First, it’s important to consider the big picture—how your content will be used for maximum impact with your target audience. Understanding and implementing the following six-step content strategy will be key in taking your website and online brand from obscurity to domination within your target market.
STEP 1: CREATE A CONTENT ROADMAP
The first step to a solid content strategy is mapping. It’s critical to ensure that the content you’re about to produce is part of a “bigger plan.” In this case, the bigger plan is a “Content Road Map,” a tool used for planning out your content and ensuring that it will provide the most “bang for your buck” in terms of reach and engagement. Your Content Road Map will serve as a template for managing the development of content, thereby converting your targeted “informational keywords” into traffic-producing, trust-building articles.
The good news is, you’ve already done most of the work.
If you haven’t read Fire Your SEO Company & Save $6000 With These 6 Simple SEO Steps, we spent some time creating a “Keyword Map” and learned that “informational search queries” make up most of the searches online. Catching your audience in the research phase is the core of your content marketing strategy. Thus, producing lots of question-answering, traffic-generating content will provide you with a clear advantage over your online competition.
You’ll also remember that we discussed how your keyword map is used to implement keywords on your website:
- Each of the main categories of products and services your business offers should be the main, “top-level” pages of your site.
- The transactional keywords should be used within your Web pages (titles, body and meta descriptions, as well as anchor text for backlinks to your site)
- The informational keywords should make up the bulk of your blogs, FAQs, videos, and other forms of content.
Now all you need to do is transform each of your targeted informational keywords into a human-friendly blog post, video, or other form of content.
How to Create Your Content Road Map
- Open your Keyword Map spreadsheet and open a new tab.
- On this tab, create the following columns:Category: represents the main product or service category the article will address
- Category: represents the main product or service category the article will address
- Content format: used to specify which form your new content will be (blog, video, infographic, e-book, etc.)
- Target search phrase: should be one of the “informational keywords” from your keyword map
- Keywords to use: lists the top keywords related to the product or service category from your keyword map
- Title: where you’ll convert your target search phrase into a human-friendly, attention-grabbing headline
- Publish date: indicates the date your content was (or will be) published on your website
- Repeat this process, until each of your target search phrases are listed in this format. Once you’ve written and published each new article, list the publication date on your spreadsheet.
STEP 2: CREATE GREAT CONTENT
In case you’re new to the world of writing, blogging, and content creation, let’s first establish what “great content” is, and then lay out a clear plan for how to write and produce it.
What Is Great Content?
Great content is any form of content that accomplishes the following three fundamental goals:
- Reaches a specific target audience.
- Stands out and engages readers through its focus on their questions and needs, as well as its structure and format.
- Moves readers toward some desired action, such as subscribing to your newsletter or contacting you.
If these three goals of great content remind you of the online marketing funnel, that’s because your content must be optimized for all three phases in order to be effective. To this end, every piece of content you develop should pass an “online marketing funnel checklist” which we’ll cover later in this section.
The Four Rules to Creating Quality Content
- Do Not Outsource Content Creation. Much of the last decade has seen a preponderance of companies and SEO agencies publishing second- or third-rate content for the sole purpose of getting more SEO traffic. This is a fool’s errand, as not only has Google caught on to such tactics, but what good is traffic that brings folks to your website only for them to consume poor content that falls flat on engagement and conversion? Your content should be used as a platform for building relationships with your target audience. Only you can build those relationships, so only you should produce the content.
- Publish Original Content. This means that you should never reword or restate the same old common articles floating around the Web related to your topic. It’s important to add to the conversation, striving to be a thought leader and an authority in your niche. This doesn’t mean you have to re-invent the way people clean their teeth or buy produce. Adding to the conversation is simply taking a common topic or question and injecting it with your personal style, technique, or experience in handling it. Even if you write a “curated” blog post (covered below), it’s critical to include your personal impression, reaction, or recommendation regarding the subject matter.
- Publish Content Often. Remember that every blog post and video you create will act as a permanent “traffic magnet,” adding to your website’s traffic and conversions. If you can publish one new blog post per week at first, that’s fine. This volume will actually place you in the top 10 percent of small business content producers. However, I challenge you to do one post per day. You don’t have to sit down and write a full 500- to 700-word article from scratch. There are several ways to produce quality content without starting from a blank page, including quick video blogs, content curation, expert interviews, and more. See the next section, “Sources and Ideas For Your Content.”
