How to Get Started with Content Marketing: A Step-by-Step Guide

Effective content marketing requires a deep understanding of your target audience's needs, interests, and pain points, as well as a comprehensive strategy to create and distribute content that resonates with them.

What you will learn

  • What content marketing is and why it’s beneficial to your business
  • How to start content marketing
  • The most important factors to consider before you begin content marketing
  • How to make the most of your content efforts

Often less expensive than traditional tactics, content marketing can be used to reach your target audience more effectively than other strategies. Think of a content marketing campaign as a digital marketing superpower, capable of attracting potential customers and retaining existing ones. 

In this guide, you'll learn the steps you need to take to get started with content marketing.

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is the practice of creating and promoting valuable and relevant content on organic platforms to attract and nurture defined audiences into paid users of your products and services.

Content marketing involves creating and distributing a wide range of content types, including blog posts, videos, social media posts, slides, podcasts, and even, offline magazines. The content is aimed to inform, educate, and engage audiences rather than explicitly promote a product or service.

By consistently providing valuable content, content marketing can help establish industry thought leadership, build trust and credibility with your audience, and ultimately drive more conversions and sales.

For example, The Motley Fool, an online financial services platform employs content marketing strategies to demonstrate its expertise through pages of useful, free content for investors who pay for various stock market and personal finance services.

What Are the Benefits of Content Marketing?

Content marketing has several potential benefits for businesses, helping you attract customers who are already interested in your products or services. By consistently creating and sharing valuable content, you can increase brand awareness and establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

Content marketing provides an opportunity to engage with your target audience by providing them with information and resources they find useful. This can lead to increased trust and loyalty, increasing the likelihood of converting readers into paying customers.

Combining search engine optimization with your content marketing strategy will improve your search visibility, thus attracting more leads and potential customers to your website. Compared to traditional advertising methods, content marketing is a more cost-effective way to reach and engage with your target audience.

And unlike traditional advertising methods that have a short lifespan, content marketing provides long-term benefits by creating evergreen content that continues to attract your audience over time.

What Are the Different Types of Content?

There a ton of formats that can be classified under content marketing. Instead of trying to cover them all, you should consider the ones that make the most sense for your audience. Here are the most common types of content.

  • Written Content: This includes articles, blog posts and news stories
  • Visual Content: This includes charts, infographics and other visual elements that help convey a message or tell a story
  • Video Content: This includes instructional videos, webinars, live streams and walk-through animations
  • Audio Content: This includes podcasts, music and sound bites
  • Interactive Content: This includes quizzes, surveys, polls, games, and other content that engages the user and requires their participation.
  • Social Media Content: This includes posts, tweets, status updates, and other content that is shared on social media platforms.
  • User-Generated Content: This includes content created by users, such as reviews, comments, and forum posts.

Each has its own unique benefits and drawbacks; video content is often more captivating but can be more expensive and time-consuming to produce. Podcasts are a great way to reach a broader audience yet may require specialized equipment and a studio setup. Blogging, on the other hand, has lower associated costs and you can get started with in a few hours.

Take Hubspot's inbound marketing, Dollar Shave Club's viral video campaign or NPR's popular podcast Serial as examples of successful content marketing campaigns - they demonstrate the power of content creation and how businesses can use different kinds of content to target their desired audiences.

When creating content, you should keep in mind best practices for different content formats: when writing articles ensure that they're optimized for search engines, have clear instructions and examples; when making videos ensure that they're optimized for CTR, have an engaging narrative with an enticing call-to-action.

Having a solid content strategy in place will help you achieve your business goals while standing out from competitors.

How to start with content marketing

Content marketing can be an effective way to attract and engage with your target audience by providing them with valuable and relevant content. A successful content marketing strategy will drive brand awareness and build your reputation and trust to enhance customer purchase behaviour.

It's a good idea to diversify your content to organic channels instead of solely relying on paid advertising that is growing increasingly expensive. Instead, producing high quality content at each stage of the customer journey can significantly reduce your customer acquisition costs.

