This is the content marketing guide you’ll refer back to repeatedly in 2021 and beyond.
Forget the 15,000-word articles that attempt to cover every single topic about content marketing in one fell swoop. Content is only valuable if you take action on it, and trying to do everything at once is like trying to boil the ocean.
Content marketing is the 2021 go-to strategy for increasing website traffic, engaging your subscribers, retaining your audience, and growing your brand.
This bookmarkable resource will act as a primer and provide you with opportunities to drill down into details as you action each content subtopic.
Let’s get started, shall we?
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a powerful, multifaceted approach for building brand awareness and driving customer engagement.
It requires long-term, big-picture thinking. And, when done strategically, it creates a library of valuable information for your audience while positioning your brand as a helpful resource and solution provider.
Great content marketers are masters of their domains, the subject matter experts in their fields.
The benefits of content marketing seem endless. By simply providing valuable content for your audience, you develop:
- A sustainable, organic source of high-intent traffic
- A way to captivate your audience and have them coming back for more
- A powerful growth engine that feeds itself through social sharing and community.
At its core, the intention of any content marketing effort is to drive customer action.
If the details of exactly what content marketing is are still fuzzy, you can learn more in our guide: What Is Content Marketing (An Easy Primer For Beginners).
What is the Role of Content Marketing?
Content marketing plays a big picture role in a well-crafted marketing strategy and serves to benefit your other marketing channels by:
- Providing a rich library of material upon which you can draw to develop assets
- Feeding them with engaged organic traffic with high purchase intention
- Improving lead generation and growing email list subscribers
- Helping you to establish authority, trust, and brand equity
By giving your audience valuable content, your content marketing strategy will serve to build a trusting relationship with them.
What the Data Says About Content Marketing
Before you begin researching keywords, outlining your strategy, and creating content, you need to collect data.
And good news: there are plenty of statistics to support just how powerful a solid content marketing plan is to fuel your business growth strategy.
Check out a few of the key data points below, and read more on our comprehensive list of 51 Must-Know Content Marketing Statistics.
Return on Investment
Calculating ROI on content marketing can be difficult, as its very nature is to pull traffic into all marketing channels of your business. The content you develop and publish on your website often results in a sales conversion elsewhere, typically attributed to a different channel.
For example, an eCommerce website that sells bedding might attract visitors through Google with a piece of digital content about the different materials bedding can be made with.
But the readers may not make a purchase during the same session. They may sign up for the email list, and return later to order bedding after they receive a compelling email campaign.
Even so, in a 2017 poll, senior-level marketers identified content marketing second only to search engine optimization as their highest ROI channel responsible for generating revenue.
This is promising considering “SEO is actually all about content marketing”.
Most Powerful Content Types
Many marketers considering content marketing don’t know which content type to start with. Should they launch a podcast? Write articles? Record video content? Create infographics?
Let’s see what the data says.
The pillar of all marketing strategies, written content has only recently fallen second to video.
Long-form content is the leader in this space, leading first page Google results and backlinks.
As of 2020, video content surpassed written content for the most used form of media in marketing strategies according to HubSpot’s 2020 State of Marketing Report. And for good reason — people are consuming video at rates never seen before in history.
Visual content — illustrations, infographics, charts and graphs — isn’t used as much by marketers in their content strategies, but this suggests an opportunity with plenty of white space.
Pair this with the fact that research indicates that 65% of people are visual learners and that the brain processes visual information 60,000x faster than text, and you might want to give visuals a shot.
Another underutilized form of content, the consumption of audio content such as podcast episodes, audiobooks, and radio shows are rising in popularity.
There are 100 million monthly podcast listeners in the US alone, and 43% of those listeners stick around for the entire episode. Compare that with written content, for which only 20% of users will read all the way to the bottom of a blog post.
Audio content holds a promising and unique opportunity to engage with your audience.
Get Inspired to Create Great Content
What else have you read, watched, or listened to today?
Maybe you visited a social media influencer’s Instagram (or Facebook) page and watched their workout videos. Or used a recipe from your favorite food blog to make last night’s dinner.
These are examples of content marketing.
They all provide custom content that their audience perceives as entertaining, informative, or otherwise valuable.
