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My content marketing full recipe was recently published in Smartinsights. I decided to share it in my company’s blog as well.
I am sorry if this reading may be long. I wanted to make sure that everything important is captured here, so you can copy paste my strategy for your own benefit.
How did I learn to master content marketing?
Well, leading the marketing operation in multiple startups and tech companies via G2Mteam, has taught me a lot.
I learned a lot of general facts, like that one that becoming a ‘top marketing expert’ that knows it all is impossible, but many of my colleagues are still trying, wishing them luck ?. I think that marketing in general, and content marketing in specific, is way too dynamic to be updated with everything.
I am stating it here to emphasize that my shared strategies are by all means not representing an absolute truth. Always remember that there are multiple ways to manage marketing activities, including content marketing.
I also learned that content is king. Indeed.
But, quality can build or ruin your content marketing. In other words, the king must serve its kingdom.
As long as we agree that content marketing is one of the main startup marketing building blocks we can continue.
I first witnessed the power of content marketing many years ago, when I leaned on free and public content to learn so many marketing hacks and get to know new tools. It was the most powerful tool to get to know technologies, vendors, and service companies. And more importantly, it played an important role in my purchase decisions.
Learning how to write great content and to master the art of content distribution was a whole different story.
let’s now share some numbers, just to nail the subject before moving to the tactics:
DemandMetric: Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing, while it generates about 3 times as many leads.
I know that it’s almost impossible to measure the long-term results that are driven by content marketing, directly or indirectly. But today, more than ever, a lot can be tracked.
If you will Google “content marketing benchmarks” you will find endless statistics that can shed light on the power of content.
Now, enough with the why, let’s move to the how. My recipe for content marketing:
Don’t ever start putting effort into content marketing before you’ve set the infrastructure.
This includes doing some important thinking, answering some important questions, and running some research (marketing foundations is all about research and planning) – What do you expect to gain, how much effort you are willing to put, how much patience you have, what audience will you approach with your content, what are the current standards in your industry, what data is missing (which holds an opportunity) etc.
This starting point will allow you to estimate the resources you will need, set the right expectations and decide on a general plan.
Right after, you should run a short SEO research to decide on keywords that would take an important part in your content writing.
Visit this Kissmetrics blog post to learn more about the connection between content marketing and SEO.
Blog screens optimization
Your content will most likely land on your blog. Therefore, these pages should be treated exactly like landing pages, if your content is meant to generate leads or to encourage prospects to further explore your website and offering.
If your blog pages are, in fact, landing pages, ensure they include some info about your company and offering, promo boxes and lead capture banners, navigation paths to other important pages in the website and so forth.
Set up your tracking
Make sure that right from day 1, hour 1, minute 1, you can track all important KPIs of your content. You can measure traffic in your website, that’s relatively easy, and you can use UTMs to track the performance of your content that’s featured in domains you don’t own, such as guest posts.
But, sometimes you will need to put some effort if you wish to properly track blog prospect origin, lead capture from within the content and the impact of your content on your lead nurturing. Some marketing automation system can even tell you what content did your prospect explore before converting to a valid lead. I find it valuable. To summarize, make sure that your basic tracking mechanisms are operating before moving on.
That’s about it for the content foundations part.
2. CONTENT EDITORIAL CALENDAR
Now, you should be ready to create an initial content calendar, stating the topics and types of content that you would write about. Consider periodical events, holidays, known industry exhibitions and so forth.
Your content should always be represented by a healthy mix of evergreen content, seasonal content, short lasting one and so on. I would also recommend thinking about different formats (like blog articles, guides, videos and so forth).
If your company develops a technical solution, add some technical blog articles to the mix. Presenting your company as a technological leader is an important goal.
- As for the format, here’s an example of a simple excel file that should do
*don’t forget to look at competitors’ content topics at this stage
- Buzzsumo– I use this tool to track my competitors’ content, see where it is shared and how often.
