Maybe you're new to this content marketing thing, or perhaps you're already a veteran looking for some useful resources you might have missed in your busy twitter feed. Look no further- you've come to the right place for a round up of top content marketing finds.
This 'Content Marketing' thing in a nutshell
Jay Baer of Convince and Convert defines content marketing as “a device used by companies to educate, inform or entertain customers or prospects by creating attention or causing behavior that results in leads, sales or advocacy.”
Content can reach your customer in many forms: blogs, slideshares, infographics, and videos all work. It’s important to be medium-agnostic; create content that fits your skill set, appeals to your audience, and is within your budget. Have an intern with a journalism background? Great, work with him on a blog. You attended film school after you saw Reservoir Dogs? Awesome, work with a video team (and make sure half the shots aren’t stolen from Scorsese). Of course, the audience is king; create appealing content that draws them into your brand.
Don't jump the gun; before you start creating content develop a plan, or a content strategy as it's commonly called. Kristina Halvorson, queen of all things content strategy, defines it best.
Original Image Credit to Creative Bloq
Halvorson is the CEO and founder of Brain Traffic, a content strategy consultancy instrumental in making the discipline essential for content creators.
You should follow her on twitter @Halvorson
The web is filled with bad content; start by asking yourself, what's my point?, to keep your message purposeful. Focus on how your content is going to meet the needs of your business and target audience.
Who doesn't love it when a plan comes together?
Content Strategy Must Reads:
- The Discipline of Content Strategy – Kristina Halvorson's seminal article that started it all
- Developing a Strategy – The Content Marketing Institute breaks down the essentials of developing a strategy specifically for content marketing
- A Checklist for Content Work – Core principles of what makes content effective
- Content Strategy for the web [book] – I've lost count of how many times I've read Halvorson's fundamental web strategy guide.
Whenever planning your content, start by understanding the audience you'd like to reach. Creating personas for your target audience can help.
A persona is an archetype of a person within this target audience. This composite personification allows you to better understand how to meet their needs. Say you’ve determined your content’s target market is men fighting their absent fathers for control of the galaxy. You decide your persona, let’s name him Luke Skywalker, spends a lot of time traveling and values mentorship. Long-form written guides that he can share on social media with other members of the rebellion will probably appeal to him.
Some great links on Developing Personas:
- The Art and Science of Understanding the Person Behind the Visit
- Make My Persona – a great beginner tool by Hubspot
- Marketing Personas – the complete beginner's guide
- Personas – by Usability.gov takes us through the definition and some deeper information on how to capture them
- User Personas Can Improve Your SEO.
Content marketing is about building steam. It's a marathon, not a sprint, so stick to playing the long game. It’s far more likely that content will draw an audience if it’s part of a consistent stream of output. That’s where editorial calendars come in.
An editorial calendar allows you to organize and schedule your content. The right calendar, chock full of collaborative and editorial tools, will help eliminate time-wasting email chains and keep your content workflow humming.
Some helpful for setting up your editorial calendar:
- How to Build a Content Calendar
- How to Put Together an Editorial Calendar for Content Marketing
- Editorial Calendar Templates: The Ultimate List – Curata compared all the templates out there to help you find what works for you
- CoSchedule – Calendar with planning, publishing, and sharing tools
- Trello – Digital Surgeons' editorial calendar of choice
Maintaining a steady supply of new ideas can be a challenge for even the web's best creators. For me, it’s all about growth hacking ideation; breaking down the daunting challenge of dreaming up the next great content idea into small, attainable steps.
To come up with your next great idea you should:
- Use Google keyword tools Adwords Keyword Planner and Google Trends to find out what people are searching for
- Keyword research in 90 minutes – This is a crash-source on great keyword research
- Try out gamestorming techniques like the 50/50 experiment to help you rapidly generate content ideas.
- Read The Ultimate List of 95 Blogpost Ideas for Creating Craveable Content to Share on Social from Buffer's Kevan Lee
- Use Buzzsumo to find out what content is performing best on any topic
In the age of 140 characters and goldfish attention spans, your content will live or die by its headline. Convince and Convert did a nice job of summarizing the results of several different studies regarding what it takes to craft an irresistible headline. While there is value in quantitatively studying what draws clicks, at the end of the day it’s about drawing an audience and telling a story in only a few words.
