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Make no mistake about it: SEO is getting tougher. A lot tougher
With Google becoming increasingly sophisticated at identifying and penalizing unnatural link profiles, it’s the companies that are able to evolve their SEO strategies that soar past their competitors in the search results. Not too long ago sites could rank well from only building links to pages that make money. This strategy is rarely effective today.
In the most competitive markets top sites have increasingly diverse link profiles. Increasingly, quality content is the ultimate way to earn natural links and increase trust from the search engines.
Despite this new landscape, many SEOs are continuing to use outdated strategies. They will first identify the keywords they wish to target, create pages around these keywords with little value to the user and then focus obsessively on building links to these pages, thus creating a very unnatural link profile.
As I outline in a new report, “Successful Link Building in the Content Marketing Era,” SEOs can implement a five-step plan to diversify their link profile through the judicial and strategic use of content marketing.
Here’s a look at some key points to keep in mind in order to have success with link building in the content marketing era:How to Build a Natural Link Profile
Instead of worrying about sheer quantity, scale back your ambitions but make each piece of content truly worthwhile. Have the content custom designed, commission illustrations or develop impressive graphs and charts. The more work you do, the more links you’re likely to get.
When you are coming up with content ideas, it’s worth thinking about the terms that the content could rank for. Write a post on a popular topic, and it’s more likely to get search traffic. It’s also more likely to be discovered by bloggers and journalists and acquire links on its own.
When you build links to your content, don’t worry about how people link to you. Some might use the URL as the anchor text, and others might even misspell your company name. These are all traits found in natural link profiles, and are more likely to benefit than hurt you. Regardless of anchor text or the target page, quality links will improve the trustworthiness of your domain and improve your stature in the engines.
As your content efforts expand, you should start to build a solid picture of the methods and strategies that work best. Perhaps you will find it easier to gain traction with one subset of your audience, or you will see incredible search traffic from pieces about a specific topic.
When you come across a successful strategy, give it increased prominence in your editorial calendar. At the same time, don’t give up on methods that have yet to work effectively. Instead, constantly iterate until you find something that works. Over time, you must continue to acquire new links from new sites, and this is only possible through expanding beyond your most comfortable niches.
Companies must move away from promoting conversion pages via manual link building and instead use their resources create quality content. Then focus link-building efforts around the content they create. Over time, the content will begin to garner links as bloggers and journalists come across it. For every piece of content you invest in, you create an opportunity to build natural, organic links in the long term. You will also gain links from credible, authoritative sites that would never link to one of your commercial pages.
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For many in the SEO profession, the hardest part of optimizing sites for search isn’t the technical aspects of code – it’s the ongoing struggle to consistently obtain relevant, authoritative links. Sure, it may be tempting to take shortcuts, but SEO professionals who see the big picture have the opportunity to combine a mix of art and science to get great links the natural way.
This is done through savvy content marketing and promotion – what can also be called “real marketing”. An ongoing marketing and promotion machine that can create great pieces of content which resonate with viewers and accomplish a goal (usually information that reinforces a product or brand) can be the holy grail of SEO.
Great content gets shared, plain and simple, and in a world of constant, insatiable content consumption with millions of publishers vying for attention, the quality of said content needs to constantly improve.
Today, I am going to discuss some current trends in content marketing, for use both in creating real value for the user but also for the very important secondary role of link building.
Let’s jump in and learn more about how in-depth your content marketing efforts should be.Building Super Links with Content Syndication
Everyone processes content in a different way. For the B2C crowd, you’ll find they are very dependent on blog posts to get links and traction. B2B, on the other hand, is more successful with eBook promotions. In determining what kinds of content to assemble, it’s best to look at the big picture. Think about your audience and the type of content they’re going to want to consume.
eBooks: Still a great format used mainly in lead-generation style businesses. Usually an eBook promo will get you an email address which you can use to continue the conversation.
