Your content strategy plays an important part in your company’s growth and success.
The statistics paint a clear picture:
- Before they even think of buying, 50% of online shoppers read 3-5 blog posts.
- On the other side, 80% of the blog fails within 6 months.
What does this mean for you?
Choose the right approach for content marketing and you will scale quickly. Make a mistake and you will lose revenue or even market share to a competitor.
That’s why it is so essential.
This guide will walk you through everything you should to know about content marketing.
You’ll learn about the skills you need to master as a content marketer, and some important principles to understand.
Let’s start off with a simple definition.
Definition: Content Marketing Strategy
Content marketing strategy is the process of ideating, planning, distributing and optimising your content assets to satisfy business requirements.
The scope of content marketing is broad. It’s much more than writing blog posts because it require a multitude of skills.
Your approach to growing a business with content marketing will depend on your company.
For example, a local bistro owner with four staff will have different opportunities and capabilities than a multinational company like Apple.
But the ultimate goal of both companies is to make more money.
How is content marketing different to copywriting?
the main different between content marketing and copywriting is the goal: content marketing generates new readers, while copywriting generates new customers.
Your content team might reach that goal by writing free content for your marketing funnel, or by distributing that content using various channels (email, social media, networking).
The success of your content team is measured by how many eyeballs and purchases they generate.
Your copywriting team, instead, will make people take a very specific action, like subscribing to your newsletter, making a sale or creating a free trial account.
If other words, content marketing without copywriting is a waste of time.
For example, you could hire a freelance copywriter to identify how to convert more people from your existing content efforts.
Or you might hire a copywriter to help you come up with a content marketing plan to enter a new market or promote a new product.
How is content marketing different to marketing?
Marketing is a broad term and it covers all the way a product or service can be promoted and content marketing is one of those ways.
A marketing team is traditionally responsible for promoting a product or service to your target audience (you might want to hire an SEO consultant if you don’t know your target audience on search engines).
There is a lot of overlap between marketing and content marketing. Many marketing teams combine the roles of a content marketer with marketing. That’s why oftentimes we hear the term “content is king”. Content is the basis of everything marketers do, from SEO to PPC, to social media and email marketing.
Creating a content marketing strategy: 4 paths for growth
With a new blog post published every half a second, and 90% of not getting any traffic from Google, the real struggle for content marketers and SEO writes is to choose which post to publish and which to leave behind.
So the question is: how do we make sure content marketers write the 10% content that gets traffic?
There are 4 basic growth strategies for content marketing based on a concept that I call “Impact / Effort Matrix”.
The four strategies are Quick Wins, Major Content Projects, Fills In and Time Wasters.
Content Quick Wins (big impact, low effort)
Quick wins are content pieces that can achieve high level of performance without too much effort. Essentially, they are golden eggs of your content and they are often your top performing posts.
For example, there are several blog posts that we wrote this year. The best performing one is “highest paying jobs without a degree“. This post has 3,143 words and it was written in 4 hours.
It ranks on Google for 711 keywords, of which many in #1, and gets Future Fit’s website over 13,000 new visitors a month (155,000+ new visitors per year!).
Your quick wins will impact your resources, time and growth strategies. For example, if you are an established website with a high Domain Authority, your new blog posts will rank extremely high on search engines.
Your goal will be to retain your position and watch for competitors who are trying to outrank you.
The best way to maintain your position is to constantly optimise your website and your pages with innovative solutions. In digital marketing, Hubspot is probably the best example of this.
Each blog post they release makes it harder for competitors, especially a new website, to compete.
If you don’t have quick wins, you will need to figure out how to outrank search results from competitors and receive traffic.
New websites often do this by researching underserved keywords for a product or a service. Those keywords where Google is not providing a satisfactory answer to. You can typically identify these keywords when on search results there are lots of forums sites ranking (Quora or Reddit, for example).
This means Google is struggling to find a suitable answer and provides users with Quora or Reddit. The opportunity for a quick win is to write a well structured blog post answering the question better than forums.
An alternative way to generating quick wins against an established market leader is to try and penetrate in a new niche.
