Are you looking for a content marketing guide that explains everything you need to know in simple-yet-thorough detail? Great, because underneath is our guide to content marketing. If you want to learn more about what it is, how to get started, and how to measure performance, carry on reading!
What Is Content Marketing?
It’s the million-dollar question, and it’s not hard to answer. In its basic form, content marketing is a form of advertising that crafting and distributing content that’s focused on attracting and retaining a critical demographic.
But, wait a minute – isn’t content marketing the same as standard marketing? No. The old methods are on the decline because they are involving pitching and ideas and hoping to secure results. CM is different as it offers relevant and value-adding content to people who you know are already interested in your brand, although they don’t have to be – if the content is reliable, it applies to everyone.
As a result, it’s more efficient, which means you don’t waste valuable resources such as time and money. Also, content marketing has a better hit rate with regards to lead generation. And, the more leads that you obtain, the higher the chance of improving sales and boosting your bottom line.
How It Differs from What You May Think
However, the idea of content marketing as we know it now isn’t the same as reality. For most people, and you may only be getting to grips with the method now, it’s tempting to think about content marketing from a financial perspective. After all, pretty much all marketing is aimed at driving sales and increasing profit margins. What may come as a surprise is that CM isn’t a short-term technique – it’s in it for the long haul.
Most of the time, the data that grabs your attention and makes you a loyal customer isn’t supposed to sell a particular product or service. Instead, it helps with research or your decision-making process. Lonely Planet is an excellent example. Known as ‘The Bible’ for travelers, it’s content marketing strategy has cemented its position as the number one brand in the industry thanks to the information it provides.
Nowadays, travelers and even people on vacation won’t go to a new country without checking what a Lonely Planet guidebook has to say first.
The History of Content Marketing
One of the main ways content marketing differs from how you may think is in its origins. You may believe that it started in 2007 and that Google has had a significant role to play in its popularity today, but that isn’t entirely true. Yes, CM is a useful tool used by companies and individuals around the globe, and Google has propelled it forward in many respects. However, it didn’t emerge in the early 2000s.
Content marketing has been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The most famous example of content marketing at work dates back more than 120 years. John Deere, a seller of industrial products, created a manual called ‘The Furrow’ that aimed to help farmers become more efficient at farming. As a result, they would have more money from their bigger harvests, and use it to buy John Deere equipment.
John Deere is still a successful brand to this day because it told stories that tackled issues that its demographic cared about deeply.
Why Does It Remain an Important Tactic?
We could reel off stat after stat, such as content marketing growth is nearly eight times greater, but that wouldn’t answer the question. You want to know why it remains a vital strategy to this day, and the response is as remarkable as it is basic.
Content marketing is useful because it doesn’t interrupt audiences. Instead, it supplements their everyday life. Reading a blog post that makes you laugh or educates you on a particular subject is enjoyable, and you want to keep on doing it. CM creates a sense of community without shoving products down your throat. The laid-back nature of the advertisement is a trait audience love in a culture where salespersons only want one thing. Aside from not being a one-off piece of marketing, it also makes people feel as if you care. And, that’s a trait that consumers desire in the 21st-century where more distractions make it seem as if your attention isn’t focused on the customer.
We shouldn’t forget the relationship between content marketing and companies’ top goals, too. Leading the way for most businesses is the desire to create more engaging content. Why? It’s because 60% of marketers are unhappy with their current plan. This points to one fact – companies don’t think traditional advertising is enough. Content marketing is the solution to most businesses’ advertising issues, which is why 70% of them created more content in 2017 than in 2016.
How to Get Started with Content Marketing
Now you are aware of the importance and effectiveness of content marketing; it’s time to get involved. Of course, you may not know where to start and how to be successful. Don’t worry – that’s nothing to be ashamed of as we’ve all got to start somewhere. The key is to stick to the basics so that you don’t overcomplicate things in the beginning. Otherwise, you could lose sight of your goals.
The Types of Content Marketing Strategies
In the past, there weren’t many options regarding how content marketers could vary their content. Typically, businesses had access to newspapers, magazines, and physical marketing, such as signs and billboards. Today, the industry is massive and the options at your disposal are greater than ever. Unfortunately, the ability to choose between strategies makes it challenging to pick the perfect the right one. Here is a selection of the tactics.
Social Media Marketing
With more than 3 billion users around the world, social media platforms are fantastic marketing tools. Not only is the audience pool massive and accessible, but companies can use a variety of mediums to connect with users. Many of them concentrate on video and images as they are the new kings of content; however, the text still works. Brands that are funny, witty and self-deprecating on Twitter and Instagram show a lighter side than being a corporate entity.
