I recently caught up with co-owner and marketing mastermind behind Boston co-retail space For Now, Kaity Cimo. She runs the space with friend and business partner Katharine ReQua. They opened a year ago and have played home to over 80 brands in that time.
Content Marketing 101: Your Guide to Creating Successful Campaigns
You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘content is king’ a billion times by now—and it’s true. Every marketer worth their salt knows that the secret to success in 2019 is creating great content.
Why? Because it works.
In fact, it works so well, that 91% of B2B businesses use content marketing as part of their marketing strategy. To help you to get started, we’ve put together this content marketing 101 guide with absolutely everything you need to know.
Don’t worry if you’re completely new to content marketing – we’ll be showing you exactly how to plan and execute a successful content marketing campaign, step by step. Just grab your notepad and a coffee and buckle in.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is a pretty loosely defined term that different marketers interpret in different ways. Here’s the definition that the Content Marketing Institute offers:
“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.”
That might sound a little business-y, so let me put it another way:
Content marketing is creating something that your customers want and giving it to them for free in order to get them onto your website and build a relationship with them.
Most of the time, the ‘content’ you create will be written content, like a blog, webpage, or ebook, but it could also be an infographic, video, podcast, or anything else that your target customers might find helpful or interesting.
The reason it works so well is that you’re putting the customer’s needs first. You’re giving them something they want without asking for anything in return. In that sense, it’s kind of the antithesis to traditional marketing, in which you’re trying to convince customers to pay for something.
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You’re probably thinking “that all sounds great from the customer’s perspective, but what’s in it for me?”.
Let’s find out!
Benefits of content marketing
There are plenty of benefits of content marketing that make it superior to other marketing strategies. Here are a few of them.
1. Generates website traffic
Content marketing is the king of inbound marketing as it generates more leads than paid search and doesn’t require you to keep paying for ads. If you create evergreen content that ranks on search engines like Google, it can keep sending traffic your way for years and you won’t need to spend another penny.
2. Builds familiarity and trust
The goal of content marketing isn’t just to convert customers but to also build familiarity and trust in your brand. Customers these days are skeptical of traditional ads, but they do appreciate useful content.
Once you’ve built up a relationship and established trust with your customers, it will be easier to increase conversions later down the line. For example, you could use your content as a vehicle to build your mailing list and then use email marketing to drive revenue conversions.
3. Positions you as an industry expert
By providing great content, you can position yourself as expert in the field and your brand can become a go-to source for information and advice in your business niche.
4. Supports your other marketing methods
Content is the backbone of most marketing campaigns. Whether you’re running a PPC, social, SEO, or PR campaign, content almost always serves as the foundation.
5. Helps you to improve website authority
Unlike sales pages, content is shareable. Other bloggers are more likely to share and link to your website pages if they offer real value which means you can use your content to attract backlinks and build your website authority.
Getting started with Content Marketing
Alright, now that you know why content marketing is awesome, let’s talk about how you can plan, set up, and execute your own content marketing campaign.
Step 1: Researching ideas
The goal of content marketing is to create something that your audience is going to want to read so the first step is to start brainstorming some ideas for potential topics.
A lot of the time, the aim of your campaign will be to generate search traffic, which means thinking about ‘keywords’ that your target customers are likely to be searching for so that you can create content around those keywords. We call this step ‘keyword research’.
There are lots of ways to find keyword ideas, here are some of my favorites.
The alphabet soup method
This technique involves plugging the start of a search string into Google and seeing what the search suggestions bring up as you cycle through letters.
For example, let’s imagine you run a business selling cycling equipment. You know that your potential customers are interested in cycling gear, so naturally ‘cycling gloves’ would be an interesting topic to explore.
If you type in ‘cycling gloves a’ into Google, it will immediately show you some keywords that people have been searching for:
You can then change the letter after cycling gloves to see what else comes up. If we move onto ‘b’, we get the following results:
Immediately, I can see a few potentially great content ideas. I might write an article titled ‘The Ultimate Cycling Gloves Buying Guide’, or make an infographic with ‘10 Cycling Gloves Benefits’. You get the idea.
Another great place to find content ideas is on Reddit. Many users treat Reddit as a go-to place for advice and recommendations from real people. You can browse a subreddit related to your industry and look out for questions that your customers are likely to ask, then make a post to answer them.
Sticking with our cycling equipment store example, you could head over to /r/cycling and search for ‘equipment’ in the search bar. As you can see below, you can find a ton of potential topics in these forum threads.
Google Trends is another great tool for finding content ideas. You can plug in a keyword related to your business niche to find related ‘trending topics’.
You can look at the ‘related queries’ section to see trending keywords and the increase in search volume over time. Often, these queries will be related to recent news stories and might not be great ideas for ‘evergreen’ content, but they’re still worth considering.
Qualify your ideas
Once you’ve brainstormed some potential topics, you need to qualify them. If you’re focusing on search marketing, you want your keywords to demonstrate two things:
- A high monthly search volume
- Low competition
You can check search volume using the tool Ubersuggest in seconds. Just input a keyword or topic into the box and click ‘Search’. You’ll see a list of results accompanied by the estimated monthly search volume.
Competition is a little harder to assess but Ubersuggest uses a 1-100 scale to let you know how hard a topic is to rank for – the higher the number the harder it’s going to be. If you don’t know how strong your own site is just add it to the Traffic Analyzer and see where it lands on the 1-100 scale!
Step 2: Creating content
Once you’ve found some topics/keywords for your content, it’s time to plan and create it. I’d recommend you start by creating a content calendar (we use Google Sheets) to help you map out what content you plan to produce and when you’ll produce it.
