By Grace Lau
Content marketing is one of the best ways to get your message in front of audiences, drive new traffic to your site, and grow your company, but where do you start?
Developing a high-performing content marketing campaign can seem daunting. It’s an acquired skill, and one that takes practice both as a marketer and a company. In this guide, we’ll break it down into planning, development, and evaluation stages and run through what’s required for each.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is the creation of any piece of content – free or gated – to attract users to your site and get them in your marketing funnel. This can spread brand awareness and introduce you to new leads, as well as use SEO to catch interested buyers and turn their search into a sale.
Content marketing can employ any type of media, but common forms include blogs, email newsletters, webinars, social media videos, landing pages, and exclusive industry reports.
Long-form content like blogs, whitepapers, and newsletters can be on any topic relevant to your brand. The key is that they’re valuable to the reader. If you were a VoIP company, this could be anything from a report on industry trends to a blog on monitoring call center quality or a newsletter on how a new regulation affects your customers.
In recent years, online advertisers have faced increasing hurdles. These include the use of ad blockers, GDPR, and the so-called “cookie apocalypse”. In this climate, content marketing is a valuable way to get in front of leads without them feeling like they’re being advertised to.
Did you know that:
- Content marketing produces three times more leads than outbound marketing strategies.
- 55% of marketers report that blog content is their top inbound marketing priority.
- 63% of businesses don’t have a formal content strategy for developing high-performing campaigns.
Planning your content marketing campaign
A content marketing strategy includes the topics your content will cover, how you’ll distribute it, and how you’ll measure success.
How to plan your content topics
If SEO is your main goal, you should do some keyword research on your competitors’ content to get started. See which phrases they include in their blog headings and subheadings. Notice which keywords get the most engagement and compare them with the search terms people are using to find your site. Targeting your content to specific keywords is a great way to meet your target audience’s needs.
It’s useful to understand the different kinds of search intent so you know what to target. There are navigational searches like “Santander login” where the intent is to reach a site. Informational searches like “Cambridge home prices” or “HIPAA compliance” are good targets for two reasons. You know they’re looking for specific information, and you can tell something about the searcher.
Investigational searches like “weighted blanket benefits” and transactional searches like “get plumber quote” are opportunities to take searchers right to the bottom of your marketing funnel. If you’re in eCommerce, these are likely the buyers who need what you’re selling now.
No business strategy is complete without specific, measurable KPIs. Common content marketing performance metrics include site traffic, sales generated, social media engagement, and the increase of your search engine results page (SERP) rankings.
How to distribute content
How you distribute your content is also key to its success. Personal and ambassador social media and PPC campaigns, guest posts, and content syndication are all effective tactics for distribution.
There are two obvious advantages to posting on your social media channels. It’s free, and your followers are already interested. However, you’re competing with every other account they’re following. More so, your content is subject to the whims of algorithms that decide which users see which content.
Pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns are another cost-effective way of driving traffic to your site. The advantage is you can target your adverts to very specific audiences and iterate accordingly. On a B2B platform like LinkedIn, you can go as far as to target your adverts to specific job roles and levels of seniority.
Guest posts and content syndication are both great ways to get in front of new audiences. In a guest post, you’re almost always writing a bespoke piece for your partner site, and some of the value of the post on your end is building up backlinks from relevant, authoritative domains (e.g. .au domains if you’re targeting the Australian market).
Content syndication takes a lot of work upfront. You have to build close relationships with sites your target audience is paying attention to. It could take months to build up a healthy roster of partner sites, but once you’ve put in the hard yards, syndication lets you post the same piece of content across multiple sites. This lets you get many times more value per post than if you’d just posted on your channels.
Mistakes to avoid
Building and executing a content marketing campaign can be a lot of work, and there are plenty of common web content mistakes which will lower your chances of success. These include:
Not posting frequently
A consistent, frequent schedule is key for a solid content marketing strategy. No matter what it is, set something achievable and stick to it. This is important for social media algorithms, but it also builds a rhythm where your most engaged audiences know to expect an interesting new post every Friday, for example.
Posting more frequently will also give you a shorter iteration time. If your company hasn’t set up a content marketing strategy before, you don’t know what works. Part of the job is going to be learning as much as possible, as fast as possible.
Relying exclusively on SEO
“If you build it, they will come.” Right?
Wrong. When your content strategy has been running for a while, you might develop a loyal audience who’ll show up every time, but if you’re developing the company’s first content strategy, you’re likely going to have to work to get your content in front of people.
Take a close look at what content your social media audience is engaging with, what they find valuable, and how you could put your spin on that. Look into guest posting and sponsored content to see where you can expand your content’s reach beyond your channels.
Not linking to your own/other people’s content
If you strike gold and one of your pieces goes viral, that’s probably not going to turn into lasting success unless you’re linking this huge audience to other pieces of yours. If you’re using your blog to gain sign-ups for your newsletter, people might not think to subscribe unless they see two or three pieces they enjoy.
Creating your content
If you’re creating content on a schedule, you don’t want to be sitting around waiting for inspiration to strike. Part of your content strategy should cover how you’re going to come up with ideas and efficiently turn them into finished pieces.
Say you’re running a blog. In that case, it would be useful to have a template for each post that helps you develop the idea and guarantee it’s a good one. The template should answer questions like:
- What’s the topic?
- What keywords is it targeting?
- What search intent does this post meet?
- What value does it provide?
- From whose point of view is it written?
- What are the stakes/why does this matter?
- What’s the meta description?
- Are there any keyword variations to include?
You should have a clearly-defined process that all content has to go through during its development. This might include brainstorming sessions, outlines, edits, etc.
All relevant stakeholders must know what the process is. The creatives need to know what’s required of them, and management needs to be able to quickly evaluate their progress.
Consider what tools you’ll need to manage content production. Even if you’re only doing a few blogs a month, you’ll need something to keep track of progress. Remote collaboration tools like Trello and Asana are common when working with graphics or video as there are so many moving parts.
Social scheduling tools like Buffer and Hootsuite take a lot of the legwork out of maintaining a social media calendar, and tools like Yoast SEO help everyone on the marketing team follow SEO best practices even if they’re not specialists in the field.
Evaluating your content
Once your content is out there in the world, you need to closely evaluate how it’s performing. The KPIs you defined during your planning stage will be the benchmarks against which all content is judged. This might be the number of social shares, time spent on the page, or the number of conversions each piece of content is responsible for.
Conversion tracking should cover the whole company, not just the marketing department. As businesses increasingly rely on APIs for different functions, it’s easier than ever to have different systems talk to each other. You can use these to track things like lead status, calls routing throughout the company, and customers who become repeat buyers.
Developing your content marketing skills
A high-performing content marketing campaign has a lot of moving parts, but once you’ve developed a few of them, you’ll find the work you’ve done makes it easier for you in the future. Certain processes will have been broken in to the team. Relationships with distribution partners will already be formed.
If this is your company’s first content marketing campaign, there’s a lot to take in, but if you evaluate and iterate your campaigns quickly, it won’t be long before effective new campaigns come naturally.
About the Author
Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad call center IVR, an AI-powered cloud communication platform for better and easier team collaboration. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. Here is her LinkedIn.