We’ve all seen the stats about content marketing (like the fact that 57% of marketers consider content their top marketing priority, content marketing costs 62% less and generates three times more leads, and conversion rates are nearly 6x higher for companies that do content marketing versus those that don’t), but what exactly is content marketing? Even more, how do you create a successful content marketing strategy? Our ultimate guide will explain what content marketing is, its importance, and how to create a content strategy, even if you’re not a writer. Let’s dive in!
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing uses blogs, newsletters, whitepapers, social media posts, and videos, to draw customers in at all stages of the sales funnel, from awareness to consideration to conversion. It’s one of the best marketing strategies because you can build backlinks, use content for your paid ads, rank for high search volume keywords, and repurpose your content at a later date. Successful content marketing includes both top of the funnel content, such as informative blogs, and bottom of the funnel content, such as testimonials or case studies.
The most appealing thing about content marketing is that, when done successfully, it draws customers in like a magnet, rather than shouting at them like a megaphone. This inbound strategy builds brand loyalty, is cheaper than many paid avenues, and can be evergreen (last a long time). Craig Davis, former Chief Creative Officer at J. Walter Thompson, said that “we need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in.” We do this through content marketing.
Why Does Content Marketing Matter?
As we’ve talked about before in our blog, content marketing impacts everything you do in your marketing efforts. Before we talk about how to create a content strategy, let’s look at a few ways content marketing touches every aspect of your digital plan:
1. It’s Educational
You can use content, including blogs, articles, press releases, videos, podcasts, and more to educate your customers before they decide to purchase.
For example, if someone is considering trying out a new beauty salon, they will need to research their options before making a decision. They might research their options through blog posts, social media posts, articles from influencers on the topic, reviews online and other content avenues. These are examples of top of the funnel, educational content.
This educational aspect is especially important if you work in a niche industry and you have to educate your potential customers on the need for your product. For example, one of our clients markets all kinds of superfoods. Before someone makes the decision to buy cacao nibs or chia seeds, they must first understand the importance of superfoods. This is where content marketing comes in.
2. It Builds Your Brand
Content marketing is a great way to become a thought leader in your space. The popular makeup brand Glossier started from a successful blog, Into the Gloss. Founder Emily Weiss turned her uber-successful blog into a leading makeup line by producing content that resonated with her readers and creating products to match. Content still plays a major role in the company’s “cult-like” following.
3. It’s at the Core of Many Paid Media Campaigns
Various paid media channels can benefit from content marketing because it can help get people into a company’s remarketing pool and build brand loyalty before a user converts. If you’re serving your social ads to audiences that have never heard of your brand before and don’t know why they need your product, it will be hard to get them to convert. But if you instead push a blog or content piece you’ve done, you can introduce these audiences to your brand and get them to come back for more (and eventually convert).
4. It’s a Key Ingredient in a Successful SEO Strategy
When approaching content marketing, you should always look at it through an SEO lens, as well. Not all pieces of content are designed to rank for high search volume keywords, but you should do some keyword research, user search intent, and competitor research before diving into a content piece. Keyword research and on-page optimizations help brands rank organically on the first page of Google (more on that later).
Content marketing is more than just producing a few blogs a month or sending out email newsletters. It is the backbone of your marketing strategy and impacts everything else you do.
Examples of Successful Content Marketing
There are countless brands know how to create a content strategy and do it well. Here are some of our favorites:
Patagonia continues to be named a top content marketing brand because they produce content that really matters to their customers and their company. Their blog, The Cleanest Line, posts about more than just athletic and outdoor apparel. They post about climate change, political opinions, environmentally-friendly tips, and how they’re doing their part to change the world. This active brand is about more than just puffer jackets and t-shirts.
Adidas is a great example of how content marketing can be used internally, as well. In 2016, they launched GamePlan A, a digital magazine uniquely developed to build company culture and attract and retain employees. Adidas’ Director of Content Strategy and Content Marketing, Frank Thomas, comments on this approach, saying that in the past, the company “tried to serve all target audiences through content marketing, from investors to journalists, employees, and potential candidates,” but saw that they ended up “all over the place.” We rethought the entire setup and who we needed to address, and decided it is the employees, potential candidates, and, in general, like-minded people who can become advocates for the brand,” Thomas stated.
Away is another great example of how to create a content strategy and building content around who you are as a brand. They recently launched Here, a blog filled with “compelling, thoughtful, and unique travel stories through the lens of local, creative, and influential people.” They have sections including City Guides, Travel Inspiration, and Essays & Interviews. Now if that blog doesn’t make you want to buy a new suitcase, we don’t know what does!
