How do I get started with content marketing?
I see this topic come up constantly in slack groups, events and in conversation with friends.
Here is the answer I usually volunteer (that people seem to really appreciate):
Assuming you know what a marketing funnel is (awareness, consideration, purchase etc…), start by creating blog posts for people lowest down the funnel (closest to purchasing), then work your way upwards.
The reason for this is these people are easiest to convert, will make you money quickest, and are the most hungry for and actively seeking information.
The next thing you need to know is that there are two key ways to bring readers to your blog:
- Search engines (SEO): People google for help and find your article. This is a long term strategy.
- Link sharing (outreach): You post your article on social media or share them directly with people. This is a short term strategy.
- Bonus – buying ads: This is an advanced tactic and you shouldn’t do this unless you have a lot of money to burn or are very mature in your content marketing. I mention it because you’re likely to be considering it.
How to balance SEO and outreach strategies
As I mention above, SEO has a long term focus. Think investing for the future with compounding returns. It takes 3-6 months for a post to rank, but once your site has gained authority, it’s hard to dislodge it as long as you keep up the content marketing work. Over time, you’ll have a vast amount of blog posts that you’re constantly pruning and updating, allowing you to reap greater and greater rewards. But it takes time to get there (2-5 year horizon), and not everyone has the runway or patience.
In comparison, outreach has a short term focus. You’re actively asking key influencers to read your post, or sharing it in your target audience’s communities. This causes a nice traffic bump at the start, which can be great to kick start readership. But you can quickly annoy people if you keep posting stuff in the same places, and finding viable fresh places is hard.
Ultimately, a mix of the 2 is necessary, but where you find your equilibrium depends on your industry, stage, and many other factors. Only you (and your company) can decide this.
Tips based on my first hand experience with content marketing
- It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the strategies and tips out there. Instead, focus on getting your content marketing machine up and consistently running. Once you do, it will be easy to make it fancier, more optimised and more complicated over time.
- Start by listing down as many article ideas as you can, without worrying about how good they are.
- Give each article a business value based on how relevant it is to your business, and start with the ones where your business is the focus of the article. You can see an example of this in practice in my content strategy template above. (note: this tip was taken directly from ahref’s blogging for business course, which I link to below)
- Again, your priority is to kick start your content marketing machine. Get into the habit of publishing articles regularly.If you can produce 2 good quality articles a month for 3 months in a row, with an established process you’ve developed that you consistently follow, then you’re in a very good place. Note: If you’ve only just started and are already publishing 2 articles a week, chances are they are not good quality and not worth posting. Or maybe you’re a writing whizz, in which case, good job! If you’re wondering how to tell if you’re the former or the latter, it’s simple: Your level of pride for each post is a great indicator of its quality.
- Quality of articles matter more than quantity. There are too many people writing for Google bots, do not do this. Not only do you fail to build a relationship/rapport with readers, but Google will figure out that people aren’t really reading your robot articles and demote you.
- Once you’ve got your content marketing machine up and running (min 3 months), then you can start to implement all the fancy SEO stuff.
- If you hire writers, provide them with the key points. Bonus points if you can provide personal anecdotes for each point or article. Their job is to write well, your job is to provide them with the ammunition to do so. If you rely on them entirely, your articles will come out like a Google bot article. Let me make it clear: if this happens, it is your fault, not theirs. Operating like this (hiring a writer, not providing any input and expecting magic) is common, but an unfortunate waste of time and money. Do not do this.
What I mention above should be juuuust enough to get started. But if you’re looking for something more structured and rigorous, you might appreciate the following resources.
Content Marketing Courses
Here are 2 courses you can buy that I’ve personally tried that explain this stuff much better than me.
1. SEO-focused content marketing (long term)
Buy this if you can. If not, just copy each topic name and key it into google. You’re likely to get good enough answers if you’re willing to spend the time and do the research.
2. Outreach-focused content marketing (short term)
I like this course less than the ahrefs course, but not because it’s bad. Far from it! The ahrefs course is that good.
Again, there is no need to buy it if you can’t afford it. Simply do the same thing as above. i.e. see what key things they focus on, google for it and learn what you can for free.
Content strategy template
Here’s a link to the template I use for determining which blog post ideas to prioritise and write about first.
It is largely based on the template provided in ahrefs’s blogging for business course.
If reading about content marketing is your ideal way to get started in content marketing, you should start by reading the blogs of 2 top content marketing agencies:
And that’s it! This is everything I know about content marketing. Good luck!