There is no question about content marketing being not only a valuable but also a still growing marketing strategy. Valuable content is key to online marketing success, and it can influence your business success in more than one aspect. Here is your beginner’s guide to content marketing.
Still, I am sometimes shocked about the misconceptions that still float around about content marketing: What content marketing is, what you need to do to have success and how to be successful with it.
So here are the basics that you should know before you start with your own content marketing – and the steps you have to take to make a success out of your content marketing efforts.
What is Content Marketing?
Let us start by taking a closer look at what content marketing is -because there is a lot of misunderstanding or misleading information out there.
Before you read on - we have various resources that show you exactly how to use social networks to gain massive traffic and leads. For instance, check out the following:FREE Step-by-Step Twitter Marketing Guide
FREE Pinterest Marketing Ebook
The above definition is not wrong – but I still think it leaves some things not explained and leaving them out, leads to misunderstanding content marketing.
I like the definition by content marketing institute:
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
Distribution is often a neglected or forgotten part of content marketing. I have seen blog posts even by famous marketers that treated content writing as if it was content marketing – that is very dangerous.
KEEP IN MIND: Content marketing without content distribution is a path to failure! When you think about how to start your content marketing you should think about your distribution channels at least as much and thoroughly as you should consider your content creation.
The second important point in the above definition of content marketing is the mention of a “clearly defined audience.” Content marketing should always be targeted at your target audience.
Content creation and content distribution that is not targeted at your target group can even be “successful” with great content and distribution channels that work wonders – and you can still fail with your content marketing if the audience that you reach has nothing to do with your target group and thus you are basically marketing a product to a group of people that do not need, like or appreciate it.
Hey, before you read on - we have in various FREE in-depth guides on similar topics that you can download. For this post, check out:FREE workbook: CREATE AWESOME BLOG POSTS
FREE Beginner's Guide: START A BLOG
Just think of marketing baby diapers to a group of young single men that like adventure sports…
And finally, never forget about the goals of your content marketing. Most of the time you want to increase your revenue or ROI – and if you fail to “drive profitable customer action”, your content marketing is still a failure.
No – Content Marketing is not the same as SEO
While there is no doubt a strong connection between content marketing and search engine optimization it still shocks me when people throw the two into one bucket.
Content marketing can have a positive impact on your SEO efforts. In today’s online marketing world, attempting to get tons of search traffic to a website without content is definitely not the most promising way to go. But Content marketing is so much more than (just) SEO.
Content marketing is a marketing strategy that aims to get the attention of a target audience by providing content that is interesting, valuable or entertaining to this target audience. While content marketing has seen a new hype with the modern aspects of online marketing – content marketing has been around for centuries – long before the Internet and Search Engines like Google ever existed.
Search engines like great content. And that makes SEO one way of driving an audience to content. But content marketing can well survive without search engines – as long as you find another way of distributing your content. And getting SEO and content marketing confused simply means you are limiting your options unnecessarily.
Why Content Marketing?
Content marketing is not easy and while you may be able to create the content within your team or company without the additional costs of paying for it – content creation AND distribution still take a lot of time and work effort. Content marketing success does not come for free.
With the option of paying for „cheap“ ads on various online outlets like Google Adwords, Facebook ads or one of the other social networks – you may ask why you should make an effort to go the seemingly more complicated way of content marketing?
The benefits of content marketing are manifold – and by far exceed the benefits of a click on an ad – even if that click may turn into a customer. Content marketing can in the long run by far outperform advertising, and in that case produce a much better return on your investment.
Also, content marketing cannot „only“ get you more of one thing as ads often do. If you succeed in (online) content marketing the results you can see will show in many ways:
1. More traffic to more content.
That traffic can come from various sources such as social media, search engines, referrers or even from your newsletter signups. It is much easier to drive traffic to content than to a promotional product or sales page. You can share your content on various channes and depending on the quality and usefulness of your content, other people will help you spread the word about your content by sharing it, too.
