Content creation and marketing will only be successful if you have an organized content marketing plan as a roadmap for every task.
Business owners and marketing departments often get discouraged with the ever-changing best practices for blog writing, SEO, and the social web.
Businesses also tend to laser focus on blog writing and forget to produce weightier content like ebooks and guides.
This type of content is crucial for the success of the inbound marketing portion of your content marketing plan.
The 8 steps herein will help business owners and marketing departments successfully design and roll out their content marketing plan. This post features commentary at each step from HubSpot’s friend Chris Craft, Founder and Chief Visionary at Nao Media and author of O.P.E.N. Routine.
As we prepare to cover the 8 steps for content marketing plan success, we want you to know that we understand the fast-paced business environment. It’s tempting to rush into tactics in order to get your content marketing items crossed off your to-do list. Acting on this temptation is dangerous.
Moving forward without a content marketing plan can damage your brand, frustrate your team, and discourage you from future content marketing initiatives. We won’t let that happen though, right?
The Necessity of Identity
1) Align your business’s purpose with your plan
This first step involves knowing what you offer and the value it provides to your customers. But it also involves something much deeper -- your emotional connection with your customers.
Craft: I’m a believer in the power of story. You need to peel back a few layers and discuss the why, what, and how of your business before diving into content creation tactics. Get a good grip on this before doing anything else.
2) Know your audience
Knowing your audience (customers, community, stakeholders) is a natural step following Step 1. Once you know yourself, carry the process over to those whom you intend to engage.
Craft: There are two ways to fly blindly with your content marketing efforts: by not knowing who you are and not knowing your audience. Focus and diligence in creating content could be wasted if these identity exercises are skipped.
Step 2 is most popularly known as creating buyer personas. Seek to go deeper than gender, age, and income (if you’re B2C) and industry, company size, and annual revenues (if you’re B2B). Consider their perceived pain points, location, culture, and social media engagement as well.
3) Curate keywords, calendar content
That’s some awesome alliteration by the way. After you reflect on your purpose and develop your buyer personas, bring the information from steps 1 and 2 over to your keyword research. From there, you should base your scheduled content on your targeted keywords.
Craft: Long-tail keywords are so important that our editorial calendars at Nao Media contain a column specifically for them. This allows our writers to know to work the keyword for a specific writing topic into the copy.
Having a schedule is mandatory for content marketing plan success. Doing content creation and marketing activities without communication and editorial calendars is like embarking on a road trip without a roadmap (if GPS and Google Maps weren’t invented). Some key elements of an editorial calendar are topic, keyword, author, submission date, and publishing date.
Let’s Get Technical
4) Optimize your content hub
Whether you’re considering HubSpot or WordPress for your COS/CMS, it’s important to have quality tools or plugins installed. After installing them, put them to good use so that your content has optimum reach.
Craft: It’s important that you install a quality SEO plugin so you’re not creating posts and pages without knowledge of how well the content is formatted for optimum on-page SEO (more on this soon).
For dedicated WordPress users, WordPress SEO Plugin (Yoast) is the cream of the crop. The beauty of HubSpot is that it has built-in optimization tools for SEO, keyword research, and social sharing (plus a marketplace for more).
You must also set up Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools so that you can analyze the volume, frequency, and path of your website visitors. Know for sure that your content is doing its job with these suggested tools.
5) Use time-tested SEO principles to write content that’s still beautiful
Time-tested SEO principles refer to ethical strategies that Google and other search engines will likely always see as best practices. Your SEO strategy should be top of mind when developing your content marketing plan.
Craft: This is where things can get hard honestly. Writing content that’s optimized for search engines that’s also enjoyable to read is not an easy task. Hiring or outsourcing your copywriting needs to writers who can create this balance is crucial.
You can make your blog and static web pages SEO-friendly by knowing your focused long-tail keywords, organizing the page with H1, H2, and H3 headings, giving all images alternative text that includes your keyword, having a clean URL structure, and writing a short and clean meta description that includes your long-tail keyword.
Educate and Distribute
6) Inside-out: get buy-in and support from your team
You can comfortably move forward with distributing your content when you know that your marketing and sales teams are fully aware of your business’s content marketing efforts.
Craft: Work in time for educating your team on the importance of content. Your leaders should connect this point with how internal support of a great content marketing plan can increase company revenue. Even more effective is tying their support of the plan to their income.
The goal is for your team to be a content sharing machine through social networks and in-person interactions. Please make sure this stage is in alignment with your business’s social media guidelines.
7) Feed your hub by creating social signals
Content won’t move without distributing it on social networks. Eight “zillion” blog posts have been written on this topic, so we don’t need to go into details. Your content’s impact depends on a systematic approach to sharing it on various social media sites.
Craft: I’m a fan of the basic hub and spoke model of content marketing. Your social media channels (the spokes) should drive traffic back to your website (the hub). Even better, drive traffic into deeper pages that educate and/or entertain the visitor -- leaving a lasting impression on them and keeping your business on their mind as they work toward a buying decision. Know your limits though.
It’s better to be a master of one platform than to have poor to mediocre engagement on several. But if your business is robust enough to deploy enough marketing resources for the proper management of several social networks, then you’re in a great position.
8) Repurpose your content for new audiences and higher ROC (return on content)
Get the most out of your content by using it in other areas. Individual content creation activities should never be treated as one-shot tactics. Use your content for ebooks and reference it in videos and podcasts.
Craft: Repurposing content is an often forgotten strategy. It’s my favorite weapon for battling content creation fatigue. Something you write as a blog post might be better consumed in the form of an ebook. Just be careful with repurposing blog content within another blog post as it can create an instance of duplicate content -- something the major search engines kinda’ frown upon.