Content marketing is about information.
In other words, it’s the marketing of a business or brand through the sharing of educational, entertaining, or insightful information that will ultimately help readers improve their lives.
This may be in the form of a change in personal behavior or, as most marketers hope, it could be in the form of a purchase decision.
It’s not about forcing a sales pitch at people, but helping them move towards the best course of action (that just may be buying from you).
Content marketing is also defined as a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
I’d say that accurately sums it up, but perhaps a more accurate description is provided by Content Marketing Institute:
“Content marketing’s purpose is to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating relevant and valuable content with the intention of changing or enhancing consumer behavior. It is an ongoing process that is best integrated into your overall marketing strategy, and it focuses on owning media, not renting it.”
In 2016, few businesses doubt the power of content marketing, but sadly, only a few companies are executing it with the skill and expertise truly needed to make an impact.
This guide will show you how to successfully promote your brand, attract more qualified leads, and nurture customer relationships through content marketing.
If you’ve read any of our content, you’ve probably heard us throw around the term “inbound marketing.” Content and inbound are often used interchangeably, but for the sake of minimizing confusion I will explain the difference.
This article is part of the “Content Marketing & Blogging” Hub in the IMPACT Anthology. This hub will help introduce you to the basics of blogging for business and best practices for producing amazing content.
Inbound Marketing vs Content Marketing
The difference between inbound marketing and content marketing depends on who you ask. In fact, a HubSpot survey found that most marketers agree that content marketing is a subset of inbound marketing.
More specifically, however, content marketing refers to the act of sharing knowledge, advice, or entertainment in a consumable format that may include:
- Blog articles
- Social media marketing
Inbound marketing, however, is more focused on using tactics like content marketing to generate and nurture leads towards a sale. Inbound includes all aspects of digital marketing and sales.
Another distinction between content marketing and inbound marketing is how they target their marketing. Content marketing focuses on a broad “target audience” and inbound focuses on specific “buyer personas.”
Blogging is the Foundation of Content Marketing
Blog articles pioneered content marketing. Blogs have become commonplace in the business world, as well as society in general. It allows for people to access high-quality information for free.
When informative content is shared through a business blog, you inevitably come across as an industry expert, which will not only keep visitors returning to your blog, but can also turn these readers into potential buyers.
When you freely share content, it allows for your business to build trust with its readers. After all, you’re providing them with industry tips and information — for free.
eBooks, Videos, and Email
Blogs are just a gateway for other mediums of content marketing. While blogs articles are often on the shorter side, quickly but thoroughly addressing industry topics, these other forms of content marketing act as a more detailed vehicle to share information and convert customers.
eBooks, for example, allow for an extensive amount of information to be shared regarding some aspect of your business. These usually focus on the most frequently asked about part of a business, and go to great lengths to explain and point readers in the right direction — to you!
Videos are oftentimes a nice change of pace and are more engaging to your buyer personas. Have fun with it, as the great ones have a tendency to go viral, which can bring all kinds of traffic and attention to your brand.
Most of what is done through the advent of content marketing is done in hope that businesses can obtain the reader’s contact information. Whether the readers are subscribing to your newsletter, or simply filling out forms to access eBooks or other helpful tools, they are granting you future contact with them by giving you their personal email address.
Having email subscribers allows your brand to share more content, nurture leads, and eventually close those leads into sales through various email campaigns.
Why Content Marketing?
After asking “What is content marketing?” the next question should be “why?”
Josh Steimle answers this question in a Forbes post about content marketing.
“First you need to understand the four steps of the typical buying cycle:
Traditional advertising and marketing is great when it comes to the second two steps, but after that it tends to trail off. Content marketing taps into the first two stages of the buying process by raising awareness of solutions and educating consumers about a product they may have never considered before….
The return on investment for content marketing can be phenomenal….It provides additional content for social media marketing and contributes to SEO efforts by generating natural inbound links and building up good content on your website that gets found in search engines.
In fact, for many companies the bulk of their SEO efforts should be focused on content marketing.”
The Benefits of Content Marketing on SEO
There are many tasks you can do to improve SEO, but as John explains, nothing comes close to the impact of content marketing on your website’s SEO power.
And it makes perfect sense. Content, simply put, is just information.
Google aims to match the highest quality, most relevant information with the search queries of their users — but if you’re not creating content sharing this information, you have no chance of ranking and getting found for it.
Explains the connection between content marketing and SEO best:
“SEO demands content. Content marketing is content.
