Content marketing is much more complex than it was ten years ago. Search engine technology is getting smarter and new algorithms are being rolled out more frequently to improve the quality and relevance of content ranking websites and their value to the World Wide Web.
SEO – Search Engine Optimization is now also a big factor in how your content is structured and defined for the web which means as a content marketer you will have your work cut out for you.
You now need more than great writing to attract, engage, convert, and retain users at the right stage of the buy-cycle.
To throw more to think about into the mix, there are also dozens of different tools you can use in your content marketing strategy and execution. For startups, entrepreneurs and even established companies this depth of choice and direction can often create more confusion than advantages for you.
Many marketers will jump in, launch a blog, website or product and service page, and then hire writers — only to see zero or poor results. Content quality is a top priority for most marketers but content strategy should weigh in with equally importance to get things outlined at the start.
With my experience in sales, marketing and as an entrepreneur and blogger at http://socialmedia-authority.com/ I have used many different types of content marketing techniques and social media, both paid and organic strategies to boot. I am going to share some tips for a rock solid content plan but first lets take a look at what marketers are doing and what are the current trends.
Content quality is a top priority for most marketers
It’s no surprise that one of the top tactics on which most marketers across business types and regions are focused is “creating more engaging/higher-quality content.”
A survey conducted by contentmarketinginstitute.com found that 60% to 70% of marketers are focusing on this tactic now, with the remainder planning to work on it in the next 12 months.
These figures point to a milestone in content marketing’s evolution as a discipline: Not only are companies recognizing that they may need to create more engaging content to deliver on audience expectations, they are acknowledging that this content also needs to be of a high enough quality to break through the noise and stand apart from that of the competition.
Perform a content audit
Performing a content audit is an important first step in creating higher-quality content overall. One recommendation to offer on this is to take the time to catalog all your existing pieces of content and track how each piece has performed.
This exercise can provide valuable insights as to what content resonates best with your target audience. All too often, a content strategy can try to do too much at once. So by discovering what you’re really doing well through the auditing process, you can gain a better understanding of what to focus on — and what to leave behind.
Visual content continues to rise in popularity
With the content landscape as cluttered as it is, marketers should always be on the lookout for compelling ways to present their content without overwhelming the audience with a lot of unnecessary noise.
This is one of the many reasons why visual content has been taking off over the last few years – and possibly why almost all the marketers in the survey reported it as a top focus, with about 60% working on this now and an additional 20% working on this tactic in the next 12 months.
Of course, without deep design expertise in-house, it can often be challenging to find the best ways to create and deliver stand-out visual content.
Here are a few key tips to help get you started in the right direction
- Be unique and avoid using stock photography whenever possible.
- Use compelling visual cues to inspire audiences to think about your offerings in unique ways.
- Consider providing a platform that allows consumers to contribute their own thoughts, images, and ideas on your products, and how they can be enjoyed.
- Real-time and user-generated content is popular, but perplexing
While user-generated content and real-time marketing are popular buzzwords in the trades, this year’s survey results indicate that these tactics haven’t yet gained mass appeal among content marketers. With the exception of B2C marketers in North America, only a small number of respondents reported that they are focusing on this tactic now – though a slightly higher percentage (~30%) are looking to approach this tactic in the next 12 months.
Similarly, for real-time marketing, only about half of marketers surveyed are working on this tactic now or are planning to in the next 12 months, though once again, B2C companies in North America seem to be adopting this more readily than other marketers.
For those companies looking to implement more real-time techniques in the year ahead, there are some simple tools that can help.
For example, even the most basic social listening tools can help you monitor what consumers are saying about your products (and industry in general) at any given time. Setting up listening “buckets” (or search categories) allows you to quickly sort through those conversations and identify key trends and themes, which can help you interact more rapidly and responsively.
