Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focussed on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
The Content Marketing Institute
Before you can capitalise on the benefits of content marketing, it’s important you understand how content marketing works. Unfortunately, that’s not something that can be adequately answered in one sentence, or with a single dictionary definition. But, there are a number of methods you can familiarise yourself with in order to understand what content marketing looks like, and how your brand can make the most of these methods to ensure success.
This quick refresher piece will give you an overview of the main techniques digital marketers use to ensure success when ‘doing’ something called content marketing…
First, good digital marketers will find out what their audience wants (and it’s worth nothing that it’s the single most important thing to do when it comes to wrapping your head around content marketing). If you can provide your target audience with the right content at the right time (and at each stage of the customer buying journey), you will become a friend to them in their purchase decision; their advisor, guide and trusted companion. This counts for a lot online.
In order to make this work, audience insight is imperative. You need to know who your audience are and the type of content that they are likely to look for and engage with at each stage of the purchase funnel. How can you be there for them if you don’t know what they want?
As part of your persona creation, ensure you pay particular attention to audience micro-moments and pain points. We have a great piece on this on the Zazzle blog, but here’s a brief overview: a micro-moment is usually a question, but sometimes a phrase, that your audience will turn to Google with in a time of need.
They are usually looking for advice, facts, or other valuable information and it is important that you are there for them quickly and in a useful way, providing a rounded solution to the question they have asked and preferably (if you’re doing it really well) more. So, how are you going to establish your audience micro-moments and pain points? Well, using your initiative is one thing. Thinking, ‘If I were in the market for [your brand’s product or service] what kind of questions would I be asking?’. Forums can be very useful for this type of thing too, and longtail/informational keyword research is essential to add a little bit of science to the whole process.
How this content looks should also be informed by audience insights. It could be in the form of a ‘how to’ guide, a quick 30 second demonstrative video or even a listicle that provides them with their options. Establish the stage at which your audience is likely to be needing this information, and find out which content type engages them best at this stage. Together, you have a winning formula for building a relationship with your audience via content.
Ultimately, creating this type of content builds trust between you and the user, as they begin to learn and appreciate that you believe in putting the customer first. Even if the user is six or 12 months from conversion, you have planted your brand’s seed in their minds and they will think of you when the time comes that they need your product or service.
Community is Kingdom –What it means is that if we create content that people need to desire, we’re going to build a loyal community around our brand, which leads us to why content is King.
Wade Harman, Convince & Convert
Another way content marketing can be particularly useful is for establishing your brand positioning. It allows you to shout about your USPs without ramming sales material down your customer’s throats (no one wants that, do they?) while providing you with the opportunity to take the lead in your industry with demonstrations of thought leadership.
Being number one in your industry is a sought after position, and understandably so. Where so many brands are missing out on opportunities here is with a lack of thought leadership content marketing. Here at Zazzle Media HQ the whole team club together to write numerous pieces of expert content throughout the year to get the Zazzle Media lightbulb out there, and for Zazzle Media to be acknowledged as industry experts. The rewards you see from this type of content marketing are fantastic, and can result in a lot of organic traffic to the site and those desired goal completions. All brands should relish the challenge of becoming thought leaders in their field by maximising internal expertise and offering value to target audiences and peers.
Typically, when we refer to thought leadership pieces of content you think of long-form, in-depth articles, eBooks or whitepapers. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Imagine your work schedule is manic and you just do not have the time or resource to create such a piece (we get it, you’re very busy people). But there are other ways. Off-page content marketing is a great way to get your brand name out there, sometimes as simply as offering an expert quote, insight or statistic to feature in someone else’s article on a relevant, external publication. Quick, easy but so beneficial, positioning you as experts in your field and usually achieving a brand mention if not a link back to your site. Simple!
Word of mouth is more effective when people know you’re good at something and can easily share that.
Sandeep Kelvadi, Pixelmatic
Writing SEO-friendly content on your website is another great way of using content marketing to your advantage. Broadly speaking, there are two main types of content that sit on a website: category content and blog content.
