If you are looking to learn content marketing in simple steps, it’s here. Starting from defining content and content marketing, this will guide you through the best content marketing strategies and useful approaches. Additionally, we will look into the SEO content and strategic content marketing plans.
Why Content Marketing
Perhaps you are aware that content is the king or might be the entire kingdom in itself. If you don’t know yet, now you’ll learn.
Content is the king.Bill Gates
Content isn’t the king, it’s the kingdom.Lee Odden
To introduce you to the power of content marketing, I would love to say that content is your best friend in the entire journey for customer acquisition in a marketing campaign.
With many years of experience as a marketing consultant, I love to suggest that content marketing is the best of all digital marketing strategies. To me, and most of my fellow marketers, there is no alternative to content marketing. You can assume the reason why wise entrepreneurs and marketers devote more energy to develop killer content.
Content marketing is yet the undeniably best marketing approach. It doesn’t matter whether it’s traditional or digital. When it’s about digital marketing, the content marketing approach has been proved as the forerunner for the last 20 years and will be for the next many years.
All of the above are enough reasons why a digital marketer should give more importance to content marketing in 2020.
You may wonder about what content marketing is and how it can help you in gaining your marketing goals. Don’t be worried; the present post will help you throughout your journey towards content marketing.
What is content?
Anything that can be expressed through writing or speech or acting or in the form of art is content. In the context of marketing and publishing, it’s a piece of information or an experience that is relevant, reliable, interesting, entertaining, or enlightening in the form of text, image, video, or audio. Ultimately, content conveys a story for contextual engagement. I love to define content as the right story for the right audience.
Blog posts (articles, reviews, comparisons, stories, and similar texts), podcasts, e-books, whitepapers, images (photographs, info-graphics, vector diagrams, look-books, etc.), slides, videos, etc. are the example of content. Content is something that arouses interest in knowing, learning, and info-entertaining processes.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is an inbound marketing approach that doesn’t directly promote a product or a service or a business or a brand, but it stimulates interest for products/services through sharing content and developing awareness. This mix of marketing strategy doesn’t involve direct sales. Instead, it’s a mechanism of building trust and rapport with the audience. In other words, it’s a strategic marketing approach that focuses on creating and distributing relevant, valuable, interesting, and reliable content to attract and maintain a clearly defined audience. The ultimate goal is to steer profitable customer action.
Not the advertisement but the story, not the commercial but the show – are the basics of content marketing.P R Sahoo
Content Marketing as an Inbound Marketing Strategy
I said content marketing is an inbound marketing approach.
Now you may ask – what’s an inbound marketing approach?
Inbound marketing is a strategy that attracts, engages, and converts clearly defined potential audiences towards a brand/product/service through diverse forms of content. Potential customers find the brand/product through the content available on search engines, social media, and other popular online channels. Unlike the traditional outbound marketing approaches, inbound marketing doesn’t directly interrupt in customers’ decision in making a purchase. Rather it indirectly influences the potential customer in making a favorable decision. It’s a cool, cost-effective, and result-oriented approach.
The inbound marketing strategies don’t implement any method of asking someone to take action (like a purchase). Preferably they concentrate on arousing interest that can be resulted in taking favorable action in a later stage.
Content marketing and inbound marketing are, sometimes, used interchangeably with each other. However, besides sharing engaging content, inbound marketing strategy also uses some other form of marketing as an event or exhibition.
The objective of content marketing is to help brands or businesses to create sustainable brand loyalty and provide valuable information to consumers, as well as to create a willingness to purchase products or services in the future.
A content marketer plays the part of an influencer. His/her primary role is not to promote a sale, but to influence the audience so that they will be motivated to make a purchase at a later stage. Being influencers, content marketers are always at the top position in any marketing campaign.
Due to its inbound strategy, cost-effectiveness, result-oriented influence, and sustainable effects, it’s the king of all marketing methods.
Now, let’s list the basics of content marketing –
- Content marketing is the primary form of inbound marketing.
