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  1. 101 Content Ideas For Your Website Or Blog

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    Success in content marketing depends on creating lots of content—and not just any content. You need good content, that people want to read/watch/listen to, and you need to keep things fresh enough that they keep coming back for more. That’s a lot of pressure to come up with new ideas and new applications, and unless you’re some meta-human idea-generating machine, eventually, you’ll run into writer’s block, unable to come up with something new, cool, and exciting.

    That’s why I’ve compiled this massive list of 101 content marketing ideas you can use to keep your website and/or blog running.

    101 Content Ideas

    Without further ado, here are 101 content ideas for your website or blog:

    1. Listicles.

    Ah, listicles, the marriage of ‘articles’ and ‘lists.’ Where was content marketing before the age of listicles? The premise here is simple; take a concept and turn it into a numbered list. Being able to call out a number in your headline makes the piece instantly more attention-grabbing; it implies a degree of conciseness and skimmability that’s appealing to modern web users, plus serves as a tease that piques user interest. There’s no limit to what you can apply the listicle format to; you can create “top 10” lists for items or concepts in your industry, or go the Buzzfeed route and find any excuse to throw a number in your headline.

    Listicles

    (Image Source: Buzzfeed)

    2. Checklists.

    Checklists are pretty straightforward too, though they tend to have a more practical side than listicles. Here, you’ll create a rundown of requirements for a given task or event, which users can adopt for their own personal purposes. For example, if you’re a travel company or a hotel, you might include a checklist of commonly forgotten items while traveling. If you’re an SEO agency, you might include a checklist of all the tasks you need to complete for on-site optimization. If you can make the checklist interactive by including actual check-able boxes, this is even better. It’s smart to make them printer-friendly, too. Interactivity makes any content better.

    3. How-to posts.

    How-to posts instruct users how to complete something, and that something can be almost anything. For example, you can walk users through the steps of changing a flat tire, how to cook a frittata, or how to tell when a sales strategy isn’t working. Here, make sure your title explains what you’re instructing clearly, and try to choose a topic that’s as specific as possible; most general how-to’s (like the three examples I gave) have been done to death. For bonus points here, make sure you include images and videos of the process. If you can’t get real photography, rely on sketches.

    4. Tips and tricks.

    “Tips and tricks” articles are all about providing helpful tidbits about a given subject, process, or task to readers in an effort to make their lives easier. The line here can be blurry with other forms of content; for example, you could have a listicle of tips and tricks, or a how-to post with a section of tips and tricks at the end. The point is to give your users bite-sized pieces of useful information. This whole concept, when applied to general life, has evolved to become known as “life hacks,” so feel free to use the “hack” terminology to catch some extra attention in your title.

    5. Best practices.

    You may also want to publish a post of best practices, which outline some bigger-picture concepts and procedures to follow for a given subject. For example, best practices for running may include keeping proper form, staying hydrated, and eating properly before and after a run. The usual problem with this type of content is that it’s general, so if you can, try to make your topic more specific to a niche audience, or drill down into one specific section of the topic you’re covering.

    6. Buying guides.

    Buying guides have a handful of advantages as a content type, and they come in a variety of different forms. The general purpose is to help users make an educated decision when buying a certain product; in the example below from MacRumors, the buying guide compares and contrasts different categories of Apple products to help unfamiliar users decide precisely what they need. Be sure to cover general descriptions of the products you’re covering, but also delve into top considerations; let users know what factors are most important in making a good decision here. This is especially advantageous if you’re listing products you sell on your site.

    Buying Guides

    (Image Source: MacRumors)

    7. Opinion pieces.

    Opinion pieces are some of the most open-ended pieces of content you can produce. All you have to do is find a topic that matters to your audience, formulate an opinion on it, and write about that opinion. For example, you might come out in favor of a new technology that’s shaking up your industry, or you might list the drawbacks and consequences of a popular business strategy that isn’t frequently criticized. There are a few keys to being successful here—your opinion should be strong, well-researched, and at least somewhat debatable.

    8. Prediction pieces.

    Prediction pieces are similar to opinion pieces, but with a specific focus; here, you’ll attempt to make a prediction (or multiple predictions) about your industry, or a topic that’s important to your users. For example, if you’re in the automotive industry, you might predict that a certain model of car will be discontinued by a certain date, or if you’re in the culinary industry, you might predict the rise of a certain trend revolving around a specific ingredient. These tend to capture user interest because they appeal to the imagination and are future-focused.

    9. Prediction follow-up pieces.

    Once your prediction piece is written, you can actually capitalize on it for another powerful piece of content; the prediction follow-up. As the name suggests, this is a way to reflect on the predictions you initially made and determine whether they proved true or false—as well as why. Moz has been known to do this annually, making predictions about the coming year in SEO and evaluating the past year’s predictions, complete with a numerical ranking system. You don’t have to go that in-depth, but revisiting your predictions shows your commitment and could rejuvenate interest in your previous work.

    prediction follow-up pieces

    (Image Source: Moz)

    10. “Why” pieces.

    “Why” pieces are exactly what they sound like; they’re your chance to explain the mechanics behind something specific in your industry. You have a wide diversity of potential angles to explore here; for example, you could explain “why” from a functional perspective, taking a look at what makes a product work or why a strategy is effective, or from an historical perspective, evaluating how this product evolved or how this strategy came to be what it is today. The “why” question is an especially interesting one—and a satisfying one if you’re in-depth enough with it.

    11. Written tutorials.

    Tutorials may seem like just another term for “how-to” posts, but while the two share a common goal—instructing a user how to do something—tutorials tend to take a more in-depth, step-by-step, “showing” approach. In a written tutorial, you’ll have some difficulty establishing this level of immersion. Depending on the subject matter you’re covering, you’ll need to go into special detail to make sure your message is understood; for example, merely describing what the inside of a clock looks like won’t be nearly as effective as demonstrating a visual. Be sure to include photos and illustrations, or change forms to a video tutorial instead.

    12. Video tutorials.

    Video tutorials are a bit more difficult to produce, just because they require some camera work and editing, but they’re generally more powerful forms of instruction, since users can see exactly what you’re doing. Throughout the video, make sure you keep the camera focused on the action, but don’t just go through the steps—take your time narrating everything you’re doing, and clearly so that users can understand. In fact, it might be a good idea to include both a video and written version of your tutorial to help audiences with preferences for either one. Punished Props has built a successful Youtube brand around video tutorials on how to make realistic-looking costumes, weapons, and armor.

    13. What not to do.

    “What not to do” posts can be fun to write. They function as a practical opposite to “best practice posts,” outlining some of the worst choices or strategies you can follow in a given subject. For example, in the realm of link building, you might focus on black hat tactics like sneaking links into forum comments or participating in link exchanges and other schemes. Depending on the severity of the consequences in your particular field, you could turn this into a cautionary tale, or make it humorous. Either one can be made more powerful with the inclusion of specific examples.

    14. Mistake analysis.

    Mistake analysis posts are similar to “what not to do,” except rather than outlining general “worst practices,” they delve into one specific error in an attempt to figure out what went wrong. For example, if you’re a marketing agency, you might have a client whose ROI plummeted before they met you; your mistake analysis post could explain how you went about figuring out the root cause, as well as the steps you took to correct it. In this way, mistake analysis posts can serve as both “what not to do” pieces and helpful tutorials.

    15. Myth dispelling.

    There are myths, misconceptions, and false assumptions surrounding practically every industry. Being in the SEO industry, I’ve been exposed to quite a few of these myself, such as people still believing that link building is a dangerous strategy or following keyword-stuffing strategies that haven’t been relevant since 2011. Talk to your customers and see what your competitors are posting about—odds are, sooner or later, you’ll come across some persistent myths about how your industry works. Gather them up and work on dispelling them in a single post; just make sure you back up your claims with specific examples or hard evidence.

    16. Quizzes.

    Quizzes are a fun, interactive way to engage your users, and they offer more user participation than most of the other entries on this list. If you need more users participating on your site, this is a good bet to see higher rates. When you think of content quizzes, your mind might turn to popular “which [fictional franchise] character are you?” quizzes on Facebook; and while you can use these, you can also go a more customer-focused route, such as exploring a topic like, “are you saving enough for retirement?” or “is it time to update the design of your website?” Make the quiz short and easy to take, and if you can, leave users with some call to action.

    17. Calculators.

    Calculators are like simplified, numerically-based versions of quizzes. Here, you’ll ask users for a selection of information regarding a subject, and you’ll produce an answer that gives them meaningful data to move forward with. In the example below, users can enter their projected home costs and interest rates to calculate how much they’ll pay per month in a mortgage, but you can design a calculator for almost anything. You can even embed a calculator in one of your other blog posts to make it more functional or more immediately practical for your readers; there are many WordPress plugins that allow you to do this.

    bankrate calculator

    (Image Source: Bankrate)

    18. Games.

    Through the process of gamification, you can turn almost anything into a game, or create a game for your users. You can make this purely fun, such as making a game out of a task associated with your business; if you’re a retail store, you could post about a scavenger hunt your shoppers can play in your store. You could also make it more instructional, such as presenting a complex strategy in a game format to help users understand it on a more instinctual, conceptual level. As usual, this can be as casual or as in-depth as you’re willing to make it.

    19. Regular series features.

    This is a beneficial approach because it allows you to generate multiple posts on a conceptual level simultaneously; it’s also powerful for your audience because it gives them something consistent and relatively predictable to look forward to. As you consistently execute your work, your readers will become more and more invested, leaving you with higher rates of engagement and, eventually, returns. Take the series approach to some of your other post ideas; for example, you could find a mistake to analyze every week as part of your “this week’s biggest blunder” series or explore a different use for your core product every week with your “how to use ____” series.

    20. Schematics and blueprints.

    Though your tutorials and “why” posts might briefly explore the inner workings of your core products (or other items related to your industry), it’s more powerful to see it outlined visually. Include detailed schematics outlining what your product of choice is made out of, and offer written explanations for why it is the way it is. It’s a good way to circulate more information about how your products actually work, and will certainly appeal to any engineers in your crowd.

    21. Flow charts.

    Flow charts are interactive visual creations that help guide users through some kind of process, usually related to a decision. Each node on the chart provides a user with a branched set of options, followed by more nodes which lead the user further down the chart. You can use a chart like this to help guide them through a buying decision, such as deciding which model to go with, or have more fun with it. For example, you can use a flow chart to lead a user into a punchline or poke fun at the complexities of your industry.

    Flow Charts

    (Image Source: Mental Floss)

    22. Templates.

    With templates, your job is to provide a basic outline or representative set of content that users can then leverage for their own purposes. For example, if you’re helping your clients develop a social media strategy, you might provide them with a sample outline of a strategy that they can modify for their own needs. Depending on the nature of your template and what your customers actually need, you can provide these in a few different ways. Most notably, you can offer them as downloadable PDFs, which users can then print, savable documents and spreadsheets, which are editable on local devices, or embed the template directly into your post.

    23. Worksheets.

    Worksheets are similar to templates, but they serve a more specific purpose, and allow the user to work through some kind of problem. For example, a template for a social media strategy might give the user starting points for outlining their goals and objectives, but a worksheet would allow a user to work through the brainstorming and planning process that leads them to those conclusions. Worksheets often feature questions that force a user to think through a specific problem, such as “how many customers do you currently have?” and may also include quiz or calculator elements. Again, you can make this printable with a PDF or editable with a digital file.

    24. Infographics.

    Infographics exploded in popularity when they first started gaining momentum as a content medium a few years ago, and it’s no mystery why. Infographics visually represent data, which makes them aesthetically appealing, informative, interesting, and best of all—easy to share (as long as they’re executed correctly). They were once powerhouses for generating links and shares, but because they became so popular so fast, users began to grow tired of seeing the same infographic tropes over and over again. If you’re going to do an infographic, make sure it’s a topic really worth exploring, and present it in an original, interesting way. Check out this infographic-based infographic for a quick rundown on how you can do it:

    infographics

    (Image Source: Dash Burst)

    25. Comics.

    Comics are extremely easy or extremely hard to make, depending on who you ask and what kind of mood they’re in. If you want to get involved, paneled, illustrated storytelling can be a deep and immersive way to present a complex idea or present a sophisticated idea of humor. But if you’re looking for something to create quickly, you can also make something simple using rudimentary stick-figure skills. The goal is to present something in both a written and visual format, and preferably in a way that users can either engage with directly or share. Humor’s a big win for comics—but they don’t have to be humorous to be effective. WaitButWhy.com’s Tim Urban is a master of using comics within his content. You can see one of my favorites in this post.

    26. Memes.

    Memes are even easier to generate. Now, the actual definition of a meme is an idea that evolves and distributes itself, much like a gene in the evolutionary sense. But since its coinage by Internet dwellers, it has since evolved (ironically) to refer to any image macros, colloquial phrases, or in-jokes that circulate virally, usually due to some kind of humorous element. Oftentimes, this includes placing text over a person’s image, but it doesn’t have to; you can hijack an existing meme or create one of your own to add a bit of flair to your post. If you need help, you can seek out a meme generator online.

    Memes

    (Image source: Memegenerator.net)

    27. Sketches and illustrations.

    It’s hard to take sketches or illustrations and make them standalone pieces of content in their own right, but they serve as excellent ways to complement a piece that already exists. For example, if you’re working on a written tutorial and you don’t have any photos, you can use illustrations to better communicate your intentions and descriptions. You could also use sketches to present ideas before they’re fully baked, as a way of teasing your audience regarding your final design. Remember, it’s helpful to have a skilled professional designer working on these, but it’s not necessary.

    28. Photography.

    Photography is another visual medium you can use to gain visibility for your content marketing campaign, and there are a few different ways to harness its potential. If you have a professional photographer, or a standout image that says something significant about your brand or your audience, you can use it as a standalone piece –perhaps with a thoughtful caption. If they’re of a lesser quality, or if they don’t have that much impact, you can use them to supplement an existing piece. Again, these pair excellently with how-to articles and tutorials, but don’t be afraid to show off with just photos and some accompanying captions.

