Since Google updated its ranking algorithm with the release of the Panda and Penguin updates, there has been a massive shift toward content marketing as a safe and Google friendly approach to acquiring back links. Regardless of the ongoing discussion about social signals, back links remain the primary ranking factor when it comes to high visibility in the search engines.
Much to the annoyance of true “content marketers”, content marketing, whether rightly or wrongly has found itself labelled the de-facto safe white hat way to attract back links.
Content Marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing valuable and compelling content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
No where in this definition is link building mentioned.
[Tweet “If you think Content Marketing is the new Link Building, you’re doing it wrong.”]
If You Build it They Will Come
The problem with the massive growth in interest in content marketing is that many have subscribed to the philosophy of “if you simply write great content, then visitors will come”.
This simple belief, has resulted in the publication of inane, template driven content all over the web, bringing us to a situation some are calling Content Shock, whereby exponentially increasing volumes of content intersect our limited human capacity to consume it.
Not everyone agrees that Content Shock is even an issue but I think everyone agrees that creating content without a clear understanding of how it is supposed to drive the required business outcome is stupid.
The Demand for a Simple Content Marketing Framework
Since I left my agency role I’ve spent a lot of time trying to formulate a simple framework that anyone can use to help them implement content marketing in their enterprise.
I’ve read everyone else’s frameworks but they all came with their own perspectives and biases based on their position within the content marketing, inbound marketing and online marketing fields.
Also I was tired of coming across activities that were called “content marketing” or “inbound marketing” which were nothing more than ad hoc marketing on generic topics.
In this framework I’ve tried to capture many of the things I’ve learned from content marketing greats like Joe Pulizzi, Marcus Sheridan and Brian Clark as well as those who come to content marketing with a straight link building focus.
For me personally, I wanted a framework that considered:
- The need to build links to improve organic search performance
- That content marketing is more than just link building
- That not all content marketing activities can be measured or judged by the same set of metrics
- That expectations about the outcomes from content marketing need to be managed based on a clear understanding of the goals of the business
It was also very important to me that the framework was usable by the smallest business to the largest business.
I want this content marketing framework to make you ask “Why? Why am I creating this piece of content?”
If you can’t answer that question then don’t create it.
Also I need to say that this framework works for me. If it works for you then great.
If not, hey no harm no foul. You may have a completely different experience, approach and that’s great.
I fully expect this framework to evolve over time. There is no right or wrong here nor is this religious dogma.
I’m looking forward to vigorous discussions and disagreements as we work this out together.
Now on with the show.
What are the Benefits of this Content Marketing Framework?
The primary benefits of a simple content marketing framework include:
- It helps you choose the right approach to content marketing
- It helps you explain why you chose that approach
- It helps you work out how to implement that approach
- It helps you choose the metrics by which success is measured
- It helps you sell or justify the investment content marketing both to management and to clients
- It helps you manage expectations about the results from your activities
- It helps you get results, add value and make a difference
The Online Kickstart Content Marking Framework
All content marketing activities can be placed into the following three buckets which describe the job that the content is created to do.
There is overlap and content can fit into multiple buckets but ultimately it helps to create content with a specific job in mind.
The Three Content Types
#1 Link Attraction Content
This is content that is created with the primary goal of attracting quality back links to improve a website’s performance in organic search.
#2 Conversion Content
This is content that is created with the primary goal of helping convince prospects that you are the one they should be doing business with.
#3 Authority Content
This is content that is created with the primary goal of building a community of people who know, like and trust you so that you have greater influence in that community.
Link Attraction Content
Visibility in organic search continues to be driven by the acquisition of relevant quality back links to your website.
To deliver an ROI, part of the content marketing investment must go to acquiring back links.
[Tweet “Link attraction content has broad appeal and can easily be promoted to acquire quality links.”]
Characteristics of Good Link Attraction Content
Good link attraction content has several characteristics including:
- It is “Fail Proof Content” Jon Cooper of @pointblankseo defines this as content that has already been proven to work because you can identify examples of it on the web that have already been linked to in the past. With a little outreach, you should be able to secure those same links for your content.
