Many businesses and organizations view the term “content marketing” with negative connotations. The reason being is that agencies (especially ones in India) put out unfiltered crap with BS targeting. This is content that nobody cares about; it exists for wrongly perceived SEO value based on old practices, and it extends a big middle finger to the reader. Then there are agencies that provide clients with content that has little thought or matter in regards to customers. They create “common sense content” based on assumptions, and the results are dismal.
The Right Approach to Content
Before you hire someone to do your content marketing you should first discover their approach. Clearly, hitting high revenue targets, increasing lead volume that translates into customers, and spreading brand awareness are goals most organizations share. Yet most content marketing strategies only focus on SEO or they lack the ability to perform the needed market research it takes to know WHAT KIND of content to produce for the right buyer personas.
Look for the best digital marketing agencies that offer business growth stacks in order to get the highest quality content and targeting. Marketing firms that take the time to engineer customized digital marketing growth stacks with careful consideration to the industry and its buyers always put out a grade of the content above the rest that bridges the right buyers with the right messaging thus ushering powerful results.
The 6 Content Buckets – They Must Work Together
A robust content marketing strategy will have a foundation in understanding how buyers consume information with focus on the following buckets:
- Website content
- Blog content
- Email content
- Downloadable assets
- Long-form content for SEO
- Story Branding
Once you have created your buyer personas, identify the ways in which they engage with content, and the needs associated with their stages in the buyer’s journey. You will want to create a micro-strategy for each bucket while aligning them to all work together in perfect unison to achieve the same goal.
Your website content carries a tremendous responsibility when it comes to converting organic traffic into revenue. It must resonate with your buyer personas, have SEO value, and be written with a strategic layer that leads buyers to the page where they will likely convert.
In terms of SEO value, it should have the following:
- SEO friendly URLs
- Use the right keywords
- Have a wide variety of keywords with a focus on context
- Directly address buyer pains with solutions
- Educate and entertain
- Have user-friendly site navigation
- Use rich snippets and Schema markup
You will also want to research the search results to determine what Google believes is relevant to the searcher. Create a spreadsheet of their URLs, keywords, contextual considerations, backlinks, and who the target audience seems to be.
You will want to give extra attention to the homepage, primary service/product pages, and conversion pages. Don’t overwhelm the pages with lots of text. Instead, use just the right amount broken up with high-quality images so that readers won’t feel overwhelmed. The content should be inspirational, educate buyers so they are more aware of their problems and what solutions exist to improve their lives. There should be CTAs with direct messaging placed on main pages to help convert readers, as well as internal links in the content that navigates them to appropriate locations. Just make sure the reader doesn’t have to travel more than three clicks to find what they are looking for.
Blogs that Actually Convert
Blogging, if done right, will create powerful results. Much like your web page content, you need to write for YOUR buyers, do some competitor research to see what types of blogs resonate with audiences, and take in SEO considerations so your organic traffic can find you. This is where targeting and search engine optimization get in bed. Be sure your strategy always keeps these two aligned and consistent.
The best-proven way to run a blog strategy is through a cluster model using a pilar page. This is where you create a group of blogs each addressing a unique pain within a popular topic relevant to its industry. Each blog will link to another with an anchor text using keywords that promote contextual relevance. Blogs will also link to a pillar page or primary page (this could be a parent product page).
Your blogs MUST have attention-grabbing headlines. According to HubSpot, 80 percent of readers will consume an entire article if its headline grabs their attention. To keep your readers engaged, blogs should also adhere to the following:
- Have a tone relevant to your readers
- Add to the overall conversation
- Be written for how people search
- Have a solid structure
- Cover one core idea
- Support brand messaging
- Have a relevant CTA
- Have zero spelling or grammatical errors
The best formats include “how-to” articles, blogs that use the negative angle approach (5 Red Flags Your Health Care Provider is Mismanaging Your Care), “the secret of”, “little known tricks/things you should know”, reveal interesting data and offer a quick tip.
Create unique, interesting topics in a cluster model using the right keywords according to how people perform searches, and you will see an increase in lead conversion.
Email marketing requires an aggressive strategy backed on thorough research that uncovers facts about how buyers engage industry news and related content. From the email preview line to the copy itself, email content needs to make a powerful impression in order to get clicks that convert into dollars.
Most inboxes are congested; brimming with dull emails that annoy most people. In order to raise your content above the white noise of email ennui, you will need a catchy email headline with a preview line that makes readers curious. Use power words rich in sensory and emotion. Promise something good that speaks to the buyer persona’s needs. Pique their curiosity by facing the information gap. People love numbers, so use them. Finally, don’t be afraid of failure because chances are high you may not get things right the first time. Experiment; run A/B tests to determine what part of your email is failing to hit the mark, and make adjustments.
