The Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing
The ever-changing search algorithms influence how content is created, consumed, shared and searched on the internet. But thanks to it (and our decreasing attention span), content marketing is moving fast.
It is right to say that content marketing has reached a crossroad.
So with what mindset should we approach content?
Is content an art, strictly reserved for deep exploration and creative self (or brand) expression? Is content a science? Is it something that can be mastered by a deep understanding of an algorithm? Or is it chaotic, fluid, fast-moving and untameable?
There is no good way to explain it. But I can assure you that you need it.
Content Marketing: Creativity is Back
Content is king!
But surprisingly, not every business focuses its efforts on content marketing. Which means other companies (that do focus on content marketing) are already one step ahead of you.
There’s a reason that businesses, influencers, and agencies are consistently pumping out free resources like detailed blog posts, ebooks, and white papers full of insider knowledge. Even though it took them a lot of time and a lot of money to create it.
Because distributing great content is a great way to attract new customers to your site and build relationships with them in real, quantifiable ways over a period of time.
And the best part is - anybody can do it.
But content marketing is very competitive. And to make sure you are not left behind in the virtual race of content, you need to do a deep market analysis and develop a strategy.
Develop a Content Marketing Strategy
Any great strategy begins with an objective. What is the strategy for? What will you achieve out of it? How is it the most beneficial for you?
Although you might have multiple objective-based strategies, a single strategy can often help you in accomplishing various objectives.
It all depends on the end goal. So let’s begin with identifying that.
Choose a Goal
Think about why would you create content. Whether it is a blog, an ebook or a video. Do you want to gain authority over a particular subject or do you want to sell a product? What is your end goal? -
- Generating new leads for the business that would eventually convert into customers.
- Growing the email list.
- Driving more traffic on the website.
- Establishing yourself as an industry expert or thought leader.
- Rank higher on SEO.
- Driving immediate sales.
- Boosting on-site engagement
- Promoting content on various promotional platforms like social media and search engines.
- Creating brand awareness.
Evaluating goals is necessary for this is the foundation of developing a content marketing strategy. Deep research can help you define goals and objectives. Learn how to take up the research from this 4-step guide to content marketing research.
Content Funnel: Set up a Content Strategy
Once you have a clear objective, it’s time to move forward. Let me introduce you to the content funnel strategy.
A content marketing funnel is a system that takes as many leads as possible through a step by step content flow and converts them into actual customers who pay for your products or services.
If you need new ideas for an eBook, webinar, or even just a blog post, a minimal amount of research will leave you with plenty of subject options to cover. But knowing which to choose? That's where real strategy comes into play.
A generic content funnel has three stages - awareness, consideration, decision.
Suppose your primary objective is lead generation, the content funnel will look something like this -
Stage one - In the first stage you attract leads by creating content that spreads awareness among the readers about your product/ service.
Stage two - This stage is the bridge between lead and sales. Through the content, you persuade the reader to convert into a paying customer. You create content that establishes that the reader needs what you are offering.
Stage three - The stage where content brings you monetary value. Leads convert into sales and people are ready to make a purchase.
An effective content funnel defines how you can reach the right audience by producing the right content.
While creating content, it is essential to keep your core objective and the buyer persona in mind. This is what will make the content great.
If you fail to do that, the content won’t reach the right audience and neither you nor the readers will benefit from it. Read more about four key elements that make content great.
Convert the Strategy into Actionable Plan
Besides developing a great content strategy, it is also required that one should document it. Because you cannot independently rely on your brain to remember every single word or idea that you came across while researching. And while I don’t doubt your ability to remember everything, there are still high chances that you might miss out on something minor that would be useful.
A great way to document the content strategy is by creating a content calendar. A content calendar is your ticket to an organized and stable content strategy.
And guess where an organized strategy will lead you?
If you do not already have a content calendar, it is about time to create one. It can significantly help you in improving the content strategy and the quality of content. Learn how you can create a content calendar in five simple steps.
Content Mapping - Map Content based on the User Persona
Content mapping is another strategy that marketers today find very effective. As the word ‘map’ suggests, a content map is a plan to deliver the right content, to the right people, at the right time.
You might have heard this before - the content you create should be personalized. And content mapping can help you do exactly that.
We already talked about the content funnel strategy. To move a prospect through a marketing funnel, you need to give them content specifically designed to satisfy their needs at each of the three stages.In other words…
- They need content at the top of the funnel (TOFU) that facilitates awareness.
- They need content in the middle of the funnel (MOFU) that facilitates evaluation.
- They need content at the bottom of the funnel (BOFU) that facilitates conversion.
By targeting the right audience through content mapping, you are able to deliver content to the readers exactly when they are ready to consume it. And when people consume the right content, it is easier to convert them from a lead to a buying customer.
Most Content Strategies are based on Human Psychology
Being a successful marketer is less about being lucky and more about mapping content by understanding buyers’ psychology.
For instance, take a great headline. It is great because it triggers an emotion in the reader’s mind and makes them feel something. And you can only write great headlines once you understand how the reader’s think.
Let’s take a more specific example here.
