You don’t need to be a digital marketing guru to grow sales using the web; but, you definitely need to know what content marketing is.
Actually, there’s more to it than that.
To be truly successful (as in, repeatedly generate new leads and sales month-in, month-out), you need to learn the most cost-effective way to go about doing some.
Here are the bare essentials of what anyone should know and do to content market their business, side hustle or personal brand.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is sharing information that’s helpful, interesting, and useful to people who are relevant to your business.
There are three types of content:
- Visual (image & video)
We talk about all three here on Webbit but typically find written content is the easiest way to get started – everything required is already present and at your fingertips.
Being a content marketer is all about being useful to your target audience – i.e. produce content that’s valuable to them. There’s no point putting content out there that no-one pays any attention to.
By improving people’s lives they’ll come to see you as an expert that they can rely on. Once this happens, it’s only a matter of time before ‘trusting followers’ begin converting into ‘loyal customers’.
Effective content marketing is about communicating the right information, to the right people, in the right way.
Why invest in content marketing?
Creating useful content increases the value of your brand.
The more you help people the more valuable you become to them. This produces a ‘flywheel effect’. It’s when your brand’s reputation gains more and more momentum until you’re considered a leader in your niche.
The value to your business is through organic traffic from search engines like Google. This kind of traffic is unique for one key reason: these people are actively seeking the help you provide.
Organic traffic sees potential customers come to you. This is significant in business because:
- They’re aware of their problem;
- And, they’re looking for a solution.
Generating sales requires both which makes content marketing uniquely powerful and the best way to start growing a business.
Hatching an (imperfect) plan
At this point, most content marketing guides will talk about ‘creating a content strategy’ where you ‘work out who your customer is’ so you ‘can speak their language’.
This is the right approach and a professional one. It involves answering a bunch of questions, like:
- Who is your customer?
- What do they want?
- Why are they struggling? What do they need help with?
- What information do they require?
- How many steps until they buy something from you?
- Why wouldn’t they buy from you?
- How should you communicate with them?
- What type of content should you use?
- Which tone of voice will they react to the most?
- Where do they hang out online?
But, here’s the thing. On starting Webbit, all I had was a business idea and a laptop! I had no clue about customers because I didn’t have any.
Trying to answer questions like these without proper insight is near-impossible and can be misleading. So, instead of getting lost in what you think you know, it’s best to keep it simple and focus on what you actually know.
What common problems do people face in your field of expertise?
Brainstorm the answers, then break them down into groups if possible, and then again into bite-sized, consumable portions. Talking about your solutions to widely accepted problems is where you should start – your initial content roadmap.
And, that’s it for now.
New content ideas will appear as your marketing journey unfolds and you get your first customers. Then, you can tackle questions like these to reveal a more thorough ‘persona’ (a.k.a. customer profile) of your ideal customer.
Words are where the start is
In reality growing an audience means building relationships through your content.
To do this successfully content has to be authentic and connect with people. Your journey, your knowledge and your experiences as they relate to your expertise. It’s this unique perspective that will draw people in and compel them to stick around.
So, the first step is to create some content that’s worth people’s attention. This means it has to be good enough to make them give up the most valuable resource of all – time.
Equally, it also needs to be something you can produce in the most efficient and effective way – that is, you can learn to knock out high quality material in a reasonable timescale.
The written word lends itself to starting out because everything required is already at your fingertips: a computer, an internet connection, and of course your thoughts.
Blogging is the tried and tested method of using writing for content marketing. It’s where you write about topics (e.g. solutions to problems) that are relevant to your audience on an on-going basis. This stimulates interest in you, what you do and how you do it which generates leads and sales.
Blogs can come in many different shapes and sizes with a near-infinite range of topics. Starting one is easy, especially with the onset of content management systems like WordPress which requires no technical ability whatsoever.
Nurturing the (perfect) copy
Perfect copy isn’t about perfect writing.
It’s about the written content really connecting with people which will happen if it’s an extension of you. With this in mind, find written content in your niche that appeals to you then work out what you like about it.
Then, model your written content in a similar way but with your unique insights and voice. This will draw in like-minded people which is important for building the right kind of audience.
Of course, there is a little more to the writing itself. Whilst your copy doesn’t need to be technically perfect, it does need to possess three essential elements.
1. Headlines make a big difference
A headline determines whether your blog post gets read or not. For your content marketing, that’s a big deal.