Other essential things to consider
- leverage paid-promotion for your content
- Use marketing-automation and lead-nurturing tactics – implemented by more than 50% of marketers
- Create a greater variety of content types and formats
- Optimize your website content – majority of marketers seem to be concerned about this
Why you cant jump start your blog content
I have seen this frequently, new page or website launched and a couple of writers churn out the content, but this approach just doesn’t work effectively. Go an take a look at kissmetrics, crazyegg, growtheverywhere or mashable business insider and entrepreneur all great blogs with tonnes of useful information and helpful content, but more or less everywhere it’s just the same things that are repeated over and over in different forms, either rephrased or reproduced. How can you differentiate your play and strategy? What you need is a healthy mix of right and left brained skillsets that empower you to:
- Develop a high impact content strategy,
- Test your content marketing theories,
- Execute quickly
- Iterate constantly
- Measure results,
- Repeat successes
And after spending years and hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless hours experimenting, developing and promoting various forms content. I have summarized how anyone can create content that sells.
Cover your bases, and build the foundations for a rock-solid content strategy by following this step-by-step guide.
Step 1: Identify your target customer
Once you know who your target customers are you need to create its persona. The age group, demographics, interest areas, the kind of things it would like to see, read, share etc. (it doesn’t even have to do anything with your product)
Step 2: Sync Up with the Buy Cycle
Create a conversion funnels diagram, the steps that your prospects take to become first-time customers and repeat buyers. These paths are unique, will vary between business models, and can span timeframes ranging from days to months (or even years). The more expensive or high-commitment your product, the more time that your customers will spend researching.
Typical conversion funnels look like the following and span four distinct phases:
- Awareness – Audiences become familiar with your brand.
- Consideration – Audiences research your product by reading your content and connecting with your brand on social media.
- Engagement – Interested audiences become leads by redeeming offers, downloading ebooks, and signing up for your company’s newsletters.
- Conversion – Prospects become buyers by making a purchase
- Retention – Existing customers follow the steps of the conversion funnel again to become repeat buyers.
- Inbound Marketing Funnel
- Found on smartinsights.com
Content marketing is best for funnel stages 1, 2, 3, and 5. You need to make sure that you’re tailoring the content you produce to each step.
Step 2: Plan and Validate Your Content
What are you going to write about? That’s a tough question. Content marketing is different from other types of marketing writing in that your goal is to entertain and engage an audience – not just sell. Instead of pushing a sales agenda, imagine that you’re on stage. You live and breathe for your audience.
The question you should be asking is “what do my target audiences care about?” Answer these questions directly, and you’ll have an instant audiences as well. Here are some strategies for getting started:
- Talk to your sales and account management team to ask about questions that your customers are asking. Write content to answer those questions directly. Ask your sales and account management team to send your content to prospects and existing clients. In this case, your content will satisfy the conversion goals of awareness, consideration, engagement, and retention.
- Browse Quora threads to research discussions in your target market. Answer questions on Quora itself. Here is an example from Karen X. Cheng, founder at 100 — a company that helps people practice a skill for 100 days. She answered a Quora question with links back to her own blog, sending referral traffic back to her website. In this case, your content will satisfy the conversion goals of engagement and conversion.
- Ask your network to recommend topics. This strategy will help you build an instant rapport with your target audience. Here is an email recently sent to the Coworks community. Write about topics that your users recommend, and then send the blog posts back to them.
- Do a survey, see what kind of response similar topics have received in the past. speak to members of your target audience.
Step 3: Build Your Distribution Plan
Remeber that content marketing is more than just blogging. In addition to producing blog posts, infographics, whitepapers, and articles, you need to build visibility and connections with your audiences. This process is getting harder and harder. The competition for audience attention is fierce, and you need to make sure that you’re ahead of the curve.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Share your content with your existing customer base. Ask your sales and client services team to distribute content as part of their core strategies.
- Guest post on blogs that already have a dedicated audience stream. Here is an example from Anita Newton, VP of marketing at Adknowledge, on the Clarity.fm blog.
