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Content Marketing: Where Should I Start?

By Aidie Street
9th June 2021

Content Marketing: Where Should I Start?

Ever been in a position where you’ve got to create a ‘content strategy’ but just didn’t really know what that meant, why you need it or where to start? 

Very powerful yet sometimes very overwhelming, content marketing is used by companies from Microsoft, Cisco and John Deere. Whether a multi-national or sole trader, all businesses can reap the great effects. 

Content marketing can improve sales, provide cost savings and deliver significant increase in customer loyalty. 

For our June Rural Roundtable, our content expert Aidie gave a full run-down of Content Marketing and where to get started.  Catch up if you missed it here:

Content Marketing: Where to start?

Content marketing is interesting and something I enjoy. Today we are primarily going to look at the thing you should look at when building a content strategy:

What is content marketing?

“Marketing is impossible without great content” Content marketing institute

Definition:

“A type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services”

Content marketing thoughts vs reality. Shows the different steps that are assumed and that actually happen.

This great infographic from CoSchedule outlines the assumption vs reality when it comes to content marketing and how it works.

Content marketing can be seen as a tactic on its own. However, content is engrained in everything we do. Every channel and tactic we use requires content to drive it. How it looks and feel can be different but at the core is content.

PPC can be a great example of this, as we see this as guaranteed paid for traffic, but if the content on your site is not appropriate then it will be wasted money.

The process does take longer than other tactics we can employ such as: paid search, paid social, influencer marketing or email. However it can be a great way to build strong relationships with customers through trust and demonstration of expertise. This, in turn, will deliver benefits including higher lifetime return per customer.

Knowing your audience

Good content should be focused around the customer to ensure it is relevant to them. There are two key ares to consider when look at this.

  1. The purchasing journey
  2. A customer persona

To start with we will look at the customer journey. Targeting content convincing people to buy something if they are still in the awareness phase will be lost on that person. So we need to ensure we are able to deliver them the content they require at the stages they are at in their buying cycle.

There are many different illustrations of the buyers journey. However, we feel the graphic below simply demonstrates what that journey looks like in a modern world.

Secondly we look at the person we are trying to target. When you embark on your content marketing strategy the content you create needs to resonate with the target person. That could mean the :

  • Language
  • Format
  • Location
  • Where they are active online
  • What their other interests are

Creating a persona to help ground you as you go through your content creation journey can be very powerful. Stop and ask yourself at regular intervals, while looking at the picture of John Smith and his persona, and say to yourself, will John read this?

Set Goals

Set yourself goals, I can not stress this enough.

Understand what it is you want to achieve from your content marketing strategy. It could be anything as long as it is important to you and your business

Goals could be:

  • Users to the site
  • Engagements (Likes, Comments, Shares)
  • Conversions (Contact us forms, purchases, revenue)
  • Return on Investment

Make sure you create the goals using a framework to ensure that the goal is relevant to overall business performance and you are able to achieve it.

The SMART frame work is one of doing this but there are lots of options out there, check out them out here.

Find a proven topic.

Once you have the fundamentals sorted. The first step is to find a proven topic. Arguably one of the biggest roadblocks when someone embarks on a content marketing journey.

Just think about this, a lot of the information is in your head.

Think about content you create as a conversation. If someone asked you a question in every day life, the answer you would give is just what you should be writing down… just maybe a little more structured.

There are 4 key areas I would look to for topic inspiration:

How to find a topic graphic. Contains images of customer interaction, podcasts and media, forums and social media, competitors.

Customer Interaction – We deal with customers on a day to day basis and we will have discussions and be asked questions all the time. That’s a topic right there. Those questions are the same questions many others in their situation will be asking.

Podcast and Media – Look at trending topics in the media. What is it that similar people in the industry are talking about: themes, titles and general conversation within them.

Forums and Social media – People have moved from talking across a pint or on the phone to putting a question into an online domain. This happens a lot on social media and in forums. Have a look at the current conversation, the ones that get good responses generally mean they are a hot topic.

Competitors – Take a look at your competition, what are they talking about. Can you join that conversation and use your content marketing to put your own spin on it, or demonstrate how you would approach it differently or with add value?

Another good place to find this information is on your website. If you already have a bank of content on your website then you can assess what that content is doing, what is working and what you could expand on or repurpose.

Google analytics can provide a gold mind of information. Filtering the blogs that led to a conversion is a great way of seeing what content worked best for those in the consideration or transaction/purchase phase.

The other place to look is the search function on your site. We live in a world today where content is delivered to us, instead of us searching for it manually, when a user lands on your page they will search for what they want. By doing this they will give you topics they want to know about and if you don’t have them on the site, then this is the opportunity to create them.

Finding a keyword

There are a number of places you can look to find keywords, tools like Ahrefs, SEM rush and Google. However, there is a simple and free way to get a good steer.

Google it! Suggested search items will deliver top responses for the word you search. This can give you a great steer and understanding of the keywords that are most searched for.

Don’t get stuck in the rut that a keyword, should only be a word. It can be a phrase or a question. The important thing is, that it has some volume and is searched for by others. Making up your own keyword is less likely to drive traffic and deliver a return on investment for your content marketing.

