How To Create a Growth-Driven Content Marketing Strategy

When it comes to content, most marketers don’t start from scratch. They join companies that already have blogs and resources. It’s a content marketer’s job to make that existing content shine, and to effectively create more successful content pieces.

But what if you work at a startup or company that doesn’t have content marketing at all? How can you create a content marketing strategy from the ground up? It’s a real challenge.

Some marketers see content as a quick way to generate stuff to share on social media, or as an easy avenue to gain customers, but content marketing is tough. You need to make sure you have definitive goals, a solid plan, and an army of talent to help execute. 

There’s a lot to do, and in this post, I’ll offer my tips on how to create a growth-driven content marketing strategy from the ground up.

Step 1. Decide on Goals

When it comes down to it, content marketing is all about attracting the right audience to your business. Sometimes, that audience is ready to buy today. Or, maybe they’ll buy from you tomorrow, next month, or a year from now.

The most important thing to do when you get started is to step back and think about why it’s important to build a content marketing strategy. Here’s why I believe content marketing is essential:

  • Brand awareness – Get people familiar with your brand so they’ll think of you when they’re in need.
  • Opportunity for the right traffic - Whether it comes from SEO, social media, or another source, you want qualified traffic coming to your site.
  • Building a sales funnel – You can use content marketing to build a sales funnel so that generated leads are red hot.

When you get started, think about your goals. Does it make sense to build a sales funnel using content, or are you more on the hunt for brand awareness? As you’re developing a strategy, you want to ensure your plan meets your particular goals.

Note that your goals may depend a lot on your product, and whether it’s targeted at consumers or those in the B2B space. A company selling goods to consumers may care more about brand awareness than a software company who would prefer to have leads.

Step 2. Research Your Audience

Your products and services were created to help people in some way. How do they help? For example, if you sell fun pool floats, then you’re helping people have fun when they’re at the pool or down by the lake.

In order to develop an effective, growth-driven content marketing strategy, you need to figure out how to solve those same problems with your content. The pool float company might create articles on how to baby-proof a pool, or how to host the world’s best pool party, all in the name of helping the audience have more fun in their backyards. These articles will draw pool owners to the site, where they’ll get introduced to an amazing array of pool floats.

When you’re building a content marketing strategy, you need determine your audience’s pain points, figure out where they need help, and provide them with resources that answer their deepest questions.

Step 3. Develop a Growth-Driven Plan

Once you’ve figured out your goals and considered your audience, it’s time to get to the meat of it. You need to develop a plan to help execute your content marketing strategy. Here’s what needs to be included in your plan:

  • Topics for Posts - You should create a lengthy list of topics you want to cover based on what will attract your audience. You should also employ some SEO-driven content strategies at this stage to help your content appear in Google search results. If you feel that you’re not great at coming up with topics, a consultant can help by coming up with topics for you. If you need help with topic ideation, I’ve written about how to come up with content ideas that actually perform well.
  • Style Guide Creation – A style guide is a document that explains the goals of your content marketing, the voice you’ll use, some examples of content you like, and which grammar rules you follow (most online publications use AP style). The style guide can be passed on to any freelance writer to get them up to speed on writing for your brand.
  • Editorial Calendar – An editorial calendar is your content schedule, though experts disagree on how rigid you need to be. In general, an editorial calendar helps ensure you’re publishing helpful content on a regular basis, and can assist you in keeping track of which writer is working on each content piece. CoSchedule is a great tool for editorial calendars.
  • Email List – You’re developing a growth-driven content plan, and your email list is an avenue that’s important to grow. Alongside your blog, you’ll need an email newsletter filled with helpful content that gets sent on a regular basis. When you’re developing a content strategy, figure out what this email will include, and how often it will be sent out. Email copy is important– here’s my advice on how to write email copy that converts.
  • Promotional Plan – In order to fuel growth, you need a healthy promotion plan. Whether you encourage influencers to share your resources, pay to boost your content on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, or syndicate your content at other popular blogs– you need a plan for promotion!

Step 4. Find Content Creators to Help Execute

Whether you’re a content marketer who was hired because of your writing skills, or you’re a startup founder who finds it difficult to write quickly, freelancers and consultants can help you execute on your plan.

I’m a firm believer in using freelancers and consultants. Without them, it would be impossible for me to create as much content as I’d like and still focus on my responsibilites. Running a healthy content marketing team is a job in itself, and creating all the content yourself is challenging.

I have a number of talented freelance writers that I work with, and we’ve developed solid relationships over time. These freelance writers have been working with me long enough to understand my brand, style, and how to write for my audience.

Finding talented freelancers can be a challenge, however. I recommend asking your connections for recommendations before turning to a site like Upwork. Doing searches on LinkedIn is also a good way to find writers.

Quick Note: When it comes to hiring freelancers, you tend to get what you pay for. It’s worth it to pay top dollar for a great writer. These high caliber writers are more likely to do their research and turn in what you’ve asked for, and they’re less likely to require significant editing work from you.

Step 5. Work That Email List

Like I said earlier, an email list is an essential part of a growth-driven content marketing plan. Email allows you to stay in touch with your audience, even after they’ve left your site. It allows you to show up in their inbox on a regular basis.

There are a lot of tactics you can use to encourage people to sign up. On When I Work’s blog, a pop up appears that encourages readers to sign up to get our insights via email (we use the SumoMe Welcome Mat). We’ve found that including the number of existing subscribers helps validate us in the minds of our readers.

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When it comes to the emails themselves, we’ve seen a lot of success from sending plain-text emails. Plain-text emails can be a lot more impactful, mostly because they read like they’re coming from a friend, rather than a large brand.

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When I write these emails, I try to use friendly, approachable language, even though the When I Work product is meant for businesses. I write these emails as though I’m writing to a friend because that’s how I want my audience to think of me– as a reliable, helpful friend.

Step 6. Bake in Promotion

Without promotion, it’s unlikely anyone will see your content. Unfortunately, even if you’ve written or published an amazingly helpful and timely piece of content, there’s no guarantee it will make it to your audience.

I’m a big believer in giving attention to content promotion, and it’s best to bake in promotion when you’re developing an overall content marketing plan. I’ve tried a number of promotional tactics and hacks to get my content out there, and I’ve seen a lot of great results.