That might not be the option for your website, but it offers the best opportunities for growth. A nice example of a blog post going towards this direction is my post answering the question “what is the percentage of blogs that fail”.
Instead of writing an article around “blogging statistics”, which is too broad and largely answered by more established websites than mine, I pivoted to become THE answer to one question only.
In other words, I niched down.
And the results is that after 3 days from publication, my blog post is already ranking on page 1 already and I am sure I can get it to position 1 soon.
With over 70% of internet users reading blogs, content marketing is far from dead, but it is different. It requires a grasp in finding quick wins.
After 24 hours, my blog jumped from position #5 to position #3 as you can see in the screenshot below. It’s getting closer to Hubspot and it surpassed Medium.com
UPDATE: After another 6 hours, Google elevated my content to the featured snippet on position #0.
This is an extremely quick result in the span of less than 2 days that says a lot of the speed of Google’s algorithms.
Content Major Projects (big impact, big effort)
The content major projects refer to all the stages of bringing a new content project to life. It starts with identifying a business goal that has a high impact on the long term success of your organisation.
You then brainstorm content ideas and list a number of selected ideas to support that business growth.
Once the content ideas are on the table, you might want to write and implement a long term content ideation process.
It’s important to be selective and only pursue them if they are likely to product a result.
There are lots of content ideation techniques that can be applied in this stage. Here is a list of how to generate new content ideas:
Brainstorming is a well-known approach that uses group interaction to generate solutions by building on one another’s ideas.
Use this strategy with a group of 2 to seven people for more productive brainstorming.
2. Mind Mapping
Mind mapping is a visual approach that develops linkages between the problem and alternative solutions that your team is attempting to address.
Write your issue statement or a high-level term linked to the problem in the centre of a sheet of paper or whiteboard.
You will detail any relevant solutions or ideas raised by the team in the space surrounding that statement and use lines to connect them to the major subject.
3. Questioning assumptions
This is by far my favourite content ideation idea.
In digital marketing, we often have preconceived notions about how to accomplish things, but this method challenges those assumptions in order to generate more innovative content ideas.
As a result, you could choose to apply this strategy to improve an existing content or create a new one.
Consider what you want to solve or develop, then brainstorm 20 to 30 assumptions about that product, service, or concept.
4. Products analogies and comparisons
An analogy is a comparison of two products, services or concepts that may be used to produce new conclusions and opinions.
An analogy can help you simplify the difficulty you’re trying to address.
To do so, compare your position to one that everyone is familiar with. You may use a template like this ones:
- Fiverr vs Upwork
- Udemy vs Coursera
5. Poll Experts and give them credit
6. Competitors blogs
Look at what your competitors are saying.
This may sound obvious, but you’d be amazed how many people forget to do it.
Examine their blog, product sites, FAQs, and search boxes.
Fills in Content (low impact, low effort)
Fills in are the content with low impact and they take low effort to implement.
These types could be everyday content tasks, routine tasks or admin tasks. This means that because the impact is low, these types of content don’t bring any benefit either.
So my recommendation is not to worry too much about these activities. You can delegate them to someone else if something better comes along.
Thankless Content Tasks (low impact, big effort)
Try to avoid these activities.
Not only do they give little return, they also soak up time that you should be using on quick wins.
If you’re discovering content in the High-Effort-Low-Impact sector as a group, and as an individual inside that group, there’s a really important dialogue to be had about whether you should cease writing this content at all, and what the implications will be if you do.
If you can get them to quit, you’ll have more time to work on Low-Effort-High-Impact initiatives.
Here is a story on how I identify low impact high effort content.
I have been working on writing lots of content around Fiverr, the freelancing platform.
This keyword has 5.2 million monthly searches on Google. Even 1% of that traffic would generate 52,000 new visitors a month to my blog.
The exercise I did started with identifying all of the topics related to Fiverr where my blog could become the go-to resource for anything around the platform.
I spent days ideating and writing the content. I produced tons and tons of content.
