Content Marketing: How to Build an Audience that
Builds Your Business
Content Marketing means creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.
If you’re interested in marketing your business online (and who isn’t at this point), you can’t escape hearing about content marketing. It’s everywhere you look, or listen.
- You hear that people don’t want advertising when making purchasing decisions, they want valuable information.
- You hear that it’s content that people desire and seek out, and it’s great content that Google wants to rank well in the search results so those people can find your business.
- You hear that it’s content that spreads via social networks, generating powerful word-of-mouth exposure for savvy content marketers.
- You hear that content is the best way to achieve what advertising is supposed to achieve, but doesn’t do so well online — to get people to know, like, and trust your brand.
While many elements of online marketing have changed over the years, content marketing is one that has more or less stayed the same. Sure, we have different ways of sharing that content. One example is social media marketing, which has become a powerhouse and continues to grow as new platforms gain popularity. But, the use of content remains consistent at its core, giving us what is perhaps the most stable form of marketing available.
That doesn’t mean there has been no change in how content is marketed. Just the way it has shifted to fit an expanding web has shifted both the way information is presented, and how it is received by the reader.
What Is Content Marketing?
A better question (and a harder one to answer) is ‘What is content?’. In the past, this was not a question at all because we had a very solid definition for what content entailed. Once upon a time, content was regarded as information published by experts (journalists and public figures, or novelists). Experts were someone who had a sturdy history behind them, in a particular area, and they had used this as a foundation to build their credibility.
Today, we have a much different definition of what constitutes content. Anyone can make it, anyone can publish it. More importantly, anyone can establish themselves as an expert by using it. Now, the implication of that fact used to make others nervous. One example is the initial reaction of journalists to the political or event bloggers that were popping up on the web a decade ago. As of today, a fair amount of content shared by news sources has actually been broken by those very same bloggers.
Since the definition of content has changed, the definition is much broader than it ever was before. Content, in the context of the online world, can be anything, from an article to a photo. As long as it holds relevance to readers, and it has the potential to spread through social media, I would argue that it is content. And so, it is perfect for content marketing.
You can find an interesting article on content prior to 2004 at Content Marketing Experience.
Again, What Is Content Marketing?
Because of the evolution mentioned above, content marketing is much easier to define. It is simply using whatever content you publish on the web as a means of generating visibility and monetizing those views. There are definitely better ways to put it… Here are a few great definitions I have come across:
Zemanta: “content marketing is creating and sharing valuable, relevant content with prospects for the purpose of turning them into customers and regular buyers.”
Rand Fishkin (this one is GOLD): “Content marketing isn’t just about attracting customers. It’s about attracting and appealing to anyone who might influence (!) a potential customers.”
Quora: ”content marketing is the umbrella of all techniques that are used to generate traffic, leads, online visibility, and brand awareness/fidelity.”
- Content marketing versus content strategy as discussed at Quora
- 5 Ways to use Content Marketing to Build Your Authority Status by great Jennifer Mattern at DirJournal
That being said, content marketing is all kinds of marketing you already know – done through content.
Basic Content Marketing Channels
How you actually “market” is going to vary, but you should be utilizing the basic tools for anyone on the net:
No matter what you have heard, SEO is not going anywhere. It remains the main tool for marketing your content online because search engines are still able to provide your glamorous content with steady exposure.
Perhaps my favorite quote on this topic came from James Gurd in a recent interview with eConsultancy. “Content Marketing is not SEO, but it is complementary and should be integrated.” He makes a good point, and it should be a lesson to those who mistake SEO as spam, when used with quality content.
Another thing to mention here is of course Google Authorship – which is verifying your authorship with Google. It’s not yet a ranking factor, but it can definitely boost the exposure of your content since verified content shows the author’s photo in search results and thus increases its click-through!
Link building has evolved incredibly. Now it’s no longer cool to say “build links” – we say “attract links” or even “deserve links”… And the best way to “attract” links is… right: Through awesome content people keep referring to!
Content-focused link building tactics include:
- Ego-bait (and various types of it; here’s a good case study: How I Got an 80% Success Rate on My Latest Outreach Campaign)
- Guest blogging (I have written a free guest blogging eBook detailing the whole process step-by-step)
Social Media Sharing
This is the big one. Go to your Facebook friend feed and see how many third-party links are being shared. How often have you shared links to content yourself? The two forms of marketing go hand in hand, and I see them as an extension of one another. You should have social media profiles across major and niche communities, and you should be using them to spread content as far as possible.
Tools and further reading:
- Kikolani’s eBook on promoting each piece of content as well as Dan Zarrella’s “Science of ReTweets”
- Viral Content Bizz to get essential core votes to get the word out
Content Marketing Channels
Because content types may vary broadly (moreover, you can re-package your content into many types), there are lots of specific channels where you can market your content. Below listed are just a few possible channels – what’s more important is that there’s a third-party case study with each channel that you can use to learn how to market your content there and sky rocket your strategy!
One of the most amazing bloggers on YouTube is Lisa Irby. Her content is always immensely useful. Check out one of her recent video, for example, that introduces content promotion tactics. It’s a must for everyone building websites for profit!
Lisa is an excellent example of a great content marketer. Read her tutorial and personal case study on using YouTube as a content marketing channel!
Slideshare is one of the most under-utilized content marketing channels. Everyone starting a project is rushing up to create a Google Plus page and a Twitter account but how about utilizing and re-using your own presentations?
Read this very detailed guide “How to Milk SlideShare Homepage for All the Traffic You Can Handle” from Anna Hoffman as well as her personal stats!
