Hi fellow business creatives! Have you ever had a cake that looked delicious …. but ended up tasting terrible?
Bear with me for a second on this analogy (I have a soft spot for analogies). Say you went to the store and you saw a beautiful cake. The store was well lit. The cake look nicely decorated. Even the lovely person behind the counter was quite nice and pleasant. So, you bought the cake. But… when you got home to enjoy said cake, it was dry and unsavoury.
In this short analogy, the cake represents a poorly executed blog. You can have pretty graphics and a lovely website but if the content that you're providing for your audience doesn't “taste good” (aka offer them value), you might as well be serving them a big ol' slice of No Thank You! I mean really, who wants dry cake? Instead, provide them with something irresistible so that they can't help but come back for seconds.
Today, I'm sharing my content marketing 101 tips for small businesses and creative entrepreneurs looking to start a blog. This juicy blog post is filled with many of the content marketing strategies I use on my own clients which helps launch them in the blogging space. Sorry, no actual cake in this blog post.
I don't pretend to be the only source for learning how to create your content marketing strategy…. which is why in this epic post, I've included resources linking to a few bloggers and internet geniuses that I admire. I highly suggest you figure out what will work for you by checking out these other resources as well.
Side note: My inspiration for this post comes from Daniela Uslan and her blog post all about how to make your blogging as delicious as eating a cupcake. Can you see where I got the analogy for this post? Thanks, Daniela!
On with the show!
Part 1: Set A Foundation
Like anything you do in your business, setting a proper foundation for your content marketing and blogging efforts is vital to the success of your endeavour. If we're stilling using the cake analogy (yes, we still are), starting with the right ingredients makes for a great cake… er, blog.
What Is Your “Thing”
I know in this article, I'm specifically talking about blogging, but really you can use these strategies for anything from podcasts to videos to infographics. Figuring out your “thing” is a combo move involving discovering your own strengths and learning what your audience loves to devour. It takes a bit of time, but having an idea of what direction you want to go initially adds to your foundation… kinda like another layer to the cake.
Know Your Audience
Knowing the personality of your audience will help determine what kind of content you post, when you post it, and how you will present it. For example, a fashion-based business may wish to create content this is centered around visual aspects. A product list or an inspiration post filled with aesthetically pleasing images would do well in that space.
Note: you are not your audience. As solopreneurs, we struggle to separate our own personalities, likes, and dislikes from our business. We are neither our business nor our target audience.
Define A Goal
In creating this content, it is important to make sure it is lined up with your overall marketing goal. Whether you're trying to get email signups or Instagram followers, each blog should present a clear call to action that helps guide users to their next steps.
5 Mistakes I Made When I First Started Blogging (and What I Should Have Done Differently) by xoSarah
How to Choose a Focus for Your Blog by The Nectar Collective
5 Questions To Define Your Target Audience by Fizzle.co
Part 2: Brainstorm Ideas
One of the hardest parts of blogging is coming up with ideas! It's like baking a cake without a recipe… if you've never baked a cake before, you may not know where to start!
Don't limit yourself or the possibilities. Personally, I like to sit down with a physical pen and paper to write down everything I can think of as I imagine my brand — what topics I want to cover, what series I want to create, how do I want to share it, what would my audience enjoy, etc. Don't limit yourself to only tasks you plan to accomplish in the next month; instead, conceptualize any blog topics, subjects, and ideas that could promote your brand in any way.
Find Your Sounding Board
After you organize your ideas, it's important to get a bit of feedback from a pair of fresh eyes. My sounding board is my husband, but yours can be a colleague, friend, or your mom. This person should be willing to point out any glaring flaws as well as contribute some ideas you may have missed.
Use Online Tools
There are a several online tools that can aid in the brainstorming process. I have two personal favourites that I'm going to share with you today.
Pinterest: Create a Pinterest board where you collect blog posts that inspire you in some way. Think outside of your niche and explore what other niches are doing as well. There may be a way to translate some of those ideas into new content for your own blog.
Evernote: I keep a running list of blog topic ideas in Evernote. Before I plan my next blogging steps, I check my list to see what ideas I had that month. You can use any tool for this I just love the ease of using Evernote between all my devices.