    29. Aggregated images.

    If you don’t feel like doing any writing, or producing any new images on your own, you can offer a kind of compilation of images you’ve collected previously. The best part is, they can come from any of the image-based categories I briefly recapped over the past few entries. For example, you can create a post about your “10 favorite infographics” from the industry, or highlight some of the “best photography” from a recent tradeshow or industry-related event.

    30. Aggregated videos.

    In the same way you aggregate images, you can also aggregate videos—even some of your own. For example, you can create a kind of YouTube playlist of some of the most influential videos in your industry, or you can embed your most popular videos in one collective post. It’s still a good idea to annotate them in some way, for SEO purposes as well as giving users a preview of what they’re about to see.

    31. Illustrated videos.

    Simple monologue videos can be effective, especially if you’re explaining a complex topic or having a conversation with your audience (more on that in subsequent entries). However, you can take it to the next level of aesthetic appeal and interactivity by including some illustrated elements. For example, you can use a whiteboard to make doodles that represent what you’re talking about, or you can make sketches in advance and use them at key points during your talk. For a good example of how this can be done in a fun, engaging, and branded way, check out Minute Physics’s video series about physics-related concepts. This doesn’t have to be exceptionally complex or involved to be effective.

    32. Video graphics.

    Video graphics are essentially the animated versions of infographics. Rather than hosting a stagnant collection of visual data bits, you’ll have the freedom to animate them; for example, you can have your bar charts grow into life, or gradually reveal a list of top entries, one by one. This format is far more original and engaging, and there will be less competition clamoring for attention here. However, the flip side is that it takes more time and expertise to develop. Unless you have a basic concept and mode of execution, you’ll need a video specialist or at least a graphic designer to help you execute this work.

    33. Regular video series.

    Much like your written post series, you can have a regular video series as well, and the sky’s the limit when it comes to topic potential. Releasing a new video on a regular interval will help you earn more YouTube subscribers, and generate more ongoing attention for your brand. You can even create a specific channel (or sub-channel) dedicated exclusively to that series. Have the same personal brand hosting the video every week, and you’ll have an instant recipe for greater reader loyalty. Consider exploring the pros and cons of a given tactic or topic every week, or visually showcasing something about your business.

    34. Demo videos.

    You could also use the video marketing approach to show off the products and/or services that you want your customers to buy in the first place. You’ll have to be careful here, because there’s a fine line between this type of content marketing and straight-up advertising, and if you cross that line, you’ll fail to build an audience. Remember, your goal in content marketing is to give your users something valuable, so make sure the potential customers can walk away from your demo videos with some new information or a fun experience—even if they don’t end up buying from you. If you have fun products, like toys, this is easy; otherwise, you’ll have to get creative.

    35. Calendars.

    If your business hosts regular events, or if you plan on attending events in the future, hosting an updating calendar on your site is a great way to generate more content and keep your users informed. Try to include a brief description of each entry on your calendar, both to inform your users and to optimize for search engines; you can even use a Schema markup to increase the chances of getting featured in a Knowledge Graph entry. If you don’t have a calendar on your site, you can do a month-by-month entry in your blog.

    Calendars

    (Image Source: Grog Shop)

    36. Timelines.

    You can also use timelines as an interactive, visual way to project the history of your company (or of your industry). This is especially effective if you’ve been around for a while, such as manufacturers that have been around for decades. Show off the major events that helped shape your industry and your business into what it is today. The unfortunate thing about timelines is that you can’t rely on them for an ongoing series; once you cover most of the major events of the past, you’ve already tapped them, and you’ll have to move on. However, you can also have timelines projecting into the future, charting out your company (or industry) goals, vision, and predictions.

    37. Charts and graphs.

    Charts and graphs are ideal ways to help your users visualize otherwise hard-to-approach data points; you may have already included some in your infographics and video graphics. Make sure you’re including these in an image format, so your users can share and cite them (and include a watermark to ensure you get credit for your work). It’s best if you use these charts and graphs to represent original data you’ve researched yourself, but you can use them for outside sources of data, or you can use them to illustrate general concepts. This post at WaitButWhy.com is chock-full of charts and graphs, and is an excellent example of how to illustrate the points being made.

    38. Industry news.

    If you want to become known as an industry authority, you need to post your thoughts and opinions about the latest news in the industry. Start by subscribing to influential blogs and forums, and networking with other influencers in the industry. When you see a story that piques your interest, news-jack it by presenting the facts of the story (in your own words, of course), followed up with your own reactions and opinions. Doing so will build your reputation, and provide you with easy material for ongoing content work. Even if your industry isn’t one that updates or changes often, it’s unlikely you’ll run out of material anytime soon here.

    39. Local news.

    Industry news stories aren’t the only ones you can news-jack for your own purposes, especially if you’re pursuing a local SEO campaign. But even if you don’t consider yourself a “local” business, there are some real advantages to noting, sharing, and repurposing local news stories; you’ll gain more relevance in your chosen area, and you’ll connect on a deeper level to the population there. You may even learn of new opportunities for promotion, such as finding local events that need new speakers or discussion leaders.

    40. National news.

    Taking things one level further, you can also capitalize on national and international news stories for your news-jacking efforts. This is especially powerful if you select topics that are at least marginally relevant to your industry or your customers; for example, with the launch of a new technology, you could post about the possibilities it holds for your industry.

    41. Influencer interviews.

    You’re probably already aware of the benefits that influencers have when promoting and distributing your content, but don’t underestimate the power they have when collaborating with you on a shared piece. One of the best ways to collaborate is in an interview format; you can ask your chosen influencer a series of questions about your industry and their opinions on it, and the two of you can mutually benefit from the exposure. Chances are, your interviewee will be just as likely to share the published piece (especially if it’s available in different formats). Beyond that, you can even reuse some of your initial questions in future interviews, saving you work on similar content in the future.

    42. Staff and leadership interviews.

    Interviews are powerful forms of content, but they don’t have to be exclusive to industry influencers. You can also look inside your organization to find people to interview, such as your CEO, or heads of various departments in your business. Ask them about their positions, including what they do for the organization, as well as their thoughts on the industry and where they see the business going from here. Your focus should be on providing valuable insights for your audience, but this is also a good chance to show off the personalities and talent that make up your business.

    43. Public debates.

    You can use your blog as a platform for debate in a number of different ways. For starters, you can use it as a way to list the pros and cons of each side of an argument, much in the same way that ProCon.org does for major and controversial political issues (see my example below). If you’re feeling a little bolder, or if you already have a strong stance on a given issue, you can post your side of the debate and invite commenters and audience members to debate you on the issue. In yet another application, you can pit two industry influencers against each other by giving them the opportunity to hash it out on your blog.

    public debates

    (Image Source: ProCon.org)

    44. Roundtable discussions.

    Roundtable discussions are a bit like a debate, and a bit like an interview. In them, you’ll invite a number of different influencers in your industry to openly discuss a series of topics, especially if they have a bearing on your future development. There are a few different ways to host this, but one of the best is to collect them all in the same room and ask them group and individual questions, making sure everyone gets equal time to make points and share their sides. This is especially useful for exploring a topic thoroughly, and usually does a good job of generating discussion afterward.

    45. Company news.

    Don’t forget that you can use your blog (or perhaps a news section) to announce major points of company news; these are excellent opportunities to write up and syndicate press releases, so why shouldn’t you also host that information on your site? It’s a good way to let your audience know what you’ve been up to (as well as where you plan to go from here). Just make sure what you’re posting about is truly relevant, such as moves, rebranding efforts, new products, or major changes to your offerings.

    46. Questions and answers.

    You can also collect a series of common customer or user questions and answer them, one by one. This is especially powerful if you answer questions that were posed by actual users, either in the comments sections of previous posts or from social media followers. Whenever you hear an interesting question, flag it and write it down—that way, you can draw up a collective post with all of them at a later date. As a side note, this is an excellent strategy for optimizing for long-tail keywords.

    47. Comment follow-ups.

    Pay close attention to what your users are saying in your comments sections, as well as how they’re responding on social media. As you saw in the last content idea, this is an excellent way to mine for user questions that you can subsequently answer, but you can also use other comments as jumping-off points for new posts. For example, let’s say you wrote an article about SEO and a user told a brief story about his/her bad experience with an inexperienced SEO agency; you can reach out to this user to get permission, then use that story as the basis for a new post.

    48. User-requested features.

    Comments, social media, and user surveys are excellent ways to figure out what your followers and fans want to read next. You can ask them directly what types of content and topics they’d like to see in the future, and they’ll probably tell you. Some will probably come to you with topics without even being prompted. These are golden opportunities for development, handed to you on a silver platter. Don’t pass them up; you know your users want to see it, so give it to them.

    49. Whiteboard sessions.

    The “whiteboard” trend is one that’s caught on with a ton of businesses, who usually sport regular whiteboard sessions to brainstorm something, explore a complex topic, or otherwise illustrate something that isn’t easily articulated with words alone. The whiteboard comes into play as a simple and convenient way to make illustrations, recap points, and hold users’ attentions. One of the most popular examples of this is Moz’s Whiteboard Friday series, hosted by Rand Fishkin as he explores some significant topic in the SEO world. There’s no right or wrong way to host a whiteboard session, so tap your creativity.

    50. Presentations.

    You can also create PowerPoint or slide presentations to share with your audience; this is especially cost-efficient if you created these decks for a real-life presentation opportunity and get to reuse them as collateral for your content marketing campaign. Be careful how you present these, though; it’s wise to offer some means of interaction, allowing users to click through your slides on your site, but you’ll also want to offer a downloadable version in PPT or PDF format.

    51. Podcasts.

    Podcasts are seeing a resurgence in popularity, though they never really fell out of style. Done in an audio format, it’s typical for brands and hosts to produce content on a weekly, or at least a predictably regular basis. However, one-off productions aren’t uncommon either. Your podcast can include discussions, interviews, or even just extended monologues, but you’ll need to get creative if you want to hold listeners’ attention spans for an extended period of time with just your voice. If you want to build an audience of loyal listeners, make sure you’re using a powerful voice, consistent each time, with decent recording equipment.

    52. Origin posts.

    People are often curious about the origins of the products, services, and even trends. Content that explains the origins of these objects of fascination, then, are powerful opportunities to gain public favor. Take a moment to explain how your founder came up with the idea for the business, or how your top-selling product evolved from just the spark of an idea to the form it exists in today. You can even examine a current trend in your target audience, and trace it back to its main point of origin. You’ll need to do your research here, but it’s worth the extra effort.

    53. Case studies.

    Case studies can sometimes border on that line between content marketing and advertising (or maybe sales in this case), so if you want to use them as strong features for your content campaign, make sure they’re focused on practical takeaways for your users. There are a few different kinds of case studies you can develop, the most common being one developed around a customer or client you did work for, examining where they were before you got involved, what you did, and where they are today. But you could also do a case study on a separately existing enterprise, such as a case study on why the Coca-Cola brand continues to be so successful.

    54. Hypothetical studies.

    Hypothetical studies are similar to case studies, but they don’t need to be grounded in reality. One of the strongest selling points of the case study is that it’s based on real-world events, so if you’re going to go the hypothetical route, you better have a good point to make. The ideal scenario here is to frame your work in the context of a narrative; introduce a fictional brand or fictional person, and go into detail describing the events this character runs into. Take advantage of a branching narrative here; since you aren’t grounded in actual events, you can take the story in multiple directions at once.

    55. Testimonials.

    If you’ve been in business for longer than a few months and you have some clients under your belt, it shouldn’t be too hard to ask for testimonials. However, turning testimonials into a full-fledged blog post presents a couple of challenges. You could ask for a super long testimonial from a user, essentially having them write a post on your behalf, but that’s intrusive, and they may not write what you want them to write. You could also aggregate multiple testimonials into one post, but that can come across as annoyingly self-promotional. Use your best judgment here, and as always, focus on what your audience would like to see, not what will make you look good.

    56. Incoming guest posts.

    Of course, if you’re looking for someone else to do some of the work for you, you could always open your website to guest posts. There are millions of active bloggers out there, and many of them are interested in guest posting opportunities. Chances are, all it will take is a post on social media or your website asking for submissions from new guest authors, and you’ll start to receive queries and submissions. It will still take some work to get what you’re actually looking for; you can do this by asking for very specific types of content from specific types of people, or by sorting through the posts yourself, and revising them to fit your brand.

    57. Influencer quote round-ups.

    People love a good quote. A powerful quote can inspire you or motivate you in your daily work, show you an alternative perspective, or simply teach you something in a concise, immediate way. If you’re looking for a way to resonate with your audience and demonstrate your authority in the industry, work on collecting quotes from various influencers in your niche and assemble them into a single post on a topic. Be sure to credit your influencers and thank them for their participation, too.

    influencer quote

    (Image Source: Entrepreneur)

    58. General quotes and proverbs.

    If you don’t feel like going the influencer route, it may be easier and more generally relevant to seek notable quotes from authors, celebrities, politicians, and other notable personalities that happen to fit a certain topic within your industry. For example, if you’re writing about what it takes to run your own business, you might draw from entrepreneurs, or if you’re writing about how to better communicate with clients, you can draw quotes from people talking about the power of conversation. BrainyQuote is a great resource here.

    59. Book reviews.

    Book reviews are always a good excuse to read a book; I always encourage other entrepreneurs and professionals to read as much as possible. No matter what you read, the activity will improve your vocabulary and expand your perspective, so you have a lot to gain by reading regularly. After you finish a good book your audience might like, post a short review about it. This doesn’t have to be a critical essay; just post a short summary of the book and what you thought of it. You’ll improve your brand reputation by showing you’re well-read, you’ll do your audience a favor, and you might even win some favor from the authors you choose to read.

    60. Product reviews.

    As another type of review, you can review products you use in your daily life—so long as it’s relevant for your brand. Some bloggers have established their entire reputation by writing up reviews on products in a specific category, such as tech devices or types of food. You don’t have to change your niche to take advantage of this; just keep your reviews to products that you use in the industry, or ones that may be especially important to your audience. However, make sure you disclose any compensation you may have gotten to write the review.

