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How Do You Build a Content Marketing Strategy?

The proper content marketing strategy can make or break an online business. But how do you know which strategy is best for yours?

For the past few years, there’s been heavy emphasis on the quality of online content. And for good reason too, as the effectiveness of your content contributes to the success of your SEO, social media, and conversion strategies. In short, the better the content, the better the results.

Sounds like a no brainer, right? The concept is certainly easy to grasp, but for many businesses, organizing all the different aspects of content marketing into a manageable plan can be a challenge, since results depend on the success of many different facets of your strategy, each of which requires a specific skill set.

Each of these skill sets, whether SEO, social media, conversion, or otherwise, all come under the umbrella of a solid and coordinated content marketing strategy.

Establishing your Brand Voice

Remember that old saying, “You are what you eat?” You can apply this concept to your brand as well, as in, “Your brand is your content.” This is why it’s important to reflect your brand voice into every piece of content you publish.

But should business owners worry about this content right from launch, or build their brand voice as they go along?

“Content is arguably one of the most important things you can do to establish your brand,” says Hollie Hoadley, Founder of Creative Solutions. “It’s how you build relationships, sharpen your image, and solidify yourself in your niche or market. ”

Although you can develop and refine your brand voice over time, your overall brand messaging should be established prior to customers having the ability to interact with you.

“Your brand content is the first impression people will get of you or your company,” Hollie says. “This is why it’s important to really know your voice and brand values, and have a defined strategy for every aspect of your content. From the words on your website, to your social media, to your email signature, none of it should be an afterthought.”

What Do You Want to Talk About?

Although it’s great to have a wealth of content on your website, it’s important to know what your particular business goals are in regard to the content you publish. In other words, what do you want your content to do for you?

Just as importantly, you need to determine what your customers want from what you publish.

“Decide on your goal and the goals of your audience,” Hollie says. “You can then decide what sort of content will get you there and develop your content marketing strategy based on your findings.

“For example, what are you trying to do? Increase engagement? Sell a new product? Acquire new clients? Increase your brand presence on social media? And from your client’s standpoint, are they trying to solve a problem? Look for advice? With this information, you can create a content marketing strategy that brings results.”

Creating your Online Content

Now that you’ve established your voice, know what you want from your messaging, and have a plan in place, it’s time to create the actual content.

Easier said than done? Perhaps. Many businesses struggle with this because, although they may be able to write about their business, they may not be able to necessarily write in a way that will resonate with their customers. This touches on the above point about knowing what your customers want, and tailoring your content accordingly.

In theory, it works. In practice, however, too many businesses fall flat because creating marketing content from a 3rd-party perspective can be challenging. This is when you have to make the decision of whether to create it yourself or seek outside help.

“If you have the in-house talent to do it, go for it,” Hollie says. “However, it’s always good to get a second opinion from the experts who know their stuff. They’re experts for a reason! Ask for a second pair of eyes, because something that looks good to you may not look good to an unbiased audience who has an eye for sharp lines and fonts, or a keen eye for video editing.”

Hiring outside help to handle aspects of your content will also free up your time to build your business through networking, public speaking, and attending events. Wouldn’t you rather be doing that than sitting up at night trying to figure out graphics software or creating copy for web pages?

“With regard to copy,” Hollie says. “I can’t stress enough how important it is to hire a professional writer. A lot of professionals try to write their own blogs, even if they don’t consider themselves writers, and most of their customers can tell the difference. Don’t waste your efforts – hire someone who knows what they’re doing. It’s a smart investment.”

Mix Your Content Marketing Strategy Up

Have you thought about which type of content would be best for your business? Words, pictures, and graphics are a given, but what about audio and video? Or some sort of interactive features, such as quizzes, games, or calculators?

The rule of thumb is to integrate content elements that will delight your customers, and avoid creating a certain content type simply for the sake of doing so. As long as the content is relevant, it’s a good idea to include it.

“Depending on the brand, “Hollie says. “A good content marketing strategy has the right mix of all different kinds of content. For some brands, video is really key whereas with others, video doesn’t quite fit in. However, every brand should consider a strategy that hits all the marks – video, social, blogs, and images.”

