Content’s that kind of thing that is either make or break. You either do it incredibly well and reap the benefits (big time), or you flail a bit with results.
But you have to understand one thing: creating quality content takes time, effort and patience. Luckily, the outcomes are so far beyond anything else you’ll get in marketing. So I beg you now to make the commitment and take the leap.
You won’t be sorry.
Why have a content marketing plan at all?
If you’ve been logging along the track with no real roadmap in place, don’t worry — we’ve all been there. But you can’t stay on that route.
Overcome lack-lustre content marketing strategies by following a guideline for your brand. Know where your objectives sit and the target audience you want to reach. Use these as your foundation to developed a content marketing plan that lays it all out for you.
“Content marketing is all the marketing that’s left.” — Seth Godin
Content is consumed at an incredible pace. In fact, three out of four internet users are likely to regularly read blog posts. That’s a lot of material consumed.
This also means that, as a brand, you need to take part in this user behaviour, feeding the minds of audiences craving this level of nourishment.
So, it’s worth putting a plan in place, where your messaging is carefully distilled and infused with heart, thoughtfulness, and your brand essence. The trick is to make sure it becomes a top pick — something that rises above the standard and becomes an influential masterpiece.
Does your content marketing plan do this?
A well-designed plan takes your content to all the hypothetical places you want to see it go. The reason it can do this is that:
- It forces you to really think about your audience, and how to reach them
- Pours your team’s talents and resources into all the right streams for relevant, successful production
- Convinces senior management that you’re serious about building your brand authentically.
Once you’ve got your strategy in place, you can give the green light resourcing and kickstart the generation process — the best bit of all.
Eliminate your unenthusiastic, toneless content
It’s not enough to produce content and send it out and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve just seen words slammed together for the sake up getting it live. These slabs of text don’t appeal to anyone. Not even to robots.
People are people, and the subtle nuances of emotion mean everything in communication. Think about your writing and content as if it were a conversation: would you make sure it’s filled with personality and intrigue, or read off a script?
Authentic and genuine tones of voices are stimulating, moving, and inspires thought and action. These personalities move the crowd, they sway and entice.
Write for people and you’ll avoid the common mistake of becoming a drone. Be accessible with language and ensure your main messages are clear as day.
This was something I had to learn from the outset. I’ve always written quite creatively and used a lot of adjectives to put my words together. I had to simplify this for a lot of my day-to-day writing work, mostly because my writing wasn’t accessible enough to a majority of audiences.
Remember that you can still write with emotion and anecdotal flair, but ooze simplicity into it enough so that it’s easily read.
Drive your content with data at the wheel
Did you know that 91% of marketers now use content to drive their brands? (See what I did there?)
Measurements, analysis, and data science are a goldmine. Take these nuggets and fill your content with them, proving credibility and authority to your main points.
People don’t trust easily, so it’s up to you to sway them in your favour. And having all the right nuggets of facts will do that for you, so long as you put in the time to research from the beginning.
Use the right channel to distribute your content
There are a plethora of platforms out there now to push your content on the web. Each of them has their own personalities, spoken and unspoken rules, and most importantly — social perceptions and behaviours.
If one of those social behaviours is looking past the content you post, search for another. You need to make sure that any channel you use to distribute your material aligns with who you are as a brand.
From Medium to Facebook, LinkedIn or news outlets — your audience are live and active somewhere on the web. It’s up to you to discover where they like to hand out and then subtly push your content into those conversations.
Word of advice: do not spam post links to your work or blog articles. This is a surefire way to piss off your audience and get a big slap on the wrist from Google.
Get friendly with search engine optimisation (SEO)
This will become your best friend, even if you don’t want it to be. It’s the content marketer’s sidekick, the devil on the shoulder at some point, and biggest advocate.
Back in the day, quality content wasn’t a priority. The ranking criteria were based purely on keywords and backlinks. But the times have changed and Google now places a huge emphasis on well-written and researched content. So it pays to take your time and right something packed-full of value.
