What is Content Marketing?
Instead of giving you a jargon-filled definition, let me tell you a story.
Back in the 1900s, Andre and Edouard Michelin were struggling with selling their tires in France, which only had about 3000 cars on the roads. The only way for their sales to increase is if the number of cars would increase too.
So to inspire more people to travel and explore the country, as well as increase the demand for cars, they created a guide for French motorists that lists the best hotels and restaurants to eat and sleep in, along with road maps, tire repair and replacement instructions, and listings of car mechanics and petrol stations in France.
They called it the Michelin Guide, and it’s one of the first and best examples of content marketing in history.
This guide created by a tire manufacturer eventually came to be one of the most famous restaurant rating systems in the world after more than a century of publishing.
Getting a star from the guide is highly-coveted by every restaurant in the world. Awarded with 3 stars meant that you offer "exceptional cuisine that’s worth a special journey".
Aside from their successful guide, they also became to be one of the largest tire manufacturers in the world.
Content marketing is actually a very simple concept.
It’s regularly creating and distributing valuable, educational, and highly-relevant content for your target market. When you add value to their lives with the content that you create to help solve their problems, you build trust and industry authority. So, when they’re ready to make a purchase decision on a related product or service, you’re the brand they think of first.
The Elements of Content Marketing
Consistently creating valuable and relevant content
Content marketing is a long-term strategy. You don’t create content once—you create it regularly. Regularly publishing relevant content helps you build strong relationships with your audience.
According to Google’s Avinash Kaushik, “Content is anything that adds value to a reader’s life.” Content marketing educates your buyer persona about their problems and lays down solutions to those problems, and not about who you are or what you do/sell.
When it comes to creating valuable and relevant content, it's always a good idea to . Best part is, they learn from their mistakes so you don't have to.
With a whopping 3 million blog posts published every day, you have to make sure you effectively distribute your content to your target audience.
Content syndication is one way to do it, as it allows you to re-publish your content on third-party websites. You’ll want to find popular and high-ranking websites in your niche who think your content deserves a spot on their domain for people to see. Content syndication thus enlarges your audience reach and provides greater exposure for your content.
It’s also important that you make it easy for your audience to share your content. If you’re not adding social sharing buttons in strategic places on your content, you’re not maximizing the use of quick and easy ways that will enable your audience to find your content on the web.
Attracting and retaining a clearly defined audience
To create relevant content, you have to know who you’re creating it for—also known as the buyer or customer persona. You have to know what your target audience’s problems are, how they can find out about you, and what factors they look into when making a purchase decision.
It’s also not just about finding potential customers. Content marketing strategies also help in keeping your existing customers happy with your product or service by continuously providing them relevant content.
Driving profitable action
While content marketing isn’t as “hard sell” as advertising, the main goal is to have a potential customer buy a product or avail of a service.
Original, data-backed, and well-written content can help you get to this goal, so make sure that your team focuses on this. As content creator, you can meet certain quality standards by constantly updating yourself on how Google’ and other search engines’ ranking algorithms work.
The more useful your content is for online searchers, the higher it will rank on the SERPs. Needless to say, this can lead more and more visitors to your site. You can then use it as an opportunity to further nurture and engage your prospects, all the while growing your inbound sales funnel.
The Power of Content Marketing
How exactly did content marketing change the marketing industry? From the time that Seth Godin created his ebook “Unleashing the Ideavirus” in 2000, content marketing was crowned king. Content consumers like the fact that it isn’t an interruptive form of marketing precisely because they’re getting valuable information—instead of unsolicited ads.
Furthermore, according to Seth, “Content marketing is the only marketing left”.
Why, you ask? Just take a look at these statistics:
- The Content Marketing Institute reports that 8 out of 10 people identify themselves as blog readers, and 23% of all time spent online is spent on social media sites. ()
- 77% of Internet users read blogs. (source)
- 200 million people now use ad blockers. ()
- Interesting content is on the top 3 reasons that people follow brands on social media. (source)
- Because 82% of consumers say they feel better about a company that delivers custom content, they are also more likely to buy from that company. (source)
- 90% of consumers find custom content useful, and 78% believe that organizations providing custom content are interested in building good relationships with them. (source)
- Companies with blogs generate 67% more leads per month than non-blogging firms. (source)
- 80% of business decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement. (source)
Through the years, businesses have seen the huge impact of content marketing as a part of their marketing strategies. Here are the benefits of implementing a planned and well-thought-out content marketing strategy for your business:
Build Brand Awareness
Are you new to the industry? Or have you released a new line of products? Content marketing can help your message reach your target market.
