Content marketing is a technique used by successful marketers to boost awareness of a particular brand, product, or service by distributing relevant media to a targeted audience. Following constant changes to the search marketing landscape in recent years, content marketing has proved particularly successful for marketers willing to put in the time and effort to create and distribute unique and original content for two main reasons. Number one…search engines love new content, and number two…content marketing helps boost social chatter which is a contributing factor to improved search results. For these and many others reasons, marketers are shifting their efforts toward spending greater amounts of time producing high quality engaging content that their users are likely to share, stumble upon in search engines, or mention socially, to try and expand their customer base and position themselves as subject matter experts within their niche market.
To help you reach a wider audience through content marketing, we’ve created the “Definitive Guide to Content Marketing”. This guide will assist you to engage both new and existing customers with relevant and informative content, and boost both your search and social presences online over time.
Who’s your target audience and what are their interests?
Having as much information as possible about your customers will help you to more effectively undertake your content marketing activities. By researching your customers’ needs, wants and habits, you can position your campaigns to succeed with a greater strike rate each and every time you go to market.
When researching your target market, this works well if you start by looking at your own products or services first. By understanding how your products and services fit into new or existing markets, you can determine whether your product is both market ready, and how it should be marketed based on the various demographics of your target market. For example, if you’re selling skateboards online, your target market is unlikely to be retirees. It’s more likely to be a much younger demographic with a certain level of disposable income and some level of Internet expertise. Just the same with Job Stock, we know who our demographic is likely to be between a certain age bracket, have a certain level of disposable income, as well as a certain level of education and professional experience. By identifying this, you can begin to look at the locations where your customers live online, what other sites they’re looking at, what type of content they’re reading, which social networks they’re actively engaged in, whether they like being direct marketed to, and whether your price point online, is in-line with their expectations.
Knowing what you’re offering first, then measuring that next to what the market is expecting or wanting is an essential tool when initiating any form of marketing. Because content marketing needs to be well-planned if it’s going to be successful, research is a vital component which can save you a lot of time and money each and every time you produce new content.
What are your goals?
Before deciding on the type of content you want to market and the medium(s) you want to use, you need to define the goals of your campaign. Before you set sail on a whirlwind of creating some really cool content that’s sure to be the apple of all your customers’ eyes, you need to define what your success criteria will be. If this is boosting enquiry on your website, growing your social media following, or even direct sales, it doesn’t matter, there’s no point creating content unless it has a direct correlation with your goals and is likely to boost results in those areas.
Many marketers no matter what the medium tend to get caught up in ‘producing something’ that meets a deadline without actually determining what that ‘something’ will actually achieve. Sometimes this is because of the fast-paced nature of marketing departments, but other times it’s a lack of planning. Just because your marketing schedule has down that you need to produce something by a certain time does not excuse not having a set of measurable goals. I once sat in a marketing department which did a run of $90,000 worth of print advertising with a QR code as the only means of enquiry. This campaign also had a limited means of tracking performance implemented even though boosting web enquiries was the main focus of the campaign. This campaign generated 17 enquiries when sent to 100,000 people and nobody was held accountable. Crazy! So to avoid this sort of thing, you have to have goals which can be measured via technical means, and you need to learn from your mistakes if they do occur. Hopefully they’re not large mistakes, but if they are, look at why they occurred and try not to let them happen again.
Ensure your technical skills are up to scratch
As previously mentioned, sometimes marketing campaigns can go horribly wrong if you don’t implement the appropriate technologies, wording, and marketing messages to be used in a campaign prior to execution. Just because something is cool (like QR codes right?), does not mean they suit what you’re trying to achieve. You have to meet the expertise of your audience, not the other way round. In the case of the infamous QR code disaster, to no surprise to me at least, not that many people knew what QR codes were at the time, and if they did, they didn’t have an app on their phone to use one. Examples like this can hurt even the best of campaigns, and that means financially. So research what platforms and technologies your audience is using.
When undertaking content marketing, you’re in the business of making money, not making marketing material that pleases internal stakeholders. This can be challenging if you’re more technically adept than your co-workers and need to win them over (especially if they’re your boss). So find a way to provide some examples of why a certain strategy could work for the business if you feel the current proposal might be problematic. This needs to be done delicately but will ensure the success of the project if you’re right, and endear you to your boss long term if managed appropriately.
