Content marketing has taken over online marketing, but businesses new to it often miss the nuances of a successful content marketing strategy. After a few months with no results, they may find themselves asking: “Does content marketing work?”
Digging deep into what content marketing is, the types of effective content marketing, and the many crucial parts of a successful effort may help you understand why your content marketing strategy isn’t working and how to fix it.
What Is Content Marketing?
With content marketing, you create media that people will seek out as they search for information. After decades of traditional advertising interrupting consumers to hijack attention, people appreciate content marketing’s clever approach of waiting for them to look for information when ready to solve a problem.
Benefits of Content Marketing
Content marketing aims to:
- Promote brand awareness
- Establish trust in your brand
- Keep you top-of-mind when buyers are ready to buy
You accomplish this goal by attracting, engaging, and retaining your customers through planning, creating, publishing, and sharing content that informs rather than sells.
Educating and entertaining your audience when and where they choose allows them to see your brand as a helpful authority. They’ll remember you with much more positive feelings than would be generated by an in-your-face, interruptive ad.
Your non-promotional content can be blogs, videos, podcasts, or other media, depending on where your audience lives on the internet and their preferred form of content.
Content Marketing Types
When you know which content types and platforms your audience prefers to get their information through, it is easy to choose the best kind of content to connect with them.
- Video content is now the most preferred form overall.
- Blog posts are still a favorite.
- Podcasts are continually growing in popularity.
- Infographics communicate a large amount of information at a glance.
- Email remains many people's favorite way to get news about brands.
- Guides for using products or processes are popular.
- Ebooks establish your authority as a knowledgeable source.
- Case studies succinctly present how a business solved a problem using your product.
- White papers go into depth on a problem and your solution.
- Press reports spread the word and generate backlinks.
Regardless of which content types you use to connect with your target groups, there are other, just as important considerations that contribute to the success or failure of your content marketing strategy.
Why Your Content Marketing Strategy Isn’t Working
A high-performing content marketing strategy embraces multiple moving parts. If you miss any of these critical factors, your entire content production effort will suffer. However, when they all work together, you can enjoy results like Patagonia and Laura Mercier, some of the best examples of content marketing.
These are twelve must-haves for a content marketing strategy that works.
1. Content Strategist/Director
No content strategist equals no cohesiveness or direction. Producing content randomly without professional guidance and hoping for the best is like throwing spaghetti at a wall to see if it’s cooked — certain pieces may stick, but it's a mess.
A professional responsible for planning, producing, publishing, sharing, and evaluating your content will ensure you get the results your company needs.
While it’s best to have your content director in-house so they can easily coordinate with other departments or team members, you can also obtain excellent results when outsourcing with an agency or freelancer.
2. Content Calendar
Without a content calendar, nobody knows what’s going on.
A content calendar allows your team to brainstorm ideas and provides visibility. It clearly shows who is responsible for delivering what projects and when they are due. It also maintains consistency and makes smooth pivots possible.
Content publication and sharing usually mean juggling your website and multiple social media accounts spread across several platforms. Your content calendar keeps everyone organized and on track. Planning content also brings these benefits:
- Makes it easier to determine the best media mix
- Helps deal with budget limitations
- Clarifies which channels and platforms are most effective
- Assists with tracking and evaluating results
- Keeps content relevant and congruent
Your content calendar cuts down on time-consuming internal messaging and confusion because everyone can inform themselves with a quick glance.
You may not be juggling content on the scale of Samsung, which has:
- 114 Facebook pages
- 98 Twitter handles
- 64 YouTube channels
- 43 Instagram accounts
- 11 LinkedIn accounts
But even if you only have one account on each platform, you’ll find a content calendar invaluable for keeping everything running smoothly and on time.
3. Content Briefs
Your content creators are shooting in the dark without a comprehensive content brief. You won’t get the content you envision or the results you want. The content brief communicates your vision to your team. Then they’ve got a great shot at giving you what you want.
Must-haves for a detailed content brief are:
- A working title that may be amended in the creative process
- Production team list including the writer, editor, graphics designer, and client contact person
- Due dates for the outline, rough draft, final draft, and publication
- Content length
- A few sentences describing the direction and topics to cover
- What not to include
- Point of view
- Links to include or exclude
- Audience description
- SEO keywords
- Style guide
Content briefs are a must-have to guide the production process of any type of content.
4. Audience Profiling and Segmentation
Without an audience profile, you're left with bland, directionless copy. Your team doesn’t know whom they’re trying to engage and motivate.
A detailed audience description for each market segment makes it possible to create personalized content that speaks directly to consumers' hearts and minds using their vernacular. With the right targeted content, engagement and retention can soar.
Your audience persona might include:
- Age group
- Education level
- Marital status
- Interests and hobbies
- Favorite media types
A spot-on profile gives your content team the insights needed to create highly engaging content that will keep your brand top-of-mind.
5. Long-Tail Keyword Phrases
Not using long-tail keyword phrases means competing head-on with the top performers — likely established companies with enormous budgets. It also means missing out on voice search, which 70% of US consumers use. When using voice search, people tend to use longer phrases than when typing.
