When you’re busy with the day to day running of your business, you might not have time to think about creating content for your blog and so on, even though you know it is important. And it really is, because your content is essential for interacting with your existing customers, and reaching new potential customers. For most businesses, content marketing is an essential part of their marketing strategy. But what does content marketing really mean though? Lots of people tell us they’re not quite sure what it actually is – but in reality, it’s a lot more simple than people think it is.
Content marketing is simply creating and sharing content – either text-based, or video content – that can help to attract a certain audience, and to keep them interested and engaged, with the aim of encouraging customer action that leads to profit. It’s distinctly different to traditional advertising, because you’re not trying to convince someone to buy a product or service from you – rather, your content marketing is aiming to show them that you’re an expert in your field, and that in turn proves to them that your business is one that they want to engage with.
By investing time and money in your content, you can increase the reach and awareness of your brand, boost your sales and engage with new prospects and customers. You’re not just showing off what you do with content marketing– you’re creating the kind of blog posts, video and other content that your audience and your target customers would be looking for, even if they weren’t looking for your business specifically.
Content marketing statistics
- 62% of businesses outsource their content marketing
- 90% of marketing professionals think repurposing content is better than starting from scratch
- It’s hard to get readers to engage with blog content – 52% of bloggers agree
- 94% of content marketing professionals share their content using social media
- 70% of marketers are actively investing in content marketing
- Video is the most common form of media in content strategy
- 73% of people skim-read blog posts – just 27% read them thoroughly
Why is content marketing important for businesses?
No matter the size of your business, who your target customers are or the aims you have for the next few months, content marketing is what is going to help you reach your goals. Outbound marketing techniques are becoming significantly less effective than they once were, because customers simply don’t want their day to be interrupted by marketing emails or calls – and if you’re honest with yourself, you probably don’t either.
Content marketing is the way that many businesses are getting around the problem of outbound marketing, and for good reason. Here’s just a few of the things that content marketing can help your business with:
Keeping your leads and prospects up to date with your most recent products, services and offers
Increasing sales and other conversions
Saving on costs
Helping you to keep customers engaged with your brand
Reaching new members of your target audience and showcasing your products and services
Creating a lasting sense of community for your customers and fans of your brand
It all sounds pretty convincing, and for good reason – great quality content is behind a successful marketing strategy. Have a think about it – all the strands of a marketing strategy need great content:
Social media marketing can’t work without a good content marketing strategy.
It’s much easier to get great results from your SEO endeavours when you publish quality content consistently – it’s what the search engine algorithms want.
PR strategies appeal to what the audience wants, and care about – which is what is contained in your content.
PPC can only work well with great content to drive it.
Outstanding content will help to support and drive your inbound marketing.
If you can create the sort of content that your target customer actually looks forward to receiving, and finds it useful to the point that they actually share it with other people that find it useful too – well, that’s the holy grail of content marketing. But content marketing isn’t quick, and for some businesses, it isn’t easy to implement either.
Challenges of content marketing
There are plenty of challenges when it comes to content marketing – which is why so many businesses actively ignore the benefits of content marketing, or choose to outsource their content marketing requirements.
Before you can even start your content marketing strategy, you’ve got a LOT of data to sift through, and just coming up with a plan can be difficult. Being able to dig out the most relevant topics that are going to draw the kind of traffic that you want, and that will convert is a skill in itself. You’ve got to create a plan that means you and your team will be able to create content pieces that appeal to your target audience, but also that provide the kind of return on investment that you really want to see.
Content writer challenges
Creating the balance between writing informative and engaging, yet entertaining posts can be really challenging, especially when the topic can be incredibly dull – take it from someone who has written plenty of posts with topics that are dull as dishwater! Then when we consider the requirements of SEO on top of that, and understanding what the audience will want to take away from reading the article, it can sometimes feel near impossible to write something that really works. Take it from us – it isn’t easy, even if you absolutely adore writing. Add the challenge of deadlines to that, and you need to end up treading carefully in order to not break your precious content writer – especially if your writer has other roles and responsibilities within the company!
Editors don’t just exist to catch the mistakes. Editors are also there to ensure the needs of the editorial calendar are met and that the requirements of the workflow are reached in a timely fashion. When you’re meeting other needs of a business, the role of editor can sometimes get put aside in favour of more pressing and time-sensitive tasks. Using online tools such as Grammarly or The Word Counter to catch any major mistakes in content that is produced is a good plan, but it won’t answer all of the needs of a business – they can’t coordinate the workflow, for example, or review a draft and make suggestions about what else can go into a piece.