What content should I be creating?
Content marketing is a great way to connect with your audience, engage their opinions, spark their imagination and subtly suggest your products and services to them over time. Content marketing can be undertaken across numerous platforms, mediums and at varying frequencies, all of which tend to produce different types of results more commonly than others. For example:
- Social media channels such as Pinterest are excellent for creating awareness of products because this network is highly visual in nature, whereas sites such as Twitter perform better if you’re looking to make announcements or are in the entertainment or news industry. Facebook on the other hand tends to result in more clicks to your website than Twitter, and generally results in longer engagement on your website. This to goes for LinkedIn, but only if you’re discussing targeted content relevant to professionals. Google+ is excellent for boosting clicks via search engines using their authorship program, but many users are finding that only a limited number of clicks come from the actual network itself.
- Blogging is an excellent way to drive traffic to your website, boost SEO (Search Engine Optimization), grow the power of your domain, and increase sharing of your content across social networks. Blogging is probably the most powerful content marketing method because it works for almost all industries. The key to blogging is frequent, keyword conscious, high quality content where you can easily push your audience across to your central selling destination.
- Infographics are another commonly used marketing channel popular on social networks and blogs. Infographics were extremely popular a few years ago, but have since become more mainstream these days. However if your infographic includes engaging, valuable content, it can without a doubt deliver excellent results and a very high ROI, including strong SEO benefits and good social return.
- White papers are an effective means of delivering “must-have” or “limited time only” content to a large audience. By producing a white paper and offering it on your website or blog, you’re implying to your audience that this is a special analysis or report on a particular topic, and that it should “not be missed“. This type of “anticipation building” boost downloads of white papers and can have a very profound effect in most industries.
- You should never forget that your website material is in fact content marketing. Every piece of content that goes online is marketing and should be treated as such. Detailed single topic pages on your website with search engine friendly URL’s, content, markup and title tags is a must for growing your search engine traffic. We recommend running a free test of some of your content pages to see how friendly they are to search engines to assess how well you’re likely to rank.
- Images and photography are often overlooked in the content marketing space but can be highly effective. Not only do sites like Google Images drive large amounts of traffic via its image search results, but images which are either humorous or of value to your audience can go viral on social networks driving lots of traffic. When blogging in particular, include images in your pages to generate extra traffic with little effort.
- Competitions are a great way to boost engagement with your audience. At first it may seem like all you’re doing is giving something away for free, but a competition can help to promote a product, collect emails, and boost your social engagement. Recently we used Wildfire to run a Facebook competition. This was a great service which was both affordable and easy to use. We got an excellent return on investment and fantastic coverage across both Facebook and other channels.
- Surveys are a great content marketing tool for two reasons. Number one, you get to engage with your audience, and number two, the results of that research can be used for other content marketing efforts. How easy would it be to use the results of a survey in an infographic, email newsletter blast, social media post or blog post? Too easy. Surveys offer an double hit.
- Email marketing is possibly one of the most effective content marketing methods available today. After all these years, e-marketing is still a bread winner. If you can curate a well-structured group of email lists, pepper them with relevant timely content over time, and grow your email list via your existing marketing channels, you’re going to support your marketing efforts enormously by ensuring that extra level of awareness. We highly recommend signing up for an email marketing company so that you can analyse the progress of your email marketing campaigns and manage your list of subscribers.
- Publishing an e-book is another great tool you can use when marketing content. Not only do e-books increase your brand awareness, but they’re renowned for adding new revenue streams to your business. Blogs world over have seen significant up-take of the paid e-book model in recent years, but have also been using the e-book as great way to build anticipation around an annual update of such a piece. Whether you’re offering your e-book for free or via a paid model, this option can be very successful if your content is of high quality.
- Creating top ten lists is another well-known and effective technique used to generate interest online. Companies experience particular success if they release a major annual list which rates particular products or services in an industry. This often results in lots of trackbacks, tweets and articles referencing the list. Sometimes even national coverage!
- Interviews with known industry participants have always been a successful marketing tool used by industry analysts. Whether it’s a well known personality, author, or interesting case study, interviews generate lots of traffic because they connect your audience with a real person, not just a topic. By hearing the struggles and triumphs of other individuals in their industry, you can bet your audience will stay highly engaged with your content.