    61. Comparison reviews.

    Comparison reviews are a kind of hybrid between product reviews and buyer’s guides (which I covered earlier in this list). Here, your job will still be to review products, but this time you’ll be reviewing multiple products in the same category as they relate to one another. For example, you might list all the benefits of one product because they compensate for the disadvantages of another. It’s best to pursue this in a side-by-side format that allows readers to make judgments and comparisons at a glance, such as in a grid that highlights the main features of each, relating to subcategories.

    62. Extended metaphors.

    Extended metaphors are awesome opportunities for businesses that are hard to understand, or businesses that are less “fun” than others. For example, the manufacturing industry tends to be, for lack of a better word, boring, and certain tech subjects tend to be confusing and jargon-y for users. Metaphors allow you to bypass the conventional ways of talking about these things and present them in a new context—one that’s more playful and easier to understand. For example, instead of talking about two systems connecting via an integration point, you can liken them to two people having a conversation. Get creative here, but try not to mix too many metaphors together.

    63. Stories.

    Storytelling has become a buzzword in the content marketing community, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less effective as a device to appeal to customers. Stories are natural and powerful constructs for human beings; we pay more attention and retain more information when facts or ideas are presented to us in a story format, which is why books, movies, and TV shows make up the majority of our pop culture. Almost anything can be told in the form of a story with a beginning, middle, and end, and a central character (even if that character is an inanimate object). You can tell stories on their own, or weave them into a metaphor, or even use them as one-off examples to prove a point in a different context.

    64. Survey results.

    Surveys are great ways to collect meaningful information on an audience, or about an industry. Use a platform like Typeform to come up with some quantitative and qualitative questions and submit them to your influencers, customers, or vendors (depending on your intentions). After getting your desired level of participation, you can collect and aggregate the results to form meaningful conclusions—such as about the future of the industry, the zeitgeist of your target demographics, or even popular opinions on a given subject. Present both the raw data and your personal conclusions for your audience.

    65. Quantitative study results.

    One of the most powerful forms of content you can make is the presentation of original research; you can guarantee nobody else has done it before, and you’ll present valuable information that your audience wants to see. This combination makes it a perfect way to attract shares and likes, ultimately boosting your domain authority and brand reputation. Depending on how intensive your efforts were, I recommend using charts, graphs, and maybe even infographics to depict your results, but you’ll also want to treat it like a scientific experiment; present your method, explain your results, and discuss the potential for the future.

    Quantitative Study Results

    (Image Source: Moz)

    66. Personal anecdotes.

    People like other people more than they like other brands, so don’t be afraid to get personal with your audience; they’ll appreciate your sincerity, and will be more likely to trust your brand as a result. Tell a personal anecdote as a lead-in to a point, or simply tell it because you think your audience will like it. For example, you might recall seeing something interesting on the highway on your drive into work, and explain how it gave you a revelation about your business. Funny stories work well here, as well as anything that’s surprising or entertaining.

    67. Statistics round-ups.

    Original research is ideal, but it takes lots of time and resources to execute, and people still love statistics. So instead of conducting your own research every time, consider creating a kind of “statistics round-up,” where you collect important bits of information and takeaways from other research studies and present them in a more convenient, bite-sized way. It’s a perfect opportunity to get social shares, and you can even use it for your own purposes depending on the nature of the stats. Pew Research Center is a fantastic resource here—just be sure to cite whoever’s statistics you borrowed properly.

    68. Tool lists.

    No matter what industry you’re in, there are some tools your audience should be using to help them make better purchasing decisions, or just live their lives easier. You can collect a list of different tools for this purpose, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each and personally recommending some of your favorites. For example, you might recommend some online calculators, management and efficiency tools, or other types of software.

    69. Resource lists.

    Strikingly similar to the tool lists you’ve generated, you can create resource lists to help connect your readers to the assets, guides, and establishments that can help them in their endeavors. For example, if you cater to entrepreneurs, you might connect them to networking events, resource centers, or startup incubators. Don’t be afraid to look for offline resources as well as online ones.

    70. Influencer and author lists.

    No matter how good your content marketing strategy is, there are probably dozens of authors and influencers doing a better job than you are. This is a reality of the content marketing industry, but it isn’t anything to be intimidated by. Instead, you can capitalize on their abilities to boost your own on-site posts. Similar to how you collected tools and resources for your audience, you can collect a pool of influencers and authors they should be following; not only will your audience appreciate this, you’ll also earn the favor of the influencers you include in your list.

    71. Sneak peeks.

    If your business develops new products or refines its services regularly, you can use it as an opportunity to give your readers a sneak peek of your new material. This is effective because it shows your readers that you’re working on new things and simultaneously rewards them for following you close enough to notice. The key to effectiveness here is to actually tease your audience—give them just enough information to pique their interest, but not so much that it spoils any surprises. For example, you could announce that you’re coming out with a new update to your software that introduces an intuitive new interface, but don’t reveal exactly what that interface will look like. When you fully release the feature, you can do a more in-depth review of it.

    72. Industry history.

    I already mentioned the possibility of creating timelines for your industry and company, but you can also delve deeper into the development of your industry as an in-depth feature. Rather than focusing on the surface-level highlights, you’ll take a dive into the motivating factors and influencers that helped shape your industry into the state it’s in today. For example, you could talk about rises and falls at significant points in time, and possibly even project how the industry is going to grow from here, taking some influence from “prediction” posts I mentioned way back at the beginning.

    Industry History

    (Image Source: Internet Society)

    73. Industry secrets.

    You don’t actually have to reveal any secrets to reveal industry “secrets” to your audience. The goal here is to find facts about your industry that your audience doesn’t know—or misunderstands. For example, you could reveal that the majority of products are actually assembled from components manufactured off-site, or you could explain that most content marketers are flying by the seats of their pants, building a strategy as they go rather than knowing exactly what they’re doing from the beginning. You can use this to produce an attention grabbing headline like “X secrets the industry doesn’t want you to know”—just try not to verge too far into clickbait territory.

    74. Journaling.

    This option is best reserved for startups, and businesses that are undergoing heavy development. The idea here is to make periodic updates about the status of your development for your readers to follow. For example, if you’re developing a piece of software, you can announce when you’ve completed development on each of your key features, explain when you’ve started testing and how those tests go, and keep updating your audience about a potential release. This is especially powerful for businesses currently running a crowdfunding campaign, or other businesses that rely on readers and followers for ongoing support.

    75. Staff highlights.

    I’ll say it again; people love to see other people, far more than they want to see corporate brands. Consider putting the spotlight on some of the individual team members who make up your company, especially if you’re a small business. You can stage it as an interview format, but take it in a more personal direction than you would with an industry influencer or a leader within your organization. Let your team members explain who they are, what their area of expertise is, and why they’ve chosen to work for your brand. It will showcase your brand’s personality and attract better, more personable clients.

    76. A day in the office.

    Following these lines, you could also showcase what a day in your office is like, or factory, or any other physical location that’s important to your business. For example, you could use photo and video to show off your production equipment and how your products are made, or you could give your patrons an inside look at what your kitchen looks like, where you prepare their food. Just make sure you have everything clean and in order before you start giving potential clients an impression on what your place actually looks like. Elon Musk’s tour of SpaceX is a great example of how to do this.

    77. eBooks.

    You have tons of options when it comes to eBooks. Essentially, they’re just longer versions of blog posts you might be making anyway; for example, if a traditional post would cover tips and tricks for developing a sales strategy, the eBook version would be a comprehensive guide on building a strategy from start to finish. There’s no rule when it comes to length or format, but generally, you should aim for 10,000 words or more, in a PDF format with plenty of graphics to make it easy to read and follow. Once created, you have many options with eBooks; you can use them as an exchange for users’ personal information with a dedicated landing page, offer them as free resources for your site visitors, or even sell them outright to make a bit of revenue on the side.

    78. Audio books.

    Audio books are a straightforward concept, and in most cases are just a way to transform the medium of an existing book; for example, once you’ve created your eBook and started distributing it, you can record a member of your team reading the book aloud and use that audio file as an additional piece of content to offer your readers. Like with podcasts, make sure you’re using high-quality recording equipment and speaking strongly and clearly.

    79. Whitepapers.

    Whitepapers have a broad definition, so don’t feel pressured into using them in any one specific way. They’re generally longer than blog posts, but shorter and less involved than eBooks, and they tend to cover one specific topic in significant detail. Oftentimes, marketers use whitepapers to publish the results of their original research or experiments, as a traditional blog post doesn’t always offer enough room for suitable exploration. It’s generally a best practice to offer whitepapers as downloadable PDFs, though you can host them for online perusal as well for the SEO benefits.

    80. Polls.

    Polls can be used as small-time surveys; you’ll pose a question (or series of questions) to your readers as a main post, and allow them to vote on their preference. You can do something serious with this, such as allowing your readers to choose your next eBook topic, or have more fun with it, such as asking them how they feel about a recent news story and providing ridiculous possible answers. After voting, you can show your users the results of the poll and encourage a discussion about the results.

    81. Contests.

    Contests are an excellent way to drive visibility of and engagement with your brand; offering some kind of reward for participation naturally incentivizes people to take action, and because contests often involve a social element, it’s natural for your participants to quickly spread the word about your campaign. Even if your contests are primarily occurring on social media, it’s a good idea to write up a content post about your contest, going over the full rules and what users can expect, as well as clearing up any potential points of misunderstanding and explaining your motivation for hosting the contest in the first place.

    82. Webinars.

    Webinars are an entire content medium, so you can use them however you want, but most webinars are used as teaching tools. Generally, a webinar host will lead a discussion on a given topic, giving a slide presentation and speaking audibly, or opting for full-on video. Generally, the format involves a “teaching” segment, like a monologue, with audience members sitting quietly, followed by a “Q and A” segment, where the host makes him/herself available to answer questions from participants. If you end up doing a webinar, make sure you announce it a few weeks in advance, with regular reminders to sign up, and do a dry run before going live with your presentation. You’ll also want to make the webinar available to view or download after you’re done with the live version.

    83. Streaming event video.

    Speaking of live versions, streaming video has rocketed in popularity in recent months, thanks in part to platforms like Facebook attempting to push Facebook Live to users. Attend a local event, or an industry event, and live stream a speaker or significant event there; live video is popular because it allows users to feel like they’re experiencing something by proxy, and your broadcast of the event will give your audience eyes and ears at the event.

    84. Streaming interactive video.

    If you want to take advantage of the live streaming video trend but you don’t have an upcoming event, you can also simply live stream a monologue or your thoughts about a recent development. Even better, you can turn it into an interactive event by getting your followers and participants to ask you questions during your session. Periscope offers a good way to this. Pay attention to what people are asking, and try to keep the conversational flow moving. This is difficult to practice, but over time, you’ll get better at it.

    85. Thought experiments.

    Thought experiments are like hypothetical scenarios, which I mentioned earlier, but they’re distinct because of their prerequisites. With hypothetical scenarios, you’ll use a fictional story or sequence of events to illustrate a concept, such as imagining a narrative that demonstrates how one of your strategies might play out. With thought experiments, you’ll be testing the validity of a certain idea; this is best reserved for service-based industries or ones with more conceptual forms of work, but it can be a powerful way to prove or disprove the feasibility of an idea.

    86. User chats.

    Similar to how you used live streaming video to engage with your users, you could also host a user chat for a given period of time. If your website has a forum that allows user participation, sign yourself up as a user and lead a discussion during this time period. Invite any and all questions and comments as they come in, and try to facilitate discussions between users as much as you engage with users directly. This will help foster a community around your brand, and will only have positive effects for your overall brand loyalty.

    87. Before and after posts.

    Before and after posts are ideal if you’re working with clients looking for some kind of transformation; for example, if you’re in the branding and web design industry, you can post (with permission) images and screenshots from a client’s current setup, then follow up with your finished work some time later. This is obviously most effective when done side-by-side, but there’s also an advantage in posting the “before” status in real time, making users anticipate what comes next. It also serves as a veiled case study, showing off your expertise and capabilities.

    before and after posts

    (Image Source: KissMetrics)

    88. Theory exploration.

    Most industries operate on basic “theories” that dictate how things operate on a conceptual level. For example, in photography the “rule of thirds” is a popular way to frame photos to be more aesthetically pleasing. You can write up a post exploring one or more of these theories, analyzing why they exist, how they can be improved, and if they’ll ever be replaced. If there are multiple competing theories on a single topic or principle, this is a good opportunity to compare and contrast them.

    89. Inspiration posts.

    Inspiration posts are simply meant to inspire or motivate your audience. While effective, these posts aren’t practical for all industries and businesses. For example, if you sell culinary ingredients, you can post recipes and concoctions that inspire chefs, or if you sell art supplies, you can post artistic ideas, or if you own a gym, you can post workout routines and success stories. This is open-ended, and not for everyone, but it is a possibility worth considering.

    90. Ask me anything sessions.

    “Ask me anything” (AMA) is a mode of online conversation and engagement popularized by Reddit. In the mode, a user—typically someone of interest like a celebrity, or someone who has done something extraordinary—fields questions from online forum users in an effort to increase knowledge (and possibly entertain). This is best done with a strong personal brand within your organization, such as your founder, your CEO, or a leader of one of your main departments.

    91. Help content.

    Help content deviates a bit from the norm of “traditional” content marketing, in that it helps users who have already become customers navigate your products and services. For example, if you sell time management software as a service, your traditional content strategy might focus on productivity tips and helping workers improve their efficiency, but your help content might help users understand how to better use your platform. This is a good way to improve user retention (not to mention easing the burden on your customer service department), and you’ll get some amazing SEO benefits too.

    92. FAQs.

    A frequently asked questions (FAQ) section of your website can also serve as an excellent opportunity for content development. It can be used by your existing customers, much like your help content, or be consulted by visitors who are almost ready to buy from you. The more thorough you are here, the more potential customers you’ll be able to please; try to make it as easy to navigate as possible, including a search function to get users exactly what they’re looking for faster.

