When “inbound marketing” first became a thing over a decade ago, it was home to a very niche community of SEO geeks, online marketers, and web content writers.
However, when the opportunity for brand awareness, traffic, and sales became common knowledge, everyone from fortune 500 enterprises to your great aunt’s wools sock business dove in.
As a result, it’s incredibly easy to be just another drop in the search engine ocean. You need to find a way to make your content stand out and reach your target audience online.
But how do you compete with giant corporations, million-dollar budgets, and teams of seasoned content marketers?
That’s what we’re going to teach you in this guide. We’ll share 9 concrete content marketing tips that can help you drive short-and long-term results, even if you just created your blog today.
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A bit of history: How the Online Content Landscape has Changed
Today, 82% of marketers say they “actively invest” in content marketing, and it’s easy to see the change. The online landscape has changed completely.
The internet has become crowded, from a couple of million sites in the mid-2000s to almost 2 billion in 2021.
And on these sites, millions and millions of new articles, blog posts, videos, guides, and more, go live every single day. A modest estimate of WordPress blogs alone suggests that 2.3 million new posts go live daily.
And it’s not just the volume of websites and content that is up; the quality of content has also increased over the years. In 2014, most bloggers spent just 1-2 hours on each blog post.
In 2021, 57% of content creators spent 3 hours or more on all pieces of content.
This data reflects my experience: I see a smaller share of bland “SEO-only” content on the internet today.
Revamping your Content Strategy from Scratch
So how can you stand out? An essential tactic or a few “tips” aren’t enough if you’re struggling to drive results. You must revamp your entire content plan and strategy and start from stage one.
The tips for content marketing I share below will surely deliver results on their own, but together, they can help you create and implement an effective content strategy from start to finish.
1. Start with In-depth Keyword Research
There’s no room for guesswork when deciding which topics to write about. There’s a right way to make that decision for online content, which all boils down to keyword research.
Keyword research is about figuring out what your ideal customers are likely searching for. Then, narrow those phrases and keywords down to an attainable selection for which you can realistically rank content.
But since “everyone is already doing it,” you might not think that it can make any difference in today’s online landscape. Sure, almost everyone who has a website is doing “SEO” today, but because of the natural human tendency to settle for the path of least resistance, most content marketing teams aren’t putting in enough effort.
In 2021, 43% of content marketers ranked more content organically by “putting more effort into keyword research.”
So don’t just look at a single keyword report in Ahrefs and call it quits.
Instead, you want to:
- Ideate a number of “base keywords” for your site and save the most promising keywords from each.
- Do competitor keyword research and run a content gap analysis to figure out what they’re covering that you’re missing.
- Look at existing ranking content and identify any low-hanging fruit keywords (already ranking at #11-20 in the SERPs).
And once you have a list of 100+ viable keywords, start to prioritize and arrange based on these three factors:
- The search volume (the higher, the better)
- The competition (the lower, the better)
- Commercial intent (the closer to making a purchase, the better)
For example, if you’re selling kitchen appliances, creating a post targeting the term “gelato maker” would make a lot more sense than “how to make ice cream.”
Although the latter gets over 30 times more searches, it’s a lot more competitive. Plus, people searching for a specific type of ice cream maker are way closer to making a purchase.
This keyword also shows that you can’t always rely on CPCs to indicate commercial intent. Sometimes, you just have to do the work manually. There’s no substitute for doing intentional keyword research at the beginning of a content marketing campaign.
2. Understand who you’re Writing for and What they want to Read
Content marketing blogs are full of generic tips about “search intent” and how to write for your “target audience.”
It’s not enough to just decide on a generic voice and pump out content in the same way for every keyword.
And it’s also not enough to just adapt your content style a bit based on the type of keyword the Google user is searching for.
You need to do both at the same time.
The easiest way to figure out search intent — what a user searching for a phrase is actually looking for — is to explore the SERPs yourself.
If you search for a brand name of a specific product, Google will infer (usually correctly) that you want to explore relevant products.
If you’re searching for “how to manage SaaS apps,” you’ll instead get detailed how-to guides from reputable sites in the space.
Since Google uses a variety of factors, including click-through rate (CTR), the algorithm is actually very good at predicting the content type the user wants to see, so you can get most of the information straight from the source.
Certain keywords have more than one intent, so you must make a judgment call about which to focus on with your content. Always note which angle and type of content seem to best match the keyword during research — you don’t want any writers to get confused later on in the process.
The second aspect is your overall target audience, which you need to address with the following: different personas that represent various subgroups of your ideal customers, and the voices you’ll use to appeal to each of them.
3. Implement a Proven Strategy for Planning and Structuring content
While you could start getting some organic traffic from just creating content targeting keywords, your results will scale exponentially if you use an effective content marketing strategy.
Both internally and for the work we do at our sister company, the content agency Codeless, we stick to the “pillar and post” strategy (mostly identical to the “hub and spoke” model).
It basically boils down to this:
- Create longer, in-depth content (pillar pages) targeting competitive keywords with a high volume. These pages should target larger topics with many directly related minor topics and keywords.
