Content marketing is an exciting field. It covers SEO, social media, video, blogging, events, and lots more.
It provides many benefits for your business, helping you grow your number of website visitors, drive qualified leads, and improve your brand image.
This ultimate content marketing guide is full of exciting examples and practical advice.
It will help you better understand the principles of content marketing and start applying them to real life.
Let’s dive in for a whole range of actionable tips.What Is Content Marketing?
What Is Content Marketing?
Let’s find out what content marketing means for businesses like yours, how it relates to other marketing fields, and what function content marketers perform.Content Marketing Definition
Content Marketing Definition
Content marketing is a type of marketing that attracts customers by sharing valuable and relevant information. It involves creating and sharing content that solves your audience’s problems and answers their questions.
When done right, content marketing helps your business grow by generating awareness and sales.
Small and medium business (SMB) content marketing:
SMBs engage in content marketing to connect with their local community and wider online audiences.
By focusing carefully on the content that brings the best results for them, they can lower their advertising costs.
SMBs can also compete with big-name brands. Content quality is what counts, so well-produced, valuable content can get your website ranking on the first page of Google.How Content Marketing Connects to Your Business
How Content Marketing Connects to Your Business
Online content marketing is like the fuel that powers all other areas of marketing in your business. This includes social media, advertising, public relations, and more.
Let’s take a look at how that works:
SEO and content marketing
No marketer wants to pay for every single site visitor; it’s expensive! SEO (search engine optimization) helps you connect with your audience organically (i.e., without using ads), directly through search results.
It’s super important to keep SEO in mind when planning website content marketing. Explore how small businesses can successfully implement content marketing.
Social media marketing and content marketing
There’s no getting away from it: TikTok, Instagram,
But how does social media relate to content marketing?
Principally, for businesses, social media channels offer a way to build communities around a shared interest. That interest might be your brand or a hobby, for example.
Social sites are therefore an excellent place to distribute your content. From there, you can drive traffic to your website.
At the same time, these channels allow you to run ads. You can also experiment with content types, speaking directly to your clients and potential customers.
Advertising and content marketing
Content marketing is a dynamic teacher, full of information and encouragement. Advertising, on the other hand, is the creative cousin, always rushing to get your attention with flashy ideas.
Content marketing aims to build a loyal audience and lay the groundwork for conversions. Advertising, in contrast, tries to catch the audience at the moment of greatest need. It points them directly toward the product or service in a promotional way.
One of the biggest differences to note is that content marketing is inbound. It pulls people into your website, blog, and content.
Advertising, however, is outbound. It pushes your message to your target audience.
In many cases, you will actually run ads to promote your content, too. This is a great way to get lots of eyes on your website. In other words, content also feeds your advertising machine!
Other areas fueled by content marketing:
- Demand generation: By growing your authority and creating interest in your content, you can generate leads. Content that brings lots of visitors to your website also brings lots of potential conversions.
- PR: Original research, events, and thought leadership can all help you feature in the media. Tell an interesting story, and you can make a noise—it doesn’t matter how big your business is.
- Sales: Content can also support sales through explanations that quickly answer the customer’s doubts and reduce the time to purchase.
What Do Content Marketers Do?
Content marketers plan and create educational content. Their aim is to generate engagement, get more website visitors, and create helpful marketing tools like mailing lists.
They are responsible for strategy, production, tracking, and optimization.
Really, the aim of a content marketer is to build a community and generate qualified marketing leads.What Skills Do Content Marketers Need?
What Skills Do Content Marketers Need?
If you're looking to hire a content marketer, look for people with these skills:
Strategy: The skill of designing a direction for marketing that helps meet your business objectives.
Research: The ability to dig into the data and find insights about your audience, content topics, and competitors.
Planning: Strong planning skills that ensure a range of content types is created, as well as the ability to create in batches and publish to a regular schedule.
Project management: The skill of coordinating multiple team members and ensuring briefs are delivered and deadlines are met.
Auditing: The ability to review and analyze past content and competitor content. The aim is to spot strengths and weaknesses, gaps in your content, and areas to improve on.
Writing and editing: Writing and editing skills are also in high demand. With oodles of copy, blogs, and guides required, a top content marketer should be able to produce well-written content themselves.
Video/Audio production: Video content and podcasts are in high demand. The perfect content marketer should also have video and audio content production skills.
SEO: Last, but certainly not least, content marketers should have an understanding of search engine optimization (SEO). They should also be able to put it into practice in a variety of media. This might include blogs, product descriptions, websites, video descriptions, etc.7 Benefits of Content Marketing for Businesses
7 Benefits of Content Marketing for Businesses1. Attract and Grow Organic Traffic
1. Attract and Grow Organic Traffic
Effective content marketing can help you connect with your target audience through social media, search, email, and other channels.