    93. 101 Guides.

    Not everybody is on the same level of familiarity with your industry, your brand, or your products and services. Even though you might understand your target market well and focus on visitors who are at least partially informed, you’ll still have a share of your audience who is completely unfamiliar with your core topics. For those users, it’s advisable to write up “101” guides, which formally introduce these concepts on a ground level. Strip away all the jargon, all the advanced tips and angles, and speak to people as if they’re finding out about this for the first time—because they just might be.

    94. Awards.

    Your ability to make an awards content post depends on your current level of authority. If you’re just emerging on the scene, or if you’re a startup, it may not be a good idea to hand out awards to influencers and other sites you think are doing a good job. However, if you have a few years under your belt, you can create whatever awards you want (keeping it relevant to your brand, of course). For example, if you’re a graphic design firm, you can list businesses who achieved some kind of graphic design excellence in the past year—much like influencer quotes and author lists, this is a good way to please your users and connect with influencers at the same time.

    95. Parody pieces.

    If you’re feeling cheeky, or if your brand is playful enough to get away with it, you can also write parody pieces. These might be Onion-style articles poking fun at new developments in your industry, or straight-up humor pieces that serve as satire for the public, such as this open letter to local directory sites. If you can make your audience laugh, you’ll probably win them over (and earn some extra shares and links in the process); just try not to go overboard or deliver incorrect information that may be taken as truth.

    96. Humorous insights.

    Parodies aren’t the only ways to inject humor into your blog or website. You can also write more directly relatable and funny pieces, such as “X times your SEO strategy will make you want to punch a wall.” If you’re looking for inspiration, peruse your friends’ and family members shared posts on social media. Find a piece there you think is funny, and brainstorm a way you can adapt it to fit your industry, or find a similar yet original angle to take that your customers might appreciate.

    97. Top post recaps.

    Original content is important, and you should be creating new content regularly, but occasionally, it’s both permissible and beneficial to look back and recap some of the work you’ve already done. For example, you can collect up some of the best posts you’ve written over the course of the past month (in terms of comments, shares, traffic, or the metric of your choice) and assemble them into a “top 10” list. This will help rejuvenate attention for these pieces and show off how popular your content campaign has gotten, giving you a boost in authority.

    98. Real-life presentations.

    It’s easy to forget that there’s a physical side to content marketing in addition to a digital one. If you’re looking for a way to get more exposure for your brand and make new connections, consider signing up for a speaking event in your area. There are many ways to find these opportunities, and most of them will be happy to have you as a presenter. As an added bonus, when you’re done, you can take your slide presentation (or any other collateral you created for the presentation) and make it available to your audience.

    99. Newsletters.

    To some, newsletters are a basic component of a content marketing strategy, but they’re also a critical opportunity to get new content to your subscribers and followers. Generally, you’ll use newsletters to distribute your top posts of the week (or month) or provide exclusive content to your subscribers to reward them for subscribing. However, you can also add some meta commentary, discussing some of the major wins you experienced and where you hope to go with your content campaign in the future. Give your readers the sense that you’re speaking to them directly, and they’ll be more likely to engage with you.

    100. Coursework.

    You can also turn some of your content into full-fledged coursework, provided you have enough material to truly educate someone. For example, you could organize some of your top posts into a linear, step-by-step system that walks users through the basics (such as with your “101” posts) and gradually more advanced topics. You could also include worksheets, quizzes, and other exercises for your users to complete, and offer a certificate of completion to give them an incentive to finish your program. If you’re successful here, you can expand your resources and potentially even charge for the opportunity eventually.

    coursework

    (Image Source: Codecademy)

    101. “Ultimate” resource guides.

    “Ultimate” resource guides are like eBooks—highly detailed and lengthy—but they’re also more interactive. They feature shorter sections, links out to other articles, and lists of outside tools and resources designed to complement the instructions and outlines they provide. The goal is to give a user a complete rundown on a given topic, providing not just the information they need to understand it, but also the motivation and the resources they need to pursue it.

    Hopefully, these content ideas give you inspiration, direction, and even some practical tips to create a more diverse selection of content for your brand. With a list this long, you shouldn’t have any excuse not to have that editorial calendar filled up. Find a new regular staple, or be adventurous and try something new—no matter how you choose to use this list, do so with your users in mind. As long as you continue to provide them with informative, entertaining, and relevant content, your strategy will become a success.

    101 content marketing ideas

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    Further reading:

    If you want more in-depth resources on content marketing, be sure to check out these guides from Jayson DeMers:

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  2. The Ultimate Guide to Measuring and Analyzing ROI On Your Content Marketing Campaign

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    Update 1: This post is now available as a PDF download! You can get it here.

    You’ve got a content marketing strategy, but is it working? How can you tell?

    If you’re looking for answers, this is the guide for you.

    content marketing analysis

    Table of Contents

    + Why Analysis Is Important
    + Identifying Successes and Failures
    + Generating New Ideas
    + 6 Keys to Success in Measurement and Analysis
    + 6 Key Content Marketing Metrics to Analyze
    + Content Marketing ROI
    + Calculating conversion value
    + Finalizing Quantitative ROI
    + Special Considerations
    + Email marketing performance
    + Other Tools for Success
    + Conclusion

    If you want to be a successful content marketer, it’s not enough to do what you think is effective—you need to objectively measure whether what you’re doing is effective or not, and then take the appropriate corrective actions.

    Many marketers don’t understand what’s necessary in measuring and analyzing a content marketing campaign—and even if they do, they may have trouble interpreting the data. In our 2016 What Works in Online Marketing survey, 40% of respondents (114 out of 284) indicated that they were not sure about their ROI from on-site content marketing efforts, and 43% (123 out of 289) weren’t sure about ROI from their off-site efforts. Clearly, many marketers find it challenging to measure ROI from their content marketing efforts.

    When you’re first starting out, measurement and analysis can be intimidating, but data measurement and analysis are objective and complex. I’ve written this guide to help you better understand the importance of measurement and analysis—and how to do it effectively for your content marketing campaign.

    Why Analysis Is Important

    Before I dig into the details of measurement and analysis, I want to explain the importance of analysis in the first place. Why is this phase of the process so important to the success and health of your campaign?

    Setting and Measuring Goals

    content marketing goals

    First, analysis can help you define, set, and eventually measure your content goals.

    • Defining success. There are many possible types of goals your brand can set for its content marketing campaign, and there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to go about it. For example, you could focus exclusively on building a better reputation for your brand, and work on getting featured in high-authority publishers. Or, you could focus on customer retention and drive your efforts toward your help and support content. You could focus more on generating traffic, or getting more conversions, or just reaching a wider social audience so you can attract more followers.

    How can analysis help you figure out what goals you want to set? When you’re first starting out, most of your goals will be speculative, or based on preliminary forms of research like market research or competitive research. But once you get rolling, you’ll have access to far more in-depth and brand-specific pools of data, which can tell you exactly how your content is performing. Here, you’ll be able to see where your strengths and weaknesses are; for example, if you see that your conversion rates are at an all-time high, but your traffic is lackluster, you can adjust your goals to focus on attracting more traffic. You’ll also have a baseline for comparison here; if you know you’re getting 1,000 visitors a month with your current strategy, 1,200 next month is a pretty realistic target.

    • Goal criteria. When you’re setting goals to measure and analyze, you’ll want to keep some important criteria in mind. The SMART criteria is always a good standby here, even though there’s some variability in what “SMART” can actually stand for (Wikipedia says they stand for specific, measurable, achievable, relevance, and time-bound). Your goals should be specific, so you can have an objectively comparable number for your data. They should be measurable, obviously, so make sure your goals are relevant to something you can measure in your analytics platforms. Make them achievable and relevant, so they’re actually going to matter for your brand, and set a limit when it comes to timing (give yourself at least a month to make any kind of meaningful progress). Once you know your goals, you can establish what you’re actually going to measure—and how you’re going to measure it.
    • Ongoing development. Remember that the process of setting and achieving goals is an ongoing one. It’s something that should be revisited, modified, and adjusted as you gather more information about your campaign. For example, you might start with a goal of increasing traffic, and consistently move your targets up as you build more and more momentum, but as you reach a plateau, you may have to shift your focus or rein in your ambitions to hit more feasible, meaningful targets.

    Identifying Successes and Failures

    Identifying Successes and Failures

    Experimentation in marketing is vital to the long-term success of your campaign. If you keep things too consistent or predictable, your campaign will end up becoming stagnant. Experiments, however, are risky; conceptually, you might identify them as strong opportunities for development, but in practice they may see very different results. Analytics is your tool to find out which of your experiments are working and which ones aren’t.

    Depending on how you approach the problem, you can set up an AB test to compare two variations of a campaign independently. For example, you might launch two eBooks at a similar time and in a similar way to determine which one is more appealing to your target audience.

    AB Testing

    (Image Source: VWO)

    But you might also decide to simply change something about your campaign—such as targeting a new niche or ramping up the frequency at which you publish new content. In these cases, you’ll need to compare large swaths of data with others from a different time period.

    In any case, analytics is the only way to know for sure whether one of your new strategies is working or not. Otherwise, you’re shooting blind, and you could end up wasting your time and money on strategies that aren’t effective.

    Generating New Ideas

    new ideas

    If you’re gathering enough data, you can use analytics to strategically generate new ideas for your content campaign. For example, let’s say you’re evaluating how effective various pieces of content have been in terms of attracting links and holding user interest once they’re on-site. You’ve developed a series of infographics that seems to be generating a lot of attention, and you’ve also written a new blog post about the history of the pogo stick that has seen a huge influx of visitors. Knowing these two trends, you could come up with a hybrid piece—like an infographic about pogo sticks history.

    Looking more broadly, you could also identify key opportunities based on the types of traffic you’re attracting or other metrics that inspire you to pursue another line of development. For example, let’s say you notice there’s a surprising number of people from Twitter visiting your site, but you don’t use Twitter for promotion very much. You could take advantage of this by increasing your efforts on Twitter, but also catering to that audience by writing snappier, Twitter-optimized headlines. Peruse data sets you wouldn’t normally think about, and see if there are any outliers that stand out to you or give you inspiration to try something new.

    6 Keys to Success in Measurement and Analysis

    Next, let’s take a look at some of the key principles that will lead you to success when measuring and analyzing your content campaign. Throughout this guide, I’ll be digging deep into the process of measuring, how to interpret data, and what data sets to pay attention to, but first, you need to understand the following six high-level “rules” of the analysis game:

    1. Measure everything. First, make it a point to measure everything you possibly can. Fortunately, we live in a digital age where most systems will track your performance for you. For example, if you syndicate your content on Facebook, Facebook will happily tell you how many impressions, views, and click-throughs it received, sparing you the trouble of any formal setup process. However, other systems require some degree of preparatory work; for example, before you can start taking advantage of Google Analytics, you’ll need to install a tracking script. Even if you have specific goals or specific platforms in mind when building your campaign, it’s a good idea to measure data with the broadest funnel possible—it’s always better to have more data than you need than to come up short or overlook something.

    2. Measure consistently. Some marketers set up their analytic systems with the best intentions, believing they’ll be dutiful about checking in regularly. Others only set up tracking systems because that’s what they’re told to do. In both cases, it’s common for marketers to neglect establishing a pattern of consistent measurement. You need to be consistent in terms of when and how you measure; you’ll want to check in at the same time every month, or every two weeks, or whatever you decide, and you’ll need to be consistent in terms of what data you evaluate. This consistency will help keep you accountable for your goals, but will also allow you to have an “apples to apples” comparison, giving you more accurate insights and conclusions.

    3. Choose the right tools. There are hundreds of marketing analytics tools available on the market these days, and new ones seem to be emerging all the time. Many of them are quite good. Most of them could probably help you. But only a handful of them will track exactly what you need them to track in a format that’s convenient and relevant for your brand. It’s going to take some time for you to run evaluations and figure out what the best platforms are for your brand; thankfully, most platforms offer free trials so you can figure it out quickly. Google Analytics is going to be a major help to you (and I’ll be exploring it in detail a bit later), but there are a number of other strong tools to consider. I’ll be exploring several of these in the final section of this guide.

    4. Relate everything back to goals. Your data is only useful if you’re capable of tying it back to something significant for your campaign. The conduits you’ll use most often here are your goals. So let’s say one of your blog posts has attracted 20 percent more traffic than your other posts; how has this helped you reach your main goal? What can you learn from this increase that can help you reach your next goal? It sounds redundant, but data without purpose has no meaning. Frame everything in a context that leads back to bigger-picture thinking.

    5. Avoid the temptation of confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is a common and deadly threat to the average content marketer. The idea is pretty simple; we tend to seek out and/or overvalue information that already falls in line with what we believe. This is true even if we’re not fully conscious of our own beliefs. How does this relate to content marketing analysis? Let’s say you’ve launched a new strategy that you believe will increase reader engagement with your brand. With this belief in mind, you cruise your data sets, looking specifically for information to justify this belief. You see a handful of extra comments from readers and voila—your belief is (unjustly) verified. However, you may neglect other important indicators, such as bounce rates, exit rates, or social shares, that contradict that evidence, because you weren’t looking for it. Try to remain as neutral as possible when running your analysis, hard as it may be.

    facts and beliefs

    (Image Source: James Clear)

    6. Make your insights actionable. This is the hardest step for many marketers. They’ll be able to give you lots of numbers, objective takeaways, and maybe even plot a few graphs to project the data, and those insights will all be true. But what are you supposed to actually do with those insights? Remember, your data is only useful if it leads to some kind of change. Aim for all of your insights to connect to some formal action.

