The internet runs on content — relatable and engaging content anyone can easily find, understand, and apply. In today’s information age, consumers have endless information at their fingertips 24/7/365. They expect more from companies than ever before, and rightfully so.
Suppose your organization isn’t producing engaging and helpful content for potential customers and partners. In that case, you miss out on one of the most effective tools for reaching both current and potential audiences.
But what constitutes good content? Expert knowledge? Humor? Clear and concise information?
Yes, to all of the above.
The best-written content is easy to digest and well-informed. Spend 30 minutes researching any subject, and you'll quickly find plenty of examples of objectively lousy content. Whether it's dense paragraphs full of technical jargon, articles with unclear or meandering topics, or crowdsourced information littered with incorrect facts, the internet is home to plenty of low-quality content.
You can write a ton of content covering every possible topic in your industry to build a complete content strategy, but that content won't get you anywhere if it isn't engaging. Even if you do everything you can to implement a reliable SEO strategy across your website, you won't get the results you want if Google sees people aren't interacting with your content.
For optimal performance among your audience and search engines, and to drive sales, you can't underestimate the power of engaging content.
To gauge whether your content is engaging, start by considering what your traffic is in general. Are you attracting a decent number of people to your website? If so, which pages are gaining the most traffic?
If you look at your analytics and find that any pages beyond your homepage bring in higher-than-average traffic, consider why those pages are outperforming others.
A content audit, also referred to as a “content inventory,” describes the process of identifying and organizing previously created content into distinct topic areas. A content inventory is a necessary step in the content planning process if you have done any content marketing in the past, whether blog posts, videos, or gated resources like webinars, guides, and white papers.
Setting off on a content marketing strategy without conducting a content inventory may seem like a time-saver, but it could potentially set you back days, if not weeks.
Inbound marketing principles dictate content should be organized around your target buyer persona's topics of interest when planning new content. Choose relevant topics via cumulative results of persona, keyword, and competitor research.
The most important result of a content inventory exercise is you’ll know exactly what content you do and don't have for a target topic.
The next step on your content journey is knowing where you’ve already been.
To help organize all of your content in a central location, keep a spreadsheet where you can quickly answer critical questions and provide essential information about your content. Spreadsheets are advantageous because they allow simple visualization into the weighting of your past content efforts.
Creating content is difficult, but aligning a content strategy might be a more significant challenge. Should you focus on gated or ungated pieces? Should you emphasize video? Should you start a podcast?
It's not enough to simply create content — it must be helpful and valuable to your audience. You have to ensure it evokes the desired reaction so you can effectively drive customer action. Most importantly, you have to leverage your creativity to create content that strikes the perfect balance between engaging and informative.
Many marketers make the mistake of creating content that speaks to everyone instead of focusing on the groups of people that are their best target customers.
Creating buyer personas is the best way to gain insights into your target audience. As such, you're able to effectively address their pain points, learn about their goals for what they'd like to achieve, where they consume content, and more.
Keyword research allows you to develop plans for what content you should create based on competition and search volume. Goldmine keywords and phrases face low to moderate competition with high search volume.
If you’re fortunate enough to find these types of keywords related to the pain points you’re trying to address, it’s crucial to develop topical completeness around them.
Stalk your competitors! You share customers, so if a content strategy is working for them, there's a good chance targeting similar topic areas will work for you.
It’s a quick way to keep an eye on the competition and provide a jumping-off point towards where to look next for content direction. Identify what's working, what's ranking, and then use that information to create something even better.
When we take on a new client, most of the time, we find they have blogs that are criminally underutilized. However, that’s not to say a full-fledged blog will increase leads and traffic overnight. Blog strategy is a marathon, not a sprint, and it can take a lot for small marketing teams to devote the necessary resources to it when the ROI is not always plainly seen.
Many companies simply don't have the resources needed to maintain their blog — working without a dedicated content writer (or teams of writers) who regularly produce high-quality content. Even if they have the resources, some companies abandon their blog because they don't perceive it as beneficial. They may have tried blogging in the past, but the results were so underwhelming they discouraged the marketing team from continuing. At the same time, success in other areas may lead marketing teams to stray from blogging simply because it seems obsolete.
