In recent years, while much has changed regarding content marketing, much has also stayed the same. The benefits of implementing content marketing strategies speak for themselves: Ensure your brand stays relevant, help people find your products and services, satisfy search intent, and more.
But all the benefits mean nothing if you don't get a handle on content marketing best practices. You need to know what works now.
What you will learn
- How important it is to identify content marketing goals with clear KPIs so you can achieve success and measure your ROI
- Why you should create customer centric content for every stage in the buyer's journey
- How content hubs, repurposing content, updating existing articles, promoting content, and publishing evergreen content on effective channels improve your content marketing strategy
- Why analyzing your competitors can help put you on the map
- Why streamlining your content marketing workflow is essential to keep your team on the same page and working efficiently
1. Identify content marketing goals
One of the first steps for an effective content marketing strategy is identifying your content goals. When you know whether you want to focus on increasing conversions or backlinks (or something else), you need to tailor your goals accordingly.
Consider these main goals in your content marketing strategy:
- Build brand awareness: If no one knows your company exists, how will you make money or get customers?
Use your content marketing plan to put your company on the virtual map so people can be aware of your brand, what you offer, and how you can help them.
- Increase website traffic: Optimizing your new and existing content according to SEO best practices helps ensure your web pages rank high in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Better rankings ensure more people can visit your site, resulting in more potential customers.
- Establish credibility: Would you buy from a brand with a bad reputation or negative reviews? You wouldn’t, and this showcases the power of establishing credibility; i.e., consumers' confidence and trust in your brand.
A reputable brand is more likely to attract potential, new, and recurring customers because you are seen as a trustworthy industry leader offering high-quality services and products, thus increasing your sales and revenue.
- Improve lead generation: Lead generation helps you build credibility, trust, visibility, and interest from those you have identified as leads (a specific group of people that matches your target audience personas).
When you improve lead generation, you get traffic from high-quality prospects who can be converted into high-value customers, which helps you scale your brand and grow your revenue.
Besides setting goals for your content marketing plan, you need to also identify key performance indicators (KPIs) to help you evaluate your strategy. You need to know what is working and what isn't so you can adjust or change elements to better help you achieve your objectives.
KPIs need to be measurable and specific objectives that align with your business goals. Some KPIs to consider setting for content marketing goals include:
2. Create content for every stage
To benefit from the best content marketing strategy, firstly, you need to understand your buyer's funnel-shaped journey (or customer journey) to create content to educate, engage, build, and earn trust from your potential customers at each and every stage of this journey.
As you "help" your visitors move through the funnel, you further establish your brand's credibility.
The visitor who just arrived at your website isn't the same as the one who is ready to click "buy," so in your content creation process, you need to cater to each buyer-journey-stage visitor individually.
Even Startup Buffer agrees that it's essential to create content for every customer journey stage:
Stage 1: Awareness
For example, an internet user (a lead) visiting your site for the first time could be in the first or awareness stage of the funnel, and they want to further understand their problem or pain point.
Educating the visitor should be your primary goal here, so you'll focus on creating informational, in depth content that helps the visitor better understand their problem.
With a search query like "I have a sore back and neck. What's wrong with me?" you can create content about the different types of back and neck pain and the causes of these ailments. One of the causes of back and neck pain could be sitting for long hours in front of the PC, which the prospect relates to.
Stage 2: Consideration
In the next stage of the buyer's journey, the visitor (now a prospect) knows what their problem is called and what it is. They are now ready to understand and research all the available methods to solve the problem (or use the opportunity).
Like the name of this stage, the prospects are considering all the potential solutions, so that's what you need to educate them on.
In the consideration stage, the internet user's search query could be "How do I get rid of back and neck pain due to sitting for too long?" Create relevant content around solutions to this query, such as investing in an ergonomic chair, standing desk, or physiotherapy.
Stage 3: Decision
The last stage in the customer journey is called the decision stage, and this is where you make the prospect (now a potential buyer) aware of the service or product providers that can help solve their problem.
Here, you want to highlight your brand and focus on the benefits and features of your product or service (over the competition) so the searcher can make their final decision and "buy."
In this stage, the potential buyer's search query is something like "ergonomic chair vs standing desk: which is better to relieve back ache?" With the information in hand, the buyer will choose the provider they know, trust, and like (that is, the provider who is most likely to meet their needs and solve their problem, and this should be YOU).
Ultimately, this is how you create content for each stage of the customer’s journey to help them move through the funnel.