Blog Posts: Great for breaking down thoughts and chapters of an eBook into more actionable steps (eBooks are full of nuggets that at times get lost). Many eBooks actually start as a series of blog posts that gets assembled later on.
Infographics: These still get a lot of love! The web is a visual medium with a short attention span. Compared to an article, a well-done infographic contains a ton of value not only in its content but in the process of creation – bloggers in particular are quick to share them.
Infograms: Not everyone has time to scroll those infographics, and the smaller and easier to digest infogram is a great way to break them down (much like a blog post is a chapter of an eBook). These work great in social media spaces, too.Other Overlooked Formats
Video: People learn from movies. Video is going to continue to become a dominant form of content marketing as production continues to become more affordable and easier. Did you know YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world?
Microvideo (Instagram, Vine): This emerging trend is finding a home among teens and millennial. Shorter video tends to be more social friendly (30 sec or 60 second vignettes) and is also very engaging.
Bonus: Consolidate your design efforts! You can create content in any of the formats listed above and repurpose it in another. Take a blog post and use it as script for video and then strip the audio for a podcast.Strategize Versus Seeing What Sticks
Based on your key performance indicators, the next step is to determine themes that support these goals. Because there’s so many factors involved, we often try to do too much without actually putting a sound strategy in place. Before you start putting the content together, go through the following scenarios to help establish an outline:
SEO Targets: Find the semantic modifiers of keyword buckets that drive context. For example, Starbucks might want to create content to target coffee pod keywords, but K-Cup keywords are just as relevant. This not only works with your own keyword strategy but also your links and citation building. Links are important, but links in content with relevant content are even more so.
Outreach Targets: What resonates with publishers in your target verticals? What are your customers reading/visiting? Find the influencers via social media, visit the links they post then add them and ask them questions, so later when you need to communicate with them they know who you are.
Social Sharing: What kinds of content or topics get the most interaction? Use tools like SharedCount to find out which specific pieces of content got hot and went viral. Research bulk content from competitors or industry sites and see what gets the most social sharing, then incorporate that into your current content strategies.
Social Influencers: Who is sharing this hot kind of content in your niche?- We’re not just talking about bloggers here; you’ll want to find the YouTube and Vine stars and, as previously mentioned, popular Twitter users.
Content Lifespan: Can this content live and breathe on its own? Your content should bring residual users forever (not just the short-term). Again, think about the bigger picture and how you can position this content is constantly drive value to the user.Build Your Content Nucleus
Your on-site goals may be different from content syndication or lead generation, so you’re going to want to have a solid on-site foundation to maximize your efforts. Remember, you’re not pitching a product here, you’re trying to get people to share your link. Consider the following when deciding the layout and design of the task at hand:
Infographic image files are great for syndication, but be careful. For example, WordPress users will want to use a Lightbox plugin for viewing the infographic, so people are not linking to image file itself. Create supporting content to go along with the infographic as well.
HTML 5 is a preferred and indexable way to support graphic assets and still be SEO friendly. Neil Patel’s QuickSprout is a great example of a site that uses indexable infographics in this manner.
Creating all of this awesome content and putting the time to plan everything accordingly is only half the battle. Once your content is finally produced and ready for consumption, your next task is finding people to consume it! This is where you’ll start building loyal audiences into your own brand evangelists.
Remember these steps when finding new eyeballs for your content:Blogger Outreach
Target publishers during the final stages of design or completion and offer them an exclusive to be first to publish Email publishers and ask them questions – send PR out before an “official” release before you actually publish to create relationships and gather feedback.Leverage Relationships with Publishers
Can you invite them in the ideation process? Find out what kinds of content their audience is looking for and be the first to create it for them. Having content partners that you can provide consistent value for will allow you to piggy-back off of their brand and expose your own in the process.Leverage Your Own Audience
Remember, this is a joint effort between you and those who started following you early on. Reward them, create very personal bonds with these individuals and give them the tools or direction they need to spread the word about your cause. Don’t be shy about asking your audience for a little love (so long as you’re giving it back).Distribute Your Infographics
Precise targeting is more important than numbers alone – what’s the point of having visitors and eyeballs if they’re not real savvy users or influencers? Remember when syndicating content like infographics for link building you’ll want to find those who actually blog or tweet about this stuff. You’ll find many of them will discover content from these destinations:
Slideshare: Perhaps one of the most underutilized infographic channels. People share and embed SlideShare consistently, and as an added bonus it comes with LinkedIn integration.
