Guide to Content Marketing for Startups
Everyone is talking about content marketing. Effective content marketing can build awareness of your startup, drive traffic to your website, and increase sales. Poor content marketing can be a major waste of time and money.
So, do you really know what it is and how to use it in your startup?
We’ve assembled everything you need to know about content marketing for you to get started planning a content strategy and creating effective content for your startup today!
In this ultimate guide to content marketing, we will cover everything you need to know about content marketing, including:
What Is Content Marketing?
Let’s start with “what is content marketing?” As its name suggests, content marketing is simply marketing your business with content. Content marketing incorporates the entire process of producing and distributing content online that generates interest in your products, services, or brand. This involves creating, curating, and sharing content.
Content marketing is a form of inbound marketing where you attract potential customers to your business by providing informative and practical content relevant to your target audience. With content marketing, your target audience finds you, and your job is to then convert them into customers.
There are many types of content, and the type of content that you should create depends widely on your audience and the type of content they are interested in and looking for.
In order to captivate and build the trust of your audience, you should consistently share informative and engaging content that provides value for your target audience.
The goal of content marketing is to attract your target audience, build awareness of your startup, provide your audience with some type of relevant information that they find valuable, and turn them into leads and customers.
Does Your Startup Need Content Marketing?
Does your startup need content marketing? Maybe not. Plenty of startups succeed without content marketing. However, content marketing can provide you with many advantages.
Content marketing is easy to start, a cost-effective and affordable way to build awareness of your startup, a strategy for establishing expertise and trust among your audience, and creates a path for converting leads into customers and growing your startup.
Many customers today have even come to almost expect quality content from the brands they do business with.
Let’s talk about some of the advantages of utilizing content marketing in your startup.
Advantages of Content Marketing for Startups
Wondering what content marketing can do for your startup? When done right, there can be a myriad of benefits:
Content Marketing Is Easy to Get Started
Getting started with content marketing is relatively easy. Whether you want to start a blog, write a case study, or create audio or video content, you can get started quickly.
The most important things in getting started in content marketing are:
- Developing a plan
- Creating informative content relevant to your startup that your target audience will find useful
All you need to start a blog is to create a page or sub-domain on your website and start writing. If you decide you want to reach your target audience through audio or video, your smartphone is probably good enough to do the trick. The important thing is to provide your target audience with valuable information so they keep coming back until you can convert them to users and customers.
Content Marketing Is Cost-Effective and Affordable
Content marketing is not only affordable, it’s also cost-effective and it works. In fact, content marketing is often more effective and cheaper than traditional marketing. For cash-strapped startups, content marketing can be an effective tool for building awareness, generating leads, and increasing sales.
It is important to remember, however, that just because content marketing is affordable does not mean that it is free. A considerable amount of time and effort goes into crafting a content marketing strategy and producing effective content.
If you decide to write all of the content yourself, you will find yourself devoting a considerable amount of time to carrying out an effective content marketing strategy — time that could (and probably should) be spent working on your startup. On the other hand, you could outsource your content production to content creators and bloggers, though this may add significant costs of its own.
One nice thing about content marketing, the investment you put in today may continue paying off months or even years into the future as the content you produce continues to drive traffic to your website.
Recommended: Find freelance talent with Fiverr.
Content Marketing Improves SEO and Organic Traffic
Good content marketing also improves your website’s search engine optimization (or SEO). Quality content can not only help you improve your search engine rankings in and of itself, but great content also generates more backlinks, which are an important part of search engine ranking algorithms.
First, high-quality content is likely to draw traffic to your website. By creating and producing high-quality content, Google’s algorithms will be able to tell what your page is about and visitors will be more likely to find your content useful and spend more time on your site.
Second, producing and publishing content shows that your website is being maintained and updated. This is also an important ranking factor as it shows that your company is active and the information you are publishing is more likely to be up to date.
Moreover, as backlinks have become increasingly important in search results, it is important to create quality, original content that people will want to backlink to. While other writers and websites might not find it useful to link to your home page or your product page, they might be much more willing to backlink to your website if you create and share valuable information and content.
Content Marketing Helps You Connect With Your Target Audience
Content marketing done right helps you to connect and build relationships with your target audience. When you create, publish, and promote valuable content, your target audience will even find you.
According to Statista, Americans spend more than 13 hours per day engaged with media, including nearly eight hours with digital media. There is more opportunity than ever before to engage with your customers, explore their needs, start a conversation, and gather input and feedback.
Finding and building relationships with your target market is more important than ever. Not only does content marketing help you attract your target audience, it can help you truly connect by answering your audience’s questions, listening to their concerns, providing support, and helping to solve their problems. This is a great way to show you care and to build relationships, trust, and loyalty.
Content Marketing Increases Awareness of Your Startup
Content marketing also increases awareness of your startup and your brand. By producing high-quality content that drives traffic, your startup and brand will start to get noticed in the market.
Yes, there are a lot of things that you need to do right to drive traffic. Knowing your target audience, choosing and implementing the right keywords, styling and structuring your content in a way that attracts visitors, and promoting your content are all things to keep in mind. But, with the right content marketing strategy in place, content marketing can help you build brand awareness by:
- Attracting followers on social media
- Drawing visitors to your website
- Building a subscriber list
- Improving search rankings
- Earning backlinks
- Generating referrals
- Improving loyalty and retention
- Turning customers into promoters
Content Marketing Establishes Expertise and Authority
Content marketing is a great way to establish your startup’s expertise and authority. Customers prefer to do business with companies that understand their industry. And there are several ways that your startup can begin establishing expertise and authority. First, working toward creating and publishing high-quality, insightful content will begin to grow your startup’s reputation as an expert in your industry or niche. But it will probably take more than just a few blog posts to accomplish this.
Original thoughts and insights go a long way to building expertise and authority. While short-form content such as blurbs, snippets, and short blog posts, among others, may be catchy and great at grabbing the attention of your target audience, long-form content such as research, white papers, and ebooks are excellent methods for establishing expertise and authority.
