4 Simple Steps That Transform How You Approach Content Marketing
Content marketing. Is it a real business strategy or just the latest wheeze from the online marketing community?
No doubt you’ve heard that "content is king," but people often find it hard to understand where to start and how to identify the business benefits. If you’re unsure, just answer this question -- Do you want to be perceived as an authority in your market or industry?
If the answer is yes, then you need to master content marketing. And in this article, you’re going to learn how to do it in four easy steps.
The content equation.
Let’s start with the basics. If you want content marketing to work for you and your business, there is one simple equation that you need to memorize and always keep in mind. It looks like this -- great content + great outreach = great content marketing.
It’s as simple as that. All you need to consider is that content on it’s own is not enough. You need to work hard on outreach -- really hard. You need to work harder, in fact, than you do on creating the content in the first place.
But don’t get disheartened. There is a predictable, step-by-step process for creating and promoting your content, and there are several types of content that are proven to work to help you get more social shares and more backlinks to your website. Once you know how to do it, you’ll become the authority figure in your industry.
Before we get started, there is one last point to consider. Increasingly, content marketing is the point where SEO, blogging and social media converge. It’s like the glue that binds everything together. The businesses that understand this and leverage this opportunity will reap the rewards.
Enough background -- let’s show you how to do it.
Step 1 -- Identify influencers and popular content.
The old military adage that time spent on reconnaissance is time rarely wasted applies to content marketing too. By doing some research, you remove the guesswork involved and virtually guarantee a successful outcome.
Your initial research is focused on two areas -- identifying influencers and identifying popular content.
Influencers are any non-competing person, blogger or business who has an audience similar to your target market. Your influencers will help you with the heavy lifting of promoting your content. There are a number of tools to identify influencers and websites, like Alltop, which list the most popular blogs.
We’ll come back to influencers later, but for now, you just need to create an initial list. You can add to them over time -- don’t worry about getting it 100 percent right straight off the bat.
Next, you need to identify content that your audience already likes. You can use tools like Ahrefs to help. The reason this is important is twofold. First, if you focus on what works, you’ll start to see which types of content resonate with your audience. This will give you some inspiration. Second, you’ll see which influencers are creating the most shared content, and you can add them to your list.
Step 2 -- Use proven content frameworks.
Now that you know who the movers and shakers are and which content is most popular, you can start to create your own. But you don’t need to leave it to chance. You should use one of several types of proven content to get results. Here are some to get you started:
Ultimate guides -- Anywhere from 3,000 to 20,000 words in length, a definitive guide takes time to prepare. But is well worth the effort because it positions you as an authority figure.
Expert roundups -- This type of roundup content is created by your influencers. Pick a subject and ask them for their opinions, or ask them to choose their favorite hint or tip. Once you get about 20 replies, you can pull them together. The great thing is they’ll help promote it for you.
Guest posts -- Don’t confuse old style, spammy guest posting with getting your content featured in high quality, curated blogs with an engaged audience. Once you’ve developed relationships with your influencers, they’re far more likely to accept your content ideas.
Buyers’ guides -- Content is great for improving conversion rates, and a well-written buyer’s guide is ideal for the purpose. People are busy these days, and they appreciate that you have pulled together all of the important facts to help them make an informed purchasing decision.
How-to guides -- A step-by-step guide positions you as a helpful expert, educating your customers on a particular subject. If you’re just starting out with content marketing, this is the ideal starting point.
Step 3 -- Content visuals and repurposing.
Once you’ve prepared your content, you need to get the visual aspects right. The reason is simple -- visual content gets more shares than purely text-based content. People are far more likely to share something that is visually engaging.
It doesn’t stop there. Different audiences prefer to consume their content in different ways. By repurposing your content for different audiences, you’ll get more bang for your buck. Creating content takes time and costs money, so this is a perfect way to extend the life of your content.
Here are some proven types of visual content you can use:
Slides -- Slideshare is a bit like YouTube for slides. Converting content to slides can be a quick and easy way to reach a new audience.
Infographics -- When done well, an infographic can make a compelling piece of content. Try to limit yourself to one key argument, supported by 10-12 facts or statistics. Any more than that and you risk creating a jumble of facts and figures.
Video -- Creating video can be as simple as getting your phone out and pressing record. If you sell physical products, as strange as it may seem, unboxing videos are a huge video phenomenon.
Step 4 -- Promoting your content.
Now that you have created content that you know is popular, features great content from proven influencers, is based around a proven content framework and looks fantastic, all that remains is to start promoting it.
If you’ve done your homework identifying influencers, you just need to let them know about your content. Sure, you can lay some foundations like following them on social media, commenting on their blog and interacting with their communities, but sooner or later you’ll need to get your content where it matters -- in front of their eyeballs.
There’s no right or wrong here. Influencers know when they have great content in front of them that their audience will want to discover. You just need to make a commitment to promoting your content to them. Just think of yourself as being a band promoting their album -- you’ve got to take your content on the road.
Ultimately, you’re going to have to send them an email to give them a heads up. Nothing flashy or in depth, just a polite note to ask them for their feedback and to let them know they’ve been featured. Even better, use a specialised tool to automate your outreach.
And what’s the first thing they’re going to do when they see your beautiful content which references them? Hit the Tweet, Like or Plus button, and share it with their followers. Over time, you’ll pick up more social shares and more backlinks, and you’ll be rewarded with higher rankings and more traffic.
Again, there are some fantastic tools that make the whole outreach process so efficient. To some extent, outreach is a numbers game. To swing the odds in your favor, you need to think of volume. It would be nice if you could get some top influencers onboard, but maybe that’s a long term goal. In the early stages, you just need to reach out to as many influencers as possible, and try to develop mutually beneficial relationships with them.
Don’t think outreach is a one time event though. Keep looking for opportunities to get your content featured, and keep promoting it through your social media channels. Great content has a long shelf life, so it can work for you well into the future.
Content marketing works better if you follow a proven, step-by-step formula. It means identifying influencers who already have an engaged audience and who can help you. It means using proven types of content such as authority guides, roundups, guest posts and buyers’ guides.
When creating content, remember to make it visually appealing because visual content gets more shares. And remember, outreach is a key part of the content marketing equation because your influencers will play a major role in the success of your content.
Tony Messer is the co-founder and CEO of UK web hosting company Pickaweb. Having worked with thousands of small businesses, ecommerce retailers and startups, Tony knows what it takes to grow an online business. He is the author of two books on online marketing.