Visual.ly: Set up branded channels here to gain some great backlinks. Bloggers turn to chúng tôi for content, which helps extend the life of your content – get links even 6-12 months later as bloggers pick up content from here.
Imgur: Believe it or not, Imgur gets more traffic than Reddit does. You won’t get any natural links directly but it’s a great source for social sharing, view count, and influence.
Pinterest: Especially important for B2C as they tend to love the service of pinning photos all day (think products). A great place to also get your infographic content – and don’t forget the paid options to boost exposure.Next Level of Influencers
Now that we’re traveling down the rabbit hole of infographic syndication, there are a few more sites where other blogs and resources find content – these are some hidden gems with immense value.
Infographic Journal publishes the best infographics daily. If you can get featured here, not only will you get direct traffic and links, but there’s a good chance your post will go viral.DesignTaxi & Content Geek
These site highlight the best design stories and content chúng tôi are very infographic friendly and after being published, bloggers will embed and share from DesignTaxi & ContentGeek. Both are such great channels, they both have been one of my secret weapons for quite some time. Note: Only submit or email the best of the best work to DesignTaxi & ContentGeek, especially in terms of data visualization.Distribute Your Infograms/E-cards Facebook and Instagram Google+
Like Facebook, page shares result in page level signals. While nowhere near as popular, you’ll find some passionate and influential people hanging out in Google+ circles who tend to look for more meaningful discussions on their social media channels.Twitter
Simply put, Twitter cards increase engagement! Make sure you’re incorporating them into your Twitter postings as they are designed specifically to tease your posts.Tumblr Distribute Your Videos
Everyone loves video and if done properly it can absolutely drive link signals. While Facebook and Twitter uploading options continue to emerge, the following outlets are still your best for gaining traction in your video marketing:
As noted earlier, this is the world’s second largest search engine. 40% of their traffic is mobile which will continue to grow as more of us spending time watching video on our phone. And let’s not forget that Google loves promoting its own videos in the SERPS.Vine.co and Instagram
Two minutes is too long for most attention spans – especially the younger audience who uses these platforms most. Seven to sixteen seconds is perfect. Incorporate behind the scenes and “preview” style content, link to the source and syndicate.Distribute to Your Customer
We’ve talked about third-party syndication efforts so far – but don’t forget your customers! This works especially well in e-commerce industries. Your established lists are your true brand ambassadors; expand their perimeters in the following ways:
Email: Tastefully bring your content to your customer in boxes. A great example: Someone buys an outdoor grill, then a week later gets an email guide on cooking the best burgers. It’s outreach and content like this that creates loyalty.
Industry: Bloggers, influencers, and social users follow and love your brand – don’t get lost in the numbers alone. Research who they are and connect on a personal level.
Press Releases: Good (even bad) PR gets better with visual assets – sites like PRWeb even allow you to upload images along with the text. Imagine how powerful a press release would be published alongside of an inforgraphic?Consolidate Content Into One Page
Develop pages that have the best, most relevant content in your vertical – strive to have the best page in all the land. Create powerful content that places multiple sources of media all on one page (just like this presentation, with the accompanying video and embedded Slideshare).
Here’s some quick bullets to remember:
Your on-site resource page can now start including the collateral you have just syndicated (infographics).
Include Slideshare hosted eBooks or infographics – You can use your own or find others to add extra video.