Content Marketing Builds Brand Trust and Loyalty
In addition to increasing awareness of your startup and establishing expertise and authority, content marketing also helps to build brand trust and loyalty. According to Lares, Cochran, and Digan, in their book “Persuade: The 4-Step Process to Influence People and Decisions,” trust and expertise are at the crux of building credibility, and building credibility is the first step in getting someone to do business with you.
When you create and publish high-quality content that helps your customers solve their problems, then they really will start to recognize your authority and expertise. When you do this consistently, they will begin to trust you more and more and grow increasingly loyal.
Content marketing also allows you to engage directly with your audience, building trust in a more personal way. Providing value, answering questions, responding to comments and feedback — all go a long way in showing that you can be trusted to care about your customers.
Content Marketing Drives Growth
And, of course, the ultimate goal — growth. A good content marketing strategy drives startup growth by engaging your target audience and establishing a steady flow of organic traffic to your lead magnets, landing page, or website. In fact, more than 66% of startups believe that content was one of their leading drivers of growth.
First, content marketing can be used as the basis to drive your target audience to your lead magnets, landing page, and website. Not only can high-quality content vastly improve your SEO (search engine optimization), it provides opportunities to market your products and services to your target market without being pushy.
Content marketing can help:
- Drive your target audience to lead magnets
- Drive traffic to your website
- Get visitors to sign up for your mailing lists
In addition to driving traffic, content marketing also drives growth by increasing awareness, establishing expertise and authority, and building trust and loyalty. In fact, according to Demand Metric, content marketing costs 62% less and produces 3x as many leads and 6x as many conversions as traditional marketing.
Content marketing can:
- Build trust
- Turn strangers into a loyal audience
- Turn your target audience into leads
- Turn leads into conversions
What Is ‘Content’?
When we talk about content, it’s important to understand what content actually means. The first thing people usually think of when they think about content is written text. However, content isn’t always simply articles and blog posts. Content is the delivery of information to your audience in any form and through any medium. It can also be photos, videos, podcasts, or even memes.
You will need to focus on the types of content that appeal to your audience; however, this will likely mean creating multiple types of content to keep your audience engaged.
Here are just a few of the many, many types of content you can create and use to grow your audience:
- Blog posts
- Case studies
- How to guides
- White papers
- AMAs (ask me anything)
And that’s just to name a few.
When creating content, you should keep several things in mind. First, your content should have a specific purpose. Most of the time, the purpose will be to grow your audience by providing them with something that is valuable to them. However, your ultimate goal is to promote your startup and turn your audience into customers and users.
Second, your content has to speak to and be interesting to your audience. It should be informative and useful to them so that they want to come back for more. Whether it be articles and blog posts, podcasts and videos, courses, webinars, or any of the different types of content you create, the content you create has to provide value to your audience.
Types of Content Marketing
Wondering what types of content you should create? You could start with more traditional forms of content marketing such as blog posts, email marketing, social media, and podcasts, or if you feel you are ready, you could focus on some of the more popular (and effective) methods today.
Here’s what content marketers in the field are using and find most successful today:
Let’s discuss some of tried-and-true methods along with some of the most popular methods of today:
One of the most classic forms of modern-day content marketing are blog articles. Blog articles are relatively short (usually less than 1,000 words) informative articles, often written in a diary-like manner.
Blog articles allow startups and a startup’s leadership team to begin establishing thought leadership. Blog articles are usually about topics relevant to the startup’s target audience.
Blog articles usually have three parts:
A blog post is the article itself. Although blog posts can take on many forms, the post itself is the written text. Blog posts are usually focused on one topic relevant to your startup and of interest to your target audience.
Blog posts are great for building an audience, increasing trust, positioning your startup as a thought leader, starting conversations, answering questions, building relationships, marketing your product, driving traffic to your website, and ultimately contributing to sales.
Blogs themselves should be a central feature of your website. Effective blogs increase traffic to your website, engage the reader, convince the reader you are credible, and drive sales.
Email marketing may be one of the most traditional methods of content marketing, but it still works and remains one of the most effective forms of marketing today. According to Litmus, for every $1 that companies invest in email marketing, they see $42 in return.
Email marketing provides a direct connection to your audience. It allows you to speak directly to them.
And no, we’re not talking about cold emails, although in some cases purchasing an email list makes sense. However, your own subscriber-built email list is one of the most valuable content marketing tools you have.
When you have something that your subscribers would find valuable, email them an announcement. You don’t have to (and don’t want to) sell them everything you have to offer. But, when you create high-quality content like a great blog post or create an amazing video, email your subscriber list, and share it with them.
Your goal is to provide your audience with high-quality content in a place that is convenient to them.
Recommended: Check out our list of the best email marketing software for startups.
Social media is a great outlet for startups to reach their audience and creates tons of opportunities for content marketing. In fact, social media is the top outlet for content marketing.
Social media can be an outlet to share just about every other type of content marketing in this guide. From blog articles to podcasts, case studies, and videos, you can share just about everything you create that your audience is interested in on and across social media.
And content marketers know this. According to Semrush, 94% of content marketers use social media as a distribution channel for their content, and 89% of marketers report that social media is their most popular content channel.
Social media provides you the audience to post original posts as well as repurpose and share snippets of your blog posts, articles, ebooks, whitepapers, video content, infographics, links to your podcasts, webinars, and just about any other type of content you create.
When it comes to choosing social media platforms, the list of options seems endless. The top 10 social media platforms for content marketing in 2022 are:
The difficult part for you is to determine the channels where you are most likely to find your target audience and create content that compels them to engage.
Here are the platforms content marketers found most effective in 2020:
Podcasts are another type of content marketing that is popular for reaching niche target audiences. Podcasts are a type of audio content where a host or group of hosts lead a show providing educational or informative content, stories, conversations, or interviews. They are kind of like the blogs of the audio world.
