The No Nonsense Guide to Content Marketing
By: Courtney Howell
We’ve all been told that content marketing can do wonders for our online marketing strategy, and we’ve all had the phrase “content is king” repeatedly pounded into our heads by every thought leader and marketing guru out there. If it really is as simple as creating great content, how come it seems so hard to build an audience?
I recently came across an e-book titled “The Business Case for Agile Content Marketing” by Brian Clark from Copyblogger that actually offered helpful advice on how to use content marketing to build a targeted audience. I wanted to share some of the key takeaways (plus some of my advice) from this no-nonsense guide because it’s full of really great insight.
The problem with the “if you build it, they will come” philosophy that so many offer is that it views content marketing as one holistic strategy when in reality it’s actually comprised of three different aspects:
Content + Social + Search = Content Marketing Strategy
But this is not where content marketing strategy ends. This is only the beginning. To be successful at content marketing, you must first begin with the end in mind. What results do you want to achieve from your content marketing efforts? I’m guessing one goal is you would like to build a loyal audience of brand advocates.
Content marketing is really a function of audience optimization, which in turn leads to increased conversion rates. To truly understand this concept, we must break down content marketing into its individual components and see how they all work together to build an optimized audience.
My number one advice for creating stellar content is to stop thinking like a marketer and think like a consumer. What does your audience care about? What information are they looking for? This is what you should center your content around.
When you’re scouring the Web for information, you probably want to find valuable info that answers your questions, gives honest advice and provides helpful tips, right? Remember how you search for information online, and use that as a starting point for creating your own content.
According to a study done by the Corporate Executive Board, 60% of the sales cycle is over before a buyer ever speaks to a salesperson. This proves customers are proactively seeking out information in regards to purchase decisions, and they already have a preconceived notion of your brand from the information they find online. Why not provide them with the content they’re looking for upfront to give them a reason to take the next step (calling or coming to your store)?
Sharing content online has become a symbol of status that satisfies our inner need for acknowledgement and respect from our peers. Everyone likes to be viewed as helpful, smart and in the know. Feed this desire by sharing your customer-focused content on social networks, and include sharing buttons on your content so those consuming it can easily spread it. This will create organic publicity for your content and capitalize upon the multiplying effect of word-of-mouth exposure.
As more people share your content on their social networks and link to it from their websites and blogs, it will send signals to Google that your content is not only popular, but relevant, too! This is where search comes in.
This is where you can capitalize on the groundwork laid by social. Google is in the business of providing relevant search results to users. The more Google views your content as valuable and relevant to users’ queries, the higher you will rank in search results. Using the power of social media to gain exposure and natural links is only one aspect of SEO. You must not forget about on-page SEO.
On-page SEO is all about making it easy for search engines to understand what your content is about. Utilizing keyword research along with SEO copywriting best practices will ensure that search engines will be able to easily identify what you’re talking about. It’s best to use the language your audience uses so search engines will clearly see you’re the most relevant option.
Now this may come as a shocker, but everything we’ve discussed up until now is not the point of content marketing. Content, social and search are merely aspects in achieving a larger goal, which is building a sustained and targeted audience rather than capturing intermittent traffic. That’s ultimately ineffective for your brand.
Think more in terms of building up your number of RSS subscribers and/or opt-in email subscribers. These are the people who are genuinely interested in your content and who will benefit the most from the advice you have to share. The key to keeping subscribers engaged is to continuously tailor your content to fit their ever-changing needs. Brian Clark, founder and CEO of Copyblogger, calls this strategy agile content marketing.
Creating great content is like working up the corporate ladder – you have to start somewhere. Know what information your audience will find valuable and release content knowing that it might not be perfect…yet. Over time, your audience will provide you with feedback in the form of likes, shares and comments about how you can improve and expound upon your current content.
As your audience becomes more educated about your subject matter, you’ll need to find ways to recycle and elaborate upon older content. This may mean repackaging blog posts into different types of content, such as infographics, e-books or even videos.
As a content marketer, your overall goal should be to build an audience that engages, shares, converts and evangelizes. To do this, all you need to do is create customer-focused content, optimize it for search, distribute it via social media and continue to refine content to fit consumers’ evolving needs. Repeat this process, and soon you’ll have a content marketing recipe for success!
If you have other advice for content marketing success, feel free to share in the comments.