- Also, I recommend that you take a look in groups and communities (like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Reddit, Quora or alike) and explore what the buzzing topics are.
We, at G2Mteam, usually spend 10-15 hours on content topics research that we follow for about 4 months. I guess that for someone who is less experienced than us it may take longer.
An initial list of ~15-25 topic ideas would do if you are like me, meaning a quality over quantity believer, and you are planning to create fewer content pieces that are more deep and comprehensive.
3. WRITING- 6 UNIQUE STAGES
The first impression is the most important one, and so your titles must be superb, curiosity-provoking, fun and interesting, but don’t overdo it…
Important: Make sure that your titles hint for the value inside. Readers are self-oriented, they are looking for s concrete reason as to why they should read the content. What is in it for them.
Additional title guidelines:
- Make a few title versions to select from (natural selection ? )
- Add keywords in the title, but only if it makes sense
- Do you prefer a title that starts with questions? Use questions! people love it.
- Use numerical lists, like 7 tips, 5 hacks, 6 principles, the 7 dwarfs.
- Negativity may be a positive tactic. People love titles about mistakes to avoid from, things people hate etc.
- Value-added words are welcome, like: free, a list included… things that feel like virtual goodies.
- If you post about a special content (like you’ve prepared a guide and you now post main highlights with a link to download the report) don’t forget to add it right at the beginning of the title: “REPORT- the 5 most important marketing activities for B2B”
portent – A great and funny free tool to help you think of creative titles. Just enter keywords and see what comes out.
Effort estimate: Content title brainstorming shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes per item. As in any other activity, it will get easier with time and experience.
The brief is a must stage that you shouldn’t avoid even if you are the righter, as it should highlight the structure and flow of the content. The brief is what makes professional writes come out with a well-structured and organized content.
In the case of an external writer, your brief must include general instruction about the ton of voice, requested length, keywords, target audience, a paragraph about the company that is behind, resources to lean on and of course the structure (title, subtitles, bullets, sub billets, etc.)
Don’t expect your external writer to be “john Malkovich” – If you wish to get a content piece that is exactly what you expected to get, add all needed details in the brief.
Here’s a list of templates you can use, including a template for content briefs.
Effort: A good brief takes us about 1.5-2 hours to write down. Sometimes, when the content is complicated, it may take longer, but that’s a critical stage, as said before, and we never underestimate it. Over time we learned that our content quality is mostly related to how we handled the brief. So today we even run internal storming meetings before writing the briefs, sketching the structure on the wall…
I am not going to write a lot about the length, especially as it does not stand alone, but simply reflects the quality and comprehensiveness of the content. In general, avoid shallow and mediocratic content. It will not help you gain traffic nor SEO benefits. If you can WOW your target audience with 500 words article, go ahead. Google will notice the impact. I haven’t learned how to do so, so far…
To best understand this part, imagine that you are a scanning machine.
First you need to scan every piece of content, decide if it is worth a deeper look, and only than move it on.
Those of you who are experienced with employees hiring and exploring tons of CVs, you can surely relate.
Aren’t you first scanning the CV in front of you, making sure that the general looks is ok and the important sections are there organized, and only then you decide if to spend more time on a deeper overview? Same goes with content article reading.
An average reader spends 37 seconds only (!!) reading an article or a blog (NewsCred Insights).
It means that your content must be built in a way that would make it easy to scan (this is a good advice if you care about SEO as well). The content should include multiple breaks, images, spaces, bullet points, sections, and so on. This makes it easy for the reader to scan the item, toggle between the post and other browsing windows or tasks without getting lost,
Click to tweet. A nice way to create a break and make the content viral:
- Add infographics if possible
- Add Author bio if you wish readers to trust the content
- Don’t forget the Call-to-action (CTA)– Inline, at the end, when it’s relevant
- Embrace a sense of humor– it’s always positive. Even in the most traditional B2B industries, if it doesn’t with a good style.