Podcasts are unique in that they can help you reach your target audience in a new place. While written, visual, and video content often require significant attention, a podcast can be listened to anywhere and while doing almost anything. This opens up an opportunity to engage with your audience in a new time and place and, hopefully, make an impression.
Podcasts also allow you to make a more personal connection with your audience. Listeners often form a connection with podcasts and podcast host(s) because of the personal and conversational nature of the shows, and they allow you to build strong relationships with your audience.
One important thing is to find your show’s premise. What will be the central topic? What types of topics will you discuss? What will your show be centered on? Like every other form of content you produce, podcasts also need to create value for your audience.
Ebooks are another great component of a content marketing strategy. An ebook, or “electronic book,” is a book in digital format for electronic distribution and on-screen reading in a layout identical to a printed book.
Ebooks provide a startup the opportunity to showcase their authority and expertise, build an audience, increase trust with their audience, and engage their target audience in the marketing flywheel. (We used to call it a marketing funnel, but we will discuss that later).
While any book can be published as an ebook, in content marketing, ebooks are usually longer than an article or a blog post but are shorter than what you might think of as a normal nonfiction book.
In content marketing, ebooks usually provide useful and valuable information relevant to a company’s target audience.
Ebooks also work as great lead magnets. Many times ebooks are content locked in order to engage customers in a company’s marketing flywheel (or marketing funnel). “Content locked” is when the content or a portion of the content is locked until a reader enters their email address, signs up, creates an account, or subscribes.
Another popular form of content marketing is case studies. Case studies are short, practical stories that highlight how your startup or solution has helped solve your target customers’ problems or meet their needs. By publishing case studies, your startup can showcase your process, how your startup or solution can meet your customer’s needs, and the benefits your customers might expect to receive.
Case studies, success stories, and testimonials help buyers evaluate your startup’s expertise and ability to help them solve their problems. By showing how you have provided other customers value, you often give potential leads the social proof they need to engage with you further and be converted to customers.
Case studies have shown to be highly effective, especially among B2B marketers. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2021 Content Marketing Surveys, 24% of B2C marketers and 68% of B2B marketers created and published case studies within the previous 12 months, and those numbers are continuing to grow.
Webinars are another popular format of content marketing. Webinars are a (usually) live, online event that is designed to be educational where viewers can comment and submit questions. Webinars can take many forms, such as AMAs (ask me anything), workshops, seminars, lectures, training sessions, or video presentations.
Webinars are often business-related and are hosted virtually using one of the many webinar software. Because webinars are (usually) free and are easily accessible online, they allow you to connect with a larger audience. Attendees can participate from wherever they are in the world, often right from their smartphones. This gives you the opportunity to reach a large audience quickly and easily without having to worry about the difficulties and logistics of travel or securing a space.
Another benefit of webinars is that they can be recorded to be distributed and watched later. They can be uploaded to your website, YouTube, or social media, and anyone who couldn’t make it or didn’t learn about it until after the event can still watch your event and turn into a lead or customer. At the very least, hopefully, they find some helpful content and get to know you and your brand better.
Because of the live, personal, and interactive nature of webinars, they are especially effective at quality lead generation. According to Webinar Care, 20%-40% of B2C-focused webinar participants end up being quality leads. When you look at B2B marketing, a whopping 73% of webinar attendees end up being leads.
And last, but certainly not least, video. Video remains one of the most popular channels for content marketing. In fact, according to Hubspot, 59% of marketers are now using video for content marketing, and, of these, 76% believe it is their most effective format. So much so that video has surpassed blogs and infographics as the top media used in content marketing strategy.
Content marketing with video should follow the same rules you apply to other types of content marketing. Your video content needs to be relevant to your startup, informative, and interesting to your target audience.
Video is a powerful form of content. Video increases interest and engagement with your audience, educates them in a medium they prefer to consume, increases web traffic, gets visitors to spend more time on your website, generates more leads, and converts more sales.
According to one survey by Semrush, 79% of marketers reported that video produced more quality leads. In addition to producing quality leads, 81% of marketers report that video has helped them directly increase sales, according to Wyzowl.
There are many different types of video content you can create. The important thing is to create the type of content that will engage your target audience. You can create product or service demos, product or service showcases, 360° explainer videos, brand storytelling videos, social engagement videos, case study videos, testimonials, educational videos, explainer videos, or tutorials, along with many others.
One reason you should consider incorporating video into your content strategy is that it is easy to create, it’s what consumers want, and it works. In fact, the majority of consumers prefer watching a video to learn about a new product.
When Should Your Startup Begin Content Marketing?
One question many startup founders ask is “when should I begin content marketing?” While there is no one right answer, content marketing can be useful as soon as you have decided on a problem to solve and know who your target audience is.
Startup founders, product designers, developers, and researchers can use content marketing to begin engaging your target audience and gathering feedback before you even have your idea fleshed out. Social media, blogs, and a landing page can provide you with a great opportunity to reach your target audience and get input early in the process.
Content marketing can also help you establish your authority and subject matter expertise before you even launch your first product or service. Blogs, articles, research, and white papers can all help you begin showcasing your knowledge, building your audience, and establishing your expertise.
Early content marketing can also help you get a jump start on and benefit your overall marketing strategies. Early content marketing can serve as a future lead magnet, be used to build a mailing list, draw traffic to your website, and even help you pre-sell your product or service.
In short, it is almost never too early to begin developing a content marketing strategy and creating content once you have decided on a problem to solve and know who your target audience is.
How to Plan an Effective Content Marketing Strategy
1. Determine Your Content Marketing Mission and Goals
The absolute first thing you need to do when planning your content marketing strategy is to determine your content marketing mission and goals. Your mission and goals are the number one determinant of the approaches you take to content marketing.
Your content marketing mission is the underlying mission of your content marketing. Not what you hope content marketing will do for you, rather what you hope to deliver to your customers.
Here is a simple formula you can use for B2C (business-to-consumer) or B2B (business-to-business) marketing to get started on defining your content marketing mission:
Through our content marketing initiatives, we will create [types of content] for [your target audience] to help them [audience’s goals].
