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If you work in marketing, there’s a good chance at least some part of your job has to do with content marketing, the transformative approach to inbound marketing that allows brands to build trust and provide their ideal customers with value immediately. Effective content marketing has the power to introduce your brand to new audiences, to empower those audiences, and to build strong relationships that turn them into customers.
But where do you even start?
Content marketing is such a huge undertaking that it’s often tough to figure out how to take the first steps—or to make sure those first steps you’ve already taken are the right ones. We’ve collected our top 11 content marketing of all time and grouped them into four main buckets. Think of this as a content marketing guide with none of the fluff. Looking to get started in content marketing? To make sure your content is actually effective? That audiences share it? That they love it? Read on.
When launching a new content marketing initiative, it’s important to follow structures and plans that are proven to nurture your ideal customers towards a purchase decision. Those same plans can help you produce consistent, engaging content your audiences will truly appreciate.
People who don’t work in marketing but approve marketing budgets often like to ask questions like, “Do blogs actually work?” It’s a simple question, but the answer is anything but. In truth, no one tactic in content marketing will “work” on its own; blogs are a foundational part of any content strategy, providing material to be used throughout the funnel. On their own, consistently published blogs can help a brand increase its visibility in search engine rankings, but that reach means nothing without other key pieces of content that can nurture customers towards a purchasing decision.
In order to do content marketing right, it’s critical to adopt a content framework that includes content at every stage of the buyer’s journey. Think of that journey as a funnel with three parts:
Before you actually write any content, make sure you have a content strategy that includes tactical pieces of content at every stage of the funnel so no matter where your audiences come from, they’ll always be able to find their way to the end easily.
Even if your brand is starting from scratch with content marketing, you might not actually be starting from scratch. Many companies are sitting on a goldmine of advertising media, sales collateral, brochures, flyers, old digital content, and much more. Taking stock of what you have, what can be repurposed or used as-is in new content campaigns, and what needs to be completely replaced can give you some firm direction for your work.
Part of what makes content marketing so effective is the opportunity it gives your brand to show what you know. No matter your industry, your company is successful because you have experts leading the charge. Those experts will have experience and, perhaps more importantly, a unique perspective that can make your content stand out. Think about your job as a content marketer as being about getting those insights out of your internal subject matter experts’ heads and into a format that will resonate with audiences you want to reach.
As you begin a new content marketing campaign, take some time to make a short list of subject matter experts you can call on to provide insights. Remember, these people are busy doing their important work, so it’s not a good idea to expect them to write or produce content themselves. Rather, establish a good working relationship with these experts and be respectful of their time. Ask for quick interviews and come prepared with questions that will allow you to turn one 15-minute conversation into the basis of several pieces of content. If you do this right, you’ll find that your internal experts will welcome the occasional distraction to support your efforts.
Keep in mind that your experts might not be the only resource available to you that your competitors don’t have. Does your company collect data relevant to your industry? Does someone at your company subscribe to important industry publications you could use to source information? As you speak with subject matter experts, ask for resources that could help fuel your content creation efforts. You never know when you’ll find something they wouldn’t think to mention, but is immensely helpful.
There’s a tool for just about everything in content marketing. Generally speaking, content marketers rely on tools that help with analytics, consumer insights, cross-channel content scheduling and publishing, email marketing and automation, lead generation, graphic design, and more. The monthly bill for these tools can add up quickly, but it’s also easy to double-pay for functionality.
For example, if you find yourself using a wide variety of marketing tools that each have their own special focus, you might be better off finding a single tool like HubSpot that can handle the majority of what content marketers need. At the same time, it’s perfectly fine to focus on a few tools that work best for your unique situation.
Let’s say you have a great website and help from a vendor or an IT department that can make updates for you; don’t pay for content marketing software with features you don’t need like landing page builders and form embedding. Maybe you don’t have the time to manage posting on every social media channel manually, but a single scheduling tool can buy back a lot of your time for other work; look for a tool like Agorapulse or Hootsuite that can tie all of your social accounts together in one place.
How do you tell if your content marketing is actually moving the needle? It’s one thing to produce and publish content, but it’s another altogether to effectively analyze that content and make sure it’s doing what it’s supposed to do.