    6 Key Content Marketing Metrics to Analyze

    content marketing metrics

    You may find yourself seeking information on a number of different metrics, depending on your goals and the nature of your brand, but these six key areas of analysis are some of the most important for understanding the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts:

    1. Traffic. Content marketing is an inbound strategy, and one of its biggest goals is to bring more people to your website. Depending on your area of expertise, or how you’re developing content, you may attract different types of traffic or attract it in different ways, but traffic is still a vital measure for the health of your campaign. For example, posting content off of your website with links pointing back to it will generate referral traffic, which you can use as a way to gauge off-site reader interest. Similarly, you can use social traffic to gauge your audience’s content interest on various social media platforms, or organic traffic to see how your content affects your search rankings. You’ll also be able to evaluate your traffic qualitatively; who’s coming to your site, and why?

    2. Conversions. There are dozens of online marketing strategies, but almost all of them boil down to one goal: increasing conversions. A conversion is a successful user interaction—such as a user making a purchase, completing a form, or downloading a piece of content—and for most companies, this translates to revenue (or at least a measurable value). In some cases, conversions will be a way to value the traffic that your content earns, and in others, you’ll be using conversions to track your content’s success at converting readers.

    3. Popularity. You’ll also want to measure the popularity of your content, in ways that transcend traffic or conversions. Some of your articles are going to be more popular than others, earning more shares, comments, engagements, and inbound links; obviously, there’s something you’ll want to learn from these outstanding pieces. You’ll also need to learn which of your strategiesor topics are ineffective, so you can weed those out of your lineup. Popularity can’t be tied to an objective value, the way that conversions or traffic can, but it’s an important qualitative measure to help you improve your content marketing efforts.

    4. Brand awareness. Brand awareness is a notoriously difficult data point to measure, and there’s no universally agreed-on way to measure it. You could use social listening software (such as Hootsuite, SproutSocial, or SocialMention) to see how often your brand is mentioned on social media channels, news articles, or blogs, or you could conduct a wide-scale survey to see who has heard of your brand before and who hasn’t, but these are indirect measures of a qualitative characteristic. You won’t find “brand awareness” in any online analytics dashboard, but it’s still important to gauge how effective you are in promoting your brand.

    5. Consumer engagement. Engagement is similar to popularity in that it can’t be tied to an objective value, but it’s a great way to gauge the health of your campaign. Getting more engagements means you’re selecting good topics, covering them appropriately, and most importantly, keeping yourself highly relevant to a specific target audience. Comments, interactions, tweets, shares, downloads, and discussions are all various forms of engagement you can look at to tell you how well you’re doing.

    6. Reputation. Brand reputation is another finicky measurement, but fortunately this one has a handful of practical, objective measurements to point you in the right direction. For example, you can measure your site’s domain authority to determine how “authoritative” Google probably views your website. You may also want to go deeper by determining how users feel about your content specifically, such as conducting reader satisfaction surveys or asking for feedback.

    I’ll be digging deeper into all these topics in the next few sections, but I wanted to give you the high-level view for context before we start measuring and analyzing each of these data points. The next two sections will be focusing on the concept of ROI, boiling complex data points down to objective measurements, and on qualitative measures of campaign effectiveness, which are beneficial but are tough to reduce to concrete takeaways.

    Content Marketing ROI

    Content Marketing ROI

    For this brief section, we’re going to be focusing on the fundamentals of ROI, and to do that, we’ll be focusing on objective, quantitative data as much as possible.

    What is ROI?

    First, let’s define ROI—it’s an acronym that stands for “return on investment,” and most marketers will tell you it’s one of, if not the most important metric you need to know to determine your campaign’s effectiveness (in content or for any other strategy). If your ROI is positive, you’re doing something right – keep working to improve it. If your ROI is negative, you know that something isn’t working and it needs to change.

    There are a few problems with ROI when it comes to content marketing, however:

    • Content affects many areas. One of the reasons why content marketing is so powerful in the first place is because it doesn’t rest alone in any one area. It affects your domain authority and the amount of virtual real estate your website has, it facilitates social media marketing and email marketing, and can be used for countless other channels—it can even be used for client retention in addition to or instead of client acquisition.
    • Not all content effects are easy to measure. Some content benefits are terribly difficult to quantify. An increase in brand reputation can increase your conversion rates and may push users further along the buy cycle when they get to your site, but you can’t quantify these things with any degree of certainty.
    • It’s a slow building strategy. It takes a long time to see the true benefits from content marketing. As you grow your strategy from nothing, you’ll almost certainly start with a neutral or negative ROI, which can only become positive after months or even years of effort.

    Despite these weaknesses, understanding your ROI as well as possible is crucial, so I still highly encourage you to keep it as one of your top priorities for gauging campaign success.

    Google Analytics

    Google Analytics

    When it comes to quantitative data for your content campaign, there’s no better general tool than Google Analytics. It will help you track almost any data point you can imagine related to your content or your site, and it’s pretty easy to use. It even integrates with a number of third-party dashboards. Best of all, it’s completely free—all you need is a Google account, and you can grab a tracking script to place within the code of your site. There may be other platforms that can serve your specific needs better, or ones that are easier for you to use personally, but Google Analytics can work for almost anybody, so it’s the most universal platform I can offer or suggest.

    Throughout this section, I’ll be exploring the different areas of Google Analytics you can use to evaluate your content marketing campaign, where to find it, and what your key takeaways should be from the information you find. I’ve organized this section in broad categories of data—such as “traffic” and “conversions,” so even if you don’t plan on using Google Analytics, you can still learn about the key metrics you need to measure and why they’re so important. I’ll be exploring alternative and complementary tools in the final section of this guide, so keep these metrics in mind for those as well.

    Traffic

    First, let’s take a look at traffic, the number of people who visit your site. Obviously, the more people who visit your site, the better—more incoming people means you’ll have more opportunities for conversions, and even if they don’t convert, you’ll at least build more brand familiarity. One of the primary functions of content is to attract new users in the first place, and you can use the Acquisition section of Google Analytics to see how well your content performs this function.

    Find the Acquisition section on the left-hand side of the dashboard, and click into the “Overview.” This will give you a detailed breakdown of how many visitors have come to your site during the time period you’ve selected, and where those users came from.

    top channels

    There are four main potential sources of traffic here (you may also see paid advertising, or other peripheral routes), all of which tie back to your content in some way. You can view this from a high level, or click into each individual traffic “channel” to get more detailed information.

    • Organic Traffic. First, take a look at your organic traffic. This is a measure of all the traffic your site has received from organic searches in search engines like Google and Bing. You can break this down by search engine, and look at the keyword used for each search (though Google doesn’t provide much keyword information through Google Analytics anymore), but the big number to pay attention to here is the number of sessions you received. If you’re using content as part of an SEO strategy, this is the most comprehensive measure you can use to gauge its effectiveness. The more authority and visibility online you generate through your campaign, the higher this number will climb; just keep in mind this figure is also influenced by your SEO efforts (the lines are blurry here). If you see this number stagnating or dwindling, you’ll have to readjust the keyword focus and authoritative strength of your content.

    organic traffic

    • Referral Traffic. Your referral traffic will give you another measure of your content’s specific influence. Referral traffic measures people who came to your site by clicking on an external link. Since many of your external links will be built in content you’ve submitted to off-site publishers (if you’re following my guide to link building), you’ll have clear insight not only into which publishers are sending you the most traffic, but what types of topics are generating the most visitors. Be sure to drill into this one, as it also includes referral traffic from links independent from your content marketing strategy. Take inventory of what parts of your off-site content strategy are succeeding or failing, and make adjustments accordingly.
    • Social Traffic. Next, you’ll want to take a look at the social traffic you’ve been able to generate. As you might imagine, this collects all the inbound traffic you’ve received from your social media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn—and you can even look to see specifically which channels are generating the most traffic. From there, you can click into each individual platform and see what links syndicated on those platforms are responsible for what share of traffic you’re getting. It’s a fantastic way to gauge how your content is reaching the different segments of your social audience.

    social traffic

    • Direct Traffic. Finally, we have direct traffic, which is a bit harder to dissect. Direct traffic is comprised of several different potential sources:
      • Typing in your website address in the URL bar
      • Clicking a link from an email
      • Clicking a link from a chat software
      • Clicking a link from a shortened URL (such as bit.ly)
      • Clicking a link from a mobile social media app such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn (phone apps usually don’t pass referrer information).
      • Clicking a link from a secure site (https) that leads to a non-secure site (http). Watch out for this, because some major publications, such as Entrepreneur.com, use https. So, if your site isn’t secure (http), then any referral traffic you get from it will actually show up in the “direct traffic” bucket in Google Analytics.
      • Organic search (some of it, anyway). A study by Groupon found that up to 60% of traffic being reported as “direct” was actually organic search traffic. It’s not yet known why some organic search traffic is dumped into the wrong bucket, but it’s worth knowing about.

    There’s no easy way to tell how many users who accessed your site directly did so because they’ve been exposed to your content in the past, but there are ways to evaluate how many visitors are new versus how many have been here before—I’ll be touching on that in a later section. Don’t write off direct traffic entirely, but it’s usually not as closely related to your content strategy as these other channels.

    Custom reports

    One of the lesser-known and utilized features of Google Analytics is custom reports. My favorite custom report shows full referring URLs for every referral visit, along with the destination URL on your website. So, for example, if a reader reads one of my Forbes articles and clicks a link within the article that takes them to a specific page on my website, Google Analytics allows me to see the URL of the Forbes article, along with the page on my website that the user landed on when they clicked the link:

    custom reports

    This is actionable intelligence because it shows you which specific external assets/media are generating the most traffic, and to which specific pages. Furthermore, when compared to conversion data, it’s possible to see which external publishers drive the most conversions, allowing you to refine and optimize your future outreach efforts.

    Follow these steps to set up this custom report:

    1. Log into your Google Analytics account and select your website’s profile.
    2. Click the “Customization” tab at the top of Google Analytics
    3. Click “New Custom Report”
    4. Click “Flat Table” when you’re asked to select the “type”
    5. Click “Dimensions” then select “Full Referrer” under “Behavior” as well as “Destination Page”
    6. Click “Add Metric” under the “Metrics” section, then add “Visitors” and/or “Unique Visitors.” Feel free to experiment with adding other metrics here as well, such as bounce rate or pages / session.
    7. Click “Save”
    8. Click “Add to Dashboard” (optional)

    Visit your dashboard and you’ll see the report, or visit the “Customization” tab and then select the custom report name from the left side to see it any time.

    Referring to the image above, I can see that I get a lot of traffic from Forbes articles that I’ve published; particularly ones that relate to social media and how to drive traffic to your website. More content on Forbes that covers these angles could be helpful in my content strategy.

    Conversion tracking

    Traffic is all well and good, but what is that traffic doing once it gets to your site? Are these people who are buying products from you, or just passersby who kicked the tires and moved on? Conversions will be able to tell you the difference, and it’s important to know exactly how many you’re getting—and how much they’re worth.

    1. Defining conversions. First, you need to know what qualifies as a conversion and what doesn’t. The potential definition is pretty broad; any type of meaningful user activity could be theoretically counted as a conversion. By most standard definitions, a conversion would be considered to take place during a monetary transaction, such as a purchase, or an action that could potentially lead to such a transaction, such as signing up for a webinar or filling out a form.

    2. Measuring conversions. Conversion opportunities are nice, but of course you’ll need to measure how often those conversions are made. Your site may have a feature in the backend to measure and analyze your conversion opportunities—especially if you use a common content management system like WordPress—so feel free to use that. Otherwise, Google Analytics has a useful section called Goals that can help you track almost any kind of conversion you can imagine. Head to the Admin tab of your account, and you’ll find Goals as one of the main options.

    Google Analytics Goals

    Here, you’ll be able to create a separate “Goal” for every conversion opportunity you have. Google is super helpful, and has a number of templates you can choose from, including “contact us” and “place an order,” which are two common variants.

    Follow the instructions here—Google walks you through every step of the process. Then, you’ll be able to track all your Goals in the same section, or access Goal data on individual report pages. For example, you’ll be able to see how each segment of traffic (referral, organic, social, etc.) converts compared to the others.

    Calculating conversion value

    You can calculate exactly how much one of your conversions is worth. This is more straightforward for some types of conversion than it is for others. For example, if you have historical data on your customers’ past purchases, you can easily calculate the approximate value of a customer purchase. However, if you count a conversion as a lead, you’ll need to factor in the expected lifetime value of a client, your close rate, and other variables that could influence the full equation. The more precise you can be, the better, but an estimate is okay.

    Calculating Quantitative Revenue

    Calculating Quantitative Revenue

    Once you have your goal tracking set up in Google Analytics, you can calculate the total revenue from your content marketing campaign in two separate dimensions:

    1. Conversions as a measure of traffic value. First, you can use your conversion rate and conversion value to estimate the approximate worth of each new visitor. For example, let’s say you have a conversion rate of 2 percent with 1,000 monthly visitors and a $1,000 conversion value. You’d get 20 conversions, with a total value of $20,000. Therefore, the average value of a visitor to your site is $20. You can apply this math however you like; you can look at your site’s “average” visitor from any direction, or drill down to visitors from one specific channel or another (as long as you use the appropriate data sets for your variables).

    2. Conversions as an indicator of content success. Don’t forget your content has the potential value to encourage conversions through calls-to-action. You can also measure specific Goals related to the calls-to-action your content supports, and use that information to determine how effective your content is at generating new conversions.

    Accordingly, you may need to segregate your conversion efforts, measuring different Goals for each dimension. It may also be beneficial to work on conversion optimization as a strategy separate from content marketing, though the quality of your content (and your use of calls-to-action within it) can affect your conversion rates.

    Calculating Quantitative Costs

    Calculating Quantitative Costs

    Between knowing your traffic volume, conversion rates, and conversion value, you can sufficiently estimate the approximate value of your content marketing strategy—at least from a quantitative perspective (I’ll get into qualitative measurements in the next section). But don’t forget the other side of ROI—the amount you’re investing in your campaign.

