At the heart of any inbound or social media marketing strategy for any business is to publish great content. Doing so effectively generates interest, increased traffic, attracts inbound links and results in more leads for the business.
The best way to crank up your content marketing engine is to start and maintain a blog. On a recent webinar, marketing strategist and blogger, Seth Godin remarked, “the best thing you can do for your business is to start a blog and write on it everyday.” Sage advice. But for those who want to maximize their marketing effectiveness I’d like to suggest a 6 step process for marketing your blog content:
If you’re just beginning to blog, looking to re-start a dormant one or want to improve results you may want to do some market research as a first step. Assuming you’re engaged in relevant industry blogs you are monitoring, you should have a good idea of market trends, interests, topics that capture attention and gaps or angles you could create content around. Once you have your theme, topic or idea of what you think your audience might want, do some research to help determine what keywords to use and how to position or tell your story.
There are a number of free tools you can use to help pick out and analyze what keywords to build your content around. Tools like Google Insights for Search and Compete come to mind. These will help reveal popularity, relevancy and trends. But you may also want to assess the competitive nature of a particular keyword or phrase. Or, you may want to find a niche topic that is relevant to your business, search engine friendly and not too difficult to rank for. For this you may want to consider a more sophisticated (paid) tool or hire a professional to conduct keyword research for you.
I’ve been using a paid tool called Noble Samurai (not an affiliate link) to help develop a content marketing plan around a core set keywords. What I like about this tool is it not only helps me discover the long tail, micro-niche keyword phrases that gets traffic, it also tells me how much daily traffic I might expect and the number of competing sites there are I will need to beat out to get on the first page of Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
Now, I am going to use social media to help promote and spread the word of my blog post as you’ll see in the “Promote” phase. But, I also want to set myself up to be found by the searchers of my keyword phrases in Google.
Don’t let the research phase overwhelm you. It’s easy to get the paralysis by analysis disease. But be aware there’s a little more to it than just creating and publishing content on your blog or web site. Give some thought and planning to the topics and keywords you will use. Investing some time upfront will pay big dividends in terms of results.
There’s a ton we could say about the creative process and focusing your article on your market persona – not on your products or services. One of the bloggers I follow and has influenced my thinking is Lisa Barone. To get a good feel for the kind of content you should create and how to position it, check out the following articles she’s published on Small Business Trends:
Depending on the nature of your topic and the learning needs of your audience, you may also consider creating your content in mediums that can supplement or add to your article. For example, I used videos and a downloadable PDF in addition to the blog article to communicate how to Create a Killer Google Local Business Listing.
Once you’ve written your story it’s time to review your work and optimize it for both the search engines and your audience. Here’s some tips and things you should do before hitting the “Publish” button:
- Place your keywords in your post title, headings, sub-heads and throughout your content.
- Place keywords as part of your permalink or permanent URL – many blog softwares like WordPress allow you to edit this.
- Go to the SEO section of your post and create a keyword rich title tag (which could be the same as your post’s title) and a meta description. The meta description is what will show up in search engine results just below the title tag hyper link. Make the meta description interesting and compelling to motivate your audience to want to click and visit your post. For example, see the screen shot below of how a title tag and meta description appears in the SERP. Notice my description is a little too long (shown by “and gain…”). Google will display a total of 163 characters and spaces in your meta description – so make sure the important stuff is at the beginning.
- You may also consider optimizing your permalink for the promotion stage by using a URL shortening and tracking service like Bit.ly. This will help you measure the clicks or visits you get from sharing it on social media and other methods.
- I’ve found that writing “How-To” or articles like “16 Tips for Gaining More Fans on Facebook” seems to capture attention and are more popular. Also, using a question in the title can be effective. Bullet points or numbered lists seem to work very well also.
- Chunk up your content in shorter paragraphs, make it scan-able.
- Highlight in bold certain key concepts/phrases.
- Include links to additional/supportive information.
- Include “Alt Tags” (Alternative text) with your images as search engines can’t tell what content images contain. It also gives you another way people can find your post via an image search of your keywords. If you will take your mouse and hover over the images in this post you will see what I mean.
- Tighten up your content by shortening up sentences and eliminating unnecessary words. This is a real challenge for some (like me) who tend to be overly verbose. But work at it.
- Check every link to make sure it goes where you intended. I recommend setting the links up to open in a new browser window or “blank” and not in the same window. That way your visitors who click on the links in your post will not leave your page.
- It’s generally advised to set the external links up as “no-follow” so as not to diminish the SEO authority of your page. On the other hand, do-follow links will be appreciated by the benefiting blogger or web site – and they may just return the favor. I toggle this feature in my WordPress blog software depending upon my goals with the article.
So, that’s the first of the 3 stages of content marketing. Tomorrow I will cover the Publish, Promote and Measure stages and give a success story from my own experience using this 6-phase approach.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear your insights, ideas, comments or questions about content marketing.[print_link]