Content goals

What are your content goals? This question stems from an email I received last week.

Every week, James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, emails me (and the rest of his list. Also, it’s a great book). In each email, he shares three ideas, two quotes, and one question. The question he asked last week was, “Are you being effective, or are you just being busy?” Now, we could use this question in relation to many areas of our business, but I thought it was particularly poignant when it comes to content.

It seems that many businesses create content because they think they should but they do so without any real purpose. Maybe they threw together a content plan, and maybe they know where and how they’ll distribute the content they do create. But still, they aren’t really sure of their content’s goal.

If this sounds like you, your content isn’t effective. It’s simply busy work.

If you want your content to be effective,  however, you need to think about the goal you want for each piece of content your produce.

Sure, it’s true that posting new content on your blog is pleasing to Google and that it makes your business look legit, but you need deeper goals than that.

Let’s look at some of the more common goals you may have with your content, such as:

  • To educate your audience and helping them progress on the buying journey
  • To drive social engagement
  • To earn backlinks

 

1. Educate your audience

Content that educates comes in many forms. It can be a long-form blog post, ebook, or white paper, but whatever it is, you want to make sure that the value it provides helps move the needle for the reader. In other words, you want it to help them progress in the sales funnel.

In order to achieve this, you should be thinking about a few things like, where are they in their journey and what types of content should I put in front of them when?

There are typically three phases on the sales funnel:

  • Awareness and Discovery – your potential prospect has an issue they need resolved and are starting to their initial research. It is very early, and they have lots of questions that they need to be answered. Content for this stage of the funnel could include blog posts, checklists, and ebooks.

 

  • Research Solutions – your potential prospect is narrowing in on their issues and what can help them resolve those issues. Here you could produce in-depth guides, a pros &cons list, and comparison-style guides.

 

  • Making an educated decision – here, your prospect completely understands their issues, the best type of solution, and they are ready to make a purchase. Content here can include FAQs, videos about specific product or service features, and case studies.

You need to produce content for each stage of the funnel and don’t forget to always include a CTA so your audience knows what their next step with you in their journey should be.

 

2. Drive social engagement

The content you created to educate your audience may or may not do well on social media, and in fact, you shouldn’t solely rely on that content to engage your fans and followers.

Why?

Think about your own behavior on social media. What type of content do you react to and engage with on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram as you scroll through your feeds?

Chances are, if you see a 1,200 how-to guide linked in your Twitter feed, you may click on it and bookmark it for later. But chances are, you’ll react to other content much more in the moment.

Content like Infographics, listicles, and videos. And remember, if it performs well on one social channel, then it did its job. That is why you produced it.

 

3. Get backlinks

Why do you want backlinks? They represent the legitimacy of your content. When other websites link to your content, that’s a vote of confidence and it’s telling the search engines that others vouch for your content which is good for SEO.

There isn’t one type of content that is particularly good for backlinking. Many types of content are, including infographics, quizzes, and guest blog posts. Whatever the content is, it must be fresh and add value.

If you cite a certain statistic or use an idea from another publisher, let them know. Send them what you produced so they can see how you are using their ideas. They’ll be flattered, and they’ll use it as an opportunity to link back to your site. It increases their credibility with their audience.

 

So, before you sit down and start banging out content, answer these three questions:

  • Who is it for?
  • Where will you distribute it?
  • What outcome do you want your audience to take after they’ve read it?

That will help you determine what kind of content to write.

And feel free to contact me if you need help determining what your content goals should be.

 

Content Plan

 

Do you want to implement a content plan but not sure how or where to start?  Do you know that content marketing is essential and have you seen lots of articles on a variety of types of content you can produce but still unsure what this looks like for you? 

Maybe you know that it’s one thing to have a content strategy plan, but another thing altogether to have a plan that’s effective and delivers the desired outcomes. You don’t want to throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks, but sadly, that’s what many businesses do when it comes to content marketing.

So where should you start?