Well written, keyword rich and useful category content enhances user experience and highlights this to Google. Through actively targeting commercial keywords within this content, Google will acknowledge that it is relevant to the URL and useful to the user and as a result, reward you for it.
Here at Zazzle Media we write (or encourage our clients to write) a combination of two types of blog content. Some that predominantly serves an organic search purpose; written to target those micro-moments defined by keyword research that we spoke of earlier, that will drive a qualified audience to your site. The other type of blog content is that written for the purpose of increasing on-page engagement. This content is always best if it can target keywords too, but that is a secondary focus in this instance. Engaging blog content helps your site visibility due to metrics such as time on site, bounce rate and dwell time evidently being pushed further and further up Google’s priority ranking factor list.
Many pieces will straddle both intentions and provide great examples of content marketing multi-tasking to drive improvements in the overall visibility of a website.
Some people think that content marketing eliminates the need for SEO. The truth is, however, that they go together, overlap, cohere, blend.
Neil Patel, Kissmetrics
Content marketing is the perfect vehicle for reaching out to your existing audience and for capturing a broader target audience too.
For example, we’ve worked with a number of clients that have incorporated the capturing of a new audience as part of their objective. If, for example, you want to attract a younger audience than your existing one, there are tweaks you could make to your content marketing approach to cater to this. For example, you might decide to change the tone of your content, using Instagram and Snapchat rather than Facebook and LinkedIn for its promotion, to name a couple.
Similarly, creating great off-page content and hosting it on a different calibre of sites to your usual choices will broaden the reach of your brand, as well as working with bloggers and influencers that have a different type of following to the collaborations you usually make, or who work within a different niche.
When planning and creating campaigns, brand awareness should always feature somewhere on your objective list. Yes, it can be difficult to measure, but similar to the way in which content marketing will build relationships with your audience if you do it well, seeing your brand name on national publications is further reinforcement of your brand on a wider potential audience.
Brand awareness isn’t just whether your audience knows the name of your brand, but it’s how well they understand the qualities that make your brand unique.
Lead generation is something good digital marketers are keeping an eye on when they’re preforming content marketing. The great thing with this type of content marketing is that, done well, it will add value to your target audience. Because of this, you can ‘gate’ your content. This means that, in exchange for having access to the eBook/ video/ white paper/ template you have created that the user wants to see, your readers hand over either their email address or full business card details. Genius!
Using content marketing like this ensures your content is so much bigger than an engagement or digital visibility tool – it’s one that can be used to define and sculpt your active and marketing qualified leads. It enables your brand to learn what particular audience segments are particularly interested in, how hot or cold a lead is and ultimately, which leads are most important for your sales team to pursue.
Marketers have come to rely on content to engage prospects and customers in today’s buyer landscape, but to do so, your content must educate, inspire and beg to be shared.
Another method of content marketing is building a good backlink profile: that’s because a good backlink profile is still massively important in the eyes of Google.
Creating relevant and interesting content for your audience that you can then pitch to a variety of sites and blog owners – all of whom are linking back to your site – is a great technique to increase reach and traffic to your site, as well as strengthening your website’s backlink profile. Remember, variation and uniqueness is important here, and spammy links will be penalised.
SEO professionals who see the big picture have the opportunity to combine a mix of art and science to get great links the natural way.
Loren Baker, Search Engine Journal
So there you have it - content marketing in all its glory; getting the right content in front of those who need it using a variety of different methods and platforms to achieve a plethora of sought after results.
To get all of your ducks in a row and your head around what content marketing approach is best to achieve your objectives, make sure you always start with a comprehensive digital and content strategy. This is always our first challenge when we begin with a new client; in fact, we recently wrote a fantastic guide on all the necessary components of such a strategy – so be sure to have a read! Ultimately, this should highlight your strategic direction, outlining your objectives and defining exactly what activity you intend to carry out to achieve them.
Now, go and make all your content marketing dreams come true!
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