Content marketing has become the dominant form of marketing in the digital age. According to Hubspot’s State of Marketing Report, 82% of companies are actively investing in it as part of their marketing strategy.
There’s a good reason for that. SerpWatch reports that content marketing has been found to cost 62% less than traditional forms of marketing while generating three times as many leads.
Yet not all companies that try content marketing see the same results. The key is to have a carefully planned approach that incorporates SEO, social media marketing, and email to maximize the reach and impact of the content you create.
In this article, we’re going to explain each of these areas and how they can work together to make your content marketing effective.
What Is Content Marketing?
Before going further, it would be helpful to clarify what content marketing is. The Content Marketing Institute defines it this way:
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
The key idea here is that this strategy is about creating content your audience wants so that they are drawn to find and connect with your business. Whereas traditional marketing tends to go out and interrupt potential customers in the midst of some other activity that interests them (like watching a show on t.v.), content marketing aims to create resources that are what interests them.
Another contrast with traditional marketing is that the content created for content marketing does not tend to be directly selling. Instead of saying, “Here’s our product. Buy it!”, it says, “Here’s some useful information to answer your question or help you solve your problem.” It can mention a product or service, but the point is to give value to the user as a way to begin cultivating a relationship with a company that may eventually turn into a lead or a sale.
As we noted above, this approach to marketing can be very effective. Businesses that use a blog get 67% more leads than those that don’t and those investing in content marketing see on average 30% higher growth rates than others.
So what does it take to do content marketing well?
Content Marketing and SEO
The foundation for effective content marketing is search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is concerned with crafting content to achieve maximum visibility in search engine results.
There are many aspects to this. Part of it is quite technical, dealing with behind-the-scenes details that can affect search engine rankings.
But the part that is most important from the point of view of content marketing is keyword research. A “keyword” is just the term a person enters into the search box in a search engine like Google. There are many tools that allow you to see what people are searching for and how much volume and competition exist for various keywords.
The goal of keyword research is to determine the specific topics that are most strategic to cover in your content creation. You’re trying to discover the questions your target audience is asking or the problems they are trying to solve so you can address them. This is crucial for ensuring your content is valuable and relevant to your intended audience.
The Heart of the Strategy: Content
Once you understand the topics you should be targeting with your content, you can begin to create it. Here we want to describe three key types of content you’ll want to use in your strategy and offer some thoughts about how to make that content as strong as possible.
These are the workhorse of any content strategy. (You don’t have to call them this, by the way. You’ll notice here that we like to use the term ‘articles.’) These tend to be relatively short (1,000 words or so) pieces, focused upon a particular topic, with the goal of providing valuable information to your audience.
Great blog posts have three characteristics:
- First, they are strategic. Your topic should be carefully selected, based upon the keyword research discussed in the last section.
- Second, they match search intent. This means that they actually answer the question or solve the problem the user has in mind when he or she clicks on the link.
- Third, they are high quality. There is a tremendous amount of content on the web and much of it isn’t very good. Aim for great writing along with truly useful information to set you apart from the crowd.
The static pages on your site can also be a valuable resource when it comes to content marketing. Don’t overlook the potential for informational content that would be useful to someone in your target audience. If you were a bow manufacturer, for instance, it would be natural to have a page describing the types of bows along with their advantages and disadvantages. If this page is really well done, it can get traffic from people looking for this information who then become aware of your brand.
Just like blog posts, great site pages are strategic. SEO research should inform the way you talk about who you are and what you do. You want to make sure you’re engaging with the audience that is actually out there, rather than the one you imagine exists. Know what their real questions and real problems are and show how you can help them.
They should also be well written. Think about what it does for your impression of a brand when you find spelling and grammar problems on their site.
These are just like blog posts but are published somewhere other than your own site. They can be a great way to share your expertise and grow awareness of your brand with a new audience you might not otherwise reach. If you are an architect, for instance, you could write about emerging trends in architecture for a blog on contemporary design.
As with the other two types of content, these should be high quality and strategically targeted. In addition to the topic, this means aiming for publications your target audience is most likely reading..
Maximizing Your Content’s Reach
The hope with great content is that Google will eventually rank it well in search results, giving you organic traffic from those interested in the information you’re providing. But it is also helpful to promote your content to both reach a wider audience and stay connected with the audience you already have. Social media and email are two very effective ways to do this.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other channels can be used to create a brief post whenever you have new content launching on your blog. You’ll reach a different kind of reader this way, who wasn’t necessarily out looking for the information you’re providing but is interested when he or she sees it. This will also keep your content in front of those who signed up to follow you in the past but don’t regularly visit your site.
Email allows you to stay in touch with that segment of your audience that is most engaged. After all, these are people who were interested enough in the past in the content you provide to give you their email address. A regular newsletter can be a great way to stay top of mind and to link to recent content that they probably wouldn’t otherwise see.
Bringing It All Together
To reiterate what we said at the beginning, content marketing is a very effective strategy for building your company’s audience and increasing leads and sales.
Doing it well, however, takes more than just creating content. The most successful content marketing is built on a foundation of careful SEO research, uses content that is strategically targeted and of excellent quality, and amplifies that content while nurturing an audience through the use of social media and email.
After reading all this you might be thinking it sounds great but also wondering if you have the capacity to pull it off. Content marketing takes specialized knowledge, skills, and lots of time. It doesn’t always make sense to try to tackle it yourself.