Hollie also says that because different people consume content in individual ways, hitting the right marks is especially important.

“At the very least,” she says. “I would recommend that every brand have a blog, newsletter, strong copywriting, and call to action on their website, as well as an engaging social media presence. Lots of images and engaging, relevant content will go a long way to meeting your business goals.”

In addition, from an SEO standpoint, Google smiles upon websites with a good content mix, especially video. Using video increases online session times, contributing to higher rankings.

But always remember: relevancy is key!

Once You’ve Created, Keep Creating

Your customers are dynamic, always looking for something new. Google is dynamic as well, favouring fresh, current content over old that has been posted for a while. Keeping this mind, it’s important to keep your own content regularly updated with fresh information.

“In order to build any sort of following or top any search engine ranking,” Hollie says. “Content has to be relevant, timely, and regularly updated. There’s nothing worse than going to a blog or a Facebook or Twitter page and seeing a post that’s a few months old. Your customers may never come back. You don’t want to lose eyes on your page because you couldn’t keep up with your content strategy.”

There are many reasons why businesses fall behind on their content strategy. They may have become too busy, can’t think of anything new to post, or simply let it lag due to lack of interest. This again speaks to hiring outside freelance help, as their input and interest will keep you excited and interested too. Also, you can continue to concentrate on other aspects of your business, knowing that your content strategy is in good hands.

Content Content Content!

Recently, a marketing friend of mine said that she was so sick of the word “content” that she was refusing to use it for the rest of the year. I’m not sure if she made it then, or could make it now, because the benefits and demands of a content marketing strategy continue to be an integral part of online business success.

There’s just no getting around it.

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How to Write Blogs that Drive Business

Most professionals know they need to write blogs as part of their content marketing strategy. But how can they write blogs that actually drive business?

Write blogs: it seems to be the mantra of nearly every content marketing strategy these days. But writing blogs involves more than putting words up on your website. There’s a strategy that every business owner and marketer needs to use to maximize the blog’s effectiveness to actually drive business.

The Google Algorithm

It should come as no surprise that Google is the world’s most popular website. So powerful is Google’s influence in providing information that “google it” has become a common phrase in the English language. Let’s face it – when was the last (or even first) time you ever heard anyone say “bing it”?

However, writing to meet Google’s search criteria can be tricky, especially since their algorithm is not only complicated, but also a closely-guarded secret.

“It’s been speculated that the number of criteria Google uses to rank websites and blogs is over 200,” says Andy Bush, Owner and Internet Marketing Consultant at Bush Marketing, a Toronto web design and internet marketing agency,. “Even if we knew what they were, and how they ranked in importance, it would be difficult to satisfy each factor in their search algorithm.”

Fortunately, intrepid bloggers don’t have to be daunted by complexities of Google’s search criteria. They can still write blogs that will satisfy Google by following a simple blogging and content marketing strategy.

Write Blogs that Google Loves

Many SEO experts follow a certain set of recommended guidelines when optimizing websites for Google, although no one can ever truly guarantee success.

“There are several things one can do to make their blog as search-friendly as possible,” Andy says. “The most important are incorporating the primary search keywords into the post title, description and URL, as well as within the body copy without compromising the language.

“Also, blog posts should be a minimum of 750 words and ideally be structured for readers to ‘scan’ the page for information without making them hunt for it. This strategy includes adding headings, subheadings, and bullet point lists. Google rewards content that benefits the reader, so it’s important to make sure that the layout is reader friendly.”

Andy also notes that there are technical elements to consider, such as site speed, xml sitemap, and inbound linking that play a role in a blog’s search rankings.

“It’s also beneficial to include images with keywords in the alt tags,” Andy says. “Use your post as an opportunity to show off graphs and images that will support the content.

“Lastly, include links to other pages on your blog/website that support the content of your blog post. If you have another post that supports a position on the one you’re writing, link to it.”

Interestingly, YouTube is the world’s second most popular search engine, demonstrating the power that video has to get your message across to millions of subscribers. If you can include video in your blog and integrate it into your content marketing strategy, your search rankings should vastly improve as a result.

How Often Should You Write Blogs?