    Most of these factors aren’t measurable through a dashboard or analytics platform, so you’ll need to rely on your company’s own internal financial data. Take a look at the following:

    • Agency & contractor spending. If you’re working with an agency or any contractors, calculating your costs will be simple. Agencies and contractors vary wildly on price due to different levels of expertise and different niches, but for the most part, their services are reduced to either an easy-to-understand monthly rate, or project-based payments. Set these costs aside, and combine them with your other expenditures (if you have any) to project a final cost for your content marketing efforts.
    • Employee time and cost. When you’re doing some of the content marketing work yourself, or you’re relying on your full-time staff members to do the work, it’s easy to forget that these forms of effort are costing you money as well. If you have a full-time employee dedicated to content marketing, all you’ll need to consider here is their full-time salary, but it gets complicated when different team members are investing different amounts of time at different rates of pay. Do your best to reduce these hours of invested time and effort into a quantifiable metric—and include your own time as well (here’s a handy calculator to help with that).
    • Tools and other resources. Finally, you’ll need to include the monthly costs for all the tools, dashboards, and services you subscribe to in order to make the magic happen. Think carefully here: Do you use any analytics platforms, syndication platforms, management tools, collaborative tools, or communication platforms exclusively for content marketing? Include their monthly fees in your total expenditures.

    Collect all these sources together to estimate how much you’re spending on your content marketing efforts. This is a good opportunity to assess where you’re spending the most time and money, and you may find that you pay more than you thought you did.

    Finalizing Quantitative ROI

    Finalizing Quantitative ROI

    Now that you have all the information on how much your content campaign is objectively returning to you and how much you’re spending, you can estimate your campaign’s total quantitative ROI (that is, your ROI before taking qualitative measurements into considerations). Take the average value of a conversion (along with your conversion rate), and use that to estimate the average value of a site visitor.

    Tally up all the visitors in a month that were influenced by your content strategy, and calculate a total value of those visitors. Compare this against what you spend in a month, and voila—you’ll have a rough figure for the ROI of your campaign (not including qualitative benefits).

    If your ROI is positive, congratulations! You’re doing a fine job, and you should keep it up. Pay special attention to the areas of your content strategy that are performing best—such as topics, syndication channels, or formats that are especially valuable—and keep refining those.

    If your ROI is steady or negative, you have some work to do (unless you’re just starting out with a new campaign). Take a critical look at where you’re underperforming, specifically, or where you’re overspending, and work to make corrections for subsequent months. You may need to aggressively experiment to achieve a positive change, but the worst thing you can do in a negative-ROI situation is nothing.

    There is one additional caveat to considering your ROI, however; you need to remember there are less measurable, qualitative benefits to your campaign as well.

    Qualitative Measurements

    Qualitative Measurements

    Now, we’re going to turn our attention toward the qualitative benefits and effects of your content marketing campaign. These are just as real, and just as effective for promoting your brand, but they’re not as numerically or as directly measurable as the quantitative factors we used to formulate ROI.

    Earlier, we focused on the Acquisition and Goals tabs in Google Analytics. Now, we’re going to be spending some time in the Behavior area, where you can gain insights about how users interact with your site.

    Brand Presence

    Our first stop is evaluating your brand presence. How effective is your content when it comes to promoting your brand and making it more visible to a wider audience? Answering this question can help you find weak points or strong points in your campaign; are there certain areas lagging behind others? Are there key opportunities for development?

    • On-site distribution. You produce a lot of content, but how much of that content is currently getting seen or interacted with? Which topics are getting more attention than others? We can find the answers to these questions in the Behavior tab. Take a look at the Site Content section, and pull up the full report by clicking “All Pages”.

    You’ll see a detailed list of every page of your site that has received at least one visit within the specified timeframe, by default ranked in order of traffic (Pageviews). Odds are, your homepage gets the lion’s share of traffic, which is represented by a slash (/), but if you drop down, you can take a look at how your actual content stacks up against each other in terms of popularity.

    page views

    • Off-site presence. Next, you’ll need to take a look at your off-site presence. You can do this through the Referral traffic custom report you created in the last section. What are your top sources for new traffic? What kind of reputation benefits is your brand getting from its affiliation with these sources? From which sources do you see the best conversion rates?
    • Brand mentions. You can also get a gauge for your current brand presence by seeing how often your brand is mentioned on social media. For platforms like Twitter and Instagram, you can easily see what users are mentioning you, or you could also do an in-app search for terms specifically related to your brand. But if you want to go the extra mile, you could use social listening software to help you figure out exactly how, when, and in what capacity people are referencing your brand.

    Brand Awareness

    Brand Awareness

    Brand awareness is loosely tied into your overall brand presence; after all, the more prominent your brand and content are, on-site and off-site, the more aware people are going to be of your brand. But we’re not just looking for the reach and value of your content here; we’re trying to figure out what people know about your brand. For example, you might have content on a dozen high-authority sites generating thousands of visitors to your site every month, but do those visitors know what your brand actually does, or how it fits into your industry? Are they going to remember your brand after they give your site a once-over?

    Brand awareness is tricky to measure. You can use indirect forms of measurement, such as how many new followers you’re able to attract or how informed your leads seem to be when you collect them, but if you want to be as accurate as possible, your best course of action is to conduct a survey. Ask people if they’ve heard about your brand, how they heard about your brand, and their subjective opinions on it. This can help you gauge how effective your content is at making your brand both positive and memorable.

    Reader Retention

    reader retention

    Earning lots of traffic through quality content is a great first step, but your long-term goals should be focused on building better customer relationships and keeping them around for as long as possible. As such, reader retention should be just as high a priority as new reader acquisition.

    There are several ways you can measure this (and gain insights that allow you to improve your approach):

    • Followers. Any social media marketing expert will tell you that the “follower” and “like” counts of social media profiles are somewhat overblown statistics for success. Just because a user followers your brand on a social media platform doesn’t mean they’re actively viewing what you’re posting, or that they have any meaningful connection to your brand. Chasing followers is often meaningless to your bottom line. However, measuring the growth of your followers (and future retention) based purely on the attractiveness of your own efforts is a good gauge of your campaign’s strength. If you find your follower counts slowing or falling backward, take a good look at the content you’re promoting, and whether your content’s quality and engagement has taken a nosedive. Fortunately, this is an easy metric to track and follow.
    • Subscribers. If you use an RSS feed, you can also measure the growth of your subscribers much in the same way that you measure the growth of your social media followers. Barring that, you can use your email newsletter subscribers as a gauge here. Pay careful attention to any spikes or valleys in your data—are they coincidentally timed with any new changes to your strategy? Are there any specific subscriber tendencies that you can optimize your campaign for? Users won’t subscribe unless they’re truly interested in your content.
    • Repeat traffic. Your volume of returning visitors should also suggest something about the sticking power of your content. Head to the Audience section of Google Analytics to find this, and look under Behavior to find the New vs. Returning report. Here, you’ll see a breakdown of all your site users who are new to your site against who’s returning for a second or subsequent visit. You can also filter this report by other factors; for example, you can isolate social or referral traffic. You’ll want to be careful of the balance here; new users are good for your acquisition efforts, while returning users are good for your retention efforts. Which one you choose ultimately boils down to your unique company goals.

    repeat traffic

    • Loyalists and evangelists. You can also subjectively view your content’s impact on people by observing how they behave in relation to your brand. For example, do you have any loyalists, who appear to like or share almost everything you post on social media? Do you have any brand evangelists who mention your brand often and recommend it to others? Both these types of users are indispensable for your content campaign in terms of further promotion of your material, but are also good indicators that your content is making a significant impact.

    Likes, Links, and Shares

    likes and shares

    Likes, links and shares are all important indicators for your content’s effectiveness as well, for more reasons than one. These three types of engagements are quite distinct, but all of them share a commonality; they require a reader to acknowledge your content as worthy of being spread to more people, which is usually a good thing. In increasing order of value are likes (or “favorites”), shares, and links. A like simply requires a click, while a share requires a click and an inherent endorsement, and a link is a broader endorsement of that content which persists indefinitely. Shares are especially important because they allow your content to be seen by more people, and links are especially important because they directly correlate with increased organic search visibility, which, in turn, drives more traffic to your website.

    If your website is on WordPress, you can use my favorite social sharing plugin, Social Warfare, to not only place social share buttons on your posts automatically, but also provide you with a breakdown of share counts for each post on your website.

    social shares

    You can monitor your likes and shares directly on their social media platforms. Take note not only of the types of content you produced, but when and how you syndicated them (for example, did you use a custom headline?).

    For links, you’ll have to use a tool like Open Site Explorer, Ahrefs, or Majestic, which allow you to list all the links you have pointing back to your site. This is especially helpful for monitoring what types of content earn the most links naturally.

    URLProfiler is another tool that I really like for content analysis. You can use it to create a list of URLs for every page on your site, and gather other metrics such as total shares for each URL, links for each, and much more. It outputs data in a spreadsheet so you can manipulate it to your heart’s content.

    Comments and Engagement

    Comments and Engagement

    So far, most of the qualitative metrics we’ve looked at have dealt with either a piece’s ability to attract clicks and brief interactions, or a campaign’s ability to retain readers. Now, let’s look at how your individual content pieces are able to hold a reader’s interest. These indications will tell you which of your pieces attract the most held interest, which is valuable because it leads to more invested customers/readers, and because it increases the likelihood of sharing and linking.

    • Time spent on page. For any piece of content on your site, you can look at the time spent on page metric to determine how long the average user stays on the page. Obviously, this can’t tell you whether or not these users actually read your material, but it’s a pretty good indirect indication of reader engagement. For example, if you have a blog post that’s 10,000 words long and your average user only spends 45 seconds on it, it might not be very informative, attention-grabbing or engaging in the beginning. On the other hand, if your time spent on page is several minutes, you know you have a keeper.
    • Discussions. Discussions are another good relative gauge of your content’s interactivity. You can artificially spur discussions by asking prompting questions, such as “what do you think? Let us know in the comments,” or by deliberately choosing a debatable or controversial issue. In any case, discussions about your work in the comments section or on social media are a good metric to gauge the influence of your material on your readers.
    • Reaction scale. This is a highly qualitative measurement, since it will require you to read individual comments and interactions, then draw a conclusion about how those users feel about your content. The more intense reactions you get out of people, the more successful you can consider your content to be (generally). For example, a phrase like “nice post,” isn’t as intense as one like “OMG, thank you for this! Exactly what I needed!” Eliciting stronger reactions usually means you’ll attract more discussions, gain more visibility (especially through shares), and affect a larger percentage of your readership.
    • Interactive elements. You can also measure your content’s interactivity by directly measuring the interactive elements within it. In fact, Google Analytics’s Goals section has a complete subsection dedicated to helping you track these modules. Calculators, information comparisons, or video plays can all be tracked separately—and obviously, the more users who interact with these features, the better.

    • Feedback. As an additional measure, it’s a good idea to collect reader feedback regularly, as directly as possible. Conduct surveys among your readership and ask them what they think about your content, including your topic selection, the quality of your material, and whether they have any suggestions for future entries. Sometimes, the best way to get the information you’re looking for is to ask for it directly.

    Special Considerations

    There are a handful of special situations and strategies that should be taken into account, beyond the basics of measuring a content marketing campaign’s effectiveness.

    eBook and whitepaper performance

    eBook and whitepaper performance

    For starters, you may be using eBooks or whitepapers as dedicated, long-form, “landmark” pieces above and beyond your “typical” blog and content strategy. These are frequently offered as downloadable PDFs, rather than on-site forms of content, and because they take more time and investment, you’ll need to be precise when measuring how much potential value they hold.

    • Downloads. The first metric you’ll want to track is the number of downloads your piece receives. This is a straightforward measurement that can tell you how interesting your topic is to your target audience; people generally won’t download a piece of content like this unless they have the intention of at least skimming it. If you notice your number of downloads decreasing from topic to topic, it could be an indication that your earlier work wasn’t as powerful or as effective as your audience thought it would be. On the other hand, if your download counts rise, it’s a sign of positive momentum building.
    • Landing page visits and conversions. One of the best ways to increase the return on your content investment is to establish separate landing pages for each of your content pieces, so you can target your audience with pinpoint accuracy. For each of these separate pages, you’ll need to track metrics like page visits and conversions separately. Treat each landing page as if it’s a separate, “mini” website in its own right. You can also track statistics like time spent on page, or if you want to get fancy, you can use heat map technology to determine exactly how your users interact with the landing page itself (but that veers into web design and conversion optimization territory, rather than content marketing measurement).
    • Different goals. I also want to point out that your whitepapers and eBooks will likely be written with different goals in mind than your foundational content strategy. Where your typical content strategy might revolve around getting people to your website or earning more conversions, these pieces might be linked to a paid advertising campaign to generate email addresses from potential leads, or you might even be selling them to your audience directly. Be sure to reevaluate what goals you’re setting, and how and why you’re setting them.

    Help and troubleshooting content

    Help and troubleshooting content

    You might also have a separate “wing” of your content strategy dedicated to help and troubleshooting content, guiding users through the use of your products and services, or otherwise lending them support in your area of expertise. This is an excellent strategy for customer retention, and is being increasingly used by major brands, but you’ll have to adjust how you measure and analyze your performance here.

    • It’s all about utility. You don’t need to worry about inbound traffic and conversions here to calculate the value of your work; instead, the value here is all about utility. Was your content able to solve an issue that a customer had? Was your content thorough and descriptive? “Usefulness” is an ambiguously defined quality here, but you’ll need to evaluate it if you want to gauge your effectiveness. The more useful your content is, the better job it will do at keeping your customers happy.
    • Types of user feedback. Since everything’s going to depend on user feedback here, you’ll need to collect that feedback in a number of different ways. For example, you could include a comments sections, which would help you qualitatively and indirectly gauge how satisfied your users seem to be, or you could use a more pointed system, like the question “was this article helpful?” at the end of the piece. Star rating systems and surveys are also effective. Google Support employs these tactics effectively, on multiple levels:

    user feedback

    (Image Source: Google)

    • The visibility factor. Though usability and user feedback are important factors of success while customers are engaging with your material, your help and troubleshooting content won’t do much good if nobody knows they’re there. Be sure to promote the existence of this support section on all the typical content syndication and promotion channels you use for the rest of your campaign—and measure your effectiveness accordingly.