Organic traffic is especially important because the people you attract with your content genuinely need your help. They come to you with a question, challenge, or need. You are right there to help with information or a product and service.
For small businesses especially, it can bring visitors to your website, blog, or product pages. But most importantly, you don’t have to pay for their presence.
Content marketing can help you compete with much bigger companies without having to spend thousands or even millions on Google ads.
SEO content will also improve your chances of each article or guide appearing in the search results for years to come.2. Build Your Brand
2. Build Your Brand
Content marketing helps small businesses tell their stories and connect with the right audiences.
A well-defined brand voice is like a personality that shines through your content. This makes it super important that your message is always clear and consistent. You should also establish the right tone in your writing.
Small businesses, startups, and other organizations with smaller budgets can use content marketing to tell their story and build a community. This is true even if they're in a small niche.
Cassey Ho started on YouTube as a Pilates instructor in 2009. She then grew her Blogilates channel organically to 7.2M subscribers on YouTube and 2.3M on Instagram.
How? By being a relatable and positive role model and engaging her community.
She is now a multi-millionaire, having founded a successful luxury activewear brand, Popflex. It is also sold in Target stores across the U.S.3. Engage Emotions
3. Engage Emotions
Businesses can seem cold and difficult to deal with. But you can wash away these perceptions by using content that puts a human face to your brand.
This engages positive emotions and lets people connect with you on a more personal level. Overall, it helps show your brand as being trustworthy and credible.
This approach is particularly effective on social media where team members can show their face on video, live streams, and images.4. Find More Customers
4. Find More Customers
When it comes to buying something online or contracting a service, people take their time. They go on what’s known as a “buyer’s journey.” This is where they search for, discover, and then choose solutions.
There are multiple opportunities to engage with these consumers by providing well-considered and valuable information that answers their questions.
A website visitor is more likely to become a customer if they have been guided and informed by you.
TheSmokies.com is a website that shares information on regional travel in East Tennessee. It was first built in 2020 by James and Morgan Overholt and Alaina O’Neal, all from Tennessee.
By consistently blogging about activities, lodging, restaurants, and special discounts, TheSmokies.com successfully guides potential customers through the buyer’s journey.
This allows consumers a “one-stop shop” to thoughtfully research and plan a vacation to the Smoky Mountains through one website.
The blog got over 5 million pageviews and more than $200,000 in revenue in 2021.
5. Establish Expertise, Authority, and Trust
Content marketing lets you share insights, research, and knowledge. It helps set the stage for your business, establishing your status as a thought leader or go-to resource.
By establishing trust and credibility, people are also more likely to see you as a valuable service provider.
Search engines like Google also see expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (EAT) as strong signals that your content is worth ranking.6. Boost Your PR Efforts
6. Boost Your PR Efforts
Believe it or not, your content can be newsworthy, too. Journalists often use research to inform articles and write about the future of certain industries.
A well-researched white paper (a resource with original research or expertise), for example, can lead to press. It can also encourage people to link to your website from theirs, boosting your SEO in the process.7. Improve Your Product and Spot Opportunities
7. Improve Your Product and Spot Opportunities
Sharing content on social media can lead to likes, shares, and comments. You’ll develop a better understanding of your audience, and it can help give direction for future content.
Also, if you pay attention to reviews or criticism, you’ll spot ways to improve your product. You might even discover new market opportunities for your company.How Codex Advokat benefitted from content marketing
How Codex Advokat benefitted from content marketing
Codex Advokat, a Norwegian law firm, trained its staff in SEO. As a result, it grew organic traffic by 600% in just 14 months.
We love how the firm had a plan, steadfastly carried it out, and ultimately saw incredible results and return on investment.
Codex Advokat aimed to boost website traffic through rebranding and launching a blog that was fully optimized for search engines.
In total, the firm produced an impressive 500 SEO blogs on relevant legal topics. These were published in stages.
After testing and optimization, traffic increased with a weekly average of +170% YoY. The website is up to 20% visibility for 688 keywords. Also, more than half of the monitored keywords rank somewhere on page 1 of the search results.
You can read more about how Codex Advokat accomplished this here.Types of Content Marketing
Types of Content Marketing
Content marketing might be making you feel dizzy. After all, there are so many different content types out there.
The good news is that you don’t have to do it all.
In fact, it’s better to focus on incorporating content formats that help your customers the most. Your understanding of your audience and market will help you decide on what type of content to produce.
