Traditional vs. Content Marketing
The marketing world is evolving. Traditional marketing, like print advertising, is becoming less effective as business migrates online. In order to establish a presence online, you need to understand and implement a content marketing strategy for your business.
Content marketing is subtle when compared to the traditional approach. In traditional marketing, the emphasis is on pushing strong sales language to as many people as possible. Contrarily, content marketing is focused on creating messages that will organically attract a targeted group of potential customers.
The object of content marketing is to inform, educate, or entertain your readers by building an interactive online community via blogs, pages on your website, and social media posts. By offering free, useful information, you can establish yourself as a thought leader in your field. Sales language and hard-sell tactics are frowned upon in the content marketing world. The idea is to establish a pre-sale bond with potential customers by being a source of valuable or entertaining content.
Developing a Content Marketing Strategy
Effective content marketing is about making a plan and sticking to it. A content strategy can be developed following these six steps:
1. Understand Your Buyer Personas
To create an online community, you need to target people who are typical consumers of your product or service. For each major segment you wish to tackle, create a “Buyer Persona,” including demographic, firmographic, phsychological, and behavoiral attributes of typical buyers. HubSpot offers a free template for creating Buyer Personas.
It is common for marketing organizations to conduct focus groups or surveys to collect data for Buyer Personas. Use these customer profiles to help guide the tone, depth, and placement of all content you create.
2. Make a List of Topics You Want to Cover, and Get Other Departments Involved
Talk to staff in other areas of your company to pinpoint topics your target customers might be interested in. Create a list of topics you want to write about on your blog, website, and social channels.
While most marketers can come up with a plethora of interesting content ideas on the fly, you would be surprised how many gems there are to be plucked from employees in other departments. Get insight from your sales team by asking about common customer objections and successful sales comebacks. Consult with your customer service reps to find trouble spots & common customer concerns (perhaps an FAQ post would be warranted on your blog). Get product knowledge from your development team and identify new offerings that can help build excitement in the market. Each department has a unique perspective, and each of these viewpoints should be woven into your content marketing strategy for well-rounded content plan.
3. Identify Events & News Relevant To Your Audience
Align your content marketing topics to major news and events wherever possible. This can be pre-planned, or done on the fly as news develops. This increases the relevance of your content, and allows you to engage in an existing online conversation instead of trying to start one from scratch. Remember, content marketing isn’t just about blasting a message out; it’s about understanding your customers and becoming an active participant in their online world. You should seek to educate, inform or entertain readers with items of relevance to your business, product or service.
4. Identify Keywords for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Once you have a solid list of topics, you want to identify the right keywords that will drive a high volume of search traffic to your content. The knee-jerk reaction of many marketers is to leave this part to the SEO experts as part of their search engine marketing plan; however, to achieve real results, this must be considered an integral part of your content marketing plan. These two disciplines (content marketing and search engine marketing) must be knit tightly together as part of your marketing ecosystem. One cannot be truly effective without the other. Quality content is useless if no one can find it.
Use your list of topics as a starting point, and ask yourself: “If I were a customer, what types of Google search terms would I use to find this type of information?” Do your research. Use the Google AdWords Keyword tool to check analytics on each search term. The Google Keyword tool is free and will list monthly search volume, competition, and suggest related terms that you might have missed.
Once you are happy with your keyword list, embed those terms into your content to assist search engines to find your post. Search engines scan for keywords around a topic and rank articles based on the use of those words or phrases. If you aren’t the one who will be writing the content, make sure your copywriters have a copy of your target keyword list. Aim for a keyword density of 1.5% – 3%.
4a. A Practical Example
Let’s use a practical (and very transparent) example of the link that should be created between content creation and search engine marketing. This very blog post is part of our agency content marketing plan. If you didn’t already know about Defined Creative, you most likely found this post through a search engine, a site referral, or social media, and we’ve taken a number of steps to make it as easy as possible for you to find and use this content. We identified “content marketing” as an emerging area of interest among our customer base, and we set out to provide online content that would drive interest and traffic to our site.
Once we identified content marketing as a relevant topic, we identified topical keywords that fit the following criteria:
1. High monthly search volume
2. Low competition from other content providers
3. High relevance to our audience / high potential for a match of intent
Here are three of the top-level keywords we identified that match those criteria for this particular blog post. This is not a complete list of our long-tail keywords, but we’ll save that for another time.
1. Content marketing (5,400 monthly searches)
2. Content strategy (1,600 monthly searches)
3. Search engine marketing (5,400 monthly searches)
And here are some other keywords that didn’t make the cut:
1. SEO – Although this term has over 90,000 monthly searches, it does not indicate a specific intent, and there is also a high amount of competition from other content providers.
2. Buyer Personas – Although this term is an excellent match of intent, and has low competition, there are less than 100 monthly searches for this term.
3. Content Marketing Institute – with 1,300 monthly searches, and moderate competition, this might be a good contender; however, the searchers intent is clearly to find the CMI.
Once we identified the right keywords for the topic of “content marketing” we made sure that those keywords were used frequently in this blog post so that search engines would return this page as a result. If you haven’t done so already, I invite you to do a quick search on this page to find all the mentions of the three keywords listed above.
5. Identify Content Producers & Ideators
In the beginning, you can develop your online content yourself. As you grow your online presence and increase your output, you will need to find other content creators to help you. Develop a network for finding and developing content. Recruit and network with “social champions” from within the business, your vendor network, or related experts, and hire them to help with content creation and ideation.
6. Develop a Publishing Schedule & Governance Plan
Make sure you have a solid content creation and publishing schedule. In order for content marketing to work, you must regularly create and publish blog posts, tweets and post on social media. Readers will return to your site if you publish new information on a regular basis. The goal of any content strategy is to build a community of loyal readers. Make a schedule and stick to it!
Content marketing is a cost effective way to build your sales, establish yourself as a thought leader in your field, and gain respect and trust for your business. By putting a content strategy in place, and sticking to it, you can reap the benefits of the online world and grow your business.