When you’re starting to build your business or brand, it can be time-consuming and tedious to produce content and do outreach to get in front of customers — but it does pay off. Utilizing content marketing as an inbound channel for my website wasn’t easy at first, but now it's generating hundreds of thousands of visits per month. My first attempts at content marketing left me abjectly frustrated. I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned through much trial and error, and some of the tips and tricks for actually getting a positive return on content marketing.
Producing relevant content to your industry helps you stay in front of your customers to encourage repeat purchases.
First, let me remind you why content marketing is worthwhile. Producing relevant content to your industry helps you stay in front of your customers to encourage repeat purchases, attract new potential customers and build relationships (and possibly partnerships) with other brands in your industry. Now let’s discuss some best practices small businesses can use in order to make the most out of their content marketing efforts.
Produce Relevant Content
This may sound trite, but it bears repeating. The reason for this is far too many companies write about what they want to say rather than what their customers want to hear. By relevant content, I mean relevant to your customers. Providing some type of value (even if only entertainment value) is the only realistic way that content will be read and shared. No matter what the specifics of your strategy are, always ask yourself, “How does my customer benefit from reading this?”
Providing some type of value (even if only entertainment value) is the only realistic way that the content will be read and shared.
To produce great content, you have several options. You can write it yourself, which can be a great choice since it enables you to fully control your message and personally control quality. The downside is that it's time consuming. If you’re starting your store from scratch, you’ll have a million things on your plate. In that case, outsourcing the content may be your best option.
I’ve tried lots of options for outsourcing content, with varied results. First, I started with the marketplaces that match you with a writer like Scripted and Writer Access. I also tried finding professional writers on Upwork. However, the best writers have ended up coming from people I met through Reddit and Craigslist. Since I have a music gear website, we got a much better response to articles that were written by people with deep industry knowledge, rather than professional writers.
On Reddit, I posted ads for writing articles on targeted relevant subreddits. I also reached out to individual Redditors that wrote interesting posts about topics I thought our audience would also like. I used Craigslist to find musicians that were interested in reviewing specific pieces of gear. Over time, these strategies resulted in a database of knowledgeable writers that could be tapped quickly and provide quality content.
Over time, these strategies resulted in a database of knowledgeable writers that could be tapped quickly and provide quality content.
Remember that the best option for you will be specific to your industry, budget, brand and audience so there's often no harm in experimenting with several options before you really hit your stride and find what works best.
In order to get inspiration for content that performs well, I suggest taking a look at what's already working with your target audience. There's no need to reinvent the wheel, and topics that have performed well in the past are likely to again in the future. For that reason, I recommend using a free tool like Buzzsumo to see what topics others in your industry have written about that have performed well. You’ll usually be able to spot trends in what type of articles will generate engagement. Experiment by writing a similar article with your take on the topic, and measure what impact it has on your targeted engagement and traffic metrics. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Now that you’ve produced that great piece of content, it’s time to get it out there. If you’re just starting your store it may be a struggle to reach a large audience on social media. Consider leveraging the audience of other people’s social media when possible. I recommend reaching out to brands and industry publications to let them know if you mention them.
Consider leveraging the audience of other people’s social media when possible.
For example, when I wrote a piece about guitar lessons, I wrote the following to one of the companies I reviewed.
“I wanted to reach out because Equipboard just featured Guitar Tricks in our best online guitar lessons article. Is this something you would be willing to share on Facebook/Twitter?”
Simple as that, and Guitar Tricks shared our post to a much larger Facebook audience than we had, and also extended our reach by featuring us in their magazine.
Often brands are receptive and thankful you’ve included them, and will share the content you’ve made which features them. In doing so, you’ll get access to their established audiences on social media rather than simply your own following.
Keep an Eye on Your Content
You’ll also want to optimize and monitor your content. If you wrote an evergreen article that will be useful or interesting for a long time, I suggest that after about two weeks when the social shares slow, changing the title from being shareable (think Buzzfeed type “You Won’t Believe #7”) to search engine optimized (think “The Top 5 Stocking Stuffers this Holiday Season”). Be careful to only change the title, and not the URL, since you want the social shares you’ve garnered to be reflected in Google’s results. This will help your content have a long lifespan and get you visitors in perpetuity.
If you wrote an evergreen article that will be useful or interesting for a long time, I suggest that after about two weeks when the social shares slow, changing the title from being shareable to search engine optimized.
Finally, consider setting up services like Google Alerts and Mention to monitor who references your content. When someone mentions your store, reach out and thank them and ask for a backlink, if appropriate. This will help more people find your site through referrals and increased clout with search engines.
Get To It
- Ask yourself how your content will benefit your customers and potential customers.
- Discover what topics are already performing well with your audience and draw inspiration from that content and trends.
- Once you’ve produced great content, get it out there by asking people to share it.
- Monitor your marketing performance to optimize the content for social sharing or SEO depending on the lifecycle stage of the content.
Content marketing is not easy, nor is it necessarily immediately going to skyrocket sales from one brilliant piece that goes viral. It takes time and patience, but it is absolutely a worthwhile endeavor in the long term to connect with your customers. Good luck!
About the Author
Michael Pierce is cofounder of Equipboard, the world’s largest database of artists and the gear they use.