If you are a business owner, manager, influencer, or marketer, chances are, you are abreast with the worst kept secret in town: content marketing.
In the marketing world, content marketing is the new sheriff. Little wonder Seth Godin could not help but remark: “content marketing is all the marketing that’s left.” Naturally, a business can’t make gains without employing some form of content marketing – at least not in this digital age. In fact, by 2021, the content marketing industry would be worth 412 billion.
In such a competitive niche, it’s important that you apply strategies that work. This guide aims to provide you with this knowledge. By the end of this article, you’ll learn how to pick relevant keywords to target, and the strategies you can apply to make that content rank in the SERPs.
Before we get into that though…
What is Content Marketing
The Content Marketing Institute describes content marketing as 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.”
It is the process of creating content for the web and promoting it to attract visitors to your site. There are a lot of different ways that you can go about promoting your content. This guide will focus on content marketing for SEO.
Why Content Marketing?
To help you appreciate the great benefits of content marketing, I’ll let the data speak for itself. Here are some statistics to help you appreciate the dramatic effects content marketing can have on your business.
- HubSpot: marketers who harness content marketing are 13 times more likely to see positive ROI
- Demand Metric: content marketing, while costing 62% less than traditional marketing methods, delivers at least three times more ROI
- Gartner: close to 30% of companies have cut down on their advertising budgets in favor of content marketing
All of these stats highlight that done correctly, content marketing provides value for money. It complements other forms of marketing because done correctly, content that ranks on a search engine will bring traffic to your site month after month at no cost.
So that’s content marketing covered.
What Should I do?
You now have a definition of content marketing. Check. You have seen how data strongly backs the value content marketing delivers to businesses. Check.
Now you want some tips on how to implement a content marketing strategy. Here are some practical and actionable steps that can get you started as a content marketer.
Start with a Documented Content Marketing Strategy
It might surprise you to learn that over 60% of businesses do not have a documented content marketing strategy. That’s just like saying over 60% of businesses are walking a tightrope with blindfolds.
Talk about a recipe for disaster!
While it’s easy to get excited about the dramatic results content marketing delivers, no one should get their hands dirty without having a plan first. A well-defined business development strategy ensures that you do not need to reinvent the wheel every time. Instead, you can bank on a trusted and proven winning formula that can be repeated and adapted to produce results.
The benefits of having a documented content strategy cannot be overstated. The chart below provides perspective.
Clearly, businesses that have a strategy are more successful. An effective content marketing strategy should contain the following:
- A content strategy mission statement
- Customer persona
- Content/editorial calendar
The first step is to ensure your content strategy aligns with your business goals. You want to create content that would interest your customers.
An excellent way to start this process is to create an editorial mission statement. Take a look at this research from Orbitmedia to appreciate the difference having a documented mission statement makes.
A good mission statement should answer the following questions:
- Who are we?
- Who is our audience?
- How can we help our audience?
Let’s look at an example. Inc.com’s About page reads:
Welcome to Inc.com, the place where entrepreneurs and business owners can find useful information, advice, insights, resources and inspiration for running and growing their businesses.
Inc’s mission statement gives you a clear idea of who they are, who their audience is, and how they can help their audience. Here is a template you can use to develop a good content mission statement.
Define Your KPIs
Once you have your mission in the bag, you can expand it to create KPIs that are specific and measurable. Here are a few metrics that can let you in on how well you’re doing as a content marketer.
- Revenue per month: The truth is, more often than not, your revenue tells you how well your strategies are doing.
- Traffic and engagement online: These can be measured by observing the metrics listed below.
- Unique visitors: Finding out how many new and individual visitors are trooping to your site gives you a fair idea of the effectiveness of your content strategy. If your content is any good, you should have a steady influx – overtime – of visitors to your site.
- Page per session: As long as your website is interlinked with other content on the page, you are likely to have a higher page per session rate. It shows how engaging your content is.
- Organic leads: While leads through paid searches are valuable, leads generated through organic means proves to be more telling. Keeping taps on organic leads against paid leads is critical.
- Landing Page Views: Generating traffic to your website is crucial, but without users engaging with a landing page, it would be futile.
- Reader comments: Unusual metric to measure, right? Well, not quite. Interaction in the comments section of your post reveals how customers are engaging with your content.
- Likes and shares: Your social media would not need life-support if you have a growing audience that loves to click and share your content.
- Email subscriptions: If you’re using email marketing, then subscribers to your resources is a key metric to measure
These are a few metrics that may be relevant to your goals. The key here is that effective content marketing begins with knowing which KPIs to prioritize.
For an SEO campaign, I focus on revenue per month and unique visitors. While the other metrics are important, it’s cash in the bank that matters for your business.
Knowing and Understanding Your Audience
With your content marketing mission statement and KPIs in place, you are ready to start developing your content strategy. The key here is to create content targeted at your ideal customer.
You should find out the following about your audience:
- Demographics: These are the physical characteristics of your audience. For example, age, gender, location, etc.
- Psychographics: This refers to things that cannot be quantified. It includes things such as attitudes, beliefs, and interests.
The graphic below provides four pointers to knowing and understanding your audience.