An example of a content marketing mission statement for our team at Startup Savant might be, “Through our content marketing initiative we will create articles, guides, interviews, blog posts, checklists, and video for startup founders and aspiring startup founders to help them navigate the complexities of launching, scaling, and growing a startup.”
While you might not yet know exactly who your audience is or the types of content that engages them, your content marketing mission can be updated later and gives you a place to start.
The business purpose of your content marketing is to help your audience achieve their goals so that you put yourself on the way to achieving yours. Your business goals are what you gain from content marketing.
Content marketing goals may include creating brand awareness, building brand reputation, attracting more traffic to your website, building a subscriber audience, educating your audience, generating more quality leads, building loyalty with existing customers, supporting the launch of a new product, and converting leads into sales.
According to the Semrush State of Content Marketing 2022 Global Report, here are the top goals set by content marketers for 2022:
When you are planning your content marketing goals, you will also have to determine how you will measure each goal and the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts. The metrics you use should be directly related to your goals.
Whatever your goals are, your KPIs should reflect this. Related to the most common content marketing goals, your KPIs might include the number of leads, lead conversion rates, increased web traffic, increased time spent on the website, the number of subscribers, brand reputation, and customer engagement, along with others.
With a general idea of your mission and goals in place and a basic understanding of the key performance indicators that you will use to measure your content marketing strategy’s success, it’s time to move on to getting to know and understand your target customers.
2. Know Your Target Audience
The second step in planning your content marketing strategy is getting to know and understand your target audience. It is crucial to know who you are marketing to in order to plan an effective strategy to market to them.
The first thing to do is to ask who is your ideal customer. If you don’t know who you are creating content for, you can’t create content that is interesting and engaging for your audience. And if you don’t reach your target audience or your audience doesn’t find your content useful or engaging, you are not going to succeed with your content marketing strategy.
So take the time to figure out who, exactly, your ideal customer is. What do they look like? What do they want? What do they struggle with? What are their biggest challenges?
You will want to learn about their demographics, psychographics, challenges, and pain points. You will also want to know what types of content they prefer and where they get their content.
Some of the characteristics of your target audience that will be helpful in planning your content strategy and reaching your audience more easily are:
- Demographics: You should know your target audience’s age, gender, ethnicity, location, education, income, job titles, marital status, family size, along with other demographic data relevant to your solution.
- Psychographics: Make sure to understand your audience’s beliefs, desires, goals, habits, interests, and values. These will help determine what matters to them, what they might find important, and how to attract their attention and engage their interest.
- Challenges: Take the time to thoroughly understand the challenges your target audiences face related to your solution. Put yourself into your audience’s shoes and explore the problem inside and out.
- Pain Points: When exploring your audience’s challenges, empathize with your customer and delve into their pain points. What pain points do they experience the most? What do they struggle with the most? What aspects frustrate them the most? How can your solution help alleviate their pain points?
- Content Preference: Recognize the types of content that your target audience prefers to consume. These may be different for different problems, challenges, and situations.
- Content Channels: Figure out the content channels that your target audience goes to search for information for solutions to similar problems. This is where you will need to make sure to distribute the content you create.
Once you know who your customers are, only then can you begin to understand how they think and learn how to speak their language.
Knowing your target customers and audience also provides a great opportunity to begin collecting feedback. Ask them what their biggest challenges are, where the pain points are in the tasks they are trying to find solutions to, and what types of content they want to read and would find helpful.
Once you understand your target audience, you’ll be better able to create content around the problems, challenges, and topics that are of interest to them.
3. Plan Your Process
The next step in planning your content marketing strategy is to begin to plan the process. This means planning your internal process — how much, who, how, and how often. How are you going to implement your strategy? This also means planning our types of content and channels, although this should be much easier now that you know your customers.
Planning your content allows you to plan how much you will allocate to content marketing, what types of content you will create, what your internal workflows will look like, who will be responsible for each part of the content marketing process, and how often you will plan and publish content.
One of the things you will have to do when beginning to plan your content marketing strategy is to determine how much you will rely on and invest in content. Remember, content marketing is only one part of your overall marketing budget and strategy. How much will you invest in content marketing? What resources will you need?
You will also need to determine what content you will create. This includes the topics that your target audience is interested in as well as the types of content that you will create. What themes or topics are relevant to your solution? What themes or topics speak to your target audience? What topics or subjects will help them solve their problems or alleviate their pain points?
The second how refers to how you will create, publish, and promote your content. What will your internal workflows look like? What are the steps you will need to take to get started? What are the steps in the process?
You will need to determine who is in charge of each step of the content marketing process. Who is in charge of creating content? Editing content? Publishing content? Will you create and publish content internally, or will you outsource or hire freelancers to assist in the content creation process? Who has final content approval?
You will also need to plan your publishing schedule. This is often done with a content calendar. Also known as an editorial calendar, a content calendar is a written schedule of when and where you plan to publish upcoming content across different media and is used by content marketers, editors, publishers, and companies to manage their content marketing strategy.
4. Choose (Diverse) Content Types
Next, you will need to choose your content types. We’ve already talked a good deal about the types of content, and although we recommend that you start out by focusing on only a few content types and channels, you should try to create and publish more than one type of content through more than one type of channel.
Your target audience likely prefers different types of content for specific situations and uses several content channels to find solutions to their problems. When you diversify the types of content that you create and publish, you increase the likelihood of finding your target audience.
Diverse types of content also serve different purposes. For example, blog posts and articles are great for driving web traffic. Long-form content, lists, images, and video are more likely to be shared. Each type of content has its strengths and weaknesses.
Your content strategy benefits from the use of a variety of types of content.
While blog and email remain popular, other types of content such as webinars, videos, case studies, and ebooks have been especially effective and are gaining in popularity.
