Content marketing is not a new concept but recent changes to search engine algorithms have put it back into the limelight. Many sites that focus on SEO instead of quality information have already felt the serious impact of these changes. Some sites experienced steep drops in their rankings while others were penalized or altogether banned for unfair practices such as questionable linking strategies. These practices, together with poor content and the lack of social media exposure have become the key ingredients for online disaster. As a result, the only way now to improve your ranking or regain your position is through informative, high quality content.
With Google’s Panda and Penguin updates1 rightly steering the focus back on content, the need for great content and a solid content marketing plan have become more crucial than ever.2 A plan helps you focus your efforts and provides a set of checks and balances that keep your program on track. Without it, you’ll likely be compelled to render extra hours of work and lots of wasted time and effort.
So, whether you are just beginning to develop a plan or are retooling your existing strategy, here’s a guide on how to build a content marketing plan that enhances your online presence and keeps your bottom line chiming.
1. Set your goals.
Before you even try to put a plan into action, you need to set a clear goal to achieve. Creating content is part of a marketing plan to achieve certain business objectives, not the goal or objective itself. Remember that content is just a means to an end.
If you are an existing business, a good first step is to review or create or a mission statement. Having a clear vision of your business goals can help to shape and direct your content strategy. Without this guide, you might find that you are spending a lot of time creating ineffective pieces that don’t do anything to further your business goals. Writing just for the sake of filling pages is a poor use of time and resources.
If you are a new business, you can work off your business plan. You should already have a success roadmap in place and integrating your Internet marketing with that map can help speed up your success. Again, it is not your purpose just to fill a lot of pages. Each page should have a definite purpose that is driven by your business goals.
Once your business objectives are firmly in place, you can then create a Content Marketing Mission Statement. This might seem a little redundant, but your business mission statement really answers the question, “Why does this business exist?” Having a separate statement for your content marketing program will help keep you focused on why that program exists, and will help to keep it under control.
The Content Marketing Mission Statement
What should the mission statement establish? First, it is important to understand what it doesn’t say. This doesn’t state what you sell. It isn’t about your products and services. Instead, it should lay out the purpose of your marketing strategy. Content marketing is all about providing information, not advertising and selling your goods. Of course, one will hopefully lead to the other, but you need to know the informational needs of customers and prospective clients first. Once you have established yourself as a concerned and helpful expert in your field, prospects will have the confidence to do business with you when the time comes.
This may seem to be a subtle difference, but it is an important one. If your company makes soap, your business mission statement may be something concerned with selling more soap. Your content strategy, however, might be more along the lines of how to use your soap to solve the cleaning problems your audience faces. What is the relevant pain your audience suffers from? Why are they looking for help? Your content marketing mission statement should attempt to establish, in clear and simple language, the pain your audience is suffering and how you can help to relieve that pain.
2. Do your content-focused research.
Before starting a new business venture, there is a good deal of market research that needs to be done. You need to determine if there is even a market for your products and what competition already exists. Without demand, there won’t be any success. It isn’t about what you want to sell. It’s about what your customers want to buy.
Content marketing is pretty much the same. There is a huge amount of information on the web, and much of it is outdated, filled with errors or just plain wrong. There is also a lot of information that never get seen, simply because no one is really interested in those type of information. In order to develop a successful plan, you need to determine what the need is, and how best to fill that need.
Using our soap example, it may be that people are looking for ways to clean certain items, to make their cleaning chores easier, or to find a product or technique that is more effective. They may be looking for green products so as to reduce their impact on the environment. You need to find out what people want to know, and then provide the useful content that they need.
3. Set standards for content creation.
A lot of books have already been written about this part of the process. Regardless of the format you choose, make sure that your pieces are of the highest quality, and that they are truly useful and engaging. Make sure that the people responsible for content creation are very good in their field, whether they are authors, videographers or graphic designers. Nothing will sink your program faster than poor quality work.
