You don’t start whipping up your grandmother’s signature chicken cacciatore without first ensuring you have the right recipe and ingredients to make it a delicious success. And you don’t dive into the content marketing game without first developing the same kind of equally detailed plan that ensures a win.
Arnie Kuenn, CEO of Vertical Measures, is a master chef on the content marketing scene, and he shared the secret recipe for content marketing success at the Arizona Interactive Marketing Association (AZIMA) first annual Content Marketing Workshop.
If you missed the AZIMA event, don’t fret. Kuenn will be serving up the same hugely popular workshop at the WriterAccess-hosted second annual Content Marketing Conference in Las Vegas, May 17 to 19, 2016.
In the meantime, we’ve whipped up a taste of what you’ll get with a rundown on the eight steps to success.
1. Strategy Development: Prepping the Kitchen
The first part of your strategy is to clean out your pantry, so to speak, by reviewing all the existing content on your website. Update the outdated, kill off the irrelevant and check your site for duplicate pages where different URLs lead to the exact same content. Code duplicate pages so Google only finds one of them during its web crawls.
Once your so-called pantry is cleaned out, figure out what you want to fill it with. What’s the overall goal you want your content to accomplish? You don’t have to think all too long and hard on this one, as most are going for:
- Increased traffic
- More leads
- Bigger revenue
Perhaps you also want to prove yourself a leader in your industry or open up new markets. Maybe you want to lower customer service costs by providing informative content on your site that answers the same questions dozens of callers plague you with each day.
Whatever your goal, make sure you know:
- Who your audience is
- Your company’s voice, tone and style
- Who’s going to create your content
- Where you’ll publish this content
- What metrics you’ll review at the same time next year to prove your content is meeting your goals
54% of B2B marketers peg their biggest challenge as producing engaging content, while 50% say the biggest problem is producing it consistently. Plan out your strategy in advance and you won’t have to join the majority.
2. Ideation: Choosing the Ingredients
You have your overall recipe, now you just need specific ingredients to fill in all those empty spaces where content topics are supposed to appear. Your most important question is simply:
“What does your audience want to read?”
Google Search Suggest is a helpful tool for answering this question. Put a word or two in the Google search field, and Google automatically gives you the top four phrases or topics people are searching for using the words you provided.
Skip singular keywords in favor of long tail keywords, as searches are getting much more specific. You’ll know you’ve hit pay dirt when you find a relevant and popular phrase that has not yet been written about.
Gather more topics of interest to your audience by:
- Asking your customers
- Asking your employees what questions they’re regularly asked
- Collecting data from your chat boxes or customer service emails
Your main aim is to answer questions and solve problems for your audience, feeding them the info they’re craving – not simply stuff you like to cook.
3. Content Creation: Cooking the Chicken
An editorial calendar lets you precisely plan out your content, and you can create your own using a spreadsheet, crayons or the readymade download at VerticalMeasures.com/calendar. Your calendar outlines each piece’s:
- Creation and publication date
- Title and summary
- Type, whether it’s a blog post, web page, video or white paper
- Any other pertinent details, such as included links or images to use
Just like you have countless ways to prepare chicken, you have a vast array of different content types and formats. Blog posts are some of the most popular, but you also have podcasts, interviews, webcasts, e-books, infographics, videos, e-newsletters, online quizzes and downloadable guides and white papers.
Attention-grabbing formats include:
- Pricing and cost pages
- Problem-solving content
- Comparisons and reviews
- Resource pages
4. Optimization: Getting Google to Like Your Chicken
It’s been said “The best place to hide a dead body is page 2 of Google search results.” That’s because people rarely, if ever, look past the first page of results. Getting your content on page 1 is a must, and it can only be done if you make Google happy.