At the base level, you’ll want to understand which pieces of content your audiences actually like, which ones are the most popular, and which ones are the duds. A content marketer is always learning from analytics data to improve future content plans. And while what’s relevant to you might be different from what’s relevant to another marketer working for another brand, there are a few metrics that will always be relevant when evaluating the quality of your content:
In addition to those general metrics, there are other measurements you can take on your content depending on the goals you have for it. For example, a large surge in traffic is a great sign if you’ve recently launched a new advertising campaign. But if your ultimate key performance indicator (KPI) is the number of leads you generate, all the traffic in the world is meaningless if none of it converts to a lead. Rather than setting blind goals for your content like a certain number of pageviews or email opens, think iteratively about your goals. Start with the goal to increase email open rates by 5%, then experiment with different subject line treatments to find the best way to achieve that goal.
The magic of content marketing can be found in the social nature of today’s internet. It’s critical to make sure your content is good—and that it’s eminently shareable. With each social media post share, each mention, each forward of an email, and each new set of eyes on your content, you extend your brand’s reach.
Looking at your website analytics alone won’t give you a complete look at a typical customer’s journey through your content marketing funnels. Each social media post, email, and advertisement a user sees counts as a touch that nudges them further along towards becoming a lead. Prioritize marketing tools that can take every platform into consideration when reporting numbers like traffic, shares, and engagement.
Consider this: Facebook video ads cost 10% of image or text-based ads. That’s no accident; Facebook knows its users prefer video content, and it has adjusted its platform to favor video over anything else. Video content gets 135% the reach that other forms of content get on that platform. The same can be said for engaging visual content like infographics over static text content; Facebook posts with images get three times the shares as plain text posts. Make visual and video content a part of every content marketing campaign to maximize organic reach.
Content marketing is considered a form of inbound marketing because it’s designed to capture audiences when they’re looking for something—they come to you. This is opposed to inbound marketing like a billboard or radio ad, which brings you to them even when they aren’t necessarily looking for you. That said, paid advertising has a significant role to play in effective content marketing strategies. Case in point: Hootsuite found that on Facebook, the average organic reach of a business post is just over 5%. If you have a following of 1,000 on your brand’s page, you’ll likely only reach 50 of those followers without boosting your content.
A big factor in how high your brand’s blog posts and webpages show up in search results is the amount of traffic you receive. The more people come to your website, the more search engines trust that you are an authority that will provide real answers to users entering search queries. With that in mind, it’s important to do whatever you can to drive traffic to your new blog posts, both to increase the potential for conversion down the funnel, and to increase your domain’s overall authority with search engines. One of the most cost-effective ways to do this is to boost social media posts sharing links to your blog content with paid advertising. Be sure to build budget into your content marketing plans for these kinds of paid tactics to jumpstart traffic, increase social engagement, and improve your brand’s overall visibility online.
For some content marketers, the toughest nut to crack is the content creation itself. A blank screen can be a daunting thing, but there are plenty of best practices any marketer can follow to produce engaging content in a variety of formats.
According to HubSpot data, blog posts that are 2,100-2,400 words in length perform the best on search engines. Not every piece of content you publish needs to be that long, but for those topics you are most interested in capturing traffic around, longer is better. Develop “pillars” of content that are 2,400 words or more in length, and then support those longer pieces with shorter supporting pieces of around 750 words.
Much of the work of content writing happens before you actually start stringing words together to make a sentence. Start with your keyword research to find out the most important questions and topics to cover in a piece of content. Research other content written on the same subjects, and organize those keywords and questions into sections you’ll need to cover in your article. As you group sources and keywords together in sections, your content will quickly take shape—making the process of actually writing prose that much easier.
If we haven’t made it clear enough already, the best content marketing tips you can find are the ones hidden inside your brand’s data. With every piece of content you publish, with each individual who interacts with it, the picture of how effective your content marketing truly is begins to take shape. With DemandJump’s powerful content marketing platform, you can tap into those insights through cross-channel analytics and consumer insights that show you how your efforts stack up against your competitors—and what questions your best customers are asking online.
Take the guesswork out of content marketing analysis and ideation with a free trial of DemandJump today.
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