- Inbound marketing approaches apply strategies to attracts potential costumers towards a product/service/brand.
- Content marketing or inbound marketing don’t directly interfere with customers’ decisions in making a purchase.
- Content marketing doesn’t directly involve in or promote any sale.
- It creates and sustains the interest of the potential customer in a product/service/brand through distributing content with a defined objective of helping the customer in making a favorable decision of making a purchase.
- Content marketing uses diverse media like blogs, video, images, podcasts, etc. to share useful, valuable, reliable, and interesting information/story with potential customers.
- Telling a beautiful story with a lasting effect is the essence of content marketing.
This relatively new marketing method needs a certain amount of expertise, skill, and experiences in building strategy, creating content, and sharing the same as well as getting the desired outcome. Creativity is an essential aspect of content marketing. Creative touch to your content will enhance the appealing aspect of the piece.
Step-by-Step Guide to Content Marketing
Now that you are aware of the meaning, definition, strength, and objectives of content marketing, it’s time to take steps toward content planning, creating SEO content, and strategic content marketing. Just follow the steps.
- Define objectives and goal
- Define the target audience
- Do the research and analyze data
- Enumerate the assets
- Define the required content type and nature
- Prepare blueprint
- Develop quality content
- Edit the content and check for errors
- Add affiliate and non-affiliate links to content
- Post the content and share it on social media
- Optimize content for search engines
- Ask the audience to subscribe content via email
- Update content as required
1. Define Objectives and Goal
Before developing strategic content and sharing the same on various platforms, you need to define your objectives and goals. That is what you’re going to achieve through your content. It may be popularizing a brand or creating brand loyalty or generating a lead for a product or a service.
Your objectives should be limited to one or two or at maximum three; otherwise, you’ll end with unwanted complexity in your content. Your content should be specific to your goal.
Furthermore, you need to define your role through your objectives. That is who you are and for whom you are creating the content. You may do it for yourself or some other ones. For example, if you’re running a gym, you may write blog posts on step by step guide to gain bigger and stronger muscle. You may post a video of an active workout session. You may also post some animated graphics to demonstrate work out steps. All these are to attract your audience towards your gym. The primary objective is, here, to exhibit how good you are as a gym trainer.
You may have some other objectives while writing or creating videos for work-out steps. You may indirectly promote some products like a treadmill of a certain brand or health supplementary. In this case, you are not promoting your own gym; rather working as an influencer for some other brands that manufacture treadmills or health supplementary.
[Promoting products/services for brands other than yours through content marketing is known as Affiliating Marketing. Being an affiliate publisher, you earn a commission when a prospect (potential customer) makes a purchase by clicking the mentioned link in the content.]
2. Define the Target Audience
Who is going to be your audience? Be precise. The audience for different contents is explicit. Consider their demographic, geographic, socio-graphic and psycho-graphic specification. If you are going to create content for some new western fashion trends for women, your primary audiences will definitely be the college-going girls and working women in a certain age groups. If it’s about work-out for robust muscles, the primary audiences will be male-only roughly in between 18 to 30 years age
While creating content for a specific group of people, you should be careful about their political obligations, social morals, and cultural test. Who you want to visit your website – should be an important question for you before creating your content.
3. Do the Research and Analysis
Next, you need some research to find out which content is actually required for your audience. What they really want? What is going to be the next trend? Whether something you develop will keep engaged the people whom you are targeting? Be careful. Spend some time doing research on search engines and social media to find the relevance of the topic. Find the trends and statistics on Google Trends
Developing content may be a product review or a video tutorial, requires lots of investment in terms of time and devotion. In case it will not bring the desired result, your all hard work will go in vast. Therefore, not to be hypothetical, but to be practical in terms of handy research-based date is always advisable.
4. Enumerate the Assets
Whatever it may the nature and objective of a marketing strategy, it needs some assets. Assets are the physical or/and digital properties and skill you own.
There is a reason to cheer that the marketing approaches those come under the umbrella term Digital Marketing including content marketing don’t require a lot of assets and expenditure for possessing those. However, the few those are required, should be with you. If not, you need to arrange for the same.
