One of the hardest parts of content marketing is creating content that appeals to both human readers and search engines. Content needs to fulfill two roles for a business: engaging readers so that they are persuaded to share the content, visit the business’s website, or connect with the brand on social media, and signalling to search engines that the content is high quality and relevant to the niche the business is targeting.
The following tips can help you to create content that gets ranked by search engines and read by humans.
1. Start With SEO: How to Choose and Use Keywords
You can create the wittiest, most engaging, most original piece of content in the world, but if it doesn’t contain any keywords relevant to your business, then your potential customers won’t find it in their search engine results pages. The first place to start with content marketing is to choose which keywords to target with your content creation. These keywords are the starting point from which you can develop content ideas that are truly special and unique.
How do you know which keywords to use? A good place to start is Google Keyword Planner, which suggests keywords relevant to your website and lets you know how many people are searching for each keyword.
Keywords that have high monthly search volumes have the greatest potential to bring in traffic, but there’s a caveat – if you target these keywords, you’ll probably face high competition from other brands. Google Keyword Planner gives you an idea of the level of competition for each keyword, as measured by the demand for ads using that keyword.
Once you have chosen your keywords – sticking to just one or two for each piece of content – you need to generate some ideas for content. This process is called ideation, and it’s widely believed to be the most difficult part of content marketing.
If you need a spark of inspiration, please check those juicy tips for content marketing ideation. Many of them advise to find out what your customers want from you. Speaking to your customers on social media, looking for relevant questions on Quora and other question and answer sites, and finding out what discussions are occurring on forums are a few ways to find out what information your customers want you to provide.
Always strive to be original in the ideas that you develop. Rather than jumping on the obvious topics, take the time to develop your ideas into fully fleshed out posts and videos that offer fresh insight to your readers.
Using your main keyword in titles and subheaders sends a strong signal to search engines that your content is relevant to users searching for information about that topic. Also use the keyword throughout the body of the text or in the tags of image-based types of content, such as infographics. However, don’t go overboard; stuffing content with keywords not only turns off human readers, but could also attract penalties from search engines.
2. How to Appeal to Human Readers: Be Original, Helpful and Engaging
Content marketing has several aims. Your content introduces your brand to consumers, keeps them interested in you and persuades them to become your customers. The type of content that your customers need to see depends on their stage in the buying cycle.
The Buying Cycle
Let’s take a closer look at the infographic showing the buying cycle:
- The first stage of the cycle is exploration.
This is the first contact that customers have with your brand. Content designed to reach these users should be highly shareable and/or search optimized, so that it reaches as many people as possible.
Good examples of this type of content include “how to” blog posts, which give people an overview of how to achieve a certain goal, or videos that are likely to go viral. The aim of this type of content is to persuade the customer to engage with your brand, either by liking your social media page or subscribing to your mailing list.
- The second stage of the buying cycle is consideration.
During this stage, customers will assess your brand and decide whether your products or services could be useful to them. The content targeting customers in this stage should be in-depth. The aim of this content is to educate customers about the problems that your business claims to solve.
- The third stage is decision making.
This is the point where customers need specific information about your product. Make sure this content is available on your site to give customers all the information they need to persuade them to make a purchase. You can also send out this kind of content to customers who are already on your mailing list. Combining this content with special discounts or promotions can help to drive a sale.
- The final stage of the buying cycle is widely neglected, but it is actually one of the most important.
This is the advocacy stage, where you convert your existing customers into advocates for your brand. A few days after you make a sale, contact the customer to ask them to connect with you on social media, write a review or recommend you to their friends. If you can get your happy customers to advocate your brand and promote your content, then your content marketing strategy could really take off.
Your content should walk your customers through this cycle. Each stage should link to the next, so customers can move smoothly through the cycle without having to go looking for the information they need.
3. It’s All About the Customer
By understanding who your customers are, what stage of the buying cycle they’re in and what their needs are, you can create a content marketing campaign that appeals to your audience, rather than turning them off.
In general, avoid making your content overly promotional. A good rule of thumb is to apply the 80/20 rule to your content. Around 80 percent of your output should focus on providing value to your customers in the form of informative blog posts, videos, infographics and so on, while only 20 percent should attempt to directly promote your products. By using this approach, you can avoid alienating your audience through too much hard selling.
4. Update Regularly
One of the most important keys to content marketing success is to create content regularly. Regular updates are not only helpful for keeping your audience engaged, but they can also help to improve SEO.
Search algorithms love fresh content. Set a schedule that you can keep up with without compromising the quality of your content and stick to it. Scheduling software can make it much easier for you to stay on track. These tools allow you to create your content when you have the time, then the tool will post it for you on a regular schedule.
To sum up all the key takeaways:
- Content marketing starts with keyword research; find out which keywords you need to target to draw traffic to your site.
- Let your customers’ needs dictate the content topics.
- Create content that delivers useful information to your audience, rather than always pushing for a sale – apply the 80/20 rule.
- Your content marketing strategy should lead your customers through the buying cycle, covering each stage in turn.
- Update your content regularly and keep customers engaged.
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