At Stellar SEO, we’ve utilized content marketing to grow our own client base and increase conversions since our launch in 2012. We’ve gathered helpful information along our journey and compiled it into the Ultimate Beginners Guide to Engaging Content Marketing in 2021.
We want to share this guide, as it will help you develop and execute a content marketing strategy. This strategy will not only help you grow your business effectively but also efficiently without wasting any time, money, or effort.
An effective content marketing strategy paired with quality focused link acquisition can lead to results like this:
And for smaller websites, like this:
There is no denying that link building and content marketing, when paired correctly can lead to impressive and consistent growth. Let’s look at how you can do this for your company as well!
Content Marketing Guide for Beginners
In your content marketing efforts, you might be questioning whether or not you’re using it effectively to reach your audience and grow your business. It’s understandable to feel that way, especially when you’re not seeing the results you had hoped for.
Consistent, high-quality content marketing is one of the biggest and most effective tools you can keep in your marketing arsenal to reach your company goals. Everything from brand awareness and lead generation to web traffic and online authority, content marketing can take your business to the next level and bring all those benefits, if done correctly.
So, can you guess where businesses go wrong in their approach to content marketing? They don’t have a documented content marketing strategy.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, 65% of the most successful content marketers have a documented content marketing strategy, whereas the remaining unsuccessful 14% didn’t have a documented strategy.
Lack of Strategy Leads to Failed Efforts
The lack of strategy is what hurts businesses the most. Having your strategy in writing is what’s going to ensure you’re doing everything you need to do to reach your business goals.
It’s similar to going to the store without a list of the things you need. Without your list to follow, you’re more than likely going to end up with several things you don’t need. The same logic applies to your content marketing strategy… Without a strategy in place, your efforts will be for nothing and won’t reach the audience that can truly benefit from your content.
In 2017, the Content Marketing Institute conducted a survey among 414 marketers to see where their greatest educational needs were in reference to content marketing. This may not come as a surprise to you, but one of their greatest educational needs was learning how to build a content marketing strategy, at a whopping 64%.
All too often, businesses will enter the world of content marketing without a complete understanding of what content marketing actually is, let alone having a solid content marketing strategy in place.
So the question now is how can you avoid wasting your time on a wrong or ineffective content marketing strategy?
Today, we are going to explore content marketing from start to finish so that you can confidently answer that question and put together your own content marketing plan.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a strategic and comprehensive marketing approach that focuses on the creation and distribution of online materials. These online materials are relevant, valuable, and consistent with a targeted online audience with the intent of customer interactions that result in profits.
Why is Content Marketing So Important?
From a business standpoint, content marketing is important for businesses today because it has become the “new norm” for building trust, establishing authority, increasing web traffic, and cultivating loyal customers. From a customer standpoint, content marketing is important because it’s consistently evolving to meet customer needs and expectations.
Word of advice: It’s much riskier to neglect content marketing than it ever would be to invest in it.
Businesses have always obliged by the motto “customers first,” but that was typically referenced with brick-and-mortar stores, where associates would interact with customers face-to-face. Now, customers not only have the option to shop in-store, but they also have the ease and convenience of shopping online with access to valuable information to help them with purchasing decisions.
Content marketing has not only changed customer expectations, but it has also transformed customer behaviors. According to pymnts.com, 88% of consumers research the products and services they want before actually making a purchase… they are what some would call “the informed customers.”
Consumers state that the biggest drawback of online shopping is the lack of tangibility from not being able to physically touch or try the product before buying it… But finding helpful and valuable information about a product helps them feel better about their purchasing decision, whether it’s actual product information or online customer reviews about the product, service, or company.
In fact, reading online reviews have become a key factor for consumers before making purchasing decisions. That’s why so many businesses proudly display them on their sites to show that they are a trustworthy site to do business with.
A consumer survey conducted by Bright Local revealed that 76% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. The survey further states that 32% of consumers will go directly to a company’s website after reading positive reviews about a company or its products and services.
