in detail before you edit it.
Content distribution and promotion is an area where many companies and even marketers fail. They say “content is the king”, create a really useful, well-written piece of content and then sit on it. They make no effort or spend no time/money to actually promote that content; or even worse, they lie to themselves that “they are doing it” with a few lazy social media post and maybe a promoted post on Facebook.
Content promotion is as important as content creation, if not more important. Once you have a piece of content, you need to let people know about the existence of your content.
If you are not planning your content marketing in a holistic way, from keyword and topic research to writing to publishing and distribution, it will most probably fail. There was a time you could get away with an okay content, a few backlinks and no distribution strategy at all, but in 2019 creating content without a well-defined strategy in place is a recipe for disaster. If you don’t believe me, check the 5th page of Google for a competitive keyword where you can find lots of “great content” that nobody is even aware of its existence.
- Email Marketing
If you are serious about content marketing, you need to get serious about Email marketing as well. Email is 40 times more effective in customer acquisition than Facebook and Twitter combined. People in your email list are your fans, actually biggest fans. If you think about it, these are the people that have specifically requested you to deliver your message them. When you have a piece they should be the first ones to hear. It is a free source and it is a rare marketing channel to use actually own. Have opt-ins all around your site. Lure people to opt-in. Blog posts, footer, sidebars; choose a few places and make sure all visitors will see at least one opt-in form. Once you have people in your list, do not spam them. Give them a good value. Talk to them. Offer freebies. Ask them questions. Initiate questions. Again, the people in your email list are your fans. They are cheering for you. Make sure you utilize e-mail marketing. I use MailChimp but you can choose another one, they are practically the same.
- Google Ads
A paid search strategy centered around Google Ads is a good place to start with for distribution. Alternatively, you can use Bing Ads and Yandex Ads too if your audience is using them.
- Social Media
You are on social media to distribute your original brand message more effectively. Every social media channel has a different audience and a different style. An average Instagram user would enjoy a duck-face selfie while an average Twitter user would enjoy a Seneca quote more. If you are in the blockchain industry, for example, you may want to capitalize Discord and Telegram and Steemit. Social media marketing channels come and go. You should be where your audience is. If that is Pinterest, spend more time and money on Pinterest. If that is Youtube, do Youtube. Spend some time testing and the answer will follow. Still, as a rule of thumb, you should post your content all of these mediums,
Facebook – your page – your group – related groups. Organic reach on Facebook is basically dead now, as it turned a to a total pay-to-play platform. If you are not planning to pay to promote your content, do not even bother sharing your post on Facebook. What you should want to do instead is this; 1. Publish your content on your Facebook page. 2. Promote your content to a broad group of people you think would be interested in your content. 3- Create a custom audience using Facebook Pixel. 4- Now, create a new ad, (again, with Facebook Pixel) targeting the audience that viewed your content. You can read a detailed guide to this insanely effective approach is here.
Twitter – with using relevant hashtags
Instagram – your Instagram profile and your story
Linkedin – your personal Linkedin page or company profile, your group and related groups
Quora – answering relevant questions on Quora and including a link to your content
Reddit – researching the right subreddit(s) and sharing your content. You should be aware of the thing that is called “reddiquette” though. Redditors are a specific community and if they suspect that you are there solely because of promoting your content, things can turn bad in no time.
Medium – Re-publishing your content on your Medium profile. Make sure you include proper keywords and tags.
Giveaways usually work better in e-commerce and visual product. Ask yourself this; “Do you have a product that some people would not care and some others would kill to have one for free?” If the answer is yes, you should definitely do a giveaway. You can do a giveaway on your site/blog and collect more e-mail subscribers and/or you may do it on social media and have more targeted followers while increasing your brand value.
But, if your content is titled as “Motorcycle Injury Lawyer in Denver, Colorado” there is no point for you to do a giveaway and even if you do a giveaway with something like $50 Amazon Gift Card, you will ridicule yourself and attract lots of free-riders who are not your target customers and will never buy your service or product.
If podcasts are your thing, you may explore the opportunities of being a guest in a podcast and promote your content during the podcast.
- Guest Blogging
When done right, guest blogging can be very effective for gaining more visibility for your business or brand. Here is a great guide to guest blogging by Brian Dean.
If you have connections with publishers in your industry, you can ask to be interviewed (video interview or a written interview) by them about your recent content.
- Niche Communities / Forums
publishing your content on related discussion forums and other online communities such as Whatsapp groups and Telegram groups.
Analyzing Your Efforts
You always want to measure the results. That is how do you determine what works (so that you can double down) and what doesn’t (so that you can stop). Here is the main data points that you should be tracking to determine the success levels of your content marketing and tweak your content marketing strategy.
- Brand Awareness: Thought this is difficult to track, you can always have an idea. I believe search volume for your brand name on Google and Google Trends is the main indicator of brand awareness. If it is growing each month, that means more people are stumbling upon your brand and searching it on Google. Compare the search volumes of your brand name this month and this month last year and it will give you an idea.
- Social Media Followers: Are more people following your social media channels and engaging with your brand?
- Backlinks: Are more websites linking to your valuable content?
- Website Visits: Are you getting more of both organic traffic and referral traffic?
- Sales / Leads: Simple and clear. Are you generating more leads with content marketing? Are you closing more deals with your content?
Over to you… Is there anything that I am missing or got wrong? Do you have anything to add? Let me know in the comments below!