The Blog Post Ideas Generator by Matt Loomis
7 Easy Blog Ideas for Your Lifestyle Brand by Andréa Jones
How to Write 2,732 Blog Posts Without Losing Your Damn Mind by Sarah von Bargen
Part 3: Create a Calendar
Start With What You Know
When creating a content calendar for your blog, it's important to start with the subjects you know best. If you have a food blog for your heathy living magazine and you love baking, start there! Your confidence and knowledge in the subject will come across to your readers.
From there, plan out a mixture of content for the next month or two, keeping in mind what subjects will be easy for you to create content for and which ones will require a bit more research.
Add Major Dates
Holidays play a huge part in the way we live, so use those days to your advantage. Incorporating local holidays and dates that are important to your niches adds a bit of flavour to your writing. Remember our cake? It's starting to taste a better now.
A great example of this was used recently by BarkBox.com for Donut Day… which is apparently a thing. While it may not mean much to many of us, tons of brands in the online space used Donut Day to their advantage and promoted their brand.
Leave Room for Creativity
In your content calendar, leave a bit of room for creativity. Mix in the evergreen content (posts that last for years) with the topical and holiday content. If you have a fashion business and Beyonce starts wearing a new trend, jump into the mix by utilizing her celebrity status to bring new readers to your blog.
How to Create an Editorial Calendar by Marketing Creatively
5 Ways to Make Your Content Stand Out From the Crowd by Dre Beltrami
How to Get Blog Visitors to Read Your Entire Post by The Common Great
Part 4: Amplify Your Content
Now that your blog is ready, share it with the world! This may be where the cake analogy leaves you (some of ya'll are stingy with your cake sharing); but, if you don't tell others that you just created an irresistible blog, how will they know it's there?
Determine the Best Platforms to Share
With hundreds of social sharing platforms out there, you are going to have to narrow down which ones would be beneficial to use, keeping in mind how much time you have to dedicate to each.
My personal recommendation would be to share your new content with your email list coupled with sharing on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc).
Be Consistent and Disciplined
No matter if you decide to post once a month or two times a day, it's important to stick with your content schedule — not only with posting the content but with sharing it too! If your readers depend on an email in their inbox when new blogs are posted, then give that to them consistently.
Don't Forget Your Brand Story
Lastly, when you are sharing your awesome content that you've planned, prepared, executed, and shared, don't forget your brand story. Engage with your readers when you share your post. Give them a sample of what's to come.
For example: When sharing a new blog post, don't stop at saying “here's the new blog post…” Instead, give your followers and your list a tasty morsel.
How to Create High Quality Content by Elle & co.
9 Ways to Reduce Your Blog Bounce Rate by xoSarah
Before and After Checklists for Blog Posts by byRegina
Part 5: Measure Your Success
Word of advice: Focus on quality not quantity. In all honestly, anyone can buy followers & page views to look amazing… on paper. But any blogger can buy fake comments from fake people… which means literally nothing. Literally. Instead, focus on building relationships with actual people who will actually be interested in your brand. We want a real cake here, people… not a styrofoam piece of garbage….
And while I'm still on my soap box, let me say that measuring your success is one of the most important parts of content marketing. You've spent a good chunk of your time creating the content, now spend a bit more time seeing how it was worth it. Measure things like:
- Page Views
- Blog Comments
- Social Media Shares
- Email Signups
Remember that main goal we discussed in the beginning of this blog post? Did your content marketing efforts lead to more completions of that goal?
Study which blog posts resulted in more views, shares and comments, then keep creating similar content. Being successful at blogging requires keeping a close eye on how your content is consumed and building a strategy to exponentially grow things from there.
The 3 Best Tips for Growing Your Blog Traffic by Olyvia.co
12 Proven Methods for Increasing Your Blog Traffic Today by Elle & co
8 Common Misconceptions About Content Marketing by Andrea Jones
How to Create Super Share-Worthy Blog Posts by byRegina
Wash, Rinse, and Repeat. Seriously, creating your content marketing strategy isn't a “one and done” deal. You have to keep working on it, especially steps 3-5. If you learn to evolve with your brand and grow with your audience, you'll achieve success far more than your original goals. Ultimately, time is your best friend so buddy up!
Remember that store bought cake that was dry and unsavory? Well, if you begin now creating your very own blogging content marketing strategies, you'll be well on your way to a delicious, homemade cake that is much better than any of the store bought varieties.
Andréa Jones is a social media strategist who works with lifestyle brands to build their online presence through targeted social media and content marketing solutions. She's also the founder of SavvySocialSchool.com – a membership community with everything you need to achieve visibility, growth, and engagement on social media.