Challenges for project managers
If you’ve ever been a project manager, then you’ll already know that there isn’t much about the role that isn’t challenging! Needing to communicate between different teams and ensuring proper collaboration can be difficult enough, without taking into account things like ensuring correct processes and documentation are completed. Once processes are established and documented it can get easier, but certainly, in the beginning, it can be difficult.
Challenges for smaller businesses
It might well be the case that you don’t have separate people for all these roles – in fact, if you’re a sole trader, you might not even have anyone that can proofread a blog post for you, let alone having the luxury of having someone to plan your content and to edit your work! With that in mind, then the biggest challenge might actually be finding time to produce any content – because you’re too busy with the main part of running your business.
You might be able to find time to produce content, but you might not be able to do so consistently – which really is the key to keeping your followers engaged. If you’re pressed for time, it is absolutely better to post just a few times a month, and have good quality posts than it is to post poorly thought-out, rushed posts daily or weekly.
Using tools to manage your content plan is a good idea, and there are plenty of them available with different functionality at different price points. As a bare minimum, you’ll want to add your planned posts to your calendar, so that you’re able to stick to your plan and not let them fall by the wayside. Taking the time to plan and create your posts periodically, either once a week, fortnight or each month can help you to ensure your content isn’t an afterthought.
Although your blog content is generally much longer-form, most website builders allow for you to create your posts and schedule them ahead of time – so although you might create all your content on a given day (or few days) ahead of them going live, you can get ahead. Being organised is key to successful content marketing.
Do you really need a content marketing team?
Like we’ve already said, every business is different and of course, the talent that every business has in their team varies from year to year. So it really depends on what strengths you have on your team already – it may be that you have absolutely everything you need already!
For businesses that are missing a key player for your content marketing strategy – for example, you don’t have anyone who can write long-form content for your blog, or you simply don’t have the time – then you can outsource your requirements. You might look to freelance websites like Fiverr or Upwork, but you aren’t guaranteed to get the best talent – and returns can be hit and miss, especially since you’re not guaranteed to find that your freelancer is what they claim to be.
If you don’t want to take the chance, you can work with agencies like The Marketing Helpline to create the content that you need. Working with an agency guarantees that you will be provided with the standard of content that you’re looking for, since they already understand the sort of targets and objectives you’re looking to meet.
The easiest way to get in touch with a member of our team to discuss your business needs, and to see what we can do for you is to drop us an email – our email address is email@example.com.
What skills do you need to create successful content marketing?
The ability to write a great blog post (or to create amazing video, if you’re taking the video route) is absolutely a necessary skill to have when you’re working on creating great content, but that isn’t anywhere near the end of the skills that are needed.
There are a large number of people who are – to put it politely – grammar snobs. And those people are the sort of people who don’t buy from businesses who make basic grammar mistakes. So, when creating content for your website, you need to have someone with eagle eyes reading your work through before you post it. That’s because word processing packages often don’t pick up the correct spelling of the wrong word, and don’t always pick up on clunky sentences. We often recommend Grammarly to people who are looking to pick that sort of thing up, but there really isn’t any substitution for someone who is really hot on language reading work through.
Being sure to add the links that create the right amount of credibility to your posts is important too. Linking to websites that aren’t trustworthy, or suitably credible will mean your website score could be impacted. Similarly, being able to include the sort of data and statistics to your posts will help to increase the standing of your website with the search engines.
The ability to manage a consistent schedule for posting is absolutely essential for any content marketer. Whether it’s posting a couple of times a week, once a fortnight or even just once a month, keeping track of what is required and sticking to deadlines is essential to keeping traffic flowing to your website and your ranking building.
Of course, when you’re employing someone to create your content for you, you might be looking for a multi-tasker. Being able to contribute to social media posts, writing emails and other outbound marketing skills can be useful, but depending on the size of the business and what is required, that might not be totally necessary.
Which businesses should use content marketing?
We can’t think of a single business that wouldn’t benefit from content marketing to help them reach their full potential. Almost every business has a Facebook page as a bare minimum, but most businesses are doing much, much more than that, especially on their own websites. Most marketers worldwide are recommending content marketing as the primary way to get more business – and some of the biggest companies on the planet, such as Google and Microsoft are too.
How should you implement a content marketing strategy?
There’s absolutely no reason to start trying to do content marketing without a strategy! Once you’ve decided on the sort of content that you want to create, you’ll need to look at how often you can realistically create the amount of content you want. Of course, posting a 6,000 word blog post daily might be the dream when it comes to boosting your website’s rankings with the search engines, but it simply isn’t feasible, or realistic. Even for many professional writers, a 6000 word blog post every single day is simply way too unrealistic, especially if you’re looking for posts in fields they don’t know in detail and that they need to conduct research for before they can start writing. The same goes for video content – it’s a time consuming thing to do, let alone to do well. Luckily, quality trumps quantity by a long, long way when we’re talking about what Google and other search engines are looking for, and so it’s better to post less frequently, as long as you can do so consistently and with the same level of quality.
