The internet marketing universe is in the process of an important shift, one which was started in 2012. I like to call this the online marketing evolution as all of the old methods of link building and lead generation are being phased out. Content marketing has become the new lead generation and is absolutely essential for all businesses to have a content marketing strategy.
Search engines have been updating their algorithms over the past year which has worried many internet marketers. The tactics that once worked to help get ranked in search results will not work anymore. Matt Cutts along with many other experts have clearly indicated that quality content sites will be ranked higher. As a result, having a Content Marketing Plan has become the emphasis for many internet marketers and businesses.
There is this misconception that only big companies have the budget to create great content. This may be true, however, as a small and medium sized business you are able to create a more personable connection with your audience all while using your expertise to provide information. The key to an effective campaign is to be consistent and helpful when creating content. For example, a small business might have an individual running the company’s social media accounts. You can assign this individual to write 2 blog posts a week. This is more than enough to get started. If you need help creating content you can always hire writers from scripted, writer access, or even odesk.
So you want to get your content marketing to a great start. Don’t start brainstorming for topics to write about just yet. Below I will cover 5 steps to help you plan your content marketing initiative.
Step 1: What Are Your Content Marketing Goals?
This is the first question that you should ask yourself. Is your content marketing goal to increase brand awareness, increase traffic to your website, build an email list, or just to provide useful information to potential customers. As soon as you are able to define your goals you can start to brainstorm and create content for your target audience. Words of advice don’t always push your products and services in your blog posts. The best way would be to write helpful content and to build an email list for your company to periodically market its products or services.
Branded Content Marketing’s initiative is to knock down the walls of sales resistance by writing helpful content all while establishing your company as a trusted, credible, and authoritative source. The content that you choose to write about is related to what your company offers; to put it differently, you are educating visitors with your content so that they can learn, like, and trust your company to do business with you. There are a number of ways to make money with content some of which are blogging, creating instructional videos, email newsletters, white papers, case studies, and etc.
Step 2: Perform a Content Audit
By performing a content audit you may be able to save marketing dollars by re-imagining content that you have already created in the past. Search through your computer files, check your filing cabinets, and search for your company’s offline content. There are three ways in which you can reuse content that you already have.
Let’s assume you have many content assets such as eBooks, white papers, case studies, tutorials, research reports, and etc. All of these can be reorganized. What I mean by this is that you can repackage your content into small pieces. For example, you can send your newsletter email subscribers smaller parts of your eBook by breaking it down. You can even repackage blog posts, articles, tweets, or comments into larger pieces of content.
It’s time to check your Google analytics to see which of your past blog posts continue to attract traffic. Since the blog posts you found are driving continuous traffic, it is a good idea to update the information and republish them to stay relevant.
What I mean by remixing content is to re-create it to other formats. For example, you might have an informational video and have it transcribed into a blog post or article.
Step 3: What Content Marketing Channels Will You Use?
The primary content marketing channel should be your company blog with various content including articles, videos, pictures, infographics, tutorials, and etc. You must schedule a consistent content publishing schedule to keep readers coming back.
Depending on the industry of your business certain social media platforms can be beneficial to business to business customers and other platforms may be beneficial to business to consumer customers. For example, Pinterest has been used mainly by retailers as they can provide pictures of their products. Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook have been proven to be lead generators for business to business companies.
As you continue to search for marketing channels where your target audience is interacting make sure to choose the channels that get you the most return on investment. The marketing channels that bring you the most valuable traffic will probably help build stronger leads.
Make it easier for your content to spread through various social media networks by placing social media sharing buttons by your content. Also make sure you are optimizing your tweets, comments, and pins with keywords. This will help you appear in relevant searches.
Step 4: Build a Content Schedule
Construct a content calendar for 3 months to 12 months to help track the progress and statistics of your content. This will help you see how your marketing budget is being spent and how your strategy is turning out. A content calendar is also useful for building internal links by cross promoting content from all marketing channels.
Your content strategy should be fine tuned with research and analysis to see which content your audience is mostly engaged with.
Let’s take a look at 9 categories that you can add to your content schedule:
1. Topic/Category: Find out what topics your target audience is interested in by performing a competitive analysis of competitor’s blog posts. This way you will know what topics your potential customers are interested in and be able to write content with your expertise.
2. Keywords/Title: Researching keywords before writing content is a great way to find focus keywords that you would like to rank for. This will help you map out the topic and organize the sections that you will cover in your content with the keywords you have selected.
3. Is the content aligned with your goals?: The content must be beneficial to your goals. If it does not support your goals, it is time to change them.
4. Author: Who is accountable for writing your content?
5. Due Date: A due date is necessary to stay on schedule.
6. Level of Skill: Is the content going to be written for novices or experts.
7. Marketing Media Types: Which media types are your target audience interacting with? Finding the answer to this question will take some research and experience. Some media types include photos, infographics, articles, eBooks, videos, webinars, podcasts, case studies, PowerPoint presentations, and etc.
8. Marketing Channels: Blog, Pinterest, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, SlideShare, and many others.
9. Social Sharing: How is the share-ability of your content? If any piece of content gets a low number of social sharing, brainstorm on ways to make it better.
Step 5: Align Your Strategy With Your Budget
Many companies don’t have marketing budgets as large as say Coca-Cola has. Nevertheless, it is still possible to scale a content marketing strategy tailored for your needs. It is up to your marketing strategy and budget to decide what media types you would like to target and how often you want to publish content. I have seen smaller companies just market on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. It is all about how you can stretch your marketing dollars and get the best return on investment. Be sure to keep track of your content metrics to see which types of media are driving the most people to your website. As a final point, I would recommend all businesses small or large to have their own blog to attract and convert potential customers into buyers. It is a long term strategy but one that pays off with the highest return on investment.