Great content is the bedrock of most marketing strategies.
Whether you’re doing social media marketing, SEO, inbound marketing, PR, or paid advertising, you need quality content to make the strategies work.
There are two parts to Content Marketing — Content and Marketing. As obvious and cheesy as it sounds, that’s where most content marketers go wrong. They think that if they just wrote decent content, users will come and it’ll float to the top of all the search engines. Not really. You have to produce great content and then market it.
If both Content and Marketing are done well, there will be a snowball effect — your content will keep gathering users and it will exponentially rise to the top.
So let’s dive in and see how to do great content marketing.
Content Marketing involves four steps — Plan, Produce, Promote, Polish. You’ll get to wear three different hats during these phases. Plan phase requires you to be analytical. Produce phase is the creative phase. Promote phase is where you show your social and networking skills. Polish is a continuous improvement phase so your content stays on the top.
In this phase, you plan what content you will produce, when will you produce it, who will produce it and how will you promote it?
This is the make or break phase for your content marketing. If done right, planning makes the rest of the process much easier and you’ll soon be the envy of your competitors.
What will you write?
You probably already have a general idea of what you want to write on and who your audience is. You can further refine what you’ll write on by following these steps:
- Go to BuzzSumo, put in your competitor’s URL and it will show you what’s popular within your space.
- Go to Ahrefs and it will show you what drives traffic to your competitors’ site.
- Put in words and phrases on Twitter and you’ll see what people are tweeting out.
- Pull out a list of suggested keywords from Ahrefs that you should be targeting in your content.
- Choose a great title: 80% of a content’s success is in it’s title. Titles with highest click-thru rates (CTRs) usually have these in them — How to, Numbers (7 tips for… 8 reasons why…), Free, You, Tips, Why, Best, Tricks, Great, Ultimate, Everything.
When will you write it?
Short answer: Well in advance.
Long answer: It depends a lot Whether it’s Evergreen or Time sensitive — If it’s time sensitive, by when should it be out? Remember content takes time to reach out so plan well in advance.
I prefer Evergreen content because it’s worth the effort. It stays out there longer and helps a larger audience.
Time sensitive content also has it’s place. Since every body wants to write Evergreen content, there is relatively less competition in time sensitive space so it’s easier to float up.
Sometimes you can blend the two — Regularly update your evergreen content to include time sensitive keywords. For instance, Ultimate checklist for SAT preparation (evergreen) can be updated to include 2018 specific updates so that your content also shows up for users searching for SAT 2018.
Who will write it?
If you’re a Subject Matter Expert, You should be writing it.
If you’re not a Subject Matter Expert, you shouldn’t be writing it. Ideally, only SMEs should be producing content these days. Any content, not produced by an SME, is unlikely to make ripples, let alone waves.
Can you get an SME to produce content for you? Sure but I think it rarely makes sense: Either they’re already doing it for themselves or you can’t afford them or they’ll drive traffic away from you soon.
Can you still get it produced from a good content developer? Sure. A good content editor could follow this checklist and put together decent content for you.
How will you promote?
So many content developers make the mistake of thinking about promotion post-production. Movie producers, real-estate builders don’t. They promote and sell their product before they develop it and you should do the same.
- Create a list of website and social media users that you’re going to reach out to.
- If your competitor already has a related article, see who’s linking to them, hit those sites up, and ask for a link. Use tools like Hunter, FindThatEmail and JustReachOut to find their emails.
- Who are you linking out to in this content? Reach out to them. They’d love to share. Also see if they’ll reciprocate.
Time to wear your creative hat on. Here you make the content as meaningful, relevant and engaging as possible. This phase has 4 steps — Create, Decorate, Multiply and Translate. Let’s cover each one of these steps:
By now you already have the keywords from your planning phase. Use those keywords judiciously. If any keyword reduces the readability, don’t use it.