- Support your pillar content with shorter posts targeting relevant keywords — related questions, products, or any smaller topic that makes sense from an SEO perspective.
For example, this guide is a piece of pillar content, targeting a high-volume top-of-funnel keyword: “content marketing tips.”
A few relevant topics include search intent, keyword research, content briefs, and more (notice how we include internal links to and from to connect these pieces to the pillar).
4. Invest time and money into high-quality content
It might seem basic, but it’s a must for content marketers aiming for authority and serious traffic, leads, and online sales today. And despite how often this advice is repeated and preached, most content teams and companies come up short with content quality.
So because it’s rare, it’s a key part of what makes leading content marketers succeed today — in 2021, 61% of content marketers highlighted improving content quality as the tactic that helped the most with ranking content.
So why doesn’t everyone just create better content? It’s simple; high quality is expensive in both time and money. Even if you’re outsourcing content, you need to invest time upfront in finding the right writer or agency (and they’re expensive).
But let me be clear; perfect grammar and an English degree do not equal an ability to create high-quality content for your site. Instead, focus on the ability to write engaging web copy, simple paragraphs that flow well and read easily, and — most importantly — subject matter expertise.
Even a great writer is a liability if they have zero experience with the topic your site is covering. You’ll have to double and triple-check their work for topical inconsistencies or simply bad advice, in addition to all the grammar and SEO checks you would normally do.
5. Use content briefs and writer’s guides to enable consistency
When you have more than a single writer on a content team, or if you rely on freelance writers, you need to work to minimize the differences in voice and content.
The first “line of defense” here is creating detailed writer’s guides for specific clients or internal sites, including voice guidelines, linking dos and don’ts, image policies, and more.
The second is content briefs — short instructional documents that you can attach to your content calendar assignments to help writers stick to the landing. A good brief will include the following:
- Focus keyword (and secondary keywords)
- A breakdown of the search intent
- Word count
- Suggested headers and questions based on SERP research (from Google-related searches, people also ask questions, and more)
If some writers have limited subject expertise, include a suggested angle and any relevant resources as well. This will help your writers consistently deliver the content both readers and search engines are looking for.
6. Structure your content team for scalability from day one
The key to attaining real success with content marketing — hundreds of thousands of organic visits and plenty of leads and sales per month — is scale and time.
When done right, content marketing works kind of like investing. There’s a strong compounding effect.
The stronger your domain is, the more your content ranks. Greater exposure leads to more links, which in turn, makes your domain stronger and your email list larger. This, in turn, makes your content rank faster.
This also happens on a smaller scale with Topical Authority as a Google ranking factor. The more relevant links and high-quality content you have for a specific topic, the stronger all of that content becomes (even if your domain is still relatively weak).
To take advantage of this, build scale straight into your content team from day one. We recommend you hire a seasoned content manager first and then build a stable of freelance writers who can deliver high-quality content. Read more about how to structure your content team for scale and rapid growth.
7. Use smart content tools to make your life easier
Doing content marketing correctly involves a lot of boring, menial work, like research, data entry, and more. But luckily, many of these tasks can be done faster with the right software. And even automate some of them completely.
For a modern editorial workflow, use Google Docs.
With reliable sharing and access controls, color-coded version control based on user, and plenty of other collaboration tools, Google Docs is the perfect tool for creating content for the web at scale.
For painless publishing into your CMS, use Wordable.
Want to publish in one click instead of 15-30 minutes of copy and paste followed by reformatting? Wordable allows perfectly-formatted exports to the CMS of your choice (WordPress, Hubspot, or Medium).
Use Frase for easier research and pre-publish optimization.
Frase is a smart content tool that lets you prepare content briefs and outlines easier (by analyzing the SERPs and suggesting questions, headers, and more), and a content optimization tool that compares the keyword density of all semantic keywords in your content.
For more options, read our post about the best content marketing tools.
8. Use checklists to ensure optimization before publishing
Unfortunately, an app can’t magically optimize your content for SEO, readability, and accuracy. You have to create your own checklists for this, and you need some way to ensure that your writers and editors actually go through them.
At Codeless, we set up checklists within ClickUp task cards to facilitate this.
The checklists are conditional; the writer can’t move a piece to an editor without completing them. We also have similar checklists for our editors to go through to ensure that no issues, major or minor, make it through to the final piece.
9. Use analytics correctly
Sitting inside Google Analytics poring over your traffic numbers is not a good use of your time. Instead, you want to focus on specific reports and early indicator metrics that can help tell you if you’re going in the right direction.
The behavior reports are often more helpful than the acquisition ones.
Metrics like exit rates and time on site can show you how initial users are reacting to your content and whether something needs optimization or not.
It’s a lot more complex than that, but luckily, our CEO, Brad, has written an in-depth cheat sheet for content marketing analytics that you can steal.
To consistently reach potential customers and get results from the content in your editorial calendar, you need the right strategy, team, process, and tools.
The tips in this article have outlined exactly how you can get started on the right foot. If you’re still struggling with a painful publishing process, get your five free exports with the Wordable trial today.