Regardless of which marketing channel you select to use (probably numerous), there is definitely a wide a ranging number of benefits to be reaped when marketing content. Most commonly people use numerous channels, and offer cross-promotional services which support each other. But remember to review your performance, because not all channels will work for you first time. You may need to adjust or scrap them all together if things aren’t going your way.
Regular content marketing is the only way to go
Regularity with your marketing, like exercise, is the only way to go when marketing content. Most marketers who have had success will tell you’re that if you’re going to undertake a content marketing strategy, you need to publish new content around 3 – 4 times per week to have a really good effect. Otherwise you’ll find it difficult to build an audience, and gain any momentum moving forward.
Although this may seem like a lot, if you manage the process well, and study your ROI, you’re most likely going to find that content marketing will be one of the most affordable marketing strategies for you, and you’ll be able to drive up to five times more traffic to your website than if you weren’t content marketing. Not only this, but the flow on effect across all levels of your business will be huge. Although it can take up to 6 – 9 months for you to really start to see any tangible results, when you do, the results will start to snowball and you’ll never be left wondering why you started content marketing in the first place.
Don’t oversell yourself
Overselling yourself is one of the most common mistakes content marketers make in the early days of their marketing efforts. Content marketing is about producing insightful, useful, and engaging content which aligns closely with what you do. The key to successful content marketing is to create content likely to be shared or commented on by your target audience. The goal is to produce a positive mention about your services, visit to your central selling area or increase the likelihood of a conversion. By doing so in a fashion that is not deemed “pushy” or “self-serving”, you’re giving out the impression that everything you’re doing is for the love of it, and that’s exactly what people want to see in the online space.
Always measure your performance
Accountability for your actions is vital when implementing a content marketing strategy. You need to assess when you’re getting it right, and when you got it wrong. This is not so you can inflict punishment on the poor marketer who tried something new and missed the mark, but rather to learn from your efforts and either adapt them, or try something different.
Content marketing is a journey, and it takes time and effort to produce results. Results for most people do not come instantly, and take time, as well as trial and error to build a sizeable base. The occasional marketer will get lucky with a piece of content going viral initially, but generally it takes planning, and existing awareness of your efforts and market presence before the wider online community will recognize your efforts.
When measuring the success of your performance, you need to measure it up against your goals, but you also need to ask whether it is taking you in a direction which is likely to “put food on the table”. For example, if you create a really nice infographic and you upload it to your blog, and your blog is already seeing some solid traffic figures, but this particular piece of content doesn’t get much social attention, comments or page views, you need to ask a few questions. These might include:
- Was my content researched well enough?
- Was my content genuinely engaging?
- Was my content attractive and easy to understand?
- Does this format suit my audience?
- Have I done something like this before, and if so, did it work back then?
- Has this been done before?
Simple analysis like this can be very useful and save a lot of time in the future, providing a much better understanding of what works for your audience and what does not.
What’s working for my competitors?
If one thing is guaranteed in business, it’s that your competitors will be watching what you do, and you’re probably watching what they’re doing. And that’s OK! Checking out what your competitors are up to and the broader community within your niche is healthy for your business and healthy for your bottom line. Why? Because when you go looking, you learn. In marketing, the best marketers are constantly reading about all sorts of companies, what they’re doing online, offline, in print, and all sorts of new and cutting edge examples of work, and you should be doing the same. Take time each day to look at what your competitors are doing with content. In most cases this will just be what’s on their website, but if they are blogging look into what’s working for them. If it isn’t much, this could just mean they’re not particularly adept at blogging, so don’t be deterred. This is an opportunity for you to capture a great deal of business, so strike while the iron is hot!
How long will it take to get some traction?
Getting tracking with your content marketing is a very much a difficult question to answer. This depends largely on a number of factors which all determine in part how successful you will be, how quickly you grow your audience and how quickly you manage to achieve your initial goals and then develop a new set more in touch with your current market position.