- Quality links at the domain and page levels
- Pages with hearty content and relevant keywords
- Strategic use of on-page SEO elements, such as URL, tags and meta descriptions
- Proof of user engagement through searches
Google doesn’t like:
- Duplicate content
- Duplicate or weak title tags and meta descriptions
- Keyword stuffing
- Bad backlinks
- Images and videos with shoddy optimization
- Painfully long page-load times
Google’s April 2015 update added mobile-friendly design as an essential website characteristic. If you’re not sure if your site is up to par, you can quickly test it with a free Google tool:
Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test: https://www.google.com/webmaters/tools/mobile-friendly/
Enter any URL to review, and Googlebot will give you a rundown on where it’s at with regards to mobile-friendly design.
5. Content Promotion: Pitching Your Chicken to the Masses
Organic searches are ideal, and you have multiple ways to boost your content so it’s found in the most natural way. Link-building is still OK, provided they are quality links to trusted sites. Ask local partners for links, guest blog on other sites for links, and ask for links from associations and directory sites.
Other ways to promote your content include:
- Building your network and relationships
- Remembering engagement is a two-way conversation, not just blasting your content across the world
- Launching press releases on your own and PR websites
- Sharing content via social media, sticking with the most relevant platforms for your content
- Using social media tools, such as HootSuite, to make content sharing easier
- Adding an image to your content to dramatically increase shares and interest
Another way to speed up your content promotion process is to take advantage of ads. Yes, they’re back in vogue, particularly pay-per-click (PPC) and native advertising, which can increase your reach in a jiffy.
6. Distribution: Serving Your Chicken to Other People’s Customers
What’s the difference between content promotion and distribution? VerticalMeasures sums it up neatly:
- Promotion is drawing your audience to your content
- Distribution is putting your content in front of someone else’s audience
No, it doesn’t involve hijacking another company’s website and filling it with your blog posts. It instead consists of taking advantage of websites that have a built-in audience hungry for the type of content the sites showcase. Prime examples include:
- YouTube for videos
- LinkedIn for business-oriented content
- Pinterest for photos
- SlideShare for presentations
- Facebook for images and snippets
- Twitter for super-short tidbits
You can certainly post a video on your own site as well as on YouTube, promoting the links on different channels and combining promotion with distribution in one fell swoop.
7. Lead Nurturing: Making Your Audience Ravenous for Chicken
Statistics on your number of leads may be sweet, but the stats on leads that convert into sales are typically quite sour. Nearly 80% of marketing leads never convert into sales, with lack of lead nurturing the most common cause to blame.
Lead nurturing involves the creation of useful content that encourages relationships, not one-night stands. That content, in turn:
- Encourages trust, likeability and loyalty
- Keeps your company top-of-mind
- Builds brand recognition
- Creates new and deepens existing relationships
Email is an excellent channel for lead nurturing, provided you do it right. Avoid full-list email assaults at all costs. Focus instead on segmented, targeted messaging that is concise, visually appealing, branded and strategically timed. Oh yeah, you’ll also want a killer subject line and emails that are as gorgeous on desktops as they are on mobile devices.
8. Measurement: Checking Your Chicken’s Popularity
Measurement may be one of the less alluring aspects of content marketing success, but it’s the only way you’ll know what’s working and what’s not. Measure successes as well as failures. Then focus on doing more of the former and less of the latter, improving overall ROI along the way.
Fans of spreadsheets can have a heyday with measurements, setting up sheets that track content popularity based on topics, publication date, author and any other characteristics that may contribute to its popularity or obscurity.
A variety of numbers can help measure success, such as the number of:
- Website visits this month compared to previous months
- Views for individual blog posts
- Forms filled out to obtain downloadable content
- New blog subscribers
- Email opens and click-throughs
- Qualified leads gained
- Leads that converted to customers
Blog analytics, email analytics, breakdowns on content campaign performances and conversion data are all aspects to include in your measurement report, as is your overall increase in revenue.
Putting it all Together
Miss a single ingredient in your grandma’s chicken cacciatore and you’ll miss the gist of the entire recipe. The same holds true with content marketing success. Slacking off or ignoring a single step can result in multiple bombs across the board.
Also keep in mind that content marketing success is a slow and steady process, with results that typically take several months to show up. But if you’ve done it right, the wait can certainly be worth it. Or as grandma might say while in the kitchen, junk food is the only food that’s fast.
Ryn G is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.