Even though content marketing is not SEO – content is still the foundation to get traffic from searhc engines. More content will increase the keywords for which your content is listed in search results, people will rather link to useful content – and thus your search trafi will increase if you engage in content marketing
2. Content will capture the attention of your audience for a longer time than ads ever could – especially if you have an endless stream of great content
An add is usually short with only a couple of words. Content that you created with your audience in mind will keep them on your website – or your content. You can even interlink your various content pieces and make people stay on the various pieces of your content even longer. This will help you with branding and make people remember you when they are looking for a solution you may offer.
3. Ad blocking gets more popular, advertising gets harder – infromative content is more likely to reach your audience
More and more people learn how to avoid being annoyed by advertising. We are all looking for information on the Internet. That is your chance for content marketing success.
Image source: PageFair
4. The perception of useful and informative content positive
Content marketing helps you to reach your target group on a positive note. You make contact by helping them with information and avoid hitting them with unwelcome sales messages.
5. Great content will help to build a positive brand image and trust in your expertise
Instead of claiming expertise, you can show your expertise through content. You can show expertise and build the trust in your expertise – and that will eventually lead people to buy from you.
6. Great content will help to build a connection and engage with your audience
Informative, thoughtful and useful content will inspire more engagement and discussion that promotion will. And an engaged audience is a buying audience.
7. You can influence the story around your products or services
Good content marketing tells your brand story. With the story you tell you can have a great impact on what people say about your brand, products and services online. Become part of the story and you can influence the perception of your brand.
Content Marketing Is Not All About Creating Content
One reason why a lot of entrepreneurs and business owners get frustrated with content marketing is that they fail to see the complexity and big picture of content marketing. They produce a piece (or even a couple of pieces) of content – and then … nothing.
That is not going to work. Great content without distribution is just that: content. To be successful with content marketing you need a strategy. Far too many businesses are not successful with content marketing, and most of them lack on thing: a content marketing strategy.
Image Source: Content Marketing Institute
The Guide to Content Marketing
Goals – why are you engaging in content marketing:
You need to be absolutely clear about your perspective: Why are you engaging in content marketing? What do you want to achieve?
Your goals will have a huge impact on all the other parts of your content marketing strategy. You will use different content depending on your goals, you will need to choose different distribution channels depending on your goals.
You can only define a targeted content marketing strategy if you know where you are headed – and you can only see if you are getting any closer to reaching your goals if you have any.
Note: content marketing goals are not set in stone. You may change your content marketing goals depending on your current business situation.
Your content marketing strategy may start out with the goal of increasing brand awareness but once your brand is famous your goal may turn into increasing revenues or ROI.
KPI – How are you going to measure content marketing success
Now that you have set the goals for your content marketing, you need to find the numbers that can help you figure out if you reached your goals – or not. Your KPI (Key Performance Indicators) allow you to determine whether your content marketing is reaching your goals or if you have to find the flaw in your content marketing strategy.
Make sure that the numbers (KPI) you choose to measure your success provide the answers that you need. Some numbers are just not saying what you want to know. For instance, the number of your social media followers are not the answer if your marketing is successful in increasing your ROI if they do not buy any products.
Try to find numbers for various stages of your marketing journey. If your goal is to increase your ROI, the numbers you want to watch may be:
Grow followers on Twitter (number of followers) – increase traffic from Twitter (number of website visitors per day from Twitter) – turn traffic into email signups (number of email signups per day) – turn email signups into buying customers (number of products sold per day).
If you change the goals for your content marketing strategy, you also need to rethink your KPI!
Your target audience – who are you trying to reach and where can you find them
Who is your target audience? Who do you want to reach with your content? The more you know about your target group, the better can you target your content marketing at them: Choose content formats your target group likes. Choose topics your target group is interested in. And choose distribution channels where your target audience is active, and you can connect to them.
If you choose content marketing as your way to go, you have to be absolutely clear that you need a ton of content. And this content will have to be filled with stories. The story you tell is not so much about the features of your produce. It may well include success stories of your customers using your products – but even that should only be a small part of the stories you tell.