To get answer to the question ‘which assets you have to possess for your content marketing’, you need to ask another question – what is the type of content you are going to develop
If your content is a blog post, the first two important assets you require are – (a) a website having dedicated page(s) for blogging and (b) good writing skill. Website is the primary requirement for all form of digital marketing including the present form. The other assets are – (c) some images, vector diagram and info-graphics you need to insert in your blog post and (d) social media accounts where you can share your content
If your content is a video, beside your website, you need a good camera, adequate skill for better shooting and editing the same, a video editing software like Open Shot or Video Pad and a You-Tube account to share the same
For Look-Books you need some apparel and clothing, a model to wear the apparel and pose for the camera, a good camera, image editing software like Adobe Photoshop, dedicated page(s) and galleries on your website to publish your look-book along with Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Picasa accounts to share the same.
5. Define Required Content Type and Nature
Now, you need to define what your content will exactly.What will be the type and nature of your content
Is it a blog post containing text only? Or a blog post with some images and graphics? Or review of a product? Is it a Look-book containing images of a model wearing some apparel with few lines of text? Or is it a video tutorial? Or some slides.
For example, you want to create content on Gardening on Roof-top. You may express your expertise knowledge through a blog post or a video. If it’ll be a blog post, you can’t complete it with text only. You need to add adequate images to your blog so that it can tell a beautiful story and stimulate interest in your writing. A video is a better option. Streaming of the entire processes like watering, fertilizing, pest control and blooming flowers under the sun with background voice or voice-over will definitely be attractive and stimulating.
Preparing Blue-Print: Before developing you content, preparing a blue-print for the same is always advisable. Blue-print will provide you with a clear structure such as – (a) what should come first, (b) what will follow up, (c) what will be at the end and (d) how elements need to be arranged.
Structure helps in making things comprehensive – clearly comprehensible and easily digestible
Invest adequate time in preparing the blue-print before proceeding further. Your blue-print will help you in not getting confused while developing the content. It’ll save your time and make your work easy.
6. Prepare Blueprint for your Content
While you’re going to create engaging content for your audiences, you should have proper plan about the outline. What you are going to write, what should you include it, what should be avoided, how will be structure, how will you introduce the topic and number of other aspects that you should design carefully. A blueprint will not help you in organizing the entire theme, it also help you making the process easy and creating something that is really great. This is why you should have ready blueprint before writing or producing something like a video.
7. Develop Content:
Now you’re at the main stage of your project. Let’s do with different type of content. Those are:
- Blog Post
- Product Information
- E-books and White Papers
- Photo Collage
- Look Books
- Image Galleries
- Vector Diagrams and Info-graphics
- Product/Service Description
Blogging is writing on the internet. The profession of a blogger is that of a writer. Sometimes bloggers are considered as online journalists since they tell stories on new events, new invention, new products, new aspects and many new things. (In the term of journalism, a story refers to a news item). The primary difference between a journalist and a blogger is that while a journalist only tells the fact, a blogger is free to telling facts with adding his/her own views. Blogging is, at most of the cases, adopt informal and personal form of writing
More than 70% of the content marketers are bloggers. About 96% of commercial websites have dedicated pages for blogging. Blogging is preferred to any other type of content marketing because it’s a free form of marketing. You need fewer assets and can do with more freedom. You may add whatever you want to your blog. You may add images, vectors, graphics, screen shots, slides, animations and videos to your blog post if you posses some of those and if those are required. Adding different elements to blog make it more interesting and appealing. Text only blog may not fulfill your goal
A blog may contain an article, a review, a product comparison table or detail product knowledge
You may blog on anything else. The thumb rule is that it should be in your niche so that you possess expert knowledge in it. It may be your hobby or your profession. If you fund of gardening and possess many years experience in it, you may write beautiful article on it. If you are a professional horticulturist, it’s a far better idea to write on gardening. If you are writing on dancing forms, you should be dancer or a choreographer.