Some guidelines for this phase:
- Use the Skyscraper Technique by Brian Dean. It’s a great strategy to improve upon your competitor’s content and add value to your audience.
- Do your research. Use all available data points for your article and put together a nice, beautiful mosaic.
- 2,000 words or more is a common theme amongst popular content out there. Any authoritative content will automatically have that many words because of the sheer amount of knowledge and data. Don’t try to stay above this limit by adding fluff though.
- Write in the first person (I) or the second person (you)
- Create actionable content. There is already too much content on What, Why, When. People are looking for How.
People want to see videos or other media formats aside from the usual text. People can easily digest information from audio and video. You want to have visual images with your content to keep readers engaged.
For videos, I like Adobe Spark.
Don’t forget alt tags and file names. They have a huge SEO benefit. If image file name has keywords, it shows up in Google images. Sometimes images show up in web search results as well. So, instead of having a meaningless name like Untitled1.png, give it a more meaningful name and alt tag.
Repurpose multiple articles from the same article. For instance, next I’ll create a checklist from this article and then a Q/A format so that it can end up as featured snipped (Rank 0). Here are typical repurposed articles that you can create from one:
- Q/A format for the featured snippet
- Everything article
- Time-specific copy (if it’s Evergreen content)
These 5 articles are not exactly the same article — they’re repurposed. For instance, a checklist is actually a checklist with checkboxes so someone could print it and use it. A cheatsheet is not a checklist. Q/A format is a questionnaire.
Repurposing means rejigging the content to serve specific user’s need well in advance.
Writing the first article takes time. Repurposing it doesn’t — you have the matter, images, videos and links.
Are you targeting the Chinese market? You should.
Rest of the world is too focused on Google and Facebook — which don’t reach the Chinese market. And Chinese is the most spoken language on the planet.
If you’re producing content regularly (which you should), hire a translation firm like Bilingva.
Some people use Google Translator. I think it doesn’t take tone into account — and a native speaker will see through it.
Time to wear your social and networking hat.
There are tons of tools out there to share content on multiple social platforms simultaneously. The one we use is SocialPilot. It has all the standard features that Bufferhas. For evergreen content, a smart, auto re-queueing feature is highly desirable.
Use a link management service like replug, which adds a CTA to every link shared.
Facebook has issues with using third-party tools to share content on the platform. So you might want to have a person on the team who is sharing natively on Facebook.
As you will see, this phase will take you the longest and will be the most rewarding. If you want to get anything out of this post, it should be how to promote your content. So here are the techniques, in no particular order:
- Find 2–3 messages that your content wants to drive home and add block quotes with social sharing to those snippets.
- Add social sharing to your blog post page. Don’t bank on users sharing your content unless they’re awestruck with it, which again goes back to the quality of the content. In any case, it doesn’t cost anything to add that functionality to all your pages.
- Run social contests and giveaways to promote your content. You could use Vyper or AndroidAuthority.
- Run boost post campaigns on Facebook. Beware: Success of your campaign depends on how well you can define your audience. If you’re in a niche segment and are not able to clearly define your audience, you might end up burning cash pretty fast, without any conversions or meaningful traffic.
- Go to BuzzSumo to find who shared your competitor’s post and email them to see if they’ll share yours. They’re most likely to be in the same space and thus more likely to pay attention to you.
- If you’ve linked out to someone on your blog post (which you should), email them telling them that you love what they’re doing, that you linked out to them and to check out your blog post. You’d love if someone linked to you, right? They would too. And not only will they share your post, to spread their word around, they might even reciprocate by linking out to you.
- Publish your article on LinkedIn, especially if you’re targeting a professional audience. Otherwise, write 2–3 sentences on LinkedIn and add a link to the actual post.
- Repost your blog post on Medium and other blogging sites to increase your reach.