How to Create a Content Strategy
Now that you understand the importance of content marketing, why it matters in your overall strategy, and have seen some examples of content marketing done right, now it’s your turn! Here are some practical tips on how to create a content strategy:
1. Write with SEO in Mind
We mentioned keyword research above, and want to provide some tangible steps you can take to research your content before you start writing.
Start by making a list of keywords that make sense for your business. Let’s say you own a company that sells cold brew coffee kits and you want to write some content answering your audience’s questions. Build out your keyword list with both fat head keywords, which are short and have high search volumes, and long-tail keywords, which are longer, more specific, and have fewer searches. Here’s an example for your cold brew kits:
- cold brew coffee
- What is cold brew
- Cold brew vs iced coffee
- how to make cold brew coffee at home
- DIY cold brew
- best cold brew
Once you have a list of keywords that are relevant to your business, you can use tools like SEMRush and Google AdWords Keyword Planner to do some further research. Using these tools, you can see how many searches each keyword has a month (“cold brew coffee” has 90,500/month, while “how to make cold brew coffee at home” only has 2,400/month), different variations of the keyword, and what competitors are ranking for these keywords.
With this data, possible blog topics could include:
- What is Cold Brew Coffee? Everything You Need to Know About Your New Favorite Caffeine Kick
- How to Make Cold Brew Coffee at Home: 3 Easy Steps
- We Tried DIY Cold Brew and This is What Happened
- Best Cold Brew Brands Ranked by Caffeine Lovers
These blogs should link back to any applicable product pages or other content your company has created.
2. Plan Ahead
When we produce content strategies for clients, we usually do them a quarter in advance. This allows us plenty of time to produce, publish, and promote the content. When planning out your content in advance, make sure to research your industry thoroughly, know any important holidays or events coming up, and know what your competitors are writing about. We set Google Alerts to get instant updates on what’s happening and look at seasonal trends through Google Trends. With this tool, you can see when searches are most popular so you can anticipate this spike and write content surrounding it.
3. Know What People Are Talking About
Another great way to write content that resonates with your audience is to know what people are talking about. We use Netbase, a leader in social analytics, to compare the conversations around clients and their competitors. You can also use Q&A forums, like Answer the Public, Buzzsumo, Quora, or reddit to gauge interest in a new topic. Continuing with the imaginary cold brew company from the example above, here is a thread pulled from Quora with some of the conversations surrounding “cold brew”:
All of these questions could be potential content ideas for the cold brew company.
How to Create a Content Strategy if You’re Not a Writer: 13+ Tips for Writing Engaging Content
Lastly, we want to share some easy and actionable tips on how to write engaging content that people want to read. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a Pulitzer-prize winning writer to create a content strategy. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- List posts (“3 Ways to Make Cold Brew at Home”) do well. Numbers increase CTR and odd numbers do even better
- Buzzsumo analyzed 100 million blog headlines and found that the top B2C blogs start with “X Reasons Why,” “X Things You,” and “This is What.” For example, “X Reasons Why You Should Make Cold Brew At Home.” The top B2B blogs start with “The Future of,” “X Ways to,” and “Need to Know”
- The same study also determined that headlines that contain 12-18 words perform the best
- A study by OutBrain found that adding brackets to headlines can improve CTR up to 38%.
- Always start your blog with an intro explaining what the reader will gain from your post. Don’t bury your lead and make the intro 4-7 sentences.
- Many blog writers follow the “PPP” formula: preview, proof, preview. This means that you preview your content in the beginning (“this is what you’re going to learn”), you prove your stuff in the middle (“this is the learning part”), and you preview again with a high-level conclusion (“this is what you learned”).
- Use descending headers. H1 should be a title that includes your most important information, H2s are supporting details, and H3s break things down even further. Only use headers in this order (for example, don’t put an H1 in the middle of your article)
- Use short paragraphs (1-5 sentences long)
- Use active voice (“We made cold brew at home” versus “The cold brew was made at home”)
- Use visuals in your blog. A good rule of thumb is to add an image or visual before every H2
- When possible, get specific. Include stats, timeframes, and numbers
- Always include a CTA at the end of your post (sign up for your newsletter, read similar blogs, contact you today)
- Include on-page SEO optimizations, including short URLs with your focus keyword in them, a meta description that includes your focus keyword, and internal and external
Ready to create your own content strategy? Simply fill out the form fill below to download a copy of our free content marketing strategy template. We use this template for all of our content clients and you can use it yourself, as well. If you have any questions about the template or how to create a content strategy, please reach out. We would love to help!
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