One of my favorite ways to promote content is to find influencers who can speak to the topic at hand. After I interview them, I find ways to include their insights into my content. When the content is published, they’re likely to share the content with their audience.

Other content marketers have seen success from syndicating their content at other publications, such as the Huffington Post or Business 2 Community. Buffer has had a number of their articles syndicated on Fast Company, and it’s done wonders to help get them on the map.

Step 7. Examine and Iterate

Following the steps in this post will set you up to create a growth-driven content marketing strategy that get results. But content marketing isn’t something that you can set and forget. Instead, you need to examine which posts perform well, and where your traffic is coming from.

In order to accurately examine and improve your efforts, you’ll need to have robust analytics. I recommend Google Analytics because it’s free, comprehensive, and an industry standard. Reading up on Google Analytics will help you excel. If you know how to use the tool, you’ll find nuggets of information that can set you on the right path.

The Path to Content Marketing Growth

It’s tough to build a growth-driven content marketing strategy from the ground up. If you’re able to do it successfully, you’ll set your marketing up for success. You’ll get tons of traffic from the right sources, leading to brand recognition, conversions, and ultimately sales.

Growth-driven content marketing is no longer optional– it’s an essential part of building a loveable brand that people want to buy from. Good luck!

6 Lesser-Known Content Promotion Hacks to Try in 2016

When you finish creating a piece of content, it’s tempting to sit back, relax, then wait for the praise to pour in. Unfortunately, that’s not the way content marketing works.

As more and more content gets published on the internet, it’s become important for us marketers to find clever ways to get our content in front of an audience. That means coming up with clever content promotion strategies, ones that are different from what everyone else is doing.

Over the past few months, I’ve been experimenting with different ways to promote content. Some strategies have worked, while others have fallen flat. All in all, my experiments haev helped me determine what could get results moving forward.

Here are 6 lesser-known content promotion hacks to try in 2016:

1. The Intercom Message

Ever heard of Intercom? Intercom is a revolutionary customer communication platform in whatever way you see fit. Customer engagement experts use the service to talk to their customers via email, chat, inside apps, and in tons of other mediums.

Typically, Intercom is used to help people convert or overcome objections during the buyer’s journey (i.e. do you have any questions about our product?). But I’ve discovered that Intercom is actually a great way to promote content.

I recently used the tool to promote one of our best new blog posts: How To Manage Millennials In The Workplace. It’s a 4,500+ word guide packed full of actionable tips, tricks, and tactics that business owners can use to manage their employees.

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One of Intercom’s best features is its segmentation tool. That is, you can segment your list in a multitude of ways to make sure the right audience is getting a particular kind of communication. It’s especially useful because of the amount of segmenting you can do to your list.

2. The Plain-Text Email

When email first came out, plain-text messages were the only kind we got. I still send plain-text emails to my friends and family, but I’ve begun sending them to my readers, as well.

These days, email marketing clients push shiny templates so hard that many marketers have forgotten the power of a good ol’ plain-text email. Sure, these flashy emails serve a purpose, but they’re not always a direct route to the heart of your reader.

Additionally, most businesses have automatic RSS emailing set up so that people get emails as soon as a new blog post goes out. When you stop to think about it, these automated emails aren’t very personal. They feel like they’re coming from a large corporation, rather than a trusted friend.

Here’s a typical email I’ll send out every so often to my subscribers in place of the typical automated email they are used to receiving from us:

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I’ve found that plain-text emails can be a lot more impactful, mostly because they read like they’re coming from a friend, rather than a large brand.

3. The Influencer Round-Up

When you start thinking about creating a piece of content, think about promotion at the beginning of the process. If the content is promotion-driven from the start, you’ll have a lot more luck getting out there once it’s published.

For example, I recently published a post on content marketing trends I think we’ll see in the coming year. When I was researching that post, I asked a bunch of experts what they thought. I knew their insights would help my audience, but I also knew the audience would share the post once it was published.

Here’s the other thing– this tactic ONLY works when you have a good topic and a TON of value in the post itself. The post has to be great enough so that the influencers are excited to be included in the post, and the average reader finds it insightful enough to share.

It’s not enough to interview a few experts and include some quotes. You need to carefully choose a topic, and only share quotes that are truly helpful to your readers.

When you publish your post, make sure to personally email every person mentioned in the article letting them know it went live and asking them to share. If your group is small, do this outreach manually. If it’s bigger, use my friend Sujan’s tool, Content Marketer. It will save you tons of time.

4. The Promotion Army

You’re only one person, so if you share a post on your own social media accounts, it may not have much impact. That’s why I recommend building a network or community of people that are interested in what you have to say, and will, in turn, help share your content.

For example, I might ask a question about hiring content marketers on a forum, such as Inbound.org, and my question might spark a debate with a large group of people. When I write a post about that topic, I’ll be able to promote it within the forum’s thread. I also work with a lot of content marketers, freelancers, and business experts that have a history of sharing my content. When I write something I think they’ll enjoy, I’m able to personally reach out to them and share what I’ve created.

Your promotion army can come from communities like Inbound or GrowthHackers, Facebook groups, or private Slack groups. Remember to help others in these groups too, even if they don’t take the time to help you.

5. The Help Section Article

If you manage content for a software company, chances are, you’re going to have a help section with a host of articles on how to complete different tasks.

But when someone comes looking for an answer to a question, they may be willing to read more content that’s useful to them. You can go beyond answering a user’s questions, and include links to blog posts in relevant help section articles. For example, if someone has a question about how to use your email feature, you might link to an article on how to write great email subject lines.

Don’t just include a spammy CTA at the end of a help section article. You can either try to work your article into the body organically, or create a bulleted list at the end of the post with a few helpful articles.

6. The Free Email Course

Ebooks aren’t as popular as they used to be because consumers are wary of forking over their email addresses only to get a so-so eBook.

Instead of writing eBooks, many marketers are beginning to create free email courses to help their audiences. The idea here is to slice and dice 7 to 10 of your most popular blog posts and turn them into an email course.

Basically, you send subscribers an email once per week with new content that can help them with their pain points. You might create a guide to creating a sales funnel, and each week send an email addressing a different aspect of this task.