If you possess adequate expertise in some sort of products, you may start blogging by writing review on new arrival variants of the product or prepare comparison charts for different make of same article (item).
If you are working as a marketing professional for a company, you may prepare a short note containing product knowledge and specification.
Equally with expertise knowledge in the field you are dealing with, writing skill is also a per-requisite to be a blogger. You should know how to write simply, clearly, comprehensibly and beautifully
Few tips, I’d like to suggest – (a) use simple words that everyone can understand; (b) try to avoid clichés, jargon, unnecessary adverbs and adjectives and outdated words and phrases as much as possible; (c) make sentences short – avoid complex and compound sentences; (d) limit paragraph within few sentences; (e) avoid repetition of same word – search for suitable synonyms for each words and use as required (f) avoid repetition of similar expression in different sentences and paragraphs – no one likes to read same thing twice and (g) try to express yourself in most possible informal way, most of us love the tone of intimacy
The language of blogging is different from that of formal writings. You don’t need to use the language you adopt for writing your term papers or research notes. Your language approach should be informal and personal. Imagine you are directly talking to your reader and set your language in accordance
I’m repeating again – your writing should be well structured. Structured work helps you in putting elements in natural flow. Structured writing helps the reader to comprehend and grasp better.Another thumb rule is – ‘be precise’; talk on what is required, avoid those are not
Though in few cases, text is enough, but in most of the cases you need to add extra elements to your blog. To add meaningful appeal to text, info-graphics are great tools. While describe some technical aspects, relevant graphic images can tell a lot which words can’t.
Images have always their importance in telling story. Few relevant images to your story help your blog in rendering some lasting effects. Blogs for teaching and training purposes might have great appeal if instructive videos and/or slides are added to them
The images and vectors you want to insert in your blog post must be owned by you. You can’t download any image or graphic from the internet without thinking about the owner of the stuff who own the copy right for the same. If you’ll do so, you may be in trouble. First, the copy write owner may take legal action against you. Second, by using duplicate content, you’ll end with loss of credibility
If you are a good photographer, you can take some relevant images by a digital camera or a camera of your smart phone. Before using the images, you should edit the images in a licensed copy Adobe Photoshop or other editing tool available with you
Using images created by self is always best option. But in case you are not good in photography or you don’t possess a good camera, you may purchase some images from image vendors like ShutterStock. You may also use some free image from the internet with source citation and attributes. But this option is not suggested since it may minimize your own credibility of creating brand original content
E-books and Whitepapers
E-books are extensions of blog posts. While each blog post deal with a single aspect within few thousand words, an e-book contain number of chapters related to each other in a structured way like a physical book. By using an e-book template, you can create an e-book containing your related blog posts as chapters
Whitepapers are far different from e-book. HubSpot defines Whitepaper as a persuasive, authoritative, in-depth report on a specific topic that presents a problem and provides a solution. It contain serious and research based topic. The language of a Whitepaper is formal and the presentation style is serious.
What a single image can tell, thousands of words can’t. While people find a beautiful image on search engines and social media, they generally try to know the story behind the image. A short caption with an image is enough. You don’t need to add long description to make everything clear. This is the tested insight why many of the content marketers prefer to use image instead of text. Content only with images in the form of look-books, collages and galleries are better option in telling stories. Fashion bloggers prefer to make photo collages, while corporate houses add image galleries to their websites to tell the story of their great achievements.The recent boost in smart phone industry helped many to be photographers through their camera phone. Such trends resulted in enormous powerful content on the internet in the form of images.For better photography you should not compromise with the quality of the camera. Lens quality, pixel size, sensor size and aperture are some of the most important aspects, you should check before purchasing a camera
While using images for content marketing, you need to careful about the pixels. Try to post HD images with good pixels, but avoid extra heavy pixel images those might slow down the loading speed of your website. Before posting images, you should edit them to adjust color, background, quality and size as well as to trim unwanted portions from the images. Getting mastery in an image editing tool like Adobe Photoshop/Image Ready or Nero Photo Editor is always advisable. Image background should match the theme of your brand
Follow the thumb rule – don’t forget to add a short and catchy caption to your image
Sometimes instead of images, diagrams are found to be more powerful in developing content. Through vectors and diagrams you will able to show the flow of a story in more controlled way. You can add info-graphics and text to your diagrammatic presentation. Info-graphics and diagrams combined with text are able to communicate ideas and planning.
