6 Things to Know When Starting Content Marketing

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If you’re investing in digital marketing for your brand, you have probably heard the term content marketing. It’s the practice of creating and publishing valuable content to attract and retain your target audience, and these days, it is an essential part of any marketer’s toolkit. Content marketing is an easy and affordable marketing strategy, but it can be difficult to know where to start. 

Benefits of content marketing

Content marketing is good for more than just your bottom line. Here are a few of the reasons companies are turning to content marketing to grow their business:

    • Increase your website traffic. Search engines prioritize high-quality content. Every new article you publish is a new opportunity to rank for the keywords your customers are searching for. Craft informative content with those keywords in mind, and you’re sure to boost your search engine visibility and drive more traffic to your site. 
    • Expand your social audience. Amplify your brand’s voice by sharing the content you create across all of your social media platforms. Readers who find your posts interesting or informative will share them with friends and family, growing your own social following exponentially. 
    • Improve your brand reputation. Each time your article appears on the first page of Google or is shared widely across social media, you are strengthening your brand awareness. If the content you create is helpful and credible, readers will begin to view you as an industry thought leader and place more trust in your brand. 
    • Provide value to readers. Bombarding potential customers with obnoxious popup ads might get their attention, but it’s not likely to give them warm, fuzzy feelings about your brand. Content marketing starts a conversation with your customers that feels organic, not invasive. By advertising your brand in a way that provides value to readers, you increase your chances of starting out on the right foot with the right audience. 
    • Lower your marketing costs. Traditional advertising methods aren’t just annoying—they’re expensive. The only thing you have to spend on content marketing is a bit of time and creativity, which makes it an effective strategy for brands with even the smallest marketing budgets. Just craft an interesting post, share it across your social channels, and let organic traffic do the rest.

By The Numbers

Content marketing costs an average of 62% less than traditional outbound marketing strategies while generating three times as many leads.

    • Generate conversions. Content marketing isn’t just a boon for brands with small budgets. The opportunities it provides for increased conversions will have even the largest agency second guessing that pricy ad spot. That’s because content marketing fosters relationships with your target audience that will make them want to choose you over your competitors. In fact, research shows that inbound marketing strategies like content marketing generate nearly ten times as many conversions as more traditional outbound marketing tactics.

Related article: 10 Things Content Marketing Can Do for Your Business

Considerations when starting content marketing

1. Create a content marketing strategy

Content marketing is an easy and affordable way to bring visibility to your brand, but that doesn’t mean you can just start firing off blog posts left and right and expect to reap the benefits. Take a step back and ask yourself why you are investing in content marketing to begin with. Maybe your current marketing strategy is falling short of your goals, or there are gaps in your existing strategy that content marketing could fill. Or maybe you’re in the early stages of marketing your brand, and content marketing seems like the easiest place to start (it is!). 

Whatever your reason for wanting to start content marketing, it’s important to go into it with a plan. Develop a strategy ahead of time that takes into account your business goals, target audience, and available resources, and use this as a road map that you can refer back to at every stage of the content marketing process. 

2. Determine the goal of your content marketing strategy

Do you want to raise brand awareness? Generate conversions? Improve existing customer relationships? Your goals for content marketing will be specific to your brand, but they should reflect your broader vision for your company. Use these goals to guide your content marketing strategy and determine what kind of content you should create.

Here are just some of the goals you might target with your content marketing strategy:

    • Increased revenue
    • Higher website traffic
    • Improved brand reputation
    • Social media engagement
    • Lower marketing costs

Once you have identified your goals, you will need to determine how you plan to measure your success. Set key performance indicators (KPIs) that you will monitor to track how well you are performing against your content marketing goals. If your goal is increased revenue, for example, you could decide to keep track of daily or weekly sales numbers. If you’re more concerned about brand awareness, monitoring metrics such as your number of mentions or social media followers might make more sense. Like your goals, the KPIs you use to measure their success will be unique to your brand—the important thing is that you select a few and measure them consistently. 

3. Define your target audience 

Unless you’re selling oxygen, chances are that your business is not for everyone—so why would your content marketing strategy be? To make the most of your marketing efforts, it is important to understand the specific audience you are trying to serve. 

To define your target audience, ask yourself two things: Who is my business currently reaching, and who do I want to reach? Use the answers to these questions to craft a buyer persona, which describes your ideal customer and allows you to tailor content to their unique interests and needs. 