There is no such thing as SEO without content. You need words, articles, substance, keywords, verbiage.
I wince whenever I have to say it, because it’s so cliche, but it’s true: Content is king.”
When you rank in search engines, you rank for specific keywords in your written content. More content equals more keywords, meaning you have more opportunities to rank in Google.
This is why keyword research is essential for successful content marketing.
The other major factor in SEO is getting backlinks. When other websites link to your site, Google views you as a respected authority and bumps it up in the rankings.
What’s the easiest way to get backlinks? You guessed it — Produce great content that educates and entertains and that people want to link to and share.
Lastly, Google favors websites and resources that are updated consistently. So, when you publish content regularly, your website will likely rank significantly higher.
On the other hand, if you stop producing content, Google will assume your website is out-of-date and stale, so it’ll drop your drank to avoid sending people to mediocre content.
This article is part of the “Content Marketing & Blogging” Hub in the IMPACT Anthology. This hub will help introduce you to the basics of blogging for business and best practices for producing amazing content.
Content Marketing Improves Customer Service
If you think creating content is solely for attracting prospects, you’re gravely mistaken. A good content marketing strategy also includes resources for your existing customers such as:
Tutorials — These help them get the most of your product/service by showing them how.
FAQs — Frequently asked questions are great content topics because you can spend the time to answer the question thoroughly, then when a customer asks you have a great resource to send them. Plus, FAQs can also generate a lot of organic traffic.
Community Updates — Sharing testimonials or simply giving a shout out to your customers/clients helps build a sense of community, while also promoting your brand in an authentic way at the same time.
Content Marketing in Public Relations
The internet has shattered barriers that once prevented businesses from reaching their target customers.
In the past, getting featured on TV was difficult or expensive — now you can upload a video to YouTube or Facebook and reach millions of people for free.
The same thing goes for making an announcement. You don’t need a publicist to communicate with your customers and fans.
Blog posts have replaced press releases. Facebook Live has replaced the traditional press conference. Everything you need for PR is right at your finger tips, and it’s mostly free!
Content Marketing is an Industry Standard
If all of the other benefits of content marketing don’t convince you of why your business should use it, you might consider the fact that content marketing is essential to building a brand in 2017 and beyond.
We’re past the point where doing content marketing gives your business a big advantage over the competition and transistioning to a phase where not doing content marketing puts your business at a tremendous disadvantage.
All markets and demographics are consuming information online and quite simply, content marketing is marketing by today’s standards.
The Worst Content Marketing Mistakes You Can Make
The effectiveness of your content marketing can make or break your business. Here are the worst content marketing mistakes you could be making:
1. Not Knowing Your Audience (Buyer Personas)
Not understanding your buyer personas is one of the biggest mistakes in regards to content marketing. By not taking the time to research and understand your audience, how can you know what topics grab their attention?
There’s a chance you have no idea.
A great way to learn more about your audience is by not only developing buyer personas, but also reader personas. Not all of your readers are going to be your buyers.
However, the topics within your blog should depend on the goals you want to achieve. For most companies, they see their blog as an opportunity to educate and nurture prospects and hopefully pushing them down the sales funnel.
Ask yourself these questions about your readers:
- What is their age range?
- What is their job title?
- What is their financial status?
- Their education level?
- What are their hobbies?
- What are their pain points?
To really hone in on your buyer personas, conduct a buyer persona interview.
2. Failing to Provide Quality
The primary goal of content marketing is providing your readers and leads with quality information. To keep your content fresh and maintain readership, it’s important to publish frequently and consistently.
When you don’t post blog articles for a significant amount of time, readers will stop coming to your site. Post as often as you can, while ensuring you are publishing quality content.
If you can only post once a week, it’s ok. Focus on quality over quantity. When you start putting out junk, you start losing readers, leads, and ultimately customers.
Also, with Google’s search algorithm, ever-evolving, creating quality content is the only reliable way to get found and rank.
3. Not Proofreading or Editing
For all of you grammar nuts out there, this is probably one of your biggest pet peeves.
How often do you read a blog article and the person or company doesn’t even know the difference between your and you’re?
Little mistakes like this tend to send readers running for the hills. Something you should always do before publishing your content is to proofread it and make any necessary changes. Make use of your spellcheck, Grammar.ly, and have a peer read through it as well. Better safe than sorry.
4. Failing to Reuse and Repurpose
If your company has been creating content for a while, you’ve likely published a ton of content that covers a wide variety of topics. The best part about all of that content, is that you can use it over and over again.