Here’s one of my favorite recent examples of an email course. In this course, Buffer helps people get up to speed on being successful on social media.

Click here to see a sneak peek of day one email from this course. What you’ll hopefully notice is that the content in their day one email looks very similar to a blog post—that’s likely because they are actually repurposing content from one or a few of their best blog posts and repackaging them into a convenient, value-packed email course. It’s a great and incredibly effective content repurposing strategy.

To create an email course, I recommend these tools:

Promotion Tactics That Work

As a content marketer, you always want to be moving forward and trying out new tactics. Content promotion will remain a focus in the coming year, and it’s best to think about what strategies to try now.

The Biggest Content Marketing Trends To Focus on In 2016

Ever hear the term “content fatigue?”

It’s the idea that there’s so much content that people can’t even consume it any more. There’s too much to read, too many social media posts, and too many articles that appear when you Google something.

The amount of content out there is overwhelming.

But the fact is— content marketing works. It drives traffic to websites, builds authority, and can drives leads down sales funnels.  But as we move towards 2016, we need to find ways to blow past content fatigue so that we’re consistently impressing, educating, and delighting our audiences.

In the coming year, we can beat content fatigue by challenging ourselves when it comes to how we think about marketing. To that end, I’ve outlined 6 content marketing trends you should be prepared to capitalize on in 2016. 

I’ve also reached out to a number of my marketer and entrepreneur friends and asked them to share their thoughts on 2016 trends. You’ll find great information and insight from them throughout this post.

1. Beyond The Blog Post

Blog posts are the perfect vehicle for relaying information quickly and succinctly. You can read a blog post while you’re waiting in line. Unfortunately, the traditional 500-800 word blog post isn’t compelling enough to people anymore.

These days, content marketers need to think beyond simply publishing blog posts week after week. You need to think bigger in terms of the purpose behind the content you create, the repurposing opportunities that exist, and the life and evolution of the content itself.

“Your content needs to bring something new to the conversation in 2016. It’s not about simply producing content and having a blog anymore– you need to be a unique voice with powerful insights if you want to stand out from the noise.” — Kaleigh Moore, Freelance Copywriter at KaleighMoore.com

“Instapage focuses heavily on content marketing. We believe that it a primary element in raising brand awareness. Interactive content and GIF’s will prove to be a powerful trend. Our use of interactive content has already improved our engagement and we foresee this continuing through 2016.” — Kieran Daniels, Director of Business Development at Instapage

“I really think that companies that will move away from the standard “must-publish each day/week” approach and choose the “Opposite Framework” will win. Creating & promoting long-form 10x content that provides real value not only to the target audience, but also to influencers will make the difference.” — Alin Vlad, Director of Online at Heimdal Security

Before you consider producing a blog post, you need to think about how you can promote that content and re-use it in different ways (ebooks, graphics, emails, social media updates, etc.).

For example, when I created Team Building Games for When I Work, I wasn’t ok with coming up with a link-baity title and throwing together 5 or 6 lame ideas. Instead, I planned and strategized and packaged 7,000+ words into an awesome, compelling content hub.

2. Deeper Personalization

Ever feel like an article or ad is speaking directly to you? It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, you find it extremely compelling.

Content marketers need to be more specific with the topics they come up with if they want to actually connect with customers. General topics are boring. Personalized topics that readers can actually relate to and use will be much more valuable and effective.

“People are getting smarter about how they get information, and are weeding out things that don’t apply to what they want when they want it, so I think personalization is going to be a lot more critical in the coming years. Success will derive from TRULY understanding the customer journey and targeting messages that speak to needs at whatever stage they’re in.” — Katrishia Velez, SEO and Content Manager at Kroll

“Businesses should understand the importance of going after the “long tail” when it comes to content marketing. Niching down won’t help you target your demographic, it’ll help you HYPER-target them.” – Dan Scalco, Director of Growth at Digitalux

For example, if I was heading up content marketing at a customer support SaaS company, I wouldn’t just publish general topics over and over again about customer support. Instead, I might publish something more personalized and specific to the needs of my audience.

Consider the difference between these two posts:

  • 15 Ways To Become a Better Customer Service Pro (yuck)
  • How To Use Language & Communication Psychology To Put Out Fires & Delight Your Most Challenging Customers (better)

One is a simple click-baity article, though it could be full of good nuggets, while the other specifically targets the type of language a customer support pro would need to use to excel in their job.

3. In-Line Content Upgrade Offers

When was the last time you clicked on a Call-to-Action (CTA) at the end of a blog post?

Traditional lead gen CTAS (typically placed at the beginning or end of a blog post) are not as effective as they once were. People skip over them. You can’t just slap on the same ebook CTA to the bottom of all your blog posts and expect to grow your list.

“If your content marketing lead gen tactics are on auto-pilot, you’re doing something wrong. As a content marketer, it’s your job to test and implement new tactics that can fuel sign-ups and growth. Don’t just rely on the same old blog RSS opt-in form that you’ve always used and expect your list to grow dramatically. Instead, think of new ways to fuel list growth. My favorite new tactic that I’ve been testing is simple: create additional resources (checklists, worksheets, templates, etc.) and bake them organically into blog posts. Make sure they are uber specific and relate directly to what you’re writing about. They don’t have to be complicated or require a lot of additional resources to create…they just have to offer a bit more value than what you’re offering in the post itself. Give them away for free in exchange for email addresses and promote the hell out of them.” — Sujan Patel, Founder at Content Marketer

You have to do more work to develop content upgrades that relate to your blog post. Then you have to offer those content upgrades naturally within the text of your blog posts. CoSchedule does a good job of this – they are constantly offering checklists and templates that you can download that add even more value to their blog posts.

4. Promotion-Driven Content

In addition to developing high-quality content that actually helps people, it’s also important to develop promotion-driven content. This simply means strategically developing content that you can actually promote.

You can do this by including quotes from influencers, mentioning people or tools, or making giant lists that include a lot of people. If you do these posts right, you should be able to email a handful of people within seconds of your post going live to let them know you included them.

For example, if you’re writing a guide on how to plan an employee holiday party, you can create a list of company culture experts and event planners.

Then, you can email each person on this list, and ask for some insights, which you include in your guide. When the guide is published, you can email those who shared their insights, and encourage them to share the guide with their audience.