5. Choose Distribution Channels Early On
In planning your process, you should also begin to choose your distribution channels early on. You won’t be able to effectively market on every distribution channel out there, so you will have to choose the channels that have the best chance of reaching your target audience. If you’ve done your research, you should already know where to begin to find them.
Here are some of the distribution channels you could consider:
- Social media platforms
- Email marketing
- Your website/blog
- Virtual events
- In-person events
- Guest posts
- Guest podcast or video spots
- Video platforms
- Listening platforms
Here’s where B2B marketers distributed their organic content according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 11th Annual Content Marketing Surveys:
6. Develop Lead Magnets
When planning your diversified content strategy, you should plan on creating several lead magnets. Lead magnets are valuable pieces of content that attract and engage potential leads, usually in exchange for their contact information.
The key part of lead magnets is the value that they offer to your target audience. Everything you create isn’t necessarily a lead magnet. Instead, lead magnets are typically more than just your usual blog post or video. Lead magnets deliver that extra value to your audience.
Great lead magnets should:
- Help your audience solve a problem
- Provide practical advice that is easy to implement
- Show your authority and expertise
- Attract potential leads into your marketing “funnel” or “flywheel”
- Secure leads and potential leads
Lead magnets usually include content that is locked or only a portion is available until you enter your email address, sign up, create an account, or subscribe.
Some of the types of content that you can use to create great lead magnets include:
- Case studies
- Free trials
- Resource lists
- White papers
Again, the types of content you create and use as a lead magnet highly depend on the types of content your audience is looking for to help solve their problems. Don’t be afraid to experiment with creating different types of lead magnets to find out what works for your startup and your target audience.
7. Find (and Use) Tools and Resources
Just planning your content marketing strategy sounds like a lot, and we haven’t even gotten to how to create great content yet. But, don’t worry. There are plenty of tools and resources to make planning your content marketing strategy easier.
There are a plethora of tools out there to assist with content marketing. These include tools for:
Although reviewing each of these tools is outside of the scope of this guide, it’s important to know that there are tools and technologies available to help with most parts of the content marketing process. Here are the most popular tools and technologies that B2B organizations reported using in 2020:
How to Create Great Content for Content Marketing
1. Focus on Your Target Audience
One of the first things to keep in mind when creating content is to focus on who you are creating content for — your target audience. As you know from the previous section, it is crucial to focus on who you are marketing to in order to plan an effective strategy to market to them. Content marketing is just one key element of the marketing toolbox designed to attract your target market to you. The purpose of content marketing isn’t necessarily to sell or be pushy. While content marketing can have many goals, the purpose of content marketing is to engage your target audience with your startup and your brand.
In addition to knowing who they are, what their interests and hobbies are, and how they think, you also need to understand their problems, challenges, and pain points. When you understand these things, then you will understand how to produce content that helps them solve their problems — providing them value, which is actually the next thing to remember when creating content.
2. Provide Value for Your Audience
The next thing you should remember is that in order to engage your target audience, you need to provide value for your audience.
Great content is relevant to your product, service, or brand and provides value for your audience. It helps your audience solve their problems, overcome their challenges, or meet their needs. For instance, if you are a business planning consultant and your target audience is startups and small business founders, then you should create content like a “guide to business planning,” a “business plan template,” or a “business planning checklist.” These are all relevant to your business, valuable to your target audience, practical, and content types that perform.
One key to provide value to your audience is consistency. You can’t create one or two pieces of high-quality content and expect that that will be enough to grow you an audience and keep them engaged indefinitely. You need to consistently create content that provides value for your audience in order to turn your audience into prospects, prospects into leads, and leads into customers.
EAT (expertise, authority, and trust) is one of the factors that Google takes into account when determining what is high-quality content. It is part of the algorithm that helps Google rank where your content appears in search results and is highly important for your target audience to find you.
Google and other search engine algorithms take numerous factors into account when determining your expertise, authority, and trust, such as your content quality, topics, about page information, author bios, and site design.
Here are some ways content marketers suggest to build your expertise, authority, and trust:
- Let your visitors know who you are by highlighting your expertise on your about page and in your author bios.
- Work with experts and thought leaders to create guest posts, podcasts, or streams to improve credibility.
- Publish high-quality, original, authoritative content
- Diversify your content formats and types
- Publish more thought-leader-level content such as original research, case studies, guides, etc.
- Make sure your content is clear, concise, and easy-to-digest
3. Optimize Your Content Using Trends and Keywords
In order to create great content that gets found and that people want to read, you also need to make sure you are optimizing your content to be found and read. There are several ways you can optimize your content, including making sure you are writing about current trends that are of interest to your audience, researching and using keywords correctly, and optimizing your content’s style and structure to make it more likely to rank and attract a larger audience. In this section, let’s explore optimizing your content using trends and keywords.
Optimize Your Content Using Trends
The topics you create content around are one of the most important aspects of attracting the right target audience. These topics need to be relevant and interesting to your target audience. They also need to be unique enough and fit into the conversation of today.
One thing you can do to optimize your content is to pay attention to the current topics and trends that people are talking about and create content around these topics. To do this, you have to keep up-to-date with what is going on in your industry, market, and niche.
There are numerous ways to stay up-to-date on trending topics. One of the first and most important is to listen. Pay attention to what people are talking about related to your startup or your niche in conversations, in the news, and on social media. Sites like Reddit and Quora are also great places to watch and listen for current topics and trends.
There are also a number of free and paid tools available to help you find trends. One of the most popular is Google Trends. Trends is a Google product that tells you how popular a search term is on Google, including the search volume and user’s locations for the last hour, day, week, or month. Knowing what people are searching for can be extremely helpful in choosing formats, topics, and content to produce.
Other popular tools include social media (i.e., exploring what’s trending on Twitter or YouTube) and search listening tools such as AnswerThePublic. AnswerThePublic is a search listening tool that tells you what people are searching and what questions they are asking to help you determine what topics to write about as well as to begin giving you some insights into the keywords you should be using.