In knowing that, where do you think customers get a lot of their information from? From various forms of content marketing. Once the consumer deems a company as trustworthy, they head right over to the company website and see what else the company offers, allowing them to be further educated on what the company has to offer through the company’s content marketing.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing generates over three times as many leads as outbound marketing and costs 62% less. With outbound marketing, it can make your audience feel pushed or rushed to make a purchase… It’s too “in your face” and consumers simply don’t respond well to that, both in-person and online.
You have to understand that we are in the era of the informed customer… it doesn’t take pushy ads to make them buy. If you can provide the information they’re looking for in reference to the purchases they potentially want to make, the sales will come, and content marketing is your ticket to bridging the gap between the brand and the customer.
Content Marketing Examples
Now that you know what content marketing is and why it’s so important, it will be even more helpful to have examples of the different types of content marketing you can use to reach and convert your target audience.
Having a blog on your site is the best way to provide helpful and valuable information to your audience that corresponds with the products or services you’re selling. Remember, customers are always looking for answers or solutions to a particular problem or set of problems, and your business can be the answer a customer is looking for.
The great thing about blog posts is that they not only allow you to provide information to help establish your business as an authority in your niche, but blogs also allow you to improve SEO and boost organic traffic. You just have to make sure the content you’re creating is relevant to the products or services you’re offering and that the content has a purpose with a clear CTA (call-to-action). If you don’t have time to create your own blog posts, check out our blog writing service.
Infographics are a fun way to wake up long or short-form content and make it easier for your audience to consume. They’re a great way to visually captivate your audience through pictures with fewer words. Ultimately, infographics make it easier to take complex information like statistics and certain processes, and put it in a format that’s easier to understand.
Videos are a very versatile form of content marketing. Not only does it engage your audience on multiple different levels, but it also improves your ROI as well as boost conversions.
Research from Hubspot found that over 50% of consumers state that they want to see videos from brands they interact with.
In knowing that, be sure that you’re posting video content that’s appealing to your audience based on the stage they’re in during their buyer’s journey.
If you don’t have the in-house team to produce video content, be sure to check out our recommended service in our guide to “The Best Link Building Services of 2020”.
User-generated content is an effective form of content marketing and has been proven to help businesses reach their targeted goals. Why? Because it gets the customers involved.
User-generated content thrives on customer input and when your customers have a positive experience with your brand, they’re going to be one of your biggest sources of referral traffic.
In fact, according to tintup.com, more than 86% of companies today have a system in place that incorporates user-generated content as part of its content marketing strategy.
Case studies are an effective form of content marketing that helps leads learn more about your business from established customers. With case studies, you’re telling customer stories of their buyer’s journey, from start to finish, showcasing how your products or services helped them.
To get the most benefits from utilizing case studies, try to incorporate customers that will tell their story but also provide you with statistical information and quotes to prove just how much your business helped them. That will help convert your lead into a paying customer.
Industry influencers are very effective in content marketing just for the simple fact that they help you gain access to an audience you previously weren’t able to reach. Just make sure the influencer you’re trying to connect with is in your niche.
If you’re offering some type of software or program, the go-to type of content marketing to offer is how-to guides to get your audience comfortable with what you’re offering before actually buying it. Training courses are also a great way to give potential customers a sample of your product before purchasing it.
Customer Reviews and Testimonials
Customer reviews and testimonials are similar to user-generated content in the aspect that the content is generated directly from your audience. If you can recall above, in the section of Why
Content Marketing is So Important, you’ll note that 76% of customers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, and incorporating them on your company site will just instill added trust in your audience.
Content Marketing Trends to Keep an Eye on in 2020
In the last decade, content marketing has seen its fair share of changes… but social media has made a major impact on content marketing, transforming the entire digital landscape. Everything from the different types of platforms to the different types of content to feature on those platforms, social media gives businesses a plethora of options to choose from as to how they want to interact with their audience.
In interacting with your audience, one of the biggest factors that consumers are looking for in brands is transparency and authenticity.
