You’ve heard it. You have a hunch that it might actually be true. You know it in the deepest parts of your soul: Good content is the true path to getting noticed in the digital landscape.
But content can be time-consuming and expensive. It can take awhile to get the ball rolling. And you’ve just got so much else to do. Who knows if your content marketing strategy is paying the bills anyway? Where would you even start to find out?
In this article, we will explore the steps to building an effective content marketing strategy tailored to your goals. Then, we’ll lay out some tried and true methods of measuring your success.
Step 1: Build an Effective Content Marketing Strategy
Boom. It’s just that easy! Why didn’t you think of that before?
It turns out that worthwhile content is useful, timely, searchable, intelligent, and most importantly, makes you look like you know what you’re talking about. People could come away from it actually thinking you’re a thought leader!
One thing to keep in mind: there are no shortcuts to generating valuable content. Sure, there are tons of “tools”, (closer to flim flam and snake oil) to help you generate things that look like worthwhile content, but the searchbots are pretty good at penalizing the stuff that relies on cheap gimmicks. Don’t try to game the system. Google can sniff that stuff out a mile away. And your audience won’t fall for it either. I wouldn’t recommend the risk of taking a hit in your search rankings by looking for shortcuts. One lousy post could destroy all your credibility.
In short, to build an effective content marketing strategy, you have to know two things: What is your point of view? What is the relationship you have with your audience?
Your Point of View
- What information, insight, or expertise do you possess that would be the most relevant to the products or services that you offer?
- How are competitors talking about these topics? What new, interesting, or different things can you say?
- Are there tangential topics that may be worth covering? What happens before, and after your product is used or implemented?
Your Audience Relationship
- How does your audience perceive you, your products, or your services?
- What questions / searches are your audiences looking for that may relate to you?
- What barriers exist for your audience when considering your solution?
- Is there any sort of seasonality to your audience’s purchasing behavior? Why?
Where does the bulk of your audience hang out online? How do they find your sales funnel unaided? How can you strengthen that path through relevant content that solves their problem?
These answers should lead you to build a list of timely and interesting content ideas that are inherently focused on meeting your audience where they live. At the same time, you need to provide useful guidance as they wrestle with topics related to the problem that your product solves. Lay those topics out on calendar with some regular frequency in an order that makes sense, and baby, you’ve got a stew going.
Your content won’t help anyone if nobody can find it. Keep in mind that you’re not just writing for people. You’re also writing for searchbots. In other words, you need to understand the concept of keywords. Do your homework on finding relevant keywords for each of your content ideas to give them the hooks they need to be categorized and served properly by search algorithms. Paid tools like SEMRush or Spyfu can help immensely. But, if you’re on a budget, there are plenty of free analytical tools out there. Check out your Google Analytics Organic Search acquisition history or Google’s free Keyword Planner tool to get you started.
Step 2: Create + Deploy Content – Utilize Your Best Digital Strategy Tools
Once your plan is set, you can move on to creating the content itself. You can do this at your own pace as dictated by your content calendar. Or you can try to frontload as much of it as you can while you have some resources available. Either approach is valid but personally, I find that creating content as needed allows for some flexibility in how I approach the topics I want to cover. I’ll never be able to foresee what’s trending in my space until it’s upon me. Sprinkling in some fresh-out-the-oven hot takes can give my content the relevant edge it needs to break through.
Regardless of the channel your content is destined for, you should keep some digital strategy basics in mind as you generate and deploy.
Always make sure you do your homework and hit your keywords
When it comes to your own product, this means using plain, straightforward language. Simply put, you need to call a spade a spade. After all, hardcore gardeners are out there searching for “best spades” and not “latest patented innovation in short metal digging technology.”
Pretty pictures lower bounce rates and increase engagement.
Video is always better
Video captivates and is almost guaranteed to hold attention for a moment, giving you the opportunity to explain why you audience should investigate more. Also, don’t forget to upload your .srt files whenever you can as they are more fodder for the metadata engine.
Don’t ignore metadata
Metadata gives your content a better chance to be served to audiences relevant to you and can even give you some access to adjacent impressions.
Lean into the quirks of your chosen channel
Embed video, make Instagram stories, use gifs, host Facebook Live sessions, enable comments (and reply to them!), tell them to smash that Like button. Page visits, time on page, comments, and overall engagement are factors in how preferentially algorithms serve your content.
Offer the simplest path to conversion that you can
Getting impressions and engagement is nice and all but you’re generating all this stuff for a reason, right? Each obstacle that you remove between your content and your conversion path is one less excuse your audience has to not pull the trigger. Make sure your landing pages are clean, clear, and lead to the most compelling CTA you can muster.
Lastly, make sure Google Analytics can track every inbound click and follow them through your conversion path. Reviewing the data and iterating is a crucial step in the process. See previous tip.
Step 3: How to Calculate your Content Marketing’s ROI
Measuring your content marketing strategy’s ROI is actually very similar to tracking a diet. Above all, it’s about in versus out. How many calories in versus how many did you burn? How much did you put into creating the content versus how many sales did you get out of it?
Some elements of your content generation process will have a tangible price (ex. social ad spend) and some will not (ex. your own time).The key is to quantify these elements as best as you can and measure them against your sales that are directly attributable to interaction with your content. Did they come in from a content landing page? Did they buy from your Facebook Shop? Convince and Convert has a great article going into the specifics of this process.
The simple formula breaks down into: (Sales – investment)/investment = percentage of return.
For example, if you asked Jill, an employee, to write a blog post which took her 3 hours and you paid her $20 / per hour, that blog post cost you $60 to produce. Then you are able to track $300 in sales through CTA clicks from that blogpost directly. You’d calculate your ROI as:
(300 – 60) / 60 = 4.0 or a 400% return. That blog post was super worth it! Amazing!
This equation could be used on a micro level to determine which pieces of content and channels are most cost-effective for you. It can also be used on a macro level to track the progress of your efforts and make large scale strategy tweaks.
It’s important to remember that content marketing generates content that is most relevant for the moment it’s released. But if it’s properly keyworded and metatagged, the content lives on, ready to be searched and generate revenue long after its launch. Eventually the consistent production of good content accumulates, generating its own momentum. The result: a snowball effect that you could be feeling for years to come.