The Beginner’s Guide to Content Marketing
Content marketing has come a long way since its early days when it was primarily about blogs and keywords. Now, you need to understand “content strategy” and its various elements to get it right.
Here we discuss all content marketing essentials that can help both beginners and seasoned marketers. However, if you are already familiar with it, feel free to look at the contents first and jump to the relevant sections.
Table of Contents
- What is Content Marketing
- Elements of Content Marketing
- Types of Content Marketing
- How to Create an Effective Content Marketing Strategy
- Content Marketing Essentials
Let’s start with a fantastic example of what content marketing can accomplish when done right.
In the 19th century, when the automobile industry was in its nascent stage, there were only 3000 cars in France. André Jules Michelin and Édouard Michelin sold tires for vehicles but were thwarted by insufficient demand. The only way for them to push sales was by getting more cars on the road. It involved inspiring and educating people to travel by car more frequently and make it a part of their daily life.
The Michelin brothers came out with an innovative strategy. They started promoting tourism instead of tires and published a travel guide for France’s vehicle owners and travelers. The guide mentioned the best restaurants, motels, and hotels in France’s various locations. However, it offered a lot more than a regular directory. It shared road maps to help the drivers navigate, listed various repair shops and gas stations, provided tire repair and replacement instructions, and introduced star ratings for listed businesses. The brothers named it the Michelin Guide; it is one of the first recorded examples of content marketing in history.
The Michelin Guide is not just one guidebook. It’s a series of guidebooks that the French tire company has been publishing annually for the last 120 years. The first edition was published in 1900, and it sold nearly 35000 copies. Today, it is widely considered the oldest travel guide for Europe. It is also among the most popular restaurant rating systems globally. The guide accords eateries ratings between 1 to 3 Michelin stars depending on their level of excellence. It is so definitive and influential in Europe that a variation of just one star can significantly impact a restaurant’s success. To get a Michelin star is a matter of great pride for every restaurant. If a place gets three stars, it means they offer exceptional, world-class food.
That’s what effective content marketing can do.
Despite the complexity involved, content marketing is pretty simple if you stick to the basics. All you need to do is consistently create and distribute relevant and educational content for your target audience.
In essence, content marketing should:
- Solve your audience’s problems
- Add some sort of value to their life
- Build trust and authority
Elements of Content Marketing
It is the easiest and yet the most powerful way to help a potential customer navigate the buyer’s journey. Effective content marketing makes it easier for them to trust your brand and make a purchase decision. Here are four key elements you should consider when creating content marketing strategies to boost sales:
1. Content Creation
You can’t expect great results from content marketing quickly. It is most effective when you regularly post and publish relevant content to forge strong relationships with your audience.
Your marketing approach should address your prospective buyers’ problems. You need to educate them about the possible solutions. More than closing sales, it should be about making life easier for your audience. However, you need to go through trial and error to learn the different aspects of content marketing.
2. Content Distribution
With information overload and almost 3 million blogs published every day, you need a robust content distribution system to target your core audience. Social media is a powerful medium to distribute your content to a diverse audience. Therefore, make sure your content is easy to share.
You can also try content syndication. While syndicating, you will republish your content on third-party websites in your niche to reach a wider audience.
An example of article syndication. The original article was published on LinkedIn.
3. Customer Retention
Knowing your audience’s buyer persona is crucial in creating relevant content. However, to deliver the right kind of content at the right time, you should also be familiar with:
- The sales process
- The key factors buyers consider when making a purchase decision
- Your audience’s problems and pain points
This information is incredibly useful in creating content that resonates with your audiences. Sales is not a one-time activity. Your job is not done after you’ve closed the first sale. Instead, it is only the beginning of a long relationship with your customer.
Tip: Your ability to generate relevant and valuable content will decide how long your customers will stay with you. You can also use content to provide after-sales support.
4. Active Sales Funnel
Content marketing offers many benefits but its core objective is to educate and nurture leads, move them across the sales funnel, and help the potential customer make a purchase decision. To achieve this end goal, a content marketer uses well-conceived, data-driven, and original content.
Google algorithms are constantly updating themselves to find the most useful content for online searchers. So, the more useful content you create, the higher your chances of ranking on top. Once you start ranking high on search engines, you will attract more visitors to your site, resulting in increased sales. It also means more people in your sales funnel, whom you can nurture with good content and personal interactions. Creating high-quality content for a sales funnel’s various stages is an essential part of content marketing.
Tip: Well-written, data-driven, and original content will help you achieve your business goals. The more useful content you create, the higher you will rank in search engine results.
Types of Content Marketing
1. Blogs and Articles
Text-based content, such as blogs, is quick to read and easy to understand. It is also the least expensive to produce as compared to videos and podcasts that need costly editing software. But since text-based content is visually less appealing and engaging than videos, you must find creative ways to make it more interesting.
Tip: Break complex ideas into bite-sized chunks for easier understanding.