As you already know, customers are doing their fair share of research before making purchases (the informed consumer). The fact that consumers are researching businesses and their trustworthiness, it’s allowing businesses to be transparent and authentic in their content marketing approaches to further establish trust.
With such a high demand for authenticity and transparency in brands, businesses are meeting consumer demands with content marketing through social media platforms. But it’s not necessarily about the type of content marketing used, it’s more so about the actual content of the content… In other words, what the content is talking about.
The 2020 content marketing trends are meant to provoke thought, grab attention, entertain, and spark emotion… ultimately to get your audience talking and interacting with your brand. Here are a few of the biggest content marketing trends on social media to look out for this year.
Me after ordering my 10th ASOS package this month 🤳
cc: goodgirlbadthoughts pic.twitter.com/utlWHnfTHH
— ASOS (@ASOS) December 10, 2019
Memes aren’t necessarily the most informative or educational type of content marketing, but they are sure-fire ways to keep your audience engaged and entertained, especially if you can find or create memes that match the overall tone and voice of your brand.
The way memes benefit businesses the most is that it humanizes your brand… people find memes to be entertaining and oftentimes relatable. By showing this side of your brand, your audience will not only support your business but also refer your business to others.
They say if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything, and that reason alone is why more and more businesses are taking a stand on various political, environmental, and social issues.
PR Newswire reported a study by the social impact consulting firm DoSomething Strategic, and found that 66% of young consumers say that a brand’s association with a social cause positively impacts their overall impression of a brand.
58% say that a brand’s association with a cause increases the likelihood of their audience shopping with that brand.
Employee advocacy isn’t a common form of content but a business showcasing and celebrating its staff is growing in popularity. Why? Because it not only speaks to the overall impression of a company but it also adds depth to the brand, which in turn, humanizes the brand.
Another major benefit of employee advocacy on social media is that it also helps drive talent acquisition. When your audience sees how happy your staff is, it makes them want to join your team as well. This can be monumental for your business being that Forbes reported that more than half of US workers are unhappy at their jobs.
The right post of employee advocacy can potentially attract the right kind of employees for your business.
Gamification and Interactivity
Being that we are in the era of the informed customer, you will also realize that customers want to be heard, and gamification and interactivity is a way for customers’ voices to be heard. Not to mention that the attention span of most consumers is pretty narrow, thanks to information overload.
But gamification and interactivity on social media through polls, interactive videos, and games allow businesses to quickly convey the message they want their audience to receive in a fun and interactive way, according to eurekaalert.org.
It’s through these interactive activities that brands are not only able to boost engagement and build brand awareness but it also allows businesses to tap into what their audience likes and is interested in. This gives businesses the opportunity to further customize their content marketing and make it more appealing to their target audience.
Creating a Winning Content Marketing Strategy in 2020
Define Your Mission and Your Goals
One of the best ways to get your content marketing strategy headed in the right direction is to define your mission and your goals. Your content marketing mission statement is a brief explanation of the important factors of your content marketing strategy: who your target audience is, how you plan to reach them, and how they will benefit from the content you provide.
In defining your content marketing mission statement, you will also need to define your content marketing goals and how your mission statement will help your business achieve these goals.
Some reasonable goals to set would be:
- An increase in traffic to your site
- Build influence and authority to be established as a thought leader
- Improve revenue and increase sales
- Acquire high-quality leads
Determine Your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
Determining your KPIs is the best way to help you achieve content marketing goals simply because KPIs make your goals specific and measurable. The way KPIs help you achieve your goals is by providing you with milestone checkers for you to check off every time you reach a certain goal.
Things like acquiring more leads or email signups within a month or year, reaching a specific revenue target each quarter, and improving your search rankings, are all goals that KPIs can measure for you to help you keep track of the progress of your content marketing efforts.
Know and Understand Your Audience
One of the biggest parts of your content marketing mission is to know who your target audience is and how to reach them, right? Of course. Well, in order to find out that information, you’re going to need to conduct a bit of research… This research is what’s going to help you create content that’s relevant to your audience.