Here are 8 steps you can take to get started with content marketing, even if you're a complete beginner.

1. Identify your target audience

Before you begin your content marketing journey, understand who your ideal customer is. What are their pain points, and how your content can help them. This is the group of people that you want to reach with your content marketing efforts. Knowing who your target audience is and what they are looking for can help content marketers create content that is valuable and relevant to potential customers.

To do this, you will need to research and understand their needs, interests, and pain points. Conducting customer journey research to understand the different stages your potential customer goes through before making a purchase can also help you create content that is tailored to the needs of your target market.

To identify your target audience, you will need to consider their demographics and areas of interest. Information like age, gender, location, employment profiles and skill levels can help you analyze details that characterize them, and their decision making process to create customer personas.

You may use tools like Google Analytics or Hubspot's persona generator to draw up an initial persona, but rely on your unique insights from dealing with customers and knowing them up close. Twilio, for example, benefitted from developing content assets for product managers and team leaders, who made up most of their decision makers.

By understanding your target audience, you can create content that meets their specific needs and interests. This will help you build trust and establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

2. Define your goals

Determine what you want to achieve with your content marketing efforts. Do you want to increase brand awareness, generate leads, or drive sales?

Setting content marketing goals goals is crucial to crafting a content strategy. Your content goals help dictate the direction of the content and how it will be created and distributed. You should consider what type of goal you are setting as a content marketer, and how much time and effort they'll realistically require.

Here are a few examples of goals you can start content marketing with.

Increase brand awareness

One of the primary goals of content marketing is to increase brand awareness by creating content that resonates with your target audience. Blogging can be an effective way to achieve this goal by publishing articles that educate, inform, or entertain your audience. For example, at Surfer we publish blog posts to help educate our audience on simplifying the process of writing SEO optimized content for search engines.

Generate leads

By creating content that addresses your audience’s pain points and offers solutions to their problems, you can build trust and establish yourself as an authority in your industry. Creating content for users who are product and solution aware can help you convert more visitors into customers.

Build thought leadership

You can demonstrate expertise and authority with content marketing to help establish your brand as a thought leader in your industry. Blogging can be an effective way to achieve this goal by publishing thought-provoking articles or insights that showcase your industry knowledge.

Drive website traffic

SEO can be an effective way to achieve this goal by optimizing your website for relevant keywords and creating content that is optimized for search engines. Using keyword research to find the right keywords for your blog post can help maximize your chances at attracting visitors to your website.

Other content marketing goals may include improving your search rankings, increasing conversion rates or acquiring more backlinks. You can begin by selecting more than one content marketing goal for your website, but it's important that you choose at least one to start with.

3. Choose a content type

There are many different content formats you can create including blog posts, videos, infographics and physical magazines. Choose a platform for your content that will best resonate with your target audience. Each format has its own unique strengths and weaknesses, so it's important to do your research and choose a format that best fits your content and audience.

For example, writing blog posts is great if your users prefer long form guides that they can refer to from time to time, and continue where they left off. Video might be appropriate if your audience requires a visual walkthrough of instructions. Podcasts are great for content consumption and sharing stories, but not for guides.

Say you have a website about college admissions. It's probably helpful for your readers to browse a blog post about where to apply for scholarships, instead of watching a video, and having to take notes.

Take automation platform, Zapier for example. The search term "automation platform" only has about 2400 monthly search visits.

However, Zapier understood that their audience primarily uses organic search to look for answers and focussed their content marketing efforts on their blog. Creating SEO-optimized articles based on keyword research led Zapier's blog to receive close to 2 million monthly organic visits.

4. Research relevant topics

Now that you've selected a content format and identified personas, you should research the best topics for your audience. By identifying topics that resonate with your target audience, you can create content that is both engaging and informative. This can help establish your brand as a thought leader in your industry and build trust with your audience.

Research can help you find new content ideas and which ones to prioritize for content marketing success. Look for topics by analyzing your target market's search trends, social media conversations and the areas that your industry in most engaged in. Take the time to analyze your competitors and learn from their content marketing program.