Many marketers ask this question because they want to know what commitment both financially and time wise is involved in growing their business with content prior to heading down that path. And fair enough. But there is no short answer. However, many experienced content marketers will tell you that they believe you can start to see some solid traction if you are able to produce original content of high quality on a regular basis 3 – 4 times per week over a 6 – 9 month period. Now as previously mentioned, this seems like a lot, but this is not a short-term commitment. When you decide to market with content, this is supposed to be as part of your ongoing business activities with no expiry date. If you expect to get the results, then you need to put in your best effort day in day out. Your success will also depend greatly on how much external promotion of your media you undertake, and the quality of your content, but persistence is the key to success overall.
The “Epic Content” principle
I am a big believer in what is called the “epic content” principle. This principle says that audiences will respond much more enthusiastically to truly great content as oppose to regular, lower quality content updates. Therefore if you create exceptional content on a less frequent basis you will have much more success.
For example, if you created four 500 word articles a week for an extended period of time, to be fair there is not a lot you can say in 500 words or less. With this in mind, numerous studies are showing that you may be better off producing a higher quality 2000 word article or greater that readers are much more likely to share, and spend time dissecting piece by piece to truly engage your audience. Now content length isn’t the only indicator of “epic content”, but if you really want to do a great piece on a particular topic, some solid detail is required.
Recently serpIQ produced a study that looked at the top 10 results in Google for 20,000 search terms and their content length. The average content length across these pages was above the 2000 word limit, with content around the 2400 word mark performing best. This study also looked at numerous other factors affecting search performance, but there is certainly no denying that as time has gone on, users of the Internet crave more information and love detail. So whether it’s a lengthy blog article or a detailed infographic, there’s definitely a strong likelihood that you will be able to generate an excellent ROI if marketed correctly.
Hiring experts to get the job done right
If you’re a great writer or researcher, use those talents to their full potential (and regularly). But if you don’t know the difference between a vector and a raster file, and Photoshop’s not your thing, hire a freelancer to get the job done right and stay away from design work where possible. The average Internet consumer experts quality, and if you present your work at a sub-standard level either visually, grammatically or even if it’s just hard to understand, it will just get glossed over. The “8 second rule” is what developers used to work to when developing web pages. If you can’t capture the imagination of your audience in that period, then they’re just going to leave your page and go elsewhere. My guess is today, it’s probably half that. It may seem a little frustrating to have to spend that little bit extra on your marketing, but trust me, it’s well worth it. You’ll be amazed how quickly a subject matter expert can turn things around for you and ensure the success of your content.
Growing your content marketing strategy
If you’ve managed to generate success with your content marketing strategy and are consistently reaching your initial goals each month, it may be time to step things up a notch or two. This means going back to step #1, and looking at all the different metrics you originally identified, and then analyze whether it is physically and financially plausible for you to look at increasing your efforts. Sure, there is always a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but online, you need to be able to support the effort required to get there, and you need to be able to support the incoming response from your efforts if things really take off.
Most companies who run content marketing campaigns are not solely content marketers; their primary business is something else. Whether it’s online retailing or some other channel, the focus needs to be on generating more business for your actual business, not spending all your time marketing content only to find you have a really great marketing strategy but no actual business left. We recommend asking the following questions before increasing your marketing efforts:
- How much time am I currently spending?
- Is my ROI currently positive?
- Even though I’m reaching my initial goals, do they correlate with the current market trends?
- If I was to increase marketing efforts, would I create more content, or simply support that content with more social media, search marketing or another channel?
- Can I support the likely incoming enquiry and attention garnered from more marketing?
If you perform an honest appraisal of your current performance, the market as it stands, and whether you can increase, maintain and manage a boosted content marketing initiative without compromising your core business practice, then move forward, but do so cautiously. And remember, it’s OK to retreat a little if things get too much. This is all about putting food on the table, so leave the ego at the door and make the right business decision for yourself and your family.
Increasing awareness of your content
If you’re thinking of increasing awareness of your content, this generally means that you’re going to have to make some further expenditure to do so. The best scenario to do this is when your existing marketing efforts are able to generate some extra disposable income for you to do so. In this scenario, marketers will commonly look at which marketing channels present the most relevant and likely highest ROI for their marketing dollars and boost up their spend in this area. However sometimes, it also pays to step outside the box and investigate whether there are new ways you can grow your brand awareness.