- Ask major publishers or widely read blogs to syndicate your content. Prerna Gupta contributed an article to the Clarity.fm who then syndicated her piece with The Next Web.
- Develop a PR strategy to promote your content to publications, fellow companies, and other media hubs. This process involves reaching out to journalists 1:1.
- Hire writers with existing distribution channels. Look for those who have followers of over 10,000 on Twitter.
- Use Twitter hashtags to build visibility. I frequently write about social media and content content marketing and join discussions on #entrepreneurship, #startups, #business, #socialmedia and #marketing.
- While you are collecting all the material and doing your research, you must also start drawing up a list of influencers who will help you promote and share your content. Again, this list needs to be well researched and worked upon. Also, simply drawing up a list wont be enough, these influencers will require your time and engagement over a period. So instead of focusing on 100, focus on 20 whom you religiously follow & share their content.
Step 4: Optimize Conversion Goals
Bringing visitors to your website is only the first step. You need to implement lead nurturing frameworks to keep the conversations going and build the relationship over the long-term. Conversion funnels can span a period of months or years. You need to position your brand as a consistent touch point.
On my blogs I encourage sign-ups, social media sign-ups, and e-book downloads. I am not aggressive about pushing direct sales of my training, coaching or ebooks. The audience needs the time and space to learn about your business and determine whether your offering is the right fit.
- Content marketers need to make sure that their conversion goals are compelling and incentive-driven.
- At any given time, your users are asking “what’s in it for me?”
- Your forms, offers, and downloads should speak to this question directly.
Step 5: Interactive Content
Once you are done with the your research, focus on creating content that is interactive and engaging. Something that your audience would spend time with and also share with their friends.
Passive content is still relevant despite some people claiming its dead – but you need to keep in mind its relevance and authority. Actionable insights and research bites are popular and have worked well for me over the years.
You can use microsites, interactive infographics, videos, quizes etc., make it visual!. For anyone who doesn’t know and understand what interactive content is, read this: http://www.snapapp.com/blog/what-is-interactive-content-and-why-it-works
7 Easy-to-Use Tools for Creating More Interactive Content
Guides.co’s mission is to “connect people who know with people who want to grow.”
In an effort to accomplish this, they’ve created a platform for users to create and share interactive guides on whatever they’re passionate about. The guides employ text, images, video, and embedded files to create a rich, participatory experience for the reader.
By including a comment field within the guide, readers can share feedback and ideas to fuel meaningful discussions. This feature aims to promote a sense of community and open up a line of communication between guide users and consumers.
ThingLink is an interactive media platform that allows users to bring their photos and videos to life through the inclusion of rich media links.
By adding multiple engagement points to a photo or video, users are able to create a unique experience that encourages the user to interact with the content for longer.
To demonstrate, take a look at how New York Magazine enables mouseover points to make additional content easily discoverable in their weekly roundup:
This approach is not only interesting, but it works to reduce high bounce rates by providing readers with multiple content options that are related to the content on that page.
Ceros is a platform that provides users with the powerful tools they need to create high quality, interactive content without having to rely on developers.
Through the use of a drag-and-drop functionality, Ceros enables users to create six different types of content:
- Shoppable Catalogs
All Ceros designs start simple and come to life through the implementation of interactivity and animations. To get a better idea of what to expect, take a look at these screenshots from an ebook made with Ceros:
Through the incorporation of elements like video and interactive buttons, transforming a static piece of content into something more dynamic is quite simple.
Unlike a traditional ebook, an interactive approach makes it easier for you to guide your readers through the content in its entirety with the hopes that they walk away from it feeling more educated and sales-ready.
ContentTools is an interactive content platform aimed at helping businesses generate leads, drive website traffic, and increase social engagement.
Much like Ceros, ContentTools offers seven different types of interactive content:
- Personality Quiz – Engage your audience with personality-style quizzes similar to those Buzzfeed and PlayBuzz publish.