Embed video! Again either create the content yourself or see what’s out there that can benefit the user.
Instagram & Twitter embeds – For example, embeds to others who have tweeted about you; this is a fairly simple task that can take a boring page of content and really spice it up.
User engagement goes up when you mix awesome content into one page – great if you’re in “newsy” type sites with “living” pages of content that get updated as news breaks. Just remember to make your resource offers the best user experience possible!
You can see here in this example how much social influences search – everything needs to work together for real success. Keep this in mind when developing your own assets and planning your content marketing initiatives for projects and clients.
This post is a recap of my webinar on the same topic. To review other SEJ Marketing ThinkTank webinars, check out our posts and sign up for our newsletter to be notified to sign up for the next one!
Featured Image: Unsplash via Pixabay
When companies are craving long-term, sustainable growth, they need to think about content marketing.
Content marking is knowing how, when, and where to publish, how to organize information online with the purpose of reaching a specific audience, understanding SEO, incentivizing profitable customer action, and so much more.
And it takes a blend of marketing knowledge, artistry and creativity, and content talent to bring it all together.
How do you build out an exceptional content marketing team – one designed and equipped to meet your organization’s content marketing goals and needs?
Put these 11 tips to work for you as you build yours.1. Determine Your Marketing Objectives
Knowing your “why” or the vision is the most crucial step in your marketing strategy as this is how your company will promote itself to the public.
It’s also important to set goals for your content marketing program, which will help align the team, understand the purpose, and measure progress and success.
This is also an important first step as it’s the backbone of building the best team to execute the strategy and objective. It’s going to be awfully tough to get top talent to buy into your vision if you aren’t quite sure what it is yourself.2. Start From The Top
In large organizations, two important leadership roles are the Chief Content Officer (or also known as Director of Content Marketing) and the Content Marketing Manager.
The Chief Content Officer (CCO) is the person who oversees every facet of the content program to ensure that the company’s content marketing strategy is on point and meeting its business goals. This role is the backbone of the team, as the decisions and hiring will trickle down from here.
The Content Marketing Manager will report to the Chief Content Officer. This person focuses on laying out the roadmap for the team once the vision and/or strategy have been defined.
In smaller companies, these roles might be combined into one.
This will help the hiring process and recruiting for these specific roles, not to mention keeping the team organized and on track.3. Document Processes
In order for the content marketing team (or any team for that matter) to be successful, companies must document working processes and “standard operating procedures” or SOPs.
Without solid documentation, attempts to scale your content marketing team will result in chaos and unsure ownership and responsibility.
Standard operating procedures provide your team a set of go-to instructions to guide their efforts so you can easily replicate successes and scale your content marketing campaigns.4. Know Your Style
Establish the tone of voice, writing style, and messaging preferences that will be carried throughout your content.
Have a style guide and document the tone of voice and communication style so every person on the content marketing team represents the brand with the same integrity, values, and tone.
This is an important part of ensuring that each and every prospective customer has a similar experience with your brand.
It will also help you determine whether content team candidates are a good fit, as you compare their portfolio and writing style against your own.
Learn more about how to create a style guide (with examples).5. An Editor Is Everything
The content editor is responsible for developing and implementing processes that ensure content quality and keep the brand out of hot water with copyright issues.
They edit the content so it is as clear, concise, engaging, and close to error-free as possible.
Editors also provide direction to the writers to ensure that each piece of content meets its objectives.
Look for an editor who is organized, meticulous, punctual, and proactive.6. Keep Innovating With A Content Strategist
In smaller organizations, ongoing content strategy and planning might be handled by the Content Marketing Manager or Director.
This content professional has their finger on the pulse of your industry’s competitive landscape.
They are constantly considering and testing new content types and formats.
The content strategist brainstorms, ideates, and challenges the status quo. They’re always on the hunt for gaps in your customers’ journey and innovative content to fill it.