In this blog article, we will discuss three key questions you need to answer to implement an effective content plan. Those questions are:

  • Who do you help?
  • How can you do so in a way that your competition isn’t?
  • How will you know if you’re successful in this endeavor?
First thing’s first: who do you help?

Your Buyer Persona

According to Hubspot, a buyer persona is “a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”

These generalized representations of your ideal customer(s) help you internalize the customers you are trying to attract and relate to them as real humans. This will, in turn, help you create content that will speak to them and resonate with them.

But, a buyer persona doesn’t just magically appear. To understand yours, you need to do some homework, such as researching, interviewing and surveying.

For example, you can research contacts in your database to uncover certain trends about them that will help identify traits. And, you can use forms on your website to discover specific information that is critical for you to know.

But, the best way to nail down your buyer persona is to interview some actual customers.

Doing so will help you collect relevant demographic and psychographic information about your ideal customer to help build your buyer profile. But one thing is still missing.

 

Buyer Insight

The buyer insight helps you understand why your ideal customer pulls out their credit card to make a purchase. It goes beyond collecting the demographics.

The Content Marketing Institute says that most marketers don’t delve into their buyer insight, leaving the buyer persona only half done.

Buyer insight details the buyer’s motivations, feelings, and expectations relating to the part of their life that your product or service will impact. It identifies their goals and doubts, and methods of evaluating products or services like yours. It dives deep into the buyer journey, helping you understand some reasonably specific information such as the time of day they buy and under what conditions, the types of marketing they respond to and how long the buying process takes. By having this information and combining it with the demographic information you also collected, your buyer persona will be much deeper and more developed than that of your competition.

 

And you collect that information through interviews.

 

Interviews and Your Buyer Persona

Interviews are crucial in compiling your buyer persona. In your interviews, you can talk with people who recently evaluated your product or service, or one just like yours. If they bought it, great! And if they didn’t, that’s OK, too. Either way, during your interview, ask them questions that will help you understand their entire journey from when they initially considered investing in the product/service to the point where they did – or did not – depart with their money. Guide them through questions, such as:
  • Why were you looking for this product/service
  • What were the results you were hoping for?
  • What are five factors that you consider before making a buying decision?
  • Is someone else involved in the buying decision with you? If so, who?
  • What is your overall process for such a decision?
Once done interviewing, you can take the answers to build your list of buyer insights. You should be able to see both similarities and differences with each question; group those interviewees with similar responses together. You can then sprinkle in the buyer profile information – the demographics – to come up with a kick-ass buyer persona.

 

It’s true this takes time, but understanding the characteristics of your ideal customer is essential. So is knowing how they think, what motivates them and what they do throughout the sales cycle is critical if you want to write compelling content that will convert.

 

What Makes Your Content Different?

Content marketing is a thing. Countless companies are producing content with the hopes of hooking a prospect into becoming a customer. But although that’s the ultimate goal, there’s a lot more to the whole strategy behind your content plan.

We first talked about how to define who your ideal customer is so that your content speaks to him or her. You want to know the nitty-gritty details about who they are, why they want what you offer, where they buy it and when.

Once you obtain this information, you can define your buyer persona and start planning what type of content to produce.

 

Items to Consider

It is true that for some, the purpose of content is simply to provide fodder. They aren’t concerned with SEO and search engine rankings, but rather want to provide their website visitors and newsletter readers with something new. They might not be in a position to invest the time or money to fully develop a solid content plan, and if that’s the case, I’ll argue that some content is better than no content.

But, for those businesses that are going to take the time to dive deep into who their ideal customer is, I say this: when you think about the type of content you are going to produce, also think about why your target customer wants to see it.

According to the website, HostingFacts.com, over 4 million blog posts are published on the Internet every day. Granted, many of those are on small blogs with little traffic, but it helps to make the point that the web is a very crowded place with lots of content. How can you make yours different?

That may seem obvious, but in this era of “content for content’s sake” it’s essential if you want your content to work for you.