Have you ever heard podcasting is about to die? Never believe it! People still love listening to what you have to say – especially while on the go!
If you do videos or Google Hangouts, podcasting is another brilliant idea to reuse that content to another channel: iTunes!
Michael Stelzner is one of the best examples of brilliant podcasters. Here’s his own guide starting a successful podcast.
What Is The Future of Content Marketing?
It is hard to say, but I would venture a guess that it will more or less stay the same. Providing high quality content is the consistent root that has never evolved. Low quality content has always been seen as spam for SEO manipulation, and search engines have been adapting to catch it. This has led spammers to switch to scraping articles to sell as their own, a problem Google addressed with the creation of Google Authorship.
This shows a pattern: content marketing and production will remain steady and the same, but the standards for finding scams will continue to adapt. All you have to worry about is writing high quality content, publishing it with authentication, and waiting for the benefits.
>>> Further reading: “Content marketing trends”
To me, content marketing comes down to one principle: If you make something good, people will like it. If they like it, they will share it. Nothing in that rule is difficult to understand and it is a simple principle to follow. You should just be doing what you should have been all along-> providing readers with something awesome they will want to show others.
What do you think of content marketing? Let us know in the comments.
How to Build a Content Marketing Strategy
Link building has fundamentally changed. Many types of link building activities that have previously been effective are now either short-term strategies or no longer considered best SEO practice. As a result, companies and clients alike are seeking to understand how certain forms of link building can be translated into longer-term content marketing campaigns. The purpose of this post is to help you develop a framework on how to start building a content marketing strategy for your or your client’s site.
Why should you care about content marketing?
According to a Content Marketing Institute (CMI) 2013 Survey, 86% of B2C (business to consumer) companies are planning to keep or increase their current content marketing spending this year. 54% of B2B (business to business) companies are planning to increase their content marketing spending in 2013. Knowing that the demand for content marketing is increasing, it’s worth investing resources to start researching and learning more about the opportunities content marketing can bring to a site.
The growth of content marketing is also a concept that Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures agrees with. Content marketing continues to see growth because it is the future of online marketing. He likes to think of content marketing as “moving the message from a banner to your brand and changing the engagement from a view to a conversation.”
Furthermore, Google’s algorithm is continuously changing, meaning this pretty much guarantees that the quick win strategies that may have worked in the past will no longer work in the future. For instance, Google has announced that in the future, they will no longer be announcing/confirming Panda updates because it will be integrated into the search engine’s existing algorithm (i.e. Panda is here to stay indefinitely). We’ve also seen recently the dangers of garnering links from paid advertorials (even on respected, high domain authority websites), a tactic considered as “buying links” in Google’s perspective.
Now is definitely the time to develop a new type of strategy to garner links and traffic.
Inspirational examples of phenomenal content
Below are some examples of companies that have created phenomenal pieces of content. Hopefully this provides ample motivation to take your site/client’s site to the level!
1. Kickstarter: Best of 2012: An inspirational take on 2012.
2. BuzzFeed lists: Heartwarming content that is easily shareable.
3. Indeed Job Trends: Data-driven content that is direct and to the point.
4. Shopify’s Pinterest infographic and their new E-commerce University: Content that is effectively targeted towards their demographic and developing their brand as the E-commerce authority on the web.
5. Airbnb Neighborhood Guides: A visually stimulating take on neighborhood guides, which differentiates them from other competitor’s guides.
6. HBOWatch’s April Fool’s Day joke: Content with a clear understanding of target audience as determined by the high engagement metrics. It gained 1129 comments!
7. Epic Meal Time: Videos targeted towards a male demographic. Topic examples include fast food lasagna and whiskey syrup bacon pancakes.
The content marketing strategy framework
I’ve been fortunate enough to work closely with Distilled’s Head of Outreach, Adria Saracino, who’s been absolutely instrumental in defining the below content marketing strategy framework for a number of my clients (and has, subsequently, inspired my passion for content marketing). Adria has also written a great piece on how to get buy in from your company to invest in content marketing.
Below is the content strategy framework that Adria and I have implemented together for our clients. We’ve learned that this process isn’t a quick win and that our most successful content marketing strategies have relied on dedicating at least 3 months to just research – market research, site audits, content audits, customer surveys, and customer interviews to name just a few. In addition, I’ll also showcase a few specific examples of how we’ve built out each step of the content strategy process.
Step 1: Researching the company
The first step in developing a content strategy framework is understanding the company. The type of questions we ask our clients before we even commence the strategy is to identify the following:
- The company’s business model
- How does the company bring in revenue?
- What products bring in the most revenue? Why do these products bring in the most revenue (high profit margin, high demand, branding considerations)?
- How is the sales team structured? What metrics are they measured on?
- The existing customer base
- Who are the company’s existing customers?
- How does the company currently attract customers?
- If the company’s marketing team has already done a market research survey, ask to see the results.
- Marketing considerations
- Understanding the existing content process
- What are the editorial guidelines (if there are any)? What is the internal process to get content approved?
- Who decides what type of content to produce?
- What types of content does the team currently produce?
- What are the company’s brand considerations?
- Understanding the existing content process
Step 2: Data collection (and lots of it)
I believe in utilizing the data that we have available to make informed decisions. This applies specifically to content; the more we understand about the site and the customers, the more we are able to make informed and strategic decisions to the type(s) of content we want to produce. In order to do this, it’s important to gather relevant data. This data can come from a variety of the following sources:
- Competitor analysis
- What types of content are your competitors putting together?