As time passed and my ranking were not improving, it became obvious that I targeted the wrong keyword. When people search for “fiverr”, they want the website because they are too lazy to type the entire domain name www.fiverr.com on their browser, and then search on Google instead.
So I realised that I wasted so much time chasing a keyword that a different intent to what I was writing.
This is a typical example of a content task that fits within the “Thankless Tasks” in the Impact/ Effort Matrix.
That’s why before producing content, it’s very important to do extensive research on whether you can potentially rank for that keyword.
4 Important skills every content marketer needs
There are many ways you can get involved in content marketing. Some of the essential things you’ll need to consider to master if you want to be successful in this industry include the following.
Ability to learn fast
If you want to succeed as a content marketer you need to quickly learn how a business work and how search engines work.
You should be able to spot content ideas with high impact and possibly low efforts that can increase traffic and revenue.
A content marketer should have what the journalist Thomas Friedman calls “curiosity quotient“. This is the ability to analyse data, keywords, competitors, topics, business goals and clients’ pain points. Those skills are important.
You’ll rely on them when creating a content plan or a content strategy.
Copywriting is important. As we have said above, content without copywriting is a waste of time. You need to be able to influence people with your words.
For example, a famous stereo brand recently posted on Facebook a message saying “Listening to music since 1972”.
The post receive 4 likes and not much interaction.
The same brand posted a different message, after hiring a copywriter, that said “Annoying your neighbours since 1972”.
The message went viral within a few minutes.
Also, you should not forget that your content must first of all be well-written and readable for your audience.
Illiterate content is impossible to read, and if the text is written too complicated, some part of the audience may simply not understand it. To improve the quality of your text, you can use a paraphrase and readability checker.
As a content marketer, you need to find high impact content ideas. For example, you might to consider how to attract a large number of readers to the blog and make them convert into a significant action.
In order to do this, you need to come up with 10x better content compared to what is already published on Google.
This means you need to research your customers’ pain points, your competitors, Google search results and other areas to make sure your content ideas are validated for success.
This is known as market research, only that the market is actually a search engine.
Psychology of persuasion
As a content marketer, you have to understand what makes people tick. For example, you might find out that some people are very influenced by product reviews, while others follow the advice of authoritative figures.
Other people react to scarcity, because they don’t want to miss a great opportunity to get something unique and rare.
You need to attract enough interest with your content that generates action.
Is content marketing a good career?
As a content marketing career can be challenging and rewarding. There are a lot of companies that need a good content marketer to growth their online presence.
Many corporations and large companies hire contractors.
According to Glassdoor, in the UK the average salary for a content marketer is £30,808.
The salary is calculated from a sample of 99 people, so it might not be 100% accurate.
That said, the path of a content marketer can be rewarding because it can lead to the top of a corporate ladder.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, the top title of a content marketer can be the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Here is an illustration of a typical career path.
The primary job of a CMO was content marketing. Marketing was a secondary function because marketing *is* content.
What should I study to become a content marketer?
You can’t enter the content marketing industry from a University degree, because there are no formal courses that prepare you.
If you want to find a job in a business, you should know that many businesses require a graduate degree. So it’s a good idea to graduate and get a good academic background.
There are also a wide range of digital marketing courses that can set you on towards a career in content marketing. For example, CopyBlogger offers the right course to learn how to make people take action with copywriting.
How to be successul in content marketing?
Nobody can guarantee you success in content marketing. However, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances.
You can study the fundamentals of marketing such as SEO and digital marketing. Make sure you understand the market, the audience and the organisation before you attempt to write a single word.
Learning what make people take action and studying their psychology is also great way to get you started. You can check my resources on the ROI of persuasion to find out more how others use persuasion in marketing.
A willingness to learn from others is also very useful. Pros like Julia McCoy, Joe Pulizzi, Ross Simmonds, Ann Hadley, Heidi Cohen, Crystal Carter, Judith Lewis share a lot of great advice.
Summing it up
I hope you have found a lot of value from this guide.
This guide provides a great definition of content marketing and you have also learnt some of the skills needed to get you started.
We also covered the four factors that, in my opinion, can help you set up a content marketing strategy.