Content marketing, sometimes called inbound marketing, is different from traditional marketing. Traditional marketing relied heavily on cold calling, cold emails and interruptive ads. Content marketing aims to attract customers using tactics like blogging, SEO(search engine optimization), and CRO(conversion rate optimization).
The key difference is mindset.
Content marketing aims to put relevant, useful content in front of prospects when they’re looking for it with the goal of attracting new customers and retaining existing ones.
In order to be successful with content marketing, you need to have a clear understanding of who your buyer is. And you need to understand the problems that your buyer faces.
The Foundation Content Marketing Plan
The two most important aspects of a content marketing plan are your buyer persona and the buyer’s journey.
Creating A Buyer Persona
Your buyer’s persona is a snapshot of your ideal customer’s traits – some real and some speculative. These traits should include details like the buyer’s job role, industry, goals, challenges, websites they visit, places they shop, media they consume, etc. You create a buyer persona so that you have a very clear idea of who your target is. Something that Tim Ferriss referred to as “The Tip of the Spear” on an episode of his podcast titled “How To Build A Large Audience From Scratch.”
Buyer Persona Resources
- From Shopify How To Build Buyer Personas For Better Marketing
- From Hubspot 9 Questions You Need To Ask When Developing Buyer Personas
- From Buffer Marketing Personas: The Complete Beginner’s Guide
- Template Download from Hubspot Free Template: Create Buyer Personas For Your Business
Using that buyer persona, you map out that buyer’s journey towards a purchase. The buyer’s journey is the path that a prospect takes before purchasing your product. What problems do they have that they’re looking to solve? What questions do they ask when researching? What objections arise? Where do they go for answers to these questions?
The Three Phases of the Buyer’s Journey
Hubspot, the people that coined the phrase “inbound marketing”, describe the buyer’s journey as having three phases. The awareness phase, the consideration phase and the decision phase.
- The Awareness Stage: In the awareness stage, the buyer has a problem. They don’t know about your company or what your company does. They only know about their problem. In this stage, you create content that helps your buyer solve – or at least better understand – their problem. This stage shouldn’t include much about your company. The focus should be on creating content that helps solve your buyer’s problem or educates them.
- The Consideration Stage: In the consideration stage, your buyer has a better understanding of their problem and has started gathering information about possible solutions. In this stage, you want to help your buyer understand what their options are. You’re still focusing primarily on providing value because your buyer hasn’t reached the point where she is ready to make a decision. If the awareness stage is problem-focused, the consideration phase is solutions-focused.
- The Decision Stage: In the decision stage, your buyer has a clearer understanding of their problem and has some deeper understanding of possible solutions to their problem. At this point, the focus is on your company’s products and services and how they are different from your competitors.
How Search Engine Optimization Fits In
Search engine optimization sucks. Mostly because of the horrible information and questionable providers out there.
Before getting into any specifics about seo, here are a couple things to keep in mind:
- SEO is NOT magic. Anyone that’s selling you a trick, a guarantee of first page results in Google, or something that seems too good to be true is not to be trusted.
- SEO is about the user and what the user wants. If your seo efforts are focused more on page titles, keyword stuffing, back links, gimmicks or writing for robots than providing value for users, you’re doing it wrong.
I’ve spent years working on SEO projects. I’ve spent a substantial amount of time reading up on SEO-related topics. Every month there’s some new gimmicky hot-button topic. Mobilegeddon. HTTPS. Penguin. Panda. Hummingbird. Video. Facebook likes. It’s never-ending. With that being said, there are three places that I trust to get information about SEO-related topics.
- Moz.com – this is my go-to source. The content is smart. The tools are great. And Rand’s White Board Fridays always have tons of valuable insights.
- Hubspot – a vast resource of inbound marketing resources. I love Hubspot because it talks about SEO as a function of a larger, integrated marketing approach that includes creating remarkable content, blogging, lead generation and nurturing, and promoting that content on social media.
- Search Engine Land – I use this more for news about the industry. It can be overwhelming but it’s generally very useful.
SEO Strategy & Keyword Research
Roughly 60% of search traffic goes to the top 3 search results. You want to align your SEO strategy with phrases your users are searching for and pick phrases that you’ll be more likely to rank well for. If you break up your SEO strategy into it’s component parts, here are five things to consider:
- Keyword Research
- Creating Remarkably Useful Content
- Optimizing Your Content
- Promoting Your Content
- Earning Links To Your Content
How You Should Be Doing Keyword Research
1. Make A List
Start by creating a list of possible keywords that you think you’re buyers would be searching for. If it helps, take a piece of 8.5 x 11 paper and separate it into three columns. In the first column, make a lit of your buyer’s problem-focused keywords. In the second, your buyer’s solution-focused keywords. In the third, your buyer’s decision-focused keywords. Once you have a decent sized list or have run out of ideas, go to google and start searching for alternatives.
If you’re having trouble coming up with preliminary keyword ideas, here are some tools that can help with keyword research.
- Google Keyword Planning Tool – If you’ve never used this tool before, check out Google’s Using Keyword Planner to get keyword ideas and traffic forecasts.
- Moz.com Keyword Difficulty and SERP Tool – This is a more advanced tool and requires a subscription but it’s something that I use regularly. If you’re interested, they’ve got a 30 day free trial.
- Scribe SEO Tool – I use this tool mostly for keyword research and on-page optimization. It helps generate ideas when I’m stuck.
2. Expanding Your List
No matter how much you know about your buyer, you initial list is going to be incomplete. Head over to Google and start typing one of your keyword phrases. Don’t hit enter and pay attention to the suggestions that Google provides.
Let’s say you’re a dentist. You want to create content that might be useful to someone who’s chipped a tooth. On your initial list, you have phrases like “chipped tooth” and “broken tooth” under the awareness section. When you type “chipped tooth” into google, you start to see suggestions like this.
Repeat this process as often as needed with each phrase’s variation. For example, I would type “chipped tooth pain” and see if that phrase gave me any more ideas. I would continue to do this for every product and service you offer. Prioritize the list later. We want a large list with as many ideas as possible before refining.
3. Determine What Keywords People Are Using To Find You Now
Since a lot of this data stopped showing up in Google Analytics, you’ll need to head over to Google’s Webmaster Tools. Look under Search Traffic and Search Analytics for queries that led to website clicks. Add these to your growing list in the appropriate column.
4. Figure Out Which Keywords You Have The Best Chance To Rank For
There are a number of free and paid tools you can use to figure out whether you’ll have a chance to for a specific keyword. My two favorite tools are the Scribe SEO Tool and Moz.com’s Keyword Difficulty Tool. Both have their benefits and limitations. I tend to use these just to determine whether it’s going to be WAY too difficult to rank for a specific phrase. If that’s the case, I look for a long tail variation that has less competition. If you don’t want to use a paid tool, you can always use Google’s Keyword Planner and base your decision off the level of competition for your keyword phrase.
We’ll pause here. Next up: Creating Remarkably Useful Content.