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What is content marketing?

Content marketing is the strategic creation, production, and distribution of content to a clearly defined targeted audience.

Content Marketing: The Ultimate Guide

While content marketing is not solely used for online marketing, it’s online application is growing in necessity. E-commerce continues to trend in retail. In the U.S., $501 billion was spent on the sale of physical goods in 2018, which is projected to surpass $740 billion by 2023. Consumers are no longer looking to the internet to simply to obtain and share information but are also seeking out information and sources to make purchases. Blending these uses to market a business, product, or service can help you earn the visibility, brand authority, and trust necessary to drive sales.

Content Marketing Definition

Content marketing is the strategic creation, production, and distribution of content that is relative, relevant, and valuable, that effectively serves a purpose to a clearly defined targeted audience.

How Does Content Marketing Work?

It works by harnessing the full power of the four points in the buying cycle.

  1. Awareness: Customers may have needs without being aware that companies have solutions.
  2. Research: Discovering the options of solutions that exist, and how their needs might be fulfilled.
  3. Consideration: Comparing different products to determine the value, and finding the best quality for the best price.
  4. Purchase: The customer finalizes a decision and makes a transaction.

Traditional marketing focuses largely on the third and fourth points of the buying cycle. Content marketing has the opportunity to harness attention from consumers in the first two points, by providing interesting, enticing, and educational content that addresses questions the consumer may have. The value created by providing an informational or interest-based service without a sales pitch may also improve the perception of a company, product, or service with a new audience, or increase revenue with existing customers by providing more information or value.  

The value of content marketing has another major distinction: search engine optimization (SEO). By providing answers to questions, or creating content that is topically relevant, a company creates authority around a particular subject and embarks upon the journey of SEO. Ideally, the content will organically rise in the search engine results pages (SERPs), and then utilize the power of Google as an advertising platform

What Makes Great Content?

Have you ever read an article full of mechanical errors, or that was so obviously a sales pitch that it seemed to have no value? That is an example of poor content

Great content is material that is genuinely engaging and catered to a well-defined audience — it is content with a purpose. It should be original, concise, and provide value with the ability to outpace competitors in the delivery of information. Strong content will utilize headlines and topical organization to catch the reader’s attention and provide insight. It needs to be accurate, and match the keywords and search criteria associated with the topic. These topics should be selected and presented in the interest of the reader — not necessarily the business. The overarching goal is to provide value to the searcher, and in return, strengthen their relationship to the company or product. Great content is linkable content — content that has merit enough as a source to receive valuable links

Ultimate Tips to Follow

Here is a list of tips for those looking to start and establish a good online content marketing strategy.

  • Do your homework. Content marketing is only valuable if the content is reaching the intended audience. Doing the research to find content gaps on Google, or key factors such as defining the audience, and creating a seed list of keywords and topics is crucial to the success of the marketing strategy.
  • Create good content. Produce content that is high-quality, stylized, and speaks to the brand. It should be original, informative, focused, evergreen, and keyword optimized, and linkable. If creating good content seems daunting, consider leveraging content marketing services that can guarantee quality.
  • Stay focused.  Content marketing is about the consumer, not the brand. Strive to provide information that entices your audience to loyally return for answers to queries and to eventually make purchases.
  • Keep SEO in mind. Building a content campaign is an organic step in any search engine optimization strategy. Good content won’t help you if no one can see it. 
  • Promote your content. Use social media channels and email to promote content. There are also search engine marketing and pay-per-click strategies that may boost visibility of content for a fee.
  • Stash the Statistics. Utilize tools like Google Analytics to observe how content is performing. Take measurements of sales over time and create a system of metrics that will provide an accurate description of your return on investment.
  • Take your time.  Remember that content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. The investment is long term, and it may take time to see improvement in sales and visibility.
  • Continue improving.  Use all gathered information to make informed decisions when creating content and continue improving upon the foundation.

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A Content Marketing Example

Consider a company that sells water flotation devices. This company wants to build sales by driving web traffic to their converting pages (purchasing pages). A conversion page about a pool noodle may be difficult to link to, so the company chooses to do keyword research to find out what keywords are being used to search for information that currently exists about flotation devices, and what the actual searcher intent is when asking the question.