“I think outreach is pretty crucial if you want your content to gain traction.  By contacting companies/individuals that you mention in your articles, as well as industry blogs, you can really get a huge boost to your content’s exposure.” — Kane Miller, Founder at DoSocial

“B2B content and marketing teams need to work more closely with account management and sales in two areas: topic development and distribution. Client-facing teams are instant, untapped distribution channels that are currently underutilized. Practical tips: integrate content marketing with cold emails and lead nurturing campaigns, to build relationships at scale.” — Ritika Puri, Founder at Storyhackers

When creating content that’s promotion-driven, I recommend making it 80% educational, value-based content, and 20% promotion-driven. BUT it’s important that the promotion-driven content that makes up that 20% is still valuable and authentic. It can’t be overly promotional or disingenuous. It has to be real.

5. Education-Focused Content

When you want to know something, how often do you turn to Google? I do it all the time.

Educational content has always worked. When you create something that solves people’s problems, it’s likely to be successful. Additionally, Google likes to give people answers, so if you’re able to create a post that provides the best possible answer to a search query, you’re likely to get some organic traffic.

“Old standbys, like email and educational content, will still work as we move into the future. People are still checking their email, and they’re still Googling around for articles that can answer their most pressing questions. When I want to know which curling iron to buy, I want to read a great article that gives me information on my options.” — Emma Siemasko, Founder, Stories by Emma

“Companies should stop going after high traffic keywords with their blog posts and switch their strategy to go after more long-tail search traffic. In doing this while at ThinkApps, I was able to increase their organic traffic from 0-12k unique visitors a month in just 6 months. It’s less competitive and if you focus on matching content to search intent, it will also drive qualified leads for your company. For example, when I was at a software development company, one article we wrote that proved valuable for us was content about iOS vs. android development. If you think about a buyers search intent when they’re searching for something like this, they have typically decided that they’re going to build an app but they just need help deciding which platform to build on first. By providing valuable content early on in the decision making process, that person is more likely to come back to you for your services because you built trust with them by helping them weigh the pros and cons of each platform.” — Benji Hyam, Director of Growth at Everwise

“The trend is for people to produce more low quality content – which gives smart content marketers the ability to cut through the crap with really strong, authoritative, helpful content.  Throw away the rubbish and write stuff that genuinely helps people.  I’m reading more and more comments about how articles are providing nothing more than regurgitated information and not enough new content.” — William Harris, VP of Marketing & Growth at Dollar Hobbyz

In 2016, content marketers have an opportunity to produce some really awesome education-focused content in the form of email drips, courses, and other types of advanced media.

Tools like GetDrip, ConvertKit, and Teachable make it easy to create educational content that will resonate with your audience.

6. Email Marketing

Email marketing can help you reach everyone. In fact, according to Pew Research, 92% of adults use email.

Additionally, people like receiving emails from companies. According to Nielsen, when asked to opt-in to receive updates from a company 90% of people chose to receive those updates via email, compared to 10% that wanted updates via Facebook. 

Email is still one of the best ways to communicate directly with people, but you have to be strategic and proactive in your efforts. You have to commit to building your list, but you also need to be ready to consistently communicate with the people that sign up to receive your updates.

Of course, you also need to have something to say. Email requires that you get back to basics, creating well-designed emails that are easy to read.

Tools can help. Email marketing tools like GetDrip and Campaign Monitor can help you easily create all kinds of email campaigns.

7. Content Repurposing

As we enter 2016, many of us will have built up an immense library of content. Instead of automatically creating new content, we should ask ourselves how we can improve on what we already have. Maybe we can refine an article so that it’s more likely to appear in Google search results. Perhaps we can turn an eBook into an email course.

“If content is a coveted business asset, then try to imagine ways you can get the most mileage from it. One great topic can provide the foundation for a multitude of content. A webinar or podcast can be transcribed and turned into various blog posts and posts that are perfect for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. A long video can be edited into short-form content that is published to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Many organizations complain that they have the lack of resources or budget to create content. And while there is such a thing as too much content, or a lack of quality content, businesses that think about re-purposing material on various channels have a better shot of extending their brand and ending up in the never-ending cascade of content in a social stream.” – Taylor Pipes, Content Writer, Evernote

In 2016, take a look at content that’s already performed well on your blog, and figure out ways to repurpose or reuse it. Maybe it can become an email course or an eBook. Look at content that didn’t perform well, but has potential. See if you can find opportunities to improve how it ranks in SERPS, or if you can repromote the content on social media.

Tactics to Beat Fatigue

As we approach a new year, we need to take a step back and look at where our content efforts currently stand, and where we want to go in the future.

We don’t want people getting tired of our content. We want to make sure that we’re continuing to be innovative. We want to use tactics that lead to results.

What do you expect to see in 2016? What content marketing trends should we incorporate into our strategies?

How to Come Up With Content Ideas That Actually Perform Well

It’s easy to sit at your computer and churn out a blog post. If you’re a decent writer, you can handle that.

But too many content marketers come up with ideas that initially seem great, but don’t perform well once they’re out in the world. These content assets don’t get that many views, aren’t shared on social media, and don’t appear in search results. If a piece of content doesn’t perform well, it means you’ve put time and effort into something that isn’t helping your brand.

I’ve published content that hasn’t performed– we all have. That’s part of being a content marketer. However, through trial and error, I’ve been able to figure out how to come up with content ideas that actually perform well.

In this post, I’m going to share my secrets so that you can come up with well-performing content ideas too.

Tip #1: Don’t Save Promotion for Last

You can only promote content marketing material when you’re done with it, so many of us save promotion for last. When the piece is finished, we develop a social sharing strategy, add some SEO tags, and hope for the best.

But when you’re coming up with your next greatest content idea, bake promotion into the process.

For example, when writing to managers and leaders on the When I Work blog, we knew that information about great apps would really resonate, as we know our audience is always looking for the best new tools. So we created 18 Apps Every Smart Boss Knows About, which included 18 SaaS companies that small business owners can use to optimize or improve their business.

But we baked promotion into the process from the beginning– We compiled email addresses for representatives at each company, and when we hit publish, we contacted them to let them know they were included. Promotion was always part of the plan.

