It’s one easy way to waste marketing budget.
I’m talking about content marketing.
You create content or pay someone to do it, promote it, and what do you get?
Crickets.Aka — tiny to no relevant traffic, leads, sign-ups or any sort of tangible ROI.
It can be very depressing.
And if you’ve done content marketing of any sort, you can totally relate to this.
Truth is, many brands waste money on content marketing.
Hard-earned money. They’re probably hoping it will work at some point.
This hope is doomed to disappoint many, but it does work for some brands.
Here’s how to stop wasting money on content marketing:
Almost every successful content marketing starts here:
A blatant refusal to not waste money.
Let’s call it having a refusal mindset.
Here’s a typical example of what I mean by having refusal mindset — towards wasting marketing budget on content marketing — from Jay Baer of Convince and Convert:
“Jay here at Convince & Convert and every other leading content-driven blogger focus so much energy on one of the most mundane elements of the website: The email list.”
That’s a refusal-to-waste-marketing-budget mindset in action.
Many marketers already have this “refusal mindset”.
Especially if you fall into one of these three categories:
A. The content marketing manager
B. The content marketing consultant
C. The founder
A. The content marketer/content marketing manager:
As a content marketer for your employer, your boss is literally on your neck demanding ROI from the money they’re spending on content.
If they’re not demanding that from you yet, wait for it.
They’ll soon start asking questions.
And if by then you don’t have some good numbers to show them, they’ll start asking what the point of this whole content marketing thing is.
With this pressure on you, you — as a content manager — probably already have a refusal mindset against wasting marketing budget. But if you don’t, get that mindset before your employer starts asking questions.
B. The content marketing consultant
If you’re a consultant, it’s likely you’ve promised your clients specific results.
You’re in a worse position than an in-house marketer; you lose your job with clients almost as soon as they see you’re not delivering results within the timeframe you promise them.
C. The founder
If you’re a founder, well you don’t want to waste your own money. Or even time. You, as well, need to blatantly refuse to waste money on content.
Generally, as a marketer, chances are high you have a refusal mindset already against squandering marketing budget.
What you need next is to channel that mindset in the right direction and make the most of your marketing budget on content.
I cover what to do in the next six sections of this post.
2. Don’t be promotional with content, but create content that attracts and converts your target audience
Now we all are quite familiar with the “don’t be too promotional with content marketing” preaching.
It’s one of the many cliches in marketing, but it’s still so true.
Get too promotional and you’ll turn people off.
There are enough proof and stats that show they’re tired of seeing ads.
Research has it that pop-up ads that obstruct content are a pet peeve for 57% survey respondents, with 50% also irritated by ads that take up the entire screen.
No wonder “Adblock” gets over 3.5 million searches every month.
People don’t like it when ads distract them from their browsing experiences.
But hey, content marketing costs you money, time, or both.
So while you want to play by the rules and not be too promotional with it, you still need to pay the bills somehow.
Here’s the right approach to that: don’t create content that just interests your target audience.
Create content that both engages them and drives them to take a customer action.
And that’s even how Content Marketing Institute defines good content marketing:
“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.”
Creating content to attract, retain and convert your target customers also means creating content for them at every stage they’re in throughout the customer journey.
As you know, your customers are either at the TOFU, MOFU or BOFU level.
I assume you know what these mean, but if not, it means your customers are either at the level:
- where they’re hearing about your industry or the solution you provide for the first time and want to learn more (TOFU — ‘top of the funnel’),
- where they discover a problem and are considering how to solve it (MOFU — ‘middle of the funnel’),
- or where they’re trying to see which brand they should buy a solution from (BOFU — ‘bottom of the funnel’).
Your potential customers are anywhere in these three different levels and your content needs to resonate with them wherever they are in their journey.
However, most of your content — especially if you’re a startup — should target middle of the funnel buyers, because they’re closer to the buying stage than your top of the funnel customers.
Or as content marketing veteran Jay Acuzo put it:
“All content marketing is supposed to be solving the same problems for your customers that your product does.”
And the goal for each piece of content should be to move them from one customer journey level to the next or give them more info about the level they’re on — while converting them into leads in the process.
Databox does a great job at this.
They use their content to move customers through these customer journey levels till they reach the bottom of their funnel.
They especially create a lot of MOFU and TOFU content so they drive user signups directly from their content.
Here’s a dashboard showing how they get a 3% conversion rate from one of their posts about Google Analytics dashboards.
Who says you can’t drive leads or user sign-ups directly via content marketing?
Do it the right way and you will.
Talking about these results with Oli Gardner of Unbounce, John says:
“For us, the blog plays a pretty powerful role in getting readers into the product. We transitioned to freemium last year, so the barrier to entry into the product is low. What works well for us is covering the challenges that marketers and salespeople are having in tracking performance and making sense of their data. Rather than rely on premium content like ebooks and webinars (we use these more for customer marketing) we’ll include free templates for dashboards that help solve the problem we’re writing about. It’s a fairly straight line from problem>>solution, which is why the blog is such a powerful lever.”
However, as I mentioned earlier, your customers are scattered along TOFU, MOFU and BOFU. You may not always convert them into leads immediately if they’re still at the top of your funnel.
Such is the case of this Hubspot post about digital marketing strategies — a top of the funnel type of content.
APAC marketer manager at Hubspot Elisa Hudson shares digital marketing strategies marketers can use to grow their brands, and three paragraphs into the article they introduce another (gated) top of the funnel content — digital marketing fundamentals.
This way, Hubspot is helping customers parse their buying process while converting them into leads in the process — as that download CTA requires readers to submit their contact information.