A big question for many business owners is how often should they write blogs. Some large companies or media agencies have a lot to write about, and could potentially blog daily. Smaller niche companies might struggle to blog even monthly. So how much is right for your business?

“The minimum that you should post for your business blog is once per month,” Andy says. “Ideally, one should post every two weeks or even once a week if possible. This increases the opportunity for repeat readership and puts more content on the search engines for people to find.”

Consistency is also key to blogging success. There’s no sense in not blogging for half of the year, and then publishing six blogs in one week. You won’t build engagement and excitement among your readers unless you blog faithfully, and on schedule.

If you can’t find the time to blog, or don’t have an interest in doing it yourself, consider hiring a professional SEO copywriter to do it for you. It’s a worthy investment that will pay off in the long run in terms of customer engagement, website traffic, and additional revenue.

Publish and Publicize Your Blog

Now that you’ve written a blog, it’s time to get it out there! Don’t wait for people to visit your website – get your content noticed by integrating it into your digital and content marketing plan, which includes:

  • Posting it on your social media channels, including LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook
  • Linking to it on your email newsletter
  • Converting it into a gated, lead-capturing white paper
  • Offering it as a guest post to relevant media websites

“A well written piece of content can be utilized in many different ways,” Andy says. “At the very least, if you’re not using social media to advance your blog readership, then that’s definitely where you should start.”

How Do Blogs Make You Money?

Blogs drive business by demonstrating your authority in your field. By proving yourself an expert with engaging, well-written blogs, you’ll attract a loyal audience of followers who will engage with you and click through to other pages on your website. If you have a strong following, your online reputation and subscriber base will grow. Before you know it, you’ll have a long list of loyal brand ambassadors your marketing team can follow up with.

Remember – your audience is full of interested readers who will either buy from you directly or refer customers to you. But it all starts with discipline and commitment to your blogging and overall content marketing strategy, which will result in new business, customer retention, and a loyal customer list.

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Why Isn’t My SEO Strategy Working?

Getting their SEO strategy to perform at peak levels is a common challenge for business owners. In fact, their SEO might actually be taking them in the right direction, only needing a few simple tweaks to maximize results.

Business owners who manage their own SEO strategy often follow the self-optimization tools provided in SEO packages, such as Yoast, to guide them through the tricky waters of search marketing.

As robust as these tools can be, there are some key custom elements of a complete SEO strategy that many businesses tend to overlook, causing them to potentially miss out on better rankings. Much of them have to do with content generation, which SEO software won’t (and shouldn’t) help you with, and where you publish your content outside of your own domain.

Here are examples of those little extras that can help better your search results:

  1. Long-tail keywords: Let’s say you sell shoes in Seattle. You decide to implement an SEO strategy on your website and start brainstorming SEO keywords. The first one you might think of is “shoes”. “Footwear” might come in second, followed by a list of your top brands. While these keywords are certainly relevant, they’re also in high demand and might not rank you very well in search results. This is why long-tail keywords play an important role in setting you apart from your competition. Try something like “Imported leather shoes from Italy in Seattle” or “Steve Madden shoes Seattle”. There – you just improved your odds of being found. Long-tail keywords also work great for your blogs, such as: “Which shoe polish is best for brown leather shoes?”
  2. Write for people, not search engines: Have you ever tried to read pure SEO-oriented content? It’s not a compelling read for humans or search engines. That’s right – search algorithms are so intelligent that they can separate good content from keyword-stuffed mumbo jumbo. And even if the keyword-stuffed mumbo jumbo ranks highly, who’s going to read it and be moved to convert? The bottom line is to write for humans, optimize for search, not the other way around.
  3. Off-site SEO: Here’s one that a lot of businesses miss. Off-site SEO refers to “authority building” that Google uses as a ranking factor. This authority is measured by inbound links from external sources that are of high authority themselves. If these sites are linking to yours, Google will perceive your site as having authority as well. Guest blogging and social media syndication are two great ways to raise your off-site authority.

On a final note, remember that, like content marketing, an SEO strategy can’t be successful with a “set it and forget it” philosophy. It needs to be revisited from time to time to reinforce what’s been successful, and tweak what hasn’t.