Most companies shared it, so we were able to penetrate other communities online. It also helped that the post was very visual. We put a little extra effort into the presentation to make it a really great user experience for our readers. Since going live in July of 2014, it’s brought in 70K+ pageviews to our blog.

Tip #2: Know Your Target Audience

It’s well and good to create an asset that goes viral, but if it doesn’t resonate with your audience and lead to conversions, is it really performing well?

At When I Work, we know our audience inside out. When we come up with content ideas, we try to address our audience’s pain points and give them the resources they need to be successful.

One post that performed particularly well was The 12-Step Process For Improving Your People Management Skills. This post did well because it aligns very closely with our customer base and target audience. Our customers and users can relate and benefit from the content in this post because many of them are managers of people.

Tip #3: Make it Better Than Anything Else Out There

One of the surefire ways to come up with content ideas is to look at what’s already out there. I noticed that many publications were writing about millennials in the workplace, and I knew this was an issue that concerned our audience.

So I thought about how we could get a unique angle, and decided that our best shot was to create something that was better than anything else out there. Why create a 1,500 word blog post when we could create an epic guide?

That’s how the Epic Guide To Managing Millennials In The Workplace was born. The keyword research was strong, the topic was timely, it aligned with our target audience, and we wound up with a 4,500+ word guide that covered every aspect of managing millennials.

The piece went through several rounds of edits and a ton of research. Our efforts paid off–it brought in 10K+ pageviews to our blog in the first 15 days.

Tip #4: Do Your Keyword Research

Most content that performs well has something in common– it wasn’t created out of nowhere. Significant keyword research went into exploring the topics before anyone began typing anything up. Before the content was born, someone was making sure it was a good idea.

Learning how to do keyword research well can be a bit challenging, but once you’ve mastered the art, you’ll be able to easily apply what you know when you’re coming up with new ideas for content.

My post, The 12-Step Process For Improving Your People Management Skills, owes its success to keyword planning. The particular keyword phrase we were targeting for this post gets 12K+ average monthly searches on Google.  Because of this volume, and because we were writing to meet this keyword, the post brought in over 10K pageviews to our blog in the first 45 days.

Everything I know on this subject can be gound in Backlinko’s Keyword Research: The Definitive Guide, as well as CoSchedule’s Guide to SEO Driven Content Marketing. Both of these resources can help you understand how to conduct keyword research that leads to content marketing success. When conducting keyword research, I primarily use the Google Keyword Planner tool.

Tip #5: Honor the Good Idea

If you come up with a good idea, you have to honor it. That means you need to do your best to give that idea a chance to succeed. Don’t write a 400 word blog post, click publish, and call it a day. Good ideas deserve attention and careful thought.

You need to figure out which keywords will get your content in front of the right audience, and you need to bake in a promotion strategy as you’re coming up with the idea, not after the fact.

You’re a bastion of creativity, and you can absolutely come up with ideas that resonate with your audience. Be sure to survey your audience, talk to your customers, and figure out what pain points are most pressing. What is your audience Googling during their work day, and how can you create content that’ll genuinely help?

Still have questions? Ask me below, I’ll do my best to help!

The 5 People You Need To Build an Epic Content Marketing Team

When I first started working in content marketing, I did most things on my own. I wrote blog posts, promoted my work, created images for social media, and optimized everything for SEO. But the landscape of content marketing has changed a lot since then. Eventually, working as a jack-of-all-trades wasn’t cutting it, especially as I wanted to take on bigger projects.

As companies grow and marketing efforts scale up, many content marketers begin to crave support. We want help creating stuff that connects with our audience.

In order to accomplish our goals, we need dynamic teams that can work together. These teams can create content marketing that drives traffic, resonates with an audience, and helps get potential customers down the sales funnel.

In 2016, content marketers should build teams with the following 5 roles:

1. Crafter

Whether you hire freelance content crafters or source in-house, the crafter is an essential part of your team. You want someone who can write clearly, has some experience writing for the web, and has a distinct voice that keeps the reader interested. Creativity is a bonus.

I’ve hired content crafters through various ‘content farm’ sites that help connect freelancers with companies in need of copy — and I don’t recommend it. I spent too much time re-writing and editing because the quality just wasn’t there. You’re much better off taking the time to find someone who really knows what they are doing. The cost will be higher, but it’ll be worth it.

My recommendation for finding great writers is pretty simple: go to some of the best sites in your industry and find articles that you like.

Then reach out to the writers of those articles and see if they’re interested in taking on more work. Often, they’ll be excited to hear from you, and you’ll have landed an amazing content crafter.

2. Promoter

You can think of a promoter as a salesperson for your marketing efforts. They’re the ones who’ll connect with people, and convince them you’re worth talking about. Promoters are proud of what they do and where they work– and they naturally develop relationships with people in and outside of the company.

This insatiable urge to connect makes them great promoters of content, as promoters can figure out how to get your content in front of the right people.

When it comes to content, promoters can:

  • Create PR strategies to get eyes on new content.
  • Figure out innovative ways to share content on social media using organic and paid strategies.
  • Nail down guest post opportunities on sites that share similar audiences.
  • Build promotion processes and write outreach templates (social & email).
  • Come up with new content promotion ideas to test.
  • Send outreach emails to people & companies that were included in your latest blog posts.
  • Connect with other companies for partnered content and promotional opportunities
  • Make connections with press that would be interested in your resources.

Promoters can come in many forms. Sometimes, they’re content marketers with a knack for outreach. Other times, they’re social media experts committed to getting content out there. Those with an SEO background can be great promoters as well, as they understand the ins and outs of how to get found on the web.

3. Designer

Although many think of content marketing as a writer’s playground, how that content looks is extremely important. If you want your efforts shared, than you need to create blog posts, landing pages, and other content that is visually compelling. On top of that, you need to make sure content is conversion-centric.

You also want images to accompany your content when you share it on social media. According to data from Buffer, Tweets with images received 18% more clicks and 89% more favorites than Tweets without.

That’s why your team needs a designer. Many teams opt to hire a graphic or web designer to help with content marketing images, while other teams (often leaner ones) use image creation apps such as PicMonkey and Canva.

Whether you hire a designer or learn how to use Photoshop yourself, you need someone on your team who is responsible for creating content that is visually appealing.