- How are users engaging with the content?
- Comparing/contrasting SEO metrics (DA, PA, external links, etc.)
- Keyword research
- What keywords bring traffic to the traffic (excluding not provided)?
- What are the landing pages for those keywords?
- What type of metrics does the keyword research and landing page combination currently bring to the site?
- Market research and customer surveys
- The surveys may vary depending on whether the company is b2b or b2c.
- Traditionally, some of the survey questions we’ve asked b2b clients include:
- Demographic-related questions like occupation, industry, job title, age, and gender.
- How long have you been a customer?
- How likely are you to recommend our services, products, etc.
- Specific product/service-related questions
- The survey questions we’ve asked b2c clients are very similar, but often contain more demographic questions like: highest level of education obtained, marital status, number of kids, household salary range, and occupation.
- We also include specific product questions, like:
- How often do you purchase our product?
- Why do you purchase the product?
- We also include specific product questions, like:
*Important Note* Be sure to test out your survey using other individuals unrelated to the survey before releasing it. This ensures that there are no ambiguous questions or that any questions have been framed in a way that would lead to biased answers.
SurveyMonkey has also produced a variety of survey templates to at least help you gain some understanding of the type of questions you might want to ask your target audience depending on your goals for the survey.
Having these sample surveys is an excellent content strategy technique that SurveyMonkey has employed.
Not only are the survey questions themselves important, but the email you send out in conjunction with the survey is a big indicator of your survey’s success. Ideally, the more data you have accessible, the more likely the survey will become statistically significant. As a result, you want to make sure that the email template catches the audience’s attention and also creates an incentive for them to fill out your survey.
Below is an actual survey template that we’ve used for a client, which has generated 917 responses or approximately 50% of the client’s email list.
- Phone Interviews with Existing Customers
- As you can see from the survey template above, individuals voluntarily opt for phone interviews because there is a guaranteed prize incentive.
- Questions asked in the phone interview are much more detailed (allowing us to eventually use this information for target audience persona development). Fundamentally, the type of questions you ask in the interview must help you:
- Identify the person’s day-to-day responsibilities, likes/dislikes, frustrations/pressures, needs, concerns, and function they play in the purchasing process.
- Function they play in the purchasing process is based on the following roles:
- Initiator: identifies the need to purchase the product
- Influencer: evokes influence on the individuals who can make the decision to purchase the product
- Decision-maker: decides whether or not to purchase the product
- Buyer: selects who to buy from and the agreements that come alongside that
- User: utilizes the product
- Gatekeeper: has access or supplies information to both the decision maker and/or the influencer
- Function they play in the purchasing process is based on the following roles:
- Identify the person’s day-to-day responsibilities, likes/dislikes, frustrations/pressures, needs, concerns, and function they play in the purchasing process.
Step 3: Preparation and assessment
Now that new data has been collected from various channels, it’s important to assess/analyze the data that has just been collected and see how it correlates with the data that you already have on-hand. During this stage, it’s also critical to take a step back and make sure that the goals for the content have been clearly defined.
- Create a benchmark audit using analytics
- This provides an opportunity to compare/contrast results before and after the creation of the content
- Important analytics to include are:
- Pages per visit
- Average time on site
- Conversion rate
- Bounce rate
- Linking root domains
- Page authority
- Putting together a content audit
- The purpose of the content audit is evaluate how previous content on the site has performed, as well as organize the existing content on the site to determine additional opportunities.
- For one of my clients, Adria and I analyzed the top 500 landing pages on the client’s site and took a look at the content from three distinct lenses:
- Analytics metrics: engagement (bounce rate, time on site) and number of visits (to identify potential keyword opportunities)
- SEO metrics: linking root domains, page authority, etc.
- Content perspective: is this useful for a user? What type of user would it attract?
- We individually analyze each content page and determine where it sits on the content funnel.
- Awareness: Content created for this part of the funnel is designed to target an audience that hasn’t even begun to consider the company’s product/services.
- Trigger: Content created for this part of the funnel is when a user has become aware of the product/service and has started thinking about the possibility of needing it.
- Search: User has decided to research the product/service in-more depth.
- Consideration: User has decided to convert, but hasn’t decided which brand to choose.
- Buy: User decides to convert to the company’s product/service.
- Stay: Content targeted towards retaining clients, ensuring they remain a loyal customer/brand advocate.
- We individually analyze each content page and determine where it sits on the content funnel.
The purpose of labeling what stage of the funnel each piece of content is associated with is to ultimately assess the distribution of content on a site and determine if there are any gaps. For instance, this particular site had 180 unique content pages and the distribution of the site’s content looked like this:
In this specific case, it is apparent that a majority of the site’s content sits at the bottom of the funnel. As a result, we recommended to the client that they create more content that targets higher up the funnel. However, it is also important to bear in mind that a site is not necessarily looking for an even distribution of content at each stage of the funnel. The amount needed is determined by various factors, like keyword research and an iterative approach in which content is built that targets a specific stage of the funnel. Afterwards, these pieces of content are analyzed to determine if they proved value based on the site’s pre-determined content goals and KPIs. This closely ties into our next point, which is:
- Clarify the goals for this content strategy. Goals should be general like:
- Increase in conversions
- Increase in organic traffic to the site
- Increase in audience engagement
- increase in brand awareness
- However, goals/metrics should also be specifically correlated to where that content sits in the content funnel:
- This great article by Jay Baer explains it in more depth:
- Consumption metrics: How many views/downloads did your content receive?