This is also the stage in which you’ll need to develop your content strategy and think about things like:
- What the goal of your content is
- Who your buyer personas are (once you know this, you can use it to inform and develop your brand voice)
- The type of content you want to create (different formats are better for different goals and topics)
- What content management system you plan on using (we use WordPress)
- Where your content will be published (we opted for https://ampjar.com/blog/)
- Any editorial guidelines for written content
If you’re doing this at-scale and plan on delegating content creation tasks to other team members, outline this in your plan too.
If you plan on producing blog posts or articles, the success of your campaign will be directly linked to the quality of your writing.
Here are some best practices when it comes to producing great written content:
- SEO is everything – install the Yoast plugin (if using WordPress) and make sure any articles/blog posts you post are optimized around your target keywords. That way, you have a better chance of ranking in Google so that more people will see your content.
- Write for a 5th-grader – you’re not aiming for the next Pulitzer Prize, the goal is to make your content as concise and easy to read as possible.
- Avoid fluff – stick to the topic that you’re writing about and get straight to the point. If it doesn’t add value, don’t include it.
- Avoid long blocks of text – break up your content with frequent subheadings, images, lists, and anything else you can think of.
- Aim for between 1,000 and 3,000 words – depending on the topic of your article, it’s best to aim to write between 1,000 and 3,000 words. Google (and your audience) likes to see long-form articles that explore a topic in-depth.
- Create the best piece of content on that topic – look at other articles from your competitors and make your content twice as good.
If you’ve already got some content written this is also the time where you can consider reoptimizing it – after all, there’s no need to create something new if there’s more to gain from your existing pieces.
I could talk all day about how to create good written content, but there’s so much to say that it’s best to leave the bulk of it for another article – or several, for that matter. So, let’s move on.
Step 3: Promoting content
The third and final step is to promote your content – after all, it’s no good producing great content if nobody ever sees it, right?
Promoting your content does two things:
- It gets more eyeballs on your content, which means more brand recognition and leads.
- It helps you to acquire backlinks and/or social shares, both of which boost your authority so that you stand a better chance of ranking in the search engine and getting more traffic.
There are lots of different ways to promote your content once you’ve published it. Here are a few ideas to think about.
Promote it on social media
Every time you post a new piece of content, share it on your social pages, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can even repurpose your content to get more out of it. For example, you could turn a blog post into a YouTube video to share on YouTube, or an infographic to share on Pinterest.
Related: How to Use Pinterest Group Boards
Send out an email to your mailing list
You can use your mailing list to help get an initial bit of traction to your content. Set up a newsletter and an automated mailing campaign to send a list of your latest posts to your subscribers.
Run a paid ad campaign
You might even want to invest in a Facebook ads or Google ads campaign to promote your content. This is especially effective if your content is generating a lot of conversions, as you might see an immediate ROI.
Network with other influencers/bloggers
Reach out to and collaborate with other bloggers/influencers in your industry. If you approach this right, it can be a great way to share your content with their audience and land backlinks to help boost your authority. Guest posting is a great way to achieve this.
Whatever route you choose to go down, it’s important to track your results so you can see how well your content performed.
Think about your KPIs and set up tracking links so that you can see how many clicks your content is getting, and how many of those clicks are converting to sales, signups, or other customer actions.
How to find and coach content writers
So, that’s a lot of work, huh? Between researching keywords, planning your content strategy, executing the campaign, promoting your content, and tracking the results, how on earth are you supposed to find the time to write the content in the first place?
That’s why most businesses choose to outsource their content creation to writers. This not only frees up your own time, but it also ensures that your content gets written by a professional.
Finding content writers
When it comes to finding writers, you have a few options.
Option one is to use a ‘writing agency’ or ‘content mill’. These mills connect content writers with businesses on a mass scale and include companies like iWriter and ContentGather. The problem with going down this route is that they rarely vet their writers adequately and quality is very inconsistent.
The second option is to post a job on a freelancer marketplace like Upwork or Guru. You have the advantage here of being able to select your own writer from a pool of applicants, which gives you more control.
The third option is to post a job listing on a writer job board like ProBlogger and wait for the applications to roll in. Writers that hang around on these kinds of job boards tend to be much more well-qualified and professional.
Every writer has their own rates; some charge per word while others charge per project. Generally speaking, the more you pay, the better the quality of writing you’ll get. You should probably expect to pay an absolute minimum of $0.05 per word (or ideally, $0.20+ per word) if you want to access the best talent.
You’ll also ideally want to hire a writer that specializes in your business niche. For example, if you’re a business in the health and fitness industry, look for health and fitness writers. That being said, if you can’t find a specialist, some generalist writers are very versatile and can still do a great job with any topic.
Coaching content writers
To make sure the quality of your writing and your brand voice is consistent across the board, set some editorial guidelines for your writers.
The best way to ensure a high-quality article is to provide a detailed brief. In the brief, outline the title and any sub-topics you want them to explore. Make sure you also state any keywords, style/tone guidelines, and formatting requirements right from the start.
Writers are usually happy to make edits on request, but make sure you clarify this with them before you start the project. If edits might be required, agree on how many edit requests are included with each article.
After each piece, give feedback to the writer on anything you liked or didn’t like, and on anything you’d like them to do differently next time, to make sure you’re both on the same page.
As you can see, executing a successful content marketing campaign is a lot of work – but it’s worth it. Every time you create a great piece of content, you’re creating an asset for your business that can help you to generate leads for years to come.
Take the time to follow the steps above and focus on quality, and you can’t go wrong!
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