4. Optimizer

When I think of optimization, I think of SEO. After all, that “O” stands for optimize.

Most optimizers have an SEO background– they understand how Google works, what search engines like, and how to use helpful keyword research tools like SEMRush and Moz’s Open Site Explorer.

The optimizer can go through old content and make it shine like new, simply by optimizing meta-tags, adding paragraphs, and revising titles and headlines. And, they can help you come up with ideas for new content, simply by checking out the landscape and finding opportunities. When you’ve developed a new piece, they can make recommendations and add the right tags to make sure your hard work gets found.

When hiring an optimizer, look for someone with an analytical SEO background with a track record of results. But experience isn’t the only thing to look for– you need someone who is scrappy that likes to take on a challenge.

Optimizers are also great for A/B testing different aspects of your blog or landing pages. They’re keen on making things better, so they can figure out the effects of changing up landing pages and email subscriber boxes to get more conversions.

Your optimizer should also be OBSESSED with data. They should be comfortable with scouring through Google Analytics, Facebook Analytics, and any other data you are collecting in order to find new opportunities and make recommendations on how to improve your content marketing strategy going forward.

5. Developer

Developers are integral to your team, especially as content marketers get more innovative. Many brands are doing more than creating blog posts and landing pages– they’re creating quizzes, interactive resources, and other forms of more epic content (take a look at this interactive team building games blog post from When I Work, for example). 

You need developers to create these things to ensure that they function well– you need your social sharing buttons to work, you need to make sure the page can load quickly, and you need to ensure the user experience is good for the user.

I’ve found that the best developers are ones that communicate well and have ideas of their own. The right developer will have ideas about what content to create, and how to make it function well. A developer shouldn’t come in at the last minute of the project to create what you’ve spec’d out. Instead, they should accompany you on the journey.

Content Roles in 2016 and Beyond

In the short time that brands have committed to content marketing, we’ve seen a lot of changes. Writers now write for audiences, not for search engines, and teams are expanding as brands demand more from their content marketing efforts.

As 2016 draws near, it’s time for all of us to step back and assess whether we have a well-rounded content team that can get the job done. Remember that you don’t necessarily need a large team to cover all of these roles. Lean teams have one person that covers a few different ones.

No matter what, ask yourself if you have these five roles covered. If not, what can you do to make that happen? As content marketing changes, you want to be prepared.

An Epic Guide To Creating Epic Content

Ready to create the type of content that wows your audience? Then it’s time to start creating epic content. In this post, I’m going to share you the thirteen steps to making each piece of content you create epic.

1. Know the ingredients of epic content.

Last year, BuzzSumo examined 100 million articles to find out the common ingredients of viral content. The summary of what they found is as follows.

* Viral content contained 2,000+ words.

* Viral content had at least one image for social sharing.

* Viral content evoked awe, laughter, and amusement or appeal to people’s narcissistic side, like those popular “Which Character Are You on a TV Show” quizzes.

* Viral content, in order of most popular type, included infographics, list posts (with 10 as the magic number of items), “why” posts, “what” posts, how-to articles, and videos.

* Viral content contained an author byline to make it more trustworthy.

* Viral content was shared by influencers within the niche.

* Viral content is promoted beyond the publish date.

* Viral content was published on Tuesday for the most social shares.

You should do everything in your power to make sure that your epic content becomes viral content. So keep all of these things in mind as you develop and promote your epic content.

2. Start with extensive research.

Even if you feel like you know everything about the topic you plan to write about, you will still want to research the topic thoroughly. In particular, you will want to find other pieces of content that have been created on the topic you plan to cover so that you know what information is out there.

The goal of an epic piece of content is to be just that – epic. It should give 110% coverage of a topic. Anyone who reads your piece of content shouldn’t have to go elsewhere to learn more about the topic.

You should make sure that they are disappointed by every piece of content that they read about the topic after they’ve read your content. They shouldn’t be able to learn anything they didn’t already learn in your content.

Search for Popular Content on Your Topic

Start by searching for your topic on search engines and reading the pieces of content that appear on the first page of search results. These are the pieces of content you will want to outrank in search, so you continue to generate traffic to your piece of content beyond the initial promotion for (potentially) years to come.

Next, use BuzzSumo to see the most socially shared pieces of content on your topic and read the first ten pieces of content, depending on the number of shares.

For each piece of content you read, note the following.

* The title and meta description – use Mozbar on the page.

* The word count – do a CTRL+A and use Word Count for Chrome to count the number of words on the page.

* Top keywords the post ranks for – enter the page URL into SEMrush and look at the Organic Search Positions chart.

* How often the top keyword is used throughout the content.

* Main headings and subheadings within the post.

* Unique points covered that either you didn’t know about or that other pieces of content do not normally cover.

* Points that are missing from the content that a reader would have to look up elsewhere, such as definitions, representational images, or step by step directions on how to do something.

* Statistics or studies mentioned in the content.

* Experts quoted in the content.

* Backlinks for the content – search for the URL in BuzzSumo and click on the View Backlinks. Export for future reference if you have a pro account or bookmark for future reference. Also do a search for the title of the piece of content on Google and bookmark for future reference.

* Top sharers for the content – using the same search on BuzzSumo, click on View Sharers. Bookmark the page for future reference or add sharers to a Twitter list.

Search for Research

Next, you will want to search for additional research on your topic, namely studies and statistics. Bookmark lists that compile studies or statistics or bookmark the original studies and statistics pages themselves.

3. Create an outline.

Looking at the research you just compiled, your next task will be to compile an outline for your epic content. It should effectively cover everything popular pieces of content on your topic have covered and unique points that other pieces of content did not cover.

4. Write your post.

This step isn’t as easy as it sounds. Depending on the length of other pieces of popular content on your topic, you could be looking at writing a 1,000 word post or a 5,000 word post to cover everything that needs to be covered.

If you are intimidated by writing a long piece of content, there are a few ways you can approach this step.

* Don’t over think it. Write everything you can on your topic without editing, filtering, organizing, or limitations. You can go back and clean things up once you’re finished.

* Look at each heading in your outline as a blog post and write them one at a time.

* Write the sections that come easiest first. The more progress you have made, the easier it will be to continue to the harder parts.

