Content Marketing is a term that's been around for a number of years now and refers to the idea that by providing your target audience with helpful content you can start to build trust with them.
In fact, here's how the Content Marketing Institute define it:
"Content marketing is 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."
One of the key elements to take from this statement is the requirement for a "strategic marketing approach". There's definitely a right way and a wrong way to go about it and, without a tight strategy, you can find yourself creating tonnes of content without an awful lot back to show for it
So, to help you with this, my article is going to show you the six major considerations you need to have if you're going to be successful with your content marketing efforts.
1) Make sure that people actually want your content
For your content marketing to be effective, people have to want what your creating. Pretty obvious, right?
Still, people seem to skip over this part by making assumptions about what their audience are looking for based on not much more than gut feeling.
But how can you take a more data-driven approach to finding out what content your audience is dying to consume?
The best method is to check what people are typing into search engines and tailoring your content to those search requests.
If you're unsure where to find out what people are searching for on Search Engines, Google Keyword Planner is considered by many the de facto tool to start with. We'll use this to find our example content topic.
First, go to Google Adwords Keyword Planner Tool. You may be forced into setting up an account if you've not used the tool before but, don't worry, there's no requirement for any payment to use this.
Once you're there, click on "Find new keywords" and type your keyword or phrase into the search box. For this example, I'm going to see if people are searching for "how do I write content?"
On the next page, I've got a list of the keywords that people are searching for.
This search show us the top search phrase is "what is content strategy" (slightly different to my original phrasing), and also gives us a number of other similar terms that people are looking for.
A couple of things to note. Firstly, don't worry that you've only got relatively broad ranges. It doesn't necessarily matter that we haven't got exact data - we're just looking for overall intent.
Secondly, it;s very likely you'll be findind that some of the keywords or key phrases you expected to be present either have lower search volume than you expected, or aren't even searched for at all. Don't fret, this is incredibly common and this information is just as valuable to know as what people are searching for!
Another way to find out what your audience are looking for is by seeing what content is currently performing well.
For this, a great tool to use is Buzzsumo.
Once you've gone to their website, you can quickly type in a topic (I've used content marketing again) and see what content is getting the most engagement.
Taking the time to find out what your audience is looking for, and seeing how well it's performing online is well worth the time and stops you from wasting time on an article that isn't going to get results for your business.
2) Provide real value to your audience
So, now that we know what our audience is looking for and what they're engaging with, we now need to make sure we provide them with an incredible piece of content.
To make sure we start off on the right foot, the first thing to remember is that, when people type a query into a search engine, like “what is content strategy?”, they’re not looking for a product, they’re looking for a solution to their problem.
The distinction here is crucial, people want detailed answers to their questions, not marketing fluff.
That particular problem could be anything from how to effectively market content to how to fix a broken computer. Though the actual content of the post needs to be related to what you offer in some way, the purpose of the content should always to be to help the reader and not to push a product.
For some people, this approach might feel like a wasted opportunity but it’s important to fight the urge to use direct marketing tactics. Your audience is savvy and they’ll immediately pick up on when they’re not being provided with real value.
3) Make it entertaining to read
Knowing the importance of writing answers to a problem rather than promoting our business is a step in the right direction, but if your content isn’t entertaining to read your audience won’t finish it and you’ll end up missing an opportunity to provide value.
To help with this, start off by making sure your content is easy to read. A great way to to do this, is to write as if you were speaking directly to your audience in person.
In fact, this is what industry bloggers have doing for decades and it's one of the reasons why some of them are so successful. They took corporate spiel and turned it into an accessible conversation.
The next step is to think carefully about is the structure.
Content should be split up under multiple headings. This allows readers to skip from one section to the next, depending on which is relevant. It also helps them to navigate your document and finish reading it to the end - a wall of text is rarely engaging.
Along with this, your sentences should be short. Crisp, concise English is the best way to communicate your ideas.
If you need help with this, look at tools such as Grammarly, that help you improve your writing as you go.
But, do remember that if you're really struggling with your content creation, it's now very easy to outsource this i.e. find an expert that can do it for you.
Yes, it will cost more than doing it yourself, but it's absolutely crucial that what you're putting out there is of the best quality you can manage, and if that costs £100-£200 per blog, it's definitely worth the expenditure.
4) Try to aim for long-form content
This one can be quite a tough topic as, sometimes, you only need a few words to answer a question, effectively.
However, when it comes to the SEO game, long-form content has a long history of performing better than short-form.
In fact, researchers have investigated the effectiveness of article length on boosting rankings on Google and discovered that articles that got to the top spot were typically between 1,500 and 2,000 words long, with subsequent articles further down the search results were shorter on average.
So, be detailed, be rigorous and make sure you write at sufficient length to communicate and elaborate on your key ideas.
If you're finding you don't have much to say about a topic, you may find the format you're writing in isn't quite right. For example, if you're answer for "what is content marketing" was coming up short, you should look to flesh it out with expert interviews, research, and reports that substantiate your thoughts.
Another tip to help you create longer pieces of content is to create articles with numbered topics (like this one). These provide you with structured points for adding things like quotes, how-to's, videos, and more.
5) Consider who you’re writing for
This is a big one. The problem with a lot of content is that it can sometimes be “writer-centered” rather than “audience-centered.”
"Writer-centered" articles are those that make perfect sense to the author who understands a particular topic inside out but actually make zero sense to an audience for whom the subject matter is unfamiliar.
So, make sure you're creating posts which step into the shoes of your audience, and guides them through a particular topic in terms they understand.
To do this try to visualise their situation as best you can. Can you see the problem they're trying to solve and what perspective they might have? What information do they not currently have that's preventing them from doing what they want?
For example, if your selling blog writing services and your primary audience is people who work in marketing departments, they would already be sold on why content marketing is important for them.
However, if your primary audience was small business owners they will be much more unsure about how having additional blogs on their website will help them get more customers.
6) Have defined next steps
Writing an engaging article that helps the reader is great but it is important to remember the reason why you're doing it. This relates to the latter part of the Content Marketing Institute's that explains how content marketing is used "ultimately, to drive profitable customer action".
This is why all of your content needs to have a defined next step – something that readers can do to take their relationship with you to the next stage.
How you choose to engage with them will depend on your business model, so think carefully about what kind of next step is suitable for you.
For instance, your article could be talking about how to create a new website for your business. In the article, you take your reader through the various steps to setting up WordPress, buying a domain, and so on but, at the end, you point out that your company can do all of this for them.
Though your advice still needs to be helpful, it’s likely that a large number of your readers will get frustrated trying to solve the problem themselves and will want to get some extra help.
At the end of the article, therefore, is where you add your call-to-action.
There are many different types of call-to-action from offering your audience an opportunity to download an opt-in to purchasing the product outright to filling out a contact form.
But either way, no matter what next steps you want businesses to take, your content needs to be subtly geared towards promoting what you do.
After all, if you don't, all your time and effort writing the post has gone to waste.
Any questions? Get in touch at email@example.com.