Take a lesson from a popular urban legend about iconoclastic author Ernest Hemingway. One afternoon while having lunch with friends, Hemingway wagered that he could craft an entire story in six words. He wrote “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn” on the napkin and collected his winnings. The content creator that can elicit an emotional response faster, wins.
Helpful links for coming up with headlines:
- Hubspot's Blog Topic Generator
- Clicktackle – Click, Tap, or Swipe your way to awesome headlines
- CoSchedule’s headline analyzer is a valuable tool that scores your headlines for SEO, traffic, and social shares.
The moment you’ve been waiting for (or dreading) is here. Time to create your content.
No matter your proficiency, writing is painstaking process. We’ve all been taunted by the blank word document that seems to reject every thought you type into it. Push on anyway, you’ve come this far and have something interesting to say. The blocked lows eventually give way to creative highs, but you have to start somewhere.
Links to Optimize your Content:
- The Anatomy of an Optimized Blog Post – an infographic and checklist to review your posts optimization
- The Anatomy of a Perfect Social Media Post – some tips on making it happen
- The Anatomy of a Perfect Blog Post that gets Results – more on great content
- 6 Foolproof Methods for Creating the Top Content on Any Topic
- Grammarly -This chrome browser add-on will catch pesky grammar issues before they ruin your day
- Hemingway – useful app for self editing
Sourcing and Creating Imagery for your Content
Now more than ever in this tap and scroll stream-filled world, a great picture is worth a thousand words. Content that isn’t accompanied by a striking image will be ignored whether it is posted on your blog, a third party site, or on social media. You are competing against far too much digital stimuli to rely on text alone to grab attention. Use the free photo round ups and image tools below to avoid copyright infringement and populate your content with great visuals.
- TheStocks – royalty free stock photos
- Canva – Canva is a great and simple way to create images online
- Pablo – Brought to you by the awesome team at Buffer to design engaging images for your social media posts in under 30 seconds
- Unsplash – source for free-to-use high resolution images updated weekly
- Gratisography – More free, high resolution images updated weekly
- Picjumbo – updated daily
- New Old Stock – vintage photos from free public archives
You’ve created useful content, the next step is to ensure it reaches the audience it deserves through calculated promotion and distribution across different channels.
Media channels can be separated into three categories: owned, earned, and paid. Social platforms intersect with each, rendering the distinctions between types of media more fluid than ever. Explore and iterate with different channels to find what works best for your content.
(Credit: room214.com's Quarterly Social Media Report)
Extend your Content's Reach:
- The 17 Best Tools to Get Your Content It's Largest Audience – tools to maximize your audience
- Introducing the Content Promotion Ecosystem – powerful Venn diagram that illustrates how tools fit into the convergence of owned/paid/earned media
- How to Get Interviewed By Popular Blogs – establish yourself as a thought leader in your area of expertise by getting your quotes placed
Analytics & Measurement
That which gets measured gets improved. If you are new to this whole content marketing thing, it might be a fair assessment to say you aren't a measurement expert just yet.
Curata's measurement framework is a great way to visualize this (shown below)
Analytics & Metrics Guides:
- The Comprehensive Guide to Content Marketing Analytics & Metrics
- A Field guide to Four Types of Content Marketing Metrics from Convince and Convert's Jay Baer
Measuring your Results and Stalking the Competition:
- BuzzSumo – A great tool for searching for and analyzing what content performs best for any topic or competitor
- ShareTally – Tally up shares, tweets, likes and # of shares
- SharedCount – A great site like ShareTally for popping in your URL's and getting back the # of shares
- Mention – Mention is Google Alerts on steroids, track mentions of any keyword or handle
- Always updated social media images – This is super helpful and a great overall growth hack from SproutSocial. With social media image sizes changing by the day, having one link that captures them all is a must.
Wrapping it up
I really hope you enjoyed my content marketing round-up, I've scoured the internet and forgot more articles than most people have likely read on the topic. That being said, if you enjoyed the round-up I'd really appreciate you sharing it with someone else. Bundling these together in one place took me more time than I'd like to admit.
Like this article? Follow me on Twitter as I'll be consistently posting more stuff just like this.
Wondering what's next? Read How to Win the SEO and Content Marketing Arms Race, to avoid falling behind your competition