Determine the type of content you’re going to produce
Deciding on the type of content you’re going to create will depend on a number of factors, but will almost certainly start with thinking about what you’re trying to achieve from your content strategy, and who you’re trying to target. That means referring back to your target customer, and thinking about:
What do your target customer need from you, and what can you offer them over your competitors?
What challenges do your target customers need to overcome?
Why are your products or services the right option for them?
How can you help your target customer succeed?
If you’re aiming to stake a claim as an expert in your field, posting regularly on your website’s blog, and publishing white papers periodically (perhaps quarterly, perhaps bi-annually) can help. Once you’ve started creating the content that your target customer are looking for, it’s time to think about how you can get that content in front of them.
No doubt you will have already amassed a decent following on some social media channels, but many businesses stop with Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. When you’re thinking about your target customers, you need to think about their age group in addition to other socio-economic details. If you’re targeting young people, can you create content for TikTok or Snapchat that will encourage them to engage with you? What about Pinterest? And can you create the kind of video content that could be really successful on YouTube? It might be as simple as creating a post that appeals to your target customers to get them to your website, and eventually, to become loyal customers.
How to identify content topics
How can you find ideas for posts, you might think? Well, you can listen to what your customers are asking and write posts about questions you get regularly. Question and answer sections on your website can be useful, but some of those answers might benefit from a little bit more in-depth information, which is where a blog post can help. People will find your post when they’re searching, but you can also make use of your blog posts when you’re answering customer queries, to save you from writing long, detailed responses each time – which can be really handy!
Answering customer enquiries aside though, you can look to your competitors to find post ideas. Many websites list their most popular articles, and you can create your own take on those posts. You can also look at what’s trending on social media, by paying attention to hashtags that are frequently used in your industry, or search question and answer websites like Quora or Reddit to see what people are asking about. In many cases, people are asking there because they can’t be bothered to search for an answer, but if you’re finding genuine confusion on threads, you can write a blog post with the answer. Once your post is live, go back and post an answer on the thread. You’ll be able to point the original poster, and anyone else searching for the answer in the future directly to your content, as well as your blog post being found when anyone searches for the information on Google.
You can find blog posts from search engines directly – it’s as simple as starting to search for a question, and then looking at what gets suggested as the search engine tries to autocomplete your question. You can also look at Google Trends – this is a free resource that can help you to identify relevant topics. Finally, there are also third-party tools such as SEMrush for competitor analysis and KeywordTool.io that can help you find ideas for key words and posts. Some tools are free, but are limited in the amount of information they’ll give you, and some are paid but will give you much more information and functionality to help you.
While blog posts are excellent to help search engines find your website, and can lead to your website being returned higher on search results when people are looking for specific search terms, you still need to write them carefully. Search engines prioritise posts that are well-written, and written for the reader rather than stuffed full of keywords, but that doesn’t mean you can forget about keywords altogether. You just need to work them into your posts naturally, so that your readers don’t realise they are there.
Decide the type of content should you produce
When it comes to the sort of content marketing your business needs, there is no simple answer to what you should be doing. Every business is unique, with different strengths and goals, and no two businesses should be using the same strategy for their content marketing. These are some of the sorts of posts that you might consider using as part as your strategy – but you might have other ideas that you might implement too!
- Blog posts
- Social media posts
- Case studies
- Success stories
- eBooks/White papers
- Video tutorials
- Original studies
- Quizzes and tests
- Product manuals
- Sales content
- Landing pages
To decide what the right approach is for your business, you’ll need to refer to your targets for the upcoming quarter, year or five year period. Do you want to increase sales conversions, get more subscribers, or just to increase your profits? Who is your target customer? When you refer to your target customer, that information will often help you to establish the right strategy for your business. Once you’ve done that, you can start looking at the sort of topics that can be included in your content marketing.
Blog content marketing
Blogging isn’t a new thing by any stretch of the imagination – it started out as a kind of digital diary keeping as the internet began. Today though, businesses are using them to help increase traffic to their websites, and to increase engagement with their audiences. That means ensuring blog topics are relevant for target customers, and that they are written well so that the audience finds them interesting and worth sharing.
