If the “content police” showed up at your office asking to see your content plan, would you be able to show them one?
Now, content jail may not be a real thing, but the effects of patchwork and poorly planned content strategy on your business can be criminal short and long-term.
We’ve mentioned before that 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.
Step 1: Identify Your Central Topic
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. When it comes to generating online leads, you need to be creating content around topics your audience finds compelling. Often, you’re working to solve a problem faced by your customers. The issue is, though, your customers face many problems each day, and you’re probably ill-equipped to serve as a solution to each one of those issues.
The key to topic selection involves identifying highly searched keywords and phrases for which your business can eventually serve as a solutions provider.
Let’s look at an example.
As a Content Marketing Agency, our target audience is searching online both for:
- Ways to increase the number of sales-qualified leads (SQLs) they receive
- How to make relationships with news outlets to increase PR outreach capabilities
With the choice of these two topics, which is more relevant to the offerings provided by a Content Marketing Agency like Beacons Point? If you guessed option #1, congrats! No content police for you!
While we could research and write content about developing relationships with local media, etc. with the intent of driving traffic around that topic, we wouldn’t be doing ourselves (or the readers) any favors with an eventual pitch of content marketing services. We would want to drive leads who have expressed an interest in a topic area that can be helped directly by content marketing service offerings.
Step 2: Create a “topic cluster”
“Topic clusters” are SEO-focused content planning mechanisms popularized by HubSpot. They were ideated in response to Google’s algorithm updates over the past seven years, Hummingbird and RankBrain, that 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.
As seen in the simple topic cluster above, developed by the Content Marketing Institute, this method provides an easy way to visualize how your central topic (workout routines) connects to more specific subtopics (workout routines to lose fat) and vice versa.
HubSpot's proprietary SEO cluster tool allows you to keep track of all of the topics you plan on writing around a primary topic, and make sure all subtopics are linked back to that central topic. This interlinking practice is critical because it tells Google that your Pillar Page on “workout routines” is comprehensive, giving you an edge against the competition for this high-value key topic.
HubSpot sums up the benefits of the Topic Cluster approach in this way:
“This setup makes it harder for search engines to crawl through all the pages quickly. Further, HubSpot, and many similar businesses that invest in content, find themselves with dozens of web pages that cover similar topic areas. All these pages end up competing with each other to get found by search engines, and ultimately, the searcher. A more orderly, thoughtful arrangement is needed -- one that tells search engines what page should be prioritized and displayed for a main topic and then organizes all the pages related to that topic in one interlinked cluster.”
Step 3: Identify high-value content offers
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 do have and what you don’t at this stage. You have thousands of words intended to educate and inform your target audience. You don’t yet have those actionable takeaway items that allow you to capture and nurture leads from stranger, to lead, to sales-qualified lead.
It can be fun to think of your readers like kids entering a fast-food restaurant. They’re looking at the menu, but they’re also looking around to see what new and exciting, “exclusive” or “limited time only” toy will be sitting atop the tray when the food arrives.
Your readers want to learn how to solve their problems, but if you can provide concrete plans of action for them, you’re more likely to capture their attention, and subsequently, their information quickly.
High-value, action-oriented takeaways are necessary for every stage of the buyer’s journey. Let’s look at some common lead capture mechanisms.
Awareness Stage Content Offers
In the awareness stage, your focus is still on education, but an awareness stage content offer provides more than just information; it provides actionable steps to solve a problem. Typical content offers can include:
- Beginners Guide to “X”
- A downloadable, extended version of your Pillar Page
Consideration Stage Content Offers
In the Consideration stage, leads have learned about the various options available to solve their problem, and they’re starting to vet the alternatives. Now is your time to introduce your solution and capture interest with offers like:
- Product demos
- In-depth webinars
- Product comparison guides
- ROI calculators
Decision Stage Content Offers
Decision content offers aim to serve as that last push to propel a lead into a position to purchase, making the sales process much more efficient. Through decision-stage offers, you’re painting the picture of what the customer-vendor relationship would look like and answering all remaining questions about your offerings. Decision stage offers can include:
- Case studies
- Pricing sheets
- Free consultations
- Free samples
Remember the Gameplan
Setting up campaigns is simple but not always easy. With a trusted process, you can methodically break up the work into manageable pieces. Start with identifying a central topic around. From there, research relevant subtopics that you can create a variety of content around to support that “pillar” topic. All of that upfront work allows you to easily compile the big ideas from each piece of content you’ve produced into your topic’s Pillar Page.
Still with me? Support visits to your pillar page with lead capture opportunities and enter leads into automated workflows from which you can organically nurture them into happy and informed customers.
Does content planning sound like a lot? Well, it is. But it’s worth it, and Beacons Point is here to help you start your inbound journey off on the right foot. Contact us for a complimentary consultation with a content strategist.