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Generate Real Results from Content Marketing (Hint: You're Overthinking It)


“How do we write an article that gets shared 10,000 times on Facebook, gets retweeted 20,000 times, generates 100 backlinks, and ranks #1 on Google for a search term with 5,000 search queries per month?”

Does this sound like the kind of discussion your team is having about content marketing?

It’s not rare.

Many teams think that they’re just one great piece of content away from meeting their goals, from their company becoming an overnight success story.

But, I’ll save you a bit of suspense: This almost never happens.

Companies almost never write a single, blockbuster piece of content that propels them to success. I can tell you from experience that the vast majority of companies that are seeing real, tangible results from content marketing aren’t doing it on the strength of one or two rock-star pieces. Instead, it’s the product of consistent, disciplined, and strategic execution.

And this is also one of the reasons why so many companies never see results from content marketing. Most of them simply overthink it.

Breaking down your content marketing strategy.

Pretty much every good content marketing strategy has some combination of these goals:

  • Raise brand awareness (drive traffic, generate social shares)

  • Improve search rankings (get backlinks)

  • Generate more search traffic (target specific keywords)

  • Drive email subscriptions

Look familiar? If you’ve got a written content marketing strategy, it probably looks a lot like this.

And this is where things go wrong.

For some reason, marketing teams look at this list of goals and decide that every piece of content they produce needs to meet all of these goals.

That’s like expecting your sales guy to tick off every box with a single call. It doesn’t make any sense.

Many marketing teams get stuck here. Either they stall out during the brainstorming process, trying to come up with this massive, end-all-be-all piece of content, they ditch their goals altogether and “just publish something,” or they cling to something that works (like finding keywords) and forget about the other parts of the strategy.

The point of a strategy isn’t to accomplish it in one fell swoop. It’s to give you high-level direction that you then break down into tactics that will help you achieve the goals.

And that’s what you really need to do to accomplish your goals with content marketing. Focus on three or four main types of content:

  • Social-viral content (drives traffic, builds awareness)

  • Evergreen content (keyword-focused, performs well in search)

  • Link-earning content (generates links from other sites and publishers)

  • Lead-gen content (upgrades or downloadable pieces people will enter their info to access)

Each piece you publish should help you achieve at least one of your goals, but it doesn’t have to accomplish all of them.

Generating social traffic, building brand awareness.

You know what name almost everyone on the Internet knows?

Buzzfeed.

That’s because they’re crazy good at publishing things that go viral. They’ve mastered the art of the click and the share. This content drives a ton of traffic and has built Buzzfeed’s brand awareness to epic proportions. You can create the same kind of content within your market with pieces that are funny, sad, or exciting, clickable, shareable, and maybe have a hint of mystery.

Capturing search traffic.

Evergreen content is purpose-built for search. It’s there to provide answers to search queries or give guidance on particular topics that are often searched by a prime demographic.

“How to Tie a Double-Windsor” may not be a sexy article--and it probably won’t go viral. But it can bring in a ton of relevant search traffic if it ranks near the top of Google. Evergreen content is a critical piece for getting your website to generate more traffic from search.

Increasing search visibility.

One of the biggest reasons for investing in content marketing is the long-term payoff of stronger SEO. But simply having a lot of content on your site is not enough to achieve high rankings in search engines.

A fundamental part of the ranking equation is how many other sites link back to your own site. To get more links to your site--and raise the rankings of other pages--you should invest in content that is re-publishable by other writers. Think about infographics, maps, data, and other kinds of content that regularly pop up across multiple websites within a short period of time.

Generating leads.

Last, but certainly not list, traffic to your site ultimately means very little unless it’s generating direct sales or leads. Many sales-focused companies use another form of content specifically to entire visitors into qualifying themselves as a potential sale.

This may be a checklist, guide, white paper, or ebook. It might be an email course. But, it’s almost always offered in exchange for an email address and some personal information. From a strategic standpoint, this brings your content marketing full circle and ties it back to actual sales and revenue.

Taken as individual parts, these three or four kinds of content accomplish very little. But, together, they form the basis for a cohesive strategy that can help you meet all of your stated goals and achieve real results.

But don’t overthink it. Break down your strategy into individual goals and create the content you need to meet each one.

We published a case study called Zero to One Million, where we explain how we used this kind of a tactical, three-piece content and SEO strategy to scale a startup to one million unique visitors and 100,000 organic sessions per month--in just one year.