Blog posts are pretty simple to write, as long as you have the time and inclination to do so, and you’re able to write authoritatively and knowledgeably about the subject. They can help increase trust in your brand, because your customers start to recognise you as an expert in your field. Not only that, they can help enhance the relationship with your customers too, which can lead to increased conversions.
Most website builders and content management systems make it pretty easy to add a blog section to your website. Once you get started blogging though, you should aim to maintain a regular schedule – and we know this can be a challenge for busy businesses. But quality is more important than quantity, so even adding a new blog post a couple of times a month can be worth it, and you’ll start to see the benefits.
We talked about how to find ideas for your blog posts earlier, but there so many different types of posts you can create. Mixing up the type of posts you are creating will help keep you from getting bored, but it’ll also help keep your readers engaged too.
List posts are pretty popular, and for good reason – they’re really popular. They’re easy to read through quickly, and when they’re well presented, they’re likely to be shared widely. Writers find these types of posts pretty simple to do, since once you’ve set a title – like, “the 10 best products for spring” or “the most wanted toys for Christmas 2020” – you’ve simply got to fill the post with information you’ve found. You can make your list article as long as you like – we’ve written list posts that feature over 100 items – but you still need to make your list articles make sense. Just dumping random facts or links won’t work, you need to carefully direct the flow of the article. Don’t forget to add links to the relevant sources, especially if you’re talking about products or services you provide – you want readers to get what you’re talking about from you!
How-to guides are another type of blog post that works extremely well. You’ll need to be sure to write your posts clearly – assuming you’re explaining a concept to someone who doesn’t know anything about what you’re talking about is a good idea. How you write your post will depend on your industry, and what you’re talking about, but how-to guides are great for building trust, and demonstrating that you’re an expert in your field.
When you’re creating a how-to post, make a list of all the materials that readers will need to complete the whole project and put that near the top of your post – nobody wants to get part-way through and find they need a tool or ingredient they don’t have to hand! Don’t forget to use plenty of images, and break your guide up into simple, easy to read steps. If you’re able to, include a video to help you make your points clearer. Where it’s appropriate, include calls to action and links to pages on your website, including listings for products that your readers might need for their project.
Case studies can be a great way to show off your business. Start your case study by outlining the problem your customer was encountering. This makes it relatable to other potential customers – they will see why you’re talking about the issue. From there, talk about the solution, and what you did to fix the issue. If something went wrong during the course of you implementing the solution, don’t shy away from talking about that – you can talk about what you did to fix what went wrong. Things go wrong all the time, and you can use mistakes as an example of how you’re honest, but also how good your service is when such an event does occur. It might have been a headache at the time, but being able to use it as an example of why your business is worth dealing with is the silver lining of that cloud!
If your customer is another business, your case study can be valuable for both businesses – you can both promote your case study on your websites, across your social media and mention it on any videos or live feeds, to increase the chances of your audience finding it. Linking helps to increase trust, and if another potential customer wants to find out just how good your service was, they can contact the business in the case study directly.
Write your case studies highlighting the success that your solution brings. By showing how you helped your customers solve their problems, and how successful the outcome was, you’ll encourage potential customers to approach you too.
eBooks and white papers
Who’s got time to write an eBook, you might think – and you’d be absolutely correct in thinking that writing any type of book is a time consuming endeavour. But eBooks don’t have to be written entirely from scratch. Repurposing content has been happening for years, and in fact, many marketers say it is more valuable to do this than to create new content from scratch! If you’ve been blogging for years, or you’ve created other types of guides, then compiling relevant posts into an order that makes sense, and maybe refreshing them a little means you can get even more value from them.
By putting an eBook together, you’ll be sharing knowledge and demonstrating your expertise in your field – which helps to increase your credibility with the search engines. Once you’ve got your eBook written, there are a few ways that you can use it. You can offer it as a way to grow your leads and your email lists, offering it as a ‘free gift’ incentive on a landing page. Of course, you might also offer it as a paid book on Amazon, linking to it from your website – or you can offer it as a free download, depending on what you want to achieve from it.
You don’t have to create eBook content anywhere near as often as other, shorter form content. But doing so periodically can be a really valuable endeavour – and you’ll be able to keep using your eBook for quite some time. Even if your eBook content isn’t completely timeless, you’re still likely to see a good return on your investment, especially if you’ve been able to make use of content you’ve already created.
Video content is ridiculously popular worldwide, and the statisticians at social media giant Facebook stated that by the end of 2020, over 75% of all mobile web traffic will be video. Why? Well, if a picture speaks a thousand words, video is estimated to be worth over 1.8 million words per minute – which means viewers can get more value from a shorter amount of time.
