Content Marketing 101: A Primer (Part 2 of 2)
In Part 1 of our Content Marketing primer, we discussed the basics of your content marketing strategy, from identifying your target audience to matching content to your marketing funnel and how to find great ideas for generating content. In Part 2, we’ll show you how to fine-tune your content marketing plans and execute a strategy designed to get results.
Setting a Content Marketing Budget
According to Web Strategies, 53 percent of marketers consider content marketing their most important channel for 2016, and 51 percent expect it to outperform all other channels except marketing automation in terms of ROI. With that said, how do you determine how much of your marketing spend to devote to content?
A recent study by the Content Marketing Institute showed that most businesses (51 percent) spend about 25 percent of their total non-salary marketing budget on content; another 25 percent spend between 25 and 50 percent of their budget on content marketing. How much you spend depends on the following questions:
- How old is your business? Established or trying to gain traction? If you’re trying to gain a foothold in a new market or location, you’ll want to be more aggressive.
- How long have you been doing content marketing? Do you have an existing content inventory? You can save money by repurposing in-house sales and marketing materials.
- Do you have resources to create content in-house? Writers? Designers? Are they adequate for the type of content you want to publish (case studies, email newsletters, infographics, white papers, podcasts, videos, etc.) or will you need to use freelancers?
- Do you have staff to manage and oversee your content creation and promotion? Will you need to outsource some activities or invest in online tools?
- How much do you currently spend on marketing and advertising? As you see results, you’ll want to rebalance your digital marketing spend toward high-performing channels.
- Where do you plan to publish your content? How often do you want to publish?
- How much are you currently devoting to other digital channels such as SEO/SEM, PPC, display ads, etc? How would you rate them in terms of success?
No matter how much you ultimately decide to spend, it is extremely important to establish a written budget; you need baseline numbers to help you measure results and ROI. It’s also easier to stick with your plan, especially in the early days while you watch for results, if your content budget is settled.
Creating and Managing a Content Plan
Image via Vertical Measures (you can download these templates for free)
Whether your content marketing team consists of you and your laptop or a team of dedicated marketers, you need a way to organize and manage your content and publishing schedule. This can be a simple as a whiteboard and a sharpie or something more organized like a spreadsheet or calendar on Google Drive you can share across your organization.
Your editorial calendar should track each of the following variables:
- content type (blog post, video, case study, etc.) and author/creator (in-house or outsourced)
- due date, final approval date, publish date
- where it will be published
- how it will be cross-promoted and who is responsible (social media)
- Meta tags and keywords
- objective/metrics (traffic, links, conversions)
The first three are obvious, but the remaining three need a little explanation. In most cases, content created for one channel can—and should—be cross-promoted on other channels; it’s usually a matter of determining the best ones, modifying it as needed to appeal to each platform’s unique qualities, and writing compelling copy to generate interest.
If you write an ebook as a lead magnet to grow your subscriber list, you can also drive traffic to your landing page by promoting the book on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+, for example. If you’ve created an image-heavy blog post covering a local fashion show, post your best shots on Instagram. A recipe collection is a natural for cross-promotion on Pinterest.
Social Media Best Practices Cheat Sheet to Promote Posts
|Platform||Opt. Text Length||Hashtags||Images|
|~150 characters*||no more than 3|| min 484 x 252 pixels|
max 1,200 x 630
|~100 characters*||no more than 3|| min 440 x 220|
max 1,024 x 512; up to 4 at once
|Google+||~150 characters*||yes; see|| min 497 wide|
|~150-200 characters*|| no;|
| min 974 x 330|
max 2 MB landscape
|100-200 words||min 3, max 10||max 1080 x 1080|
|<500 characters||no||vertical orientation; |
min 600 width
*Always use a URL shortener such as bit.ly, goo.gl, ow.ly, etc.
A Word About Content and SEO
Image via Flickr
It should go without saying that content marketing and SEO are intimately entwined. However, SEO and keywords should absolutely NOT be the driving force behind your content creation—you should be writing quality pieces about the things your customers and prospects are interested in learning about. It’s all about quality over quantity.
In fact, you’ll actually hurt your rankings by publishing a lot of low-quality pieces that are keyword stuffed and provide no value to your readers. Pay no attention to outdated recommendations about keyword density; today’s search engines are too smart for that. It’s less about how often your keywords appear and more about publishing useful, relevant content written in natural language.
With that said, however, there are still a few things you can—and should—be doing to optimize your online content:
- Use a keyword in the title.
- Try to fit a keyword/long-tail keyword into the first two or three sentences of your article or blog post.
- Use a keyword/long-tail keyword in an H2 heading.
- Make sure your keyword(s) appear at least once in the body of your text, but do not keyword stuff.
- If possible, include a keyword in your image alt text.
- Write a meta description including a keyword if it fits naturally.
- Long-form content (between 1,500 and 3,000 words) performs better than shorter (750 words) posts.
Promoting Your Content
Too often, newbie content marketers begin to get discouraged after they’ve written and published a few pieces of really awesome content and nothing amazing is happening—no spike in traffic, no rush of new conversions, no accolades in the comments section. Promotion is the solution and it’s something you should be thinking about from the moment you start planning your content.