Here’s the information you need to collect:
Age, gender, income, and education are the major pieces of data you need to collect to get insight into your audience’s key interests. You can obtain this information through analytics from visitors to your site, social media followers, and email subscribers.
Google Analytics gives you access to this information by simply going to Audience >> Interests >> Overview. Once you’ve followed those steps, you’ll be able to see the various in-market segments your site visitors fall into.
Feedback From Customers
Feedback from customers is one of the best ways to learn even more about your customers outside of analytics. It gives you insight into these specific areas of your target audience:
- Understanding the priorities of your readers
- How to provide solutions through your content
- Where to best reach them
- How they feel about your current content
Once you gather the data, you must craft it into a buyer persona. You may even have multiple buyer personas.
Create Your Buyer Persona
By obtaining demographics and feedback from customers, you’re going to be able to create your buyer persona. Your buyer persona is a description of your ideal customer or reader and it helps you to create content more specific to meet their needs.
Conduct a Content Audit
If you already have a business, then you more than likely already have various types of content published. With that, it’s important to conduct a content audit to determine if the content you currently have is helping your business meet its goals.
If you are a new business with no content yet, just jump ahead to determining the best channels to reach your audience.
The best way to conduct a content audit is to do it in three steps:
- Log all the content you have (blog posts, guest blog posts, and other online materials)
- Determine how useful or helpful it is (is it working?)
- Identify any gaps.
There are different content auditing tools to help you with logging your content. SEMRush and Screaming Frog are great tools to help.
Determine the Best Channels to Reach Your Audience
Determining the best channels to reach your audience is essentially figuring out where they hang out the most online. In order to do this, you’re going to have to dig back into some web analytics. This will also be much easier to do if you already have a good online presence.
Web analytical tools like Google Analytics and Buzzsumo are great tools. These tools will provide information like shares by network, content type, length of content, and top-performing pieces of content within the past year.
With this information in your arsenal, you’ll be able to better determine which networks to target to maximize your engagement on social media as well as to increase your social shares.
Determine What Types of Content to Create
In determining which types of content to create, you’ll quickly discover that there are certain content types that every content marketing strategy will, and should, have. The most successful content marketing strategies typically have a core set of content types on their own site.
Blog posts are the most common forms of content that deliver some of the best results. But you also can’t forget about other effective content types like video marketing, infographics, and podcasts.
In fact, Edison Research states that four out of ten Americans tune into podcasts, especially with the emergence of smart speakers and other voice-controlled devices. Just imagine your content establishing you as a thought leader to a point where if you created podcast content, your audience would tune in. That type of exposure can do a world of good for your business. We share our top pick for a podcast booking service in our guide to the best link building services of 2020.
Identify, Delegate, and Allocate Resources and Responsibilities
At this point in your content marketing strategy, you know what type of content you want to create, you know the audience it’s meant for, and you know where you want to share it. The next part of your content marketing strategy is to identify, delegate, and allocate your resources and responsibilities.
So what does that mean? That means that you’re not doing everything alone. During this stage, you’re going to determine:
- The tools and resources needed to create your content: freelancers, in-house content creators, or industry specialists in graphic design or video creation.
- The workflow of content: the outline, the post, relevant images, edits, revisions, upload, and publish.
- Persons in charge of content production: content marketing manager, chief marketing officer, or industry experts
Once your content has gone through this stage, you will then be ready to create your content calendar to track what exactly will be published and when it will be published.
Create Your Content Calendar
By creating a content calendar, you’ll know what content is being published, where it’s being published, and what platform it’ll be published on. Your content calendar is also where you’ll add topics that your audience will respond to.
Your content calendar is not only going to help you effectively get all your content scheduled but it will also be a guide for your team of content creators, editors, etc, to follow and meet deadlines.
Google Calendar is a great tool for inputting the due dates for each content piece while Asana and CoSchedule are great productivity and task management tools to help during the content creation process.