By creating, publishing, and distributing content that is in line with your target market’s problems, you can generate topics that provide fresh, relevant solutions. In line with that, you can upsell your products or services through your content while building trust and industry authority for your brand.
Increase Site Traffic
By providing valuable content to your target market, your business’ blog will build a reputation as a hub for credible and accurate information. Through word of mouth and simply sharing these content pieces on social media, new visitors will be driven to your website.
Additionally, content marketing helps you implement a guest posting strategy. This is the manner of getting your blog posts published on another website with a link back, which in turn increases your own authority. More importantly, you’re gaining exposure to whole new audience of relevant prospects that you can direct to your website.
Content marketing offers a sturdy foundation in boosting your site traffic and keeping it relevant so you can increase organic traffic and maintain your SERP rankings.
Drive Direct Conversions
If your target market is convinced enough that you produce valuable content, they might just convert right there and then. A conversion can be any of the following: a signup, account creation, download, form submission, or sale.
Compelling headlines, succinct copy, the right calls-to-action (CTAs), and captivating images—all of these are essential in generating conversions.
Establish Thought Leadership and Trust
Content marketing allows you to showcase your business’ strengths and competencies. This helps you establish trust both on an audience level as well as on a search engine level.
Firstly, you’re building your image as an expert and a trustworthy source of information for your target market. When they trust you more, they’ll be more receptive to your marketing campaigns.
Secondly, keeping website visitors on your page for longer with valuable content signals to search engines that searchers are satisfied with the content you provide.
Improve Search Visibility/SEO
Through content marketing, you can publish blog posts that have the specific keywords you want to rank for. when you’re using the right words to support your keyword strategy, search engines will trust that you’re providing the most relevant content to searchers and will improve your rankings accordingly.
Also, you can build links with the keywords that your content uses to improve your search visibility and SEO rankings.
Related article: How to Boost Search Rankings Through Content Marketing
Enhance Lead Generation Campaigns
Aside from blog posts, content marketing also allows you to produce different formats and types of content such as eBooks, case studies, whitepapers, and webinars or podcasts.
It’s important for you though to create lead magnets with your content, which means the reader needs to provide contact details such as name, email address to access the content itself. Also known as gated content, these materials help you capture leads, so you can initiate a dialogue and drive them down your marketing/sales funnel.
As mentioned, content distribution is a crucial part of content marketing. A well-written and well-researched piece of content is no good when you fail to effectively distribute it to your target market.
You should always connect your blog to your business’ social media accounts, as this lets you notify your target market if there’s new content they should pay attention to. It’s also a good idea to have a brand newsletter, so you can maintain the conversation with your audience.
Social media and email marketing offer a way for you to build a community for your blog and, moreover, for your brand and business.
Increase Client Retention
Aside from gaining new customers, you should always remember that content marketing also helps to improve your client retention rates.
For starters, you can use content to build an onboarding email campaign that educates your customers and teaches them how to maximize the use of your product.
You can also utilize your user data as customer intelligence. For example, if a user clicks on a whole lot of blog posts about “SEO,” you can bet that approaching them with a proposal that’s SEO-focused will have a big impact.
Traditional Marketing vs Content Marketing
Content marketing isn’t interruptive like TV ads or billboards that pop up here and there. On the contrary, content marketing is empowering because people in your target market actively look for solutions to their problems with the help of your content.
Take a look the visual below in which we illustrate the key differences between traditional marketing and content marketing.
Types of Content Marketing
Blogs and articles are some of the most popular types of content. They’re usually quick to read and easy to digest to match online consumption habits. Since the , it is important to capture and sustain that attention. You should divide ideas into bite size chunks so that they’re skimmable and easy to navigate.
Infographics are liked and shared on social media 3x more than other any other type of content. Their highly attractive design catches the reader’s attention right away, and the way they’re presented makes them easy to process and learn from. Moreover, you can incorporate innovative media in an infographic like animated GIFs.
For an infographic to work for you, don’t focus on the design alone. You should also remember that not every story or concept can be explained effectively in an infographic format.