For example, if you have a skin care product, go for visual platforms like Instagram and TikTok. You could also make use of a blog to give more in-depth guides.
In our latest research, we discovered the top five performing content formats were:
- Video (45% of our survey respondents said this was a top-performing content type)
- Short-form articles (31%)
- Success stories (28%)
- Long-form blog posts (23.5%)
- Case studies (19%)
Let’s have a look at these and some other content types. We’ll include some tips and content marketing best practices, too.Video Content Marketing
Video Content Marketing
It’s hardly surprising that video is such an important content format. From long-form YouTube videos to snappy TikTok shorts, video has never been a more versatile medium for marketers.
Both brands and influencers can use video to demonstrate their products. Video:
- Makes your company seem more human: A personality can really attract a new following
- Is easy to consume: Viewers don’t have to read or download anything—video is simple and engaging
- Is shareable: Video content is super easy to share
Gymshark is a great example of how an ecommerce brand uses TikTok to generate views and followers. It utilizes influencers and other creators who use popular hashtags and initiate challenges.
Gymshark has amassed over 4 million followers, posts consistently, every day, and is reaping the rewards!Blog Posts
Short-form and long-form articles both made it into the top five content formats. Again, like video, articles are super versatile and have lots of benefits:
- List articles (or listicles) are a popular format because they convey information quickly. For example, here are 55 ways to redecorate your home.
- How-to articles are also well-loved because they share practical advice. Check out this how-to guide to choosing a tennis racket.
- Thought leadership pieces engage your audience on a deeper level and establish you/your brand as an industry leader. These articles always argue a point; for example, this post talks about NFT’s impact on the environment.
- Blogs focused on your product can help people make that final decision to buy from you. This guide to buying speakers is a clear example.
Here’s an example of a well-executed blog from Buffer, the social media scheduling platform.
Buffer understands its B2B audience from the inside-out.
It leads with topical content, “A Beginner’s Guide to Mastodon.” This does a great job of answering the most pressing questions of the moment.
With Twitter in turmoil (at the time of writing), all eyes are on possible alternatives. Mastodon has been the talk of the town, but very few really understand how it works. So top marks to Buffer for a well-angled guide.
Read more blogging tips here.Ebooks and White Papers
Ebooks and White Papers
Like blogs, ebooks and white papers can do deep dives into a topic of interest. They can also share original research and offer unique thoughts. These can be gated (in order to collect emails) or ungated (free to view) in order to generate more downloads.
Here’s an example:
The Practical Guide to Efficient and Effective Selling by Drift is an actionable guide for business owners and entrepreneurs. It aims to help them improve their sales techniques.
It grabs attention because it has a very clear value proposition. You know exactly what to expect and what the outcome will be. The addition of the blurb further defines the offering. It explains that it will focus on building a “quality pipeline” through “conversational sales.”Podcasts
Podcasts are a unique content format. They help people see behind the curtain and really get to know the people behind the brand. At the same time, they help you establish presence and share stories, insights, and even product features.
This content format is unique because it doesn’t require your audience's full attention. For consumers, podcasts are super versatile. They are great to listen to during the drive home, while working, cleaning the house, or even at the gym!
If you do a good job, your podcast could become part of someone’s routine.
If you want to get started, listen to lots of podcasts. This will help you understand what works and what does not work so well. It will also help you settle on a style for your own content.
We love the BizChix podcast. Natalie Eckdahl, Business Strategist and Coach, has produced 550 episodes and counting. Her content is aimed at female entrepreneurs and women in small business.
With a 4.9 rating on Apple Podcasts, this presenter certainly knows which topics resonate with her audience.
Social Media and User-Generated Content (UGC)
As we’ve already covered, it makes sense for brands to engage their communities through social media. This is especially true if they are in the B2C space.
But once again, the key is to avoid spreading your resources too thinly. Don’t try to be on every social media channel out there.
Lots of brands encourage their fans and followers to create their own content, answer questions, and add comments to their posts.
It works well because your followers feel a sense of ownership and it deepens your relationship with them. At the same time, you’ll have more content to share, with a lot less effort.
While only an aspirational example for small businesses, there is a lot to learn from the success of GoPro’s UGC campaigns. With its Million Dollar Challenge, Photo of the Day Challenge, and Anything Awesome Challenge, GoPro inspires hundreds of thousands of people to create content.
For example, in the Million Dollar Challenge, users can win a serious amount of money if they are featured in the company's end-of-year reel. They are simply required to upload footage and follow the rules.
Our takeaways here are that the company makes it simple, offers an incentive, and follows through on its promises.