While presenting your story through graphics and diagrams, be careful of proper ratio of different elements as well as the natural flow through proper structure
While talking on inserting images and graphics to blog post, I have provided two other alternatives, beside the image/graphics created by the blogger, viz., purchasing some stuff from image vendors and using some free from copy right stuff available on the internet.
However, the present case of Images as main content, you must avoid using stuff created by other. Your primary content must be created by you and should be original.
Videos are so powerful in convincing something that sometimes it doesn’t need any voice. You-Tube is the single channel whose popularity is not unknown to anyone. Watching, understanding and learning is the easiest process that people naturally love. An audio-visual media can tell a better story in comparison to text and images. Therefore, internet users prefer to search a topic through You-Tube and other online video channels. Marketers on social media too mostly prefer to post a video to deliver a message. I don’t need to tell a lot on the appealing nature of video as a tool of content marketing.
Like developing image content, you need to consider the same aspects while developing video content for your inbound marketing. Quality is always the thumb rule. But high pixel heavy video might slower down the loading speed of your website. It’s better advisable that you may post your video on You-Tube and then embed the link on your website. It’ll serve dual purpose. First, it’ll not overload your website with heavy content and second, it’ll reach greater audience due to the popularity of You-Tube. Your video must have a catchy title. Short duration is better.
8. Do Proof Reading and Editing
Be sure not to make any mistake. Your content should be error free, accurate and engaging. First you need to edit your content again and again until you get the desired accuracy and appealing effect. You may do it yourself or ask one of your friend or a colleague or a professional editor. After all, you should check, whether there is even a minor error or not. For text content, I suggest, proof reading to be done before publishing it for the readers.
9. Link Product/Service to the Content
You know it well – your content has a goal. Though you don’t have to achieve the goal directly, you aim at achieving the same through the beneficial, relevant and appealing aspects of your content. Your content will systematically lead to achieve your desired objective(s).Your desired objective might be creating and stimulating interest for a particular product. To do so, you may insert a link of the certain product webpage in your content. After knowing the benefit of the product through your content, some of your audience might be interested in the product and will click the link to know the pricing and features. Their interest might be stimulated in making purchase decision. If you assure them that they will get some other advantages like discounts by using the link you have inserted, the conversion rate will be higher
While inserting any link to your content, you should keep in mind that you are not a salesperson. You are an influencer; your role is to influence. Hence, try to limit the links to few relevant
products/services only. Avoid advocating for any product/service about which you don’t have sufficient expertise knowledge. Insert a link for a product/service page, only if you know that it’s reliable enough. First use or test it, then tell people how good it is. Make honest review and comparison. Stick to some fundamental ethics of content marketing. Most important aspect of a content marketer is his/her reliability.
12 Post the Content and Share on Social Media and Forums
You know it well that the final goal of creating engaging content is to get adequate readers and visitors to your post. Although your content can drive direct traffic from search engines like Google, you can get quality traffic from multiple sources. The best opportunities where you can get interested audience for your content is social media. Besides social media, community forums are also great platform to place the stuff you created.
11. Optimize the Content for Search Engines
How good a great content is if it is not visible to your target audience?
To be visible to those for whom you are creating content, you need to go through some rigorous processes of search engine optimization (SEO).
You may note that no one, except a few around you, knows about your website. Is it not sounding pleasant? But it is a fact. People are yet unaware of your website and the valuable content therein, till it’s not visible on search engines (SE) as the giant Google or comparatively smaller Yahoo and Bing.
