I am sure you are already using some form of content marketing in your business. Whether it is the updates you make on your Facebook page, articles you write for a leading publication in your industry, or writing blog posts for your business blog. You can call it what you want but when you are pushing out content to meet your business goals, you are engaging in content marketing. So it pays to learn to do it right.
What do I mean by right? I don’t mean strive for perfection but make your content marketing decisions knowing fully well why you make them in the first place. Truly understand the impact of every piece of content you publish and then take further action to optimize your content marketing goals.
Sounds like a bunch of gibberish? It’s not and to prove this I am going to share highly practical and actionable content marketing tips that you can start implementing today.
#1 Identify your target reader with laser focus
All of your content marketing strategy and implementation will not save you if you don’t get this right. Who are you targeting? Who is your ideal reader? Who are the people you want to attract to your business hoping to convert them into paying clients and customers down the road?
Create one ideal customer avatar for these people, or many. Picture them in such detail that you feel like you are actually addressing a real person when you are writing. Choose a label for these people that they identify with.
Be as specific as you can. You want to call out to your reader and purposefully exclude people who you are not for. This will ensure your content doesn’t come across as generic and trying to please everyone.
#2 Get clear on your content marketing goals
As a business, your outmost goal is to bring in new leads into your business and generate profit. How does content fit into this picture?
Well, content exists because it accomplishes a number of things for you. It creates credibility and builds authority. It differentiates you from your competition. It creates rapport and trust in the eyes of your audience. What’s more it pre-sells, bringing people closer to making a buying decision.
Think about your big picture content strategy but also individual goals for each piece of content you publish. What do you want to accomplish? Do you want social shares? Comments? Do you want to generate business enquires? Do you want to attract some press? Assign a single call to action to every piece of content you put out into the world.
#3 Create editorial calendar for every platform
Creating a very simple editorial calendar for each social media platform will bring your content strategy into action. Think about all the social media sites you are active on. Think about the various channels you are using to promote your content and then create a basic calendar on an individual basis.
Create one for your own blog. It should include the kind of content you will publish, the date you will publish it, and a working headline. Create another for your Facebook business page, and another one for your guest posting strategy.
I find it easier to set aside a few hours for each platform and then sit down and map out the content ideas in advance rather than saying ‘a blog post on this topic’. You are already listing your main categories so go ahead and take some time to dig through your bookmarks and Evernote links and actually do few weeks of content for each site. I would advise against planning for months ahead because of the rapidly changing nature of things on the web.
#4 Follow 80-20 rule of content publishing
The 80-20 principle states that 80% of your results with come from 20% of your efforts. Apply this principle to your own content marketing strategy.
Firstly, you need to evaluate your current state of things, what’s working, what’s not. If you have a dozen social media accounts but you see that most of your traffic is coming from two or three places, maybe it’s time to concentrate on those and let go of others.
Secondly, apply this principle to your own blog. Spend 20% of your time creating content and the rest promoting it. Especially in the beginning when you don’t have too much traffic coming in or a decent sized audience. For every post you write on your own blog, aim to publish 3-4 on other sites. Apply the same rule to the nature of the content itself – 20% promotional and 80% educational.
Lastly, always remember that quality trumps quantity. You don’t have to create more content. Unlike the early days when there wasn’t millions of sites fighting for eyeballs on the web, now we are at a point where we are facing content fatigue. More is not always better.
#5 Develop a variety of content types
You don’t have to stick to one form of content, feel free to switch it around. You might create blog posts (written) or do a podcast (audio). You might create video tutorials (video) or infographics (visual).
Play up to your strengths but don’t hesitate to outsource different formats. If you have a team of people, you can assign different content creation tasks to members of your team that they are naturally good at and also enjoy doing.
Additionally, think about the kind of content you can create. You can publish how-to content, which is purely educational, or you can create content to entertain or inspire people. You can tell personal stories, you can cover latest trends and new topics, you can even give shout outs to your clients and customers.
#6 Learn to write killer headlines
Know the one sure fire way to sabotage your content marketing tactics? Write rubbish headlines. This alone will be enough to kill everything you have been working towards.
As I said, identifying your perfect audience is crucial and crafting an effective content plan is a must, but this is the last piece of the trifecta. People will forgive you for formatting mistakes or even stuffy prose, they will shake their heads at the choice of images you use and even share your content even though you didn’t ask (you forgot the call to action) but boring and irrelevant headlines? They will get ignored faster than you can say content marketing.
Hone your headlines, it is a skill and it takes time to develop. If you are really clueless or suck at it, hire someone to do it for you! Most people can do a decent enough job on their own – it is not rocket science. Make your headline benefit laden and/or invoking curiosity and you are done.
#7 Be interesting
Publish content people actually want to read. This can be educational, inspirational or entertaining, but as long as you are providing people with some value, they will find it interesting.
Remember you are writing for the web where the rules of writing are a little bit different than the rules for writing for print or even corporate writing. Pay attention to your voice and tone. Infuse your writing with your personality and aim to genuinely connect with your readers on a deeper level.
