This recipe assumes you’ve prepped and set aside your target market research. You can write a piece of really great content, but if it isn’t relevant to your target market, it’s not going to be engaging content – and that’s the goal! Once you’re confident you know what topics a segment of your target audience is interested in, these steps will help guide your content creation.
So how do you plan a content strategy that will have a real impact? Blogging can certainly be a part of it, but you have to go further—the best content marketing strategies involve:
- researching the target audience
- using a mix of content formats
- optimizing for search engines and readers
- and aggressively promoting on multiple channels.
Let’s take a closer look at each of those steps. If you don’t have time to read the full post now, or if you’d like to get these steps (and more) in a handy list format, you can click below to download our Content Strategy Checklist.
Start with a headline.
Here’s the deal: 8 of 10 people will read your headline, but only 2 of 10 will read the rest of your content. The reality is if people aren’t intrigued or enticed by your headline, they aren’t going to read it. Think of the headline as the gatekeeper to your content.
It’s easy to finish writing a piece of content and just slap a headline on it, but easy doesn’t make good content. Put some thought into it and do some homework on what headline will be most captivating for your audience. It doesn’t matter if you do it first, last, or in the middle, as long as it’s effective.
Get Familiar with Your Audience
If you’re taking a scattershot approach to content marketing—planning and producing content that you think will appeal to the widest possible audience—you’re wasting your time. To drive potential customers to your site, you need to know who your target audience is, where they spend time online, and how they prefer to consume content.
Here are a few ways to find that information:
- Survey your current customers. Find out what websites they enjoy browsing, what social media platforms they use, how often they read blogs or listen to podcasts, what questions they have for your business, etc.
- Audit your current website content. Which pages have gotten the most traffic? Where have readers spent the most time? What path do shoppers take before making a purchase? Diving into Google Analytics can give you some great insights into what content is and isn’t working.
- Pay attention to social media. Look at the types of content your followers comment on and share on social media. Facebook Insights and Twitter’s Audience Insights Dashboard (available with a Twitter Ads account) will both help clue you into the interests, preferences, and purchase behavior of your audience.
Demonstrate a need
People may care about what you’re writing about – which is awesome. Other people don’t care, so you have to make the case for them to care. Why is this piece of content relevant? How is it going to change their life? It’s like all of a sudden discovering you need something you never even knew you needed. I like to demonstrate a need with an impressive, cited statistic (better yet, make it visual!).
You can also do some research into when your consumers need your product or service and think of ways to frame your content for those moments. Check out micro-moments by Google to learn more about consumer behavior.
Make Sure Search Engines Can Find Your Content
The best content marketing strategies incorporate search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is what helps your web pages rank well for relevant search terms so that more potential customers can find your site. SEO strategies are complex, and there’s no way to thoroughly cover them in a single blog post, but we do have a few tips to get you started:
- Do keyword research. Keywords are the terms that internet users search for (and that will ideally lead them to your site when they find one of your pages in their search results). You can find keywords that are related to your business and content topics using tools like Google Keyword Planner and Moz Keyword Explorer. Use keywords naturally throughout your content (i.e. add them where they make sense, rather than adding awkward sentences and phrases just to work them in).
- Write title tags and meta descriptions for all pages. Your title tags and meta descriptions are what web users see in the search results, so it’s important to write compelling copy that will make readers want to click through to your site. If you’ve built your site on WordPress, you can enter your title and meta description using a plugin like Yoast. If you’re not using WordPress, you can still plug meta information straight into your site’s HTML.
- Optimize your visual content. If you’re producing videos, infographics, or other visual content, include a transcript or written summary on your site so that search engines can find the content.
Sprinkle some keywords.
Assuming that this piece of content is going to be served online, do yourself a favor and plug in keywords and/or keyword phrases. Take the time, do the keyword research to find the specific words and phrases that people are searching for and plug them in. You can start finding keywords related to your topic with Moz’s Keyword Explorer or Google Adwords Keyword Planner.
Don’t overstuff your keywords – it’s possible to have too much of a good thing in this case. Try not to make it awkward by forcing a keyword into copy that may not make sense or that makes you stumble when you read it out loud. Use the ones you can, ditch the ones you can’t, and move on (bonus points if you can somehow combine an effective headline with a keyword phrase!).
Experiment with Different Content Types
Writing blog posts might seem like the most straightforward way to get your business into content marketing, but if this is all you do, you’re limiting your audience. Not everyone enjoys consuming online content in the same way, so it’s important to experiment with different content types to see what’s most successful with your audience. Online content formats include but are not limited to:
- Case Studies
You should also create content that appeals to people at different stages of the sales funnel. For example, a company that sells alpaca fleece blankets might produce the following content pieces:
- Awareness Stage: A video showing the eco-friendly process by which alpaca fleece blankets are made
- Interest Stage: An infographic showing some of the benefits of alpaca fleece
- Evaluation Stage: A product comparison guide for sheep fleece vs. alpaca fleece blankets
- Decision Stage: Testimonials from real customers who love having alpaca fleece blankets in their homes
Form a solution.
Demonstrating a need becomes easier if you write an answer to a question or solve a problem. Think about how many times you’ve Googled something because you’re searching for an answer. The Internet is often the first place people go for answers, which makes this aspect of your piece important. For example, perhaps your content will be some sort of “how to” guide, or answers another type of question.
Mix in some emotion.
There is a correlation between the emotional responses to content and the amount of times it is shared. Make people angry or excited, and you’re likely to get the most engagement. Surprising people and making them happy seems to lead to more social shares.
Putting Your Content Strategy Plan into Action
Implementing a content marketing plan for your business won’t yield results overnight. However, if you consistently produce and promote original content tailored to your target audience, the benefits can ultimately include increased traffic, greater brand recognition, and more conversions.
Add a pinch of visual.
Whether it’s including images that are relevant to your piece, or creating an image out of a quote or statistic, visual content rules. It also needs to resonate with your audience. How do you find out what they prefer? Try a couple of different images in the promotion of your content and see what gets the most engagement.
What types of images should you try? It depends on your business, but often for products you can try an image of the product vs. an image of the product being used – more of a lifestyle shot. Work with your photographer and graphic designer to brainstorm and develop some ideas for imagery that you can test.
If you aren’t a photographer or a graphic designer, have no fear, there are plenty of tools available to help you. Stock images are available for purchase through websites like Thinkstock and Canva is a tool that makes design fool proof. If you’re feeling really ambitious – try creating an infographic that summarizes your piece with Piktochart.
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