Ideas for reusing and repurposing content:
- If you have a report, it can be broken up into several blog articles
- Create a video or slide presentation out of your how-to articles
- Have your audio and video materials transcribed into written format
- Build on existing content by expanding certain points, introducing new ideas, etc.
- Share older, popular content with new members of your audience
No one wants to reinvent the wheel by creating new content every time. A great way to promote your eBooks is by providing your readers with an excerpt in one of your blog articles. Just don’t forget to add a call to action at the bottom of the blog article telling your readers to download the full eBook.
Don’t let your hard work just fade away. Keep your content working for you instead by repurposing it.
5. Missing a Call-to-Action
When it comes to content marketing, many marketers forget to add calls-to-action (CTA) to various places across their marketing channels. There is no better way to guide people to other parts of your site than through clear, distinct CTAs.
If you don’t tell your visitors or prospects about your services or products, how are they going to know you offer them? They most likely won’t. Which is why you should add CTAs that send them to those pages or information.
Each piece of content should have a purpose and a CTA. Whether it’s to get a quote for your IT services or an opportunity to get a free checklist, it doesn’t matter.
Consider placing a CTA:
- On your blog
- In your email messages
- On your Facebook page
- On every page of your website
- Within your eBooks and webinars
- In presentations
- Within your email signature
Need more insight into how to choose the right CTA for your next post? This article can help.
Our former content marketing Manager, Carly Stec, once shared 4 more content mistakes that may be costing your business valuable opportunities.
According to Sirius Decisions, 60-70% of B2B marketing content goes unused.
How is it that one of your blog articles can see hundreds of views, while another one just sits on the shelf collecting dust?
The truth is, there are a ton of factors that contribute to both the success and demise of the content you serve up.
Just because something you wrote seemed to really catch on, it doesn’t guarantee everything you produce from there on out will follow in its footsteps. If your content is failing to support the type of engagement necessary to advance the buying process, you’re doing it wrong.
In order to get your content creation strategy on track, we’ve outlined 4 content mistakes that could be costing your business valuable opportunities.
1. Lackluster Titles
The title of your content often serves as the first line of communication between a customer and your brand.
If you’re looking for a way to format your titles to ensure they receive the attention they deserve, consider revisiting your website’s analytics. By looking back on titles that performed well in the past, you will uncover information that can be used to form future titles.
Additionally, social analytics will help you pick out the titles that were well-received by your audience on social media platforms. A social share is valuable in terms of content distribution, as it opens up a new path for your content to reach an untapped audience.
2. No Social Sharing
While it may seem like a real @firstworldproblem, asking your readers to manually copy, paste, and share your content can often be asking for too much.
Think about the way you consume content.
Often times you find yourself reading an article, you see the value in it, you go to find the social share button so that you can spread the word to your followers.. and then it’s nowhere to be found. Talk about a let down.
You want to make it as easy as humanly possible for readers to share your content. If you fail to create a quick and easy way for them to share your content right on the page, you run the risk that they will open up a new window, log into their social media account, and get lost in their newsfeed before they post it.
Social share buttons not only improve the user experience, but they ultimately contribute to your brand’s level of exposure. All it takes is one social share to open your content up to a new reader, who may then share it with their following, who could then tweet it out to their audience, who.. well, you get the point.
3. Speaking to the Wrong Crowd
When creating content, many marketers are plagued by the idea that they have to please everyone. They recognize that compelling and consistent content creation has the ability to attract, convert, close, and delight customers — which is why they are afraid of alienating prospects.
The trouble with this approach to content creation is that you simply can’t please everyone, and do it well. Write about what you know, what you understand, and what you feel strongly about.
If you try to wear too many hats, you’ll find it is difficult to attract a loyal audience, as your content will be all over the place, rather than focused on the interests and needs of a particular group.
In order to create truly resourceful content, you must know what motivates your buyer personas. If you are well-versed in their consumer behaviors and business/personal goals, you will find it is much easier to create and deliver content that they will enjoy and share.
4. Selfishly Selling
There’s nothing worse than a party guest who only wants to talk about themselves. They’ll chew your ear for hours and wont let you get a word in, while you’re left standing there, eyes glazing over, nodding in agreement at everything they say.
Often times you walk away from the conversation with a bad taste in your mouth, as you are unable to comprehend how someone could be so egotistical. Well, the same applies to content creation.
Nobody wants to get stuck reading a blog article written by a self-serving writer, so avoid creating content that is all about you, you, you.
