No matter what field you work in, if you’ve browsed your competitors’ websites, you’ve likely encountered a blog or two. Companies have long recognized that having interesting reading material on their websites is key to keeping people on their sites and thinking about their products.
But there is a big difference between casually writing a blog post or two and creating a full content marketing strategy designed to attract potential customers.
Content marketing is the attempt to use interesting, useful audiovisual or written content to draw attention to your brand. When people view, listen, or read this content, they are connected to your product or service, helping them to better understand why purchasing from you would benefit them.
Implementing this strategy takes time and some solid content development, but the reward can be a major uptick in revenue. Here’s the scoop on how to make content marketing work for your business.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is the fusion of two important efforts that companies make on the internet. One is the competition for viewer attention — getting people to linger on their websites.
The other is the attempt to get search engines like Google to recognize them as an important search result. When viewers navigate to a great piece of content marketing, they should be focused on:
- Strong design elements
- Clear headings that help them find what they’re looking for
- An engaging writing style that makes them want to read more
Google’s algorithm, however, is looking for a variety of specific items to help it classify marketing articles. They want to know:
- What an article links to
- Who links to it
- What the key terms used throughout the article are
- What the length of the article is
Content marketing requires that marketers mesh these two goals: they want to create a piece of content that is easy and engaging to read and pleasing to human viewers, but they also want it to be well-attuned to Google’s search algorithms.
The reward, if this effort works, is that people who are looking for a product or service like yours will look for it on Google and your article will pop up in the top of the search results.
But once the searcher clicks through, it’s the quality of the article that will keep them on your site and build your reputation as a knowledgable company.
It’s no wonder that Hubspot reports that 70% or more of marketers are investing in content marketing at this point: it’s a key strategy in your toolkit.
Benefits of Content Marketing For Your Business
Of course, most companies don’t stop with a single blog. Instead, they form a strategy to produce a variety of valuable content for their potential customers.
As they publish new content, they pay attention to their website traffic data and conversion rates, noticing which kinds of content are really driving new buyers. They then work to replicate that success with new, related work.
These strategies, once implemented over time, yield the basic benefit of a higher bottom line: increased revenue. However, there are at least three specific components that can do the work of driving revenue when you have a solid content marketing plan in action.
When your content appears in search engines above the competition, you’re literally getting more eyeballs on your name than those who are farther down the line.
The idea is that many of us turn to the first company we think of when we need a particular product, and capturing that path-of-least-resistance audience is a powerful way to increase revenue.
At the same time, every bit of visibility plants a seed for when someone eventually does want your product or service: while harder to track, just getting your name out there does have benefits down the road.
While visibility is possible with regular advertisements as well as content marketing, stellar content differentiates many companies and actually boosts their reputations.
When, for instance, your mail-order subscription box also has a truly hilarious email newsletter associated with it, there may be those who come to your page just to sign up for the newsletter and get that shot of humor; they actually volunteer to receive promotional materials from you!
Similarly, useful tutorial content and relevant helpful blog posts help people solve their problems, lending you a reputation as a company that solves problems well without asking a lot. It’s nice to be known for your content’s strength!
Word-of-Mouth/Social Share Recommendations
The valuable combination of strong visibility on search engines partnered with a reputation boost from offering useful content is tied to the way people use the internet.
While some people will read an article on their own and move on, many who are impressed with good content will share it to their own social audiences or send it directly to a friend or family member.
This doesn’t feel the way advertising feels, where a business communicates with a potential customer. Instead, potential customers feed the buzz about the company by sharing amongst themselves.
In the same way that an independent blogger who talks about a particular hobby can get traffic because their readers share articles with friends, your company can grow visibility and reputation further when your loyal customers and loyal readers send your content on to others.
Changing Conversion Rates With Content Marketing
People buy a product or service, ideally, because they are interested in that product or service and have a use for it.
However, there are more malleable reasons why a person who is generally interested in a product or service decides to buy right now:
- They’ve been spending time thinking about the product or service.
- It’s really easy and clear how to purchase the product or service.
- They just got a compelling offer or discount on the product or service.
The goal with a content marketing strategy is much like any other sales funnel: at the start, you want to get a lot of different kinds of prospects to read your articles, even if they are just passing through and reading one piece of content.