When carrying out your own UGC campaigns, make sure to choose the channels that your audience hangs out on and optimize your content for each channel. If you’re using a design platform like Canva, you have lots of templates to help with this.Influencer Marketing
People with large, engaged audiences often get described as being “influencers.” Influencers can help you tap into their networks and break down barriers to trust.
Choose your influencers wisely and you may see more followers, engagement, qualified leads, and sales for your brand.
Big audiences don’t always mean high engagement. Be sure your influencers of choice are able to really connect with their followers. This audience must also have an interest in your niche.
Ask for their engagement stats and past successes in working with other brands.Infographics and Checklists
Infographics and Checklists
Infographics and checklists are highly visual, valuable tools for business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) brands. They get information across to the audience in a quick, pleasing way.
You can use both of these content formats in a number of ways:
- On social media to generate shares, click-throughs, and comments with infographics that resonate with your audience
- As gated content where you offer the resource in exchange for an email, which you can use to build a targeted mailing list of potential customers
- Or as linkbait. There’s no question, great infographics get shared. When including original infographics on your blog, be sure to include a logo and ask people to credit you with a link back to your article.
German bike search engine The Cycleverse was launched in December 2020. It has some great infographic examples:
They make use of simple comparative infographics on their Instagram account. It helps them drive traffic to their website via the Linktree in the account’s bio.
The amount of likes ranges between 100 and 300 on these infographics. That’s an impressive amount of engagement for an account that has fewer than 1,000 followers.How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy
How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy
Before you go all-in and start creating content, you need insights, directions, and goals.
Start by listing some of the fundamentals of what's going to become your content marketing strategy. This will help you better plan and build an effective content marketing strategy.Step One: Define Your Audience
Step One: Define Your Audience
It doesn’t matter how great your content is; if you don’t have a defined audience, you won’t achieve what you need to.
Your first step is to understand who you are talking to. Here are some questions to get you started:
- How old are your target customers?
- Where are they located?
- What are their favorite social media channels?
- What are their objectives, challenges, or needs?
- How and why do they use your product or service?
You’ll probably have different types of customers, so make sure you build a profile for each one.
The good news is that you can learn more about your target audience in a number of ways:
- Through customer interviews
- At conferences or events
- Through demographic profiles and psychographics provided by Google Analytics and Social Media Analytics
- Via surveys and questions
- From Quora, Reddit, Facebook, and LinkedIn groups and other social media channels
- From reviews, brand interactions, and frequently asked questions
- From team knowledge—what your sales or customer care team can tell you
You can use the free Semrush buyer persona template and builder to create profiles of your customers.
But you will need to be sure that they are accurate. Invented buyer personas don’t work well and may even lead your marketing efforts astray.
For more ideas, see these five buyer personas that go beyond the basics.Step Two: Competitive Content Analysis
Step Two: Competitive Content Analysis
A competitor analysis looks at what your rivals are doing well and not so well.
Make sure to analyze your competitors' content marketing to better understand what's working in your niche.
At the same time, never copy your competitors. It’s important you stick to your unique brand voice and personality.
One main phase of a successful competitive analysis includes looking at your competitors.
Use industry knowledge to list your competitors. Check out the organic search results and ads to see which brands appear alongside yours. Look at:
- What content they are producing
- Where they have content and you don’t
- What seems to be getting engagement on social media
For more detailed steps and tools to help you carry out a competitor analysis, check out this guide to competitor research.Step Three: Establish Your Content Marketing Goals
Step Three: Establish Your Content Marketing Goals
Content marketing without objectives is like a road trip without a destination. You’ll keep driving until you run out of gas.
The simplest way to keep yourself accountable is to set a number of content marketing goals. Alongside bringing organic visitors, your content marketing efforts should also lead to revenue.
- The resources you will require
- The budget you have to spend
- The return on investment you’ll need to achieve
- How your competitors are performing
Be sure to put this in writing; documented goals keep teams on track.
Here’s an example:
Primary goal (SMART)
How to implement
Build a lead nurture email list of at least 300 people
Webinar campaign: How to improve your makeup skills—series
End of the first quarter
Webinar signups (min 300)
Active email subscribers (min 200)
Step Four: Design Your Content Funnel
A content marketing funnel is a framework. It helps you make sure your content matches up with the audience needs and your own business objectives.
There are three main parts to it. And for each part, you’ll have to consider what your audience is looking for:
Attract new readers
Customers are rarely ready to buy from you when they are only just learning about the solutions.
That usually means your content should be hyper-focused on providing value, and not on being promotional.