Keyword research tools like Surfer's can help you come up with a list of relevant content ideas in your niche. Time management, for instance has 64 subtopics, each of which have several unique subjects to create content on.

5. Create a content calendar

An editorial calendar is like a roadmap for content marketers, helping you plan and organize content creation. Creating a content calendar will allow you to stay organized, ensure consistency in your content, and help you meet your goals. It's good practice to plan out your content in advance and schedule it to ensure a consistent flow of content.

When creating a content calendar, determine the types of content you should create and the topics you should cover. Select how often you can realistically publish content depending on your objectives and resources. Include due dates and assign responsibility in your calendar. This will help ensure that everyone is on the same page and that content is published on time.

6. Produce quality content

This may seem like a no-brainer but when it comes to content marketing, producing quality content is of utmost importance. Remember that your competitors are trying to reach the same audience that you are. Quality content not only helps you to establish yourself as an authority in your industry, but it also helps you to build trust with your audience.

However, producing quality content that resonates with your target audience requires more than just putting pen to paper. Your audience expects high-quality content that is accurate, informative, and engaging. Ensure that your content is well-researched, fact-checked, and free of errors. Use visuals, such as images and videos, to make your content more engaging and easier to understand.

When creating content, make sure you use a tone and style that aligns with your brand voice. This will help you establish a consistent brand identity and help them recognize your content. We have a pretty intensive content vetting process here at Surfer to ensure that every blog post and video is helpful to our readers and meets a minimum standard before we're ready to publish.

Producing quality content for your audience requires research, consistency, and a focus on providing value. By following these, you'll be able to create content that resonates with your audience and helps them achieve their goals.

7. Promote your content

Promoting your content is crucial to the success of your content marketing strategy. It's not enough to simply create great content; you need to make sure it gets in front of the right people. Promoting your content will help you reach a wider audience, build your brand, and establish thought leadership in your industry.

There are many ways to promote your content, including social media, email marketing, guest blogging, and influencer outreach. By leveraging these channels, you can reach new audiences and drive traffic to your website.

Implementing search engine optimization is also essential to reaching your target audience. The more high-quality content you have on your website, the more likely you are to rank well in search engine results pages. Using SEO to drive traffic to your website, can improve your search engine rankings and attract more visitors.

Brian Dean of Backlinko, for example increased his search traffic by over 110% in 2 weeks, by reaching out to 160 SEO influencers with a blog post.

8. Measure your results

Measuring your content marketing efforts is crucial to understanding the effectiveness of your strategy. By tracking and analyzing key performance indicators (KPIs), you can gain insights into what is working and what needs improvement.

Engagement metrics such as social media interactions and shares can help you understand how well your content is resonating with your audience. Metrics like the number of unique visitors, average time on page, and bounce rate can help you derive a sense of how engaging your website is and whether your content is useful to readers.

If you are not satisfied with your blog's performance, running a content audit can help you identify areas of improvement. For example, the Terms to Use report in Surfer Audit can tell you which keywords you're missing in your article, and how often you should include them.

By measuring your content marketing efforts, you can also gain insights into who is engaging with your content and what they are interested in. This information can be used to inform future content creation and marketing strategies.

Key takeaways

  • Content marketing can be implemented without a lot of experience or high budgets
  • Content can be blog articles, videos, podcasts, slides - anything that you can think of really
  • Produce content that helps alleviate a problem for your audience
  • Promoting content is almost equally important as creating it
  • Measuring the results of your content marketing efforts can ensure you improve your content performance 


The goal of content marketing is to provide value to your audience. To achieve this, create content that addresses the needs and pain points of your target audience. Your content should be helpful, informative, and provide solutions to the problems your audience is facing. By providing value, you'll build a loyal following and establish yourself as a trusted source of information.

However, content marketing is only successful through careful planning and implementation, so understanding the basics and staying up to date with current trends is key to success. The above steps provide an excellent guide for you to kickstart your content marketing efforts and ensure that you produce content that is well received.

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