The online marketing world is undergoing a pretty big shift, one that was initiated a few years ago but kicked into high gear in 2012. It’s a content revolution that marketers and writers like me are simultaneously thrilled and scared about. We’re in the middle of a content marketing renaissance (if I can call it that), with more and more emphasis being put on the type and quality of content that companies provide their users. Your content strategy for 2013 will be more important than any year before.
Why Content Marketing is the Elephant in the Room
Google’s rapidly paced algorithm updates over this year have got a lot of marketers worried that once tried-and-true tactics for ranking in search just won’t be as effective anymore. It’s increasingly clear that we’ll be relying on more content-centric strategies to bolster our SEO toolsets, and that means putting more emphasis on holistic strategies for developing that content.
This is where so many online marketers drop the ball when it comes to engaging in online marketing, however. It’s hard to go from mostly left-brained search tactics to more right-brained content planning and creation. Much of the trepidation comes from the resources that content can take up. Sure, big players like Coke have long been in the content marketing game, and they have the resources to make it work, but small and medium-sized businesses sometimes struggle with developing effective campaign strategy that scales with their budgets.
The good news is that it can be done; you can develop a comprehensive strategy for content that scales with your budget and helps you attract traffic to your website. But you have to do your homework in planning it out now, before your 2013 strategy gets lost in the weeds of the day-to-day.
Step 1: Clarify Your Branding Goals
Branding is inexplicably linked to the type of content that you slap that company logo on. Once you determine what your branding goals for your online marketing are, you can start to commission content that showcases your products and services, establishes your industry credibility or builds a community of users around your brand.
Every piece of content you produce should be organized around these goals, and they can act as your weather vane for everything from whitepapers to tweets. Organizing around goals in this way doesn’t just help you stay on message; it helps give a common theme to your entire strategy and establish a vision for you going forward. If you get your goals right from the get-go, the core messages will trickle down to every person who gets their grubby little hands on something that will eventually make it in front of your customers’ eyeballs.
Step 2: Do a Company-wide Content Survey
You can’t waste one precious marketing dollar this year, so make sure you’re making the best use of what you’ve already spent so many man-hours and third-party cash on. There’s likely a lot of marketing content lurking around your company if you take time to look for it.
Find out what type of content you’re currently producing, things you have produced in the past, and what you have planned for the future. All of these content assets are ripe for repurposing, especially your offline content, which should really be coordinated with your online stuff anyway.
Step 3: Identify Your Content Marketing Channels
The obvious place to start is with a company blog, which makes a good home-base for a many types of content you may want to publish (articles, infographics, tutorials, videos, etc.). As long as you sustain a consistent publishing schedule with content that will keep readers coming back, your blog can be a solid foundation for your content strategy.
But depending on your business, and the type of content that seems natural for you, it may be worth identifying the social media platforms that your niche audiences are using. Almost any business can see success on Pinterest if they just start taking pictures of their products. We have one client that is trying to promote their wedding venues, and I’m pushing hard to get them to start snapping pics of the regalia at receptions and ceremonies to use as pinning fodder.
Choosing your marketing channels deserves more thought than it usually receives. You want to place your content where it gets the most bang for your buck, which means identifying the channels that will actually drive valuable traffic back to your website. You want visitors who fit your valued customer profiles, and that means using the relevant customer and market research that you should already be doing.
You also need to do the groundwork to help that content spread as far as possible. That means making it simple to find and share. For instance, if you’re bothering to post things on Pinterest, make sure you’re optimizing those pins with keyword-rich names and write topic-relevant descriptions. You’ll show up in more relevant searches, and people will be more likely to click through to your Pinterest account and home website.
Step 4: Build a Content Roadmap
A lot of marketing campaigns suffer because they don’t have a long view. People are creating and publishing content, but there’s no coordinated promotion going on, which limits the reach and effectiveness of their efforts.
Develop a content calendar for three, six, or 12 months out to help you visualize how your resources are being spent and how your overall strategy is evolving. You can still develop timely content for trending topics and events that arise, but most of your content can and should be planned out ahead of time. We’ve created a free Content Roadmap spreadsheet for you to download here as well:
The content calendar has two different columns, one for the month and one for year. You may want to add additional fields to track your promotion and the online metrics on how each piece of content performs. But a calendar like this is a great way to visualize your upcoming production and visualize in one place how you’re spending your content marketing resources.
You want to have a roadmap that you can use, not just for publishing, but for cross-promotion throughout all your relevant channels, which goes beyond just the marketing department, too. You may want to coordinate with your sales department, for example, on certain targeted content campaign events or initiatives.
Step 5: Scale the Strategy to Your Budget
Would that we were all marketing with a Coca-Cola-size budget, but we aren’t. So it’s up to you to decide what core publishing efforts will be based on. I think a blog, published at least three times a week, is a good place to start. But I’ve seen campaigns that have made Pinterest or Facebook their primary marketing vehicle for a small budget.
Just be sure that your marketing efforts are driving people back to your own site. A lot of activity on your Facebook or Twitter account doesn’t matter if it isn’t translating into more people coming back to where you and your business live online. You don’t own or control those other platforms, but you do control your own site. Make that the central focus for your content marketing strategy.
What type of content is at the core of your current marketing strategy? What publishing channels are you using to put your material out there and promote it?
Post by Paul Sanders, Content Strategist at SEO.com.
Picture credits: Yathin S Krishnappa, Jason Spaceman, Christian Gidlöf, joe goldberg, Creative Commons