More and more focus is being placed on content marketing, as Google et al try to stem the flow of crappy marketing techniques gaming the system.
The long and short of content marketing, is to provide amazing content that is useful, interesting, has a shareability factor and, and this is the important bit, can be tailored to a call to action.
That call to action can be an affiliate link, an optin sign up, one of your products or services, etc.
Content marketing is something that most online entrepreneurs do on a daily basis; I mean that’s what adding content is about right?
Well, yes, and no. Most marketers are doing what they think is content marketing, but in fact without a content marketing plan, all they are doing is sticking random content on the web with the hope it will hook someone at some point.
What is Content Marketing?
As outlined above, content marketing is making use of articles, videos, infographics and other content forms to market your business or (in the case of affiliate marketers) someone else’s products.
Content marketing is not the only marketing technique out there, but in the current search engine climate it can and does provide solid results.
Content marketing also has the added benefit of being able to build a community around it (comments aren’t just for trolling you know!), adding to your SEO and search index, as well as being easily shared on social media.
What is a Content Marketing Plan?
A content marketing plan is your own personal guide to making sure that your content stays on track, and is relevant to both your visitor’s needs and your business needs.
It can help you make sure that your content targets the correct types of people, and can help you maintain a schedule and commitment to the content.
It can serve as a guide for you so that you know exactly the type of content to produce, and the steps to promote it afterwards.
Not only that but as you travel down the road using the content marketing plan as a guide, you will end up tweaking and perfecting it, which will enable you to use it again on the same site or a different one.
How to Make a Content Marketing Plan
The first thing you need to do is some research and planning. Just saying “I’m going to write a post every Wednesday and publish it every Thursday” is not the right plan!
Below are the different steps that can help you in creating your content marketing plan.
What’s the Purpose?
The first thing you need to figure out is what is the purpose of your plan?
Are you trying to promote your own product or service? Someone else’s product? Perhaps you’re trying to increase the size of your email list?
Whatever the purpose, make sure it is clearly defined, so that your content creation can actively reflect that purpose.
You can focus on more than one thing in a content plan, but try to focus on no more than two; otherwise you end up with something that is unfocused and ultimately a failure.
You will find that as your focused target is met, other things will increase on the way, such as an increase in subscribers while you are targeting promoting a product.
Who are you targeting?
One of the key sections in any content plan is to define who you are targeting. It’s not enough to simply say “I want to target people who buy hot tubs”, instead you need to define who that person is. This is done by creating a User Persona.
A persona is basically a representation of one or more of your user base.
These representations can help you figure out what sort of content is best suited for the audience, and how best to promote that content to them.
Building a persona is often a lot of work initially but can reap rewards later.
You could just create a persona based on your own ideal visitor, but really you need to research real people to build a persona:
- Find communities in your niche and see how people interact
- Try and discover age (approx.) and genders of your audience
- Monitor comments on your own site and others for interactions
- Use polls and surveys on your own visitors to find out more data
- Talk to your community, to discover their needs/wants/desires
You really need to know:
- Who are your users? (Demographically speaking)
- Why do they come to your site?
- What are their needs and desires?
Having a solidly researched persona can improve your content marketing by leaps and bounds as it gives you a solid base for creating content that is not only quality but also targeting the right people.
No more general content that interests few people, instead you can create content that actually interests your target market, meaning they are more likely to share the content and importantly to take action with the content.
Once you have a persona or two, you can start to see what their wants, needs and desires are. This information can quickly change the course of your content strategy, and should be listened to and followed (this rule isn’t cast in stone, but let’s face it, you want to give your audience they content that they actually want!).
Now would be a great time to start brainstorming ideas based off of the user personas, focusing primarily on how you can help them solve their problems with your product or whatever you promote.
Content is King: but of which country?
OK, content marketing revolves around, dun dun derrrr, content!
What sort of content though because there is surprisingly a large amount of options under that one umbrella term.
- Tutorials: This type of content revolves around teaching someone how to do something. Whether it’s to tie a bow-tie or strip an engine, the tutorial is often detailed and informative.
- Guides/Listicles: More general than tutorials, guides tend to focus on providing options. A list about different WordPress themes for restaurants would be a guide.
- Interviews: People interested in a niche are interested in prominent people in that niche. Interviews go down well, from both a social ogling point of view and usually an informative one too.
- Infographics: A guide/tutorial/informative article in a picture. These go down well as they are easily digested and easily shared. Just don’t forget to add your site details to it!
- Reviews: The bread and butter of many affiliate marketers, product and service reviews can still be used in content marketing, often linked from other articles.
- Curated content: Often difficult to get right, curated content can give a boost to any site with a lot less of the work. Every niche can benefit from this type of content though it should be used sparingly as it adds little value to your site.
- Imagery (infographics, cartoons)
As you can see there is a wide variety of content and media types out there, which gives you some breathing room.
However, you need to be referring back to your User Persona to discover what type of content in what form of media resonates with your audience the best.