This is a good example of content marketing that’s geared toward attracting an audience and converting them into leads.
But, before attraction and conversion will ever happen, you need a content promotion plan — which leads to my next point.
This is where all that traffic talk comes in.
How do you get eyes on your content — in their hundreds and thousands?
After spending time and/or money on it, the last thing you want is crickets.
There are both a short term and long term strategies to getting traffic via content:
- One is to literally wait for Google to index and rank your content.
- The other is to promote your content via online communities, ads, and industry influencers.
These two are long- and short-term content promotion strategies respectively.
And they’re equally important because you need relevant traffic from every source possible.
Let’s dive into the first content promotion strategy — driving traffic via Google.
As you know, on-page and off-page SEO comes into play here.
On-page SEO techniques help you tell Google you have specific content that people search for, while off-page SEO practices tell Google your site can be trusted for good content — so they can rank it.
For on-page SEO, do this:
- Pick a relevant keyword you want to rank for. After running a keyword analysis, pick one you want to rank for via your content.
- Ensure your post title is in the H1 tag. Brian Dean of Backlinko explains the importance of your H1 tag:
- Mention your focus keyword at least 10 times in your post. (mention in relevant places to ensure you’re still making sense).
As I illustrated in a post about B2B content marketing strategy, landing page provider Instapage mentioned a focus keyword — retargeting — about 70 times in a post and now they’re ranking at #4 in search results for the keyword:
Not bad for a keyword that gets searched 18,000 times every month — as of the time the post was written.
- Use your focus keyword as alt texts in your images. This further communicates to Google that your post is really centred on your focus keyword. Joost de Valk of Yoast says it like this:
“Google’s article about images has a heading “Create great alt text”. This is no coincidence because Google places a relatively high value on alt text to determine not only what is on the image but also the topic of the surrounding text.”
For off-page SEO:
Build links to your site and brand mentions on quality third-party sites. That’s just about the only off-page SEO tip you need. Joshua Hardwick shared more about this in a post on Ahrefs.
If you’re getting traffic to your content and they’re bouncing back to wherever they came from in a few seconds, it’s usually because your content is not engaging them.
And it’s not engaging because your content team aren’t doing their best job.
Does that sound harsh?
Sorry but, remember, this is business. You’re not running a charity.
You need your content writers or creators at their 100%.
Or it will be super hard to justify your marketing budget spent on them.
When your content writer isn’t creating content that engages your audience, your traffic-from-content will be bad, nobody will share your content, and more importantly, your content won’t convert readers into subscribers, leads or users.
And you probably know how Google’s RankBrain treats low-quality content; it’s not indexing or ranking such content.
In fact, if you have a post ranking at some point and the algorithm figures people bounce off easily from it after going to it from search engines, RankBrain throws the content down the search result page.
So, here’s what to do:
If you already have a content team, have your content writer(s) or creators take content marketing/writing courses.
And/or get an experienced editor who can lead them in creating amazing content.
Chief Editor at Shopify Aaron Orendorf once shared how Tommy Walker (who was his editor when he joined the company as a content marketer) managed him to always create the best content for the Shopify content hub:
“Tommy is an editor who actually edits … critically, insightfully, and with both wit and warmth. The stretch on that front has made me a better writer. (Hint: if you’re an editor, writers crave this. Give it to them.) [Shopify] also invested in my development outside of [the company’s] content itself. Tommy, for instance, exposed me to storytelling on the cinematic scale through Robert McKee’s Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting…”
Ann Handley of MarketingProfs also shares the same idea about editors:
“Good writing has a good editor. Writers get the byline and any glory. But behind the scenes, a good editor adds a lot to process.”“Good writing has a good editor. Writers get the byline and any glory. But behind the scenes, a good editor adds a lot to process.” Click To Tweet
You don’t need to fire your content writers if they’re not performing well, you need an experienced editor to lead them.
If you don’t already have a content team, here’s what you need to do:
Get the word out on marketing groups about your open content writing position.
Once you start getting applicants, vet them properly (or have your HR do the legwork here).
You know the drill; ask for their work experience, writing samples, and get on a call with them.
Or if you have the time, why not do the writing yourself?
If you have a good writing experience and have become great at it, fine.
But if not, get a good writer.
To have a knack for writing is different from being a writer.
A writer who can keep readers on a page, reading between the lines from top to bottom and persuading them to convert is what you’re looking for.A writer who can keep readers on a page, reading between the lines from top to bottom and persuading them to convert is what you’re looking for. Click To Tweet
It’s wise to always target keywords in content so you can rank on Google and get free traffic.
But here’s the thing. Sometimes you want to share something very useful with your target audience and there are no high volume keywords for it.
What do you do in that situation?
Keep what you want to share to yourself?
No, share it anyway.
Look at this post titled How To Be a Henry Ford in Content Marketing written by Robert Rose.
Unless you’re a bit eccentric, you don’t go around plugging into search engines “How to be a Henry Ford in Content Marketing.”
But the topic would appeal to many content marketers.
So what if it doesn’t rank for any high-volume keyword?
Content marketing isn’t always about ranking on search engines. You can promote content through several other mediums beside search engines.
You can do content marketing and squander your marketing budget.
Or you can use it to drive tangible results — qualified leads, sign-ups or even clients.
At the end of the day, those are what every marketing strategy is deployed for.
Whether it’s SEO, PPC, SEM, PR or content marketing, the reason all these marketing arms are deployed is to drive valuable ROIs.
I wrote this entire 2600-word piece to say:
Don’t waste money on content marketing; do it to drive ROIs.
Are there some other tips you know to ensure marketing budget is well spent on content?