However, building up the content marketing features of your website increases the chance that readers will stick around or frequently return to your site, increasing the opportunities for them to be reading one of your articles when they make the decision to buy.
Realistically, content marketers would also welcome the opportunity to be in the right place at the right time.
If you hadn’t planned on buying a new kitchen gadget at all, but a recipe blog from a particular brand pulled you in and made your mouth water, you might make that purchase decision completely on impulse.
For that kind of reader, content marketers make sure that there is always a clear CTA, a call-to-action. This could be as simple as a button that says, “sign up now!” or more complicated, like links within the text of the article to different products.
In the case of a kitchen gadget, allowing readers to seamlessly buy the product from the bottom of a tasty-looking recipe blog post is amazing for conversion rates.
Time on website is an important metric for marketers because every minute someone spends on your website is time that your brand is front-and-center for them.
In many cases, time on website translates to higher conversion rates over time, so content marketers push themselves to create amazing posts, podcasts, and videos because it keeps interested prospects right there, with easy access to the “sign up now!” button.
Why Choose Content Marketing Over Other Strategies?
These days, most companies aren’t choosing a marketing strategy. They are employing various strategies as pilot projects and recognizing that, after several months or even a year, they’ll have valuable data to clarify the impact of the work.
One of the big reasons to start with a content marketing strategy over, for instance, print or television advertising, is that you retain a lot of control over the data.
When someone reads your blog post, clicks through to your product page, and makes a purchase, you can track that information. The return on investment with a television advertisement may be huge, but it is harder to pinpoint the buyer’s journey from ad to purchase.
However, content is part of a multi-channel digital marketing strategy. If you are trying to decide whether to go all-in with content marketing or with social media marketing, you’re stuck in a false question.
You can use both strategies, pay attention to what is working, and refine your approach over time. One social media site may emerge as a great source of conversions, but dedicated content marketing efforts give you more things to post on that site.
The Steps to a Great Content Marketing Strategy
Great content marketing follows a cyclical process.
While you can of course brainstorm a year’s worth of blog post ideas at once, there’s no guarantee that something you thought of 10 months ago will still be relevant to your customers… or even to your product, if your company opts to pivot!
A good cycle to follow is one that responds to what your customers are telling you: their purchase behavior and time on your website tell a story that helps you drive the direction of your content. Here’s a process to follow to get started.
Evaluate Customer Pain Points
The brainstorming process for content marketing is much more systematic than just “think of interesting blog articles.” Of course that can be part of the process, but a few questions that most great content marketers will ask can help you get off to a strong start:
- What process or background information would prospective customers like to know? How can we answer their questions with this content?
- What needs, desires, or tensions prompt people to pursue our product or service? How can we write content that builds on or solves those needs and desires?
- Who is our customer? What is their buyer persona? What kind of reading/listening/viewing is that person wanting as part of their online content consumption?
For instance, a content marketer working for a kitchen gadget company might notice that a pain point is a need for fast weekday meals that are healthy but also affordable.
They might start bringing that audience in with blog posts about one-pot or one-pan meals or meals that are ready in half an hour, and mention their gadgets as part of the post.
The blog post might solve their immediate need (looking for a recipe) while also solving a bigger need (wanting food prep to be easier and faster).
Research the Competition
Once you’ve done some research on your own customer profiles, check out what comes up when you search for the product or service you offer. Who is already creating content on this topic?
The competitors have put this content out in the world, so you should evaluate what is good enough to rank now as part of your process of creating something even better yourself.
Aim for Better: More Readable, Informative, or Engaging
By creating content in the moment, you get to take advantage of the best practices of online content: your competitors may still be using blog posts that use walls of text instead of short readable paragraphs, for instance, or they may not be using many graphics or images in their posts.
Make a plan to create content that isn’t just a dressed-up version of what has already come before: really create something that is distinctive and bold, including in how it connects back to your own value and what makes you unusual in the market.
Review the Results: What’s the Data’s Story?
Once your posts are live, you’ll want to promote them: use social sharing, email lists, and any other methods for getting people to view this content.
The goal is to offer this content not only when people are searching online, but also in other venues, including the valuable social share from reader to reader.
Once you’ve done all the promotions, it’s time to pay attention to some key metrics on the new posts in particular and on your site in general:
- Bounce rate: How long do visitors stay on the page before they bounce to another page? This can give you a feel for how engaging the readers find your content.