The research should result in a target audience: the people who want to know about flotation devices, and why. The keywords are discovered by how the target persona searches the query. (Ex: flotation device, personal flotation device, baby flotation device, toddler flotation device, pool flotation device.)

This research may show that people who are looking to purchase flotation devices may be interested to know:

  • How flotation devices enhance safety for children. 
  • How flotation devices enhance safety for seniors.
  • Different uses a flotation device may serve.
  • How flotation can be used for water aerobic exercises.
  • Which flotation devices can be used in what situations (i.e. a pool, lake, or river).

By writing an article that addresses each of these queries, the company has effectively marketed to each niche need found during the research process. These articles would be relevant, informative, and valuable to the targeted audience. Through the use of keywords, the articles have a much more likely chance to be organically seen. By providing answers to consumer queries, companies may build a relationship with the consumer, perhaps eventually directing consumers toward making a purchase they feel informed and trustworthy about.

Content Marketing Mapping 

Successful content marketing begins with content mapping — pinpointing an audience and researching and identifying a gap in information or keyword utilization. There is no universal strategy for content marketing, every campaign will differ depending on the topic and audience. The research is then used to outline and generate content that fulfills the need of the consumer. After the content is created, it is posted (usually on a schedule of predetermined dates that research has shown to be the most effective), and then linked to internally and externally. While internal linking can easily be accomplished through strategy in the research and planning phase, back linking tends to be more challenging and can be accomplished by contracting a reputable backlinking service.

Marketing Sales Funnel

Content marketing focuses on the top of the marketing sales funnel but also works to carry the consumer through it. Traditional marketing focuses on generating mass awareness and potential interest with a consumer and then uses sales tactics to influence a purchase. In today’s digital world, consumers have the opportunity to be a lot more savvy about their purchases, which means that the marketing process doesn’t stop until all of the bases have been run and the consumer is ready to slide into home. 

Top of the funnel / Awareness / Research:

  • Generally informative content. Blog posts and articles. Youtube videos, interviews, Ebooks, reports, guides, resources.

Middle of the funnel / Interest / Consideration / Intent:

  • More focused content. Trials, demos, and testimonials. Brand history, company values and “about us” pages. Newsletters, monthly email updates, social media.

Bottom of the funnel / Evaluation / Purchase: 

  • Sales, conversion, or “contact us” page. 

Creating good content and using content marketing increases the audience of a potential product and builds organic traffic. The content provides website visitors with valuable information that answers a query. By providing information, the brand builds a relationship with the consumer and becomes of greater interest and trustworthiness. When a consumer is left to make a purchase or decision, all of these previous experiences will influence where they choose to buy their product or service.

What Content Marketing Does for Your Customer

It may seem overzealous to create five full articles to sell a pool noodle, but that’s how content marketing works. The purpose of content marketing isn’t necessarily to advertise the brand and its specific products, but to reach a targeted audience and answer questions and relieve pain points that they care about. It’s about being a valuable resource that the consumer can identify with and trust. 

A company that sells blenders might create blog posts dedicated to food and drink recipes that may or may not use a blender.  This content marketing strategy would capture the attention of an audience that is looking for credible recipes that they can return to and use over time. If a member of this audience at any time is looking to purchase a blender, the brand has already created loyalty and trust, they have already provided a service and built a relationship with the consumer, which could greatly impact the consumer’s choice and opinion when it comes down to which brand of blender to buy.

Who Should Use Content Marketing?

The internet is full of noise. It seems to be an endless chasm of information where the voices of thousands of websites are all yelling in tandem trying to gain attention. So, how worthy is it to create more noise? 

The idea isn’t to sing louder than anyone else, but to find space for a solo. To invest in those high notes that no one else can hit, and use them as a signal for an audience that is primed, ready, and searching for a soprano. 

Content marketing doesn’t necessarily have to be an expensive endeavor, but it does have to be done with research and precision in order to reach the right audience and provide them with the knowledge or experience they are looking for. Companies that are looking to build or improve brand reputation might benefit greatly from becoming a trustworthy and informative resource. It might be the solution for a young company to get their name out there, or for an older company to prove that they are as valuable now as they have ever been. Providing good content also has the value of improving the authority of the brand, effectively gaining ground in the SERPS, and establishing a reputation.

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