Optimize Your Content Using Keywords
Another crucial part of optimizing your content is carrying out keyword research and using keywords right. Keywords are the words or groups of words that a person would search in Google or another search engine to find what they are looking for. Keywords are extremely important in search engine optimization (SEO), as the inclusion of the right keywords determines what Google thinks your page is about and how your startup shows up in search results.
Using keywords also helps to improve your user’s experience. By providing relevant information and providing internal and external links, visitors will be able to find the information they are looking for, stay longer, and return more often.
The right use of keywords determines your content’s success. It doesn't matter how well written your posts or content are — if you don’t include the right keywords, it will not get found. You should use keywords in your title, the body of your articles and posts, with your images and videos, and importantly, in the first and last paragraphs of your posts.
When researching and coming up with keywords, pay attention to their length. The length of your keywords helps determine who your content finds and the cost and probability of converting the audience that your keywords attract.
There are three levels of keywords you should include in your content:
- Short Keywords are one-word keywords used to search a broad concept such as “consulting.”
- Medium Keywords are two to three-word keyword phrases that narrow down a concept to a more refined search, such as “marketing consulting.”
- Long-Tail Keywords are longer, more precise keyword phrases that specify exactly what is being searched, such as “content marketing consulting.”
Short keywords are broader, costlier, and less likely to be relevant to your target audience. Medium keywords help narrow down a concept to a more refined search. Medium keywords are usually more relevant to what these searchers are actually looking for. Long-tail keywords are more precise, likely to be more relevant to what your searcher is looking for, and have a higher probability of converting your audience.
There are numerous ways to research keywords for content marketing. Begin by brainstorming relevant keywords and ideas, and then make sure to use the keyword research tools available to you to find keywords relevant to your content that your target audience may be searching for. Finally, once you publish your first few pieces of content, make sure to use Google Analytics and Google Search Console to track and check your existing keyword performance to see which keywords are bringing people to your site.
Where should you include keywords in your content?
- Your page title
- The title of your content
- Your content page’s SEO title
- Your meta descriptions
- Intermittently in the body of your content
- Table, figure, and chart descriptions and tags
- Image and video descriptions and tags
- Links from other pages to your content
- Social media posts about that content
- Social media hashtags
Recommended: Spend Time on Design and Presentation — Part of developing high-quality content is making sure your content is appealing and usable. The design and presentation of the content you produce plays a big role in how useful your content is and whether your audience engages with your content or not.
How many times have you skimmed through an article or blog post just looking for one piece of information or trying to pick up key points? Would you rather skim through a page with a clean and clear design that lets you find what you need quickly or would you rather have to scroll through never-ending text?
4. Style and Structure Your Content to Perform
There are a number of factors that go into optimizing the style and structure of your content to perform. These include optimizing for SEO to attract organic traffic, shares, and backlinks. Things like the length of a blog post, article, headlines, headings, and the number of lists, images, and videos all play a role in how your page ranks in SEO and how your audience interacts with your content.
Three of the most common metrics are pageviews, backlinks, and shares. Let’s take a look at how you can optimize your content to increase each of these factors.
Blog Content Length
First, let’s talk about how long an article should be to optimize its performance. In general, longer articles tend to get more unique page views, shares, and backlinks than shorter articles. While the “x” advice is that an article should be 1201-1500 words, the average unique pageviews, shares, and backlinks for articles of this length are 93 visits, 24 shares, and 18 backlinks. However, looking at long-form content that is 7000+ words, although they don’t generate as many backlinks (15 vs. 18), the pageviews (302) and shares (30) skyrocket.
In optimizing your content, you should formulate your headlines as guides, lists, and how-tos, as the type of article you write and title or headline you use can also impact your content’s performance. Overall, headlines that label content as “guides” are read the most and create the most backlinks, but they are shared less than other types of headlines. Here’s how the most common type of headlines stack up:
Pay attention to your H1 length. The length of your H1 headline (usually your article or post title) also influences how your audience interacts with your content. Too long of an H1, and you may be setting yourself up to experience underperforming content. According to the results from Semrush’s “State of Content Marketing 2022 Global Survey,” H1 headlines that are less than seven words receive the most organic traffic and shares, although H1 length appears to have little effect on backlinks. Here’s how they compare:
Another way to increase the performance of your content is to pay attention to the number of heading levels you include in your articles or blog posts. Articles and posts with more (deeper) heading levels perform better overall than those with fewer levels of headings. Here is how the level of headings impacts performance:
The number of lists also plays a role in how well your content performs. Articles and blog posts with at least one list per 500 words perform significantly better in pageviews, backlinks, and shares than articles with no lists.
As a matter of fact, one list with approximately 500 words looks ideal, as articles and posts with one list/500 words received the most pageviews, backlinks, and a high number of shares. In fact, if your content starts including more than one list per 500 words of organic traffic, the number of backlinks tends to go down — although shares remain fairly consistent with one list or more.
Incorporate images into your articles and posts whenever possible. Articles with images generate up to four times the amount of organic traffic and up to 50% more shares than articles with no images.
As far as organic traffic goes, it also looks like the more images the better. Articles and posts with no images receive a paltry average of 25 organic visitors. Those with one to five images received an average of more than 51 organic visitors. Articles with six to seven images jumped to 81, and finally, eight or more images attracted an average of 95 organic visitors.
Similar to images, incorporating videos into your articles and posts can also be beneficial to your content performance. Articles and posts with videos receive double the traffic of articles without videos. Overall, articles and posts with two videos attract the most organic traffic. Here’s how the number of videos compares in average pageviews, backlinks, and shares:
5. Promote Your Content
It’s not enough to just create great content. You also need to promote your content. Promoting your content assures that your content and your startup are seen.
There are many different ways you can promote your content. Again, consider: where is your target audience? What information channels do they use? What social media channels do they use? What influencers do they follow? And what are the messages that will catch their attention and resonate with them? Understanding these things will help you decide where and how to promote your content.