However, if ramping up content production is your goal, a thriving blog has to be a top priority for your marketing team. If you aren't utilizing your blog the way you should, you could be missing out on an opportunity to comment on industry “hot topics” and establish your position as an authority in your space. Regular blogging increases traffic, improves your credibility online, and supplements your website to improve conversions and sales in the long term.
Content marketing boils down to your ability to communicate your business’s value propositions and the problems you can solve for your target audience consistently and comprehensively. With that in mind, it’s crucial that when setting up a campaign, all pieces of content should center around a single, big idea or high-level “topic” and branch off systematically from there.
This topic can be anything that garners a large amount of search volume or interest from your target audience, but it must also eventually relate your offerings to that audience.
It’s essential to have a roadmap to get from a big content idea to paying customers. To get your campaign setup process started, let’s look at it step-by-step, from topic selection to specific lead capture and nurture opportunities.
Free tools like Google Keyword Planner and paid tools that offer extra granularity and functionality like HubSpot, SEMRush, and MOZ allow you to research key topics related to your business that users are searching for online.
The key to topic selection involves identifying highly searched keywords and phrases for which your business can eventually serve as a solutions provider.
These updates leveraged machine learning to derive context from people’s searches, changing the routine of proper content planning subtly from a keyword-focused approach to a topic-centric model.
Now that you have identified a central topic and popular subtopics with which to fill out a topic cluster, you have the basis of any enduring inbound marketing campaign. However, it’s important to understand what you have and don’t have at this stage.
You have thousands of words intended to educate and inform your target audience. What you don’t have yet are actionable takeaway items that allow you to capture and nurture leads along the buyer’s journey.
The widely-used funnel approach to the buyer’s journey illustrates turning leads into warm prospects interested in making a purchase decision about your product or service by the end of the funnel. It shows how an audience will start broad and slowly get smaller as unqualified leads drop off before a purchase decision.
Can you create great campaigns with the traditional funnel method of thinking? Yes, you can. However, to operate as a true inbound marketer, your approach may need a revamp.
The inbound marketing theory, popularized by HubSpot, urges companies to provide a prospect with all of the resources they may need to make an informed decision at their own pace.
The typical marketing funnel can lead marketers to believe they have far more control over a particular customer journey than they do.
A traditional funnel represents a forceful approach to campaign planning. By operating under the mindset that you should push your leads down a funnel, you’re not doing a great job of empowering them to choose your final conversion action on their own time.
The “campfire” model developed by Beacons Point flips the funnel on its head. It’s a culture shift that will empower your team to think more empathetic and holistically about your customers’ needs.
Don't expect the subject matter expert to become an expert communicator or a freelance writer to learn rocket science (or whatever your organization does) overnight. Organize an interview between someone on your marketing team and various subject matter experts in the company, then just talk!
When it comes time to have the conversation, be sure to record the interview so your marketing team can use it to generate content. Once you have the recording, we recommend transcribing the interview and copying it into the outline before sending it to a writer. Even if the writer isn’t present during the conversation, the outline will have all the relevant facts, expertise, and insights to shape into a coherent and engaging story.
Finally, when the writer finishes their first draft, your subject matter experts should review it to ensure technical accuracy.
Check out our recorded demo which takes you behind the curtain of the exact template we use for all of our clients to derive expertise from their team members. We use these conversations to create different content pieces that we leverage and repurpose for powerful content marketing.
We’ll level with you — content marketing is challenging. Our team experienced some trial and error before we found a streamlined way to create content. If you’re committed to consistent content production, a template and technique like the one outlined above are critical to your success.
Ideally, you should stock your calendar with three months worth of content topics with a posting cadence of once a week.
This not only helps you stick to a schedule and post content on time, but it also gives you a full picture of everything you have published and will publish.
Once you have a list of topics and your three-month plan, it’s time to make outlines.
Like content planning is the blueprint for your overall strategy, outlines are the blueprints for the individual pieces.
According to HubSpot, 90 percent of the content marketing teams create is never touched by the sales department.
If such is the case in your organization, these two departments essentially do the same job twice. It’s time to loop them in!
A huge part of content planning is proper organization and management. Managing your content process and keeping your team on schedule can be overwhelming.
The good news is you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are several tools you can use to keep your process running smoothly. Here are some of our favorites: Asana, Slack, HubSpot, and SEMRush.