This means not publishing the same old same old, or posting on every single social platform.

 

The Case for Case Studies

Along with using interviews to gather information to create your buyer persona, you also can – and should – interview your customers to collect data for case studies.

Writing case studies is a great content tactic you should employ. Why? Because chances are, your competition isn’t.

In fact, according to the Content Marketing Institute, only 42% of respondents to theirannual survey indicated talking to their customers was a priority.

Talking to your customers to understand their story – the challenges they faced that led them to your product or service, and the results they experienced – is extremely powerful.

Conveying that information in a case study is one of the most effective ways to demonstrate your value to other customers and prospects. Objective, third-party stories sell.

Plus, they provide snippets that you can use, either as a stand-alone or with a link to the case study, as social media posts.

And speaking of social media…

 

Dare to Be – or Do It – Different

You should have a pretty firm handle on where your ideal customers spend their time online. You should know where and how they get their information, and which social platforms they are active on.

And that’s where you should be, too.

So, just because your competitors are on Facebook if your ideal customer isn’t then you shouldn’t be, either.

Instead, you should post your content where your audience is.

If you find that they spend their time on Pinterest, then consider creating Infographics and other images that speak to the value you provide.

Or, if you discover that your target market spends a lot of time listening to podcasts, ask yourself if it makes sense to launch your own podcast.

The point is, your goal is to cut through the noise and provide value through your content. And the good news is, that although it sounds obvious, not everyone takes the time to do this.

Don’t be like everyone else.

Don’t create content for content’s sake. Seems like a simple rule to follow, but many businesses are so eager to jump on the content train, they’re not sure what they’d like to accomplish by doing so.

That’s why following a content plan is a good idea.

We’ve already discussed the first two essentials for an effective content plan: knowing your audience, and understanding what types of content your audience consumes.

The third element is to outline the goals you’d like to accomplish with your content. After all, according to business guru Peter Drucker, you can’t manage what you can’t measure, and by measuring your goals, you’ll be better able to manage your overall content plan.

Of course, the goal of your content might be different than mine, and that’s OK. The point is, your content should have a goal.

 

What’s Your Content’s Purpose?

OK, so we’ve discussedwho your content is for (your buyer persona), and what your content will look like. Now, it’s time to determine why your content exists.

The overall reason we publish content is to inform, educate and engage our target market. It’s a hook; it’s fodder; it’s to help establish your credibility so that when a prospect is ready to buy, he or she thinks of you first.

That said, what are some goals you can have for your content?

Goal #1 – Brand Awareness

Like Norm on Cheers, we all want to go to a place where everyone knows our name. Brand awareness is a good goal to pursue, especially if you are a small, regional or even start-up business with your sights on growing.

Brand awareness takes time and effort. But if you put out high-quality, high-value content that your target market wants to see, it will pay off in spades.

Goal #2 – Educate

We know that there is plenty of content out there, so gaining eyeballs is a challenge you need to overcome. Providing solid education about your product, service, industry, challenges your target market has, and more is one way you can do this.

When you educate your audience, you empower them with knowledge and help them feel informed. To get started, think about the most common questions you hear from your customers and prospects. These questions are pure fodder for content.

Goal #3 – Engage

When your content compels someone to like, comment or share, you are #winning. Seriously, the point of your content is to communicate with someone on a human level, and those likes, comments, and shares prove that you are doing just that.

But here’s the thing: if someone does comment, be sure to comment back. Continue to the conversation by validating their point or asking questions. The more “human” you can make your brand, the better.

 

What About an Increase in Website Traffic?

It’s only natural to want your content to increase website traffic. And, while that’s a nice benefit of producing sound, engaging content, that should not necessarily be your ultimate goal.

Your audience wants authentic content that they can use. They will not stick around for gimmicks or sales pitches. So, the more authentic you can be, the more success you’ll have.