* Write the harder parts of your outline during the times you write best during the day. Save easier parts for when you might be tireder or a little less motivated.

* Don’t write in order. Write whatever portion you are ready to write when you sit down each day. If the introduction of a piece of content is the hardest thing for you to write, write it last.

* Outsource to a ghostwriter. You can have the ghostwriter flesh out the outline and edit it to fit your voice.

* Record yourself talking about the topic and outsource a ghostwriter to compile your recording into a written piece of content.

Whether you like to write or not, there are lots of options to getting your epic piece of content written.

5. Add in statistics and supporting data.

Once you’ve gotten the initial content fleshed out, go back in and add statistics and studies to backup what you have written. It’s easier to add them in later than to stop the flow of your writing to find and add them in while you are getting the initial piece of content written.

6. Add in quotes.

Don’t have a statistic or study to go with a particular section of your content? Find a quote from a well-known expert in your industry to add in. You can either ask them for a quote (if you know them) or search their content to find a quote that will work.

To find a good quote, search the expert’s blog, social media updates, interviews, and presentations. Again, do this after you have written the initial bulk of the content, so you don’t break your writing flow.

Alternatively, you can do a bit of crowdsourcing. Ask several experts in your industry to contribute their thoughts on the main topic as a whole, or to a specific section within your outline. This approach will help you in the promotion phase of epic content marketing as you will have additional people who will want to share your content.

7. Include real-life examples.

When possible, include examples that support your content from specific people, businesses, or brands. Why? If you are highlighting people, businesses, and brands in a positive way in your content, guess what? Those people, businesses, and brands may share that content with their audience, which will help you get exposure for your epic piece of content.

In addition, real-life examples will help people understand the benefits of learning and applying what you write about even more.

For example, if you want to see what can happen when you create epic content, take a look at the Link Building Guide by Point Blank SEO.  It’s the penultimate example of epic content: 19,000+ words in length, covers 200 link building tactics, and has over 150 comments. This post is in the first five results for link building, has 1,300+ incoming links, and over 6,000 social shares.

8. Generate lots of headlines.

Remember those Upworthy headlines that caused Upworthy’s content (and soon, everyone else’s) to go viral? One of the secrets they revealed is that they have 25 headlines written for each post they publish.

The philosophy behind this process was simple. Not every headline you create will be a good one. But to generate that many headlines, you will have to get creative. At least one of those 25 headlines will be golden. And the other 24 can make for great alternatives when promoting your piece of content.

Instead of trying to write your headline / content title before writing your content, write it after. You will know what makes your content awesome after you have written it, and therefore you will know what to put in your headline.

Or, more importantly, you will know what things to highlight in your 25 different headlines. Once you’re finished, you should have several keepers. But you’re not done just yet.

9. Optimize for search.

If you haven’t already, now is the time to optimize your epic content for search engines. While researching your topic, if you used SEMrush, you should have found some great keywords that popular pieces of content ranked for.

The best keyword phrase from the group should be used, at a minimum, in your headline and several times throughout your content, as based on your earlier research. You can also include it in headings, subheadings, and image ALT text.

Additional keyword phrases that drove a significant percentage of traffic to other popular pieces of content on your topic should be used throughout the content as well. This optimization will ensure that you will get organic search traffic to your epic content on an on-going basis.

10. Optimize for social.

Help people that like your content share your content on social media. Start by making sure the page your content is published upon has the main social sharing buttons for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Next, find some of the best snippets throughout your content and turn them into tweetable snippets. ClicktoTweet is a free tool you can use to create a link that people can click to get a customized tweet they can share with their Twitter audience. Place tweetable snippets throughout your content where people will be most inspired to share.

Since Pinterest is the second most popular social network, you should make sure that people can easily share your epic content on Pinterest. Add a Pinterest Pin It button next to your images throughout your content to make this happen. If you don’t have any great images to begin with, create at least one using Canva.

11. Edit and publish.

Once your epic piece of is written and optimized, make one last check for errors. Don’t trust Microsoft Word alone for grammatical and spelling errors. Copy and paste your content into tools like Grammar.ly for advanced proofreading if you can’t hire an editor to do the work for you.

Why is proofreading so important? The last thing you want is for someone to get distracted by errors to the point that they forget to share your content.

Once you’ve made sure your epic content is error-free (or as close to error-free as possible), you’re ready to publish. Keep in mind that the best day for social sharing is Tuesday!

12. Promote.

You can publish epic content, but it won’t truly be epic until it gets recognition for its awesomeness. And it won’t get recognition until it starts getting traffic.

Remember the list of sharers of popular content you compiled during the research phase? Start contacting those people individually to let them know about your epic content. Specifically let them know that you noticed they shared a popular piece of content on your topic, so you thought they would enjoy your thorough coverage of that same topic.

Remember the people, businesses, and brands you included as quotes, crowdsourced opinions from, or used as real-life examples? Contact them to let them know you they are a part of the coverage of your topic.

Remember the list of incoming links you compiled to popular content on your topic? Reach out to those website owners and blog authors to see if they might be willing to link to your epic piece of content. Not necessarily to replace the other link they have, but to add a new resource alongside it.

In addition to the above promotion strategies, be sure to share your epic content with your own social media and email audiences. Don’t just do it once either. Share your content multiple times on each network over the course of several weeks. Look into your email statistics to see who didn’t open your email and send it to them again.

Your content is epic – you don’t want your audience to miss out on it! Keep this in mind while you thoroughly promote it.

13. Repurpose.

Last, but not least, don’t forget to repurpose your epic content into other formats. This will allow you the chance to link back to the original piece of content in multiple places, such as YouTube, SlideShare, and other networks. Use CoSchedule’s 50 Places to Repurpose Content as your guide to both promoting your content and repurposing it.

What other questions do you have for me about creating epic content? Ask me below or on Twitter! I’m @RobWormley.

How To Master Blogging For Business In One Week

Implementing a blogging strategy for your business can feel like a major undertaking. But if you follow this guide, you can master the essentials of blogging for your business in seven days.

Day One: Research Your Competitors

You don’t have to start from scratch when it comes to coming up with a blogging strategy for your business. Instead of reinventing the wheel, start with competitive research. There’s a good chance that no matter what business you are in, you have a few competitors (if not hundreds) that already have a blogging strategy in place.

