As web users have gotten more savvy, they’ve become harder and harder to get in front of. For instance, did you know:
- Clickthrough rates on display ads across all formats and placements is .06%.
- More than half of the clicks on mobile ads are accidental.
- Ad blocking grew by 41% over the last year.
If ads—long considered the best way to bring new visitors to your website—are no longer effective, then how can brands acquire new customers? The answer is content marketing. You’ve heard that content is king, well, content marketing is the whole kingdom.
What is Content Marketing?
In its simplest terms, content marketing is creating and distributing content that your target audience will find value in. It isn’t pitching products or services—rather, it’s giving potential customers information that will make them want to reward you with their business, or at the very least, a Facebook Like.
What’s valuable to your potential customers will depend on a few different things—your brand, your mission, your goods and services—but content creators should strive for relevance, quality and consistency. The goal is to publish content that will not only drive people to your website so you can convert them to customers, but will also compel them to share it across their social networks so you can mine their friends and followers for potential customers as well.
Many people think of long-form articles when they think of content marketing, but there are several types you can create, including:
- Blog posts
- White papers
It all comes down to what you can realistically accomplish on a regular basis with the resources you have. It could be as simple as a monthly newsletter, or as complex as a weekly video series. And you don’t have to create all of it yourself, either—you can curate content from outside sources.
What Content Marketing Can Do For You
Content marketing is a valuable tool for every stage of your marketing, from lead generation to closing sales. Here are the most important ways your business can benefit from content creation and distribution:
- Increase Awareness: Getting a valuable piece of content in front of someone who has never heard of your company before is an effective, non-invasive way to introduce yourself. If that potential customer likes what you have to say, they’re more likely to click around to learn about what goods and services you offer.
- Build SEO: The more popular your content, the more authority search engines give it, which will increase your visibility in results. This is also where consistency comes into play. Both the volume of content and the freshness of the content play a part in search results. Publish often, and you’ll see growth in search engine traffic.
- Drive Traffic: One of the most important functions of content marketing is to bring people to your website. You want to strive for, not just quantity, but quality. You might publish an infographic that goes viral, but if the content is too broad, those visitors won’t stick around long enough to become customers.
- Collect Data: The more users you have engaging with your content, the more opportunity you have to get to know them. And once you get to know who they are and what they’re interested in, the more targeted you can get with your content creation. Over time, you’ll be able to fine-tune your strategy to where you’re consistently publishing popular, effective content.
- Increase Conversions: Users may gloss over a display ad for your products or services on another website, but if they land on a page on your website and see strong calls to action to check out your newest product or sign up for a free trial of your service, they’re more likely to click.
Steps to Creating a Content Marketing Strategy
Your content marketing strategy can be one page or an entire PowerPoint deck, but it should include the following:
Step 1: Define Your Objectives
What are your most important metrics for success? Whether it’s sales, subscriptions or donations, the content you create should support your goals. If you’re selling jeans, a guide to getting the right fit would be something that could prove popular to users both on and off of your website. If you want someone to donate to an animal shelter, an infographic with stats on pet adoption would get shared on Facebook by animal lovers everywhere.
Step 2: Identify Your Target Audience
Who is your target audience, and what are they interested in? Learn everything about them. Social listening is a great way to learn what customers are saying, not just about your brand, but about your competitors as well. Find out what types of content your target audience consumes; which social networks, blogs and forums they visit; and when they’re most active. These factors will inform both what you create and how you distribute it. The more granular you can get, the easier it will be to market to them through either organic or paid channels.
Step 3: Research Your Topics and Themes
Now it’s time for a content audit. Start with your content. What has worked in the past? What hasn’t? What can you learn from past successes and failures? Decide what to keep, what to discard, and what to update. Then, search for related content. Identify what’s missing, what questions customers are asking that you can answer, and what keywords are most popular for your area of expertise.
Step 4: Plan and Create Your Content
How often do you plan to publish? Which content types do you have the resources to utilize? Once you figure that out, create a content calendar and start filling it in! Your content should be a mix of timely and evergreen, and it should incorporate catchy headlines and keywords for search. This is also when you’ll plan out how to convert visitors into customers, whether it’s through on-site promotions, collecting email addresses, or simply through strong call to action buttons throughout the content pages. The AddThis Audience Targeting Rule can help you target messages to visitors based on their source, behavior or interests.
Step 5: Publish and Amplify Your Content
Once your content is published, it’s time to promote it through your marketing channels. Consult this guide for the best times to post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest. (link to blog post about Best Times to Post on Social Media) Make sure your content is shareable for visitors as well. AddThis Share Buttons make it easy to increase your audience by engaging with people who are not on your site, as well as distribute content across multiple social networks and platforms. If you send out a newsletter, include your newest content to let your subscribers know that your website is a go-to source for information on your topic or theme.
Step 6: Analyze Data and Refine Strategy
Once you start publishing, you can use a tool like Google Analytics to figure out how your content is performing—and converting. You can also see the demographics of who is engaging with your content, where they came from, and what else they did on your website. As you spend time analyzing data, patterns will begin to emerge that will inform how to tweak your content strategy over time for success. You may find that you’re getting high amounts of traffic on content that isn’t converting to sales or subscriptions. The data will show where that content is coming from. If it’s a website unrelated to your industry or brand, your content might be appealing to too broad of an audience. You could try creating similar content for a more specific audience and test it for conversions.
Content Marketing for Mobile
Did you know that smartphones account for half of U.S. adults’ digital media consumption? That means that every action a user takes on your website–whether it’s reading a blog post or purchasing a product—has to be optimized for mobile. And that includes content.
Mobile-friendly content should be quick and easy to digest. Users may be clicking on your content from a Twitter link while they’re in line at the grocery store. Making it scannable and compelling with ensure that you hold their attention until it’s time for them to check out. Some ideas to consider:
- Create short, strong headlines. A long headline can take up an entire screen on a small phone, so get to the point quickly enough that you can deliver the meat of the content to them, above the fold.
- With video, shorter is better. Shorter videos, like the ones on Vine or Instagram, are easier to consume on the go.
Keep paragraphs short. Ideally, you want to get at least one full paragraph above the fold to bring the reader in. And make it a good one, chock-full of the most interesting parts of your content.
- Use headers. Headers help break up content to make it more scannable, which is a must for a user who may be multitasking and distracted while reading on a smartphone or tablet.
Since you won’t be creating separate content for desktop and mobile, you’ll need to keep these rules in mind when creating all of your content marketing assets. Having a responsive design for your website will go a long way toward making it easy for mobile users to engage with your content on smartphones and tablets.
Content marketing isn’t just a fad—it’s here to stay. If you create and implement a strategy that encompasses both your business goals and customer needs, it’s also highly effective. A good content marketing strategy is always evolving to meet the needs of a growing audience and emerging technology. If you’re ready for those changes, your company will grow right along with them.