- Sharing metrics: How often does your content get shared? (Tweets, Likes…etc)
- Lead generation metrics: How often do the consumers turn into leads?
- Sales metrics: How often do the consumers turn into sales?
- Ideally, the consumption metrics would be correlated to content higher up in the funnel and the sales metrics correlated to content located further down the funnel. See diagram below:
- This great article by Jay Baer explains it in more depth:
- Develop persona buckets
- In order to achieve this, combine all the data that was derived from the content audit, customer surveys, and customer interviews. Once you’ve done so, segment individuals into different categories, like this:
Image Courtesy of Kissmetrics
- Solidify the editorial process for the company
- Who needs to be included in the content development and implementation phase? When do they need to be included?
- Have a clear understanding of the dependencies (i.e. how long does it typically take to get sign off from relevant departments?)
- Determine the site’s style guide/tone of voice/engagement standards
- Define the content strategy
- What types of content will be produced on the site?
- Where does this content sit in the funnel?
- Where would they sit on the site? In a separate category on an existing category?
- What keywords would the content target?
Going through this detailed, research-intensive process allows a company to clearly see the opportunities at hand from a high-level perspective. When we go through this process, we identify ways to improve not only the company’s organizational structure and create standardizations on how content and pages are released onto the site (static URLs, keyword targeting, content tone of voice/length). It’s also through this process that we’ve been able to engage/integrate multiple departments and define ways to work together seamlessly.
Furthermore, we also gain a concrete understanding of the big opportunities for the site. It’s impossible to go through this much research and not be able to discern multiple opportunities related to CRO, information architecture, keyword targeting, and analytics, to name a few.
Step 4: Prospecting
This phase of the process is identifying individuals/sites who would be interested in the type of content the company will produce and engaging them at multiple points with the goal to develop relationships with key influencers.
- Identify and reach out to influencers
- Keep on top of industry news
- Keep on top of the content that competitors are creating
Step 5: Create and promote the content
In this step, the “go” is to now create the pieces of content and follow both the internal protocols and sign off processes that were established in step three of the process. Ensure that editorial standards are being followed and assess that the content being created is actually phenomenal.
- Create the content and consistently reassess to make sure it is meeting the following checklist:
- Is the content credible?
- Is the content informative?
- Is the content easy to understand?
- Is the content useful?
- Is the content exceptional?
- Promote and outreach the content to key influencers
Step 6: Assess content performance
After the content has been released and promoted, it’s time to assess how the content has performed and any other learnings that can be taken away from the process, including:
- How has the piece performed?
- What learnings were taken away from it? Any changes that need to be made to the process?
- What data have we received from the piece of content?
The long-term vision is that the content is able to fulfill the original goals of the content marketing strategy. Overtime, each piece of content produced should systematically become easier and easier, as learnings are developed and iterated each time. Although, the process appears very resource-intensive in the beginning, overtime, the goal is that producing effective and meaningful content becomes a crucial entity for the company.
In conclusion, the most valuable benefits of having a content strategy for your site is that, from a business standpoint, your site is no longer creating content for “content’s sake” or to build “link bait.” Moving forward, the site now has a framework of creating content that serves multiple purposes: to engage with current and future customers; to establish brand awareness and authority within the industry; and to consequently garner more traffic, conversions, and links to your site.
Furthermore, by integrating multiple individuals into the development of a site’s content strategy, it automatically provides the groundwork of integrating SEO seamlessly into the other online marketing activities of the site, such as CRO, social media, and PR.
30 Awesome Content Marketing Examples
We wrote an article before titled “How the Heck do I Humanize my Social Media Brand?” and one concept we were highlighting is the notion that only 18% of people trust advertisements nowadays, while 69% of people trust editorial content.
For this reason, one of the phenomenons we are now seeing in the advertising and marketing world is this idea of content marketing. If I had to define content marketing in a concise but sufficient sentence, it’s this: Providing valuable or intriguing content that either educates the end-user or entertains them, but in a way that indirectly promotes your brand.
What’s a good example when it comes to entertaining your target audience? A spontaneous or humorous video. Yeah, you heard us! Just have a look at the above Old Spice commercial which got 40 million views on YouTube and sparked the creation of many other parodies of this ad using the same character and theme.
But what about content marketing that educates the end-user? What’s a good example of that? Besides articles and blog posts, free e-books are perfect examples! And how ironic, we found an e-book that provides 100 examples of content marketing (hence the title of this article), created by The Content Marketing Institute.
You heard the man, the e-book they provide cutting-edge content samples from a wide variety of print, video, online and event campaigns. If you are an advertiser, or a marketer, or a blogger, then you need to download this e-book, but if you’re too hesitant to provide them with your email or are too lazy to even do so, then here are the most unique 30 examples they provided. Feel free to click on the link that provokes your curiosity the most and learn from their successes.
Each example has right next to it in square brackets the type of content that it provides. You will notice that much of the content does not relate to the brand very much, and even if it does, it’s fairly indirect. This is the right way of doing it, seeing that people are tired of being bombarded with traditional “push” advertising and marketing messages and signals, and this is why there is this phenomena of content marketing in our times, which in a way is branded content or entertainment.
- Broadcasts from The Waffle Shop [LIVESHOW] by the Waffle Shop
- The Conflict Kitchen’s Food Wrappers [IMAGE] by Conflict Kitchen
- “CityOne” Simulation Game [GAME] by IBM
- ShipServ Pages – The Movie [VIDEO] by ShipServ
- B2B Marketing Manifesto [eBOOK] by Velocity Partners Ltd.