- Check Your Work. It’s important not to confuse casual with sloppy. Each piece of content you produce should be proofread, ideally by a third party, for basic spelling and grammar errors before hitting the presses. A skilled proofreader can be found at Odesk.com or any other outsourcing site covered in Chapter 4. If this is outside your budget, at least have a skilled second pair of eyes look over your content before it goes live.
No matter what forms your content takes, following The Fletcher Method Rules of Quality Content will keep you on the straight and narrow path to becoming an authority in your niche. Producing high-quality, relevant content that reaches, engages, and builds relationships with your target audience is the core of any successful content marketing strategy.
STEP 3: PUBLISH YOUR CONTENT
Before you upload your new article or video to your website, it’s critical to ensure your content is optimized for each phase of the Online Marketing Funnel.
Content Optimization Checklist
- Is the article focused on a single topic (target search term from your Content Road Map)?
- Is the article original?
- Is the article 500 words or more?
- Does the article include keywords in the right places?Title
- Headings (H1, H2, etc.)
- Meta description
- Internal links
- WordPress-specific content tasks (categories, tags, and permalink)
- Is the copy focused on the reader’s needs and questions?
- Does the copy follow the fifty-six-step sales letter format?Grab readers with an attention-grabbing headline
- State the problem
- Make your promise
- Present the solution
- Build social proof and authority
- Call to action with offer
- Is the article readable?Short paragraphs
- Clear headings
- Bulleted and numbered lists
- Engaging images or supporting graphics
- Is the article shareable?Include social sharing icons
- Allow reader comments
- Is there a clear call to action and offer?
- Is there a lead or opt-in form visible from the content?
- Is there a large, clearly visible phone number on the page?
STEP 4: SYNDICATE YOUR CONTENT
“Syndication: to publish simultaneously, or supply for simultaneous publication, in a number of newspapers or other periodicals in different places” – dictionary.com
Within this traditional definition of syndication lies one of the most powerful nuggets of your content strategy: the act of taking a single piece of content and syndicating it across multiple channels on the Web.
Why and How Content Syndication Works
Content syndication is where the “marketing” in content marketing comes in. A true game-changer for your business, content syndication boils down to being active instead of passive in your efforts to help get your content in front of your audience. Instead of posting a new blog post on your site, then sitting back waiting for it to be found, content syndication is all about actively reaching your audience across the Web and letting them know about your great new content! Think of content syndication as any other form of advertising: the goal is to get your message in front of as many targeted eyeballs as you can.
Remember, most people within your target market aren’t hanging out on your website. They’re on social media sites, industry sites, online forums, and discussion groups. Each time you publish content you think they’ll find interesting, you need to announce it on these channels, such as “Hey—I just wrote a great article on 3 great gluten-free meals your kids will love. Check it out here.”
The time you’ve spent setting up profiles on social media, bookmarking, and other similar tasks is about to pay off. Each of these hubs is about to become a “broadcasting channel” for your business, reaching both existing and new members of your target audience and exposing them to your content.
Social Media Sharing
As effective as content syndication can be at getting your content in front of more people, there’s an even more dramatic upside that can occur through social sharing.
Say you publish a new post on your Facebook Business Page, announcing a new article on your blog. Not only will this post have the potential to get in front of the 1,000 fans who follow your business, but your blog has the potential to reach all of your followers’ friends as well! Each time a person “Likes” or “Shares” a link on Facebook, an update gets posted on that user’s page. This update can expose your content to tens or even hundreds of thousands of new eyeballs via this sub-viral effect.
The way syndication works is simple:
- Produce a piece of quality content (we’ll use a blog post as an example).
- Publish this new article on your website (of course, only after you’ve mapped and optimized the content!).
- Spread the word, posting links to your new content across the Web, leveraging every available channel for reaching your target audience (see below).
SEO Benefits of Content Syndication
There are two notable “byproduct” benefits of content syndication:
- Google “loves” social engagement. As previously discussed, Google rewards social sharing in their ranking algorithms. What better way to judge the popularity and authority of a website than by the “thumbs ups” received via social shares?
- Google rewards quality backlinks. Any time a trusted authority links to your site , they pass on a portion of their trust and authority to you. Syndicating your quality content to multiple online channels greatly increases the chance of having it first get noticed and then get linked to.
A List of Potential Content Syndication Channels
For each form of content you produce, there’s an ever-growing ecosystem of highly trafficked sites ripe and ready to help your content reach its target audience.
