Ultimately, your website is not about your business; it’s about your prospects and customers – the questions that they’re asking and the problems that they need solved. Your website’s job is not to be your virtual business card or digital portfolio; its function is to show to your audience that you understand their challenges and that your business is equipped and knowledgeable enough to help them reach their goals. The way that you demonstrate this is through your original content.
For many of you, the words ‘content’ or ‘content marketing’ may apply singularly to blogging, but blog posts are only one element of an effective content strategy. Every single thing on your site contains content — from the overall messaging and product or service pages, to landing pages, eBooks, whitepapers, case studies, infographics and, yes, blog articles.
With all of these different content varieties, it can be easy to get caught up in the details of content production and lose sight of the objectives and overall strategy. Follow these guidelines to maximize your content’s efficiency and effectiveness.
Great Content Begins with Clear Objectives
Before even beginning to think about creating content, it’s important to do some goal-setting. Decide what it is you want to accomplish with your content strategy — more visits, more leads, more sales,… all of the above? That’s all well and good, but it’s important here to be specific. In fact, it’s crucial that you set SMART goals:
- Specific – Resist the temptation to lean safely toward ambiguity. “More leads” is not a goal, but “increase leads by 25% within 90 days” is. Forget goals like “social impressions” and “brand awareness,” as these do not directly affect your business performance. The more detailed you are, the more effective your goal-tracking and data analysis will be.
- Measureable – Setting goals with real numerical values is the key to having goals you can actually measure. Break your goals down into regular, smaller goals to keep your team on track — for instance, you should have several benchmarks set within a 90-day lead generation campaign in order to assess your progress and reach your overall goal. Ignore the fluff and stick to the cold hard data when evaluating performance.
- Attainable – Your goals should challenge your team, while still being within reach. Don’t overdo it here. Overpromising and underperforming will result in all parties being dissatisfied.
- Realistic – If you don’t have the time, resources, or mental bandwidth to effectively reach your goals, then the goals need to be adjusted to something more realistic. Know your limits (while still reaching for the stars, of course!).
- Time-based – Give yourself a deadline and adhere to it. Having a hard stop date before you begin will result in stronger focus and better results.
Once you have your SMART goals set, you’ll be able to dive into your strategic content creation.
Effective Content is Persona-Driven
The first step in creating successful content is determining who you’re creating the content for. These are your buyer personas — semi-fictional, composite characters that embody the various needs, goals and challenges of your real and potential customers. Buyer personas are developed through research such as industry trends, observations, and, most importantly, interviews with your real customers.
Your personas represent your ideal customers, and they serve as the foundation for all your Inbound Marketing efforts. These are the people you want buying your products or services, and these are the people you want searching out, finding and consuming your original content.
Use the insights gained from your buyer personas to tailor relevant, valuable content specifically around your customers’ wants, needs, questions and problems:
- Create a master keyword list of your persona’s most searched terms.
- Choose 3-5 long-tail keywords that have the most potential for relevant content creation and audience engagement.
- Identify which type(s) of content your persona prefers to consume (i.e. eBooks, infographics, podcasts, brief or in-depth blog posts, etc.).
And that’s essentially it — your master keyword list serves as the building-block for your master content and topic lists, and the most-likely-to-be-consumed-formats help you decide which types of content to prioritize. Now you’re ready to start creating tailor-made content for you buyer personas.
Create Content that is Valuable to Your Customers
That’s right — we’re going to go over persona-driven content in even more detail, because creating something of value is critical to generating results. Valuable, relevant content is what search engines are looking for, but, more importantly, it’s what your customers are looking for. Give them something special; give them something that they’re not getting anywhere else.
Take that keyword list and dig deep. Focus on content that is educational, helpful, inspirational and/or entertaining. Create content that engages on all levels of your niche.
Keep Your Messaging Clear and Compelling
Writing cute, clever or enigmatic copy has its place, and this ain’t it. Don’t let the power of your message get lost in an over-complicated delivery. Regardless of whether you’re creating a product page, Call-To-Action or a title for a blog post, strive to write clear, engaging and persuasive content.
Engage in a Full-Funnel Content Strategy
Increasing website traffic is generally a positive thing, but it’s absolutely worthless if you don’t effectively engage with the visitors once they’re there. What good are visitors if your website fails to capture any leads, right? For a content strategy to work — and I mean really work — you’ve got to have valuable content at each stage of the Buyer’s Journey.
