Content Marketing 101: How to Drive Traffic, Win Fans and Get Sales with Your Content
If you run a blog or a website with regularly updated content, then you may not realise it, but what you’re doing is content marketing.
You may be reluctant to think of it this way, thinking instead of the craft of your writing or the usefulness of your content to your customers. But if you’re creating content that you want people to consume on your site, then that’s a form of content marketing.
Content marketing is a powerful way to build a loyal audience of followers and customers. In my view, it’s the first form of marketing that anyone trying to sell online should consider. It’s more controllable than social media, has a wider reach than newsletters, and is cheaper and longer lasting than advertising.
In this post I’ll give you some tips for getting the most from content marketing. I’ll cover:
- The benefits of content marketing
- Identifying your target audience
- Planning content
- Content production and management
- Strategic sharing of content
Once you’ve read this you’ll have some practical tips you can use to make your own content marketing more effective, and hopefully you’ll be inspired to do so too.
The Benefits of Content Marketing
Content marketing has a number of benefits compared with other forms of online marketing, but these become even more powerful when you combine content marketing with other marketing strategies.
When engaging in online marketing, many people think immediately of social media. They might go ahead and set up a Facebook and twitter account and put loads of effort into finding an audience on those platforms.
But before you sink all your marketing time and resources into social media, consider the benefits of using your own website to build an audience.
If you’re reliant on third party platforms, you’re also subject to changes on these platforms. Facebook is a key example. A few years ago, setting up a Facebook page was a great way to engage with your audience. But over time, it has become more and more difficult to reach your audience on Facebook. Updates in pages are rarely shared with all your fans, and you’ll often be prompted by Facebook to ‘boost’ your posts, i.e. to pay for your audience to see them. Which seems a little unfair when you’ve put all that effort into driving all those followers to your page.
If you use your own website to build and engage with an audience, you have control. You own the site, you have access to any data you’ve collected, and you have control over what can be seen by whom.
Sure, your followers may not visit your site as often as they do Facebook or twitter, but when they do, you have control over their experience when they get there. If you can combine website content with other methods such as social media shares and a newsletter, then you can remind your audience when you publish something new and get twice the benefits.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Adding quality content to your website on a regular basis will provide a big boost to your SEO.
Search engines like sites that are regularly updated with content that’s meaningful and user friendly. Over the years, I’ve often gained new clients who found one of my posts via a Google search, read it on my blog and then decided to hire me. It’s a great way to find a new audience. If all your content is in Facebook or in your mailing list, then Google will never find it.
Make sure you use a SEO plugin such as our SmartCrawl Pro to optimise your SEO and you’ll find that adding quality content to your site on a regular basis will help you grow your audience fast.
Trust and Reputation
You may be tempted to think that blogging about your area of expertise will mean you get less business; after all, if people can get information from your website for free, why should they pay you for it?
But in reality, the opposite is true. By demonstrating via your blog that you have expertise in your field and can communicate this effectively, you will build trust and encourage people to come to you when they need more help. This also applies to people who could do something by reading about it on your blog, but prefer to hire an expert instead – and your blog post has proved that you’re that expert.
So now I’ve convinced you of the benefits of content marketing, you’ll be fired up and ready to start blogging. But wait!
Before you write your first post, pause and take time to plan how you’re going to use your blog strategically. If you do that, you’ll have a better chance of reaching the right audience and gaining a loyal following.
Identifying Your Target Audience
The first step in content marketing, as in any marketing, is to know your audience. If you know who you’re targeting, then it will be much easier to be effective.
Step away from your service or product and think about the kind of person who’s likely to need it. So instead of imagining that your audience is ‘people who need a maps plugin,’ for example, consider the type of person or the business sector that might need a maps plugin. This might be ‘people with a WordPress site but no coding skills’, or a list of the business types that will need to publish a map on their website: restaurants, hotels, attractions and more.
You can then aim your content at that audience. It doesn’t just have to be about your product – it can also be about other topics of interest to your target audience.
Planning Your Content
Now you’ve identified your audience, it’s time to plan your content. This will include:
- Posts about your product or service (but not marketing posts)
- Posts about other topics of interest to your audience
- Posts about topical items that are relevant to your business or your target audience.