In the next section, we’ll discuss powerful and little-known methods for “re-purposing” your content, making it available in multiple formats. This will create even more opportunities for content syndication using the categories of sites listed below:
- Social media sites: These should be the core pillars of your content syndication strategy. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+ are all highly trafficked resources for reaching more folks, regardless of the type of content. Every time you add content, make it a mandatory practice to publish notifications on social media sites.
- Your email list: If your business has any potential for repeat patronage, you need to build a subscriber list, pronto. One of the most loyal, best traffic sources will be email traffic, or visits resulting from an email you sent to your subscriber list. Each time you publish content, be sure and send a “broadcast” email to your list announcing this new content with a link to it. Of all the available channels for content syndication, your list of prospects and clients are likely to be the most loyal and engaged.
- Article and content sites: Most trusted article and content sites (like Ezinearticles.com) allow you to publish original content on their sites, as long as it’s original and exists only on your site. If you choose to publish your content on article directories, be sure to place it on your site first and let it get indexed with Google first. This way, Google will recognize your site as the original author and reserve authorship credit for your site only.
- Press release sites: As long as your content is related to something truly newsworthy, such as a new product, service, or business offering, press releases are a great way to gain quality exposure from potential customers and search engines alike.
- Video sites: Each time you create video, it’s important that you not stop at YouTube. Just as with articles and written content, there are multiple channels for posting videos. At the very minimum, you should syndicate your content to Vimeo, YouTube, Daily Motion, and MetaCafe. And don’t forget your social media sites as well, all of which allow you to post video.
- Photo and graphics sites: If your content contains graphics or is graphics-based, don’t forget to syndicate it to the top graphics sites such as Flickr, Picasa, and Pinterest. Depending on your niche, photos may play a greater or lesser role in your content strategy. While a restaurant or home remodeler might benefit greatly from a photo-heavy content plan, a tax accounting firm or funeral parlor may see more traction from other forms of content.
- Podcasting sites: All it takes to create a high-enough quality podcast is stripping the audio content from your videos or webinars and uploading them to your blog.
While technology will continually morph content into new delivery systems, the essence of a successful content syndication strategy has and will remain the same: to present your content to your target audience in the most compelling format, wherever they hang out online.
Although it might seem like a daunting task to create blogs, videos, infographics, and whatever else is surely coming down the pike, I have a trick up my sleeve—one that will soon be up your sleeve, as well: Content Recycling.
STEP 5: RECYCLE YOUR CONTENT
This strategy we’re about to cover is one of those “lightbulb” moments that can drastically change the path of your small business.
Step 5 is all about the art of “content recycling”: taking a single piece of high-quality content and transforming it into multiple forms of media. Let’s say you authored a great article (blog post) that really resonates with your readers, increasing your online reach and traffic in the process. Why not take the content from the article and make it into a quick video, and syndicate the video to all the top video and social media sites? Instead of stopping there, why not also take that video and use the audio portion for a podcast? How about using that article outline for a webinar? Better yet, why not take a handful of related blog posts and combine them into an e-book, and use the e-book as a free giveaway for anyone who opts in to your mailing list?
Content recycling is one of the simplest yet most powerful strategies in your content marketing arsenal. Simple because you’ve already done the hard part—creating the content in the first place; powerful because content recycling allows you to exponentially multiply the reach of your content with little more than a bit of tweaking and formatting.
Remember, your target audience may prefer to look for and consume content in different formats. While many folks would likely seek answers to their questions through a simple Google search, an increasing number of Internet users are searching on video, social media, and other types of sites as well. Content recycling helps you cover your bases and be everywhere your customers may be looking.
How to Recycle Your Content
Regardless of the original form of your content, it can likely be re-formatted and syndicated across the Web, each time reaching and engaging more potential customers. The key is to get into the mindset of asking yourself, “What other forms could this be published in?,” and to create a content recycling checklist to keep you on track:
- Choose which format to start with. Using your Content Road Map, pick a topic and decide whether the content would be best presented on your website as an article, video, or infographic.
- Next, follow your content marketing process by creating your content, publishing it on your site, and syndicating it.
- Finally, decide which other formats your content should take and repeat step 2 with each additional format.
Say you decide to create a video entitled, “5 Ideas for Beautiful Yet Inexpensive Wedding Invitations,” where you show off invitation styles you recommend and tips for saving money in creating them. After publishing your new “video blog,” kick into content marketing overdrive by doing the following:
- Syndicate your new video on the top video and social media sites.
- Upload your video to Slideshare as a presentation.
- Create a transcription of your video.
- Publish this transcription as an article accompanying the video on your site.
- Syndicate the article to article directories, social media, or bookmarking sites.