Instead, focus on guiding your content around the needs of your audience. Think of your blog posts as an opportunity to provide prospects with a valuable resource, not a sales pitch.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when creating new content is that it must speak to the needs of the intended audience, not yours.”
Content Marketing Best Practices
So you’re familiar with content marketing and its importance in an effective inbound marketing campaign, but are you doing them correctly? As mentioned in our intro, this is usually the area that most marketers struggle with, but thankfully, by following a few basic best practices, we can help you in your quest to get started in creating quality, relevant content.
Simply put, blogging is the fastest way to create a platform for sharing and turn your brand into a content generating machine.
Consider this statistic: businesses that blog get 55% more website visitors than those who do not. This will greatly help your standing in the search engines, which in turn will help to drive more relevant traffic to your website.
Marketing expert, Heidi Cohen, shared the following best practices in a blog post for content marketing Institute:
“1. Give your audience a behind-the-scenes glimpse of your SEO company.
…Even “boring” businesses can leverage the power of talking to employees to make a product come to life. Find those members of your team who are passionate about your product, regardless of what their roles are within your organization. It’s these internal evangelists who can really bring your brand to life.
2. Special content: Provide exclusive information that your audience won’t find elsewhere. It’s useful for getting people to visit your other content and social media locations, and you can utilize a wide range of content formats, such as checklists, videos, how-to articles, and worksheets….
3. Interviews: While many media companies use interviews as the core of their content offerings, take a page from Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart, who specifically extends his on-air interviews to be used as unique web-only content….Consider talking to key people related to the topic. For many businesses, this means your employees, as well as outside experts.
4. Q&As: Extend the value of your content by answering questions that have been posed to you by your audience, or your industry colleagues and peers…Once again, this content can be developed through the use of video, audio, and/or text…
5. Outtakes: Learn from the movie industry, which often packages its DVDs with special extra scenes. No movie promotion is complete these days without additional content that entices the audience into developing a deeper relationship with your business…
6. Content curation: The goal here is to offer related resources for your audience that underscores your insight and expertise in the field…Rather than just producing a collection of links, add commentary to existing content to help your audience better understand the issues involved…
7. Background: Don’t assume that your audience will be familiar with all the ins and outs of your chosen topic. Create content that delivers the information they need to better understand the issues you discuss in your content offerings —without talking down to them.
Sharing Through Social Media
Social media websites are among the most valuable resources a business can have. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are chock full of members of your niche audience and other potential customers waiting to be found — so be sure to share your content with them! It can even help answer many of their questions while simultaneously establishing your credibility.
You’ve spent the time to create quality blogs, so sharing these through social media sites will maximize the potential of each individual blog post and expand your reach through shares and discussion among your followers.
B2B marketers often get hung up on how to use social media, because they fear social media doesn’t work as naturally for B2B brands.
Fortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The following are 8 best practices for B2B marketers to integrate content marketing and social media, provided by Kapost:
1. Make the Case Internally
Before marketers can gain the budget and resources necessary to see results from the combined power of social media and content, the strategy needs to be marketed internally. If people don’t buy into the idea of inbound marketing and support it fully, it won’t succeed.
2. Establish Goals
Before beginning to plan content, marketers must first understand the larger initiatives planned for the quarter and year. This clarifies what messaging needs to be pushed, which content types make the most sense to support those initiatives across networks, and when those pieces of content should be completed….
3. Maximize Popular Networks
Identify where target audiences are spending their time online, and where relevant conversations are already taking place. For retail companies, maybe it’s Instagram and Pinterest. For B2B, it might be Twitter and LinkedIn. Instead of wasting time and resources on social media that won’t deliver, focus on the right channels with the biggest payoffs…
4. Use an Editorial Calendar
Between internal collaborators and external agencies, it’s key to have one place where everything from the higher-level campaigns to the specific tweets and blog posts can be organized and planned. That’s where an editorial calendar comes in handy….Without one, planning ahead will be a lot more difficult than it needs to be.
5. Share Content Around Popular Topics
Timely and popular topics tap into the buzz of already active conversations. Sharing content around these topics keeps brands relevant, and helps them establish a reputation as a go-to resource for information.
6. Don’t Forget About Content with Long-Term Relevance
Trending topics are important, but it’s also critical to focus on content that will remain relevant beyond a day or week. This kind of content can be recycled across channels and continues to provide value and engagement long after the publish date.
7. Analyze Data to Discover Which Content Works
Understanding what works and what doesn’t is key to the continued success of a social and content marketing strategy. Track and measure key metrics and KPIs that align with the goals of the team, department, and organization and adjust your actions accordingly.