It’s the difference between lots of readers and none of them. The content could be world beating but it won’t matter if the headline is flat and draws no-one in.
Great headlines are curious, succinct and to the point. They tell people what to expect whilst intriguing them at the same time.
But, there’s more to them than that.
A headline needs to filter out readers as well, catching the ones you want whilst repelling those that you don’t. Attracting a bunch of people who quickly abandon your post because it’s not relevant to them is pointless.
Learn to craft headlines so the right people read your posts – if this turns out to be frustrating and time-consuming, you’re doing it right.
2. Make it personal
A blog post will resonate with someone if it feels real, like you could be sat together talking over coffee.
Forget technical correctness and semantics, just write like you would to a friend. This makes your words sincere and authentic which conveys emotion. It’s this emotive writing that derives and builds the connection with your readers.
If a great headline grabs a reader’s attention, emotive writing keeps and satisfies it.
3. Don’t overcomplicate things
The best blogs are free-flowing and easy to read. It breaks things down into easily digestible pieces so a reader knows what you’re talking about at all times. This type of content marketing is about connecting with people through your writing.
The moment you begin to use more complicated words and overly technical sentences you risk losing them. If this happens a connection can’t happen. Readers will drift away which results in them doing nothing – no reading, no understanding and definitely no engaging with you.
Break up your sentences and make sure each one leads neatly on to the next. Take time to ensure your writing is as simple as possible.
An obvious truth
All this will be a total waste of time if you don’t get traffic to your blog.
To do this you need to understand some Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO focuses on driving website traffic from Google (which gets 92% of search traffic so forget Bing etc).
The goal of any search engine is to provide the most relevant content for any given search query. In other words, Google has to understand your web page in comparison to all the others.
It does this by indexing (i.e. cataloguing) every web page on the internet. Basically, it assesses a site by going through every page, post, word and link to determine what it’s about.
You’ll notice that searches return millions of results – that’s all the pages for that query, ranked according to their relevance. The most relevant is position 1 on page 1 of Google, which means it gets the most traffic (i.e. clicks).
So, SEO is about using specific techniques and practices to get web pages, including blog posts, ranked as high as possible in search results.
Just lay the foundation (for now)
It wouldn’t be helpful to explain the whole of SEO in this post – it’s way too big a topic. Safe to say though, it can’t be ignored and needs to be incorporated into your blogging activities sooner rather than later.
For now, you need to know about search intent.
This is the underlying reason behind a query typed into Google search. It’s the core of all SEO activities – tapping into a specific search intent to then provide an answer in the form of your super-relevant blog post.
For example, if I searched for ‘best website hosting’, my search intent is to learn about, and most likely purchase, the best hosting for a website. If I typed in ‘hotels in Miami’, I’m clearly seeking information about accommodation options with a view to booking one.
Your content needs to be all about your unique experiences and insights, as well as being told in your unique voice as I’ve previously said. But, they also need to provide answers to people’s search intentions too.
The chances are you’d do this naturally, at least to some extent. However, it makes sense to pay special attention to what people search for in Google.
What are the search intentions of people looking for solutions to common problems in your niche?
Incorporate your findings into your content creation by making each blog post answer one search intention at a time.
If your blog posts are relevant they’ll gain a reputation with Google accordingly, which will result in some traffic. The more traffic, the higher the reputation which leads to more traffic and so on.
This is simplistic and there is more to proper SEO obviously. But, for now you’ll invest time creating blog posts that answer specific search intentions. This is the most fundamental aspect of SEO for blog-based content marketing, and can be built on with more in-depth practices down the line.
Customers for life
If your content delivers value by enabling readers to overcome real-life problems, it will stimulate interest in what you do. Even better, if you raise awareness of problems your target audience doesn’t know they have, then provide brilliant solutions, you’ll land customers for life.
You’ll be the authority because you helped them before anyone else did.
On the other hand, if your content misses the mark you’ll spend a whole lot of time generating nothing but words. It’s vital to take the right steps in the right order for maximum time-cost benefit, especially when you’re starting out. So, if I were you (which wasn’t that long ago) I’d continue my education with:
- If You Hire A Web Designer Now, You’ll Regret It Later
- Learn how to make money from blogging by starting one properly
And when you’re done, there’s much more where that came from. Browse away or hop on the newsletter for handpicked, path-relevant content straight to your inbox.