Why is Content Marketing Key?
Creating a strategy that is suited to your specific business and target audience is how you stay true to your brand and make marketing materials as effective as possible.
It’s important to evaluate every asset for the value it adds to the strategy as a whole, and
then make adjustments as needed.
A 360-degree Content marketing strategy educates customers, nurtures prospects and closes sales.
How does SEO fit in?
In a practical sense, search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing are the same.
To rank highly in search engine results pages (SERPs), you need high-quality organic content. To know which keywords to target in your copy, you need SEO.
SEO is a foundational component of content marketing in that it is often the centrepiece of all strategies and campaigns.
Optimizing your content allows you the opportunity to update your brand messaging for a modern audience, outrank competitors for high-value keywords and keep your web pages aligned with Google’s sitemap preferences.
To achieve your content marketing goals, SEO is often the best tactic to start with.
Within the practice of SEO, there are specific ranking factors to consider. According to Google, there are more than 200 criteria the search engine weighs when it crawls and indexes your web pages.
Based on how your site and your content fares in these assessments, an algorithm will serve your pages to searchers.
Some ranking signals are stronger than others, and Google doesn’t often reveal the exact weight of each one. What we do know is that the top factors include:
- Rank Brain
- Direct web traffic.
- Mobile responsive design.
- Anchor text keywords.
- User behaviour signals
In layman’s terms, everything you publish on the web needs to 1) generate reputable backlinks, 2) be useful to readers and 3) have a strong click-through rate and dwell time.
You can’t do content without SEO, and you can’t do SEO without content – they are inseparable.
Benefits of content marketing
There are nearly infinite benefits to employing a content marketing strategy.
Some of the most prominent benefits include:
- Cheaper conversions.
- Faster sales.
- Reduced marketing and sales overhead.
- Low barrier to market entry.
- Stronger lead generation and qualification.
- Measurable, actionable results.
- More traffic.
- Higher search engine rankings.
- Thought leadership.
- Mind share.
- Reputation management.
- Email list building.
A clear way to look at the benefits of content marketing is to take a step back: What does your organization want to achieve? From there, you can tie your commercial objectives to specific content marketing goals and actions.
If your goal is improved lead quality, a targeted lead nurturing campaign would prove invaluable. Similarly, if your goal is thought leadership, investments in social media and organic content creation would be a worthwhile attack strategy.
Running content marketing campaigns empowers you to achieve any objective you need to, without wasting resources on short-term strategies or costly advertising.
Content marketing examples
Because content marketing can take so many forms and speak to so many audiences and buyer personas, there are endless possibilities for what a single piece of content might look like.
Here are 7 content marketing examples, spanning various formats and buyer stages you might consider when building out your campaigns:
Blog posts are a healthy base for your content marketing efforts. This is your platform to discuss popular industry subjects, position yourself as a thought leader, explain how your products can address common challenges and draw potential customers to your website.
Need advice on getting your blog started? This blog post has all the information you need
Once you have blog content, you can repurpose it to create social media posts, long-form content on the same topic, eBooks using the same text but adding visuals and more.
Case studies describe a real issue that a real customer had, and how your product alleviated that challenge. It’s bottom-of-funnel content that can be a huge help in converting customers; hearing a true story about a satisfied customer’s experience is incredibly convincing.
This example from Consero Global does a great job of:
- Explaining the problem clearly.
- Telling the story of how AppleCare found Consero Global.
- How Finance as Service solutions from Consero helped solve the problem.
- Relaying the long-term benefits AppleCare realized from the solution.
People love infographics: They’re fun to look at, easy to understand and are packed with information. For all of these reasons, including infographics in your content strategy is simply a smart idea. The best part: You have lots of leeway on how you want to design your infographic.
Explainer videos complement your other marketing efforts by explaining the benefits of a particular solution, details about a product or the nuances of a difficult problem.
Here’s an explainer video example from MuleSoft. The video centre’s around a common problem for MuleSoft’s customers, but one that their typical buyer may not understand well: What an API is. Explaining this concept helps generate demand for their services.
