Whether you're just getting started with content marketing or you've been at it for a while, there are always ways to improve. Given the flood of content on the web today, improvement is, in fact, more than necessary. In this article, I'll explain how to take your content marketing to the next level.
Before you start making improvements to your content marketing, it's important to remember the basic idea behind the discipline – you want to attract the right target groups, gain their trust and build a relationship. Your content marketing doesn't sell anything itself. Rather, it prepares the field for other activities such as sales and distribution.
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If implemented well, content marketing can (almost) automatically attract new potential customers. You use it in particular at the beginning of the customer journey, when someone has just started searching for helpful information on a topic. It also plays a role in the loyalty phase, where you want to motivate existing customers to make new purchases (see upselling and cross-selling) and turn someone into a follower.
But content marketing as a tactic has become so successful and popular that, depending on the industry, it's becoming increasingly difficult to prevail. As a rule, quite a few competitors are already jostling for position on Google's first search results page. And there's no shortage of informative or entertaining content on the web either - quite the opposite.
People were already talking about "content shock" a few years back. The term warns of the moment when the amount of content increases faster than the time for its consumption. We've long since crossed that line. To make sure your content still finds an audience, you need to professionalize and optimize your activities. I'll now introduce you to the levers that can be used to do just that.
Putting content strategy in writing
Your content strategy is a document in which you record basic key data of your activities. It answers two questions in particular:
- What do I want to achieve?
- How exactly do I do that?
You're using this to achieve clarity about your goals and you record how you want to achieve them. In its most general form, such a content strategy is used whenever someone creates content.
So this strategy paper is not only about content marketing, but equally about social media marketing, email marketing or even ad placements. It can even be helpful when it comes to texts on the website. In other words, it's also helpful if it contains information about the brand voice.
Simultaneously, the content strategy doesn't need to be as extensive and detailed as possible. In the first step, it's crucial to take the time for these considerations and record the results in writing. In the simplest case, you take care of the following points:
- What goals do you want to achieve? Only if you answer this clearly, you'll be able to align your content to it and weed out topic ideas that are distracting. Possible goals are an increase in awareness of a brand or product, make your own expertise more visible, and increase sales.
- Who's your target audience? The better you understand who you're targeting, the better you'll reach them. Successful content answers exactly the questions your target audience has. You do this by using the formats and approaches that resonate best with your target audience.
- What resources do you have at your disposal? These include financial resources, but also technical basics or the people involved. Being clear about this helps you to use these resources as efficiently as possible.
- What exactly does the implementation look like? Goals and plans are worthless, if you don't think about how you're going to achieve them step by step. When keeping record on which content you need in which formats for which platforms, you should also think about content distribution and success monitoring via content KPIs right from the start.
- And last but not least - how often and in what form do you check whether your content strategy is still working and up-to-date? Your strategy is a living document that you should adapt, expand and update over time.
Ideally, you don't answer these questions alone in the privacy of your own room, but get additional input from other people. These can be colleagues from your team or from another department. You can also ask friends and acquaintances. The idea here is to think outside the box.
Many people shy away from the effort required for a content strategy. It may not feel right to waste time on it, when you could be writing new blog posts instead, for example. If you can relate, here's a little motivational help. According to Content Marketing Compass, whether a company has a written strategy or not makes a significant difference.
If we compare, in this study, the most successful content teams with the least successful, we find that the most successful are six times more likely to have a strategy documented in writing. That in itself should not be surprising. Such a strategy document makes it much more likely that everyone is pulling their weight and working in the same direction. If nothing else, it will help you with some of the following points that'll also take your content marketing to the next level.
Measure content success and learn from it
You can only achieve your goals if you regularly monitor your direction. When it comes to content, this is not always that easy, which is why often only so-called vanity metrics are measured. These look spectacular, but don't always have the corresponding significance for your business. These include numbers like page views or newsletter subscriptions.
The problem with these metrics is they give you an idea of how well your content is being received, but they don't give you any information about whether or not you're getting closer to your actual business goals. Compared to other disciplines such as sales, content marketing is complicated by the fact that the goals are not always directly measurable.
Think about the "build trust and relationships" goal mentioned above. You won't find a report on this on Google Analytics. Instead, what you can see and measure, for example, how your newsletter readership reacts when you have a new offer. How many people click here compared to your users on the website or an ad on Google?
Measuring content success
Finding the right metrics is a thoroughly complex topic. I wrote a separate article here at Raidboxes on how to find the best content KPIs for measuring success.
Dovetail content marketing with other activities
Ideally, your content marketing should work seamlessly with other activities. As mentioned above, it prepares the field for other points along the customer journey. At the same time, all these efforts can support each other.