For example, you may find that certain social networks drive a more engaged and relevant traffic than others depending on your niche. But there are a lot of social networks out there, and each respond differently to different types of content. You may consider looking at what type of content you publish across a particular social network, the price to produce that content, but also the likely return on that investment.
Alternatively, growing your presence in locations online where you already have a good base is another good option not to be discounted, however look at the likely longevity of the network. Sites such as Digg.com used to be a hot spot for content marketing efforts, but now receive significantly less attention following a change in ownership, direction, and various other reasons. Choose wisely, and constantly monitor the network and your overall ROI and growth. As time goes on, the more you spend should equate to a much higher level of growth. If not, then we recommend spending some more time performing some analysis of what worked when your business was smaller in size.
You got it wrong, man up!
There’s no shame in admitting that you got it wrong and it’s time to change tact. Especially considering that if you change your strategy, and then it generates more revenue. It’s incredibly common that marketers will persevere with marketing activities which just don’t suit their business. Understandably, content marketing does take time, and it can be challenging to determine in the early days whether your efforts will result in eventual success, but keep on working. Success will come to those who constantly monitor their activities and persevere.
Social networking is key to your success
Marketing your content across the social networks you participate in is an incredibly important aspect to successful content marketing. You need get your content out there. Social signals are one of the biggest helpers in terms of boosting the visibility of your content, and this also has a highly significant effect on how your content ranks in the search engines.
When choosing which social channels to participate in, you need to choose wisely. Firstly because of their appropriateness to your product and/or service, and secondly because of the resources required to thrive within their walls. These two factors greatly effect how successful your content will be in the social space, and you need to perform a proper analysis prior to commencement of any social marketing strategy. In addition to these factors, you need to be mindful that you’re comfortable engaging with the participants of your social network(s) of choice. Quite often marketers will find that they’re getting good leads and enquiry from their marketing efforts on a particular social network whilst not interacting with those parties at first. Soon enough however, they find that the public interest in their products lessens as the wider community begins to see them as only “pushing their own barrow“, and not genuinely interested in helping others.
“Social karma”, which is a term often referred to when discussing social networking etiquette can have devastating effects for businesses. You do need to be careful when marketing your content within social networks, but social networks shouldn’t be feared. Social networking in general is a major asset for your company, but you are definitely better off putting in a concerted effort across one, maybe two networks and building a profile and some quality engagement so that you can leverage off that first, before spreading your efforts thinly across all major social networks. If you are concerned about what people are saying about you online, tools such as Hootsuite are an excellent way to monitor not only discussion about your company, but your competitors and industry opportunities. Simply plug in your social credentials and start monitoring the conversation!
Consider marketing for mobile
Mobile device access to the Internet is rapidly growing and changing the way we interact every day. With this in mind, your content marketing should either be highly considerate of mobile users, or you should undertake a mobile specific campaign aimed at reaching users on a mobile platform specifically.
Mobile marketing has grown as an industry and there are a ton of different tools, products and services you can use to get to users on the run. Whether it’s as simple as some PPC advertising which directs visitors to a mobile optimized blog or a some content sitting on a website which has been designed using responsive web design, you need to ensure that if you’re going to target users who are predominantly mobile users of your service, or your reports show that you have a strong mobile user base, you need to ensure you can support their access to your content via a mobile optimized platform and infrastructure. For example, there’s no point serving an enormous video to a mobile user if they can’t download it. You need to consider bandwidth and screen size. The same goes for lengthy infographics which have a lot of detail. Pick your channel per campaign, and you’ll do a lot better.
Content marketing is an excellent tool for growing your business online. It does take persistence, but following an initial period of hard work, can and will produce amazing results for you if you produce high quality, engaging content which sparks the interest of your user base.
Consistent marketing efforts over time on a regular basis of at least 3 – 4 times per week are recommended by successful marketers if you want to get ahead in the content marketing game. By doing so, you are much more likely to build a stronger following likely to share your content and engage with you across your marketing channels of choice.
However there is much research to suggest that by creating less content but ensuring it is a standout piece of content, or what is referred to as “epic content” is the most effective method. But you must consider how much time you have to spend each week on your marketing activities, and whether you can support the incoming business and enquiry once you become successful before beginning any campaign. Good luck, and happy marketing!