When great content is doing its work, it’s reaching its goals. When great content works together at each level of your sales and marketing funnel, a beautiful thing happens — your site and its content effectively and intuitively guides them down the funnel and through each stage of their Buyer’s Journey. This is Inbound Marketing at it’s finest — strangers become visitors; visitors become leads; leads become customers; customers become advocates.
Increase Organic Traffic at the Top of the Funnel
The Top of the Funnel (TOFU) corresponds directly with the Awareness Stage of the Buyer’s Journey. Your potential customer is experiencing symptoms to his problem, and likely doesn’t know how to begin solving it. He’ll begin by searching for resources to expand his knowledge of the situation, and we want him to find your content in his search. TOFU content includes:
Blogging – Regular blog posts are the “bread and butter” of your Inbound content strategy. This is due not only to their frequency (usually a minimum of 2 posts per week), but in large part to their versatility. Inspirational or educational, 400-word posts or 1000+ words — it all depends on the persona you’re making these for and the goals you’re striving to hit.
Site Pages & SEO – This includes optimizing each site page around one long-tail keyword. For instance, if your signage manufacturing company primarily works with the healthcare industry, a site page optimized for “wayfinding signage” will help you show up in search results for that term.
Social Media – You may not think tweeting would be considered part of your content strategy, but it most definitely is. Engage with your customers and prospective customers on the social channels they most frequent. Share and post relevant content that interests your buyers, regardless of whether or not it originated from your website. However, be sure to consistently share your own content, as well!
Generate Leads in the Middle of the Funnel
Once you’ve got people coming to your site, you need to convert them from visitor to lead. The Middle of the Funnel (MOFU) corresponds with the Consideration Stage of the Buyer’s Journey, where your prospect is starting to look at solutions for her problem. MOFU content is of a much higher value than TOFU content and typically centers around a gated content offer where the visitor is willing to submit her contact information in exchange for a valuable piece of content.
Gated Content – This can be an eBook, guide, checklist, whitepaper, template — anything in-depth or helpful enough for a visitor to be willing to fill out a brief form to get it.
Calls-To-Action (CTA) – This is the value proposition for your content offer — eye-catching and effective — clearly worded in such a way that people are compelled to act.
Landing Pages – The page the CTA takes you to, with more information on the content offered, as well as the opportunity to download the content upon completion of a form.
Forms – Required on every landing page. The amount of information requested on the form should be inline with the perceived value of the content offered. The minimum amount of information should be name and email address.
Nurture Leads at the Bottom of the Funnel
Don’t stop with leads — use even more amazing content to nurture those leads into sales. By still providing touch points at the Decision Stage of the Buyer’s Journey, you’ll be able to continue nurturing your leads while qualifying them for your sales team.
Thank You Pages – This is the page the contact is taken to after completing the form on the landing page, and the it’s first opportunity to nurture your lead. It is an excellent chance to include an additional CTA for the next stage of the Buyer’s Journey.
Email Marketing – A visitor becomes a lead when he provides his email address, and what better way to continue engagement after content delivery than through follow-up emails. Through segmentation and automation, emails can offer the lead additional blogs or downloadables related to the completed offer. Additionally, the lead should also begin receiving regular email newsletters containing relevant blog posts and CTAs. The more the lead recognizes your business as understanding and being able to solve his problem, the closer you’ll be to a sale.
Case Studies – The difference between a lead and a sale could be lack of familiarity. Case studies are real-world examples of your abilities to perform. Prove to them that you’re not all talk by showing them your exemplary track record.
Pricing Page – Displaying pricing on your website can be either a tool or an obstacle. Make sure it’s the former by structuring the page to clearly address the benefits gained by choosing your solution.
Infographics – Simple, visual, and easily shared and consumed, helpful infographics can illustrate everything from your business’ process to the advantages of your particular solution.
Remember that inbound marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s all about building a relationship with your prospective buyers. No one piece of content is likely to explode into instant success, but all of your content working together — when created around clear objectives to provide real help to your targeted customers — will ultimately lead to an effective inbound program. Stick to it, be consistent, and above all, be valuable.