More explainer video examples here:
Testimonials can give potential customers an inside look into what it’s like to work with a company or use a particular product or service.
Proactiv is one brand that has embraced the testimonial, taking quotes and photos from real users and displaying them on their site and throughout their advertising and marketing strategy.
Webinars are online seminars that you can create and host for your audience. They can be live or recorded (or both) and they’re your opportunity to share your perspective on an industry theme, a product of your own or something else altogether.
Collaborative webinars are a great way to team up with another brand. For example, many of the webinars hosted by Content Marketing Institute are done in collaboration with another brand, like Drift or Sitecore. This brings in multiple sources of expertise to make each webinar more valuable and also draws in viewers from all brands’ audiences.
User-generated content is exactly what it sounds like: content created by people outside your organization. This strategy engages real people, is unique and creative, plus is very cost-effective.
Apple’s Shot on iPhone campaign is an example of UGC at its best – the company sourced photos and videos real people took using their iPhones, then included them in printed ads.
Companies of all sizes can create a UGC campaign using social media to generate interest and share creations from followers and fans. Or, they can find UGC where they naturally occur, like blog comments and product reviews.
Types of content
Content marketing formats can change often based on customer expectations and user demands. As websites and social feeds become more responsive and sophisticated, they’re able to host more dynamic file formats, granting marketers greater opportunities to reinvent the wheel.
Broadly speaking, content fits into 5 buckets:
- Blog articles.
- Product descriptions.
- Landing pages.
- Press releases.
- Long-form guides.
- Email copy.
- Ad copy.
- White papers.
- Case studies.
- Video blogs.
- Studio production.
- On-location video.
- Vox pops.
- Video interviews or testimonials.
- Web demos.
- Product demos.
- Corporate promos.
- Event footage.
- Virtual reality and augmented reality.
- Custom illustrations.
- Content formatting.
- Wireframes and site mockups.
- User-generated content.
- Hashtag campaigns.
- Complementary social posts.
- Recorded interviews.
Many types of content require collaboration with other formats, making them hybrid assets involving multiple stakeholders or departments. White papers, for instance, merge written copy and graphical formatting or branding. Web demos, too, involve written scripts, audio narration and animated designs to form a complete product.
Content marketing channels
How you publish, promote and amplify your content is just as important as what you create.
While your marketing assets help define who you are as a brand and what message you want to convey, the channels in which you deliver those very assets will affect who sees your content and how well it performs.
There are numerous channels marketers can use to interact with prospects and customers. These are the 10 most important distribution methods you’ll likely come across:
Organic traffic (SEO)
Generating organic traffic is achieved through SEO. In effect, site visitors click on the content they found in organic SERPs – and it all started with a search query.
The content you publish on your site is indexed by search engines and served to users, and it doesn’t have to just be blog articles. Video content and infographics – anything ungated, really – also appear in SERPs, granting you more exposure and the chance to funnel traffic to your site.
Paid search traffic (SEM)
Driving search engine traffic through organic content is a great long-term investment. But sometimes your company needs a faster, more measurable form of ROI, which can be accomplished via paid search ads.
As a form of pay-per-click advertising, paid search ads appear at the top (and sometimes the bottom) of SERPs, giving your brand major exposure that couldn’t be accomplished otherwise. Creating landing pages, branded ad copy and click-worthy titles on your paid ads can steal traffic from SERP competitors and funnel commercial leads to your site.
Email marketing delivers the highest ROI of any channel. By distributing newsletters, gated assets and other forms of branded content directly to the inboxes of your email list, you can cut through the noise of the web and have one-on-one conversations with prospects and customers.
Segmenting your email lists into various account types, reader intent and industries, you can distribute content with precision, ensuring your message gets to the right people at the right time.
Newsletters are a great place to start email marketing. Learn how to build an email newsletter from the ground up with this guide:
Social media marketing
Social media helps give your marketing more personality, cause and commentary. You can post targeted content on one channel, and other types of assets on another – wherever your audience is, you meet them there.
