This article originally appeared in the September 2015 edition of the Marketing GPS Newsletter.
We’ve spent a lot of time discussing content marketing in the past (here and here), but its importance to digital marketers has only increased. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 70% of surveyed marketers say they are creating more content than they did a year ago. If you don’t have a content-marketing plan in place, you’re likely losing out to competitors who are engaging prospects and customers more frequently.
To be specific, the phrase “content marketing” describes a marketing program that centers on creating, publishing, and distributing content to your target audience – usually online. Its goal is to attract new customers and increase the loyalty of existing customers.
Businesses find content marketing to be a smart way to leverage their assets into a renewable resource for customers. Because content continues to reside on the internet for the foreseeable future – and can be discovered and easily consumed there – it will continue to draw customers in who might discover it months after you’ve posted it. As long as that content stays accessible, prospective customers will continue to discover your content, creating a scalable, somewhat-predictable, and cost-effective traffic flow.
There are a number of media types (written, visual, audio) you can produce, but two of the most popular formats for presenting content are the blog post and premium-gated.
Blogs are often a company’s best opportunity to improve organic search rankings. As such, bloggers should be writing posts that help improve website SEO, as well as drive organic traffic and leads. The types of posts, plus their titles, URLs and tags, should be informed by careful keyword research.
There are many lists available that provide ideas for blog posts, but here are five of the most common types that attract viewers:
How-to – Posts that teach readers how to do something; these typically perform very well in organic search if they align with long-tail search terms.
Lists – Curated examples that can be informative, or simply entertaining.
Thought Leadership – Posts that explain fundamental shifts in an industry, or ask the reader to rethink conventional wisdom. These can be especially successful at attracting links from other bloggers or social-media users.
News jacks – Timely content that either reports industry news, or finds unexpected tie-ins with popular news items.
Infographics – Posts that use primarily visual content to tell a story.
Blog posts can be a good testing ground for what performs well, before dedicating the resources required to produce premium content.
Premium or Gated Content
These are typically longer-form pieces that require more time and resources to develop. They might be used to generate leads (such as through an email capture) or for brand-building purposes. Some of the more familiar premium-content types are listed below.
Ebooks – An incredibly popular format, typically presented as a PDF and provided following an email capture.
Research Reports – Often presented as a gated PDF, or via an ungated microsite.
Webinars – These engaging productions may feature a guest speaker who brings his or her own audience, which can help broaden the top of the sales funnel. Recorded versions of webinars can live behind a landing page to extend their lifespan, or be bundled as bonuses with other product or service sales.
Tools & Templates – Because they’re extremely utilitarian in nature, tools and templates often prove to be valuable for long-term lead generation, despite the upfront resource-investment required.
Due to the explosion of YouTube and other social-media platforms, visual content has become increasingly important for both attracting prospects and converting prospects into customers. While visual content requires a different skillset than the other types we’ve discussed, its importance continues to eclipse other forms of content. (According to Cisco, 69% of all consumer-related internet traffic will be video by 2017.) In our previous issue we provided a helpful launching point for your video content production, but here are a few other suggestions to get you started.
Infographics – These can be embedded in blog posts, and shared on social media.
Slide shows – Putting presentations onto SlideShare can be an easy content share that expands past the initial presentation period, delivering both viewers and links back to your online properties.
Video – Whether for YouTube or a blog-post embed, short videos (produced for entertainment or education) will help diversify your content portfolio, improve your SEO, and increase conversion percentages.
How to Distribute Content
Once you’ve created your content, you want it to find the widest audience possible. There are four primary distribution channels you should be taking advantage of, listed below.
Search Engines Google will do a lot of the work here for you. However, there’s no guarantee your content will make it onto the first page of search results. Your writers should work with an SEO specialist to determine which keywords to target – ideally a combination of long- and short-tail terms. Of course, that content should also be optimized with on-page SEO, to improve its chances.
Email Email lists can be the best source for qualified leads, so it only makes sense to get your content in front of this important audience. As emails are sent to your list virtually free, it’s essential to mail useful content frequently to your list to ensure their loyalty and drive more traffic back to your online assets. Email campaigns can also drive high-percentage conversions, making this medium an invaluable sales-and-distribution channel.
Social Media Google’s algorithm considers social “signals” as an important ranking factor. The more your content is shared and discussed the higher it may rank, making it imperative that you share your content on your businesses’ active social platforms. And of course, the larger your social presence, the bigger the audience your content will reach.
Social Ads One of the primary reasons to create and post your own content is to avoid having to advertise your business, so why recommend ads? While promoting every blog post may be untenable, a small, targeted campaign for specific content pieces can reap positive results, gaining you more social shares and inbound links.
Content marketing can’t replace all your lead-generation efforts, of course. However, as a cost-effective, predictable, and scalable source of traffic and leads, content can act as a powerful supplement to your regular sales process. Content can continue to provide clicks, leads, and conversions long past its initial creation date, thereby making a lasting contribution to your organization’s continued growth.
Mark is responsible for managing NSI Partners’ social media properties as well as providing support in client outreach and recruiting. Prior to joining NSI Partners, Mark received his Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.
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About NSI Partners
A digital marketing company with almost two decades of experience, NSI Partners helps clients achieve robust results in search marketing, social media, and other digital marketing spaces.