When larger companies look to hire a content strategist, they should search for someone who knows how to create exceptional content, has a big picture view of the industry, and understands the vision for the company’s future.7. Prioritize Brand Design
Hiring a designer for your content marketing team is crucial.
Research has found that 65% of the general population are visional learners, meaning they need to see information in order to retain it.
Furthermore, studies have shown that the brain can process images and videos 60,000 times faster than text, so it’s important that you have a designer on hand to create high-quality visuals to augment your written content.
The best content tells a story that evokes an emotional reaction or entices your site visitor to take action. Design is an essential element in creating those experiences.8. Hire Experienced Writers Who Care
The best writers are also gifted researchers, so you don’t necessarily need to find a writer with a lengthy portfolio in your exact topic.
But it’s critical that you find writers who are passionate about the topic in order to create authentic, exceptional content.
According to Matthew Brew, Head of Marketing at EduMe,
“In-house content resources are crucial. Writing is very revealing – you can read someone’s level of interest in what they’re writing about. That’s why you need people all in on your mission to be true brand guardians, to really embody (or craft) your tone of voice.”
Whether you’re building an in-house team or hiring through an agency, seek out writers who believe in the company’s mission and content strategy.9. Diversify Your Team
Each person on your content team will have their strengths and weaknesses.
For example, some writers are great at producing highly informative and educated pieces, but may lack humor and cannot produce satire, and vice versa.
Your customer base is diverse and your content team should be, too.
Have content team members inventory their interests, strengths, and weaknesses. Use these insights to inform future job postings and seek out talent with complementary skills and attributes.10. Define Career Paths For Ambitious & Motivated Team Members
What skills will they need to develop, and how will you ensure they have the time and resources to do so?
Make sure your team is constantly growing as individuals and know that they are valued enough for internal promotions and opportunities.
Promoting internally tends to cost less than hiring externally, and creates organizational loyalty and a higher employee retention rate, as well.11. Face-To-Face Training & Communication Are Important
New hires need real-time communication and training, whether through video conferencing or in person.
People will get to know individuals much better when you can hear their voices and see their facial expressions versus communicating through chat or by phone.
Asynchronous training videos can help team members in different timezones get up to speed, but it’s important to make time for regular 1-on-1s between managers and their direct reports.
Regular team meetings can help keep everyone connected and moving in the same direction, as well.
Building out a content marketing team can be daunting, but the payoffs are well worth it.
When you have a cohesive, energized team constantly pulling in the same direction and turning out their best works in your company’s name, you’ll realize your content goals – and then some.
Featured Image: Pits vec/Shutterstock
Several bloggers have suggested writing about the linkerati as way to draw editorial backlinks. This post is a sort of lens to some great articles elsewhere, plus a bit of value-added on my end.
Rand at SEOmoz identified the linkerati, and says that every site is linkbait and linkerati worthy. But that’s provided that you can identify the people most likely to link to you and attract them to your site. Obviously, you want to profile them or give them recognition in some fashion, and more often than not, they’ll link to your article. You also want to put some thought into your content. (I’ll be repeating that mantra a great deal.)
A summary of tips:
They get lots of link love as it is. Go after the other linkerati. Of course, ByLinking takes care of that indirectly, though Google may soon be devaluing links from theme templates, etc.
There are many newer bloggers that just don’t get the attention they deserve. Profile them, their blogs, their niche. Interview using video Skype or just voice or text.
Profile those who link to you – makes it easy to choose the next post. Put some thought it into the content you use.
Instead of one big linkbait per week, try 5-6 solid smaller resource posts. Why? Well, you’re casting your net wider for editorial links. Maki’s DoshDosh and Daniel’s Daily Blog Tips are two of the best examples. There is so much linkworthy content there. I may link to 3-4 posts there, and so will another several dozen bloggers, because there’s just so much good content.