Your social channels also empower you to respond to subscribers and followers, measure engagement in real-time, promote products and network with influencers. It’s a versatile, highly vibrant ecosystem to capitalize on.
LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest give your content reach it couldn’t achieve elsewhere, making it a vital tool in your distribution strategy.
Because quality, credible backlinks from authoritative sites is a Google ranking factor, obtaining those links is an incredibly powerful way to increase your brand reach.
Link building is the methodology for generating interest in your content and securing the links you seek. You can do this through:
- Creating well-researched content that’s worthy of links.
- Publishing proprietary studies that don’t exist anywhere else on the web.
- Guest-posting on other high-value industry sites and publications.
- Manual or automated link outreach.
Publishing your content and then getting it in the right hands is the key to link building. The link juice earned from each incoming domain URL will boost your site’s rankings.
A newer distribution method, podcasting has exploded in popularity. As the average smartphone user spends nearly 4 hours a day inside apps, recording a podcast can put your company right in front of these users via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iTunes, Anchor and the dozens of other listening apps on the market.
Podcasting gives your brand another forum to dive more deeply into niche subject matters, interview industry experts and network with like-minded companies and consumers.
It’s a great way to deliver your message audibly, as listeners can enjoy your content while driving, riding the train, working out, cooking dinner and whenever they have downtime.
People will likely find your podcast in the same way they find your site: Organically. Which means there’s a strategy to making your show findable to the average listener.
Staying in front of your audience as they move across the web is a great way to own mind share and stay visible among so many competing distractions. Every time someone visits your site, they are cookies (a small piece of code).
After they leave your site, your paid ads may be displayed across other websites, apps or social platforms they visit, creating a trail of brand interactions. These ads are usually displayed banners composed of text, imagery and buttons.
Content syndication is a network of websites that re-publish or re-feature existing content on the web, either in full or in short synopses.
Syndication allows your content to achieve greater reach and appear in front of more online readers than it otherwise could on its own.
The tradeoff, however, is that most syndication platforms are paid services and the quality of newfound traffic to your content cannot be guaranteed.
For industries that still do a lot of business offline, trade shows, conferences, forums and other community events are integral to marketing success. Blurring the lines between physical and digital marketing, event-based marketing relies on the power of both.
This might include speaking opportunities, webinars, lunch-n-learns or pop-up booths set up in public spaces with lots of foot traffic. For these events, you’ll need marketing collateral – like panorama visuals behind you or even printed infographics on hand – and a promotions strategy to get your voice heard above the crowd.
Other content distribution formats to consider within the context of events are augmented or virtual reality experiences, branded swag and interactive contests or giveaways.
Though mobile marketing is a device preference that cross-cuts all the above channels, consumer behaviour trends dictate companies should think of smartphones and tablets as distinctly valuable in and of themselves.
Marketing your content on mobile means, first and foremost, a fully mobile-responsive web design. It also entails optimizing your future content decisions to account for less text, more visuals and lots of clickable buttons – all seamlessly integrated directly into your web pages, emails and social feeds.
Mobile traffic also comprises the thousands of apps available to consumers – all microchannels through which you can promote your business, like podcasts, news aggregators and even standalone branded apps.
How to create a content marketing strategy
No two content marketing strategies are the same – at least they shouldn’t be. At a high level, “blogging” is a strategy, as is “video marketing.” But digging deeper into the tactics, timelines and targets of those strategies reveals that there is a lot of variability and subtleties in play.
To develop a content marketing strategy that’s uniquely designed for your brand, its goals and its capabilities, here are some starting points and simple examples:
Identify short- and long-term business goals.
40% increase in customer subscriptions in the next quarter.
Establish how the marketing team can help deliver on those goals.
Create middle-of-the-funnel content that’s helping push prospects closer to a conversion.
Understand which buyer personas you’re targeting with your content.
