Ryan's experience ranges from higher education to SMBs and tech startups. When not doing digital marketing, he's sure to be enjoying some kind of nerdy pastime.
How do I build a content marketing strategy that converts leads?
There are a lot of articles online seeking to answer that very question. Some don’t provide enough information while others provide a dizzying more suitable for a 3-hour college course.
This article seeks to find the balance between the two – providing enough information so there are no holes, yet not so much that you’re too intimidated to even get started. Let’s go:
Building a Content Marketing Strategy
Don’t assume you know what your prospects want to learn about. I repeat: Don’t assume! This is where a lot of business owners get into trouble. They figure since they’ve been around for X number of years they must know what prospects are looking for.
Objective: Do Your Research
When the reality couldn’t be further from it. People are complex. And you don’t exactly know what they’re thinking until you ask… Or do a Google keyword search!
Here's 3 steps to effective research:
Step 1. Create a Buyer's Persona
Before you begin strategizing, you need to know who you are marketing to beyond the obvious. Begin by creating a Buyer Persona. Beyond outlining basic demographics and psychographics, your Buyer Persona should answer some key questions: What is this person's biggest need? What is their biggest concern (as related to the product or service we provide)? What are the most common questions they're asking themselves regarding the problem we can solve for them?
Step 2. Employ Customer Surveys
One of the best ways to determine the questions your prospects have is to ask them directly. Though this step is optional, it should be strongly considered. Create an 8 to 10 question survey with a mix of qualitative and quantitative questions. Use a program like Google Forms or Survey Monkey to create it. The key is to keep it brief and provide incentives for completion.
Say your Buyer Persona is a first-time bride in Arizona. Some questions you might ask her would be: What are your three biggest concerns when planning a wedding? What type of content would you like to see while planning your wedding (provide multiple choice options)? What are your 3 favorite blogs/Websites? Again, the goal is to find out the questions prospects asking and where they’re already “hanging out."
Step 3. Conduct SEO Keyword Research
Keywords are an easy way to determine what your target audience wants to learn more about. Running with the example above, say you’re a wedding planner in Arizona. Go to Google’s Keyword Planner and type in “wedding planners in Arizona” before clicking Get Ideas. A bunch of terms people are actually searching for will pop-up. Some of the terms that pop up will be "root keywords" and some will be "long tail keywords."
Ex. Wedding planners (root keyword)
Ex. Cost of hiring a wedding planner (long tail keyword)
You'll notice most root keywords have a high search volume AND a high competition for ranking while long tail keywords tend to have low to moderate search volumes with low to moderate competition for ranking. Ideally, you want to look for the sweet spot – keywords that have a high search volume with low to moderate competition. You can even search for longtail keywords in the form of questions. If you were a bride, what you would be asking yourself: When is the best time to have a wedding in Arizona? How much do wedding planners cost? How do you plan a wedding? Here's what you'll want to do next:
- Identify four to five root keywords you want to rank for.
- Identify several similar long tail keywords you want to rank for.
- Record your findings in a master document
Objective: Create An Editorial Calendar
Do you think the editors of Vogue (ha, guess we’re sticking with that wedding theme) wake-up the morning they’re scheduled to go to press asking “What should we write about today?”
Magazines are notorious for planning their editorial calendars months in advance. Instead of creating content around “What to pack for your beach vacation ” in July, they’re writing about how to one-up everyone at the next “Ugly Christmas Sweater Party.” Here's how to begin planning your calendar:
- Create 4 to 5 SEO-optimized pages (one for each of your chosen root keywords).
- Brainstorm content ideas around your chosen long tail keywords.
- Consider each stage of the Buyer's Journey and organize your ideas accordingly.
- Consider what types of content formats would best suit your prospects: Blog articles, white papers, podcasts, videos, detailed Facebook posts etc.
- Commit to regularly publishing content that links back to your SEO-optimized pages.
- Create a consistent publishing schedule you can stick to.
Objective: Set Your Content Journey
Step into the shoes of your Awareness Stage Prospect: Where are they most likely to find your content? And what do you want them to do once they’re finished interacting with it?
Do this for each stage of the Buyer’s Journey (Awareness, Consideration, and Decision), creating clear CTAs (call to actions) that either guide prospects to the next phase or continue supporting them in the current on. As buyers get further along in the journey, you’ll want to offer “gated content,” to capture their information as a lead. Enter landing pages – not only do they provide prospects with valuable information in exchange for their contact information, but they’re highly versatile. You can easily test various factors like headlines, button colors, font sizes and so on to determine which aspects convert better.
Another popular way of gating content is with an Overlay CTA. Unlike landing pages, these pop-ups can be placed over content, necessitating an opt-in before viewing. What works best for your business will ultimately be a matter of trial and error, dependent on what YOUR target audience best responds to.
Objective: Get Traffic
Finally, the best content in the world isn’t worth a dime if no one is there to read it. There are many ways to garner traffic to your Website, which are beyond the scope of this article. But here are some places to get started:
- Create Link-Baits: A “bait” – as we’re using the word here – is an enticement to click and learn more, generally placed after a social media post. Your bait could be any valuable resource or tool that will make the life of your targeted visitor better.
- Approach Industry Leaders: Have you created a piece of content that might be valuable to someone else’s audience? Send them an email letting them know and ask them to share it with their audience.
- Google Adwords: Ad campaigns are a great way to determine demand for your content and services. Not only does Google’s integrated analytics provide a wealth of data, campaigns are also very affordable and can be set to any budget.
Objective: Strengthen Your Brand
Your brand is the overall experience key stakeholders have when interacting with your business: Design, brand voice, customer service, and delivery all play a role. Though you could immediately begin creating content based on your market research, it’s going to lack that “special something” if you haven’t translated your company culture to your online presentation.
In general, building a memorable brand is a team effort, involving Web designers, copywriters, and brand advisors. You can find agencies that specialize in all three, as well as freelancers who specialize in one or all of the above. Once you’ve decided on a consistent presentation of image style, vocal intonation, and core messaging, you’ll be able to produce unique content that stands out.
Remember, building a content marketing strategy that converts leads is a “long-term game” – unlike paying a large sum for a television ad, setting it, and forgetting it! But the content you produce, and the results you gain, ARE cumulative. The more momentum you build, the easier it gets.
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