- “The Message is the Messenger” [INFOGRAPHIC] by Eloqua + JESS3
- Nike Better World [MICROSITE] by NIKE
- LEGO Club Magazine [MAGAZINE] by LEGO
- “From One Engineer to Another” [BLOG] by Indium Corp.
- The Friend Network Optimizer Facebook App [APP] by SAP
- The Caterpillar Online Community [FORUM] by Caterpillar
- Cries for Help Lighting Revolution [CONTEST] by Cree Inc.
- The Intuit Collaboratory [LAB] by Intuit
- “Man of the House” Community [BLOG] by Procter & Gamble
- “Being Girl” Community [MICROSITE] by Procter & Gamble
- Tablespoon Cooking Community [MICROSITE] by General Mills
- “Red Bulletin” Magazine for the iPad [APP] by Red Bull
- NC On Campus (Location-Based Services) [APP] by NC State University
- The Museum of Me [APP] by Intel
- Coupon Mailers – a Poetic Undertaking [COUPONS] by Target
- Traveler IQ Challenge [ONLINE GAME] by Traveler
- Google’s ZMOT Project [eBOOK] by Google
- The Accenture Podcast Library [PODCAST] by Accenture
- Social Media Examiner “Stories” [BLOG] by Social Media Examiner
- Eloqua’s WOW-Worthy Webcasts [WEBINAR] by Eloqua
- Nightmares Fear Factory – Flickr Photostream [IMAGE] by Fear Factory
- Infographic of the Day [INFOGRAPHIC] by Fast Company
- Do-It-Yourself Tips & Trends [VIDEO] by Home Depot
- Chow, Baby [WIDGET] by Chow.com
- Pivman Comic Book [COMIC] by First Response
Do you feel overwhelmed with content marketing? As simple as it sounds, it’s easy to forget that there’s just as much marketing involved as there is content creation. Typically, this task falls squarely on the shoulders of the marketing department. If this sounds like the track your content marketing strategy is on, it could be costing you more customers than it gains.
So how can you make sure you’re developing a solid, actionable content marketing plan? Well, you’ll first have to avoid the following mistakes as they will derail your content strategy… here’s what to avoid:
Mistake #1: Relying completely on the marketing department
The first and most common mistake is dumping everything on the marketing department. Compared to other departments in the company, this would make the most sense on the outside. If your company does this, you’re not alone:
But content marketing shouldn’t be thought of as purely an extension of marketing, editorial or public relations. It should pull from various departments, including design, engineering and even sales, to name a few.
Why? Because the marketing department won’t always know what the best type of content you should be creating. For example, with KISSmetrics here are some of the types of content our engineering and design departments recommended:
- How to track people – one of the most common questions we get at KISSmetrics is “how do we track people”. The marketing department can’t write a piece like this, as it would require a deep understanding of our technology.
- How design affects conversion – a lot of our ideal customers are trying to boost their conversion rates, the design team is not only better suited to write a piece like this, but they can also create design examples.
As you can see from the examples above the marketing department wouldn’t be able to write all of those content pieces. For that reason it’s important to have many departments in your company involved in your content marketing strategy. Here’s how you can get the other departments involved:
- Encourage other departments – tell them the benefits of content marketing for the company as well as how it can benefit them personally. Such as increasing their personal brand. An easy way to do this is to also look for people in the company who are already communicating to customers, as they are going to be more open to blogging.
- Create an editorial board for all content pieces – this will act as both a springboard for ideas, and keeping the brand and voice consistent through all content marketing channels.
- Create an email alias or Skype group – add all these members so that you can easily communicate with each other the moment an idea hits or a concept piece is finished.
Mistake #2: Running out of steam
Now that you have a team together, you need to focus on the content itself. When a strategy has just launched, it’s all too easy to churn out tons of great ideas and get right to work making them a reality. But at some point, you’ll run out of ideas and the quality suffers.
When that happens, here’s what I do:
- Storytelling – people are attracted to certain kinds of stories: stories of triumph, stories that challenge and stories that inspire. How will your content play a role in helping to tell the kinds of stories that get shared? Just make sure you aren’t mistaking storytelling with storyselling.
- Answer the questions your customers don’t know how to ask – what are some of the greatest challenges people face with your product? How can they be more successful with it?
- Add personal touches – one of the biggest problems with most content marketing formulas is that they subtract the person completely and focus entirely on the company and what it’s doing.
- Pay attention to the competition – one of the easiest ways to get new content ideas that are hot is to keep an eye out on the competition. You can check out my process of, researching the competition in order to come up with creative ideas, here.
Now to double check that you were paying attention to the 4 bullet points above, do you know what’s wrong with this example of content marketing from GE?
It’s all about GE and their technology, not about the people they’ve helped or the impact they’ve made. Or better yet, they should have created content that benefits their ideal customer.
Mistake #3: Marketing content only via the company blog
By now, you should know that marketing content on your blog alone isn’t going to cut it. You need to reach out and broaden your focus to include the channels your customers are using.
You need to look at all the possible ways in which content can be shared: social, video, document, slide, infographic and more. Content marketers are oftentimes so laser-focused on social media that they completely forget that their audience may also be reading other sites, which you can leverage by creating other forms of content.
You should try the following:
- Turn your video into a guest post
- Turn a blog post into an infographic and post it on someone else’s site.
- Interview industry experts via a podcast and try to get them to publish it on their blog.