Who within your target audience has purchasing power to become a paying customer?
Decide which types of content are preferred by those buyers.
Does this persona mostly consume short articles or do they prefer video demos and face-to-face meetings?
Select promotions and distribution channels your target audience uses.
Are they active on specific social media platforms or are they relying on email or search engines to gather information?
Map conversion pathways to the customer journey.
At which stage of the funnel are you hoping to increase conversions and remove any final customer obstacles?
Design calls-to-action and event triggers for tracking and measuring performance and goal completions.
To properly attribute success and identify dropoff, create clickable CTAs that lead to dedicated landing pages – and track those clicks, links and actions with code and integration into your analytics dashboard.
Create a template, model or workflow that organizes and facilitates the execution of the above steps.
Use agile methodology, project management software, creative agency vendors or other “systems” to coordinate your campaign.
While these steps serve as a skeleton for your marketing framework, the actual “how” of ideating, implementing and executing the specifics of your strategy is up to you, your budget and your tools
These broad categorizations help put into perspective not just how much to spend but more appropriately how to spend efficiently.
In other words, how to create content that’s wholly in the service of your goals, while maximizing every dime along the way.
For example, if you’re aiming for more eBook downloads, creating Facebook posts won’t help you reach that goal.
Understanding your target audience
One maxim of content marketing to keep in mind is: You are not your target audience.
Creating content because you “think it’s good” or “it’s cool” or “this is what my boss wanted” is not enough. It’s not advisable at all. Instead, be 100% user-focused. Answer their questions. Pique their interest. Engage their time.
In practice, this means creating dedicated user profiles – 3-5 personas is a good starting point. Creating these sketches outlines who you should be targeting, wherein their journey they are and which types of content are most likely to convert.
As a reference point, distinguish between a few different types of site visitors:
This is the person who not only clicks on your articles but also engages with them, uses them for research and may subscribe to several of your company’s marketing channels.
This is the person who has only surface-level knowledge of who you are and what you do. They don’t have time to read every page of your site, and they prefer to stay out of the weeds from day today.
Their role is a facilitator of vendor information. They share your content with internal stakeholders, vouch for your services over competitors’ and want to speak with you directly – before looping in their boss.
This is the person who signs on the dotted line and has the authority to do so. They won’t engage or interact with your site really at all – they just need enough information to make a good decision on a potential business relationship.
This person has quotas to hit, hard deadlines to meet and wants to get down to business rather quickly.
Each of these personas has different motivations and interests, both personally and professionally. As such, they interpret and experience your site in unique ways.
Targeting your content to each persona and adjusting your KPIs accordingly can help keep your metrics accurate and actionable.
As you can see, at the marketing level, there is no single “target audience.” Once you look into the core details of why you’re creating content and for whom, you realize there are varying tiers and shades within your target audience.
Content marketing in the sales funnel
The sales funnel is the elemental foundation of marketing and sales alignment. For any business, knowing how your funnel takes shape, how each stage performs and where improvements can be made empowers you to create content that’s more likely to resonate – and convert.
Using a common understanding of the sales funnel, we can divide it into four constituent parts:
- Users are just discovering your brand and are not looking to be persuaded or sold to.
- Users may be intrigued by your offerings and interested in seeing more content or following your brand on social media.
- Users are more intent-driven and are actively comparing your brand against others based on whether your products or services align with their distinct needs.
- Users are ready to become paying customers after they’ve fully vetted your brand. All that awaits is a swipe of a card or a contract signature.
Within these four phases, user intent varies. Whereas a traditional marketer would blast all four of these buyer personas with the same, templated TV commercial, a content marketer would create more-personalized messaging that targets users only within the confines of their specific stage of the funnel.
This level of distinction and optimization means every piece of content is geared toward a specific audience, and that you can better track your investments within the funnel. Similarly, you might find that prospects make it to the consideration stage of the funnel, and then drop out entirely.