If you are looking for a content calendar template, you can download a free one here from Coschedule: https://coschedule.com/blog/annual-content-calendar-template/
Create Your Actual Content
Before you can start creating content, there is quite a bit of work to be done first to ensure the content you create is relevant and reaches the right audience. You did a sizable amount of that work in the steps leading to content creation.
During the actual content creation process, you’re going to be able to take the information you already have to determine what types of content to create. You’ll be able to look on your content calendar for a topic and then start researching it.
During your research, you should be able to see what type of content is already published on the topic and how you can improve on that information to make your content valuable to your audience.
Creating the Content
Once you start writing your content, try to keep in mind the tone, voice, and personality of the brand as well as how your audience will receive and consume it.
Maybe the content you’re creating is educational with lots of statistics. For that type of content, you’ll need to write in a serious and professional tone. Content that’s for entertainment or informational, you can write in more of a casual or conversational tone.
Distribute and Market Your Content
In order for your content to get the exposure it needs, you’re going to have to make sure it’s distributed and marketed the right way. The best ways to distribute and market your content is through social media marketing, link building, and email marketing. Let’s take a closer look at each one of these to fully understand how to properly and effectively distribute and market your content.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is one of the top ways to improve content visibility, whether it’s through videos, going live, or adding posts to your stories.
The key thing to understand about social media marketing is that it is more for visual content than long-form content. In knowing that, the posts you create need to be eye-catching with captivating headlines.
Businesses will actually use their targeted keywords as hashtags with their captions. SproutSocial justifies how hashtags and specific subject matter on social networks make your content, and even conversations about your content, easier for users to find.
With content creation, one of the biggest perks is the fact that you get to build links… and if you know anything about link building, you know that it’s one of the major SEO ranking factors.
When creating content, you want to make sure you’re building internal links to not only help visitors to your site find more valuable and helpful information on your site but it also helps search engines find relevant results for search engine inquiries as well.
Here at Stellar SEO, link building is our specialty. We not only help you pinpoint issues with your existing links but we also evaluate content promotion opportunities to uncover and earn new links for your business.
Everything from guest posting to broken link building, Stellar SEO has the expertise to create greater visibility for your business.
Some people like to think that email marketing is dead but it’s not… people still read emails.
In fact, Statista predicts that the number of email users worldwide will reach 4.3 billion by the year 2022.
Email is still an effective way to keep in touch with customers and subscribers. The fact that email marketing earns businesses $40 for every dollar spent is reason enough why it’s one of the top ways to distribute and market your content.
Measure the Success of Your Content Marketing Strategy
After all the work you’ve done, it’s now time to measure the success of your content marketing efforts. A great way to track your progress is to check your KPIs again to see if there was any movement.
There are several ways to see if you’ve hit any of your targets. You have the option of checking Google Analytics, your social sharing activity with social analytics tools, and conversion analytics tools.
The best part about monitoring your progress is that it allows you to adjust and make changes to your content marketing strategy at regular and consistent intervals, to ensure it’s always current.
And there you have it… You now know all the steps to creating a winning content marketing strategy, from start to finish. These steps helped us achieve our content marketing success and we know it will help you achieve yours.
Now, lets look at some specific tactics that you can use to put your strategy into action.
Content Marketing Tactics
Guest posting is a great way to not only improve SEO but it also plays a significant role in acquiring inbound links, building brand awareness, and establishing trust. But in order to be successful with guest posting, it’s not going to be as easy as submitting a pitch to the hosting site.
The secret to success with guest posting is to build a relationship with the hosting site. Study their site, follow them on social media… this is going to let them know that you have a genuine interest in working with them and it will help you create a winning pitch that they can’t refuse.
Because guest posting is a little easier said than done, we offer guest post and blogger outreach services. Our team of experts are experienced in a number of different industries with the soft skills to effectively reach out to blogs that fit your niche and pitch them great content ideas.
Content re-purposing is the act of taking content you already have and reusing it in a different format. This sometimes prevents you from having to come up with new content. An example of content re purposing would be taking a blog post and turning it into an infographic.
FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
Everyone has a fear of missing out on something and content marketing is a great way to take full advantage of it. This particular tactic is a great way to make visitors to your site anxious to buy your products or services. The best ways to use FOMO is to:
- Offer visitors some type of reward for subscribing early or making an early purchasing decision.
- Let visitors know that they might miss an opportunity on a particular piece of content.
- Alert visitors that they only have a limited amount of time before certain content expires.
With urgency, you’re using language that provokes a sense of scarcity, limited time, and an urge to buy now. CTA’s work perfectly for this particular tactic. It’s also effective to use urgency in the subject line with email marketing. FOMO and urgency are very similar in intent, but in terms of execution tend to differ slightly.
Gated content is the act of not giving your audience your content all at once. You give them the first few sentences of a paragraph and the rest of the content is gated to prompt them to subscribe. Some great content to gate include:
- News Reports
- Downloadable Content
- Workbooks and Guides
Gated content is a great way to help you understand your audience and what matters to them the most. The goal of this is to build up an email list or in some cases, a subscriber base.
One example of this at work is hbr.org. Harvard Business Review allows you to read a few articles each month for free, but requires a paid subscription to view all the content on their site.
Content Marketing Mistakes to Avoid
Creating Empty Content
Anyone can create content but the “kicker” is whether or not the content you create is worth reading. Content without a purpose is ineffective, also called “fluff.” Every time you create a piece of content, think back to the goals of your marketing strategy and ask yourself what you want your readers to get from your content.
Is the content you’re producing helping your readers solve a problem? The key is to demonstrate that you’re invested in truly helping them learn and find solutions to their issues. When they view your content as valuable, they’ll look to you as a trusted source and even a friend.
Not Using Real Data to Devise a Content Marketing Strategy
Lots of companies will use brainstorming as a tactic to generate content topics for their editorial calendar year. While brainstorming is an effective way to generate ideas, it’s not a sustainable way. The issue that companies run into is that some of the ideas produced will be great but the majority of them end up being duds.
This happens because teams don’t have any real data to go by to justify why certain topics would work for their audience and which topics wouldn’t. Brainstorming is great but when devising an effective content marketing strategy, you have to get analytical and see what factors are driving the most ROI and which factors aren’t.
Not Clearly Understanding Your Audience
All too often, businesses will make their audience out to be who they want them to be or assume who they are without doing any real research to understand who they are. Having a clear understanding of your target audience is what will help you produce the right type of content that will not only be appealing to your audience but it will also be valuable and beneficial to them as well.
Not Providing a Clear CTA (Call-to-Action)
After your audience consumes your content, what do you want them to do next? This is when a clear CTA needs to be put in place. You also want to keep in mind that the type of CTA to put in place is determined by the purpose of content you’ve created.
Is the purpose of a particular piece of content to educate or promote? You have to know the purpose of your content to know which type of CTA to use. Maybe you have a blog post that’s educational. Because the purpose of that blog post is to educate, an appropriate CTA might be a form submission to download a guide, to further their education on the subject matter.
The main point is that if you don’t know the purpose of your content, your audience won’t know either, making it hard to pinpoint which type of CTA to use.
Focusing Only on the Hard Sell
In an effective content marketing strategy, the content you create needs to educate, entertain, and inform your audience on information in your niche. In order to do that, you can’t focus on a hard sell… your approach needs to be a soft sell.
While you might be overly eager to increase sales, you have to keep in mind that it’s all about your approach. If you truly know your audience and the content they need and enjoy, the sales will come.
Maximizing Your Content Marketing in 2020
With an engaging content marketing strategy, your business will be able to benefit by way of increased conversions and web traffic to boosts in customer engagement and increased sales. This guide is to not only help your business get the most out of an effective and engaging content marketing strategy but to also prepare you for what’s to be expected in order to achieve success.
So, after everything you’ve learned, do you think you’re ready to give content marketing a try? If you plan to go it alone, just remember it is very important to create value in your content and then take the appropriate steps after publishing the content to promote it effectively.