Buzzfeed has mastered the art of viral content and the science behind social sharing and influence (if you have a geeky side, you might enjoy this discussion of their POUND process about content diffusion). While few marketers will achieve Buzzfeed-level success, there are quite a few things you can learn about promoting your content and growing your online audience—keys to meeting your marketing objectives.
Hopefully, your business has a social media marketing strategy in place already; you should be using your social media networks for much more than just content promotion. In fact, if you aren’t using social media for engagement and relationship-building, you won’t have the best results using it for content promotion.
With that said, here are quick tips to promotion your content on social media:
- Choose the right channel for each type of content; know your audience and what they like to see.
- Use hashtags wisely. Take advantage of online tools to find the best hashtags to reach your target audience and amplify your content.
- Study your analytics and post updates at the times your audience is most active and likely to read and interact with your posts.
- Consider social influencer marketing if your product or service has broad appeal; it’s a powerful way to exponentially grow your audience. Here’s a great how-to post to get you started.
Marketers have a lot of paid options to promote their content, which is just a variation of the PPC model. As with any PPC campaign, you need to watch and manage your budget carefully to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck and not wasting resources. One note up front about PPC: Finding the right target audience is essential to your success.
Here’s a look at the main paid promotion tactics:
- Paid Social Media. Facebook has severely restricted organic reach, so it’s definitely pay-to-play if you want to get a lot of eyes on your content. Most social media platforms let you set up ad campaigns (sponsored or promoted posts) around marketing goals. Be sure to include an image or video on social ads for best results and remember to A/B test your CTA and other creative elements.
- Paid Search and Display. For certain high-quality, valuable assets that appeal to a well-qualified audience, search and retargeting display ads can be an effective way to get eyes on your content. This primer from the Content Marketing Institute shows you the basics of paid search and display.
- Distribution Networks. Those reading recommendations at the bottom of an online article with the “you might also enjoy…” blurb are courtesy of paid content distribution networks like Taboola and Outbrain. They can greatly expand your content’s reach and can be very precisely targeted to your preferred audience; on the downside, however, they are popular with large content creators that push some cheesy content (You’ll Never Believe These 4 Things in Cher’s Bedroom!).
One advantage to paid promotion is that it’s very easy to track results and measure ROI, but free promotion tactics are usually better for the majority of small business content marketers.
Measuring Content Marketing ROI
According to the Content Marketing Institute, B2B and B2C marketers list these goals as most important for their content marketing strategy:
- Brand awareness—gaining exposure to customers who otherwise wouldn’t seek you out.
- Engagement—building a relationship/emotional connection with your target audience.
- Retention/loyalty—keeping customers and increasing their LTCV.
- Lead generation—filling the sales funnel with qualified leads.
- Sales/conversions—converting leads into paying customers.
# page views
# unique page views
time on page
# social shares
time on page
# and % repeat customers
# cancellations/churn rate
# new leads
# qualified leads (% leads who converted)
% free trials who make 1st payment
$ average sale
Making Friends with Google Analytics
Image via E-consultancy.com
Google Analytics is a content marketer’s best friend when it comes to measuring KPIs and ROI. There are hundreds of resources available to new marketers to help you get started, and hundreds more for more advanced GA users who want to get into the nitty-gritty of their content marketing; to keep it simple, here’s a list of some of the best GA resources for content marketers and why you should check them out:
- The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics by Moz. This step-by-step resource will teach you how to set up your GA dashboards and how to track popular metrics.
- The Essential Google Analytics Resources for Marketers by Social Media Examiner. This guide includes several sections for refining your marketing efforts and measuring ROI.
- Best Analytics to Help with Content Audits by the Content Marketing Institute. These nine specific metrics will show you if your content is doing its job.
- The 50+ Best Google Analytics Resources by KISSmetrics. This is a comprehensive list for beginner and advanced GA users with resources for custom marketing dashboards, as well.
Useful Online Tools
To jumpstart your content marketing, check out these online tools—some are free, some require a subscription.
|Topic ideation||Hubspot Blog Topic Generator|
Buzzsumo top social media topics
|Content creation||List.ly (make listicles, curate and share content)|
Storify (create new content from social posts)
Visual.ly (infographics, videos, microcontent)
Canva (DIY graphic design)
Survey Monkey (interactive polls)
ezgif (make your own .gifs)
|Social media||Followerwonk (influencer marketing)|
SproutSocial (social media management)
Hootsuite (social media management)
Buffer (social media management)
|Content marketing management||Coschedule (manages all content channels)|
Paper.li (free online “newspaper” creation)
Sprinklr (integrated content marketing)
|Project management||Evernote (collect, sort, store content)|
Trello (free collaborative project management boards)
Flow (manage freelancers, collaborate on projects)
DivvyHQ (content marketing dashboard)
|Analytics||KISSmetrics (comprehensive digital marketing analytics)|
TrackMaven (content analysis/amplification)
Optimizely (A/B testing)
Content marketing takes time to show results, but once you begin a disciplined approach, it will pay off over time. And the beauty of content is that over time, you’ll learn what works and will be able to scale your efforts to capitalize on your successes.