One of the most popular ways to promote content is through social media. Social media is a great medium for you to reach your audience and creates numerous opportunities to engage with your audience. From blog articles, to podcasts, to case studies, to videos, you can share just about everything you create that your audience is interested in on and across social media.
This is also a great time to bring out those keywords you’ve searched, and make sure to use them to tag and hashtag your social media posts to help your target audience find your content easily.
Email marketing can be used to distribute original content such as newsletters, weekly updates, new product, service, or feature announcements, or honestly just about anything else.
Email marketing is also great for repurposing content. Email marketing can be used to repurpose almost any type of content you create. Companies still use email to keep in touch with their customers and leads, and people still read their emails.
Great email copy is:
- Clear and concise
- Benefit-oriented (not feature-oriented)
- Valuable to its audience
- Practical or actionable
- Not overly promotional
Guest Posts, Podcasts, and Streams
Another great way to promote your content is by borrowing the credibility and audience of experts or influencers in your industry or market. Guest posts, podcasts, and streams allow you to reach a larger audience, bring awareness to your startup and your brand, and help position you as an expert and authority in your niche.
Guest posts, podcasts, and streams are also a great way to build links to your content. Make sure to ask the host to link to your content. If they agree, you can even go so far as to include or send them links to relevant content on your site, channel, or social media.
Guest posts, podcasts, and streams are often a win-win, as they deliver value for you, for your guest, and for your targeted audiences.
Internal Link Building
Another great way to promote your content is internal link building. When creating new content, make it a habit to link to relevant resources and to go back through your old content from time to time and link to relevant newer content you have created since.
Internal links provide several benefits. First, internal links helps visitors to your website find the information they are looking for. The longer visitors stay on your site, the more trust they will likely put in your brand and the better search engines will rank your page.
Additionally, internal links help Google and other search engines’ algorithms and bots navigate your website and understand what it is about. This will help you show up higher in more relevant searches, reaching more of your target audience.
External Link Building
Finally, you should also work on external link building to promote your content. Focus on building external links in both directions. In your own content, you should include external links to reputable sources. You do not want to link to your direct competitors, but you do want to find independent thought leaders in your industry or field to include external links to.
You will also want to encourage inbound links from external sites. Links from external sites not only help your target audience find you, but they are also a key factor in search engine rankings.
Here are some tips for getting external sites to link to your content:
- Create quality, unique content
- Engage in the conversation
- Participate in guest appearance opportunities
- Ask those who mention you
- Ask those who already link to you
- Ask industry experts and influencers whose audience might find your content interesting
6. Measure Your Content’s Impact
Finally, in order to create effective content, you need to measure your content’s impact to find out what is working and what isn’t.
You should be constantly measuring and regularly reviewing your content marketing impact and strategy. The first thing you need to do to begin tracking and measuring your startup’s content marketing impact is to determine the metrics you are going to use. The metrics you use should be directly related to your content marketing goals. If your goals are to increase traffic, acquire leads, or increase conversions, then your key performance indicators (KPIs) should reflect this.
Here are the most common metrics that content marketers report tracking and analyzing in 2020:
But it is more than just measurements and metrics to understand and improve the content you create. You really need to spend some time interpreting what is going on.
As you review your metrics, make sure you take the time to consider:
- Are you attracting your target audience?
- What does the audience you are attracting look like?
- What content topics are your top-performing posts?
- What content types are your top-performing posts?
- Which topics and types of posts drive the most traffic?
- Which helps identify the most leads?
- Which convert the most sales?
Ideally, you should be continually tracking your KPIs and metrics to identify the types of content your audience takes in and engages with. Some companies analyze their content marketing efforts as often as monthly in order to be flexible and able to adjust and improve their content marketing strategy with what they learn.
Other companies engage in quarterly, semi-annually, or annual reviews or audits of their content marketing’s impact. While your newest content may not rank, you should be able to identify patterns and trends in your content performance so that you can iterate your content strategy and improve its performance.
Reviewing and auditing your content’s performance will also show you which content topics and types perform well so that you can create similar content or repurpose and repromote your best-performing content. For example, if your content review tells you that your best performing piece of content was a blog post on how to travel on a budget, maybe you can create an infographic, host a podcast session, or create a video on the same topic. You can then link your blog post to each of these and link each of these back to your blog post.
A content review or audit may also reveal that your best-performing pieces of content are also aging and in need of updates. Age is a key ranking factor in Google rankings, so keeping your top-performing content up-to-date can play a major role in how your content ranks.
Without tracking, measuring, analyzing, and auditing your content performance, there is no way to know which topics and which types of content are working for you and your startup. This helps you determine the content you should create and make the most out of your content marketing efforts and budget.
Repurposing content is such an important part of an efficient and effective content strategy that it needs its own section. In short, you should be repurposing content as much as you possibly can. Your target audience takes in information in a multitude of formats, and your content can be repurposed again and again to meet them where they are.
You can repurpose and repromote your content through almost any of the content channels that you use. Repurposed content can be included on your website, help you rank in SEO, be used in your email marketing, and be promoted across your content channels. And the best part is that it often requires very little additional work.
Just think about it. How many ways can you think of to repurpose a blog post? It could be:
- Turned into snippets for social media
- Developed into an infographic
- Repurposed into a checklist or template
- Recorded as audio content
- Filmed as a vlog
- Spun into a guest post or guest spot
- Extended into an ebook
- Converted into a quiz
- Taught as a short course
- Expanded into a webinar
And I’m sure you can think of more. The idea is to look for opportunities to build on the work you have already done while providing value for your target audience.
Repurposing content is a very efficient and cost-effective way to get the most out of your content and your content marketing strategy.
The Marketing Funnel vs. Marketing Flywheel
You’ve probably heard about the marketing funnel. Proposed by E. St. Elmo Lewis in 1898, the marketing funnel is widely thought of as one of the first theories of marketing.
Also known as the sales funnel or purchase funnel, the marketing funnel is a marketing model that describes the customer journey from learning about your product or service to making a purchase. In the marketing funnel, potential customers are captured in a company’s marketing efforts, led through their sales channels, and converted into a customer.