So now you know what goes into a content plan and how to think about your content, what is your next step? Are you going to update or create your buyer personas and insights? Are you going to figure out what goals and key performance indicators you’re going to pursue with your content? 

Leave a comment; I’d love to know. And, if you need some help on getting started, please feel free to contact me

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One might think that blogging is dead in 2020, but if one thought that, one would be wrong. Blogs are still alive and well with many reasons why you should continue to put effort into it. And if you don’t yet have a blog, you might want to consider starting one. 

Why? As just mentioned, there are many reasons, which I’ll get into in a minute, but first, let’s look at how blogs have changed over time. 

 

A brief history of the blog

 

The first blog was published in 1994 at Links.net by Justin Hall although, at that time, the term “blog” didn’t exist. It would be three years later, in 1997, when the term “weblog” was coined which ultimately got shortened to “blog.” 

A lot has changed since then, both in who blogs and how we do it. Today, many businesses invest heavily in blogs as a part of their overall content strategy and for good reason. 

Blogs are a tool that can help you not only attract your target audience but also establish yourself as an authority in your field. But, it takes time, effort, and consistency. 

Long gone are the days when you could publish a 400-word article, stuff it with keywords, and be done. 

Of course, blogs still help with your search engine optimization (SEO) but there’s much more that goes into a well-crafted blog article than keywords alone. 

For instance, word count is important. Consider this statistic: in 2016, the average word count of a blog article was 1,054 . Three years later, in 2019, that number increased to 1,692, according to SearchMetrics 

What does that mean? It means that longer blog posts get more attention from Google because the search engine is placing an emphasis on quality and valuable content. In other words, longer blog articles that are helpful to the reader receive a higher rank than short, fluff pieces. 

“But Wendy, I don’t want to write super long blog posts every week!” 

Don’t worry. You don’t have to write 1,200+ word blog articles every time, but you do want to make sure that you thoroughly cover the items and ideas in a clear and concise manner in any blog post you write. 

That takes time. 

In fact, it makes sense that if blog articles are getting longer and they need to be focused on value-driven content, the time it takes to write each article is also taking longer. Consider this: in 2014, the amount of time it took to draft a blog article was 2 hours and 24 minutes. In 2019, it was 3 hours and 57 minutes. 

 

Reasons why you should blog

 

So now that we covered a bit about the history of blogs and what needs to go into a well-crafted blog article, you may be wondering why in the world anyone would want to carve out the time to do it. 

Remember, about 77% of people online still read blogs, and those folks are loyal to their favorite brands. And even if your brand isn’t one of their favorites yet, those folks read blogs to learn about companies, products or services. They are dependent on that content to get informed and educated. Keep in mind that six out of 10 people purchase a product after reading a blog post about it. 

If that’s not enough reason, websites with blogs get 424% higher chance of being ranked highly on search engines than websites that don’t, according to Tech Client, and businesses that include blogs as part of their overall content strategy get 67% more leads than those who don’t. 

 

It’s not all numbers

 

Let’s not only focus on numbers. Let’s discuss some of the other reasons your business should have a blog.

The blog content you work so hard to create can be used over and over again. In fact, you don’t just post it and forget it. Sure, you promote it on your social media channels, but there’s so much more you can do with it. You can slice and dice the content into bite-sized chunks and spoon feed your social media audience over and over. 

Another plus for blogs is that people trust the information they see on them. Did you know that 68% of blog readers believe the blog adds credibility to your website? That’s because your blog is where you can explore the human angle of your business and find your voice. It’s where you can display your personality and empathize with your audience. It’s a place that lets you differentiate yourself from your competition and enhance your credibility. 

OK, so you know why you should blog, but you can’t just sit down and start banging out content. Well, you could but that wouldn’t be the most productive approach. In our next article, we’ll discuss ways to go about planning and creating content for your blog. 

Till then, reach out if you have any questions, and if you liked this article, be sure to sign up for my weekly newsletter where I share three quick tips to help you create incredible content.