Content is the backbone of any company. Your website (and the copy on it), blog posts, emails, social media, and pretty much anything that communicates an idea or message to the outside world is a form of content. When marketers think about content marketing they often only think of a blog, but the most successful companies often leverage content in many different formats, with different goals for different stages of the Buyer’s Journey. Content is a huge investment of time and energy, but when done right the compounding effects of a successful content marketing strategy can pay off in the form of cheap future growth.
The State of Content Marketing
The internet today is almost inconceivably large and ever-expanding. It’s estimated that there are approximately 600 million blogs currently running, with more than 1.7 billion websites in existence. The explosion of content marketing as a growth strategy began in the late 2000s and has only accelerated since then, making it harder every year to actually break through and drive organic traffic.
Despite all this growth, there seems to be more noise and lower-quality content than ever before. In every industry, we’ve seen an influx of spending and a massive increase in content creation, but often a lack of a cohesive content marketing strategy to follow suit. Many companies think about content as just keywords and SEO but people and increasingly search engines know the difference between fluff content and real valuable content.
The Internet as we know it has been around for about 20 years now, and it’s massive. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a niche or approach to content that sets you apart from your competition. With this guide, we’ll help you develop a strategy to do just that.
To get the most out of this guide, we recommend reading through it once and then going back through it a second time to really sit down and execute each step. It’s perfectly fine to use materials you’ve created in the past as a starting point, but don’t let that tie you to your current approach or limit your thinking.
If you want to create a great content strategy that actually cuts through the noise in 2021, you need to think outside the box. In the content game, it can be easy to get caught up in a particular routine or strategy and produce so much “content” that it becomes just a task with no purpose.
Creating content that really stands out in such a crowded landscape is no small feat and, at least for now, requires a lot of effort and time. For now, we humans are still ahead because we’re able to connect disparate ideas together in ways that even the most sophisticated AI can’t imagine. That said, GPT3 is just around the corner, and with the right priming and guidance, AI-powered text generators will enable a company or individual to create a full blog following a strategy like the one outlined in this guide in months instead of years.
We’re excited to see how GPT3 and other AI-enabled products will start to reduce the effort involved in content creation in the next few years.
Content is hard.
In many categories, oversaturation makes it difficult to ever break through to the first page of Google, let alone to really stand out and make an impression. Regardless if you’re starting from scratch or working to expand content at a semi-established company, the continual process of producing content takes time, energy, and a lot of effort if you want to do it right.
Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.
We’d be remiss to talk about the difficulties of content without also mentioning SEO, a crucial element in the content puzzle. We only briefly dive into SEO in this guide because it’s already long enough, but we highly recommend this guide as a deep dive and refresher for anyone unsure about the intricacies of search engine optimization. Content marketing strategy is inextricably linked to SEO and one without the other is a recipe for failure.
Given the incredibly competitive organic search landscape for certain industries, traditional content marketing based solely around a blog is not for every business. Luckily, there are many approaches to content you can take and it really depends on the target audiences and the goals a business is trying to achieve.
When done right, Content Marketing is a much cheaper way to attract new customers, especially if your business is lucky enough to be solving a new problem or working in a new niche or category.
Content marketing is expensive and can also require a lot of patience. Compounding is a powerful and often overlooked force, but it’s the name of the game when it comes to content, as well as investing, learning, and many of the most important aspects of a successful life.
Content can be a significant investment that can take time to take off and show results, and this is where many B2B companies run into trouble. Paid channels can be easily turned on and off, for whatever reason. Content, on the other hand, takes months, often years, to really build solid momentum. If you’re going to spend that much time working on content, you better have a solid strategy.
Inbound isn’t all it’s hyped up to be
Contrary to what the content marketing “experts” at Hubspot would have you believe, inbound traffic is not always better. When content is created with the sole purpose of ranking in search, we often end up with fluffy, non-meaningful content.
As marketers, we often live in a dichotomy between certain metrics and KPIs like views or likes that don’t necessarily correlate to success at a larger scale. Just because your website is getting more organic traffic doesn’t necessarily mean your business is growing if your content isn’t serving its intended purpose. We’ll get into creating actionable goals and metrics later, but the main takeaway is simple: focus on quality over quantity.