Don’t be afraid to get specific. The more distinct your target audience is, the easier it will be for you to create content that resonates with them. For example, imagine that your company sells ballet slippers. You could decide that your target audience is “people with feet” and publish an article about finding the right shoe size. But while this post might target a very broad audience, it provides little to no value to the members of that audience most likely to do business with your brand. On the other hand, an article about picking a pointe shoe with the right toe box for your foot shape won’t interest everybody, but it will get the attention of the readers who matter the most: your prospective customers. 

Further Reading

A documented buyer persona can help your team make strategic decisions about how and where to advertise. For a step-by-step guide to building your own buyer persona, try this blueprint from Buffer of this interactive template from Hubspot.

4. Understand where you currently are in the marketplace 

Even if you are just beginning to explore the world of content marketing, chances are you won’t be starting from scratch. Your business likely already has an online presence, and that probably includes at least some blog posts, podcasts, videos, or other pieces of content that you can use to jumpstart your marketing efforts. 

Begin by taking inventory of your existing content and assessing its current performance. Once you have a complete picture of the content in your arsenal, you should have a clear understanding of your position in the marketplace. Are you ranking for topics and keywords that matter to your target audience? Are there topics your competitors are covering, but you’re not? Use this information to decide which pieces of content you want to keep, which ones you want to refresh, and where there are gaps you can fill with something new.

5. Decide on the content mix you’re going to create 

The backbone of a successful content marketing strategy is a library of content that is published natively on your own website and then repurposed and recirculated across other channels. But while blog posts are an effective and essential component of your content strategy, they are just one of many options in your marketing toolkit.

Keep the content you create fresh and engaging by experimenting with a variety of formats. Video marketing and other forms of visual content are great for engaging visitors and increasing the amount of time they spend exploring your site. Infographics can be used to communicate valuable data in an eye-catching, bite-sized format that is perfect for sharing across social media. Depending on your target audience, webinars, ebooks, or podcasts might also be great additions to your content mix. 

6. Map out a schedule for publishing content 

When and where you publish the content you create is just as important as the content itself. Create a content calendar to strategically plan your posts in advance. Not only will a calendar help you commit to a consistent publishing routine, but it can also help ensure your publications are timely and relevant. Maximize the impact of your posts by having them coincide with an important date, like a holiday or the launch of a new product. 

Be realistic about how much content you can publish, and pace yourself when necessary. While you may be excited to share all of the new content you have created, try to avoid releasing five new articles and a podcast one week, then going radio silent for the next month. Instead, use a content calendar to feed a steady stream of new material to your audience over time. Your readers will appreciate your consistency and may even begin looking forward to your next scheduled post.

Related article: How to Build a Content Calendar

Other questions to consider for content marketing

What is the best length for a blog post? 

The question, “what is a good length for a blog post?” is Googled often by content marketers and doesn’t have an easy answer that blankets every industry. The ideal blog post length is impacted by dozens of factors, from the industry you are writing for to the keywords you are targeting. While there is no magic number for how long a blog post should be, data suggests the sweet spot is often between 1500 and 2000 words. This gives you enough room to thoroughly explore your topic and affords search engines plenty of content to index. 

What is the best word count for a blog? 

Try tailoring your blog word count to your goals for audience engagement. Short, thought-provoking posts of around 300 words or less are great for generating discussions and getting more comments. Medium-length posts (600 to 1,200 words) tend to receive more shares on social media, while long blogs (think 2,000 words or more) often perform best with search engines. 

How do I find topics to write about? 

Figure out what your audience is talking about, then make yourself a part of that conversation. Try searching your target keywords in Facebook groups, Reddit forums, and Twitter threads to see what questions your potential customers are asking, then craft a post that answers those questions for them. Keep tabs on the content your competitors are producing as well, and figure out if there is a way you can do it better.

Lightning Lesson

Try setting up Google alerts to monitor the web for the topics that matter most to your audience. These automated notifications make it easy to keep tabs on what’s happening in your industry and capitalize on trends in a timely manner.

Should I outsource my content marketing? 

Creating high-quality, consistent content for your blog is no easy task. If you struggle with your own writing, have run out of ideas for new content, or just don’t have the time to produce polished articles on a regular basis, it may be time to hire a freelancer or content marketing agency. It’s a great way to bring a fresh voice to your content and accelerate your blog’s growth without breaking the bank.

Looking to improve your content marketing strategy? Whether you need an audit of your current approach or an editorial team to generate a steady stream of engaging articles, Lightning Media Partners can help. Check out our service packages or book a discovery call to learn more.

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