Infographics perfectly sum up the nature of content marketing. It mixes different styles to provide readers with an informative and educational graphic that is easy to read. The wording isn’t complicated or daunting, the sentences are short, and it’s presented within an image. Aside from being good-looking and engaging, infographics are excellent ways to communicate.
This is especially true if the content has the potential to be wordy and boring.
Everyone is a blogger nowadays, and there’s an obvious reason – it’s effective. If content marketing is meant to build relationships with people, a blog post is the foundation of the connection. For one thing, it’s a brilliant way to share information of all kinds without the underlying agenda of a sales pitch. A ‘how-to’ post, for instance, is a method of adding value and proving your expertise, both of which build relationships. They do this by converting readers into loyal ambassadors and boosting brand awareness.
Another reason for their popularity is SEO. Search engine optimization is also an awareness booster as the tactic improves your rankings on SERPs. All it takes are strategic keywords and backlinks to previous, value-adding content.
Words on a page may be effective, but they pale in significance compared to video content marketing. Video marketing is the number one strategy today as it’s engaging and enjoyable. Famous YouTubers, such as KSI and Logan Paul, were some of the first video content marketers, using short uploads to boost their following. The content had nothing to do with selling, but today their empires are believed to be worth $5m and $19m, respectively.
Half of modern consumers want videos from their favorite brands, and it’s crucial to comply. As well as showing off a company’s personality and building bridges, video content also has a considerable reach. By placing links to social media pages and blogs within the content, the traffic on these platforms will increase too.
PPC has its pros and cons, but it’s fair to say that organic results aren’t the be-all and end-all of content marketing. Placing your content at the top of search engine results pages or on popular social media accounts is bound to raise awareness of your brand. Firstly, PPC has an almost unrivaled reach. But, the second point is that this reach isn’t a hit-and-hope approach. Instead, businesses can pick and choose the platforms and boost their chances of hitting demographics that will make conversions.
The downside is that you must pay, but there is an upside of less hassle. Plus, there’s no need to wait to reap the rewards of organic content marketing.
Creating A Content Marketing Strategy
With the various methods at your disposal, the ability to create a plan isn’t straightforward, never mind tailoring one to your needs. Understanding what works for you is essential, or else you run the risk of your strategy turning into a waste of time and money. To ensure this doesn’t happen, below, you’ll find a list of factors to consider when crafting a plan.
Coming up with a plan is an obvious piece of advice. It’s also vague and doesn’t shed light on how you’re supposed to do it while crafting content that adds value. One method that you should include at this initial stage is SMART goals. In layman’s terms, they are targets that push your strategy forward without being unattainable. Although setting goals seems straightforward, it is challenging to find the perfect balance.
The key is to combine a general method with a tailored approach. Start by writing down the things you want your strategy to achieve, such as ‘boost revenue’ or ‘increased brand awareness.’ Then, to make them less generic, you can use specifics. An example would be to use real, concrete numbers. You can also set a deadline to add culpability. Aside from specific and time-bound, your targets should be measurable, attainable, and realistic.
Goals shouldn’t solely focus on the company. Remember that customers are the driving force behind the strategy as you require them to make a conversion. So, it’s vital to understand well enough that the content marketing plan provides real-time solutions. You must figure out what bugs them about the industry and how you can negate their annoyances. That way, they’ll gladly become a loyal brand ambassador as they’ll get a vital resource from your content.
A tool that helps you to step into their shoes is a customer avatar. An avatar is a profile of your customer base that your demographic is one person. Therefore, you can see everything they want and need, from goals and values to pain points and objections in the conversion process. Customer values are more vital than ever today as consumers won’t pick a brand that isn’t in line with their morals or ideals. 89% of people won’t go back to a brand that offered a below-par experience, which is why you need a guide to improve it.
Narrow Down Your Type of Content
Probably the hardest thing to do is narrow down the type of content you are going to use regularly. In a perfect world, you’d use all of them to boost your awareness, reach, and standing in the industry. Sadly, the world is far from perfect, so you need to choose. Again, you’ve got to get into the mindset of your target demographic by considering their buying personas. Don’t worry because a handful of key questions should reveal valuable insights into their thinking. They are:
- What do they need/why do they need your product or service?
- What are the challenges they face?
- How can you help them find a solution?
Think about social media content marketing for a moment. What people on Twitter may need is increased awareness of a sale or promotion that cuts costs? The challenge they face is accessibility – they need buying options. And your solution is to tell them, via direct messenger, the relevant details regarding promotions in-stores and online. You don’t have to use one method, but it’s important not to confuse your strategy by dipping into dozens of them at once.
