Have you ever read an article on the Internet? Or a social media post? What about an email? Or watched a video shared on Twitter?
These are all examples of content marketing.
Put simply, content marketing is using content to engage, build a relationship with, and grow your audience. It’s a strategic approach in which you create and distribute valuable, relevant and consistent content to your followers.
Online, the best way to execute content marketing is through a blog. There are more than 500 million blogs out there today, which means you must have a strong content plan to stand out from the crowd.
If you are thinking of starting or already have a blog, read on to learn how to build and execute a content marketing plan. You’ll also learn tips for improving your existing content plan to ensure you continue to engage your audience and build followers.
Why do people blog?
- To express themselves and share their passions
- To share their knowledge
- To improve their writing and editing skills
- To build their professional network
- To earn exposure and make money
- To build an online portfolio
- To market their own business
- To showcase their authority on a subject
Having a blog and publishing regularly can help you learn new things, develop your communication skills and build a personal brand.
Audiences want to build a relationship with websites they purchase from and interact with. They want to feel like they know and can trust the brand, be heard, and feel valued. Well-written, engaging content can assist with this.
Content can be provided through blogs, emails, social media, magazine or other traditional media articles, websites, images, video, and more. You can use content related to your brand, passions, interests, industry and products (if you’re selling something) to provide value, build relationships, and position yourself as the subject matter expert.
Why is content marketing important?
Actually building a content marketing plan should be a significant piece of your overall blogging strategy. With more than 500 million blogs out there, chances are there are hundreds or even thousands of others writing about the same topics as you.
Content marketing helps you stand out from the crowd by providing value, education and entertainment. Using content, you can:
- Improve your reputation and build trust with your audience. Telling your story through content can help show transparency, professionalism and expertise. You can tell a story about what your brand, expertise and products are all about. You can also position yourself as an industry expert, so people will learn to trust you for information.
- Influence conversions. If you are using your blog to sell a product or service, you can use content marketing to influence leads and sales. Content marketing costs 62% less than other forms of marketing, yet generates 3x as many leads. 77% of Internet users read blogs and content, and directing them to your website and product pages can influence lead generation.
- Give you more visibility. Search engine optimization is something search engines, like Google, do to rank websites and articles by relevance and value. The more content you publish, the better your site will be ranked.
According to Google, the first page of search results captures 71% of search traffic clicks, and second page comes below 6% of all website clicks. It’s important for you to be on that first page, or your content likely won’t be seen.
- Show off your expertise. By publishing content related to your interests, products and/or services, you will essentially be telling your audience that you are an expert, you know what you’re talking about, and they can trust you for accurate, valuable information.
By providing your audience valuable knowledge in the form of content on your blog, you are showing them you care, are listening to them, and want to be the solution for their problems.
- Give your audience what they want. 80% of Internet users appreciate learning about a brand through custom content. More than 20% of time spent online is spent reading content. Your followers are already looking for and reading the content – why not be the one who provides it to them?
- Support your other marketing strategies. Whether you have a social media strategy, email marketing, or traditional advertising, consistency and content is key. Content on your website gives you a place to link your email and social posts to, which drives traffic back to your website and ultimately leads prospects down the marketing funnel.
How do I develop a content marketing strategy?
There are multiple steps you need to take before executing a content marketing plan for your blog. This will take time, but the end result will be a well-planned and well-organized strategy that will help you meet your goals.
Before you get started writing, there are a few things you need to research, think about and plan.
First, think about who your audience is. What age and gender are they? Where do they live? What do they like to read about, do and engage with? What problems do they have and how will your content solve them?
Then, consider what channels you will use to disseminate your content. In addition to your website, will you post content on your Facebook and social media pages? Incorporate content in email marketing campaigns?
82% of marketers report email is the most effective form of sharing content, followed by social media at 54% and website/blog at 51%. You can use this as a starting point when beginning your efforts.
Next, think about the time and resources you’ll need to develop the blog and post consistent content. Will you only post articles? Or will you develop video or infographics? What tools will you need to execute those strategies? Do you have editing tools you’ll use?
Finally, think about the content itself. What pain points are you trying to solve? What solutions will you provide? What is valuable or interesting about your brand or expertise that you can share with others? What stories can you tell?
When you think about content, you may just think articles or blogs. In reality, there are numerous forms of content you can take advantage of. Consider:
- User-generated content, like Instagram posts
- Case studies or whitepapers
- Press releases
- Magazine articles
Even if your content marketing plan centers around a blog, you can incorporate these other forms of content on your blog to provide variety and increase engagement.