Once you create the above content pieces you can then use the following email outreach templates to publish your content on industry related blogs:
Subject: you should blog about [insert your guest blog post topic]
[insert their first name], as an avid reader of [insert their site name] I would love to read about [insert guest blog post topic]… and I think your other readers would as well.
Your content on [insert existing post from their website #1, insert existing post from their website #2, and insert existing post from their website #3] are great, but I think you can tie it all together by blogging on [insert guest blog post topic].
I know you are probably busy and won’t blog on it so I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse. How about I write it for you? Don’t worry, I’m a great blogger and have had my posts featured on [insert previous guest post URL #1] and [insert previous guest post URL #2].
Let me know if you are interested, I already know your blogging style, plus I understand what your readers love… as I am one.
Look forward to hearing from you,
[insert your name]
The reason you should guest post on a regular basis is that it can do wonders for your search traffic. For example, I wrote 59 guest posts, which help build an extra 117 links into 30 posts on Quick Sprout.
As you can see from the image above, the posts I linked to from my guest posts received more search engine traffic than the posts that didn’t gain as many links. And then if you add in the number or leads and sales those guest posts generated, the ROI was huge.
Mistake #4: Not winning customers over
You have the content, but is it really winning customers over? One very common content marketing mistake that’s made with even the best of intentions is to put a positive spin on every piece. For one thing, your customers aren’t buying it. You and they both know the product or service has flaws, or isn’t right for everyone. Every content marketing effort feels more like a sales pitch.
To help avoid this, you may want to invite users to participate in your content marketing efforts. Vermont ski resort, Jay Peak, did this by encouraging their users to tag Jay Peak in their instagram photos describing what they love about the mountain. The mention of Jay Peak is secondary to users emphasizing what they love about skiing there, but the campaign does a great job of sharing the enthusiasm without hyping up the location.
So how do you do it? You could:
- Encourage users to pose with your product or showcase your brand name in an unusual way. Nylabone users post pictures of their dogs using the product and invite them to add their own captions, providing real social proof in a way that marketing videos or photos can’t.
- Give a shout out to the submitter when you do post their content, since they’re very likely to show both the content and your response to their friends.
- Focus on feelings rather than the brand itself. Coke’s Happiness is… Tumblr page and Chobani Greek Yogurt’s Pinterest Page don’t always mention the products themselves, but by interacting with the pages, customers grow to associate the brand with those feelings.
But don’t make the mistake of relying completely on user-generated content. Make sure that you check the sources of uploaded pictures or videos before posting, and let customers know up-front that any content they submit becomes the property of your company to do with as you wish. This will help prevent any controversial or legal issues that could crop up if the campaign truly takes on a life of its own.
If you really want to harness the benefits of user-generated content, you should ask for (and respond) to reviews, both good and bad. For many users, knowing that the company cares and is willing to work with them to resolve the issue will diffuse any anger or frustration, which can be the spark that leads to other disgruntled customers jumping on the bandwagon.
Mistake #5: Not measuring the results
The easiest way to gather usable content marketing metrics is to figure out which pages or promotions have the biggest impact on customers, and why. Measuring things like the click-through rate, time spent on site, bounce rate and unique visitors are all sales-focused metrics. You should also look at:
- The type of media customers engaged with most – this is the most basic and boils down to number of pages, downloads or other raw data. You can use basic tools like Google Analytics to determine this.
- Where and how the content was shared socially – you can use services like Hootsuite to track the number of social shares and the channels content was shared from.
- Whether or not content converted into customers – all your content marketing efforts are wasted if they’re not turning into paying customers. Start off by learning who’s doing what on your site, how often they participate, and how soon they made a purchase.
Here is an example of what we track on our KISSmetrics blog:
As you can see from the image above content URLs are placed on the left and number of times people visit the blog after reading one of those URLs is at the top. So the higher the percentage, the better the content. If you are writing content that causes a low return visit percentage, it means that you are publishing content that people don’t care to read.
At KISSmetrics we try to optimize our blog for return visits because we know it helps create brand loyalty an in the long run those visitors are more likely to turn into customers.
It’s never really easy to create a content marketing strategy that works well, but if you avoid the mistakes above you will be better off.
Out of all the mistakes I’ve listed above, the most common one is not measuring results. You can’t just dump tons of hours or dollars into a content marketing strategy if you can’t produce a positive ROI. It’s not just about the number of downloads or shares, but about the number of customers who gained from consuming the content.
5 Lessons From the Best Example of Content Marketing Ever?
Marketers sometimes say things to me like, “Well, nobody in our industry is doing that kind of robust content marketing, so why should we start?”
Here’s the deal.
Your industry doesn’t matter. What matters is that big companies are embracing big content, and in so doing they are changing the expectations of YOUR customers, whether you like it or not. It doesn’t matter whether anyone in your industry is doing real-time Twitter response. Major companies are doing it, and thus are training consumers to think of Twitter like a telephone. It doesn’t matter whether anyone in your industry is answering every customer question publicly. Major companies are doing it, and thus are training consumers that the era of self-serve information is truly upon us.
It has always been this way. In 1998 when I was a Web strategist, I remember vividly when Amazon.com first rolled out tabbed navigation. This kicked off an entire era of tabbed navigation for sites of every size and category. It didn’t matter whether a competitor in YOUR industry had tabbed navigation, it mattered that a site as prominent as Amazon did, and thus set new expectations.
Going even further back, in 1994 I was working at my first Internet company (Internet Direct, where we invented virtual Web hosting). On October 27 of that year, Wired (then hotwired.com) launched the very first banner ads. Those banners were 468×60 pixels because that was the size the hotwired designer shoehorned onto the home page. And guess what? That became the standard size for the entire World Wide Web, codified by the Internet Advertising Bureau in 1996.