- Bring yourself in – you’d be surprised but you are interesting, and people love hearing other people stories, first hand. Don’t be shy.
Effort: As long as we have a well-structured brief, the initial writing takes ~7 hours. Please note: this is the initial writing. More stages are coming. It doesn’t mean that after 7 hours you have a piece that is ready to be published.
4 – POST WRITING SEO OPTIMIZATION
There isn’t a lot to mention here, besides the obvious:
- Try and add important keywords to the title, if it makes sense and doesn’t impact its appeal!
- The main keyword should also be repeated in the first paragraph, usually, it happens naturally, no need to stuff them…
- The keywords density should be at least 1% of the total article words. on the other hand, stuffing too much is harmful. There are automatic plugins (I use WP plugins) that help you identify issues here.
- Add subheaders(H2) with the main keyword. Again, it must make sense!
- Include at least 1 outbound link (link that is external to your website)
- Add a meta title and description
- Add internal links as well(inbound links) – links to other pages in your website.
5: THICKEN AND PROOF THE CONTENT
Here, a good quality content becomes superb!
In this stage you will need to add juice to the written article: your own touch, shared stories, first hand, use cases and real examples.
This stage changes the whole picture.
It also adds another mind to the mix, as the one that manages this stage isn’t the one that did the initial writing. At least it shouldn’t be.
During this stage, the content becomes longer by approx. 30%.
Effort: Proofing doesn’t take long, but thickening may take 3-5 hours… but it’s so much worth it, it’s what spices up the dish!
6: TIME TO PUBLISH
Finally. Now it’s time to enrich the content with visuals… (pixabay is a nice FREE stock photos site), Add more visual breaks, spaces, ‘click to tweet’ elements and so forth. Now is also time for CTA links and banners.
We usually add meta title and description at this stage. Important: if you used external help, take extra precautions and check content duplications. How? Simply copy some of the paragraphs and paste them into Google. See if Google manages to find a LP that already includes the same text.
Duplicated content isn’t welcomed and it may cause you SEO problems. Who wants this?
This image was added in the ‘Upload readiness’ phase
7: DISTRIBUTION AND PROMOTION
Are there growth hackers in the audience? Time to raise your hands.
I am assuming that you already know of paid options to promote your content (such as content punishing platforms, paid campaigns via the popular social networks and so forth).
But, Organic content distribution is what most marketers lead on (due to budget limitations).
The best way to promote your content would be via professional groups and forums. That’s where your target audience is, and where your potential readers are waiting for you to share your content.
First run a detailed content distribution channel research, to map the most relevant and crowded forums and groups where you should post your content.
Create a table that features this groups, with links for a fast access and important data (like number of followers, target audience and specific guidelines that were stated by the group admins)
Use this table to track the promotion progress of each content, and to make sure you don’t double post and spam groups.
Here’s an example – a table I use:
If you are interested to track the performance of your posting in each channel or group, you should use UTMs.
Care for some concrete tips here as well?
- Don’t use titles that will behave as click bate. Don’t overpromise…
- Hashtags are great on all social networks… not just on Twitter.
- Feature your content in quora too, and in places like LinkedIn articles, Medium and so forth, but don’t copy and paste texts from your content as it will only harm you. avoid content duplications
- Reformat the content you’ve so carefully worked on, to maximize the impact. We turn blog articles into presentations, and SlideShare presentations to YouTube videos and so forth.
Effort: We spend 3 -6 hours on distribution – per piece. But the sky is the limit. The more relevant channels you find – the better it gets.
You have it all now. Ball at your court.at this point, you have all the info you need to run a successful content marketing operation and add value to your target audience.
I know it’s time-consuming, it really is, but:
- It’s so much worth it
- I never promised you a rose garden?
Good luck and don’t forget to join our Facebook group that’s made for global tech pros and startup marketers operating in Israel