In order for your business to see real, substantial growth, you have to be willing to play the long-game.
What that means is not cutting corners, no black hat techniques that will get your site banned, and no short-sighted marketing plans that will become obsolete with the next Google algorithm update.
That’s why content marketing is king. Google (and other search engines like it) have one primary focus that drives their entire infrastructure: connecting readers with relevant information.
A website that can deliver valuable resources over a long period of time will inevitably rank higher in search results.
People develop trust with a brand after reading the information they produce, that’s why businesses with blogs get 126% more leads than those without a blog.
For the impatient business owner, loading up your website with blog articles, e-books, and images can seem like a chore; even if they do give content marketing a shot, they’ll usually complain after a few months that it’s “just not working”.
In 99% of cases, not only are they wrong, but they’re approaching their content marketing strategy in entirely the wrong fashion.
If that’s you, then keep reading.
A good content marketing strategy is not about firing up a bunch of random articles and hoping that they connect with your reader.
It takes planning, research, and most importantly, a clear end goal in mind in order to deliver the best results. Otherwise, you’re just shooting in the dark.
Here are a few reasons your strategy isn’t really working like it should.
1. You Aren’t Measuring What Works and What Doesn’t
The old saying rings true here, what gets measured, gets managed. How are you supposed to know what articles and topics are being read the most if you’re not keeping track of the stats?
The low-hanging fruit in measuring statistics are simple: open rate, click-through rate, page visits, etc.
At the very least, you should be monitoring those just to get an idea of what types of article titles get the best response, what topics your audience is most interested in, etc.
Go in to the back end of your website service as well and see where your traffic is coming from and where it’s going. Understanding your top referrals can help unlock a huge source of future traffic.
For business owners, the main area of concern is Return On Investment (ROI):
What am I getting in exchange for my marketing dollars?
All of these metrics can be used to gauge the popularity of a specific post and pumping resources into developing content will give you a bevy of assets that will pay dividends well into the future.
That’s why it behooves the business owner to examine not just how much of their content is being consumed, but how much is being shared, how much is developing qualified leads, and how many ultimately lead to conversions.
There is tracking software available that you can plug into your sales funnels to track this progression, but keep an eye on commonalities and tweak your conversion process accordingly.
2. Your Goals are Irrelevant to the Company Mission
While content marketing is a fantastic tool to gain readership and drive targeted traffic, it’s not an end unto itself.
At some level, every marketing strategy is geared towards driving the customer down the sales channel to a point of conversion, otherwise, it’s just content for content’s sake.
With that in mind:
- What is the message that you are sending to your potential readers?
- Are you trying to get them to sign up to your email list?
- Contact you for more info?
- Purchase one of your products?
- Purchase a specific type of product?
Even worse, some companies have zero call-to-action on the back end of their articles, which means that the content just kind of sits there stagnant.
Some companies are so segregated between the marketing and sales departments that many of them aren’t even communicating on what the core message should be.
Those two parties (alongside others) should be in lock-step with one another: the marketing department funneling leads to the product or service that the sales department is pushing.
Content marketing can not just be an information-only proposition, it has to be with a specific goal in mind and preferably one that is in agreement with company goals.
3. You Have No Idea When You’ve Met Your Goals
What are your company’s goals for this year? Increase in revenue? Improve customer relationships? Build partnerships with complementary industries? All of those are noble goals, but how do you know you’ve attained it?
Every goal needs to have an ironclad, measurable number to test it with. Profit increase is fine, but will that be 5% or 15%? Moreover, what are your long-term goals and how do you define those?
Content marketing is usually seen as a “black hole” marketing strategy, in that no one is ever sure how long to continue pumping out content, at what rate, what types of content (text, info-graphics, etc), or when to pull the plug.
When implemented properly, content marketing should give you a substantial boost to your business as a whole, but if those goals are not well-defined, you could go for years without even knowing if it’s a success.
Set hard and fast goals for your business that are measurable and constantly track the impact your content marketing strategy is making towards that goal. Otherwise, how do you know it isn’t working in the first place?
4. You Haven’t Decided Which Strategies You’ll Use
Content marketing is a nebulous term that encompasses a lot of ideas, everything from e-books to info-graphics can be coined “content marketing” in some way or another.
Don’t make the mistake of simply saying, “we need content”, and then throwing everything against the metaphorical wall to see what sticks. Take some time to analyze the different tools at your disposal and choose accordingly.
For instance, you may decide that a webinar is a great way to introduce a large group of people to your business and then grab their email address at the end by offering a free e-book.
That’s a fantastic use of two very different content marketing strategies and also gives you a clear path of what to spend your resources developing.
Instead of taking all your available tactics and splitting your time among them, focus on 2-3 different mediums (blogs, white papers, etc) and get those right first. After you’ve got the team settled and are starting to see returns from a mostly passive marketing strategy, then you can branch off and implement a few more.
Be careful not to have too many going at any one time, however, or you’ll dilute your brand message into an inconsistent stream of garble.
5. Your Goals Are Not Realistic
While your goals need to be specific (see point #3 above), they also need to be within reason for your company. The end goal for every company is to attain more customers, but the intermediary goal can be different from there.
For instance, you may strive to make your content marketing strategy be primarily a lead-generation vehicle, so your content will mainly cater to people unfamiliar with your industry.
Or, you may see content as a means to drive up customer satisfaction.
In this case, you’ll be creating content that is for a more experienced market. Or it may be somewhere in the middle: for people that are possibly looking to buy from you.
In this case, the content will be more how-to, reviews, opinion-based than others.
No one goal is better than the other, but a clear idea in your head of what you’re shooting for will help craft the content the way you want it.
Moreover, these goals can change over a long period of time.
Initially, your content marketing may simply revolve around brand awareness, letting the entire world know who you are and what you offer.
After that content is in your online stable, then you can start to focus on other goals, such as long-form articles that explain how to use your product or opinions on industry news.
Whatever your goal is, make it specific as well as something that your team can focus on one-at-a-time, instead of trying to be all things to all people all the time.
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Updated: Originally published March 4th 2018