    Email marketing performance

    Email marketing performance

    Email marketing can be considered a branch of content marketing, since it’s usually either relying on content for the bulk of its promoted material (like with an email newsletter), or it’s providing the content itself. Accordingly, it’s a good idea to track your content performance over email marketing as well. Google Analytics can give you information about how many of your subscribers visited your site, but for more in-depth performance metrics, you’ll need to consult your email distribution platform of choice.

    MailChimp is a fantastic analytics platform to rely on here, especially since it can integrate with Google Analytics directly.

    mailchimp report

    • Symbiotic relationship with content. First, note that there’s a mutual, almost symbiotic relationship between email and content in general. Your email marketing campaign can be used to promote and improve the interactivity of your content campaign, while your content campaign can attract new, more interested subscribers for your email blasts. How you treat email marketing depends on the ultimate goals of your campaign; for example, if you’re mostly focused on generating new traffic and sales, email marketing should be focused on driving all traffic and attention to your blog, and you should be measuring how effective it is at this specific task.
    • Engagement factors. You’ll also want to look at engagement factors within the email itself (as a general rule). What types of headlines and content are causing people to open emails the most? How often are people interacting with or clicking on links within your email content? You can use heat maps and advanced analytics to determine these metrics, or stick to high-level factors like traffic flow, depending on how important email engagement is for your content campaign.
    • “Next-level” traffic. You’ll also want to take a look at the traffic you get from email within Google Analytics. Segment this traffic out and look at factors like time spent on page and conversion rates; this segment of traffic can be considered to be in the next phase of your buying cycle. Because they’re subscribers, they’re already at least somewhat familiar with and interested in your brand. How does this change the way they interact with your content? Are they more or less engaged by it? This information can help you develop a more refined strategy, depending on whether you’re more interested in the generation of new brand awareness, or the capturing of already-interested customers.

    Other Tools for Success

    tools

    For the majority of this guide, the main tool I’ve been suggesting to measure and analyze your content campaign has been Google Analytics, but there are dozens of other potential choices, each of which offers an area of specialty, and some advantages and disadvantages that could make it a better option (or complementary addition) for your analysis.

    Open Site Explorer

    Our first stop here is Moz’s Open Site Explorer, which I made reference to earlier in this article. This tool specializes in evaluating your inbound link profile (and the profiles of your competitors, should you choose). Enter your domain and it will give you a breakdown of some key facts about your website, including your domain authority, page authority, and how many links you have pointing to your website.

    There are two main takeaways here. First up is your domain authority, which is a proprietary, predictive measure of how well a site will rank in search engines. The quantity and quality of your inbound links are the factors that influence your domain authority, and this should increase over time as your website gains more (and better) inbound links. Second, you’ll use this tool to evaluate how successful your content is at generating inbound links. Input any page URL (including individual blog posts) to see what types of links it has—and from where. Combined with the knowledge you have about your content topics and promotion efforts, you should be able to draw some logical conclusions about the link-drawing power of not only your individual content, but also your campaign as a whole.

    open site explorer

    (Image Source: Moz)

    Key Benefits

    • Free (mostly). If you’re only looking up information on one or two URLs, Open Site Explorer is free to use. If you want to expand beyond that, it’s reasonably priced.
    • Evaluates authority. Google won’t tell you any measure of your “domain authority” or “page authority”, but this will; it’s just an estimate, granted, but it’s a solid and well-respected indicator of authority in the online marketing industry.
    • Evaluates content power. When it comes to evaluating individual content in terms of its potential reach through shares and links, and allowing you to compare those metrics with those of your competitors, there aren’t any better tools.
    • Allows off-site diversification. This tool can also help you probe for weak points in your off-site posting strategy by comparing your links with those of your competitors. Where are your competitors getting links that you aren’t? Can you replicate their successes? Are you relying on links from too many of the same sources? Have you diversified your efforts enough?

    Sprout Social

    Sprout Social is a tool that caters to, as you might imagine, social media marketing. There’s a whole host of functions to play with here. One of its main goals is to facilitate the effective management of your social media campaign, scheduling posts in advance across a wide variety of different platforms, but where it really stands out is its ability to facilitate research and analysis.

    The most important functions for your content analysis strategy are the social listening feature and the post performance feature. Through social listening, you’ll be able to put an ear to the ground and figure out what your followers are talking about—this is useful for seeing if your new topics have generated discussion, if your brand is increasing in visibility and reputation, or even just fishing for new topics in general. Social post analysis will help you learn how your syndicated pieces of content are performing on various channels.

    sprout social

    (Image Source: Sprout Social)

    Key Benefits

    • Allows social listening. Being able to tune into your audience’s conversations as they relate to your brand is a huge deal, whether you do it proactively or as a way of gauging your impact.
    • Evaluates content performance. Though each platform offers analytic tools separately, here you can track your posts’ reach, click-throughs, and engagements all in one place.

    ScoopIt

    ScoopIt is a platform for content curation and automation, designed to help make content marketers’ lives easier. In addition to supplying lines of research, preparation, and organization to help you execute your strategy effectively, ScoopIt also integrates with a number of platforms to help you gauge each of your pieces’ impacts on your audience. You’ll be able to look up both quantitative and qualitative factors, such as visits, shares, and even engagements and customer behaviors over time.

    The platform is especially valuable because it attempts to save you that all-too-important step of taking meaningful data and turning it into something significant and actionable for your brand. It takes a look at all the different factors your content contains, how it performed, and makes suggestions for changes or future content pieces.

    scoopit

    scoopit analytics

    (Image Source: ScoopIt)

    Key Benefits

    • Plan and measure a strategy in one place. Most content marketers end up scrapping together automation and efficiency services from dozens of different software platforms if for no other reason than so many platforms are available. ScoopIt helps you manage all these, plus measurement and analysis all in one place.
    • Get actionable insights. It’s hard to take data and use it to form truly actionable conclusions. ScoopIt spares you the work.
    • Adapt over time. ScoopIt also allows you a certain degree of customizability, giving you the freedom to adapt your strategy, approach, and analysis methods over time.

    KissMetrics

    KissMetrics is another popular content analysis platform (and the brand has an amazing content strategy that’s worth checking out). Rather than focusing on the content side of things, with statistics based on reach and influence, KissMetrics differentiates itself by focusing more on your target audience. How are your audience members responding to your content? What are they doing once they get to your website? Are you addressing their needs sufficiently, or is there more you can be doing to satisfy them?

    Truth be told, KissMetrics can be used for a variety of different online marketing functions, including conversion optimization and sales improvement. Its use as a content analysis tool taps only a portion of its potential, but it’s still highly valuable. With it, you’ll be able to see exactly who’s reading your content, what content they’re reading, and how they’re responding to it—in detail.

    KissMetrtics

    (Image Source: KissMetrics)

    Key Benefits

    • Learn more about your audience. With KissMetrics, you’ll find out way more about your target audience than Google Analytics would be able to tell you. This is effective not only as an analytical tool, but as a research tool.
    • Track customer behavior in detail. Furthermore, you’ll be able to learn more specifically how your customers interact with your content through features like heat maps.

    Cyfe

    Cyfe has become popular due to its universal utility; it claims to be an “all-in-one business dashboard,” collecting information from dozens of different areas to help you understand your marketing, branding, and overall online presence in one place. It offers infrastructural tools, such as time tracking and management, and plenty of widgets and customizable features so you can build out the platform to be whatever you need it to be.

    From a content tracking perspective, this is advantageous mostly because you can use it to track as much or as little as you want it to. You won’t find any data points here that can’t be tracked elsewhere, and it doesn’t specialize in any one feature or function, but the convenience factor can’t be overlooked.

    Cyfe

    (Image Source: Cyfe)

    Key Benefits

    • Cover anything. You can track almost any business metric you can think of using this platform, which is extraordinarily convenient.
    • Customize to your liking. If you’re even moderately tech-savvy, you’ll be able to turn this platform into any kind of performance tool you need.

    Bit.ly

    You’ve probably heard of Bit.ly before, but you most likely recognize it for its core functionality: serving as a link shortening tool. This feature is still as popular and as useful as ever—you can head to the site and, for free, enter any URL to get a shortened version you can then do anything you want with. It makes managing and sharing lengthy URLs much easier, and remains an important tool for content promotion and syndication.

    However, most people don’t realize that Bit.ly also offers some surprisingly in-depth analytics about user behavior related to those URLs. Once you’ve created a custom URL for a page of your site, you can use that URL signature to trace things like traffic and audience type.

    Bitly

    (Image Source: Bit.ly)

    Key Benefits

    • Free (mostly). You can use Bit.ly to create shortened URLs for you, but if you want custom shortening or full access to their analytics platform, you’ll have to pay for it.
    • Track custom links. The ability to create and track custom links is especially beneficial for content campaigns targeting different audience segments, or those running AB tests for visibility and growth.

    Clicky

    The last analytics platform I’ll mention is Clicky. Clicky is a somewhat simple-looking dashboard that offers a ton of information about your website, your visitors, and your content performance. In addition to monitoring important factors like site uptime and audience composition, Clicky lets you monitor various user actions and interactions with your site, and can help you easily visualize the popularity and performance of your content.

    Where Clicky specializes is the real-time projection of metrics. Google Analytics offers something similar, but Clicky can help you see how your site visitors are engaging with your material as they engage with it. It’s an especially impressive demonstration if you need to prove your campaign’s effectiveness to an outside party.

    clicky

    (Image Source: Clicky)

    Key Benefits

    • View real-time metrics. The big unique benefit here is the ability to view site interactions in real-time.
    • Use heat maps. Heat maps aren’t a default feature in most of the analytics apps I’ve mentioned so far, but they’re highly useful in evaluating user behavior and disposition.
    • Monitor links. Clicky also helps you monitor your off-site content and link building campaigns, much like Open Site Explorer.

    Conclusion

    conclusion

    As you’ve seen, measuring and analyzing the quality and effects of your content marketing campaign isn’t exactly straightforward. There are thousands of potential variables, and the ones you need to examine for your campaign won’t necessarily be the same for anyone else. Measuring effectively depends on having a clear vision, with specific goals, and a general understanding of what “success” means for your campaign. If you need help getting started with a campaign from scratch, be sure to check out my in-depth guide on planning and launching a content marketing campaign.

    Following the advice I’ve presented in this guide, you should be able to effectively track countless metrics important to the health and longevity of your content campaign, calculating your overall ROI and targeting key areas for development and improvement. The keys here, as with most marketing campaigns, are consistency and effort, so keep working hard toward measuring and achieving your goals.

    Further reading:

    If you want more in-depth resources on content marketing, be sure to check out these guides from Jayson DeMers:

    What can we help you with?

  3. Content Marketing 101: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started with a Content Marketing Campaign

    3 Comments

    On August 4th, 2016, AudienceBloom CEO Jayson DeMers presented this live webinar. Click the image above to start playing the full replay video of the webinar! The transcript below does not include the Q&A portion of the webinar, which many attendees said was their favorite part, so be sure to watch the video below to see it all!

     

    If you like this webinar and want more in-depth resources on content marketing, be sure to check out these guides from Jayson DeMers:

    Webinar Transcript:

    Hey guys, my name is Jayson DeMers, and I’m the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom. AudienceBloom is a Seattle-based content marketing agency. We specialize in link building, a form of off-site content marketing, which we’ll cover here shortly, and we work with companies of all sizes to plan and execute link building and content marketing strategies.

    Alright, let’s dig into the good stuff. In this webinar we’re going to cover the following topics:

    Slide2

    • What content marketing is
    • Benefits of content marketing
    • On-site as well as off-site content marketing,
    • Content promotion
    • And building an audience

    Slide3

    I actually got the idea for this webinar after conducting a survey and learning that the majority of AudienceBloom’s audience wants to learn more about content marketing—it was the highest-requested topic that we cover in 2016, so I figured, where better to start than at the ground level?

    So, this is content marketing 101, and the first thing I want to do is talk about the concept of content marketing, because it might be a little bit different than what you’re used to, or what you thought content marketing was.

    Obviously, content marketing is all about content.

    Slide4

    This graphic includes 9 different examples of content, and there are probably dozens more still. “Content” can mean written content, visual content, video content, audio content— really, anything that communicates with your customers and holds some sort of value. We’ll dig a little deeper into what constitutes that “value” later on, but for now this is a good working definition.

    Slide5

    The goals of content marketing are to make your brand more powerful and visible, resulting in higher conversion rates, more traffic, more leads, and more sales. In essence, we’re just talking about higher traffic and higher conversion rates, which are the two elements of the online revenue formula.

    But there are a few misconceptions that lead people astray when it comes to content marketing.

    The first is that there’s a formula to content marketing that works for everyone.

     

    Slide6

    Some people have been pitched the idea as a fad, or a kind of gimmick, where some agency or expert has told them content marketing is a guaranteed path to success for any business. There are a lot of objective benefits that almost any company can take advantage of, but this line of thinking implies that content is a straightforward, plug-and-play type concept, and it’s not.

    Slide7

    It demands a lot of hard work and adjustment over time—and because every company is different, there really is no set formula that works 100 percent of the time. There are some major considerations and useful strategies that any business can implement, but there really is a trial-and-error component to a lot of this.

    Slide8

    Another major misconception is that content marketing is a standalone or isolated strategy, and again, this isn’t really the case. Technically, you could stand to benefit with just a blog, or just a whitepaper series, but the true power of content marketing is better unlocked when it’s made an integral component of a much wider web of interrelated strategies.

    Slide9

    For example, content marketing can work closely in conjunction with an SEO strategy; if you know how to optimize content for search engines, you’ll end up ranking higher for more keywords, and appearing in search results for more keywords overall, which will increase the visibility of your content. Knowing the ins and outs of social media marketing gives your content more reach, increasing its value even further. Email marketing, even paid advertising—there are a lot of options here to expand the reach of your content.

    With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the benefits that content marketing has to offer the average business.

    Slide10

    The benefits of content marketing are more than just giving your customers more value, and it can actually improve your business in several different areas. Obviously, the bottom line is getting more money and more customers, but there are both direct and indirect paths to those goals.