When you start thinking about creating video content for your business, you might wonder whether it is worth it when there are so many videos already available on YouTube and social media channels. To that we say, the numbers don’t lie! The majority of marketers say that their video content gives a good ROI, and 54% of customers say they want more videos from brands – so the answer is yes, it is absolutely worth investing in video content.
You can take many of the same ideas you might use for blog or text-based content and apply them to videos – so you can create vlogs (video blog posts), interviews, tutorials, product demos and reviews. How-to guides are one of the most popular types of videos on YouTube too – so when you’re writing all these types of posts for your blog, think about how you can turn your research, or your knowledge into video content too.
When you’re creating video content, remember that you’re creating content that has value for your customers. Although your aim might be ultimately to increase conversions and profits, any video that you produce – whether it’s how-to videos, or more candid, behind the scenes videos – should avoid the feeling that you’re actively advertising.
Shorter videos are more successful overall – two to three minutes is all that is necessary in most cases – and you should remember to include calls to action, and use cards at the beginning and end to help reinforce your branding. Once you’ve uploaded to your chosen streaming website, you can start to embed them on your website and in your blog posts where it’s appropriate to do so, use them in your responses to customer enquiries and link to them on your social media.
While video can be an amazing part of your content marketing strategy, we’re not going to go into too much depth here – because it is such a huge field that it demands it’s own post! We’ve mentioned it here so that when you’re considering your strategy going forward, you remember to include it. We’ll be posting about video content strategy in the coming weeks, so if you’re thinking about that, watch out for it.
How should you measure the success of your content marketing strategy?
When you’re running a business, you need to be able to quantify how you spend your budget. That means being able to accurately measure the return on the investment you’re making, especially if you’re answering to managers, directors or investors. With that in mind, setting SMART targets can help you to stay on track. Whether you love or hate acronyms, it’s a good way to keep your goals on track. SMART can stand for a few things, but here’s the most common use:
Specific (simple, sensible, significant)
Measurable (meaningful, motivating)
Achievable (agreed, attainable)
Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based)
Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive)
You can also include ER at the end of the acronym to include Evaluated and Reviewed – which can help you to remember to do the valuable evaluation and review process. We set a lot of our targets, including how often we’re planning to post using the SMART tool, and find it to work pretty well – but there are plenty of other ways you can ensure your plan stays on target.
Setting your KPIs
Once you’ve set your SMART goals, you’ll need to decide how you’re going to set your key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs are the way in which you can clearly see the success of your campaigns. We’ve listed some ideas for how you can set your KPIs below:
- If your SMART target is to increase brand awareness, you might measure traffic to your website, increases in your social media followers, subscription sign-ups and mentions by followers, customers or partners.
- If your target is to increase your company revenue, your KPI might be daily sales or website traffic.
- If you’re targeting an increase in conversions, you can measure shopping cart abandonment rates and competitive price trends.
- If your target is brand loyalty and to build trust, then you might look to measure your repeat customers, mentions in your social media – especially those that positively mention your products.
- If you want greater customer engagement, you’ll be looking to measure increases in likes, shares, followers, mentions and backlinks.
When you’re trying to increase your strategic partnerships through your content marketing, then your KPI might be pretty obvious – how many new partnerships you manage to obtain during the given period. But you might also look at positive signs that potential partnerships could be on the horizon, such as looking at mentions and backlinks you’ve been able to implement.
Content marketing can be incredibly valuable for almost every business. Great content has the potential to provide significant return on investment – much more than other types of marketing. For smaller businesses with fewer members of staff, a content marketing strategy can be a challenge, but if you have the ability to create the right sort of content consistently, it is well worth the effort.
If you’re a small team that doesn’t have the right sort of skills, or you don’t have the capacity to take on a full-time content marketing team right now, don’t worry.
You don’t have to be responsible for your business and your content marketing strategy. We’re able to assess and take care of your content marketing needs – from examining the current landscape of your industry to writing content for you. Our team contains experts in SEO and professional writers, and we work together to ensure your website is optimised, and to provide the right sort of content that sends your website to the top of Google search results. Our packages are affordable, and we can provide the service that you need. For an initial discussion about what you want to achieve and how we can help you to do that, pop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Updated on February 19, 2021
Aires Loutsaris is a content marketing specialist working with some of the world’s biggest VC funded startups and eCommerce companies. He has 15 years of experience in organic search optimisation and content writing with over 2500 students enrolled in his Udemy SEO course. An ex-head of two award-winning agencies, he has lectured at the University of the Arts, London College of Fashion on content marketing and has consulted for all three of the Universities he studied at: The Open University, The University of Hull and Kings College University of London. Feel free to connect with Aires on LinkedIn or Facebook.