It’s an interconnected world, folks. Your customers are impacted by a lot more than just the marketing tactics of your narrow competitive set. That’s why it drives me crazy when I hear stuff like, “These B2C examples aren’t relevant to us, because we’re B2B.”
That’s why I’m so enamored with the McDonald’s Canada “Our Food, Your Questions” program. It doesn’t matter that you’re probably not working for a fast food company, the Golden Arches’ embrace of information could be the start of a cultural change that impacts every business. That’s why it’s a core case study in my forthcoming new book Youtility: Why Smart Companies Sell More by Selling Less. I interviewed Joel Yashinsky, CMO of McDonald’s Canada to get the inside scoop.
McDonald’s Canada Answers All Food Questions
Launched in June, the Our Food, Your Questions program invites any Canadian to ask any question whatsoever about McDonald’s food on a special website developed by Tribal DDB Toronto. To ask a question, participants must connect with either Twitter or Facebook, providing social visibility and a ripple in the pond viral effect.
So far, more than 16,000 questions have been asked (they are getting 350 to 450 per day), and nearly 10,000 have been answered. You’ve heard of Gladwell’s 10,000 hours? How about McDonalds’ 10,000 questions!
The program scope is only around McDonald’s food, so questions about non-food topics are directed to other resources, and some questions are of course duplicates. But there’s no dodging the tough questions, and that’s the amazing thing about this program.
For example, this zinger from Jani S. in Nova Scotia:
Whoa. Historically, companies would do whatever possible to put as much distance as possible between themselves and that line of inquiry. But the rules are changing. Here’s McDonald’s answer – comprehensive, factual, and not laden with artificial marketing hype:
“Hi Jani. We wouldn’t call it plain beef, but it sure is beef. We only use meat cut from the shoulder, chuck, brisket, rib eye, loin and round. In fact, our beef supplier is Cargill, a name you might recognize. They’re the biggest supplier of beef in Canada.”
5 Lessons for Your Company From McDonald’s Canada
There are so many smart elements to this program, that you literally could write a book just on this case study. Here are the top lessons.
1. Embrace Self-Serve Information
Google’s Zero Moment of Truth research (also a big part of my new book) finds that consumers need twice as many sources of information before making a decision today than they did just one year ago.
McDonald’s Canada understands that there is a huge amount of chatter about their food (and more every day due to proliferation of social). They can’t respond to it all individually, so instead they’ve built a one-stop information shop.
We have to use the channels that we own so that we could have a conversation with customers, because there are so many different channels out there that we just can’t physically reach all of them. – Joel Yashinsky, CMO – McDonald’s Canada
2. Make Information a Spectator Sport
Could McDonald’s Canada have created a big effort around emailing questions, or building a new food-oriented call center, like the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line? Sure, but those options don’t have the benefit of answering questions publicly.
I especially like that they provided an option to “follow” a question, and be notified when it has been answered. More than 3.1 million questions have been read, versus 16,000 asked.
3. Identify Customer Knowledge Gaps
Before the program commenced, McDonald’s Canada conducted a thorough chatter analysis to determine what types of questions were already being asked online about their food. This helped identify the types and categories of questions that were likely to be asked on the site, once unveiled, and enabled McDonalds’s to get the gist of about 600 answers ready in advance.
But, there are still plenty of kooky outlier questions, such as this beauty: “I love your food, but why do your fries get cold after 1 or 2 minutes?” This one is unanswered so far, and I’d be tempted to go with “Air.”
4. Market Your Marketing
It’s not only the incredible amount of staff time now being devoted to question answering, but McDonald’s is also putting forth substantial dollars to promote this program offline. An innovative and interesting mass media campaign that includes TV, radio, print, and a variety of outdoor executions is in full swing, and is driving awareness of the website and its contents.
This is a very important trend that I’m seeing more and more – companies promoting information instead of the company itself.
5. A Skill, not a Job
Being great at transparency and information isn’t (and cannot) be one person’s job. It must be part of many people’s responsibility, because everyone in your company has information and knowledge that your customers will value.
At McDonald’s Canada, they’ve enlisted help from their entire supply chain to help answer questions, not to mention the dozens of employees and agency participants.
You Can Do This, and Eventually You Will
I asked Joel Yashinsky why every company isn’t doing something similar to Our Food, Your Questions. Here’s what he said:
I think everybody’s going to start. We knew that there was really no option if we were going to become a brand of the 21st century, as we were of the 20th century. The customer today wants to know more, especially about the food that they’re eating.
If you have a good story to tell, tell it. But you have to do it in
a way that’s authentic, and you have to have that conversation
with the customer. You can’t just preach to the consumer these things that you know are true. You have to engage them, so that they can come to learn it and believe it and build that trust with you.
Content Marketing is becoming the topic to talk about – some even claim it to replace SEO. That’s a bold statement. What’s with all the fuzz anyway? For the next few weeks we’ll be breaking down content marketing to bits and pieces – from writing solid content, targeting the right audience, and providing awesome experience – to how to get it out to the world with a bang.
How I started
I didn’t start out as an SEO Specialist. No. They don’t teach SEO at school. Heck, they don’t even teach us how to build our first website (and I took up ICTM – Information and Communications, Technology Management). Imagine that!
So where did I start?
“Really Sean? You became an SEO specialist through a long sheet of yellow paper?”
Well…. Not really. But it sooner took me to blogging because no one really read my yellow sheet stories but my mom.