    For example:

    Slide11

    Brand visibility. Brand visibility is about how much exposure your brand is getting. Just having your name in front of more people, and top-of-mind to a wider portion of your target demographics is valuable. It means people will be more likely to buy from you when it comes time to make a decision, and may even help you get some word-of-mouth attention. You’ll get this by publishing more content in more places and getting it shared in bigger and bigger circles.

    Slide12

    Brand reputation. Brand reputation is similar, but distinct from brand visibility. Rather than a sheer volume of attention your brand is getting, reputation is about what people think of you. So with good, informative content, people are going to see you as more authoritative in your industry. You have this kind of subtle way of bragging through content—look at how much of an authority we are on this subject! Look at how much we love our customers! And since it’s indirect, not an advertisement, people trust it more.

    Slide13

    More time spent on-site. Publishing more content for your website makes your website bigger, with more indexed pages in search engines. And as long as you keep your readers interested, more is better. It means the average user’s going to spend more time hopping between your pages, learning more about your brand, and you’ll have more opportunities to eventually nail down a conversion. Speaking of which…

    Slide14

    Higher conversion rate. Conversions are where you make your money, so obviously the more you get, the better. You might have a landing page or contact page, or product pages doing a lot of the work for you here, but don’t underestimate the power of a call-to-action in a well-written blog article, or Youtube video, or podcast radio show. Do this consistently, and your conversions will go way up. But content marketing doesn’t just give you more opportunities for conversions, it actually increases the rate at which visitors convert, because it strengthens the credibility, authority, and trustworthiness of your brand.

    Slide15

    SEO visibility and traffic. So, there are a couple of search effects that come with a good content marketing strategy. First, as you’re publishing more content, you’ll have more pages on your website, which is going to make your site more relevant for a wider range of search queries.

    Slide16

    I like to think of every new published page of content as like dropping another hook in the water. The more you have, the more opportunities for “bites” you have from search engines! But if the page is the hook, then the bait is the quality of the content itself; and without good bait, you won’t catch any keepers. So don’t try to publish content with the mindset of only getting as many hooks in the water as you can – the better the bait, or quality of that content, the better the catch will be.

    Slide17

    The other main SEO benefit is the inbound links and brand mentions, which can be linked or unlinked, that result from content marketing. Much of your content marketing is going to happen off-site, which I call off-site content marketing, so that presents this opportunity for you to link back to your own domain. Even unlinked mentions of your brand name are thought to have an impact on SEO.

    Slide18

    Referral traffic. Those same links and mentions can result in really good referral traffic over time. I’ve found that providing links to relevant articles or eBooks on AudienceBloom.com within the context of other articles I’ve written is a great way to drive referral traffic.

    Slide19

    Social traffic. Social traffic works very much the same way. As people read and share your content, you’ll see traffic from those social media channels.

    Slide20

    Greater customer retention. This is especially true for certain industries, like SaaS, where your customers need more information to stay engaged with your brand, such as new strategies, or even help and troubleshooting guides. Give your users what they want and what they need, and they’ll stay loyal for life—and as we all know, customer retention is crucial for long-term growth.

    Now, there’s one more major benefit to content marketing, but it kind of warrants its own section, so I’ve got it on another slide here.

    Slide21

    Okay, so here we have the principle of compounding interest as it applies to content marketing. In my opinion, this is what really separates content marketing from the pack in terms of different marketing strategies. Now, in the financial world, you have this principle of “compound interest,” where you earn interest on an investment, let’s say, at a consistent rate, but every time you earn interest, you’re actually earning interest both on your principal investment and the other interest you’ve already earned. This creates an exponential growth curve, rather than a linear one, which results in tremendously better long-term benefits.

    Slide22

    Now, here’s a graph that shows ROI from traditional paid advertising, where you’re paying for clicks, visits, or even just impressions—and the price you pay doesn’t really change much. You earn X value for every Y dollar you invest, and then the transaction is complete. Maybe you retain some of those clients you earned, depending on what type of service or product you offer, but once you stop funding the ad, it disappears entirely and any traffic from it stops immediately.

    Slide23

    Comparing the two graphs, you can see that PPC has the advantage for short-term value, but content marketing is the clear winner when it comes to long-term value.

    With content marketing, you have a couple principles that make content closer to a compound interest returning investment than a linear one.

    Slide24

    First, you have this concept of permanence. In a traditional ad campaign, it stays up for as long as you pay for the ad, but when you stop funding it, it goes away forever. in content marketing, you produce a piece of content, share it, perhaps throw a small marketing budget towards it to get eyeballs on it, and then you never have to spend any more effort or money on it—but it keeps earning you traffic, leads, sales, and all the other benefits we talked about over time, especially if you syndicate it after its initial publication (I’ll get into that more later).

    Slide25

    Second, you have this ballooning effect of popularity. When you first start out, nobody’s really going to know who you are, but eventually you’ll develop a reputation, people will recognize your brand, or your name, if you decide to use your personal brand, and you’ll start to build a steady readership and social media connections with your readers and other influencers.  Over time, every new piece you publish, even if you put the same amount of effort into it as your other pieces, is inherently more valuable because you’ll be able to leverage a pre-existing and constantly growing audience and network of other influencers.

    Slide26

    Think of a site like TechCrunch or Mashable, who can publish a single article about just about anything, and get hundreds or thousands of social media shares. It’s not necessarily because the content was so amazing that it deserved that many shares, it’s just because those brands have developed the loyal readerships, trust, and influencer networks that balloon the power of every piece of content they publish.

    Collectively, these factors make it so content marketing pays off in a non-linear growth pattern, which means its long-term returns are just amazing.

    Slide27

    Your sense of scale and ballooning authority are valuable at the later stages of growth, but when you first start out, you’re going to feel like you’re on an island. You’re going to have very few (if any) readers and a very (very) small audience. There’s no getting around this. Content marketing is the best strategy for long-term payoffs, but in the short-term, it’s unlikely to give you instant results. You’ve got to be committed and patient for this to work.

    Slide28

    As you continue your campaign, and your content catches the interest of readers through paid or organic channels, you’ll grow your audience steadily. Think of it as building roads and bridges to the island you started on.

    Alright, now let’s take a look at how you can actually build a strategy like this. I’m going to be breaking this down into a few main sections, but the two most prominent are ‘on-site’ and ‘off-site’ content.

    Slide29

    So your on-site content is everything that you have on your website itself. Now, there are a few main considerations you’ll have for the type of content you’ll want to provide here:

    Slide30

    Original. You want to make sure that nobody else has done this before. If you publish something that someone else has already covered, people aren’t going to have any reason to read it. So, how can you make it original? That’s up to you. Do some original research, come up with a unique idea, experiment with something new—just make it stand out by making it different.

    Slide31

    Practical. I could write about how much I love ice cream, but nobody needs to know that. However, people do need to know about content marketing and how to start up their own content campaigns. On some level, your content should be practical for your audience—give them advice, tools, or information that’s useful to them.

    Slide32

    Detailed. Nobody wants that fluffy content where there are a lot of words on the page, maybe, but it’s not really saying anything useful. Give your readers concrete examples, creative illustrations, and specific data points. The more detailed you are, the better.

    Slide33

    Engaging. You can have good content that still isn’t engaging—you need to grab your readers’ attentions and get them really invested in your content. You can do this by making it more visual, or making it more entertaining. The real key here is to make your content more approachable overall.

    Slide34

    Consistent. I don’t mean writing the same thing every week, because obviously you still need to be original, but there has to be some kind of similar thread between your content—the same voice, the same style, the same realm of expertise—give your readers something they can grow familiar and become comfortable with. That will keep them coming back for more.

    These are the five main areas you’ll really want to zero in on, and they apply to your off-site content, too.

    Slide35

    Your on-site content is where you’ve got to start. Nobody’s going to start accepting guest posts and submissions from you or your brand until you have some published proof of your content’s quality and your brand’s expertise. You can’t just show up claiming you’re an expert; you have to show people that you know what you’re talking about, and usually that means building up a cache of on-site content, sort of like a resume.

    On-site content also gives you more creative liberties than external publishers will. There are no requirements to follow (other than the ones you set), and you won’t be limited in terms of how often you want to publish, word counts, things you can and can’t say, etc.

    Beyond that, on-site content gives you all kinds of opportunities for customer acquisition and retention—you’ll be able to include more calls to action, give your customers more value for their money, and really just strengthen your current customers’ perceptions of who your brand is and how good your products and services are.

    The best way to publish on-site content is with a blog on your website, and that’s why I’ve pictured the AudienceBloom blog here. Make your blog your content hub. I recommend using WordPress because it’s very user-friendly, and can be augmented with a ton of useful plugins.

    Slide36

    Off-site content, on the other hand, is a different animal in terms of the steps you need to take to execute it.

    The basic idea of off-site content is to publish content on behalf of your brand (usually a personal brand) on other publications. These publishers should be related to your industry or somehow reach your target audience. It’s a long, slow, methodical process to guest post on some publications, but there are a ton of benefits to doing so.

    What you see here is my author profile and archive at Inc.com, one of the places I contribute occasional columns. The visibility you can get for your personal brand and your company brand when you’re represented on national publications like this is well worth the effort.

    Off-site content is where you’ll get the real brand visibility and reputation boosts; getting your brand’s content featured on reputable publications within your industry will improve your brand awareness, trust, credibility, conversion rates, and all the other benefits we covered previously as well.

    Slide37

    Off-site content is also a perfect opportunity to build links that point back to your website. These pass trust and authority to your site, which makes your site rank higher in search engines for relevant queries.

    Now, obviously, there are a few challenges to off-site content that on-site content just doesn’t have. You can write good content, sure, but meeting the quality, tone, formatting, and other requirements of external publishers can be a headache. But if you keep at it consistently, and you build your reputation as a great content producer, you’ll easily be able to overcome those challenges.

    Slide38

    Okay, so we’ve talked on-site content and off-site content, and I’ve mentioned that one of the most important factors for content of any type is visibility.

    Your job, with any content you produce, should be to maximize its readership in whatever way you can. Over time, that’s gonna mean building up an audience of loyal followers or readers, so that every new follower you earn is another new reader for every piece of content you publish and syndicate thereafter.

    Slide39

    There are a few keys to doing this successfully: Post regularly, respond, engage, and incorporate feedback. Let’s discuss each of these briefly.

    Slide40

    Post regularly. People aren’t going to follow your brand or subscribe to your page unless you’re posting new content on a regular basis.

    Slide41

    Respond. Alright, remember the “social” in social media. If you want people to stick around, you need to show them that you’re listening as well as talking. When someone reaches out to you, or mentions your post, or asks you a question, respond quickly and be personal about it. Show that you really are a person behind the brand.

    Slide42

    Engage. If you want new readers, you need to find them and get in front of them. That means being a part of more external conversations, and quite possibly, reaching out to new individuals you think might be interested in your material (at least at first).

    Slide43

    Incorporate feedback. Your users aren’t going to like everything you post, but you need to use their feedback to constantly make your content better. This is going to make all your content better, which is awesome, but more importantly it shows that you value your audience and their feedback.

    Slide44

    For now, I want to address this idea of getting started from scratch, which I’ll admit, definitely isn’t easy. When you’re launching a new campaign, you’ll have no followers, no external publications, no blog, and heavy investment before you start seeing any meaningful results.

    Slide45

    So, where and how do you actually get started? I recommend starting with your on-site blog. Let’s say you reach out to a new publisher to get some of your material featured. Where do you think they’ll look first to see if you’re the real deal? Probably your company blog. Let’s say you reach out to an influencer in your industry on Twitter. After they check out your tweets, where are they going to look next? Probably your blog. So, as soon as possible, fill that blog up with the best content you can muster—think of it as a kind of resume you’ll use to get your foot in the door for all the off-site content marketing you’re going to do.

    Slide46

    From there, start with relationships you might already have, even if they’re not that strong or relevant. For example, you might have a connection on LinkedIn with an editor who works for the trade magazine you wish you could get featured in. Work your network to get an introduction, or introduce yourself through LinkedIn or email. Start small, and work your way up to bigger and better publishers and connections. It takes time and persistence, so don’t expect it to come all at once, and don’t give up when your outreach goes unanswered. Use Boomerang for Gmail to remind you when someone hasn’t replied to your email after a few days so you can reach back out to check in. Be persistent and don’t give up until you get an answer, whether it’s “yes” or “no.”

    Slide47

    In the same way, you can leverage the people you already know to give your social media profiles a leg to stand on. I’m talking about your friends, your family members, your employees—whoever you can get to follow your social media profiles. Now, social media isn’t a numbers game—you don’t just want any followers, you want good followers with the potential to actually become customers. But when you’re first starting out, people may judge you based on those numbers, so give yourself a starting platform here with some initial followers or likes.

    Slide48

    Also, when you publish and syndicate new material, have these people share it with their own friends and followers—it’s the fastest way to start picking up some new connections. Don’t be afraid to ask for follows and likes!

    Slide49

    There’s one final but super important point I want to make. Your readership isn’t just a mass of people to broadcast your content to—they’re independent thinkers with thoughts and feelings on your material, and you’d do well to listen to them. You have to nurture your relationship with your audience if you want your readers to stay loyal. That means giving them the best possible content you can, and readily addressing their needs, concerns, and questions.

    There should also be a degree of escalation in all your relationships, not just with your audience. Your publishers, your influencers, your readers, all of it—if you want to keep your momentum moving forward, you have to steadily increase your overall investments.

    I still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface about what content marketing is and how to do it effectively. I’ve touched on the basics about what makes a good post, or about how content marketing affects SEO, or how to syndicate your content to best serve your audience. These are all topics that merit their own webinars, but I’m hoping this introductory lesson was more than enough to cover the kind of “start to finish” or “10,000 foot view” I wanted to achieve.

    That being said, I’ve covered pretty much everything I had, and I’d like to open the floor to questions.

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Love,

-The AudienceBloom Team