People enter millions of search terms on search boxes of SEs to find answers. For example –
- easy steps to lose weight
- the best way to design the interior at low cost
- how to get shining hairs
- which motorbike to purchase for racing purpose
- which mobile phone has a better processor
- how to make milk cake
- how to grow beneficial herbs at home garden
- how to keep infants save from tropical ailments
- where to purchase a blazer
- which places to visit during the summer
- how to learn the basics of cloud computing
- what are the tax slabs, etc
There are millions of questions that billions of people ask each day on the internet. People look for reliable answers. SEs come with thousands of relevant results to each query in search engine result pages (SERP). Most of the answers come in the form of content. Your content might provide results to many who are searching for it. But if it’s not optimized for SEO, they can’t index it to present in their result page.
The first step toward search engine optimization (SEO) is to submit a site map of your website to search engines (SE) like Google. After then, SE will crawl your website that will result in indexing and ranking for SERP.
There are thousands website and more web pages those are indexed by search engines for a single search phrase (keyword). When a user searches for a specific result by putting the keyword in the search boxes, a SE will come with thousands of relevant results. Obviously, a user will scroll for a few results that appear at the top of the first SERP or first few SERPs. The web pages or web content that appear at the top of SERP are best ranked by SE. Hence, ranking by SE matters a lot.
Getting top ranked by SE is not an easy task. Google has about two hundred criteria of ranking. All the website owners are endeavoring daily to be ranked top by Google and other SE in the relevant field. Your website and its content should fulfill the most important criteria to be ranked well by SEs. Those are –
- Your website should be well structured so that the bots of SEs can easily read and find relevance.
- Your website should be light weighted to load fast for better user experience (UE).
- Your website and web pages are needed to be optimized for mobile devices so that a user can access them through his/her mobile device without any difficulty.
- The content should be relevant to the search terms.
- The content should not be duplicated. Google and other SEs omit all duplicate results.
- Your content need to be submitted to SEs with relevant key words (popular search terms). You need adequate research on key words. (You may subscribe to Google Key Word Planner.)
- Your key words should be included in all pages of your website.
- Alt text, text hyperlink, contact info and social media linkage must be well set on the Home Page of your website.
- All pages and blogs should have catchy SEO titles and descriptions.
- All images must be with proper alt texts.
These are just few initial steps to follow in your SEO journey. I’m sure, if you are not acquainted with SEO previously, you might not get it clear. You need to read our complete SEO guide to get clear idea of SEO and set your strategy. SEO is a matter of continuous learning and improvement.
12. Ask Audience to Subscribe Your Content
If your website and content therein are well optimized for SE, you might get some visitors to your site. If the content of your site is relevant and useful for your visitors, they may bookmark it or remember the site address so that they can visit again. But most of the time, it doesn’t happen. Next time they might prefer another website instead of yours.
To ensure continuous visit and action in favor of you, you need to retain your visitors.
Adding a Subscription button to your website and asking your visitor to subscribe to your content is the best action in part of you. While anyone agrees to subscribe to your content, he/she will provide his/her email id. Email Ids of individuals interested in your content will help you in regularly delivering content directly in their mailboxes. It’ll ensure a long term relationship with your audience and ultimately favorable actions.
13. Update Content on Regular Basis
Observing the effect of your content and updating on necessity is always advisable. Always keep an eye on the effectiveness of your content. If it’s not bringing the desired result, you need to make the required changes as soon as possible. There can be few other reasons that you need to update your content. The content may be outdated, or you got some fresh insight to improve the quality of your content. Editing and updating content at a regular interval is a good practice.
The Big Thing to Do in Content Marketing
Content marketing is a highly rewarding field of practice that has no alternative. Being the king of all marketing strategies, it ensures enormous and long-lasting gain for the marketer. Able content marketers play the role of influencers in the entire scenario of the market.
It’s not an easy task to be a successful content marketer. In content marketing, you require daily practice to improve your quality and skill. There’s no end, no conclusion! Continuous learning is the best approach. I suggest you subscribe to our newsletter to learn new strategies and techniques in content marketing and other related forms. In comment, you may put your queries; I’ll glad to respond to you.