- Answer some highly relevant questions on Quora and add a link to an actual post that answers that question in more detail. You’ll have to be careful here as Quora might block your account if they see you do too much of this. Every social networking site looks down upon links going out since their goal is to keep users on their site, and not send them to yours 🙂
Congratulations. You content’s out there and your committed to getting to Rank 1 (or 0).
Nobody stays on top, without continuous improvement.
Here’s we will cover some of the same tools and techniques that we covered in Plan and Produce phases.
Ahrefs Content Explorer will show you social shares, organic search traffic and referring domains for your content. If you’ve done everything right up to this point, these numbers should be gratifying.
Take a look at:
- Link opportunities suggested by the tool and reach out to those people.
- Analyze performance of competitor’s similar content during the same timeframe and learn from whatever they might be doing better.
- Incorporate keyword suggestions into the article. Do it only to the point where it makes sense and the content “flows”. All else equal, user-friendly content beats SEO-friendly content. SEO is a by-product of great content.
Improve Title effectiveness
80% of a content’s success is in it’s title.
Head over to Google Search Console and look for CTR for your content. This report is probably the most powerful content upgrade tool. So much so that it shouldn’t be free. It dissociates your content from it’s title and shows you how many people found the title click-worthy.
Take content with low CTR and improve it’s title. Remember to use those title enriching keywords we discussed in Plan section.
Improve content engagement
If people are coming to your page, they should ideally be reading all of it and then following the internal links like bread crumbs and then converting soon.
So we need to know how much time they’re spending on the page, whether they’re exiting the site from this page or navigating to another internal page.
Google Analytics Content Drilldown report shows Average Time on Page, which is the best indicator for how engaging the content is. After all, you want to keep the users on your site longer. So, if people are staying long, it means that the content is working. Conversely, if people are not spending enough time on the page, it means:
- Content isn’t engaging enough: People didn’t find what they were looking for. It could be that there is substance but it’s bland — no engaging videos or images. Or even worse there is no substance.
- Content is too short: Ideally you would want content to be longer than 2,000 words + relevant images and video sprinkled in.
See what the most engaging posts have in common. Implement those best practices in the least engaging posts.
Decrease Exit Rates
Another sign that your content is engaging people is if they don’t leave your site when they are done with a particular piece of content. Instead, they are so engaged that they click through to your other content or convert.
Bland, non-engaging content will cause people to leave your site and
Once people leave, it’s harder to get them back than in the first place.
Google Analytics Exit Pages report shows you how many people are dropping off of this page. %Exit is how many people leave your site after viewing that particular page.
- Identify content pages with higher exit rates than others. Instead of captivating people with engaging content, those pages are losing people. Take those pages with the highest exit rates and try to figure out how to improve the content to make people want to stay longer.
- If there are no links for people to follow after reading this one, add more relevant links to this page.
Increase Internal Link Juice
Google Analytics also shows you Previous Page Path. This report shows you the amount of internal traffic throughout the site. If every page is an entrance page and exit page, there is not enough internal link juice flowing.
Combined with Exit Pages report, this can help you identify which internal links are working and which aren’t. If a page has higher exit rates despite internal links and those linked pages don’t have the current page as Previous Page Path, then may be those links are not relevant or their users are not finding the titles relevant enough to follow those links.
Pick other pages that are relevant to this page, which would continue the flow for the reader, and link them here.
Every once in a while, you’ll take the user away to something not so relevant because you’ve run out of relevant pages. It’s an art to do so and not lose the user. One website that does this very well is Quora. You start from one topic and you get 10 questions on that topic and you find yourself on something totally unrelated to what you came for but still engaging.
Polishing your content marketing is continuous improvement.
Content Marketing is very valuable, if done right.
Focus on the audience, not on the marketing. If you take care of the audience, audience will take care of the marketing.
Create truly valuable content. There is enough out there already. Don’t be a me too. Be a that’s it.
Do it for the long haul.
Content Marketing a gift that keeps giving.
If I’ve missed any tools or techniques, please let everyone know in the comments.