Your story can include the background story why you started your company, how you hired your team or got to know your co-founder.
Why shouldn’t it be all about dry facts? Because a story helps to make you human, it can engage your audience and build trust – and it will help to stick with people’s memories when dry facts are long forgotten.
Content and content formats – what types of content do you need and what can you create
Content and content formats are what most people think about when they think about engaging in content marketing. But apart from the need for great content, this is not static. You can always try different content formats or some new type content and topics and measure how it speaks to your audience.
You need to keep in mind that you do not simply need ONE piece of outstanding content. For successful content marketing, you need to be able to produce a constant stream of great content. That needs to be considered when you decide on the content and content formats.
The content formats also strongly influence the distribution channels that you can use – or the other way round. If you want to distribute your content via some of the visual social networks you need visual content.
Content Quality – If more content hurts the quality of your content rethink your content
Quality and quantity of content need to align. You need a number of content pieces but all the content pieces have to reach a quality standard that your audience loves. Don’t blindly create more and more content if you cannot guaranty content quality.
Schedule – how often can you create content
Before you start, make sure you are clear about the time frame and the schedule you set. How much content do you need at what times and is that realistic?
Especially when you are starting out and your audience does not know you, you need to stay on their radar with more and more content. Once you have a loyal audience, you may be able to uphold your drive with a slightly looser schedule for new content.
Distribution – how will you get your content to your target audience?
Content distribution is the key to every content marketing success story! Mediocre content with an outstanding distribution strategy can still lead to success. Outstanding content without distribution is bound to fail – no audience will lead your content into the depth of forgotten or never noticed content on the web.
The importance of good distribution in every content marketing strategy still increases with the amount of content fighting for attention on the web and in social media.
When you are new to the game, keep in mind that building an audience in most distribution channels either takes time – or money. There is no instant content marketing success, and that is mostly because an audience needs to be built and nurtured.
Analyze and Optimize – what is going wrong and what can you do better
Finally, if your numbers are not what you hoped for or expected, analyze your results. Question every step of your content marketing strategy and find out what you can optimize.
You can change your content types or topics. You can try another distribution channel. You can produce more content or change your posting schedule. You can learn more about your distribution channel and optimize your distribution strategy.
There are endless options to optimize your content marketing and you should never cease to try to become a better content marketer.
Content marketing is an always developing marketing tactic. You need to keep an open mind and be willing to learn.
Do not give up to early
I have seen entrepreneurs stating that content marketing (or social media marketing) does not work for them after poking around without a clear content marketing strategy and no clue about getting it right for a few days or weeks.
Let me finish this article with a word of warning: Content marketing success is not just for everyone to grab and be content with. Content marketing needs persistence and often hard work before you can reap the results. Far too many people plan too short-sighted and get frustrated too early. And while you should watch your numbers and be willing to adjust everything you do based on your results, giving up too early should not be an option.
Eventually, you will be paid back in branding, trust, engagement, leads, reputation – and sales.
How does content marketing relate to blogging?
Blogging is essentially a special form of content marketing that relies on a blog as a content hub and uses blog posts as the main type of content.
A content marketer can be a great blogger or vice versa. Knowing about content marketing will pave the path to blogging success. But you do not necessarily need a blog if you want to set up a successful content marketing strategy. Youtubers are content marketers. Podcaster are often content marketers.
As a new blogger, you can follow this guide to content marketing to find blogging success.
Are you a blogger and want to know how content marketing and blogging are related? Check out Jonathan’s recent post on content marketing from a blogger’s perspective.
Is your content marketing not working out as it should – or you hoped for? We can help.
Join us for a free email course about content marketing.
Learn what is missing in your content marketing that is costing you all chances of content marketing success.
find out why content distribution is the key to reaching a targeted audience – and get a checklist for your content distribution for each piece of content.
Find out how you can create more content without working like a horse.
Learn why your content is not getting the reactions, shares, and conversions you hoped for – and what you need to make it all work!
Are you in? Join us here for 4 days and 4 emails!