- Trivia – Challenge your audience with trivia-style quizzes.
- Polls – Survey your audience with our opinion-based polling tool.
- Ranker – Collect crowdsourced rankings from your audience on any topic from politics to entertainment.
- Can You Guess – Challenge your audience with informative, numerical-based quizzes.
- Caption This – Encourage your audience to caption an image with this interactive competition.
- Contests – Collect valuable information about your audience with giveaways from your site.
Here’s an example of what you can create with their Caption This tool:
Hosting a caption contest incentivizes your visitors to hand over a bit of contact information and establish and strengthen your relationship with them.
If you’re thinking about implementing this, consider using a candid office shot to humanize your brand and invite more personal engagement.
Want to facilitate both social sharing and repeat site visits?
While it can initially be difficult to imagine anything other than sports tournaments taking shape within a bracket, marketers have found a number of innovative ways to use this interactive tool. Here’s a look at a creative bracket that helped BostInno score some viral success:
Looking to crown Boston’s hottest new startup, BostInno was able to drum up a bit of friendly competition by creating this highly-shareable bracket.
Before you get started with Brackify, it’s important to note the difference between the two types of brackets — Complete and Round By Round. While The Complete bracket allows users to fill out a bracket in its entirety with no round restrictions, The Round By Round bracket has specific start and end times for each round, meaning that users can only cast their vote when the round is active.
Zaption is an interactive video tool designed to engage learners (of all types) by prompting them with clarifying questions throughout an educational video.
This is how it’s typically formatted:
While this tool is geared toward teachers, it’s perfect for anyone looking to provide and reinforce information and instruction.
This tool can be used as a great method of training. Whether you’re looking to walk a colleague through onboarding a new software or easily explain a new marketing technique or approach, this type of video-based learning is designed to differentiate instruction and keep it interesting.
Looking to build a dialogue and drive more engagement for your brand? SnapApp is an interactive content platform that enables users to create and analyze nine different types of interactive content assets:
- Assessments & Personality Tests
- Knowledge Tests & Quizzes
- Polls & Surveys
- Interactive White Paper
- Interactive Infographic
- Contests & Sweepstakes
Below is a compelling example of a SnapApp quiz created by Development Dimensions International (DDI):
This piece of content is effective for a couple of reasons. First, it helps DDI uncover insights regarding the participant’s knowledge level, which can be used to create more relevant marketing experiences moving forward. Additionally, it creates a sense of competition, as the copy encourages participants to share their results on social to see how they stack up against others.
Step 6: Measure Results
Now comes the fun part. How did your content marketing plan perform? Answer this question by lining up your key performance indicators (KPIs) with the conversion goals that you specified in
Step 1. Here are the metrics that you should be tracking:
- Unique visitors – The number of new people that you’ve brought to your website through content.
- Repeat visitors – The number of people that you’ve brought back to your website through content.
- Time on site – A measure of engagement.
- Goals completed – Could include e-book downloads, new account registrations, or free trial sign-ups.
- Keyword rankings – Your market share and presence in the search landscape.
- Keyword Rankings in Google
- Google Analytics can help you set up, monitor, and track the user events that are most important to your company’s conversion funnel.
- Measurement takes up-front planning. Know what you want to quantify before deploying your content strategy. Structure is key. Created a simplified, automated, and repeatable process.
Content Marketing tools
Kevan Lee has compiled a superb list of content marketing tools over at buffer, check this our here: https://blog.bufferapp.com/content-marketing-tools
The value of a structured content plan will be your company’s ability to learn from mistakes, iterate upon techniques, and grow successful initiatives. It’s possible to tweak any aspect of this stage for better results. Always be testing, and always be learning. It may take some time to get your content strategy off the ground, but don’t be alarmed, as it will bring you closer to your goals sooner or later. Good luck with your content marketing!
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