Content marketing is an effective marketing strategy to engage customers and build brand awareness. This long-neglected digital marketing strategy has started gaining the attention of marketers worldwide in recent years. It is a viable technique that has proved effective for the world’s top brands.
Discuss content marketing and why you need it to establish your business.
What is Content Marketing, and Why is It Important?
Content marketing uses valuable and useful content to promote services/products, become an authority in your domain, generate sales, and turn customers into advocates. But, it is only possible with an effective content marketing plan.
If we look at the previous century, we can see how marketing evolved along with technological advancements, from print media to radio to television and, ultimately, the digital revolution we are witnessing now. Today, we can see brands dominating SERPs with excellent SEO-optimized websites and paid advertising campaigns on both Google and social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Both SEO and PPC advertising are the most common methods of marketing.
Seeing the market saturation, brands started realizing the importance of creating engaging content based on old-age principles of storytelling and creative persuasion. Great storytelling can build narratives and impact human psychology, which is what savvy marketers leverage in their content marketing campaigns.
History of Content Marketing
John F. Oppendahl coined the term “Content Marketing” in 1996. The oldest example of proper content marketing dates back to 1895 when John Deere published the magazine “The Furrow.” Content Marketing Institute’s research points out several other old content marketing examples for marketing enthusiasts who want to study where this discipline originated.
Evolution of Content Marketing and SEO
Businesses began paying attention to content marketing a decade ago when they acknowledged the need for a blog. However, their focus didn’t go beyond the blog, and they didn’t know how to leverage it properly. The research finding about “zero moment of truth” convinced businesses to create educational content for their prospects to engage and persuade them to become long-term customers.
The later updates made the content marketing for small businesses more advanced. Companies started realizing that blogging was not enough. The content marketing strategists began emphasizing a holistic approach combining SEO, social media, and PR marketing. The purpose was to distribute the content among interested individuals successfully.
How to Develop a Content Strategy
Effective content marketing campaigns are only possible if you take the time to carve a compelling content strategy. A comprehensive content marketing strategy discusses various factors related to your business, audience, and resources. If you are doing content marketing for startups, the following content marketing steps become more important as a startups have limited budget which should be used wisely.
Let’s examine each one step by step:
Business Goals and Objectives:
The first step in creating a content marketing strategy is knowing the business’s long-term and short-term objectives.
Content Audit: If you have already been following a content strategy, it’s recommended that you do a content audit. You should analyze your analytical stats to understand which content type performs well and which social media platform.
Buyer Persona: The most crucial step in creating a content marketing strategy is understanding your audience more deeply. Knowing only the demographic details like age, gender, location, and profession is not enough. You should understand your ideal customer on a psychological level. Factors like your customers’ pain points, fears, aspirations, and desires are important doorways to their minds.
Decide Content Type: Knowing what content type and format will work on a specific social media account is essential. Moreover, you should clearly know what type of content will work best concerning the sales funnel stage your customer is in.
Create Content Calendar: A content calendar is the key to content marketing success. Writing and publishing content randomly will not move the needle for your business.
Manage Content Creation: You should consistently create content, as infrequent content publishing will suppress your voice in the fiercely competitive content landscape.
Content Distribution: It is important to distribute your content effectively to reach a large portion of the audience. Without proper planning, your content may not get as much traction as you desire.
Content Marketing Metrics
There are five categories of metrics related to content marketing that work as a standard benchmark for measuring your efforts. These KPIs provide a fair estimate of your performance and where you need to optimize and upgrade yourself.
- Metrics for Brand Awareness
The metrics to measure brand awareness indicate the popularity of any business among the masses, used to know how better the audience recalls a brand. Metrics like reach, impressions, and brand mentions strongly indicate a brand awareness campaign’s success.