Two very important things to keep in mind: just because content lives and is consumed on the web doesn’t mean it’s SEO. Second, more traffic is not always quality traffic.
Content and SEO should definitely overlap, but great marketers know that they are ultimately designed to achieve different goals. The two should go hand in hand and work together to drive your overall marketing strategy. Without quality content, you won’t be able to take full advantage of SEO, as relevant and useful content will motivate your visitors to stay on your site longer which will positively impact your search rankings.
The New Paradigm in Content
In the early days of the internet and into the 2000s, search engines were far less sophisticated than they are today, and SEO strategies were able to game the algorithm to create content that would rank regardless of its actual value.
Google’s goal is to get customers
to click on ads to find what they are looking for with the least amount of effort. Today, it is estimated that less than X percent of searchers ever view below the 5th organic result. In order to better achieve this goal, over the past decade, Google has introduced a flood of new features like featured snippets and widgets along with ads that crowd out search results and push organic content deeper down the page. At the same time, Google has begun to give greater weight to engagement factors like bounce rate and time spent on-page, which give a better indication of “value” to the reader.
Old [SEO-Stuffed Content]
- Utilitarian: Looks and reads like a Wikipedia page or a mere how-to guide, no lasting expression of the brand
- Non-expert: Can often be written by someone with zero relevant experience
- No value add: Consolidates existing content without adding new data
- Boring: Often very forgettable content with questionable impact on your business. Boring to write and boring to read
- Contrarian: Strong opinions that inspire discussion, social sharing, and backlinks
- Expert: Demonstrates deep industry knowledge and experience
- Value-added: Adds new data, opinions, and analysis to the discourse
- Differentiated: Not just another boring SEO post
The old approach can still be used to rank for a lot of keywords, but that doesn’t always correlate with sales. It’s not enough to just get people to your website, you need to build trust. You need to show expertise and build credibility by bringing new ideas to the table. It’s a large and tedious task to get someone to part with their money, and SEO content is bad at driving sales because it doesn’t give a potential customer any reason to trust you.
Compare that to the new method: doing the opposite of the old, SEO-crammed utilitarian content.
If you want to write content that really gets a reader’s attention you need to have an opinion, provide truly thought-provoking ideas, or material that’s fortified with deep insight and expertise. Articles tend to consolidate information available elsewhere on the internet rather than taking a stand of their own, which may save readers a little effort but is unlikely to persuade them to buy anything.
“Information alone is rarely valuable. It’s the expert interpretation of that information that matters.”
Content that focuses on quality and big ideas before SEO can have a much bigger impact on the business itself because it builds that trust. This is the type of content that a potential customer will turn to during a sales call. For a brand just starting out, one or two pieces of content written by a CEO/founder will often do much more than 5-10 SEO-focused articles, assuming you have a funnel that is at least somewhat optimized and some alternative channels to reach customers. It’s never too early to start building an email list so you can take charge of communicating with your customers, and an opinionated expert article that stands out and adds value to the conversation is the way to do it.
High-quality content that fleshes out an argument and takes a stance may not always show up at the top of Google, but it’s far more likely to generate backlinks and organic shares on social media or across the web. These organic shares and subsequent readers will find value in the quality of the ideas, and this expert aura will then be bestowed upon the company itself.
TLDR: Why Should I Care about Content Marketing Strategy and Download This Guide?
- Content can build help build trust and authority
- Content can help increase sales and conversions
- Strong content powers exponential unpaid growth
- Content strategy is hard and we’ve condensed into 6 steps for you
NoGood’s Strategic Framework for Content Marketing
Backed by the learnings we’ve gained over the past 4 years of helping companies scale their content efforts to reach more people organically. In the guide, we outline the 6 main steps to crafting a content marketing strategy or revitalizing an existing strategy.
- Goal & Metrics Identification
- Ideal Customer Profile(s)
- How to Interview Customers
- Competitive Landscape
- Content Framework
- Which topics to write about
- How to organize and optimize content
- Choosing the right content format and metrics
- SEO Checklist
- Content Distribution Planning
Download the Full Guide Here!