For example, if you have a cooking website, I’m pretty sure that having walls of text will not benefit you. Instead, having short, well formatted text punctuated with numerous images would do better (food after all is mostly eaten with your eyes).
Whereas a more technical niche might favour heavier textual articles (though proper formatting is still recommend to make reading easier).
Strengths and Weaknesses
Once you have a clear idea of the type of content you will produce and the media form it will take you need to assess yourself (and your team if you have one).
Are you good at writing? Do you hate the sound of your own voice?
You need to clarify if the content that needs producing can be effectively produced by you. If your audience wants 3,000 word essays and you hate writing, then you need to consider one of two things:
- Reduce the frequency in which you post
- Outsource the work
Each has pros and cons, but there’s no point saying you will produce an article a week if when you sit down to write, you procrastinate and fail to write!
One of the key factors to a successful content marketing plan is your ability to be consistent and committed.
Reviewing other sites in your niche can reap a lot of benefits.
Firstly you can ascertain which articles are working for them and which aren’t (usually by comment count and social signals).
You can also find articles that perhaps would be good, but have been poorly executed.
Both of these can provide content topics for your own site.
As well as gaining topic ides, how do these sites produce their content? Does the media form match up with your own user persona? If they are writing content and you feel your users would prefer it in video form, you have yet more ideas you can use.
Creating & Publishing Schedule
Even before you have your content in place you need to have a scheduling strategy.
The first reason for this is you. If you can’t create content every day/week/whatever, then you need to reflect that in your strategy otherwise doubt and inconsistencies will creep in.
You shouldn’t be producing content unless it’s the best content you can produce. Now, as most content can take hours and hours to craft, you need to have a realistic content schedule.
Personally I’d start with publishing one or two a week and see how you cope with that and how the quality is affected. You can then increase or decrease the number accordingly.
As well as that, it’s unlikely that your readers will visit your site every day. Knowing when you get the most traffic can help in determining which days and times are best for publishing content.
Examining your analytics software, like Google Analytics, can help you with this.
As previously mentioned, the key here is consistency! You have to be committed to constantly creating content, even if the frequency is slow.
Content Management Tools
To aid you in scheduling your content, as well as managing who is working on what (if you have a team or outsources), there are various tools that you can use.
Non WP Solutions
Promoting Your Content
No longer does the maxim “Build it and they will come” have any weight to it. In this day and age, whatever you build you need to work hard at promoting it to get it under peoples noses.
As such, once content is published, your content marketing plan needs to have rules and guidelines on how you will promote your content and when.
The main ways to promote your content are:
Sharing your content on social networks is generally an accepted and decent way to get the content out there. My personal advice is to not share it willy nilly on every social network.
Instead you should be sharing it on networks you use, and ideally on networks that your user persona suggests your audience uses.
For example, if your audience is not tech savvy, then they will likely use Facebook and that’s about it.
If your audience is made up of millennials, it might make more sense to share content on sites like Instagram.
Watch your target social media; make notes about when discussions regarding your niche seem to pick up speed and when they falter. Add this information to your user personas.
Only share content when there are people there to read it!
Also, don’t just share it once and forget about it. Instead, share it again, perhaps later in the day and for the next few days/weeks after. Just don’t spam people!
Remember when I said to limit the number of social networks? Primarily this is because you also need to monitor them and respond to any questions, comments or perhaps even reshares.
By responding you are helping cement your role within the community and showing your site is active and involved.
Who says your content strategy just has to focus on content on your own site? No one does!
Guest blogging is still a great way to not only gain a backlink, but to create bonds and relationships with other creators in your niche, and expand the reach of your site to their audience as well.
If you really want to be prepared, then create a user persona for them, perhaps ask the site owner if they have a user persona or not. Then you can use it or share the one you created.
Business, even affiliate marketing, is all about relationships.
If you have a mailing list, make sure to send out a notice about the new post, or if you create content regularly perhaps send a weekly summary.
If possible have this as a separate list to one that you sell to. This is because you don’t want people fed up with a weekly summary to unsubscribe from your money list!
Similar to guest blogging, outreach depends upon relationships. By contacting other leaders in your niche and asking them to share your content you can reach a wider audience.
There’s nothing wrong with putting your money where your mouth is and paying for views.
This alone could take another article to explain, but you do need to make sure that your adverts target the right audience. Advertising a dog website to cat lovers will do nothing except empty your bank account!
Your content strategy may change over time, so never be afraid to go back and modify the user persona, content types and media types.
In fact you should be reviewing these regularly because you may simply have gotten things wrong, or you have new data or your audience has shifted.
Keeping your content marketing plan up to date will mean that your content stays relevant to your audience, and thus more effective.
The Bottom Line
Content is still king and content marketing is an important marketing type for any internet marketer or online business.
Having an actual content marketing plan can help remove some of the guesswork, and help you create a more focused, and potentially more profitable website.