Downloadable assets are larger pieces of content typically accessed through a CTA at the bottom of a blog or from a landing page that offers readers more comprehensive information on a topic appropriate to their persona and stage in the buyer’s journey. This bucket of content usually falls into the offerings of a digital marketing growth stack with an inbound approach. Assets can be buyer’s guides, educational pieces, whitepapers, or have a Q&A format that deep dives into the questions buyers have at various knowledge levels.
Regardless of your format, the asset should have a single goal to help convert leads into buyers. It has no SEO value, so be sure to focus only on content that will resonate with a target buyer persona for the appropriate stage of their buyer’s journey. For example, if you are targeting a particular persona in the consideration stage of the buyer’s journey, the asset needs to speak to people who already have a clear understanding of what their problem is but who are not sure which option is best suited for them. If they are at the decision stage of the buyer’s journey then create an asset for someone who has determined the best option and is ready to choose a solution. Be sure to break up your text with relevant visual content. Photos that add to the emotional experience or info-graphics are ideal choices.
Long-Form Content for SEO
Creating long-form pages of content for the pure sake of ranking is one of the best ways to improve SEO and increase organic traffic to your site. These pages should be created in line with the following considerations:
- Have no less than 2000 words
- Target a specific product or service
- Use a comprehensive list of keywords
- Apply multiple keyword variations including long-tail
- Focus on context
- Address the various questions and pains that circulate in the industry
- Have a CTA up top that takes leads to a conversion page
This is a page that won’t appear in your site’s navigation. However, there should be a link from your home page so that Google doesn’t think you are trying to build spammy doorway pages. An ideal link location to these “SEO Power Pages” would be in the footer. This way the link is clearly visible but not interfering with the user experience. Finally, as mentioned in best practices for creating assets, be sure to use lots of imagery to break up the heavy text so that readers don’t feel overwhelmed.
The idea is to use this page to rank your top keywords, attract more clicks, and convert readers into leads, who then become buyers. That said, make sure this bulky piece of content takes all the above considerations into account to preserve its overall value.
Story Branding for Content Marketing
Story branding is “the new black” of marketing. In the past, marketing rich content had to be empowered by a campaign, but today audiences gravitate to the story. Branded storytelling is much more than a narrative. The story isn’t confined to the storyteller but rather it branches into what buyers believe about your brand based on the signals it sends. A good branded storytelling strategy promotes a journey where feelings, facts, and interpretations make the buyer the hero while showcasing an organization’s products and services as the guide that bolsters the hero’s expedition.
When writing a branded story you will want to inject neural coupling–a process in which the speaker and listener share a story that grants mutual interaction. The idea is that your listener or reader’s brain activity mirrors the speaker or content’s activity which churns greater understanding, comprehension, receptivity and anticipation. This in turn leads to trust, and trust is a huge conversion factor in transforming leads into buyers. A solid story brand should:
- Be driven through personality and tone that resonates with the target audience
- Be simple (Show the problem, solution, and forecast success)
- Demonstrate a reason for the brand’s existence
- Sell the story along with the product
- Inspire others to share the story
Branded storytelling is generally reserved for organizations that invest in a digital marketing growth stack; a customized set of tools and strategies for lead generation that transforms into converted customers. But even if you don’t invest in a business growth stack be sure to explore the option of having branded storytelling added to your SEO or inbound engagement, as it is often a great fit for multiple organizational types and proves time and time again to be a great investment.
Make Sure the Right Person is in Charge of Your Content
Today’s robust content marketing strategy no longer exists in SEO-friendly web page content and a blog stuffed with keywords. The right person to manage your content should meet the following criteria:
- Have a true marketing backbone with a business degree to prove they understand the basic fundamentals.
- Have an advanced understanding of current SEO best practices
- Know how Google’s algorithm works with ranking content
- Is an expert researcher who knows how to find valuable insight in not-so-obvious places
- Is a dexterous strategist
- Understands the principles of business psychology and how to get into the heads of buyer audiences
- Is a creative writer that holds a university degree in the humanities, or is a published author (run-of-the-mill writers won’t cut it)
This may be a tall order to find in a single person, but when vetting the best digital marketing agencies that offer custom growth stacks with an inbound approach, you will likely find a higher caliber of content strategist in a hand-crafted team than you would through a freelancer or an internal hire.
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