While digital marketing trends may come and go, one channel that shows no sign of slowing down is content marketing. Consider these stats from CMI: 89% of B2B marketers use content marketing, with 70% of them saying they upped their output in 2017 when compared with 2016. And this trend will only continue into 2018.
That means, whether you’re a new startup or an established company, you need to invest in a solid content strategy sooner rather than later. To achieve this you’ll want to take a holistic approach, ensuring that each bit of content works in conjunction with the other—that they feed off each other and support each other.
Here are six fundamentals to design and implement a cohesive strategy for success.
Set your content goals
Before you focus on the what, it’s vital to first understand the why. That means articulating why you’re selling what you’re selling in the first place. As successful entrepreneur/marketer Seth Godin states in his “Business Toolbox” Skillshare class, “Matching what you build to where you put it is more important than what you build in the first place.”
In other words, when crafting your content strategy, you must define an ultimate goal. Maybe your goal is building your email list, or app downloads, or more site visitors—whatever. The key is to set that goal now before you’ve committed untold marketing dollars and man hours to your strategy. Failure to do so at the beginning, when these choices are free and easy, means your tactics will fall short down the line.
Understand who the content is for
That means not only researching your audience but understanding them as well. Who, exactly, is the person who will be reading, viewing, or listening to your content? The only way your strategy will be successful is if your content educates them and answers their most pressing questions. This is the most efficient way to facilitate their journey down the marketing funnel, from the very top at the brand awareness stage, to the bottom, when they finally convert to paying customers.
There are marketing strategies that call for not just creating a fictionalized representation of your buyer persona (which is indeed crucial), but fully immersing yourself in the role of the customer. To begin, look at the quantitative data first, in the form of audience demographics. What age range is your ideal customer? Are they corporate executives in the 35-55 age range? Maybe younger startup employees? What about their gender, and their location?
Then look at the qualitative data—all those things we can’t put a number to, like hobbies, interests, belief systems, etc. Print out a list of all the things you’ve come up with and compare that with your content. How is your content serving the needs of this virtual target you’ve created? Maybe they spend more time on YouTube than Facebook, or perhaps they eschew Google searches for community-provided info found on Reddit and Quora.
Start a blog
Blogging as a marketing tactic is steadily on the rise. New businesses without a foothold in the blogosphere will have to make some simple but important choices. You have the option to build your own blogging platform or kick things off quickly with a WordPress-powered blog. You can build your site with Squarespace or host written content on platforms like Medium. Vlogs and podcasts you can host on YouTube and Apple, respectively.
But regardless of the platform where you choose to display your content, you’ll want to adhere to some blogging best practices. These include:
- Updating your blog content to reflect the topics your audience cares about
- Focusing on audience engagement (creating content likely to start a conversation)
- Generating evergreen content based on key aspects of your brand that will be relevant for years
- Centering content around topically relevant news, events, etc.
Build your email list
No matter how good your content is, if it’s not finding the right audience, it’s not doing your brand any favors. The solution to this lies in email marketing—building an extensive list of subscribers is one full-proof way to get your ideal audience looking at your content.
Just like blogging, it doesn’t take much to get started on an email list. All you need is an email Service Provider, like MailChimp, which will allow you to build and maintain a subscriber list. One of the benefits of MailChimp is that it’s a free platform up to the first 1,000 subscribers. Having a reputable ESP also ensures your emails don’t get lost in spam folders—provided you don’t abuse the tactic.
That means craft your email campaigns around the core goal of your business. You’ll want to send newsletters and general emails to your full list; for more targeted campaign emails, segment your list according to demographics. Automated messages like welcome emails will be sent to many people over time.
Most importantly, try to find the sweet spot as far as frequency is concerned. How many emails you send depends on your business. That said, once you start sending out more than once a week, you run the risk of irritating your subscribers. Conversely, if they don’t hear from you for months, you run the risk of them forgetting all about you in the first place.
Optimize your website pages
Proper on-page site optimization is one solid way to rise through the search engine rankings and get more eyeballs on your content. What’s the single most important factor the search engines are looking for? The content of the page—it has to be good.
Stand-out content can be broken down into two factors: whether it serves the need of an audience, and whether it’s linkable. For example, you may have one or many website factors that prevent your content from getting links. Do users have to pay to have access to your site? , Is a login screen prevents people from accessing the content? These are all indicators that your site is inaccessible, which will turn potential audience members away.
Certainly, you need to remove all impediments to linkability, but you also need to boost your ranking factors. That means tweaking your meta tags, among other things. The content pages of your website need to be clear in their purpose and topic. This information needs to be reflected in the site elements, which include:
- Title tags
- Page content
- Image alt text
All of these factors need to be optimized to reflect your topic and be hyper-relevant to the user. Bear in mind that title tags are the second most important search engine ranking factor after content. It’s an HTML element that clarifies what the web page is about, and it’s displayed on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) as the headline the audience clicks on.
The optimal format for a title tag goes thusly: primary keyword > secondary keyword > brand name. But you can tweak this format according to your goals. Many SEOs recommend adding modifiers to the title, like the year, or qualifying words such as “best” or “great.” And of course, couching your title in an <H1> tag is a solid strategy.
The next most important element is the URL, which should reflect the category hierarchy of your site. To rank high in Google, your URL should be short and keyword-rich. Take HubSpot as an example. Type “HubSpot” into Google and the first result that comes up for the marketing powerhouse is an offer for a free demo of their software. This is the URL for that particular web page: offers.hubspot.com/Marketing/Demo. The structure here is flawless, as it shows the relevant info as it pertains to marketing. The keywords in this URL are keywords that many Google users are searching for at any given time.
Compare that with, say, a typical IMDB.com page, and you see what not to do. Now, there are likely many movie fans searching for info online about “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” But here’s the URL for the IMDB page for that exact title: imdb.com/title/tt2527336. That URL has no keywords in it that users are searching for, no info hierarchy, and thus that page will never rank as number one on Google for anyone searching for “The Last Jedi.” The lesson, make your URLs like the first example, not the second.
Ultimately, a properly optimized website does many things. It includes the subject of that site in all the elements, including image alt text; it provides unique, valuable content; it links back to category, subcategory, and home pages; and it is hyper-relevant to a specific topic.
Go all in on social media
It may not have always been the case in digital marketing, but these days content and social media are inexorably linked. Without a good social strategy to boost your content, you’re all but dead in the water. Because there are more social media platforms than ever, the first task is to decide which will receive most of your efforts.
Maybe your business sells a video conferencing app. That means you’ll probably want to focus more on sites like YouTube than Facebook. Perhaps you’ve got great facial recognition security software ideal for promotion on Snapchat. The point is you can’t focus all your marketing efforts on every social platform, so choose the best ones for your product or service.
Like with creating an editorial calendar, you’ll also want to plan your posts in advance. Aside from the previous advice, programs like Trello are great for your planning needs. Don’t overlook paid advertisement, either. In this day and age ads are a necessary evil as far as content marketing is concerned. This mostly applies to Facebook, who generated almost $40 billion in ad revenue in 2017.
There is a great benefit to investing in Facebook ads, in that you don’t need a substantial initial investment. There are marketers who see results paying as little as five dollars per day. If you’re a startup, you can get the hang of the system investing as little as a dollar per day. The point is to test it out, tailor the ads to your brand, and build from there.
Now that you understand the importance of a content strategy that flows, take it to the next level by incorporating storytelling through interactive content.
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