So, to take the maps plugin example above, your posts might include:
- A tutorial (or series of them) showing people how to add a map to their website
- A post on using a website to market a restaurant and help people find it
- A post on the history of the Google Maps platform, on the anniversary of the day it was first made available.
This blog you’re reading is a good example of this approach. Most of our posts aren’t directly about WPMU DEV plugins or services (although we do like to mention them); instead, they’re about topics (like this one) that are of interest to people that might benefit from a WMPU DEV subscription (WordPress users and developers).
Producing and Managing Content
Finding the time to create content for your blog might seem like a lot of work. But it will be easier if you have a plan.
Planning your posts in advance, and preparing any assets such as images and video that you might need, will save you time and stress when it comes to creating your content. You can even write all your posts in advance and use the WordPress scheduling facility to schedule them on a date in the future.
This is something I often do in my blog; I recently ran a series of posts that were published one a day for a week. Instead of finding time to write during each of those days (I don’t normally post every day), I wrote it all beforehand and scheduled the posts to be published when I wanted them to.
I recommend keeping a schedule, or using a planning tool like trello, to map where your posts are in your production schedule. Or you could just put post-its on a wall calendar.
Getting the Most From Your Content
Now you’ve created all that content you need to get it working for you. That’s where combining content management with other forms of online marketing comes in.
There are three ways to share your content with your audience: social media, a mailing list, and subscriptions. Whichever you use, take the time to plan your approach and be strategic.
If you link your blog to your social media channels, you can have new content automatically shared to them. Consider which channels are best for your audience – if you’re selling to consumers, you’ll need to use Facebook, but with business customers LinkedIn is more useful. And twitter will get you a following if you’re targeting geeks such as web developers, or the media. Visual channels such as Pinterest and Instagram have their own strengths when it comes to targeting specific audiences.
Consider what time of day you’re scheduling your posts – you want it to be when your audience is online. Analyse the level of engagement with your content and make tweaks to post new content at the times of day and days of the week when you get the most engagement. Think about the wording of your updates and use wording that’s been effective in the past, while avoiding things becoming stale.
The fact that you’ve already identified your target audience for your content will make it easier to identify which social media channels to use and how best to use them.
A mailing list has the benefit, similar to a website, of being yours. It’s a way of sending information to your followers that isn’t reliant on the whims of a third party service.
Mailing lists have their downside though. It can be difficult getting people to sign up, and open rates can be low. This is where the fact that you’ve produced quality content will help.
You can choose to send roundups of content to your newsletter subscribers, or you can send them the text of individual posts. I don’t send every new post to my newsletter, but every week I send them something which is also featured on my blog the next week. The newsletter recipients get it first which gives more reason to sign up.
You can also use your content to encourage people to sign up. Offer them a freebie as an incentive: a pdf guide to using your plugin, for example. Just make it clear when people are signing up that you’re adding them to a mailing list as well as sending them a download. If you don’t do this, not only could you be breaking the law, but your open rate will be low and you’ll get unsubscribes.
Our e-Newsletter plugin wil help you build a mailing list from your website and send out newsletters.
Another alternative is for people to subscribe to your blog and automatically be sent any new post. You have less control over what they receive than with a newsletter, but the advantage is that you don’t need to lift a finger once you’ve got it set up.
A plugin like our Subscribe by Email will let you automatically email subscribers whenever new content is added to your site.
Content is the Top of Your Marketing Funnel
It’s tempting to think of advertising as the top of your marketing funnel, the place where people first become aware of your website or brand. But content marketing can do that job more effectively for less cost. And your content lasts forever while an advert only lasts as long as you have the budget for it.
If you use your website content strategically, you’ll be able to reach the right audience, grow your reach and build a loyal following of fans or customers.
Next Step is Converting Your Visitors
Now that you’ve taken the steps to drive visitors through social media, SEO, email marketing, and you’re giving them some great content, it’s important you make an ask. Content marketing done right is an incredible way to harness every channel to come to your business, but use a tool like Hustle to take it a step further and make a targeted ask.
Your ask could be a product pitch, a service, an email signup, a link to a form, or pretty much anything. You can adjust the display settings, design, and give it some cool animations so that the visitor is invited to check out whatever you want to share with them at just the right moment.
And now that you’ve got them on your site checking out some of your great content, it’s time to point them in the right direction. Go hustle!