These types of content go beyond the usual length and tend to differ in tone and approach. They serve as content offers that your target market can download for purposes like research. Typically, these are presented in a PDF format.
Because of the valuable data that they offer, you can use eBooks, whitepapers, and case studies in exchange for the reader’s contact details. Aside from value, other elements like design, layout, and presentation matter heavily in these types of content.
*For more on the different types of content, check out this post: Every Blog Content Format You Can Create (With Examples)
8 Steps to an Effective Content Marketing Strategy
Your content strategy will depend on what your content marketing goals are. You’ll have a clear idea of what you need to do when you study your marketing brief thoroughly. Ask yourself these questions:
- What is the product?
- Who is the target market?
- What are the goals?
- Who are the competitors?
A great content marketing strategy has to be backed up market research, so that your brand can adopt a strategy that makes it stand out amongst your competitors. This data also allows you to accurately identify key content performance indicators and optimize your content strategy around supporting your overall marketing goals.
Identify your target buyer persona
Your target market is not a faceless person in the crowd. At the very least, every marketing effort should be aimed at engaging your target buyer. Therefore, you should build a persona for this target buyer.
You can follow these steps as you create the profile of an ideal buyer for your business.
- Identify their demographics, job, pain points, and buying behavior, among others.
- Map out the buyer’s journey—from the awareness to conversion stage.
- Put yourself in their shoes and create content that offers the right amount and type of information they need to know about your product or service in every step of the way.
Audit your existing content
To sustain production of compelling content, you need to look at the current status of your content marketing. In this manner, you can see which of your content performs the best or otherwise. You can also use existing content performance as inspiration for future content.
Content auditing may also mean examining your blog in various aspects: design, layout, format, nature of content, authors, and target of content. Use your metrics, such as pageviews and shares to help you analyze your existing content. From these insights, you can develop with sound recommendations and implement the necessary changes moving forward.
Research top performing content
For every business, there’s a set of competitors. You can observe your competitors’ blogs and see what types of content they produce and how they perform. Not only can you learn about new tactics to adopt, this will also allow you to distinguish your brand and stand out from competition.
Aside from doing an analysis of your blog, you should also do the same when it comes to your competitors. You can do a competitor analysis on the keywords you’re trying to rank for. Then look for the top global content for those keywords and analyze the factors that make it perform well.
Based on your keyword, competitor, and audience research done in the first four steps, you can develop topics that are relevant, accurate, and compelling. Just make sure to include your target keyword in the title to make the most of its SEO value.
Related article: Snackable Content vs Big Content: How and When to Use Them
Create a distribution plan
After generating your topics, you should think about where you want to share these content assets. You can utilize social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram. You should also make use of email newsletters to distribute your content. These are the people who are already listening, so make sure you’ve got something to say to them.
Additionally, think about implementing more advanced distribution strategies like content partnerships and content syndication to give your content a much-needed boost.
Related article: 5 Content Promotion Habits to Grow Your Blog Traffic
Now that your plan is all set up, it’s time to execute! You can hire strategists and writers to produce your content or utilize your current staff. Needless to say, your content creators should be good writers and great researchers too.
You’ll also need designers to help you produce visual content. Help them out with design pegs and inspiration that they can use. Always remember that good content is the combination of well-written and well-researched information, as well as the visual media that accompanies it.
Measure, adjust strategy, and repeat
What a lot of people forget after implementing content marketing is tracking the performance of their content. You can formulate your own frequency for performance reports—whether weekly or monthly—depending on the goals you’ve established early on.
The key metrics to track and measure are those for conversion, brand interest, blog traffic, social media shares, and built links. They will tell you if you’re doing the right thing, if you’re not, or if you need to adjust specific elements in your strategy. Continuous optimizations and improvements will eventually lead you to a powerful, customized content strategy that works specifically for your brand.
Tools Needed to Implement Content Marketing
SEO Tools for Keyword Research
Finding the right keywords for your business blog to rank for is not a walk in the park nor is it a guessing game.
If you really want to rank and be in the best position in the search results, use SEO tools to generate accurate data for your performance reports. Here are some of the SEO tools you can use for keyword research:
- Moz Pro. Its Keyword Explorer is one of the most accurate when it comes to giving you the monthly search volume for keywords.
- Ahrefs.You can leverage this tool to know the keywords that your competitors are using and how much traffic comes from them.