For example, if you write one solid, linkable article per day, 5 d/wk, that’s about 250 per year. If they’re good, and you’ve developed enough of a profile, each post is probably worth 3 backlinks each or more – because you’re catering to other bloggers. That’s at least 750 backlinks per year, hopefully from different sites. And slow and steady links are often more valuable and persistent – at least to some SE algorithms. [Of course, if your blog is new and has low visibility, you may not gain 3+ backlinks per post, but going wide is still a good strategy.]
If you go with the root domain trust model, you place this blog aimed at linkerati/ bloggers in a subdirectory of your main site. Not just another blog about blogging, but one with your personality and enough extra content value that you stand out and induce editorial links. (Of course don’t forget to deep-link your archives or try alternative link building strategies.)
The diagram below shows the Linkerati effect. Write something interesting about one member of the Linkerati, and if they link back to you, their readers may see that and link back to you as well. I’ve seen it happen first hand, though I stumbled across this concept. And after the primary and secondary back links are the tertiary links. Those are from readers of the secondary linkers.
Recommendations on improving your content marketing capabilities
In our recent Smart Insights – Hubspot research on Managing Content Marketing, we asked five industry experts for their views on how content marketing can be successfully managed. Here they go into more detail of approaches to improve the effectiveness of content marketing.
You can learn more ideas on how to better manage content marketing in this free webinar from Dave Chaffey showing examples and 10 techniques and examples to make content marketing more effective (recording available).The challenges of managing content marketing
The research showed that there were a common set of challenges of managing content marketing that companies need to manage.
We can see there are common challenges of content quality, content frequency and measurement which were rated as significant challenges. Of the other challenges mentioned such as challenges, budget, making the case and skills were less significant, suggesting that many organisations have been successful in making the case for investment and identifying budget and resource.
So, what approaches are needed to overcome these challenges? Here’s what our panel of experts said.
He says that doing more of the same won’t produce better results. Instead write down what you want consumers of your content to do. Then, and only then, list the content ideas and content pieces that will help you achieve your goal. This small, yet vital modification: turning your content marketing process on its head, will vastly improve your inbound marketing performance.
According to the research, ‘Developing a content strategy is top of the list for 2014’. (56% of European marketers don’t have any kind of defined strategy in place, and 26% of European marketers rated strategy as their top priority for content marketing in 2014.’
Daniel Rowles from Target Internet recommends focusing on the challenge of managing the quality of the content, saying that ‘it’s clear that organisations not only need to look at producing more content to improve their inbound marketing, but they also need to look at producing better quality content and managing it more effectively.’
Daniel adds that, as more and more organisations adopt a content marketing strategy, the volumes of free content available will continue to increase and standing out from the crowd will become increasingly challenging.How can Google help?
Daniel explains that Google has also made clear changes to their algorithm (see his briefing on the latest algorithm changes) that try and differentiate high quality content from that which offers little original value to the web audience. The need for high quality content that is effectively distributed, managed and tracked is essential.
‘The words on the page that help Google identify the relevance of our sites, but also the links and social signals that are needed to demonstrate value and trust. If we create great content people will link to it and talk about it, and that’s exactly what we need to differentiate ourselves and achieve great search results’, according to Daniel.
‘Content marketing can work at a number of different stages of the sales funnel, but one of its most important abilities is to help achieve high search rankings. Content marketing ticks the boxes that Google is most interested in when deciding where to rank content’, according to Daniel.
Lee Odden, CEO of Toprank Online Marketing, supports Daniel’s views, stating that ‘Marketers are struggling with content adoption within their company.’
The report highlight that 71% of European company adoption of content marketing has been inconsistent or worse.
Lee reminds us that Content Marketing is not only an SEO tactic. He describes Content Marketing as the planning, development and promotion of content for a target audience with specific outcomes in mind. Across the sales cycle, content marketing provides information and engagement to fulfill buyer expectations as they move from awareness to purchase.Where should companies be focussing to drive a successful content marketing program?
