In many ways, internet marketing has become synonymous with content marketing. After all, people log onto the web to find answers to their questions and solutions to their problems, and the only way to provide those things is through web content! In fact, the web content that your business publishes is so crucial to your online reputation — and, ultimately, to your bottom line — that you need a specific strategy for it.
photo courtesy of tec_estromberg on flickr
Here are the steps you need to follow in order to create a content marketing strategy that really works:
1. Determine what you want to accomplish
Are you trying to get more people to visit your website? Do you want to turn more of those casual visitors into buyers? Are you trying to improve your ranking in the search results? Do you want to build an actual relationship with your target audience? Are you trying to establish your business as a legitimate authority in your industry?
Luckily, a great content marketing strategy can do all of these things! To make it work for you, though, you have to figure out your specific goals right in the beginning. Write them down if you have to. Once you have concrete goals, you can create a content marketing strategy with a very specific focus — instead of getting pulled off-course by tools and techniques that are floating around all over the web, but aren’t actually helpful.
2. Figure out exactly who you’re targeting
When you hit “Publish”, who’s going to read what you’ve written? The very best web content makes readers feel like they’re having a one-on-one conversation with the author, so create a mental picture of ONE member of your target audience. Who are they? How old are they? What makes them happy? Sad? Frustrated? Scared?
Once you have a clear picture of who you’re “talking” to, it becomes easier to write quality content that your target audience will genuinely appreciate. Or, if you’re paying someone to write your web content for you, having this clear picture makes it easier to explain exactly what you’re looking for in a specific piece.
3. Assess your existing content
Unless you’re a brand new business, you’re going to have existing content — like the sales copy on your website, a few blog posts on the company blog, or some newsletters that you’ve sent out to your email subscribers. So, now that you know exactly what you’re trying to accomplish and who you’re targeting, determine if your existing content still fits.
For example, if your sales copy uses a lot of hype and cheesy promises — instead of laying out the specific features and benefits for your target audience — it’s not going to fit in with your new content marketing strategy. Leave it as-is, and you could do all of the marketing in the world, but your sales copy will kill the deal every time!
A great content marketing strategy will establish your business as a bonafide authority. So, if you have any content that doesn’t match up with that reputation, you need to get rid of it.
4. Determine who’s going to do the writing
The greatest content marketing strategy in the world won’t do you any good if you don’t have a great writer! Many business owners decide to handle the writing themselves, because they think it’s a good way to save money. However, those same business owners soon realize that they don’t have the time, the talent, and/or the desire to write a bunch of web content. So, before you deem yourself the company content writer, make sure you’re REALLY capable of doing a great job. Then, make sure you have the time to fit it into your schedule.
If you don’t want to do the writing yourself, you have another decision to make — hire a full-time writer or outsource your writing to a professional company. If your budget will only allow for outsourcing, make sure you do your homework. Professional content writers will give you all of the copyrights to their work — meaning you can put your own name on it and publish it anywhere you want — so the work they do will have a direct impact on your reputation. If their writing isn’t as good as it should be, your business will be the one that takes the hit, not theirs.
5. Figure out your content schedule
Your content schedule will ultimately be determined by who’s doing your writing. If it’s you, you’ll probably wind up posting fewer pieces, simply because you have a slew of other responsibilities to attend to. If you have a dedicated writer (either working full-time for you or someone you outsource the writing to), they’ll have more time to dedicate to your content marketing efforts — meaning you can publish things more frequently.
Figuring out your content schedule right in the beginning is important, because your readers will come to expect new content at certain times — like every day, every week, etc. If you don’t stick to your content schedule, people will be less likely to make a trip to your website part of their routine.
However, more content doesn’t necessarily equal more results. Sure, it would be nice to publish something new every single day, but can you really keep up with that pace? Above all else, your content schedule needs to be realistic. Whether you want to update your blog once a week or once a month, your schedule needs to be something you can stick to. Otherwise, you could be seen by your readers as not very reliable or even flaky.
6. Make a list of what kind of content you’re going to publish
You don’t need to come up with every single topic you’re going to write about from now to eternity, but you do need to have a basic idea as to what kinds of topics work best for your industry and your specific brand.
For example, what kinds of news can you discuss? What types of issues and developments can you analyze? What kinds of things can you offer advice about? The answers to these questions will depend on what industry you’re in, what kind of experience you have, and who your target audience is.
Once you have these answers, you’ll have a good idea where to go to research your content. For example, you may want to sign up for a particular expert’s email list because you know he offers such thoughtful analyses, or you may want to set Google Alerts that can tell you about breaking news in your industry.
7. Think about where you’re going to publish your content
Publishing content on your own blog, in your own email newsletters, and on your own YouTube channel is a no-brainer. However, a crucial part of content marketing is moving off your site. This is the “marketing” part!
Think about it as if you were opening a restaurant. It’s not good enough to just fling your doors open and say, “We’re ready for customers!” To actually get people in the doors, you have to go out and market to potential customers so that they know you’re actually open for business. On the web, that means publishing content on other websites.
How do you find those publishing opportunities?
You have to start by thinking about the authoritative websites that already exist in your industry. Visit them, and see if they allow guest authors. If they do, check out their requirements, along with the other content they’ve published. If you’d be proud to have your name and content posted next to what you’re currently seeing on the website, you’ve found a true authority. If not, keep looking. The content you publish off-site will be judged by what’s sitting next to it.
While all of this may seem like a lot of work, if you do it correctly, it will all be worth it. After all, without a solid content marketing strategy, your business can’t tap into everything that the world wide web has to offer!