And blogging gave me a chance to step up on the platform and show my writing to the world.
Now here I am.
And you’re reading my stuff.
Where Content Marketing Starts
Content Marketing does not start with an awesome brand. It does not start with a lot of readers. It does not start with social media and SEO. It starts with you – with who you are and what you can bring to the world stage.
It deals with your voice – how you write. It deals with your conviction – how well you make people say “yes” with what you believe in. It deals with your ability to converse – with how you are able to touch base with people at an emotional level.
You don’t have to be a writing diva to be a great content marketer. If I could still find my first sheets of yellow paper, you’d sooner tell me that I suck at writing.
So what happened between that and now?
That’s what I’m about to teach you.
For this Content Marketing Series: “Breaking Down Content Marketing” this is what we’re going to be talking about:
- How to Write Powerful Outlines and Why you should give a Fluff
- How to Integrate Low-Hanging Keywords from the Global Market
- Writing for a World of 36-hours-a-day readers
- Assembling Booby-Trap Content for your Audience
- The World Above the Fold: Don’t be a Mermaid/man
- Where’s the Beef? How to Cook your Content Right
- Closing the Lid: Keeping their Eyes Stuck on your Tail
- The Modern Mix: Effective Content, Layouting and Design
- How to Increase the Memory Retention Rate of your Readers by 55%
- Walking the Ramp: Bringing your Content out with a Bang
- Put a little cheese on it: Your Content Marketing’s Final Moments
It’s going to be an exciting series so stay with me as I take you through these topics. The main goal is for you to be an Exceptional Content Marketer at least and a Content Marketing Star at best!
More and more, content is becoming a solid, sure-win strategy approach to SEO. Cornerstone content is becoming a vital necessity to attract word of mouth links. Value in content is becoming more and more competitive. Writing style matters in user experience. So how exactly should you structure your content strategy to leverage your site’s SEO?
This is a tutorial series from SEO School where you can learn SEO that works.
Good SEO should really be strategized around content – content that is exceptionally great. As an SEO specialist, I truly believe that we all should sharpen up on our content strategy so I compiled a 4-lesson series on what I know about it:
The web today is a place where content is vast, and many, to an almost infinite degree. Even in SEO we argue that content is the way to go – and it is. If you want to keep it clean and strong for the long run.
So many published content in the web today – it is an infinite sea of words. Do we need another SEO article published from SEO Hacker when there are so many SEO articles to choose from already? Why don’t you just sit back and relax – we have more than enough publishers choking out content about EVERYTHING.
Content should exist because there is a target set of audience – people who will read, watch, and/or look at your stuff. Keep in mind that the reason we are making content is not to make ourselves feel good, or to archive and document what our company is about. We make content for people – users who drop by in your site because they want to know you!
Did you know that you can make your content strategy designed in such a way that it looks for its target users? Uh-huh, yeah – you just need to let your content out and let it do the sniffing out of you users for you.
You and I are created as emotional beings. We fear. We hate. We love. We laugh. We want. We feel. Feelings have a lot to do with your decisions – especially quick ones. Ones made when browsing the internet.
All of these lessons are pretty much aimed to help you grow in future-proofing your SEO. If you ask me, Using Cornerstone Content to Acquire Word of Mouth Links is really the best way to go in SEO today – and this will never be affected by Google Algorithm changes because of its strong sense of organic human-driven fundamentals (From content to promotion to links).
Content, content, content – aren’t you ever contented? The web today is a place where content is vast, and many, to an almost infinite degree. Even in SEO we argue that content is the way to go – and it is. If you want to keep it clean and strong for the long run.
Writing out content does not make a business. It does not make you rank in the search engines. It does not help people identify who you are as a brand. That’s where content strategy comes in.
Content strategy is the way you outline your content – giving it a purpose and an identity of its own. A content without a purpose is a messy one. A content without an identity will confuse your readers.
Content strategy deals with who you are, your target audience, your writing style, (or writing voice as some would prefer to call it), and your marketing strategy.
What do I mean?
Well, to give you a practical example, let’s take SEO Hacker’s content Strategy:
SEO Hacker’s Content strategy: Teaching. Tutorials, news (and how you can apply the news to your website), and more tutorials! This is our core content – this is who we are as a blog, as a company, as a publisher. This is our identity to our readers and this is the main purpose of this blog.
Our target audience: Learners. Webmasters. Web Developers. Entrepreneurs. All who want to rank in the search engine results page in the range of beginner – intermediate with minimal technical knowledge.
Our writing style: Clean, concise, straight-to-the point and extremely easy to comprehend.
Our Marketing Strategy: Promote it in Social Media, Promote it as we comment on other blogs, Promote it as a resource in other publisher’s website, Promote it anywhere and everywhere we can in the web! We don’t use cellphones or friends to promote it. We promote it in places where it matters.
All the while, we are building our Content Structure within an SEO mindset. No, our articles didn’t go to the first page of Google in 1 year – and we had to endure it. But it was all worth the wait – right now it takes 30 minutes to a day for a newly published article to be in the first page for its supposed target keywords / keyphrases.
How did we make our content rank?
That’s all dependent on our SEO strategy – which is built from solid content. After the content is built, we check its SEO friendliness by applying on-site optimization techniques. Then we hit the publish button.
What On Site optimization techniques did we use?
- We optimized our Title tags for each and every post
- We Made sure that each and every relevant keyword is interlinked with the proper article
- We fixed each and every image to make sure that it has the proper keyword inside
- And much more stuff!