Write with a conversational tone of voice, as if you are talking to a friend. Write like you speak but edit it for clarity. Use short sentences and contractions.
Get to the point quickly and format it right. Use lots of white space and break up your chunky paragraphs into readable length. Use images, bullets, numbered lists, italics and sub-headings to guide your reader. If they find it useful and easy to read, they are that much more likely to share it and pay attention to what you say.
#8 Write for both humans and search engines
Old school content marketing looked very much like a link-building practice but it is not the same thing. In fact, if you carry your content marketing activities to build links only, Google will not look kindly on you.
You must create content using the exact language your ideal market speaks. Use those phrases people use to search online to get to what they need. This way not only you make sense to the people who haven’t found you yet but also to the search engines.
Don’t create content just to get traffic and links, it reeks of spam and readers are too smart for that. Create content that adds value, content that people love and genuinely want to share, which in turn will bring even more traffic. Attract traffic the right way. If you attract links organically, great, but do not make it the sole focus of your content strategy.
#9 Add a relevant call to action
Always add a call to action as without adding one to your content marketing, there is no way to elicit any action and your efforts will surely fail.
Make sure it is relevant and contextual. It can be to download an ebook, sign up to a list, make a sales enquiry, or make a purchase. Don’t add CTAs asking for purchase after every piece of content as you don’t want it to turn into a sales pitch. Do it only when it makes sense to do so and it is considered perfectly appropriate by your audience. On the other hand, don’t avoid mentioning your product or service at all otherwise you will dramatically reduce the overall ROI. Remember, context is key.
#10 Never run out of ideas again
Content marketing is an ongoing activity, you have to engage in it day after day, week after week and there will genuinely come a time where you start feeling a bit blocked.
The cure is to maintain your idea swipe file and keep adding to it. Set up Google alerts. Subscribe to the leading blogs and magazines in your industry. Pay attention to what people are saying in online groups, forums, communities, and on social media. Make a list of all the questions your own readers ask you on a regular basis whether via email or in your blog comments section.
Turn to this material for inspiration and ideas when you sit down to draft your content plan. Dip into the material you have saved to your hard drive and draw inspiration but never copy. Content that has been rehashed and put together hastily is easily spotted.
#11 Enlist help of others
Don’t spend all of your content marketing effort on creating brand awareness. You can actually get other people to help you out.
Connect with the key influencers and power users with big SEO influence. You want to strike genuine relationships with them and add value before you ever ask for anything in return. When it’s the right time, you can ask them to share a piece of content with their tribe (which usually comprises of hundreds of thousands of followers, if not millions). Apart from direct sharing, an endorsement from a big shot is like icing on the cake.
Instead of creating brand new content every time, you can ask your readers thought provoking or fun questions and invite their opinions. This makes for great user generated content.
Ultimately, the purpose behind content marketing is to turn your users into brand advocates so they can also spread the work for you and become cheerleaders for your brand. When they sing your praises, it leads to a far bigger impact than it would when you do it. Your customers making the case for you makes is 100 times more credible.
#12 Optimize your content landing pages
A content landing page is created with an intention for the reader to take a certain action, usually consume a piece of content. Examples of landing pages include a squeeze page where the goal is to simply collect email addresses, home page, about page, or any other content page like a blog post, a page hosting a video tutorial or a presentation.
In order for your content marketing to work to its fullest potential, you need to take care that all of your landing pages have been optimized, meaning, you have made it really easy for your reader to find the most important information and they don’t have to dig to find what they are looking for. There is a strong headline and one clear call to action and you have also made it easy for them to take the action you want them to take.
All of your landing pages should add to your credibility, build trust and highlight your point of differentiation.
#13 Create irresistible freebie offers
If you think that you must blog in order to have a successful content marketing plan, you are mistaken. You actually don’t need a blog, although a blog has big advantages for your business. Content marketing just refers to creating and distributing content with a business purpose in mind.
Outside of your regular blog posts, it can also take the form of ebooks, email courses, webinars, live hangouts, interviews, podcasts, white papers, infographics, video tutorials, and presentations.
Most of these, if not all, should be created with the purpose of getting people to sign up for your email list so they essentially behave as your lead generation offers. Most importantly, you don’t have to have one! You can have multiple offers designed for different channels.
#14 Stop looking for instant gratification
This goes without saying but content marketing is a long term strategy. Sometimes it can be hard to see results instantly and feel like it is not working. Don’t. Be consistent. Schedule updates and monitor regularly. Use analytics and make future decisions based on stats If you keep going and keep doing things right, you will start seeing results, this is guaranteed.
Ready to begin?
At the end of the day, content marketing is a strategic process where you create and distribute useful, relevant, and highly valuable content to attract your target audience. In order for it to work, you have to do it consistently and with a clear, pre-defined intention.
Which of the above actions will you take today? Share with us in the comments below!
If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out this free Content Marketing Essentials for 2015 Guide that we’ve prepared for you! There’s plenty of valuable information and examples waiting for you, so get your coffee and a note-pad ready. You’ll definitely want to write this down and present to your team when you’re back in the office.