Developing an Effective and Engaging Content Marketing Plan

Business.com / Marketing Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Tips and advice on how small business owners can develop a cohesive content marketing plan to both build and engage with their audience

How important is it for businesses today to have an actionable content creation strategy?

Well, when you consider that the Internet currently has 4.8 billion web pages, and well over 900,000 websites actively pumping out content, then it’s fair to assume that having an all-encompassing content creation strategy is vitally important to organic search engine optimization (SEO).

Unfortunately, a number of entrepreneurs and SMBs make the common mistake that any content will do. These are the enterprises that have never truly acted upon the notion that content is king.

Either you have a well-researched content creation platform, one where you combine well-written and engaging pieces with videos and colorful imagery, or you’ll lose out. So, given how important it is to have that strategy, what are some of the steps you need to take right now?

Related Article: The Value of the Keyword: Why It Matters In Content Marketing

1) Define Your Target Audience

Too many entrepreneurs overlook the importance of content creation because they’ve either ignored, or don’t fully comprehend, just how important and highly-regarded well-written content is to their audience.

This happens because they don’t create their content with their target audience in mind. Instead, they create content because they have to, and not because they know what their audience truly wants and appreciates.

Long before you start by putting a plan together, start by defining who your target audience is. This will help you define how you structure your content in terms of videos, images and graphics, in addition to outlining what type of social media strategy you employ. Here are some critical questions you need to answer.

  • Do we sell into a business-to-business (B2B) market, a business-to-government (B2G) market or a business-to-consumer (B2C) market
    • Who are the main decision makers within our market and what interests and concerns do they have that our content can address?
  • Where do our customers get together online?
    • Are they more likely to share content on “consumer” social websites like Facebook and Pinterest?
    • Are they more likely to share content on professional social websites like LinkedIn?
    • Are they more likely to gather on an obscure forum and or an online publication and association?  
  • What type of content is most appreciated by our customers?
    • B2B customers like graphical depictions like tables and graphs.
    • B2C customers like vivid images and snappy brands with vibrant colors.
    • B2G customers like content that’s well-researched, backed by statistics and content that has well-recognized and universally accepted reference sources.
    • All customers love an engaging video that quickly delivers a message.

2) Create a Content Creation Map and Schedule Workflow

Make sure you plan your content creation well in advance. A good strategy is to emulate a work-flow diagram where you define a well-understood topic at the top and then branch out underneath that topic with separate subtopics. Alongside each of these branches and subtopics you define what’s required in terms of video, images and graphs within the content.

Next, schedule how and when that content will be created and published. This gives you ample opportunity to bring in additional resources. In essence, you’re creating a series of posts, ones where you may define the overriding topic in the first post and then follow it up with subsequent posts at a later date.

3) Focus on Keyword Research

Well-written content is important, but having the right keywords and keyword-phrases embedded within that content is equally important. There are a number of readymade tools available for you to use when it comes to researching those keywords most often used by your target audience in online searches.

Google’s Adwords Keywords Planner is an absolute necessity. You’ll need it to create good content, and if you’re running pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns to compliment your organic SEO, then you’ll need it to optimize your paid search as well.

Nowadays, it’s best to start by creating solid content and then fitting in your keywords and keyword phrases afterwards. In the early days of search engines, it made sense to focus on keywords first. Unfortunately, there is too much content online where it’s obvious the keywords aren’t natural. It’s seen as keyword-stuffing and comes across as if the authors are trying to game the system.

4) Trust Your Website’s Metrics and Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a valuable free tool for webmasters, online marketers and everyday bloggers. You must be able to measure how your content is performing and the type of content that most often pushes customers to act. In this case, it’s about defining your content’s return on investment (ROI).

If you’re paying someone for content creation, then understanding how well received that content is critical to ROI. For instance, if you’ve paid for content creation, and a given page is outperforming other pages in terms of lead generation, then you’re ROI is higher on the better performing page. From that you could easily define your costs of lead generation resulting from that content you paid for.

Google Analytics provides insight into where your website visitors come from, what they do when they arrive at your website, and how they navigate that website. You’ll be able to analyze the performance of individual landing pages in addition to having an understanding of bounce rates and average time spent on individual pages.

Related Article: How to Create a Successful B2B Content Marketing Strategy

5) Leverage Your Social Media Reputation

Having great content alone won’t suffice. You need to build a substantial network of contacts and highly-valued market influencers that can help distribute your content. Now, this doesn’t merely involve backlinks.

While backlinks are important, the problem is that too many webmasters push their own backlinks on similar websites, forums and blogs and other verticals. It’s easily identified and immediately jettisoned.

A better approach involves building that aforementioned network of market influencers. However, that doesn’t mean your network has to include the biggest influencers in your market. Instead, it means having a network of likeminded and highly influential people who have substantial networks of their own.

That’s how you leverage your social media platform.

You plan your content well in advance and build your network at the same time. When you’re ready to publish, you have a readymade network willing to push that content on your behalf.

6) Addressing Hummingbird

There’s no excuse for ignoring your local market. Make sure you structure some of your content around using hummingbird keywords and phrases.

In this case, you should have content that addresses customer requests for information about your business, requests about where your business is located, and finally, requests about how products and services work and are purchased. This is an ideal strategy to use with social media. Make sure to have this content link back to the appropriate landing page.

These three aforementioned hummingbird phrases are critical to local SEO and are outlined below.

Informational-Based Requests:

  • What is your company about?
  • What types of products and services do you offer?

Location-Based Requests:

  • Where are you located?
  • How do customers find you?
  • What landmarks are nearby?

Brand-Based Requests:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • What is your website’s address?
  • How well known is your brand?

Having a plan of attack as to how you put together your content will help you better position your company in your market. However, it requires a willingness on your part to lay out a proactive plan to build your network and incentivize market influencers to share your best content.

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