- WooRank. This lets you track your ranking for keywords you’re targeting as well as analyze your competitors’ keywords.
- SEMrush. Its free Keyword Magic Tool allows you to make 10 keyword research queries per day. The paid version offers data-driven insights about top keywords.
- Google Keyword Planner. This comes as a free tool with Google Ads, providing you with data about keywords straight from Google searches.
- Google Search Console. This is another free tool from Google that tells you SEO-related information like the keywords that your site is ranking for and where your site ranks for those keywords.
Content Research Tools
Content research tools like Buzzsumo and Ahrefs help you come up with fresh topic ideas by showing metrics for social shares, pageviews, and built links. With these, you can conduct insightful market analyses that steer your future efforts in the right direction.
You can also use these tools to track key performance metrics and assist you in tracking the performance of each individual content campaign.
An editorial calendar can help you plan and organize the type of content you’re going to create whether it’s an article, infographic, or eBook. By having an editorial calendar, you can see which concepts or topics you have covered or have yet to cover and identify potential content gaps.
As an added bonus, an editorial calendar will also help you manage the assignments for your writing team. You can keep track of which posts need to be edited, published, or promoted, so everyone’s always on the same page.
As for writing tools, you can use Grammarly to spot grammatical errors, arrange words better, and simplify the terms found in your content. The goal is to get rid of bad grammar and poorly constructed sentences to give people a pleasant reading experience.
Here are other free writing tools I recommend for every content writer.
As mentioned earlier, social media platforms are the friends of content promotions, providing a relevant channel to reach the masses. You can use things like social publishing tools and social analytics software to streamline your processes and make them more efficient.
For email outreach, email sourcing and mass email sending, you’ll need some help from tools such as Hunter, MailChimp, and Infusionsoft, among others. These tools are great for automating your email campaigns and customizing your message.
Related article: 5 Content Promotion Habits to Grow Your Blog Traffic
Tools like Google Analytics help you see, track, and measure the performance of your content marketing strategy. Use these to your advantage by looking at key metrics such as page views, visits, clicks, bounce rate, user engagement, and so on.
Analytics tools are essential because they provide you with in-depth information that assists you in formulating recommendations on how to tweak your marketing strategies.
Other Things You Need to Know About Content Marketing
There's more to content marketing than just writing content.
The old adage “build it and they will come” apparently doesn't apply to content marketing.
In this age and time where millions of blog posts are published each day, you have to be wise in creating content that’s worth sharing. If you want your voice to be heard, you don't stop at writing. You have to be bold enough to put your work out there, and be ready to be critiqued, appreciated, ignored, dismissed, or shared. You have to build relationships with people in your niche. You have to interact with your readers and potential readers.
Content marketing is a never-ending learning process.
Every day in this job requires a lot of reading and learning. Aside from the fact that reading broadens your vocabulary, reading also helps keep you abreast of all the things happening in content marketing. Marketing changes every day and you don’t want to miss out on the wealth of knowledge that your competition is feasting on.
You have to learn from what works and what doesn't. And here’s an even greater challenge: What works last month may not anymore work this month. Stay updated and to keep learning!
Content is still king.
Whether it’s ad copy, a product description, or a blog post, your marketing strategy can only succeed if you have quality, useful, and relevant content to offer. It all still comes down to using the right format, the right words, and the right visuals.
This makes content marketing pretty important, don't you think?
Content marketing is a community effort.
Content marketing is not a “department” but your company’s collective effort in delivering its message to a target audience. As such, someone has to run the blog, someone has to strategize and write, and someone has to manage the distribution of the content.
“Content Marketing is only as effective as the internal community that supports it, and that community is bigger than just the marketing department.” – Rick Allen, CMI
Content marketing is all about telling stories.
The web is absolutely saturated with great content, and while it's a good thing that marketers are starting to get it, it also sets the stage for more expectations and more competition.
Lately, the question of how to make your content stand out and reach a more engaged audience has drawn out a simple answer—start telling stories. Best to go for real, inspiring, compelling, or personal stories that can make people relate better to your brand, your business, yourself, or what you do for others.
Upgrade Your Content Strategy!
Content marketing can really do wonders for your marketing when it's planned and strategized well. At the end of the day, building great content marketing strategies for your business boils down to its alignment to your marketing goals and objectives. Furthermore, being aware of tools and knowing how to use them are crucial to maximize their potential.