When you look at your competitor’s blog, you will want to note the following things.

  1. Who authors your competitor’s blog posts? Owners, employees, guests contributors, and freelance writers are the most likely authors.
  1. How often do your competitor’s publish new blog posts? Daily, 2 – 3 times per week, and weekly are the most popular publishing schedules.
  1. How long are your competitor’s blog posts? Shorter content works best for certain audiences, as it is easier to digest. But for the best social sharing and search engine performance, long form content (1,500+ words) has been proven to be best.
  1. What topics get the most social engagement? Search your competitors domains or topical keywords at BuzzSumo to see topics that get the most social shares.
  1. Who are your competitors writing for? Do they write for beginners? Do they write for the technically savvy? Do they write for CEO’s?
  1. What tone do your competitors use? Are their posts lighthearted and friendly? Serious and stuffy? Casual? Education?
  1. What comment platform do competitors use? If you want people to comment on your content, know what system (Disqus, Facebook, Livefyre, etc.) your target audience is already used to using.

Once you have answered these questions by researching your competitors, you should spend some time thinking about what you liked and didn’t like about each of their approaches. The goal of this exercise isn’t to be just like the competition – it’s to learn what works, what doesn’t, and what you can do that will separate you from the fold.

Day Two: Outline Your Strategy

Once you have had time to digest what the competition does, it’s time to outline your own content strategy. Your goal for day two is to write a detailed game plan that covers the following.

  • What your content goals are (traffic, social engagement, links, and conversions are common).
  • Who will create, edit, publish, and promote content.
  • How often you will publish new blog posts.
  • How long your posts will be.
  • What topics will your posts cover (general categories, not specifics).
  • Who your target audience is.
  • What tone you want to use for your content.

With an exception to the first three points, everything else should be included in an editorial guidelines document. Editorial guidelines should be given to all content creators and editors to ensure that your content is crafted precisely to match your goals.

Day Three: Create Your Team

Once you have outlined your strategy, it’s time to organize your content marketing team. If your content marketing team is all in-house, then start by holding a meeting to introduce everyone to each other, describe everyone’s roles, and go over your content strategy.

If you plan to use outsourced help, be sure to get the best help possible. Instead of starting with sites that have freelancers who write articles for $5, start by finding freelancers who write for the top publications in your industry.

For example, if you have a marketing agency, look for freelancers who write for marketing publications. Yes, they will be more expensive, but they will also have the knowledge and experience you need to develop valuable content.

Once you have found some of the best writers, editors, graphics creators, and promoters, hold a virtual meeting using Google+ Hangouts or GoToMeeting to get everyone on the same page. While you can work with all of these people individually, making them a part of a team will lead to better content and goal achievement.

Day Four: Develop Your Calendar

Once your team is in place, it’s time to create your editorial calendar. You can use tools that you are already used to like Outlook Calendar (for internal teams), Google Calendar (internal and external teams), or Google Spreadsheets. You can use tools designed specifically for blog editorial calendars like CoSchedule.  You can use project management tools like Trello. The goal is to find something that is easy to use and easily accessible by all of the members of your content team.

Depending on the tool you choose, you should be able to, at minimum, schedule the dates that each piece of content is due to be submitted and published. Tools like CoSchedule and Trello will also give you the option to organize pitches from writers and move through a specific chain, from submission to promotion.

Day Five: Publish Your Content

Once you have your editorial calendar in place and your first pieces of content submitted, you will move to the exciting part of blogging, which is publishing your first pieces of content. Publishing your content is not as simple as pasting it into WordPress (or your preferred CMS platform) and hitting send though. Before publishing, you will want to run each piece of content through the following simple checklist.

Is your content free of grammatical and spelling errors? (Use Grammar.ly to find out.)

☐ Have you chosen a keyword phrase to optimize your content for? (Use Google AdWords Keyword Planner to research one.)

☐ Did you create an eye-catching title for your content that includes your keyword phrase and will entice people to click through to the post? (See these headlines formulas for inspiration or go with UpWorthy’s strategy of writing your headlines 25 times to get the best ones.)

☐ Does your content have at least one awesome image? (Create one for free using Canva if it doesn’t.)

☐ Does your content have bold headings and short paragraphs to make it easily consumable? (Break the post up logically if it doesn’t.)

☐ Does your content have a call-to-action at the end? (If not, add one that encourages people to comment, share, or click through to your product or service.)

☐ Does your content have social sharing buttons to make sharing easy? (Try AddThis as it works on almost all platforms.}

Once you’ve ticked off these points, your content is ready to publish. You can look at different studies on when the best time to publish a blog post is. But remember that it’s not the actual publish time that will help you achieve success unless you happen to have a thousand people who tweet your post as soon as it goes live.

Day Six: Promote Your Content

Once you’ve published your first blog post, you will need to promote it. You should promote your content using every avenue you have at your disposal. The most popular promotion strategies include emailing your subscribers, sharing on social networks, and promoting posts on social networks. If you have a large budget for content promotion, platforms  like Taboola and Outbrain can help you get even more traction.

When it comes to organic social promotion, you may want to share your content multiple times to make sure you reach everyone. CoSchedule created a handy visual tool for their own promotion strategy.

Image Source: CoSchedule

After all, your entire audience isn’t going to be online at 8am EST every Monday morning. The key to making each share of your post interesting is to vary it. Create text updates, photo updates, and video updates that all link back to your post. Use different variations of your blog post title and questions related to your posts for extra, unique engagement.

Day Seven: Analyze Your Results

Once you’ve started publishing and promoting your content, you will want to begin analyzing your results. The simplest approach is to use Google Analytics to see how much traffic you are receiving for each piece of content you create.

For those who are tracking conversions in Google Analytics using goals, you can link conversions to blog content using the Landing Pages report. Note this only tracks conversions from blog posts that people have landed upon versus blog posts that people have clicked on after they are already on your website.

You can also use tools like BuzzSumo to see which content on your domain is the most popular in terms of social sharing. If social engagement is your goal, BuzzSumo will show you up to a year’s worth of data on which posts have achieved that goal.

What other tips would you add to this list? Tell me in the comments section below!