Creating a Content Marketing Plan
Content Marketing is one of the most discussed and hotly debated digital marketing topics, especially since it appears to place marketers in a Catch-22 situation. On the one hand, there is a clear emphasis on producing valuable content, which is to say content which is relevant to a website's visitors.
This is important in terms of Google rankings, but also on the simple basis that users will only bother to read content if they perceive it as having value to them. At the same time, if the content is being used for marketing purposes, there does need to be some viable link between the content and the organization whose marketing budget is paying for it. So the first issue in content management is squaring this circle.
Getting marketing value out of content
Content marketing has existed in offline marketing for many years; the modern term “Soap Opera” derives from the fact that this popular format was sponsored by washing-powder companies. The contrast to this is modern commercial breaks, which have become increasingly less effective as modern recording devices have developed features that allow viewers to essentially to bypass advertising.
The lesson to take away from this contrast is that most users instinctively understand that quality content has to be paid for somehow. Thus, they are unlikely to object to a sponsor's name being referenced as having enabled the posting. They are less likely to engage with blatant advertising or with badly-disguised advertising such as the “infomercials” used on shopping channels.
Getting content noticed
The second key point about content marketing is that it only works if people can actually find the content. If your plan is to host it on your own website, then you have full responsibility for making sure that users know both what is there and how to access it. This means that you will also need to look at your social media strategy and your direct contact strategy. It is highly recommended that you pro-actively make users aware when fresh content is added, which should be regularly, rather than relying on them to remember to check.
Many companies that use content marketing will want to put posts onto quality blogs either instead of, or as well as, on their own websites. The key point to remember is that quality blogs develop their reputation by posting quality content. Bloggers can be thought of as equivalent to readers in publishing houses. They need to publish quality content in order to maintain their standing (and income). As they grow bigger, their need for quality content grows with them, but so does the amount of speculative dross they receive. This means that blogger outreach is a skill in itself.
Look beyond the statistics
A blog may hit the right notes in terms of raw statistics, which is to say, visibility and traffic, but may still be a bad match for your business. Conversely smaller blogs, which are still establishing themselves, may provide more value. Have a look at what is being said about you already and see if there are bloggers who look like they might be actively interested in engaging with you or even promoting you.
Remember to think laterally when looking for blogs. If you are selling cycling products then it may seem obvious to look at cycling blogs, but what about weight-loss blogs and money-saving blogs? For different reasons, these both have potential customers and may be happy to have someone post something a little different, but still relevant.
Take time to be helpful
Organizations that build an online presence, rather than just an online profile, tend to be more kindly thought of by other internet users. By spending time online in relevant forums making relevant contributions and above all offering assistance to other users, you can establish your brand as both valuable and human.
Although reputable forums are likely to take a dim view of being used for direct advertising, they are often perfectly happy for people to refer to relevant content on external sites, so, for example, while it would not be acceptable to post direct references to your products as a solution to a problem, it is likely to be acceptable to refer a user to a how-to guide that addresses their issue and in which the pictures feature your products.
Many of these sites have private messaging functions and once you have established yourself, these can be a great way to go about contacting useful bloggers. If you establish yourself as a valuable and approachable expert, you may even get bloggers approaching you.
First impressions matter a lot
Bloggers are people too. Successful bloggers tend to be very busy people. That means that you often have a very brief time in which to engage their attention, so do your homework first. At the very least read the “about me” page, if there is one, and google their name. You may well find interviews and forum posting they have made. The more you know about them in advance, the better-equipped you will be when you approach them.
Produce quality content
This is the foundation of content marketing and essentially you have four options. These are:
- Produce content in-house
- Outsource to an agency
- Outsource to a content management company
- Use a freelancer
Of course, you can use a combination of these options. The key point to take away is that the more of a relationship you have with your writers, the better able they are to represent your specific organization.
Developing this relationship takes time on both sides and on the writer's side this will be reflected in their rates. The content produced in content mills can be perfectly respectable, but their lower rates mean that writers typically work at speed and are highly unlikely to take the time to do quality research.
In fact, the standard of these sites are commonly so low that Google is trying to ensure that they are forced out of high search placements. Like most things in life, you do get what you pay for when it comes to written content and if you’re looking to market good material, then you really should hire a professional.
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