Here are a few tips to help you write engaging blogs:
- Share your stories
- Provide useful content
- Experiment with your topics
- Use compelling headlines
- Get to the point quickly
- Write short sentences
- Focus on flow
- Promote your posts
Tip: Readers love blogs that are readable, skimmable, and easy to navigate. Use lists, subheadings, tips, graphics, data, and visual elements to create unique content.
Infographics and picture messages are three times more popular than any other type of content for likes and shares. Their visual appeal catches the attention of the reader instantly. Graphics make complex information easy to process and learn from. You can combine several infographics into an animated GIF to make it even more exciting and useful.
Apart from the design, it’s crucial how you present information in an infographic. It will be much more impactful if you show infographics in easily digestible chunks or in a story format. Your infographic should:
- Be easy to understand
- Be visually appealing
- Be clutter-free
- Provide digestible information
- Use storytelling to explain complex concepts
3. eBooks and White Papers
They help develop an in-depth understanding of the product or service. The tone and approach of eBooks and white papers differ from a regular blog or video; they are created mainly for research and analysis.
Most such content is created in PDF format; data, graphics, and stats support it. You can also make this content available on your website in exchange for the readers’ contacts using an opt-in page; readers are generally keen to consume free educational content. However, be mindful of the design layout and the presentation when creating this type of content.
Creating an Effective Content Marketing Strategy
To create an effective content marketing strategy:
1. Set Goals
Different businesses have varied business goals, and you should shape your content marketing strategy accordingly. A strategy that’s data-driven, goal-oriented, and backed by proper market research will give you an edge over your competitors. Define your target market and focus on your competition. You can use several tools such as SpyFu, BuzzSumo, and SEMRush, for competition analysis.
2. Identify Your Target Buyer Persona
To identify who your real buyers are:
A. Pay attention to their demographics, pain points, job profile, income, lifestyle, buying behavior, and culture.
B. Map their buyer’s journey right from the awareness and introduction stage to the final conversion/purchase stage.
C. Use empathy to give correct information about your products or services across the sales funnel’s different stages.
3. Audit Your Existing Content
All types of content are not equally impactful. You need to perform an audit regularly to figure out which content is performing well. Your content’s success will give you a foundation on which you can base future strategies. Apart from performance, audit your blogs to double-check format, layout, design, process, relevance, and the target audience. Use crucial metrics such as shares and page views to find the content that works the best for your website.
4. Research Top-Performing Content Across Industry
Competitor analysis is a great way to discover the kind of content you should create. Run audits across your niche and take insights from well-performing competitor blogs. It will help you shape your overall content strategy. You can find the best global content in your niche using the following steps:
- Perform competitor analysis
- Research the top keywords your competitors are focusing on
- Figure out the keywords you want to rank for
- Find the leading global content for those keywords
- Study the factors that contribute to better-ranking content; apply them
- Generate topics
5. Create a Distribution Plan
Content distribution is as important as its creation. Even the best quality content is of no use if it’s not distributed properly and fails to reach the right audience. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and YouTube are powerful distribution channels; use them. You can also make use of email marketing to distribute your content.
Once you have content topics, keywords, and a strategy, gather the necessary personnel (content strategists, writers, graphic designers) and marketing tools to implement your plans. The right people and effective content marketing and SEO tools will help you research, write, and present important information in an interesting way.
7. Measure and Tweak Your Strategy
You need to measure your content marketing performance and constantly tweak it to get the best results. The key metrics are conversion, social shares, traffic, brand interest, and built links. Continuous tweaking and optimization will help you create a laser-sharp strategy that can do wonders for your brand.
Content Marketing Essentials
The following can help you market your content effectively:
1. SEO Tools for Keyword Research
Finding the right keywords is the key to success in content marketing. To research the best keywords, you can use tools like MozPro, Ahrefs, WooRank, SEMRush, Google Keyword Planner, and Google Search Console.
2. Content Research Tools
To get fresh ideas to create new content, you need various metrics such as built links, page views, and social shares. You can get these insights through tools such as BuzzSumo and Ahrefs.
3. Editorial Calendar
Create an editorial calendar to plan content and schedule publishing. It will streamline your marketing, make it smooth and consistent, and help you achieve the best results from the content created to target the audiences at the sales funnel’s various stages. It will also make it easy to edit, publish, promote, and update old content.
You can use Grammarly, WriterP, SEO writing assistant tool, Evernote, Milanote, and Ulysses to make your writing more impactful and engaging.
Social distribution tools such as HootSuite, Buffer, and AgoraPulse will make using multiple accounts and social media platforms a breeze. You can use tools like MailChimp or Infusionsoft for email marketing.
Google Analytics can give you insightful reports on how your website is performing. You can use it to analyze your website’s traffic pattern, and measure the performance of your content marketing and SEO campaigns. You can also use metrics such as bounce rate, user engagement, page visits, clicks, and pageviews to formulate recommendations on your SEO and content marketing strategies.