- It has an innate “Citability”. That is, people will be drawn to referencing your content and providing proper attribution (via a link) to it in their content.
- If possible the content should be Evergreen Content. It should have ongoing relevance over time and not date. That way the investment in developing it will be amortised over time.
- Ideally it comes with an existing outreach list to promote your content. If you can easily identify a list of people who have linked to similar content in the past, your job is so much easier.
Examples of this content include:
- Expert Interviews
- Ego Driven Content
- Epic Blog Posts
How to Increase the effectiveness of Link Attraction Content
There are a number of things you can to increase the effectiveness of link attraction content – as measured by its ability to attract back links.
- Content quality – Make it the best in the niche
- Design – Attractive professional design helps get content shared and referenced.
- Interactiveness – Interactive content is seeing great results given it’s uniqueness
- Authority – Leveraging the authority of existing influencers whether as co creators or participants in interviews helps get content shared and linked to
- Completeness – If it’s the most complete resource of its kind, then it can become the industry reference on a topic
- Focus – It’s a guide that serves a specific part of the market that might not yet be well served.
- Content promotion & outreach – This is probably the most critical part of improving the effectiveness of link attraction content.
All of these elements improve the ability of the content to acquire links.
How to Improve the ROI of Link Attraction Content
Ways to improve the ROI of the investment in creating link attraction content includes:
- Making it Evergreen – So it keeps acquiring links long-term
- Repurposing – Creating the content asset out of existing content by mashing it up in a new way or creating new modalities like video, audio or text
- Leveraging users to generate the content
- Improve its effectiveness (See above), primarily via outreach
Between the time a prospect discovers your business and the time they actually purchase something from you, there is a journey that the prospect takes in their mind.
This journey is called the “Buyer Journey”, and it describes the steps a prospect takes before they buy.
Hubspot ha a simple model where each prospect goes through the following three stages:
Awareness: Where they first become aware of your business and the products and services you offer
Evaluation: Where they include you in a list of potential suppliers they might purchase from
Purchase: Where they finally engage you or buy your product or service.
At each stage of the Buyer Journey the prospect has questions they need answered.
[Tweet “Conversion content answers the questions people have at each step of the buyer journey.”]
Examples of this content include:
- White paper
- Tip Sheets
- How To Videos
- Educational Webinars
- Blog Posts on Price & Cost
- Blog Posts on Problems
- Product Webinar Case Studies
- FAQ’s Data Sheets
- Demo Videos
- Free Trial
- Live Demo
Characteristics of Good Conversion Content
Good conversion content answers the prospects questions more completely than that of competitors.
The effectiveness of this content can be increased by:
- Showing You Understand Their Pain – The best conversion content speaks to the pain of a very specific buyer persona. It knows the problems of the buyer so intimately that when it proposes a solution the prospect can hardly resist taking up the offer.
- Showing You Have Solved Their Problem Previously – Good conversion content shows you have a solution to their pain and you have used your solution to solve the problem many times before.
- Shows that your solution is better than the alternative – During the assessment process your solution will be compared and contrasted with others. Good content demonstrates not only that your solution solves the prospects problem but it does it better than the alternatives. Whether faster, more simply, with less effort and complexity or by providing much better results.
How to Measure the Performance of Conversion Content
At the end of the day all content marketing investment needs to contribute the achievement of the overall business goals.
However simple KPI’s can allow you to track the performance of content over time towards achieving the business goal.
- The number of visits to the page from organic and other sources of traffic
- The number of downloads of ebooks and various other content resources
- The number of inquiries
- The number of people on your email list
- The number of sign ups
- The number of trials
- The number of demos
- The number of quotes
- The number of consultations
- The number of views of product videos
General tracking of some or all of these metrics over time will indicate whether conversion content is helping convert prospects into customers.
It’s important to remember that marketing automation systems play an important part in the effectiveness of conversion content.
Automated email sequences can be used to nurture prospects over time, slowly answering their questions and keeping your company front of mind.
