Everyone is doing content marketing. At least, many businesses are going through the motions of content marketing. But many marketers, especially B2B marketers, struggle to produce a fully optimized content marketing strategy. Much of the blame lies on the marketing industry itself which loves to spout less than helpful generalities such as:
- Build great content and Google will rank you higher.
- Build large volumes of content, that’s how X site saw a traffic increase.
- Build long-form content, those posts get more links and social shares.
The truth on each of these:
- Google is not nearly as advanced as Google or many marketers claim it is. It relies on specific signals to know what to rank and what not to rank. While you can accidentally get these signals right occasionally, it will prove far more effective to deliberately incorporate SEO into your content strategy.
- The fact that X site produced a large volume of content likely had much less impact on the traffic increase than other factors such as targeted SEO via keyword research or Google News, PR efforts, influencer outreach, etc.
- Long-form content can rank exceptionally well, especially if it’s keyword targeted. However, many of those “natural” links likely came after the post ranked well or was promoted heavily.
Some other common misconceptions:
- Content marketing is a separate effort from my other marketing campaigns.
- Driving potential customers to a blog increases sales.
- Substance doesn’t matter. We just need traffic.
Once again, companies pursuing content marketing with that kind of mindset will ultimately struggle to find value from content marketing.
Below I take you through the four steps of creating a fully optimized content marketing funnel. By the time you’re finished, you’ll be equipped to minimize your work to what is actually effective and demonstrate actual ROI at the next board meeting. Let’s get started.
A fully optimized content plan should consist of more than a monthly blog schedule. Ideally, map content to each buyer persona through the entire customer journey. Start by categorizing the content you have, and then build out your content creation plan to fill any holes in the content map. Grab an example of a content map here.
A content map will show you what type of content to create and who to target. Your buyer persona research will help you determine what topics or themes your content should cover.
Some questions to consider:
- What are the key questions your buyer needs to be answered to make a decision?
- What pain points will your buyer run into that your product can solve?
- How can you be a resource or advocate for your buyer?
Once you’ve identified major themes, do keyword research around each of those themes. Let the keyword research drive individual topics. Creating a highly targeted piece of content that can’t be found does nothing for the bottom line.
For example, universities focusing on recruiting and retaining more students may identify preparing for college as an important theme. Pulling keyword research quickly identifies relevant content topics:
While it may be tempting to hire an intern or outsource content creation to the cheapest bidder, failing to ensure your content is insightful and useful will undermine everything you accomplished in step one. Invest the time and resources necessary to identify the unique insights your company has to offer. The copywriter assigned to producing content should understand your buyer persona and your unique positioning. A good copywriter also understands how to present information in a compelling way.
Some questions to ask yourself before finalizing a piece of content:
- Does this content have a purpose? (based on persona research and my content map)
- Is the language/voice directed at a specific person?
- Is this content actually useful or a vague skim?
- Have I selected the right medium for the subject? (never force an infographic)
- Is this content optimized for SEO? (a compelling optimized title is better than your favorite, clever one)
Once a piece of content is published, your work is only just beginning. Most marketing teams know to push new content out across their distribution channels. However, getting eyeballs on a piece of content isn’t the ultimate goal. Every piece of content published should have a relevant CTA attached to it that moves the visitor further along the buyer’s journey and integrates your content marketing with your lead generation activities
In this example from UnBounce, the blog post is an awareness piece about why you should switch up your blog content. The CTA offer below is a consideration or “how-to” offer that discusses how to start creating better blog content.
In this ebook from Hubspot, a consideration stage piece of content targeted at agency managers is followed by decision stage CTA catered to that same buyer persona.
It works on B2C and eCommerce sites too. Such as this example from Jane.com:
4. Measure Results
Now that you know who you’re targeting with each piece of content and have an effective CTA in place to capture leads or customers, measuring the impact of your content marketing is easy. For each piece of content review:
- Keyword Rankings
- CTA click-through-rate
- CTA click-to-submission-rate
- Lead quality: are you attracting the people you set out to target?
- Lead to customer conversion rate
Based on this data, you can further hone which themes and content offers to continue to produce and drive traffic to, and which types of content to eliminate.
While the steps above may sound like an oversimplification of content marketing, sticking to the process and avoiding the temptation to take shortcuts takes real commitment, but if you stick with it, the results will speak for themselves.