Define your goals and metrics
Before starting any new strategy, you must consider what your goals are. Do you want to generate leads? Increase your social media following? Drive traffic to your website? Get more email subscribers? Increase sales?
After you list your goals, think about how content can help this.
For example, perhaps you want to get more email subscribers. So, you develop an e-book or white paper that people can only access if they enter their email address.
Or, perhaps you want to increase your website traffic. So, not only do you post your content on your new website blog, but you link to that content on your social media and email platforms. By teasing the content on Facebook or in an email, people will have to click through to your website to read the rest of the article.
You’ll also want to consider how you will measure success. You can use Facebook Insights, your email open and click through rates, or Google Analytics. Whatever your goals are, write down the metrics you can track to prove whether or not you are reaching those goals.
Audit your current state
Do you already have a blog? Do you already have email subscribers? Are you already posting on Facebook?
Review what you are already producing. What’s working? What’s not working? Where can you improve?
Having a firm understanding of where you are already at and what the current state is of your content is important so you know and understand where to go next.
If you don’t currently have content, now might be a good time to research some of your competitors or others in your field of expertise or interests to understand what they are doing and how they are engaging.
At this point, you’re getting close to actually producing the content. Once you’ve decided what type of content you want to produce, what channels you want it to be on, and what your goals are, you can start getting narrower by brainstorming topics.
Before making your content live, you should already have 10-20 pieces of content ready to go. Deciding what to write about should be easy – you wanted to start a blog for a reason, so you must be passionate about the subject of your blog. You are also probably already an expert. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Consider what the theme of your blog is. Whatever your
theme, chances are it’sinformation people want or are interested in reading about. You should have plenty of ideas centeredaround that theme or subject that will be interesting to write about.
- What problems is your audience facing that you are solving for?
- How can you expand your writing into additional solutions? Once people visit your blog, how can you keep them coming back? What other solutions can you provide, or information you can offer, to continue repeat visits or followers?
- Pretend you’re not an expert in your field. What questions would you have? What would you search for? Step into your audience’s shoes. Think about what they search on Google or Facebook and what they read about. Then, create that content so you’re the place they go for those answers.
The best thing to do is get a piece of paper and pen, or start a list on your computer, and just start brainstorming ideas. Write anything that comes to your mind. At first, no idea isn’t worthy. While some of them may not translate to good content, they could contribute to an idea for something else.
Remember – one of the main reasons to publish content is to build a relationship with your audience and establish yourself as the expert and go-to source for information. Content can help you answer questions, tell stories, provide solutions or give context to not only your interests, but also your industry and/or brand.
Create a content calendar
Once you have a list of topics and you start developing the content, you should create a calendar or map of what content will be shared, where and when. You can do a quarterly, bi-annual or annual content calendar.
By planning what content will be published, when and where, you can identify gaps that will need to be filled in content or on certain channels. You can even coordinate with holidays or seasonality, events, or community activity.
It will also help you keep track of what you’re publishing and when.
Measuring and Optimizing
Once you’ve done your research, brainstormed, and begun creating content, it’s time to begin measuring, optimizing, and doing behavior analysis. By keeping a close eye on how your content is performing, it gives you the ability to quickly adjust if something is or isn’t working.
If you have a piece of content that’s performing really well on social media, consider making that one of your next emails. Or, if a blog you published is getting a lot of traction, share it on your social media channels for more engagement.
Alternatively, if something isn’t performing well, think about why. Is it not interesting? Is it not the correct form of content (i.e. did you write a blog when it should have been a video)? You may want to consider avoiding content or topics like that in the future.
Also, continue to monitor your audience. What are they searching for? What do they care about? Did anything recently happen in your industry that’s interesting or could use commentary? Are things becoming more or less important in your audiences’ lives?
Paying attention to what your audience is doing and talking about online can help shape your content and distribution in the future.
When developing a content marketing plan for your blog, remember the purpose of the content. Make it engaging and relevant, add value, and write about things your readers can’t find anywhere else. Or, if they can find it, answer more questions or make it better.
Your blog and content can set you apart from your blogger competitors or allow you to stand out in the blogosphere. It helps you form a relationship with your audience and followers. And with the virtually unlimited form of content, you can have fun with it, and make it entertaining and exciting.
Geoff Hoesch is the CEO of Dragonfly Digital Marketing, a Baltimore-based digital marketing agency that specializes in SEO and content marketing. He’s provided SEO help to hundreds of companies and individuals over the past 12 years, always promoting the practice of quality over quantity. You can follow his agency on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.