- Metrics for Engagement
As obvious from the term, these metrics show how well your audience interacts with your content. The metrics like likes, shares, comments, and click-through rates tell us about the strong engagement of the audience on social media. On the other hand, bounce rate, average page on time, and the number of pages viewed per session are indicators of audience engagement on your website.
- Metrics for SEO
The metrics like keyword rankings, organic traffic, and backlinks tell us about the authority and popularity of a website in SERPs. You should consider the click-through rates coming from search engine traffic and the leading conversions to determine the success of your SEO efforts.
- Metrics for Lead Generation
Lead generation is the process of converting prospects into leads, and the metrics to measure are the form submissions, sign-ups, and downloads. You should keep an eye on the cost-per-lead and adjust your campaigns accordingly.
- Metrics for Sales
The sales metrics are not straightforward to consider. You should calculate customer acquisition cost, conversion rates, and sales numbers to understand which customer segments and sales channels are working.
Content Marketing Fundamentals
To understand the dynamics of content marketing for small businesses, you will need to have a hang on following terms. This step-by-step process should be executed in the same sequence for reaping measurable results.
Before initiating any effort to produce content, deciding your business goals and crafting your marketing goals to match your higher-level business goals is essential.
The next step is to spy on your competitors to see what they are doing that is working. Replicating and adjusting their strategy with your unique branding and goals is the sure way to success in content marketing. Some of the recommended tools for this purpose are Semrush, Serpstat and Spyfu.
Now that you have decided on your business goals and spied on your competition, it’s time to understand your audience. You should be clear about their pain points and interests. Moreover, knowing where they hang out online is necessary to avoid wasting your content production and distribution efforts. Some of the popular tools used for audience research are Buzzsumo, AnswerThePublic, and Semrush.
If you have been producing content randomly, you should take some time to audit your content quality and stats. This will give you a clear idea of what is already working and a chance to capitalize on that base. You can do content audit with tools like Semrush, Yoast SEO, Screaming Frog, and Google Analytics.
No matter how organized or disciplined you are, having a content calendar is important. Suppose you outsource the work to someone else. In that case, they can follow the calendar to resume the content creation without delays. Some of the popular social media calendar tools are Hootsuite, Trello, Asana, and Sprout Social.
Creating valuable content is time-consuming butt should not be a hurdle in your way. Do sufficient research before hitting the keyboard keys. Moreover, always have a content brief to align the content with your branding. Some of the recommended tools for AI-based content creation and optimization purpose that can really catapult your content marketing campaign are MarketMuse sand SurferSEO.
Utilizing tools for content optimization goes a long way in bringing you closer to success. Content with grammatical flaws or SEO loopholes will not likely perform well on the SERPs. Take help from tools like Grammarly, Yoast SEO, and Hemingway Editor to fix grammar and readability issues and make the content SEO-friendly.
Manually distributing content is the first step when you are tight on budget. However, once you create content at scale, publishing and posting all of the content at scheduled times becomes unmanageable. This is where content distribution tools can help. Nowadays, you can find various AI tools that help bulk-schedule and publish on WordPress and social media.
Some of the popular tools for content distribution are Hubspot, Hootsuite, and Buffer.
When all the above steps are being executed in a sequence with the flow, it’s time to check your analytics after a few weeks. This will give you a fair idea of what your audience engages with and what type of content doesn’t resonate with them. It can save you time in future content creation efforts.
Content Distribution Strategy
The steps mentioned above form a content distribution strategy, including content planning, creation, and distribution process. However, knowing which type of content you should use for different stages of the sales funnel your customers might fall into is essential. Moreover, it is essential to have an understanding of owned, earned, and paid media, which we’ll discuss shortly.
Various types of content formats can be used on different mediums. Marketers utilize these content types to engage their audience at different sales funnel stages:
- Long-form videos
- Short-form videos
The content distribution channels are categorized into three sections: Owned, Earned, and Paid.
The owned media consists of media you own and can control according to your will. These include blogs, websites, social media profiles, mobile publishing apps, and email newsletters.
