What is Content Marketing?

04 November 2021
by Archie Williamson
4 mins
What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is a form of inbound marketing based around the distribution of high-quality content with the aim of attracting, engaging, and converting readers and viewers into long-term paying customers.

While outbound marketing seeks to bombard audiences with brand-heavy messages, content marketing instead draws an audience in organically through videos, blogs, articles, and social media posts that provide value. It still aims to generate awareness and interest in a brand’s products and services, but does so in a way that is less annoying and more helpful for the end user.

Why is content marketing so popular?

A new study by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) found two-thirds of business-to-business (B2B) marketers are expecting to increase the size of their content marketing budgets in 2022. In a world where online visibility is priceless digital currency, content enables companies big and small to stand out from the rest and engage with target audiences consistently across multiple channels.

Content campaigns are also affordable and incredibly versatile. If you run a start-up in a specific niche, you can start crafting articles that highlight your expertise, get people to click through to your web pages, help them to make a purchase and then support them after-sale with a relatively small upfront investment. Content is critical to every phase of the buyer’s journey, from initial awareness to conversion.

And it feeds into and elevates other marketing types. There can be no SEO, social media marketing or pay-per-click ads without content. That means if you want to take that coveted top spot in Google search results for a specific keyword or phrase, content is your very best bet.

What exactly is content marketing?

According to CMI: “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Arguably the most important words in that definition are “strategic marketing approach”. While every brand should prioritise content marketing, you can’t just put articles and videos out there without any direction and expect to succeed. You need a content marketing strategy that connects the dots, from research and creation to publication and data analysis, to succeed in the long term.

While that may appear daunting for a new company, it is viable by following a few simple, actionable steps. Content marketing can become an all-singing, all-dancing venture that powers different parts of your business, but you first need to start small with basic building blocks.

Where is the best place to start?

Follow a framework

Content can reduce the costs of marketing, enable you to generate new leads, increase sales, nurture customer relationships and create ‘assets’ that will drive revenue over time. To start reaping all of those benefits, CMI recommends following a framework built around five core elements – purpose, audience, story, process and measurement. This means that you will need to:

  • Outline your purpose, set goals and define the reason for creating content and its potential value for audiences.
  • Define your audience through research and buyer personas.
  • Brainstorm ideas and consider content types that will get your messages across.
  • Decide exactly how you will produce and publish content.
  • Decide on metrics that link to key performance indicators (KPIs) that will gauge your performance.

Document a strategy for each process

Within this broader framework, you can document a strategy that will get you from A to B. For example, the ‘process’ aspect of the framework will require you to either set up an in-house team or outsource your requirements to an agency offering services such as content writing and social media management.

To excel in the ‘story’ part of the framework, you could use the ‘3D content model’. This will require you to determine a customer’s pain points and problems, decide on content that can solve the issue or help in some way, then select the right content format before serving it to customers at the right time in the sales cycle. Popular content marketing formats include:

  • Tutorials, how-tos, blog posts, guides.
  • Articles, listicles, thought-leadership pieces.
  • Webinars, live videos.
  • Infographics, images, slide shows.
  • White papers, ebooks, research reports.
  • Interviews, press releases, news stories.
  • Social media posts, surveys, quotes and polls.

CMI is eager to stress that there are “no universal templates” for an effective content marketing strategy. It should be tailored to customer’s needs, without losing sight of how it can also help the business achieve core objectives. The most important thing is to document the strategy, as marketers who do so say they are more confident about succeeding and feel less challenged by getting things done.

Start a blog

There is no better jumping-off point for content than a company blog. This will allow you to explore the topics that your customers care about while laying the groundwork for SEO. Publishing content regularly is one of the best ways to keep your site fresh and relevant, which will help Google to crawl, index and rank your pages in search results.

It would be impossible to detail the importance of content marketing without talking about keyword research. This is the part where you can match the words you write with the search intent of customers who want to find answers to their queries. Again, Google also analyses keywords and other page elements to make sense of your content so it finds the right audience.

Keyword research is a key part of SEO, which is an extension of content marketing. You can start finding ‘target’ keywords by using tools such as Semrush, Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Then begin optimising content by including them organically within titles, headers, meta descriptions and the main body of blogs and articles.

So, what is content marketing? It can be many things to a business, but at its core, it is about publishing content that can attract, engage and retain the interest of an audience, and using SEO to make sure it achieves those objectives. If you need help with any stage of the process, contact us today to find out more about our search-driven content services, which include blog management.

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