And Choose A Channel
With content marketing, there is content within the content. Say you’ve picked social media as your platform of choice – which channel do you use out of the ones on offer? Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are the main options, but they may not be suitable. LinkedIn, while less prevalent, could fit your strategy if you’re marketing to young professionals. Even bloggers don’t have it as easy as you may think. A blog and a website are two separate entities with conflicting pros and cons.
Make Your Approach Adaptable
A one-size-fits-all plan isn’t available in content marketing due to the different stages in the process. As a rule, there are three: awareness, consideration, and decision-making. To be successful, you should appeal to all of them wherever possible, which is why an adaptable strategy is a must. At the beginning of their journey – awareness – they are only learning about your existence. So, instead of trying to sell to consumers who aren’t yet ready, the tactic is to impress them with follow-up content. For this, you need to cover every base on your website for when interested parties click-through, such as making it aesthetically appealing.
Next, it’s the consideration phase. This is where they are considering making a purchase, yet don’t trust you enough to make a sale. With that in mind, you can use content that adds to your appeal by providing information that is agreeable. Within your blog, for instance, it may include stances on subjects they find important that align with their ideals. Lastly, it’s decision-making. This is when you convince consumers that you are the right choice. Optimizing the website with CTAs is essential as it pushes people to convert.
Forget About Search Engines
After hearing how search engines and their results pages impact content marketing, forgetting about their existence may sound like suicide. It’s a clever way to remember that they aren’t the kingmakers – your audience is. Answering their questions and offering them solutions to their problems should be at the center of everything you publish. Content that tries to impress Google will end up annoying the targeted demographic and have the opposite effect.
It’s worth bearing in mind that search engines are examples of the tail wagging the dog. By adding value to the internet, such as fixing consumers’ issues, you’ll automatically boost your standing on SERPs.
Test the Effectiveness of Your Plan
Just because you have a strategy that looks good and sounds cool doesn’t mean it’s going to work. The only way to tell is to test it and measure the results. A/B testing is a useful tool, but multivariate testing offers more comprehensive insights. Why? It’s because you can change various elements at the same time and test them concurrently. After figuring out which combination is the most effective, you can tweak your content to reflect your findings. Of course, you can remove every element apart from one with A/B testing and drill down to the root cause of an issue.
Also, never forget that a content marketing strategy is a long-term process. Although you may have a plan that is hitting the right spots now, it doesn’t mean it will stay that way forever. Content, as well as the industry, is rapidly changing thanks to the advancement of technology, so you must stay up to date with the latest releases and include them where necessary.
How Do You Measure Performance?
Measuring the performance of your strategy is an essential part of content marketing, yet it’s not as straightforward as it seems. After all, it’s hard to quantify the inception of the lead. Was it your blog that created a sense of trust over time, or did they use a recommendation from a friend? In that regard, it is almost impossible to figure out the effectiveness of your plan. Still, tools and software that provide you with valuable assistance do exist.
Analytics programs show you how your content is performing. Sure, it may not give you the specifics that you need to solve the problem, but at least it makes you aware that there is one. Too many companies don’t understand that their content is tanking and needs tweaking. Google Analytics will give you everything you require in terms of the basics. With Google, you can see your bounce rate, page views, unique and otherwise, and the average time on the page.
HubSpot Marketing Analytics is an alternative if you want a thorough understanding of your whole marketing funnel. From the awareness stage to the close, HubSpot’s software will enable you to boost the value of both your content and web page.
Social Media Software
HubSpot doesn’t stop at analytics programs. With their social media software, they go one step further for the sake of their users. By implementing this tool into your measurements, you can do more than share posts and landing pages while scheduling content for later. Aside from the latter, it allows you to compare the performance of your marketing strategy on all your platforms. Content marketers can use this data to tweak their other accounts or focus solely on one. It includes a YouTube report, too, so you can understand how your audience is engaging with your video content.
Probably the best feature of HubSpot’s social media software is the mentions alerts. As soon as anyone mentions you on Twitter and Co, you get a message. As basic as this sounds, it means that you can reply in real-time and involve yourself in the conversation. Measurement-wise, it’s an opportunity to gauge how your interactions with people impact their decisions. Plus, you can figure out which interactions they find the most appealing.