Think about social media or email marketing. Your content will benefit from being shared. Conversely, it is hopefully so interesting and relevant that it enriches the newsletter or the posts in social networks. This is even more true for search engine optimization: Especially for long-term relevant content ("evergreen content"), it is important to have SEO in mind from the beginning. Conversely, high-quality content helps to increase the reputation of your website in Google & others.
The larger the company or agency, the more likely there will be efficiency losses at this point. Therefore, check how well the collaboration works and whether, for example, things are being created in parallel that could actually support each other.
If you're a freelancer or work for a smaller agency, think about how you can implement and utilize a content idea multiple times. This recycling of content can help you reach further people with relatively little effort.
Take a closer look at your topic choices and implementation
Question the topics and how you're addressing them. It's easy to ignore the actual interests and questions of the target group. Here it's important to always take the customers' perspective and to think and plan from their point of view. After all, content marketing is about informing these people in a good and helpful way. Always keep this in mind when finding and evaluating topics for your content marketing.
Get to know your target groups
Do you even know enough about your customers? Maybe it's time to conduct interviews and learn more about what motivates them, what problems they have, and what they are concerned with. This can help you improve your offerings and generate new ideas for marketing in general.
Or you need to question more fundamentally how you choose and approach your topics. Maybe you need to become more focused and sharpen your ideas. For example, instead of giving general WordPress advice, specialize in WooCommerce. Instead of writing generally about WooCommerce, you target people who want to run an online store alongside their retail business.
Also, research whether different content formats and platforms offer better opportunities. Instead of writing more texts, videos on YouTube might be better. Or you could start a weekly consultation via LinkedIn Live, i.e. do livestream marketing.
In another post, I'll describe in more detail how to plan and create content for hot topics. One final thought, don't just look for new topics, but also look around for existing content that you could polish up with comparatively little effort.
As an example, you may have a post in your archive that was successful a few years ago, but has since been displaced by other content in the search results on Google. Here the question arises to what extent you can revise this content to bring it back to the front with a new date. search engines also see it as a positive sign when posts are regularly updated, expanded and generally improved.
Include paid media in content distribution
When it comes to content distribution, free distribution methods are unsurprisingly the most popular. According to the Content Marketing Trend Study, 80 percent of the companies surveyed name "owned media" as the most important channel for their content. This refers, for example, to the company's own website, a newsletter distribution list or social media profiles. We could discuss whether you really own these profiles or not. After all, you are a guest here on the platform of a third-party provider. But at least you decide yourself what you post here.
Earned media are available ,for example, when customers report on their experiences or rate your product on a corresponding platform. This happens outside your direct influence. At the same time, relying solely on free distribution is no longer a realistic expectation, especially for corporate content. Website reach has been declining for years which also has to do with the oversupply of content.
The sooner you understand that you should also include "paid media" the better. This includes ads in search engines like Google or in social networks like Facebook or LinkedIn. Other examples of paid media include sponsored posts on other sites or other forms of "native advertising" where your content shows up alongside other article recommendations.
Especially in the beginning, it can make sense to rely on a paid distribution as a supplement. The content will hopefully spread increasingly later, through other channels such as recommendations and links.
Allocate more resources for good content
And last but not least, it helps your content if there are more resources available for it. The main issue here is budget. Good content costs good money. A thoroughly researched, interestingly written and accurate article can only be created with the appropriate care and experience. And that's exactly what content marketing is all about.
One result from the Content Marketing Compass can serve as an indication here. The successful teams are four times more likely to spend at least half of their marketing budget on content. The Content Marketing Trend Study, on the other hand, shows that most companies have so far reserved no more than 15 percent of their budget for this purpose. At the same time, more than half expect the budget to increase this year.
The fact that I'm only talking about money at the end of my post is no coincidence. It's more important that you go through all the other points first and find potential for improvement before you spend more on your content marketing.
As, I hope, has become clear from this post – if you want your content marketing to be successful (again), it needs an all-around professionalization. Every aspect of content production can be improved, starting with a written strategy.
What I wouldn't recommend, on the other hand, is to increase the amount of content. According to the Content Marketing Trend Study, however, that's exactly what 72 percent of the B2B companies surveyed and 54 percent of the B2C companies have undertaken to do. At the same time, the study shows that two-thirds publish something already several times a week or even daily.
This doesn't mean short social media posts, but extensive and elaborate content such as infographics, studies, videos, webinars, white papers and more. It makes me anxiously wonder, who's intended to consume all this? So instead of continuing to contribute to content overload, ask yourself how you can make your content more interesting, diverse, and helpful.