It is also important to review and edit the work of your content creators. Align each finished content with your two mission statements. Does it help the company achieve its business goals and is it in harmony with the overall mission of your marketing program? You will also want to check the content for accuracy and quality. Are there parts that could be improved? Is it going to be of interest to your audience? These are all vital steps that you should take before publishing your content.
What’s the best content format to use?
There is a wealth of opportunities available to marketers today: Articles, infographics and video are just a few of the choices. Before sitting down to create content, take a look at your options and decide which route you want to take.
The beauty is that you don’t have to pick just one method. You can do different pieces in different media, or you might produce different versions of the same basic concept. Everyone has a different learning style, so some visitors may want a list of instructions, some may want a video demonstration, and others may respond better to charts, graphs and pictures. You may be able to repurpose the same information to use it in a number of different formats.
For example, let’s say people are searching for ways to clean wood floors. You could write a how-to article, make a video showing the process, and perhaps create an infographic detailing the steps in a more pictorial form. Use your imagination, but make sure to provide useful content in a format that people can put to practical use.
4. Identify the tools you need for measuring success.
Before creating your content, it is a good idea to have the right tools in place to measure the effectiveness, performance or success of your content strategy. Depending on the goals set out in your mission statement, this will give you a chance to refine and expand on those goals. You may want to inform your audience, but if you don’t know how many people are visiting your page, how will you know if you are getting the message out? If your goal is to have more interaction on social media sites, on the other hand, you will need to use different web applications that monitor and measure social media activities. Measuring ow your efforts are performing in the real world will help you fine tune your plan based on what works and what doesn’t.
5. Tap the best channels and partners for marketing your content.
Finally, be sure to have a process in place for marketing your quality content. It won’t do any good if no one knows it is out there, so plan on promoting your work. Use social media, press releases and other industry sources to let people know that you are publishing helpful, informative content that can make their lives easier.
Partnering with other online businesses
Selecting websites to cooperate with is crucial and should be given special attention. It would be a shame to reach an agreement with a partner site only to find that their website is of mediocre quality or lacks significant traffic volume. In order to get the most out of this process, sift through potential partners and hand pick the strongest ones that can potentially deliver the best results for your investment – both in terms of traffic and impressions, and in terms of strengthening your website’s authority in the eyes of the search engine. You can do this by seeking out websites with better Google Pagerank and Moz Domain Authority than your own. These (Page Rank, Domain Authority) are metrics that measure the trust factor and quality of a website.
Most website owners and marketing agencies try to target websites that are mainly classified as PR2 and above as well as DA30 or higher. However, these are extremely low parameters to set. To put things in perspective, there’s effectively no difference between a PR1 website and a PR3 website, or between a DA30 and a DA40 website. At best, these will display minor, superficial differences. PR scores have gradually become less important, and the same goes for DA. However, these are the two most prominent parameters you can base an initial assessment on.
I recommend sifting websites according to the following criteria:
- PR4 and Above
- DA45 and Above
- Posting Frequency (A high posting frequency may mean diminished exposure or worse, may indicate that the website is selling post-space, resulting in overall low quality content. Browse through the website and pay attention to the posting frequency. Decide if the posting frequency meets your needs.)
- Content and Link Quality (Read through recent posts to determine the quality of the content and the outgoing links. If you notice link abuse or low quality content, this website may be penalized in the future – and you do not want to be associated with it.)
- Attention and Engagement Level (Verify how much buzz the page is generating. This may not always be indicative of quality and clout, but it’s an important parameter to examine. Check the number of shares, recent comments and the community’s overall level of activity in order to gain an impression of the website’s authority. Google places a high premium on a site’s vibrant user community. The level of engagement shouldn’t be ignored, but it should not be a deal breaker, since many leading websites do not have significant engagement.)
Now its Time to Start Your Content Marketing Plan
By following these simple steps, you can create a content marketing plan that will be effective without becoming so large and unwieldy that it overshadows your business goals. With time, you will surely see the positive effects on your bottom line.
Have any questions or tips for other readers? Let us know in the comments below!Footnotes