This signals a need, on your part, to create content for the consideration stage that re-engages prospects, differentiates you from competitors and gives them a better reason to move to the purchase phase.
Here’s another look at the four sales stages and which types of content are best-suited to each:
- Blog articles.
- Social media posts.
- Short videos.
- White papers.
- Explainer videos.
- Conversion landing pages.
- Display ads.
- Case studies.
- Customer testimonials.
- Web demos.
- Sales sheets.
- Sales emails.
- On-site video testimonials.
- Sample or trial content.
As your team develops the above assets, you can deploy them with precision at their corresponding phase of the funnel. So you’re not mixing your messaging or confusing prospects with uncontextualized content, both your marketing and sales departments should work in complete cohesion, preferably with the support of sales enablement software.
Sales should not be cold-calling someone who is already at the purchase stage, and marketing should not be sending promotional emails to someone who clicked on your site for the first time yesterday.
As sales and marketing teams collaborate and work in unison, you have greater confidence that every asset is specifically engineered to convert users and that every decision is tied to measurable ROI.
Content marketing tools
The market for content marketing tools (and its adjacent industries) grows every year. With user experience at a premium, and technology demanding marketers evolve their tactics in near real-time, software, plugins, dashboards, integrations and analytics are table stakes.
We’ve outlined below tech solutions to make your marketing more granular, more effective and more engaging:
Email automation and analytics:
- Constant Contact.
- Keyword research:
- Moz Keyword Explorer.
Social media automation and analytics:
- Google Analytics.
- Google Search Console.
- Crazy Egg.
- Raven Tools.
- Google PageSpeed Insights.
- Hemingway App.
- Answer the Public.
How to measure content marketing metrics
With marketing automation tools making data insights more accessible than ever, there’s an enormity of critical business intelligence to be discovered through content marketing.
Which metrics you choose to measure depends largely on the objectives you wish to achieve. Most practically, let’s delineate between vanity metrics and valuable metrics:
To accurately report content marketing ROI, you must look at metrics that matter to your bottom line. These aren’t just marketing indicators; they’re integral commercial signals.
Metrics tied to revenue streams are inherently more important and more impactful when deciding where to place your resources and how to secure additional investments in the future.
Examples of valuable metrics include:
- Conversion rate.
- Customer acquisition cost.
- Customer lifetime value.
- Marketing-qualified leads.
- Sales-qualified leads.
- eBook downloads.
- Search position for commercial-intent keywords.
Vanity metrics are data points that might disguise real, underlying trends or that aren’t tied to ROI in any meaningful way. You wouldn’t want to make business decisions based on vanity metrics because they predominantly show only consumption (buttons were clicked, pages were visited, etc.) but not cold, hard ROI. They don’t generate actual revenue and are only useful in measuring non-transactional activity.
Examples of vanity metrics include:
- Bounce rate.
- Social media follower count.
- Site visitors.
- Keyword rankings.
Within these definitional boundaries, the act of tracking and measuring metrics can be as automated and manual as is preferable. Companies that lack the budget or talent may default to spreadsheets or simple Google Analytics dashboards, while more sophisticated marketers may use a series of integrated or parallel metrics engines.
Recommended analytics tools to kick-start your marketing measurement include:
- Google Analytics.
- Google Search Console.
Set benchmarks before, during and after your marketing campaigns, using the metrics that are most important to you. Be sure to implement proper tracking codes on all of your web pages, social feeds and email accounts, too, as this will be the mechanism for populating your analytics dashboards and ensuring your data is accurate and updated. In Google Analytics, setting up Goal Completions for Assisted Conversions is incredibly insightful as well.
When analysing and reporting on your marketing metrics, avoid showing the obvious, surface-level indicators described above. Instead, frame the conversation around dollars in and dollars out, so that non-marketing stakeholders and executives can more easily follow along and appreciate the achievements your team has made.
So rather than reporting on the number of leads generated last quarter, highlight the precise cost-per-lead. Similarly, instead of clicks, focus on click-through rate.
Thanks for reading.