It is logical to want to measure the effectiveness of content itself, hence the name content marketing. The monitoring tools above don’t always focus on the quality of the advertisements, which is a shame. The good news is that Shared Count is on hand to fill the gap in the market. Designed to offer users a holistic engagement data experience, Shared Count shows you which pieces are connecting, and which ones are falling flat. Users also get data relating to the best places to focus their efforts to maximize content marketing ROI. All you must do is export the info to an analytics platform and mull over the data.
What makes Share Count popular is the fact it is scalable. The API is compatible with almost any website, whether it’s hosted by a professional host, such as Wix, or you create a WordPress version. The API integration is straightforward once you choose your account type and get an API key.
KPIs And SMART Goals
Not every monitoring tool centers on cold, hard data. Stats are useful, but they only show half of the picture as you need to be able to spot patterns and understand the language to see everything. Therefore, it is vital to take your performance indicators and SMART goals into account. By referencing them, you can easily decide whether the strategy is on course to succeed or has gone off-piste. Okay, this option doesn’t include readymade fixes like some of the other tactics; however, it’s a solid start. And, it’s straightforward and doesn’t require any specialist knowledge or equipment.
Basic questions such as, “did we achieve our goals?” and “were we close to hitting our targets?” are enlightening. Once you have the answers, you can use the process of referring to your KPIs in conjunction with analytic programs to pinpoint the cause of the problem.
A final option in your armory is to gauge your progress against that of your leading rivals. In its most simplistic form, the success of your content marketing strategy revolves around market share. If they are bigger and more effective at generating leads and making conversions, then something is wrong. Even if you feel as if your plan is of a high standard, you may still want to make tweaks.
After all, you can’t let the competition overtake you and cement their position as the market leader. When this happens, it’s very difficult for content marketing alone to drag you back into contention.
The Content marketing sector has skyrocketed in recent years, so much so that there are bona fide experts in the field. Trusting an agency to provide unbiased, constructive criticism isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, yet it can be a wake-up call. Picking correctly lies in the process of weeding out the cowboys and dealing only with authentic specialists.
To do this, you’ll need to analyze everything from their services – reviews from previous customers are essential – to the price. Lots of up-and-coming agencies lower their price tag to entice new customers, and you don’t want to fall into their trap. For the most part, it’s better and cheaper to hire a reputable third-party with a flawless reputation as you’ll only have to pay once.
Key Industry Terms You Need to Know
You may not be fluent in content marketer speak, or you may be, but your employees could do with a refresher course. Either way, it’s vital to understand the keywords and phrases. When you do, you will be more effective at problem-solving and filling the gaps. Agencies use the following a lot, too, so memorizing a selection of them should help if you decide to outsource. The last thing you need is to choose poorly because you didn’t understand a standard industry term!
Analytics: You know about the basics of analytics software, but there is one phrase you need to research: closed-loop analytics. The term refers to information that is shareable across multiple sectors of the company. The sales team, for instance, may obtain a statistic or piece of data that the marketing team can also exploit. Both sales and marketing benefit greatly from closed-loop analytic strategies as a blog post can transform into a paying lead.
Blogging: Posting content is a key component of any content marketing plan. However, you can’t publish anything and hope for the best. High-quality blogs craft content around a mix of factors, such as interesting topics and popular keywords. This ensures blog posts are engaging and educational, as well as interesting, and don’t attempt to promote products and services shamelessly.
Buyer persona: The term is heavily linked with ‘customer mapping.’ In short, it’s a snapshot of your targeted demographic that helps you to map out the best ways to add value.
Calls-to-action: Calls-to-action, or CTAs, are integral as they give customers a push in the right direction. Often, your base will need a reason to make a conversion, and CTAs deal with this in two ways. The first is by making a conversion straightforward. Websites and pages that are optimized with links to the necessary portal mean a sale or registration is only a click away. Secondly, it compels them by offering an incentive. Quality CTAs refer to free trials or discounts that grab attention.
Keywords: A keyword or phrase is what search engine users input when they open their browser. Not only do they boost rankings on SERPs, but they are fantastic topics around which to craft content.
Newsjacking: When a news story comes out that impacts you and your followers, it vital that you consolidate on the piece quickly. As a keyword, it’s a tailor-made concept for content as it’s in the public interest and is interesting to the public. Moving fast is essential because creating duplicated content isn’t well-received by Google.
As well as showcasing what it takes to be a good content marketer, hopefully, you also realize that it’s not an elitist sector. Anyone, regardless of their level, can do it by creating a simple-yet-effective strategy.
Is your company in need of help? MV3 Marketing Agency has numerous Marketing experts ready to assist you. Contact MV3 Marketing to jump-start your business.