Content marketing 101: Your A-Z guide

Content marketing is not exactly new, but people have been talking about it more lately.

This year, digital marketers plan on spending more on content marketing, surpassing budgets for social media or SEO.

What best describes your company’s budget plans for the following digital marketing channels or disciplines in 2013?
Source: Econsultancy

I’m not surprised that content marketing — which is industry experts might also refer to as inbound marketing or content strategy — is finally getting its time in the spotlight. Social media should have always been part of a bigger content marketing plan.

So what exactly is content marketing? Here’s the definition from Content Marketing Institute (italics added for emphasis):

Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

If you’re not familiar with content marketing, here are some concepts to keep in mind:

Do have a specific one in mind. Go beyond demographics. Create brand personas and figure out their attitudes, lifestyle, and motivations. More importantly, what are their needs?

You don’t always need to address everything at once. Keep your content bite-sized; your audience is more likely to retain information that way.

When appropriate, include a call-to-action (CTA) in your content. Sometimes this is as simple as asking people to comment on your blog post or to sign up for your webinar; sometimes it’s about encouraging people to contact you for more info. Provide relevant and valuable content to increase the effectiveness of your CTAs.

Commit to having one. Dedicate some time and effort consistently in creating valuable content for your target audience.

Editorial calendar
Create an editorial calendar and stick to it as much as possible. Be flexible and revise your editorial calendar when unexpected things come up where your company can create valuable content.

Be realistic as to how often you will be publishing new content. Make a decision about frequency and then stick to it.

Guest blog posts
Publishing other people’s blog posts is an excellent way of building relationships with experts and sharing the spotlight with them. Doing could also result to  backlinks (which is good for SEO), but more importantly, they create goodwill. Guest bloggers usually share their post online, which may then help drive more traffic to your blog and website.

Be your consumers’ hero, not their salesman. Answer their questions and provide value.

Visual storytelling has always been part of the human nature, so be sure to add well-researched, well-designed infographics to your content marketing mix.

Think like them. They are trained storytellers, so evaluate how they craft their stories and try to emulate them. Learn about the inverted pyramid method of writing.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is no longer about just keywords (thank goodness for that!), but you should still consider them. Consider the following tips regarding the use of keywords:

  • Think about the keywords that your customers would use to find you online. This is crucial as your customers may not necessarily know industry jargon.
  • Use Google’s Keywords Tool to evaluate keywords you have in mind and related keywords you may not have thought about.
  • Instead of worrying too much about your keyword density, insert your keyword(s) in your title and in your headings, and use them naturally throughout the copy.

Data is now readily available, so be sure to have a plan to measure your efforts. But don’t just measure anything. Here are a few tips when it comes to measuring your success:

  • Align business objectives with what you’re measuring. Doing so allows you to better communicate your ROI to the decision-makers in your company.
  • Install Google Analytics on your website and learn how to use it. Create advanced segments to better understand your various audiences.
  • Measure actionable data. For example, if you determined early in the process that ‘shareability’ is important, you could track the number of tweets or re-shares. However, if social media spread isn’t part of your goals, there is really no need to track these metrics.

Newsjacking means capitalizing on the popularity of a news story to amplify your sales and marketing success. Be agile, see what’s trending, and think of creative ways you can create content that relates to a current news story.

This practice can be effective, but avoid newsjacking disasters, tragedies or natural calamities. They might work, but they are almost never in good taste.

Content curation is cool, but the best content marketers are original. Think about the one thing that makes your company unique — and amplify it with your content. If there’s a piece of news that everyone in your industry is covering, for example, find a unique way of presenting it.

You ought to solve them. Content marketing is not about pushing your sales messaging out. It’s about your customers, not you. (Sorry!)

Use the Q&A format regularly. For instance, use the Q&A format when interviewing an industry expert, or answer some frequently asked questions about a hot topic.

Sometimes you need to recycle content. Transcribe podcasts to turn them into blog posts. Collect your best blog posts and turn them into an awesome white paper. Elaborate on your latest Slideshare presentation by creating a video. You get the idea — be as creative as you’d like.

Did you know that SlideShare is the world’s largest content-sharing community for professionals? It’s an under-utilized, easy-to-use content marketing platform and one that might help you generate more leads.

Tone and voice
Decide on your company’s  tone and voice and include this in your editorial calendar. Also, make sure everyone contributing content for your company understands the voice you’re going for. Be authentic and select a tone that is a natural fit with your brand.

It’s worth repeating that the main purpose of content marketing is to provide value to your audience.  You could mention your product or service when appropriate, of course, but don’t let this be the one message in your content.

Don’t let this be your main purpose. I mean, sure, it would be nice if your content goes viral, but having this as the end goal will lead you nowhere. The truth about virality is that you can’t plan it: people decide what goes viral. Focus instead on another “v”: value.

White papers
These are a wonderful way of getting leads, so include them in your mix. Put them up as gated content or give them away while providing your contact info in the book — your choice! It’s good practice to make sure that your eBook is designed for tablets.

Did you know that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world? That’s right — more people search YouTube than Bing or Yahoo!. Don’t ignore this giant and create compelling videos.

Don’t think of content marketing as a campaign. Make it a long term commitment, something that’s part of your business. Keep your zest throughout.

Your content marketing tips

Did I leave out any content marketing tips? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

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