- Create a simple “infographic” of the content and publish it on Pinterest.
Won’t Google or People View My Recycled Content As Duplicate?
Duplicate content can actually be a good thing, as long as it’s original and not published in the same form multiple times on your or other sites. If your content is good, people will appreciate the steps you’ve made in making it more convenient to access and understand. Besides, seeing your content and brand repeatedly in multiple places online will only help strengthen the connection between you and your audience.
Once you get the hang of it, content recycling can help give you a significant advantage over your competition. While they continue to publish blog posts or maybe even the occasional video, you’ll be churning out content like a mini New York Times, getting four to five times the traction from each piece you create.
STEP 6: MEASURE THE IMPACT
All the dedication, research, planning, writing/filming, posting, and publishing converge into one place: measurable results. As much fun as all your hard work might be, it must be quantified. You must measure how well your content does at reaching, engaging, and converting your target audience.
By measuring the impact of your content using Google Analytics, you’ll gain key insights into opportunities for even greater gains in visibility and traffic. You’ll also be able to spot and address sticking points and get to the bottom of non-performing articles and videos.
Now that you’ve gained a deeper understanding of the role your content plays in attracting and engaging your target audience, we’ll want to revisit a few of the key metrics you should be using to keep your finger on the pulse of your content marketing.
Once you get into the habit of producing and syndicating your content on a regular basis, it’s important to get answers to the following content marketing-related questions:
- Which forms of content are working the best? If you create an article and video focused on the same content and the video on your site generates twice the traffic and twice the time spent on your site per visitor, you should obviously create more videos covering similar topics.
- Which syndication channels are generating the most traffic? If you shoot a new article out to your top four social media sites (let’s say Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+), it’s important to pay attention to which of these sources generates the most traffic back to your content. Of course, you have to factor in the size of your audience: if you have 100 Twitter followers and 10,000 Facebook fans, you should expect more traffic from Facebook. Use a percentage of your audience as a gauge.
- What content is resonating with my audience? By looking at your “Content” report in Google Analytics, you can sort by “Avg. Time on Page” to see which articles are the most sticky. If certain blog posts or videos are keeping visitors engaged for five to ten minutes, while others have them headed for the door in thirty seconds, you’ll have some obvious clues into which direction to take your content marketing plan.
- Have my social shares increased? If you see some of your content is getting tons of “shares,” either on your website or on social media sites, take note of this and aim to replicate this positive behavior.
- What are the best opportunities for content recycling? One of the key principles of content marketing is to do more of what’s working! To get extra mileage from your content, simply look at which articles are most successful in generating traffic to your site and recycle these. Take your top five traffic-generating articles and create videos, webinars, and infographics, or even put them together into an e-book. What works in one medium is likely to work as well, or even better, in others.
- Is my content generating targeted traffic? You might find that certain content generates a ton of visits but a high bounce rate and low visit duration. For example, if you publish an article focused on “best business card designs” that attracts visitors looking for “best business credit cards,” you’ll be able to pinpoint non-targeted traffic through the high bounce rates. This will prompt you to change your article(s) to be better focused on your target search terms and audience.
LEARN MORE: Great Content Marketing Resources
- “I Love Marketing” is a great podcast show hosted by two extremely successful small business marketing experts: Dean Jackson and Joe Polish. These guys really understand education-based marketing and give away tons of free content (practicing what they preach).
- Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media, and Content Marketing, by Lee Odden, is a wonderful new book that dives deeply into how every aspect of your content marketing program can be “optimized” to work together for better results.
- Content Rules: is another very well-written book by Ann Handley (founder of MarketingProfs.com) and C.C. Chapman, which digs deeply into the content marketing process. This book has tons of helpful tips, resources, and numerous case studies revealing how popular brands use content for increased visibility and user engagement.
- Content Is Currency: is another new book that does a fantastic job of covering the content marketing process in great detail. The author, Jon Weubben (also author of Content Rich, another great content and SEO book), is a very well-regarded expert in content marketing.
Content truly is king in our new cyber economy. Today’s consumers are smart, savvy shoppers, researching and evaluating their options before making even the simplest of buying decisions. This new content-driven marketplace creates a great opportunity for those business owners who get on board and produce high-quality, targeted content on a regular basis.
Your Content Marketing Strategy hinges on creating and distributing compelling content that positions you and your business as the trusted resource for your local niche. The business owner who answers the questions and concerns of his or her audience is the first to build a relationship, one that will often lead to new customers and growing market share.
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