Marketers often use power words while drafting headlines.
Why? Because it improves the click-through-rate.
How? Because power words trigger an emotion in the reader’s mind.
Headlines are a big contributor to your website traffic. Learn how to write great headlines that attracts more readers.
One of the human emotions that marketers have taken undue advantage of is the fear of missing out (FOMO). Readers are more likely to read content when they believe that it will be unavailable in the future. With use of words like ‘Limited’ or ‘Now’ in the headlines, readers are more likely to convert because they don’t want to miss out on an opportunity.
When you effectively start using these words [also known as power words], you are able to persuade the readers without saying much. Using just that one right word is enough to attract readers to your headline. Learn more about how power words enhance content quality.
A similar human psychology helps readers consume more content while reading a article or post. Online readers usually read in an F-shaped pattern. When you format your blog to make it easily scannable by the readers, you are able to help readers to consume more of the content. Since they are more interested in the content, it is easier to persuade them to take an action that you want them to take.
This is also one of the reasons why marketers often use bold or italics for highlighting one or two lines in a paragraph. This helps in creating a great reading experience for the readers. Learn how you can format the blog to create a great reading experience for your readers too.
Optimize Content for SEO
You have it all together - research, strategies, user persona, content, and even blog formatting. You are ready to deliver the information to the readers (even before they ask for it because you had a great content map). But how do you make sure it reaches them?
You need to optimize the content for it to rank higher on search engines.
Wondering what if you don’t?
Think about the last time you went on the second page of Google search to find information. You probably won’t remember it because it rarely happens.
Readers don’t even go beyond the first five articles that appear on search engines. And if you want to attract more readers to the content, you need to rank higher.
And honestly, it is not that difficult. Search engines definitely are a highly competitive space, but when you optimize the content and use the right keywords, you will see how easy it is to rank high on search engines.
Not to forget the spike you will notice on the website’s traffic.
Higher SEO ranking not only improves website traffic but also helps you build authority over a area of your expertise. Readers tend to consume higher ranking articles as more authentic and informative than the ones that don’t rank higher. Learn how you can improve SEO for your blog and rank among the top five searches.
Social Media Sharing
Readers are constantly looking for information on search engines. But guess where they spend even more time? SOCIAL MEDIA!
Sharing content on social media can open you to a much wider audience who might not be particularly looking for your content but will consume it if they come across it.
Social media is perhaps the most powerful type of content distribution platform in the digital world.It gives free access to a massive amount of people within any target market. You could also run advertisements on social media to help content reach the right targeted audience.
Social media excels at promoting brands because it promotes relationships. You can grow an organic following, drive traffic, and even encourage sales.Once you have an audience of your own, then marketing to that audience over and over again becomes easier and cheaper than ever before.
And what better way to build an audience than creating valuable content that goes viral on social media.
I understand it sounds difficult. But creating viral social media posts isn’t impossible when you know who your audience is. Marketers do it every now and then and you can too. Learn more from this complete guide to creating posts that go viral on social media.
Other Content Promotion Platforms
Social media sharing and SEO optimization are the key promotion techniques that marketers pay extra attention to. But there are other ways too through which the content can reach a new audience.
These methods also help in improving the SEO ranking and social media shares.
You could run ads on social media and search engines. If you have the budget for it this method, in particular, proves to be very effective. Solely because the content reaches the exact audience who is looking for it.
Creating backlinks for the content is another great way to getting more readers on your website and improving the authority over a specific area of content.
If you wish to know in detail about ways of promoting the content. Learn more here: The Complete Content promotion Guide - Social Media, Search engines and More.
Tracking Content Performance
No matter how creative, memorable, or popular your content pieces may become, every asset you create and share will ultimately be judged by the impact it makes on your business’ bottom line.
While it can be tempting to think about measurement only after all other tasks are complete, you should recognize by now how critical it is to have the right data on hand to inform every phase of your content marketing approach. That is why it’s a good idea to establish sound measurement practices from the start of every program, enabling you to track, analyze, and optimize your content’s performance on a continual basis.
The three main components to measuring, evaluating, and optimizing the performance of all your content marketing initiatives include:
- Deciding what to track
- Tracking, measuring, and managing the data
- Turning information into actionable insights
Tracking content performance helps you in analysing whether the content strategies you developed actually worked out for your business or not. This further helps in improving those strategies. Learn how you can analyse content here: Key Metrics to Track Content Performance.
Takeaway - Content marketing is a continuous cycle
Once you’ve worked through all the steps of planning, building, executing, and evaluating the content marketing strategies, there’s one last thing you need to do: Go back to the beginning.
No, you don’t need to redo all the work, but periodically revisit the strategic choices initially established and make any necessary adjustments based on the lessons learned throughout the process. Only by treating content marketing as a cyclical and ever-evolving process can you truly keep your program running at peak levels of performance over the long term.
About the Author
I’m a serial entrepreneur and a digital marketing specialist. After building two six-figure businesses, I decided to become a location independent digital nomad and now I travel the world and help technology startups globally to build efficient & scalable marketing processes, campaigns & teams.