- Website traffic: Are you seeing more people total come to your website?
- Conversion rate: How often do visitors go on to purchase a product right after (or days after!) reading your post? This is a major way to see the revenue boost that content marketing can bring.
Start compiling data for each post over time using your website analytics or a good old-fashioned spreadsheet. This information comes in handy when you start brainstorming again, because it shows what kinds of content your customers are drawn to and like to read in-depth.
You can also start to connect the dots between topics and actually making a purchase: what really puts people in the mood to buy?
Refine for Next Time and Start Over
This data compilation allows you to feel much better equipped for your next series of posts: after all, you know more about what appeals to your readership. Rather than blindly attempting new posts, you’ll factor data into your overall content strategy over time.
While you still want space to try new ideas — don’t just rehash your biggest success over and over — operating with the data in your pocket allows you to really connect with your audience and focus on what makes them consider your product seriously.
Types of Content Marketing
Rather than becoming overwhelmed with the many options for how to content market, focus on what kind of content is most likely to appeal to your customers.
For companies selling products that have a lot of hands-on instructions and physical demos, a video strategy may really help and draw others who are interested in the same subject.
Other services bring in a lot of interested leads through a lead magnet, such as an e-book that offers a lot of valuable strategies to a B2B company audience. You get to decide what does the best for your search results as well as for your content consumers.
The core component of many content marketing strategies, a blog gives people a library of on-site resources to read and enjoy.
You can experiment with different topics, but also see if photo-heavy posts, infographics, long in-depth investigations, and more variants have a better return in web traffic and bounce rate for your company.
An email newsletter is a great way to engage with the deepest members of your marketing funnel, those who were willing to share an email address at some point. This can be structured as an insider’s look at your company or your products, or it can be a more intimate version of a blog.
Many people use an email newsletter to draw traffic to blog posts as well — a hybrid approach (a short, personalized intro for the newsletter followed by a list of the latest blog posts) can make the email newsletter both its own content and a source of promotion.
White Papers, E-Books, and Other Lead Magnets
Occasionally, your insider knowledge as an expert in your product/service will be so useful that people will happily give out their email address in order to get a longer piece of content.
In technical fields, this longer piece might be a white paper that goes in-depth on statistics and key findings about the use of your product. Sometimes, when a major celebrity name is associated with a product or service, an ebook of insights from that celebrity can be a draw.
Any content that is top-notch and premium compared to the (also high quality!) blog content can become a lead magnet, information that people want badly enough to sign up for your email list in order to get it.
Those who want this content are also wonderful prospective customers, and ideally, that email list becomes part of your targeted marketing efforts.
Podcasting and Videos
One of the newer content marketing strategies is creating branded podcasts, which include audio content and videos and allow people who prefer audiovisual formats to connect with your brand.
You need to carefully fill out descriptions and other written content on a podcast or video site, but when done well, these items can also draw web traffic from search engines.
They also tend to be very good for bounce rate, with people navigating to your site and staying while they watch a great video or listen to the podcast.
Common Problems that Content Marketing Can Solve
The big issues that content marketing can solve are lack of visibility and lack of engagement. Visibility comes when more people start seeing your blog posts in search results or being shared around on social media.
Engagement comes when they look at the content, realize it’s strong and helpful, and start to associate positive reputation qualities with your actual products, not just your content.
You might be surprised, however, about the many other ways that content marketing helps your company.
For companies that are still figuring out what product or service to zero in on and promote heavily, the statistics and data that come back from your analysis of each content piece on your site may help you uncover new niches or ways that you could broaden or narrow your scope.
Basically, companies that really commit to content marketing often gain insight that can help refine product development as well.
Finally, content marketing can also be helpful to your customer support team. Creating a comprehensive resource library that addresses many of your customers’ pain points gives your customer service team ways to easily link support callers or emailers to the instructions they need.
Working with customer support can be a valuable source of new ideas for your next round of blog posts or newsletter articles.
Many companies start their content marketing journey by connecting with a trusted marketing agency that can help them brainstorm a carefully-aligned content calendar, distribute the posts thoughtfully, and promote them well.
Get to know Redstitch today and see how we can start your content marketing strategy to gain major results.