8. Evolve Your Content and Social Strategy
After reviewing the data and evaluating content performance across social networks, marketers need to revisit and reevaluate the original strategy. Determine what worked and why, then replicate those elements in upcoming campaigns. If something didn’t work, learn from those pieces and avoid making the same mistakes.
Most importantly, stay in tune with updates and changes to the networks and channels where content lives.
Create Content Worth Reading
As we discussed above, potential customers have questions or problems that you should take aim at through your content. However, a good way to drive away these potential customers is by boring them to tears with poorly constructed content.
61% of consumers say they feel better about a company that delivers custom content, they are also more likely to buy from that company.
(Source: Custom Content Council)
Blogs give websites 434% more indexed pages and 97% more indexed links.
Interesting content is a top 3 reason people follow brands on social media.
We simply can’t stress the importance of quality content enough.
While I can’t sit down and write it for you, I have put a lot of thought into how to simplify the process.
Your content should have real value, which can include useful information, applicable how-to advice, or even entertainment.
There has to be something in it for the reader to capture their attention, and ultimately, their business.
“How to” articles tend to perform really well with customers.
Why? Well, people are constantly seeking out new information, and articles that are formatted to answer questions are incredibly valuable.
Not only do people respond well to them, but they help to establish your business as credible. If you can provide answers to the questions your buyer personas have, it is likely that they will return to you in the future for more information.
The more you can help people or give them something of true benefit, the more favorable they will view your brand — and the more likely they are to tell others about you!
Urgency is powerful because it gets people to take action. You want to inspire urgency with your content.
Do your best to crerate content that require’s your audience to sweat a bit. Work towards seeking out new, relevant information that is time sensitive, yet of great value.
Detailing industry trends is effective because it gives your audience the inside scoop, and it also encourages them to take action, and implement the tactics themselves.
If you know of a time-limited opportunity, share it with them as quickly as possible.
Anything that gets your readers to take action is good for you because it will most likely benefit them quicker and it will encourage them to take action on future content you produce (as well as your CTAs).
Back it Up
The fact of the matter is, people love facts.
While you may have a lot to say yourself, it doesn’t hurt to pepper in a bit of support every once and a while.
Using data to back up your point is an easy, effective way to bulk up your content, and bring your concepts full circle.
Whether it be statistics, or visual examples, utilizing additional resources within your content will ensure that people take you seriously, and it simplifies the reading process a bit.
After all, you want people to trust your brand as an authority, so backing up your claims with evidence only makes your content stronger.
Your audience is looking for information that makes their life easier, and provides solutions to their problems.
Take advantage of this.
Do your best to implement headlines that people simply cannot avoid. This means you really have to start thinking out of the box.
Not only should you aim to solve their problems, but you should also do your best to find a way to keep it interesting. It’s easy to answer a question that you are knowledgable about, but it is more effective to present the information in a new, creative format.
This is also where it helps to be honest with your opinions, as long as you let your readers know that they are your opinions.
As an expert on your industry or subject matter, people genuinely care about what you really think — not just what you’re supposed to say. Feed their curiosity and give them the truth.
Curiosity is the same reason that personal branding is so effective with content marketing. People are curious about the faces behind the brands they shop.
Tap Into Emotion
While you don’t want to create all of your content around it, information that evokes emotion can be extremely effective.
Emotion acts as a major motivator when it comes to the buying process, however it is important to appeal to emotion without making people feel like they are being manipulated.
Great content plays with your emotions, while simultaneously utilizing logic to establish trust and credibility.
However, a touch of emotion will help you create content that is powerful, and it will also increase the chances that your audience will share the content in order to justify their emotional reaction with others.
Tapping into emotion doesn’t mean you’re always trying to make your readers cry or feel scared — create content for every emotion.
Jeff Bullas shared a case study on using humor in content marketing, which you can read about below:
“Because the research from Wharton showed that most people want some fun and that humor and jokes were consistently shared, using humor in content marketing is extremely effective. Large companies do it all the time, in order to keep their brand name “out there”.
They know that humor does the following things:
- It grabs and holds attention
- It results in an emotional response – not just positivity but a connection to you and your brand
- It shows you are just “one of them” after all
You are remembered and shared. And if you use humor on all of your social media pages, you will continue to increase your number of followers.”
Below is an example of how Virgin Airlines used humor to wish their audience a Happy Thanksgiving — an employee guiding a plane on the runway with turkey drumsticks, instead of lights.