Keywords and keyphrases can demonstrate to us at what point in the buying journey potential customers are. This is called search intent and is invaluable in finding and using keyword. For example, those in the awareness phase may ask quesrtions that include:

  • What
  • Where
  • Why
  • How To
  • Guide
  • Help
  • Tutorial

Don’t forget related searches, at the bottom of a google search page. Type in your working title and head to the related searches section. This will give you an indication of other common searches around the topic you are looking at or by the people you are trying to target. For example I want to target people who are looking for information on “the best tractors in the UK” because I offer tractor finance and I want be in front of those people who are considering the purchase of a tractor.

Types of Content

There are a whole range of different types of content you can use within your strategy. When thinking about the content type, consider how you are looking to distribute, here are some content examples:

  • Infographics
  • Social Media
  • Blogging
  • Webinars
  • White papers
  • Email
  • Quizzes
  • Courses
  • Checklists
  • Lead Magnets
  • Ebooks
  • Slide Decks
  • Webinars
  • Podcasts

The next thing to do is ask your self 3 questions:

  1. Are you comfortable creating the content

If you don’t like being in front of the camera maybe videos aren’t for you. You may be a writer, go for a blog or white paper format. Make it comfortable for you to do.

2. Is this the type of content your audience consumes

If your audience don’t spend time reading blogs don’t write a blog. If you prefer to be on you tube or social media, then create videos.

3. Do you have the resource to create the content?

Having big plans and a huge content strategy may look great on paper, but if you don’t have the resource; time, financial resource or staff, to execute it then it’s a waste of time. Start small and grow naturally.

Content user experience (UX)

User experience is often reserved for when people develop a website or an app, or implement some kind of process. Very rarely is it considered when creating content or within a content strategy.

This is a great infographics which shows how little time we have to grab a potential users attention.

This has happened, primarily, because we have so much content available to us on a day to day basis. We consume information from so many sources: Email, billboards, street ads, social media, TV and the list goes on!

We have become very good at identifying if a piece of content is right for us and if we need to read more. This is very much visually driven. Take the examples below.

On the left is a traditionally written piece of content. Mainly text, structured closely together, very few images and high word count.

Then compare this to the right, less text just delivering what we want to know, images to help us visually understand this article will answer our questions.

When writing a piece of content look at the following quick pointers to improve the “scannability” of you work:

  • Highlighted keywords
  • Meaningful sub headings
  • Bulleted Lists
  • One Idea per Paragraph
  • Start with the conclusion
  • Half the word count

Look at this example of an original piece of content then an optimised version of that content for scan reading from Nielsen and Norman

Original Piece

Nebraska is filled with internationally recognized attractions that draw large crowds of people every year, without fail. In 1996, some of the most popular places were Fort Robinson State Park (355,000 visitors), Scotts Bluff National Monument (132,166), Arbor Lodge State Historical Park & Museum (100,000), Carhenge (86,598), Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer (60,002), and Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park (28,446).

Optimised Piece

In 1996, six of the most-visited places in Nebraska were:

  • Fort Robinson State Park
  • Scotts Bluff National Monument
  • Arbor Lodge State Historical Park & Museum
  • Carhenge
  • Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer
  • Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park

Its so much easier to find out what we needed to know from the second, optimised paragraph. It’s clearly laid out and easy for us to scan the content.

Distribution

So, we have a content strategy and we have built some content. The next big question is, how do we distribute it?

How you distribute your content will be key. Paid social and paid media can be very useful for giving your content a kick start, and in front of lot of users quickly.

Scheduling can also be powerful, if you have a large following and you want to get that content in front of that audience or a specific section of that audience, some analysis of your traffic and scheduling of content can work very well.

As with most things online, one of the best and most cost effective ways of getting your content in front of your potential customers is though organic search, mainly Google. This requires some SEO (Search Engine Optimisation work.

We wont go into the depths of SEO, but will provide some key tips to help you with SEO in your content strategy.

Google is uses the E-A-T model to assess the content you produce. Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness. What this means is, you need to ask yourself the following. Is the information in the content, original, written by someone with expertise. Has it been linked to and does it link out to other experts to demonstrate wider knowledge?

Great content should be actionable and provide examples. Give people something to take away from the content that they can use, and providing examples supports this. Giving examples is often overlooked because it’s time consuming but try to include some examples to help people relate what you are telling them to their situation.

Top 3 thing to optimise content for SEO.

  1. Optimise the title tag.

This tells the user when they are in the Google search pages what they should click on the link to your content. Keep it short but make sure it answers a question and indicate that the content is for them. For example, “a start to finish guide”.

2. Keyword Density

How many times you put a keyword in your piece of content. On Average it aroud 1-2%. So that is 1-2 per 100 words.

3. Include External Links

Hyperlink out to areas where people can get more information. That can be internal links to other articles on your site or off you site to external sources.

Measuring Success

All of your hard work will be for nothing if you don’t track the success of your content strategy. Look at KPIs (Key performance Indicators) and metrics that relate to your original goal.

Some metrics or KPIs can include:

  • Web traffic
  • User Behaviour
  • Impressions & Click Through Rate
  • Social Shares
  • Keyword Ranking

These can help you to monitor the success of your content, understand if it is performing well and give you insight as to why. On the other hand it can tell you if it isn’t performing well and is unlikely to hit your primary goal.

Don’t think that just because the metrics don’t show a success, that the piece of content is a failure. That is the fundamentals of marketing. Campaigns aren’t static, we publish, measure, adjust and go again. That’s all you need to do if the metrics you are measuring don’t look healthy. Make an adjustment and keep going.

If you found that this of use, and would like to know more please don’t hesitate to get in touch for a chat.

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