Well-established sites have locked up most short keywords. If you want to rank quickly, drill down using a keyword research tool to discover long-tail keywords to create your stellar content around.
No links means poor search engine optimization (SEO). You’ll never get to page one of search.
While quality SEO content is the most heavily weighted factor in search engine algorithms, your link structure is a close second. Most businesses fail to build a good link structure, which spells opportunity for you.
Every new content piece needs:
- Internal links: Links from the piece to other pages on your website with similar topics and links from those pages to your new content
- External links: Links from your new content to external websites with high authority and trust, like .edu and .gov sites
- Backlinks: Links coming to your content piece from other well-established sites.
A good link structure tells search engines your content is valuable, findable, and shareable.
7. The Right Platforms
If you’re publishing content on Facebook, but your audience is professionals hanging out on LinkedIn, you will not get good results.
Publishing content on the right platform gets you in front of the right audience. You’ll learn quickly which content type engages them. Your content will have a shot at going viral and attracting new users.
8. The Best Media Mix
Getting the right media mix can be difficult, but it’s rewarding when you do. Working with a professional content strategist will help.
Where your audience lives on the internet will determine the best media mix. Traditional blogs can do well with SEO blog posts that may contain images, graphics, or short videos. Social media posts will drive traffic to the blog posts.
If your customers are on YouTube, you’ll need videos with an SEO description to get them ranked on Google. The same applies to the podcasts that busy multitaskers enjoy listening to — the written SEO version gets podcasts found by the right audience.
Not using templates means wasting time performing tedious, repetitive tasks.
Templates save time and promote easy understandability. Areas where templates have proven their value are:
- Content calendars
- Social media calendars
- Content briefs
- Reporting templates for analytics
- Infographic templates
No automation equals dull, time-consuming drudgery when you could be creating and producing. These tasks become much more manageable with automation:
- Social listening
- SEO/keyword research
- Sharing content across multiple platforms
Not using metrics makes it difficult to evaluate content performance. You won’t know which type of content to produce less of and which to double down on.
There are many metrics, with marketers creating more for specific situations. The standbys below may be enough for most content marketing purposes:
- Number of visitors
- Bounce rate
Google Analytics is an excellent free source of metrics that give you the critical information you need to discover why your content marketing strategy isn’t working.
Not pivoting equals getting left behind with an outdated content marketing strategy.
Environmental changes like the pandemic, new technologies, trends, and shifting consumer behavior patterns require pivots to stay current. Internal shifts like new product launch also instigate pivots.
Of companies who reported pivoting, 86% said they expected the changes to remain in effect for a while — their pivots were effective.
There is a little more to advanced content marketing than covered in these twelve critical areas, but doing these basics well builds a foundation that will generate positive results.
Content Marketing FAQs
Here are some short answers to commonly asked questions about content marketing.
Does content marketing work?
Content marketing generates leads and demand, say 60% of B2B marketers. A 70% majority report that content marketing educates their audience, while 60% say that loyalty among existing customers increases.
Why is content marketing important?
Content marketing is essential because it builds brand awareness, trust, and authority. It keeps your business top-of-mind so that consumers naturally think of you when they need a solution to their problem.
Content marketing improves ad effectiveness because consumers are already familiar with your brand.
Is content marketing effective?
Businesses with blogs get 67% more leads than those without. And compared to outbound close rates, inbound close rates are eight to 10 times higher.
Is content marketing difficult?
Compared to pay-per-click, where all that’s needed is an ad and a landing page, content marketing requires more time and effort. But customer acquisition costs are 15% lower with content marketing, and you get other, difficult to measure benefits like:
- Increased brand recognition
- Improved trust and loyalty
- Higher conversion rates
- Lower unsubscribe rates
How long does it take to see results from content marketing?
The conventional wisdom that says three months to a year is necessary to see results from content marketing isn’t very helpful. The truth is that it depends — which may be even less helpful.
First, it's crucial to know how you measure results. The two measures that matter in content marketing are how much traffic a content piece generates and how much of that traffic converts into leads or sales.
After gaining clarity about how to measure results, here's a deeper look into how long it takes to see results. There will be much variability depending on your:
- Business model
- Product/market fit
- Domain authority
- SEO competition
- Promotion channels
Six months to a year may be about right if you’re starting from scratch. But if you’ve got a famous person with a large following in your business, you can see results much faster.
The effectiveness of your content marketing is also a significant factor. Using professionals will garner entirely different results than randomly assigning content production to existing members of your team who may already have a full plate.
Should I produce content in-house or outsource?
Many companies prefer to avoid the expense and difficulty of setting up in-house content production by outsourcing it. Content marketing has been around long enough for agencies and freelancers to become accustomed to consistently producing highly engaging content.
Content writing services may reduce the expense and headache of creating high-quality content that will get the results your business needs.
Regardless of choosing in-house or outsourcing, you’ll benefit by consulting a competent content strategist to plan and coordinate production and publication.