Many new marketers write content marketing off as a B2B marketing channel, but some of the most impressive case studies of content marketing in action are in eCommerce and retail companies.
For example, Redbull is one of the best large-scale examples of successful content marketing done right; a lifestyle company that happens to also sell energy drinks.
They have successfully built an empire providing video content their viewers enjoy and share. All of the content they produce increases their brand awareness and ultimately drives sales of their products.
Although you can find great examples of content marketing everywhere you look, there’s no need. We’ve done the work for you:
Learn from the pros with Smart Blogger’s list of 7 Content Marketing Examples That’ll Inspire You.
Developing a Content Marketing Strategy
After you’ve brushed up on the basics, it’s time to develop a content marketing strategy.
Don’t overcomplicate it. You can start with a few easily digestible steps towards building a sustainable strategy for your business.
Start with the steps below, and get the entire content strategy playbook in How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy in 2021.
- Set Your Intentions. Understanding your mission and what you intend to achieve is an important step in creating a content marketing strategy. Not to be confused with goals, intentions are the bigger picture. Your intention will ensure you stay pointed in the right direction and will serve as the basis of every decision you make.
- Determine Your Goals. Having goals is an important tool for measuring success. Set clear, measurable, attainable goals for your content marketing strategy. Be specific, but realistic. Make sure you not only set long-term, big picture goals, but also short-term goals to keep you on the right track.
- Define Your Target Audience. After you have a clear understanding of your intentions, it’s important to define your target audience. The type of content you create, the language you use, and all of your content will be built around this audience. Find out their psychographics through research. The goal here is to put a face and name of your potential customer because once you know who you’re talking to, the conversation flows much more easily.
Now that you have a plan in place, it’s time to start putting pen to paper and build high-quality, valuable, and relevant content that sets you apart from others in your niche.
Creating & Filling Your Editorial Calendar
A cornerstone of a successful content strategy is consistency, and regularly publishing high-quality content is crucial to ensuring the long-term success of your marketing efforts.
Enter: the editorial calendar (also known as a content plan or content calendar).
The editorial calendar is a content release schedule that establishes:
- What: Which topics will be covered, and which keywords will the topic target?
- When: When will the content be published, and how often?
- Where: To which platforms will the piece be published?
There’s no use in recreating the wheel when mapping out your content plan.
Learn how to plan your content calendar in How to Create an Editorial Calendar in 2021 [Templates + Tools].
Developing & Publishing Content That Converts
You’ve created your content strategy, mapped out your editorial calendar, and now you’re ready to start the content creation process.
It’s crucial for the success of your brand to give your audience what they want — and people demand high-quality content. Gone are the days when you could write a bunch of 300-word articles and still rank in Google.
Competition is fierce, and if you aren’t able to give your readers what they’re looking for, there’s someone else waiting to capitalize on the opportunity.
The first step to creating high-performing content is to choose what type of content you’re going to start with. The most common types of content are:
- Video content
- Written content
- Audio & podcasts
- Infographics & visuals
We cover the different types of content in What Is Content Marketing (An Easy Primer For Beginners) in more detail.
Video content is king, surpassing written content in 2020 as the most utilized form of content used in marketing strategies. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should buy a camera and start shooting videos.
You need to consider what type of content is preferred by your target audience. For example, if your content marketing strategy is built around a food blog, you’ll likely need to deploy a combination of video and written content, but audio content will probably be less effective.
Once you’ve decided which type of content to create, you can start the content development process!
Below are some resources to create content that’ll attract, engage, and delight your target audience.
- Content Marketing Tools:
- Blogging & Written Content:
- Video Content:
- Audio Content & Podcasting:
- Content Distribution:
Remember: perfection is the enemy of progress, so don’t worry about waiting to publish your content until it’s perfect.
As you begin to publish and following your editorial calendar, you’ll be able to gather data about what works with your audience and refine your process based on that valuable information.
Bookmark This Content Marketing Resource
If you got all the way to the bottom of this post without taking any action on each of the sections in the guide, stop.
If you keep coming back to this as you go through the steps of creating, executing and refining your content marketing strategy, you can expect great results.