Earned media, as obvious from the name, is the kind of distribution strategy in which third parties share your content, which provides you with free promotion and virality. The third parties can be bloggers, social media influencers, journalists, Vloggers, and earned media, including user-generated content such as guest posts, PR articles, social mentions, product reviews, and weekly roundups.
The forums where the massive audience shares a common interest also fall under earned media. The popular forums are Reddit, Quora, and Tumblr.
This content distribution strategy involved paid advertisements such as Pay-Per-Click paid influencer marketing and paid sponsorships. This strategy is expensive but can bring greater ROI if used strategically.
Content Marketing Career Path
One can select various career paths after entering the content marketing domain. The most popular ones are as follows:
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Search Engine Optimization includes optimizing web pages to appear high in search results. To specialize in this field, one needs to know the inner workings of search engines and how users use them to search content. Moreover, they should understand how to write valuable content rich with keywords.
- Social Media Marketer
Social media marketers create compelling content to attract eyeballs and engage audiences. It helps build your strong brand, gets organic leads, and retains customers.
- CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) Expert
This field focuses on increasing the number of visitors more likely to convert and become customers. CRO experts ensure audiences interact with the website and take meaningful action that can indirectly or directly translate into sales.
- Email Marketing Expert
Email marketers are responsible for creating engaging email copy, designing templates, and managing email marketing campaigns.
- Content Specialist
Another subdomain of content marketing is the content strategist field. Content specialists create content, manage content calendars, and collaborate with cross-functional teams to ensure content is published on time.
Content Marketing Examples
One of the viral content marketing examples on social media is Oreo. It launched the Oreo’s Daily Twist campaign in 2013 to celebrate its 100th anniversary. For 100 consecutive days, an ad was posted on social media and website, signifying a historical event, famous trends, and popular landmarks. This campaign garnered much appreciation for Oreo and turned its cookie into something unique and creative.
Another content marketing example is Canva, the world’s most popular brand for graphics-related tasks. In 2023, it launched a weekly contest, #CanvaDesignChallenge, where the top 5 image submissions were given an annual paid subscription to Canva free of cost. The campaign is an excellent example of user-generated content. It collected 36000 posts under this campaign, which Canva social media experts can easily utilize for posting on social media.
A B2B content marketing example is by Salesforce. It launched the Leading Through Change initiative, which targeted professionals and businesses operated remotely. This project includes videos on leadership, engagement, resilience, sustainability, customer experience, and women’s empowerment to educate users about work-life balance.
Content Marketing Best Practices
I have jotted down for you some of the best practices of content marketing that can also work as a checklist for you:
- Always map out your buyer’s journey
- Craft a specific content marketing strategy
- Create a top-notch content marketing team for maximum benefits
- Determine your key performance indicators beforehand
- Audit your existing content before writing new content
- Its recommended to identify content gaps
- Repurpose content to utilize on different online media
- Use hashtags while posting content on social media
- Maintain regular frequency of your content publishing
- Stay up-to-date on changing algorithms of Google and social media
- Have an end goal with every piece of content you produce
- Always have a keen eye on the analytics
- Experiment with new channels to see what gives you the best ROI
- Focus on evergreen content instead of just running behind trendy topics
In this article, we discussed content marketing for small businesses, its history, scope, and career paths at length. Moreover, we shed light on the content marketing trends and their scope in upcoming years. It is an affordable and effective marketing technique that can transform your business and make it more authoritative in the eyes of the customers.
However, to bring measurable results from the content marketing campaign, it is crucial to follow best practices and understand the changing algorithms of online media channels. Focus on creating valuable and evergreen content that will continue to serve our audience for years to come.
Content marketing is not a one-time game. It’s an ongoing process that demands constant attention and resources. Before deciding to add content marketing to your overall marketing strategy, it is advised to consider its pros and cons and the time commitment needed to draw measurable results from your efforts.