3. Pick effective content channels
There are numerous ways for distributing content:
- Paid media, like pay-per-click advertising and paid influencer marketing
- Owned media channels, like a website, gated content, and email newsletters
- Earned media channels, like guest blogging and online platforms, such as Medium
Unfortunately, many marketers still think you should share your content on each and every channel to meet their content marketing goals.
But that's a waste of time, energy, and resources.
When you've done your homework, you know exactly who your target audience is and where they hang out.
So it makes sense to pick only the most effective channels (where your fans are most active) to establish a brand presence because that's where your audience will see, share, and engage with your brand's story, quality content, and more.
Here are some of Surfer's chosen content distribution channels.
- Surfer's blog [you are here]
You'll want to share content formats that work on your chosen channels, and here are content types you can consider creating for distribution:
- Blog posts
- Guest posts
- White papers
- Social media posts
- Case Studies
- Email newsletters
- Product or service landing pages
4. Repurpose content
Creating a piece of content for every platform on which you share what you created is very time-consuming and costly.
The easier way is to simply repurpose the authoritative content you've already created.
You research content and create once, and then you can repurpose it as many times as needed, and it'll appear new and fresh for your audience.
Repurposing content is an effective strategy where content marketers use existing content as the basis for "new" content. For example, a blog post can be turned into a script and video content, an infographic, gated content, a social media post, a tutorial, and more.
The benefits of using repurposed content are that it's cost-effective, saves time and effort, is an efficient use of your resources, scales easily, and you can reach a wider audience as you share the content in new forms on other content channels.
For example, Hootsuite cleverly used its comprehensive Digital 2022 Report as a basis for a short blog post on Social Media Trends 2023.
5. Publish both evergreen and trending content
Evergreen content can be content that trends and vice versa, but that isn't always the case.
In short, evergreen content is "timeless content" that's always relevant and useful to readers even with no or minimal updates, while trending content is based on all the rage industry trends that only gains traction for a short while before it's a case of "out of sight, out of mind."
An example of evergreen content is our own guide on keyword research.
Trending content includes news articles, hot topics, and pop culture events.
While it's essential to create both content types, here are the benefits you'll reap by focusing on creating evergreen content:
- Continues to attract traffic over a long period as it is content that's built to last
- Attracts inbound links, helping to increase your site's Domain Authority and ranking on the SERPs
- Gives your brand a sense of authority as your audience perceives you as a tried, true, and dependable source
- Build leads that can turn into customers
You can use Keyword Surfer to find evergreen topics with sufficient search volume that you can create content for.
6. Build content hubs
A big part of many marketing campaigns is creating article after article in the hopes of driving traffic and ranking highly.
A better strategy would be building content hubs where you have a pillar page that covers an overview of a topic and then write several articles about the different aspects of a topic.
We have a whole article on great pillar page examples, but if you are in a hurry, then an example would be this one on indoor plant care:
Since the pillar page will link to each cluster and the clusters will link to each other, your internal linking strategy is optimized, helping to boost your organic traffic.
A content hub is built on the principle of creating high quality content that showcases expertise, authority, trust, and experience, which helps you establish topical authority, improve your rankability on the SERPs, and drive traffic.
To generate a list of related topics in your niche, follow these steps.
- Open Surfer Keyword Research Tool
- Enter your target keyword and country
- Click Create Keyword Research
You will find a list of related keyword clusters that are grouped together by their main topic. Each of these cluster tiles can act as keywords for a separate blog post.
7. Measure content marketing ROI
A significant aspect of your content marketing strategy is measuring your return on investment (ROI).
Determine how your content efforts fared versus your definition of success and your content goals.
In fact, a study published by HubSpot reveals that those who measure the ROI from their content marketing campaigns are 12 times more likely to generate higher year-on-year returns. Why would you say no to that?
So when you measure your content marketing efforts ROI, ask yourself:
- What are the overall business results?
- Did your efforts pay off? What's your top performing content?
- What should you scrap? What content formats or topics didn't work?
- What can be improved? Where can you increase conversion rates?
To help you keep track of your content strategy and performance, measure your success and use free tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
8. Analyze your competitors
One of the main steps in the content creation process is analyzing your competitors.
Examine what they are doing well and what they aren't doing great, so you can create content that's at 10x better and ranks higher on the SERPs.
Capitalize on the work they have already done to help you get insights for your content and avoid repeating mistakes.
Another vital benefit of competitor analysis is that you can uncover successful content ideas and content gaps in your content marketing strategy.
In your analysis, check out the competition's website, blogs, ads, social media accounts, and other content channels they use to share content.
9. Update existing content
Search engines like Google prefer fresh (or "new") content, so when you update a particular topic, you'll often see a boost in rankings.