The other thing you should keep in mind as you consider your audience is their customer journey. People online search for different things at different stages of the customer journey.
If they are interested in a niche, they will search for general terms related to the vertical. As they prepare to buy, they will search for comparison articles, and then buying terms. Your content marketing strategy should include content for each stage of the customer journey.
How to Conduct Keyword Research
A successful content marketing strategy starts with picking the right keywords for your content.
There are a lot of good tools online for finding what phrases and words people search for online. One of my favorite tools is Keywords Everywhere. This is a premium browser extension that shows you search volumes for keywords as you browse.
You can see how the tool provides you with keyword suggestions as you browse.
I find Keywords Everywhere provides a lot of better data and is generally easier to use than the Google Keyword Tool. Alternatively, check out Longtail Pro or one of the other premium SEO tools out there.
As you identify relevant keywords, review the backlink profile of the ranking content. For example, if I looked up graphic design, you’d see one of the ranking articles is from Interaction Design. The article has 44 referring domains.
Yet only five of these domains have a DR over 50. This means it’s a relatively easy phrase to rank on Google. That’s something worth considering given the article gets around 21.2k visitors a month.
This competitor research will help you understand how much work you need to put in to rank for a keyword. This is useful information for deciding what content you want to get ranking later on in your content marketing campaign.
Create Content that is Better than the Competition
Once you’ve shortlisted the keywords you want to target, then you’ll need to start creating content. The best way to assess the kind of content you should be creating is to review the current search results.
Pay attention to the content that is ranking in positions 1-3. Check out the content they’ve created. You can learn things like:
- What kind of content should you create. For example, do list posts work well for that keyword?
- The length of the article you should write. I recommend you create something that is at least as long as your competitors
- The style of the article. Do they try to sell anything in the post? This could be a monetization opportunity for you
When you get around to writing your content, aim to create something that is at least as good as, if not better than, the competition. You’ll be competing with this content for the top spot. If your content is not as good as your competitors, then you are going to struggle to get and maintain the position.
Basic Editorial Guidelines
Creating content for an online audience requires a different style of writing to what you might be used to. It’s good to establish an editorial style for yourself, or your team.
I’ve spent the last couple of years creating content across a couple of different niches. I’ve had a lot of different editors during this time. If I could condense all they’ve shared into a couple of bullet points, it would be as follows:
- Pretend you’re writing for a college educated reader who speaks English as a second language
- Add your target keyword once every 5 paragraphs or so
- Keep your paragraphs under 5 lines, and aim for 2-4 lines
- Depending on your niche, keep your content informal and engaging
- Make sure your article has a purpose. Be clear what people will gain from reading your content
Those are my five writing tips from over five years of writing. The only other things I might add to that list are to check your grammar using Grammarly. You’ll be amazed at how many mistakes you make when writing.
Well, maybe you don’t make as many grammatical mistakes as I do!
Learn to Run Guest Post Campaigns at Scale
So that covers some basic tips on how to create content for your site. You now need to get the content you just published ranking on Google, so you can start getting that ROI we talked about in the stats section.
The two most common ways to build links to a website are:
- Guest posting. This is what I’m doing right now
- Asking for a link insert on an existing piece of content
You undoubtedly know all of this already. Where people tend to trip themselves up is over what kind of sites they should get links from. Below is my quick summary of what I look for from an ideal backlink:
- DA/ DR 50+
- Trust Flow 20+
- Visitors: 3k+
- Niche relevant
If you can get many links from these types of sites, then you’ll get your content ranking in no time. Of course, you need to find those types of websites.
The way I find suitable websites for a guest post campaign is pretty simple. I review the backlink profile of a big site in my niche with an SEO tool, say Hubspot, for example. Then I export the backlinks of the website to an excel sheet.
Once I’ve done this, I’ll use an email finder like Voila Norbert to get the relevant email address for the editor. I’ll then insert these email addresses into an outreach tool like Mailshake, create an email template, and ask for a guest post.
Below is an example email template you could use for such a campaign.
Hope you’re having a great day. I’m writing a guest post for [WEBSITE] on [TOPIC]. I came across your site and saw you had some relevant content. Rather than link to it directly, I wanted to check if you have any content you are focused on promoting at the moment?
Look forward to hearing back from you. Speak soon,
The response rate from this kind of email template is really high. The reason for this is you are just offering something of value and not asking for anything in return.
Only after you get a response should you follow up with your guest post pitch. It’s a nice strategy that gets you started on the right foot.
So there you have it. That was my guide to content marketing. A couple of years of experience crammed up into just over 2,000 words. Yet hopefully, you’ll find my advice useful.
The guide started with a review of the fundamentals of content marketing. We covered what content marketing is and why you should use it as a means of promoting your website. We then got practical.
In the actionable section of this guide, we covered how to mission statement, the types of KPI you could use, and the importance of knowing your audience. We then covered the practical parts of SEO. And that’s a rap!
You now need to decide what to do with this knowledge. I hope you apply some of the tips I shared in this article to help you achieve your business goals — best of luck.
Bio: Owen Baker is the content marketing lead for Voila Norbert. When he’s not writing away on his computer, you can find him studying SEO and online marketing.