In order for companies to successfully adopt content creation and marketing, a clear understanding must be achieved in terms of how a content marketing program can help a company achieve its goals, how a content investment will help customers move along the sales cycle and what resources, processes and tactics will be necessary to make it all happen.
Survey findings The majority of marketers are only spending a small portion of their budget on content marketing. 49% of marketers in Europe spend between 0-20% of their marketing budget on content marketing.Where should a company start with planning their content marketing strategy?
Creating and implementing a content strategy is pivotal to seeing success with content marketing. 58% found their content to be much more effective with a content strategy in place.
A content marketing strategy draws from both brand goals and the unique information demands of specific customer segments. The approach of answering questions through content and becoming ‘the best answer’ wherever prospects may be looking is the strategy that wins.
49% of marketers in Europe spend between 0-20% of their marketing budget on content marketing. Creating and implementing a content strategy is pivotal to seeing success with content marketing. 58% found their content to be much more effective with a content strategy in place.Where do companies go wrong with their content marketing?’
A clear, focussed and measured strategy is pivotal to delivering return on investment from successful content marketing. Brands that believe they can just ‘bolt on’ content marketing to their existing activities as another tactic are missing the point that it can deliver engaged, enthused and qualified customers in ways that outbound techniques cannot’, according to Geraint.
Annmarie Hanlon, Digital Marketing Strategist, Author and Trainer at Evonomie explains too that the ‘greatest challenge for content marketing is often in the Boardroom. We’ve seen cases of senior teams to consider content marketing as ‘giving away the crown jewels’. There is a belief that if, say as a firm of solicitors, they explain they key elements to be addressed in a will or testament, the client will opt for a do-it-yourself approach. ‘They won’t need our services as we’ve explained what to do.’ The fear of sharing too much knowledge is a threat to content creation.How to resource a content marketing strategy – in-house or using an external Consultant or Agency?
Annmarie finds that developing content in-house is often preferred amongst companies she works with. An educational provider told her:
‘Our in-house teams understand our language. If we outsource, we have to spend so long editing the material, that we may as well do it in-house. They don’t understand our full course range, which again, we need to take time to go through the details, so it’s easier to develop our content in-house’.
To blend in-house and outsourced resources, create a detailed style guide. This could be needed for new internal staff. Engage outsourced content writers to create content needed for the medium-term (that’s probably only 4 to 8 months!) as this gives you the opportunity to work with the outsourced team to get it right.
You’ve identified your target prospective customers, are consistent with your content creation, and leverage different content types to promote your product or service. Your content strategy seems solid enough then, right?
The truth is, your content marketing efforts can, and should, always be evolving.
Just as marketing strategy best practices shift and adapt to current consumer behavior trends, so too should content marketing.
Your sales team has likely already mapped out a sales funnel to better understand what your target audience is thinking and doing at each stage of the purchasing journey.
You, too, can create a content marketing funnel to guide your ideal customers from the awareness stage to the conversion stage where they become actual customers.
In this post, we’ll explore what exactly a content marketing funnel is, how to create a successful content marketing funnel that converts, and the types of content pieces to include in each stage of the funnel.What Is A Content Marketing Funnel?
A content marketing funnel enables content marketers to visualize how to leverage existing content to attract potential customers and guide them through their journey until they reach the end goal.
This end goal may include a sale, a demo, a download, or another type of conversion.
A marketing funnel can provide brands with greater visibility into where they may have content gaps along the customer journey.
For example, if a brand has a considerable amount of content aimed at buyers in the awareness stage but not enough content in the decision stage, they may want to shift their efforts to creating more bottom-funnel content.How To Start Mapping Your Content Funnel
When reviewing each piece of content, you’ll then want to assign what stage of the buyer journey the content aligns with. These stages will include:
Top of the funnel (TOFU): Awareness stage. In this stage, potential customers are searching for information.