The problem with the market funnel for inbound marketing is that it focuses on internal processes, and customers are at the bottom of the funnel. Recently, more and more companies have begun to take the marketing flywheel approach. The marketing flywheel is a theoretical model of marketing that puts customers at the center of a company’s marketing efforts.
Instead of focusing on marketing to and selling to customers, the flywheel supports attracting, engaging, and delighting strangers into prospects, customers, and promoters. The marketing flywheel is a self-sustaining model, as you delight customers and turn them into promoters, they attract strangers to your brand.
The flywheel also symbolizes friction, as prospects and customers may abandon the flywheel if they run into friction. When you focus on removing friction, your flywheel will spin freely with a sustaining flow of leads and prospects.
In the marketing funnel, the customer was always at the bottom, however the marketing flywheel promotes a self-sustaining marketing model that focuses on the customer at each stage of the customer journey.
Content Marketing Tips and Tactics
With the majority of companies investing more and more in content marketing, it is more important than ever to invest in developing a content marketing strategy and creating high-quality, engaging content. Here are some tips and tactics to keep in mind along the way.
- Establish your content marketing goals
- Focus on and understand your target audience
- Understand the entire customer journey
- Develop high-quality content
- Create content for customers at each stage of the journey
- Solve your target audience’s problems
- Stay up-to-date and current with industry and consumer trends
- Be consistent in producing value
- Be consistent in your brand voice
- Spend time on design and presentation
- Promote your content
- Repurpose your content (especially the content that engages your audience)
- Track and measure your content marketing impact
- Use analytics to figure out what works and what doesn’t
- Find and use content marketing tools that make content marketing easier
Key Content Marketing Terms You Need to Know
Case Studies: Case studies are short, practical stories that highlight how your startup or solution has helped solve your target customers’ problems or met their needs.
Content Calendar: A content calendar, or editorial calendar, is a written schedule of when and where you plan to publish upcoming content across different media and is used by content marketers, editors, publishers, and companies to manage their content marketing strategy.
Content Locking: Content that is locked has only a portion available until a reader enters their email address, signs up, creates an account, or subscribes.
Content Marketing: Content marketing refers to the entire process of producing and distributing content online that generates interest in your products, services, or brand including creating, curating, and distributing content.
Inbound Marketing: Inbound marketing is a form of marketing that attracts potential customers to a business by providing informative and practical content relevant to a company’s target audience.
Influencers: An influencer is someone who has the ear of your target audience. What might qualify as an influencer highly depends on who your target audience is. Many influencers have expert knowledge or insight into a specific industry or niche, while others may simply be popular among your target audience. Influencers, then, use their influence among your target audience to promote your products, services, or brand.
Keywords: Keywords are the words or groups of words that a person would use to conduct an internet search in Google or another search engine. Keywords are extremely important in search engine optimization (SEO), as the inclusion of the right keywords determines how your startup shows up in search results.
Lead Magnets: In marketing, a lead magnet is a product or service that is given away for free in order to collect the contact details of potential customers in your target audience and gather leads for future sales. Lead magnets might include swag, along with things like free samples, free consultations, free trials, ebooks, newsletters, white papers, and more.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): SEO is the process of optimizing your webpage or website to show up better in unpaid search rankings in order to increase traffic to your site.
Target Audience: A target audience is your intended audience. For the purposes of content marketing, your target audience should be your most likely customers or users — those most likely to purchase your product or service.
Vlogs: Video blogs, or vlogs for short, are just a video form of a blog. For content marketing purposes, vlogs take advantage of the benefits of video and provide the opportunity to deliver your content in a richer and more engaging way.
Webinars: A webinar is a (usually) live, online event that is designed to be educational and where viewers can comment and submit questions. Webinars can take the form of AMAs (ask me anything), workshops, seminars, lectures, training sessions, or video presentations. Webinars are often business-related and are hosted virtually using one of the many webinar software.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is a form of inbound marketing where you attract prospects, leads, and potential customers to your business by providing informative and practical content relevant to your target audience. Content marketing incorporates the entire process of creating, curating, and distributing content that generates interest in your products, services, or brand.
What is a content marketing strategy?
Content marketing strategy is a business’s plan for growing an audience by creating and sharing relevant and insightful content that informs, inspires, or entertains your target audience and converts them into customers. This includes determining your content marketing goals, understanding your audience, planning your processes, choosing your content types, choosing your content channels, and planning your lead magnets.
What are the various types of content marketing?
There are many different types of content marketing. Some of the most popular include articles, blog posts, case studies, checklists, ebooks, “how to” guides, infographics, interviews, newsletters, reports, research, white papers, animations, AMAs (ask me anything), GIFs, memes, photos, podcasts, presentations, social media content, templates, testimonials, vlogs, videos, and webinars.
Why is content marketing important?
Content marketing is a key component of the marketing mix and can be an effective and cost-efficient way to grow your target audience, generate prospects, and convert leads into customers. Content marketing improves SEO and organic traffic, helps you connect with your target audience, increases awareness of your startup, helps you establish expertise and authority, builds business brand trust and loyalty, and drives growth.
How does content marketing build your business?
High-quality content marketing (producing content that is valuable to your target audience) works to attract your target audience to learn about and engage with your brand. An effective content marketing strategy can help improve SEO and organic traffic, increase awareness of your brand, connect you with your target audience, and convert audiences into customers.
How do I get started with content marketing?
There are several things you should do to get started with content marketing. First, you should plan your content marketing strategy. This includes determining your content marketing goals, understanding your audience, planning your processes, choosing your content types, choosing your content channels, and planning your lead magnets. After you have a plan, it’s time to start creating and publishing your content.
What is the best type of content for content marketing?
The most effective types of content may differ depending on your product or service, your startup, and your audience; however, overall, content marketers found video (37%), blog posts (36%), success stories (22%), case studies (16%), and webinars (16%) to be the most successful.