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Content Marketing 101: What You Need to Know

You’ve heard it mentioned in certain circles. Content marketing. It’s the latest rage. Everybody’s doing it. You’re doing for your business, right? You probably laughed nervously and said, “Of course!” meanwhile averting your eyes in hopes that your cohorts wouldn’t know the truth. You have no clue what the heck they’re talking about.

I get it. We’ve all been there. But the truth is, content marketing isn’t just some crazy fad or passing trend. It’s something that successful businesses have been leveraging, to some degree, for decades. Nowadays, it’s more about online than offline, but the concept is the same. Craft compelling content and use it to attract, engage and convert prospects into paying customers.

So….is that it? Of course not. That’s the “content” part of it. The next step is marketing that content in a way that gets the best possible results. Let’s dive a little deeper into what today’s content marketing is, how it works and – most importantly – how you can use it to propel your business to an entirely new level. Oh, and not look clueless during conversations around the water cooler.

First, the What…

What is “content”? Is it what’s on your website? Is it blog articles? To be honest, there’s no one answer to that question. In fact, the term content can be applied to anything you create and share on behalf of your business. Yes, it’s the copy on your website and your blog posts. But it’s so much more than that. It’s also the video tutorial you recorded and posted on YouTube, or the infographic you created with all those cool stats. It’s that email newsletter you send out every week or the white paper you drafted.

I really like how Bill Gates described the role of content on the web. He said, “Those who succeed will propel the Internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products—a marketplace of content.”

The key isn’t so much what the content is made of. It’s more about whether it’s valuable. The goal of content marketing is to deliver something that meets the needs of your target audience. It must provide them with something they can use, whether it’s a list of helpful tips or an informative podcast. Content can also be entertaining. Think about the funny commercials you see on TV or the clever Facebook campaigns by your favorite national brands. That is content, whether you realize it or not, because it accomplishes the goal of capturing your attention and fostering brand recognition.

Now the How…

So, now that you’ve got a better idea of what content can entail, the next step involves understanding how that content can effectively drive the growth of your business. Let’s consider for a moment the way most consumers interact with a company. According to a study conducted by GE Capital Retail Bank, 81% of people say they start the purchasing process by going online. That means they’re turning to Google to search for the particular product or service they’re after. Your product or service.

Provided that you’ve taken the appropriate measures to optimize your content for search engine performance using the right keywords, this is where your hard work will begin to pay off. When a prospective customer sits down with their laptop or picks up their mobile device and enters that magical keyword, your content will help improve the chances that your brand shows up at the top of the list. The more often your content is discovered, the more likely you’ll be to experience growth.

Applying These Concepts Your Business…

You now have a decent idea of what content is and how marketing it works. Now, let’s take a look at a few tips to help you create a highly effective content marketing strategy for your business.

Develop and define specific goals. Don’t just go out there and start slinging all kinds of content around with no real rhyme or reason. Determine what your precise goals are for each campaign, whether it’s to get more signups for your weekly newsletter or to compel someone to purchase your product. Then, craft content that is designed specifically to help achieve those goals.

Don’t overdo it on the keywords. It’s never been a good idea to stuff your content with keywords but about a year ago, Google actually changed its algorithm to give preference to content that is valuable to the reader. In other words, while keywords are still useful, it’s more important that the context of the content is there and that it is of good quality.

Update frequently. Another important part of SEO ranking is fresh content. That’s why Google loves blogs. You should be committing to producing content for your blog at least once per week and keeping up with your social media profiles daily. Again, this doesn’t have to be written content. It can be anything, as long as it’s optimized and updated frequently.

Make it about them. Even though your ultimate goal may be to convert your readers into paying customers, your content won’t help you accomplish this if it’s more about you than it is about them. As mentioned earlier, effective content marketing involves providing something of genuine value. Get to know your audience and what their needs, desires and pain points are. Then, craft your content around that to make it something they can truly use.

Spread the word. If you want people to read, view and share your content, make it easy. Bring it to them. Share it on your social media platforms. Include links to your blog posts in your email communications. Incorporate links to other relevant pages of content throughout your website. Don’t just expect people to come to you.

Include a call to action. Whatever your strategic goals are, your content should reflect them with clear and compelling calls to action. Certain words have a psychological affect and subconsciously push people to act a certain way. For instance, “Act now!” or “Hurry!” create a sense of urgency that makes people feel as though if they don’t do what you’re trying to get them to do right away, they’re going to miss out.

So, there you have it. Content marketing in a nutshell. Now you can get to work developing your own content marketing strategy that will help you achieve all your business goals. More importantly, you won’t have to hide out in your office whenever the topic comes up anymore.

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