[Tweet “Authority content helps build a community of people who know, like and trust you.”]
If they know like and trust you they will be more likely to allow you to INFLUENCE their behaviour.
How Do You Build Trust?
Trust is the firm belief in the reliability, truth or ability of someone.
Trust is built by:
- Giving information freely – teaching people
- Being completely transparent with prospects
- By always telling the truth
- By keeping your word and doing what you say you will do
How Do You Build Influence
Influence is the ability to affect ideas and actions.
Building and developing influence with a community of fans is important as it allows you to have an impact on their behaviour.
Much has been written about developing influence but perhaps the most popular book, at least amongst online marketers, is Robert Cialdini’s “Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion”
Robert Cialdini talks about the six principles of influence which include:
#1 Reciprocity: Based on the premise that people generally like to return favours, pay back debts and treat others as they treat us.
By offering knowledge freely people build a debt of obligation which increases their influence online. People are more likely to share your content socially, link to it, promote it or buy your product.
#2 Commitment and Consistency: Based on the premise that people have a deep desire to be consistent and once committed to something will be more likely to go through with it.
For example you’d be more likely to download an e-book that you’d shared socially online.
#3 Social Proof: This relies on people’s sense of “safety in numbers”.
The most obvious example of this in a social context is the social sharing buttons on content. They show how many others before you have approved and shared content, subtly encouraging you to do the same.
#4 Liking: The premise is that we are more likely to be influenced by people who we like.
This manifests itself online in strategies that develop familiarity, sameness i.e. We’re alike so I’ll do more for you.
#5 Authority: We feel a sense of obligation to people in positions of authority.
Markers of authority such as memberships, badges, speaking banners etc can be used to build authority, and develop influence amongst a community.
#6 Scarcity: This principle says that things are more attractive when their availability is limited.
By developing a sense of scarcity with our content and marketing we can increase out ability to make people buy or commit to something.
How to Use this Framework to Guide Your Content Marketing
Ok so now I’ve given you all the fancy theory you’re probably wondering what to do next.
Well stay close to this blog because I’ve got some very practical blog posts coming out about how to implement this framework.
Here’s the general approach.
Remember the goal of content marketing is to help you achieve a business goal.
Step 1 – Conduct a Content Audit
Most times you start a new content campaign by looking at what you have and filling in the gaps. This process is called “Gap Analysis”
The simple way to do this is to get a piece of paper, draw three columns and label them:
- Link Attraction Content
- Conversion Content
- Authority Content
Then go through all of the content assets that you have. I’m talking about everything including blog posts, videos, FAQ’s, podcasts, social media content…the lot and categorise everything into the three columns above.
Some content can fit into more than one category. Just put it in the most relevant one.
Once you’ve finished it’ll be obvious where the gaps are.
Step 2 – Audit your competitors
Now list your top five competitors. Those businesses you see whenever you search online, when you go on social media and who email you all the time.
Go through the exact same audit process on their businesses. Categorise everything they do into the same three columns.
Once you have completed that, lay out all of the documents next to each other.
It will become really clear who has got their shit together.
The goal here is to do a quick audit.
Competitive research is a massive black hole if you let it be.
All we want to see is what they are doing and what you are not.
Step 3 – Prioritise and Take Action
Let’s not make this more complicated than it has to be.
Now you have an idea what your competition is doing and what you are not going.
Your next step is to look at your resources, identify gaps where your competition is not active, consider what is most important for your business right now, and then started creating, optimising, publishing and promoting the hell out of your content.
Your priorities will be driven by your business priorities but whatever they are, just start taking action.
If your organic visibility is poor then get started on creating some link worthy content. If you have traffic but conversions are terrible then have a think about your conversion content. Are you answering all of the questions your prospects are asking?
The sooner you start creating content with this framework in mind, the sooner you will learn what works and doesn’t.
Like this post? Keen to learn more? Then Subscribe and I’ll let you know when I publish the next instalment of this series.
The following pieces played an important part in helping me develop my thinking around this framework.