In this stage, your audience is aware it has a problem or challenge. It’s asking broad questions and needs help with the basics. For example, they might use a search term like:
“How to redecorate my home in style”
Educate your audience
In the next stage, your customers are becoming aware of the solutions available to them.
Your content can start to reflect those solutions by sharing resources, benefits, and other useful information related to your offerings.
A search term might look something like this:
“The best hand-painted wallpapers for my studio apartment”
Help them become customers
At this stage of the funnel, your potential customers are much closer to conversion. Here’s where content starts to be more promotional, highlight specific features and use-cases, and offer product demos (if appropriate).
A search term might look like:
“Off-season discount wallpaper”
Step Five: Develop an Editorial Plan and Content Calendar
With everything above in place, it’s time to develop an editorial plan and content calendar. And that begins by finding relevant topics.
A topic is relevant if it a) connects with your business offering and b) resonates with your target audience. If a topic or idea fails to do either of these, it should be discounted.
Once you’ve decided which topics you’re going to tackle, try to organize them into clusters.
This will make site navigation easier and will help you cover areas in-depth, which is good for your SEO.
Other important things to consider when making your plan:
Resources: You’ll need to know who you are working with. Do you plan to create content in-house?
If so, you’ll need lots of time and focus. Or do you expect to work with freelancers? In the latter case, you’ll need to have a decent budget for content.
Budget: Be sure to know how much you can spend on content from the outset. Keep your plans aligned to costs, or you won’t be able to produce what you need.
Timelines: Alongside costs, be sure to include realistic time frames. Creating great content can take longer than you think.B2B vs. B2C Content Marketing
B2B vs. B2C Content Marketing
Content marketing is a powerful tool, regardless of whether your brand operates in the B2B or B2C space. But there are a number of key differences and practicalities you should bear in mind.
Audience with professional purpose
Clearly, the most obvious difference: In B2B, your target market has a professional purpose and a different series of challenges.
Most B2B audiences typically value one or more of the following value propositions:
- Your product/service saves time
- It improves efficiency or automates processes
- It generates revenue
- It saves money
When making content plans, be sure to know what is most important to your B2B audience.
Audience with personal purpose
Saving time and money are sometimes important for B2C audiences, too. But there are many more value propositions they could be seeking.
Be sure to understand your audience’s motivations.
Longer sales cycles
Unless you’re selling something very simple, you’ll tend to see longer sales cycles in B2B. There are more approvals, with multiple departments and contracts to arrange.
This is worth bearing in mind, as it can affect cash flow if your ROI is delayed.
Conversely, B2C sales are generally handled quickly.
Related to the above, in B2B there’s often more than one sign-off required. When making bottom-of-the-funnel (BoFu) content, be sure to understand who needs the information and why. This can help reduce any friction.
Usually one buyer
There are fewer stakeholders in a B2C scenario. But your BoFu level content does still have to convince them your product or service is valuable. Remember, B2C clients are spending their own money.
Often less price-sensitive
Unless you're working with small family businesses or pre-revenue startups, price is less of an issue for most businesses. They are more interested in return on investment or the savings they expect to make by using your product or service.
Price is certainly an issue for many B2C clients in 2023, when many countries and regions are experiencing inflation. This is something to keep in mind when designing promotions and developing content.
If you’d like to learn more, check out our guide to content marketing for startups.Best Practices for Content Marketing In 2023
Best Practices for Content Marketing In 2023
To wrap things up, our top tips for successful content marketing in 2023 are:
Focus on the audience research Once you know your audience inside-out, everything else will fall into place. By solving their pain points and offering valuable or practical content, you`ll build a community.
Make content human and conversational Put a face to your brand and connect with your audience on a personal level. By engaging with their emotions in a positive way, you`ll establish trust, confidence, and warm feelings for your brand.
Make content unique, and integrate real experiences and data
In the noisy world of content, be sure to aim for original content and insights. Really, it’s the only way to make your brand stand out. Interviews, success stories, and case studies all add originality and credibility to your brand.
Experiment with formats There are so many different content types to choose from. Experiment and see which are the most effective. Drop content that doesn’t resonate, and double-down on the things that work well. Also take into account what’s most fun to create for your team. The more interesting you find the process, the more this will shine through in the final product.
Analytics and analyzing content performance
Don’t skip the analytics. This is key to understanding which content works and which is falling flat. If you aim to improve your results by increments each production cycle, it will pay dividends in the near future.
That’s a wrap. You have all the knowledge and examples you need to get started with your own content marketing plan. Be sure to try new things and—above all—be brave. Your content needs to stand out.