There’s a lot that goes into writing SEO-driven content, and it’s something I’ll cover off a lot in the near future. But the basics come down to check off:
- Using keywords that are pulling high-volume but are easy enough to rank for. I recommend investing in Ahrefs to check this. But a free tool like Keyword.io will give you enough information to get started. Also, check out Answer the Public to see the most commonly asked questions on your topic.
- Create compelling content using the keywords and search phrases you’ve researched. Word of warning: do not spam these keywords in your piece. Place them in your main headings, a couple of times in the body and leave it at that. Sometimes less is more. Remember the actual body of your content and messaging is what really matters.
- Your title tag (the heading on your page) is important. It needs to have the keyword in it (preferably at the start), be clear, compelling, and concise. It should also stay under 60 characters, in order to fully show up in search results pages (SERPs).
- Include a meta description and alt text. These elements are also crucial for your SEO success — just remember, it’s got to sound natural and be written for humans.
- Do not copy content from another source: Just like you wouldn’t plagiarise, you wouldn’t duplicate existing content. And that even means your own. Medium lets you tick a canonical setting to tell the platform it’s been published elsewhere, so you don’t suffer SEO penalisations from Google. But you’re not so lucky elsewhere. The rule of thumb is to always create unique content. If you’re including quotes from others, that’s fine but try to make at least 60% of your text unique, just to be safe. And as always, attribute!
Promote your published content well
Writing up your piece isn’t even the hardest part of content marketing. The biggest step of all is getting it seen. That means you need to get creative. Trust me, throwing it up on your social channels won’t do enough for exposure. You’ll need to go the extra mile to get those untapped audiences.
But it’s so, so worth it.
Content doesn’t just find itself in front of people. It takes promotion to push it out to those that matter most to your brand.
Here are a few quick ways you can promote your piece (another blog for a rainy day):
- Get onto Quora and other forums. Answer peoples’ questions and include a link to your blog piece for more information on their topic.
- Engage authentically with others and network well. Work your blog or content into the conversation when the time is right. Only when the time is right.
- Join groups on Facebook and LinkedIn and answer questions/threads around the topic you know about. Include your blog or content piece as a way for them to learn more.
- Turn your content into other formats. Repurpose as much as possible. I wrote about how to get infinite pieces out of one here.
- If you’re writing on Medium, submit your piece to other publications to get even more exposure and views. You’re also more likely to be curated by Medium if you participate in other publications.
- Use your social media channels to organically feed your content to your audience. Don’t spam them; just let them know you’ve got a new post up. Over time, use a tool like Buffer to feed bite-sizes of your piece back to them with a link. I try to do this as ‘tips’ that are valuable to them.
- Invest in pay-per-click channels if you really want to raise awareness of your writing. That’s not always the most suitable option for content marketers, but it can go a long way to getting exposure. Think options like Outbrain, Taboola, Facebook Sponsored Posts or even LinkedIn Marketing.
- Outreach to other website and publications that may use your content as a guest post. Ask them to include a “follow” backlink back to your website (you want this for SEO).
Quality over quantity
I’m an advocate for blogging every day, but that’s just not always possible. No matter how much I’ve like to produce fresh material 7 days of the week, I do have other obligations and workloads. I also have a terror of a Red Heeler that would punish me for spending too much time on my laptop.
So alas, life calls.
In these moments, it’s important not to write for the sake of getting something out. Instead of spending an hour smashing out an ‘okay’ article that you didn’t really want to do, spend the time thinking of how you might add to it and create something later in the week that has far more value. I did exactly that with this post.
Sometimes you’ll thank yourself for sitting on an idea and fleshing it out before you hop into action. Your pets might too.
Marketing takes a lot of work. For most small businesses, their team is not big enough to handle the kind of volume needed to really pack a punch. But it’s still possible.
I help brands all over the world realise they don’t need to reinvent the wheel to get success in this field. You just need to think smart and write smarter.
At the end of the day, putting in the hard yards towards content marketing will generate rewards you wouldn’t have been able to access through other formats.
That’s why I love it so much — words entice, educate and nurture in a way that no other type of communication can.
And that’s pretty special.