You should update your existing content when it:
- Doesn't rank well
- Is outdated with facts, figures, information, and on-page technical SEO best practices
- Doesn't meet current search intent
Here's an example of content that's been updated.
LearnWorlds created an article about the best online learning platforms, with the first version published in February 2020. According to the Web Archive, the article was updated a few times, with the latest update published in February 2023.
You can see the writer added 19 platforms, rewrote the introduction, added some information sections like "what is an online learning platform," and updated the images for the article.
A good idea when updating and changing old content is to use SEO Audit to find "missing long tail keywords" that you can include and rank for.
Rank the report by Relevance to see the most important keywords on top.
Create an editorial or content calendar to help you track when you last updated a blog post.
10. Promote your content
Content planning, content creation, and content publishing are only a part of your content strategy.
The other essential aspect is content promotion.
You won't see the benefits of content marketing campaigns if people don't know about your content, and promoting said content is one way to reach your audience. When you share your content, you can also reach a wider audience, bringing more leads for more conversions.
We regularly promote our content on various platforms, and here's an example of sharing a relevant discussion on LinkedIn.
Here are a few ideas for promoting your content:
- Email your subscribers
Email marketing is one way to promote your content offerings, so email your subscriber list so they can read your articles and start engaging.
- Build links
You should build links to the article by writing guest posts, fixing broken links, analyzing your competitors, and doing brand mentions. A continued and sustained link building campaign will deliver long-term benefits as you promote your content.
- Create ads on social media
Besides a low entry cost and good conversion rates, social media ads push your posts to a broader audience, thus increasing brand awareness and customer engagement.
11. Streamline your content marketing process
Having an effective content management process is essential.
There are many moving pieces in a content marketing workflow, and it's so easy to let something (unknowingly and by accident) slip through the cracks.
What you miss in the workflow could be a tiny element with no drastic effect on your overall content marketing strategy.
Still, you may miss something quite significant with a noticeable impact that could negatively affect your traffic, sales cycle, ROI, and more.
To streamline your content marketing process, pay specific attention to the following aspects:
- Roles and accountability
Assigning roles and responsibilities to your team helps ensure accountability.
Consider drafting a project plan so everyone has an overview of the project as a whole and the part they play in the process.
A project plan and a write-up of the responsibilities help set clear expectations so the team members know exactly what they should do and by when. Remember to communicate often with your team and check in to ensure the project is on track.
Standard operating procedures (SOPs) documents and style guides contain detailed information that's needed to complete your content, project, or campaign. This ensures consistency and brand personality across the whole content strategy.
Without SOPs and style guides, your team won't be able to work effectively and efficiently. Plus, when you onboard a new team member, these documents are helpful to set the newbie up for success.
- Content calendar
A content calendar helps you plan ahead and gives you an overview of where you currently are. Include status updates, content updates, upcoming content, the schedule for publishing content, and planned promotional activity on the calendar.
The benefits you can expect to reap by keeping such a calendar are an organized team and sustaining your audience's interest with content they can engage with.
- Content marketing tools
Make your life easier (and more productive) with the help of content marketing tools that empower you to create compelling content, maintain content quality, foster engagement, grow your audience, conduct target keyword research, and more.
- A content marketing strategy helps you improve your brand awareness, ROI, conversions, and website traffic as you establish brand authority and personality and connect with your audience.
- There are 11 essential content marketing best practices that you need to implement today to stay relevant and at the top of your game.
- Identifying measurable and specific content marketing goals helps you achieve success as you become aware of which strategies work best and which need to be changed.
- Support your leads through every stage of the customer journey, from awareness to consideration and decision-making, to ensure they move through the sales funnel and convert to buyers.
- Choosing effective organic channels to share and promote your content is a must.
- Parts of the content production process include repurposing content, focusing on evergreen content around target keywords that "always" trends instead of only creating fly-by-night hot content, and building content hubs with pillar and supporting pages.
- Only when you measure your ROI do you know whether your blood, sweat, and tears (aka efforts) have paid off.
- Analyze your competitors' content on the search engines and identify their strengths and weaknesses, as well as any opportunities they missed that you can capitalize on.
- Update your existing articles to improve your organic search rankings and customer engagement.
- Streamlining your content marketing process helps ensure successful content, that your team is aware of your expectations, and makes it easier for them to deliver quality.
It's essential to be aware of the top content marketing trends so you too can rank high on the search engines, boost engagement, build authority, and increase your ROI.
The 11 best practices for content marketing that I've shared should be on your priority list so you can start seeing results.
Which of these best practices have yielded results for you and your team? Please share with us in the comments below.