Middle of the funnel (MOFU): Interest and consideration stage. In these stages, potential customers are looking at your products or services and reading customer reviews. They may also present this information to key stakeholders.
Bottom of the funnel (BOFU): Intent, evaluation, and conversion stage. Buyers are ready to move forward with their purchasing decision.
As you can see by examining each stage individually, your target audience needs diverse pieces of content depending on where they are at.
Your funnel content can’t adopt a one-size-fits-all approach, or you won’t effectively reach potential buyers. Relevant content must be presented at each funnel stage.
Let’s explore the most effective types of content for each funnel stage.Top Funnel Content
The top of the funnel is where customers are gathering information to help guide them through the buyer journey.
At this stage, a customer is likely just getting familiar with your business and what you have to offer.
Here, you want to build a positive customer experience to show the buyer you’re worth engaging with further.
A study conducted by Semrush found the following types of TOFU content work best when attracting traffic.
“How-to” guide (72%).
Landing page (35%).
Ebook/white paper (26%).
Video tutorial (23%).
As you can see, most of these types of content are educational materials designed to provide more information in the awareness phase.
The primary goal of your content in this stage is to offer help, and it shouldn’t be too sales-oriented.Middle Funnel Content
Once your ideal customers reach the middle of the funnel, they’re no longer looking for surface-level, introductory content.
You’ll instead want to look towards creating content that nurtures prospective customers further down the funnel. They might be looking for customer stories, product reviews, or a how-to video.
Looking at the results from the same Semrush study, the following types of MOFU content work best when attracting traffic.
“How-to” guide (44%).
Product overview (40%).
Case study (34%).
Landing page (31%).
Success story (30%)
Consider these potential customers were likely already introduced to your brand during the discovery stage, and therefore should not be presented with discovery stage content. An effective content strategy entails personalizing content for your audience.
In fact, research shows 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions – and 76% get frustrated when this doesn’t happen.
If you’re not tailoring your content plan and content marketing formats to customers at every stage, you risk creating a poor customer experience with your business.Bottom Funnel Content
Once a potential customer has reached the bottom of the funnel, they’re seeking content that helps them finalize their purchase decision.
They’re looking to learn how your product or service will make their return on investment worthwhile and why you’re the better option than your competitor.
Because these customers are well beyond the awareness stage and looking to potentially convert, the type of content you present to them is crucial to building trust and, ultimately, completing the purchase.
The content you present during the consideration phase can make the difference between a conversion and a lost sale. The top-performing content types in the BOFU stage include:
Consider sharing success stories of current customers that are similar to your prospect at this stage of the funnel.
Other examples of content to include at this stage are email campaigns featuring positive customer testimonials and product collateral. Include special offers, free trials, or live demos, too.What To Do Once You’ve Assessed Your Content
Once you have a comprehensive view of the content that already exists for every stage of the journey, it’s time to identify where you have gaps.
You’ll also want to determine the types of content assets you need to create. For example, maybe you’ve identified you don’t have any how-to content for buyers in the awareness phase. Or, perhaps, you don’t have enough customer success stories.
After you’ve identified content gaps, it’s time to put together an editorial calendar to prioritize what you need to tackle first and when.
Your editorial calendar should be monitored daily to keep track of what you have in the queue, what’s coming up, the intended content audience for the piece, and where the piece falls in the content marketing funnel.
It may also be worthwhile to conduct a competitive analysis of your competitor’s content marketing strategy to identify opportunities for new additional content pieces and how you can make your content better.
You want both relevant and helpful content to meet Google’s Helpful Content System’s standards and create an optimal user experience.Conclusion
Having a comprehensive and cohesive content strategy is critical for creating a rewarding buying experience. Keep your audience in mind with each piece of content you create.
You’ll also want to have a thorough understanding of your target customer, how they think, what they are looking for, and how you can solve their problem.
An effective content marketing funnel takes time, testing, and patience to perfect, but it’s absolutely necessary to outshine your competitors and come out on top.
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