Synopsis — Content has always been an important part of any website strategy, but never more so than today. Google’s recent Panda/Farmer update has shown that the search engine is serious about enforcing their statements about seeking to remove listings for sites that do not provide a quality experience for viewers, with good quality information being a prime factor in that quality experience. But aside from pleasing Google, it makes good business sense to inform potential customers about not only your products/services, but how they can solve the challenges they are experiencing. The process doesn’t stop there, however.
In his article, “The 8 Links In The Content Marketing Chain,” Arnie Kuenn follows through with an eight-stage plan for content marketing — ways to use the content on your site to further market your products/services. He uncovers the ways to strategize the great content that you need to develop for your site, so that you not only satisfy the needs of those landing on your website for information, but also how to multiply the presence of that content through judicious construction methods and other ways to promote and distribute the content.
If you’ve been wondering how to make the best use of the content on your website, as well as some basics on content creation itself, this article is a great way to learn a step-by-step process to marketing your content to boost sales, visits, and your ranking on Google.
The complete article follows …
The 8 Links In The Content Marketing Chain
You’ve probably heard phrases like “content marketing is the new marketing” or “content is king,” but do you really understand why? Successful businesses know that in addition to web pages describing products and services, one of the best marketing tools is informational content. Such materials offer solutions to the tough challenges customers face, and by doing so, companies establish themselves as the go-to source in their market. But how do you get started? What kind of plan should you put in place to consistently create great content? How will people find your great content? There are eight different steps in a comprehensive content marketing process. Each step is a link in the chain of a successful content strategy, with each of the following links being vital to the process.
1. Develop A Content Strategy
To reach prospective clients, you need to engage them where they are online. Users are looking for expert advice in the content they consume. To compete online, businesses need to have a comprehensive content marketing strategy that positions them to be found in search and present in the social circles where their product is discussed.
When defining strategy, take the rifle — not the shotgun — approach. Don’t be tempted to produce a lot of average content and blast it out. Instead, take the time to conduct research to learn the types of content your prospective clients enjoy. Then create an editorial plan for the next 6-12 months, giving yourself content development goals that you can comfortably achieve. As you read through the next several steps, envision how the overall strategy might unfold at your organization.
2. Perform Keyword And Market Research
Keyword research is the starting point for any Internet marketing strategy. Using tools for analyzing search behavior, keyword research offers data on trends and insights into how customers view a product, setting the stage for content to be developed and optimized to rank well. Market research is about knowing what people are interested in and finding ways to connect with them, by knowing which activities they like, what questions they are asking, and what makes them laugh. With this data, you can start to identify key ways in which your product or service types are known and described by your prospect base.
By getting to know how customers communicate about a product, you can join in the conversation. Ways to conduct market research online include checking trending topics on Twitter, Google, and MSN; looking at answer sites like Yahoo! and Answers.com; checking social news sites or discovery engines like Digg, Reddit and StumbleUpon; and looking at what your competitors are doing well by analyzing their strongest pages.
Combining keyword and market research lets you work long-tail keyword combinations into content to grab less common keyword phrases that searchers might use to find your products. Conduct this kind of research routinely to keep abreast of trends and to build an intimate understanding of your market.
3. Create Great Content
Before developing actual content, it’s important to understand the objectives for that content — in essence, why are you doing this? Every piece of content needs to respond to at least one of the following objectives, while the marketing strategy as a whole should accomplish all of them. These objectives are to increase mindshare or branding; to increase traffic, leads, or sales; or to create content for reputation management.
First, go through the somewhat painful process of taking a content inventory and identifying what to keep, repurpose, or ditch. Then, move into planning for and developing new content, while promoting an atmosphere of content creation at the workplace. The content development process centers on the ability to get inspired about your business. It’s about seeing opportunities to nab raw materials and turn them into marketable content, like bringing a digital camera to a conference or keeping a hand-held video camera in your office desk. It is also important to allow time for brainstorming. Whether it’s for a blog post, case study, contest, newsletter, infographic, interview, video, or a whitepaper, it takes a proactive mentality and a little creativity to get great content rolling.
4. Optimize Content For Appropriate Channels
Optimizing content for search engines and social media is often overlooked, yet it’s a critical link in the content marketing chain. Taking the extra time (sometimes just 10 minutes) to optimize your content gives it a better chance of a higher ranking in search results. In much the same way, optimizing content in social media sites provides better visibility and makes it easier to find. Entire books are written on SEO tactics, but be aware that one size does not fit all. Content needs to be optimized for the specific target. For example, news sites, local searches, images, video, social and web pages all have different optimization requirements. Be sure to learn what is important for each and apply them to your content.
One element, however, crosses all channels — the title — perhaps the single most important key to having content discovered. Take the time to think through your title carefully. Incorporate keywords as close to the beginning as possible, but make sure the title grabs the reader’s attention, too. In many distribution channels, the title is the only part a potential reader will see, so make it compelling to encourage a clickthrough to your content.
5. Promote Your Content
Content marketing is about providing information of value to the customer. Traditional methods such as blogger pitches, media lists, and press releases are still worthwhile, but when promoting content on the Internet, social networks are important. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and a host of niche sites are excellent ways to let the world know about your new article, blog post, video, and so on. But content needs to provide useful information to the network you are promoting to, so it’s important to know what matters to that group. Take the time to develop relationships that create a network that enables you to promote your content efficiently and effectively.
6. Build Links To Your Content
Backlinks are the driving force of a robust content marketing strategy. This is sort of a Catch-22, as many content marketers say great content does not require proactive link building, since the content should draw in links on its own merits. While this is true, even a small amount of proactive link building can be hugely advantageous. After all, your goal is to bring search bots and traffic to your new content, so what better way to get the job done than links on the web telling them where to find it?
The easiest approach is participating in appropriate blogs and forums in a real, meaningful way. Leave insightful comments and, if possible, a link to your content. A more challenging approach involves using research data from Step 2 above to find sites linked to pages similar to the content you just created. Contact those sites to make them aware of how relevant your great content is to their visitors. These can be valuable links to jump-start your content discovery and promotion process.
7. Distribute Your Content
People want information. By distributing your materials on numerous sites, you claim more real estate online. Beyond distributing to social networks and followers, send content to article sites, video sites, and other kinds of sites looking for content. Some sites want only a specific kind of content. Slideshare.com, for example, publishes only slideshow presentations. So get creative and turn that slideshow into a video. Turn that blog interview into a podcast and post those images to photo sites. Add a summary of that awesome article to your e-newsletter and link to it. Lastly, make sure you make your content easy to share by using RSS feeds and sharing buttons for Facebook, Twitter, Digg, etc.
8. Measure For Success
Once you’ve created the content, you’re not done creating content. Content marketing is all about trying, testing, and measuring results. For the continuing cycle of content development to work, it’s important to measure and track your successes and failures, adapting as the data comes in. This means identifying measurable benchmarks to know what content works best and what needs improvement. Will it be search results domination, traffic, or conversions? Use the analytics tools at your disposal to get a feel for how your content program is working and how and when to make necessary adjustments to your strategy.
Your potential customers need content that makes them smarter and more confident in engaging with or doing business with your company. The company that provides that information wins. If you don’t do it, your competitor will. To win, you must develop a content marketing mindset comprised of a chain of actions. Remember, each link discussed above is critical to maximize your chance for success. So don’t break the chain!