Content Marketing: Step by Step

content marketing, step by stepLast week we provided an overview of 15 types of content marketing that can help your business website succeed.

Though the specifics of how you get started with each content marketing type will vary depending on what you choose, there will be common general steps or stages you’ll go through during your content marketing efforts. Make sure you are ready for this process before you start and you’ll be more likely to be successful with your content marketing.

Step 1: Set Your Content Marketing Goals

It’s a catchy slogan, but I wouldn’t advise you to “just do it” when it comes to content marketing. Since this does require time and effort, you want to make sure you know what you’re doing it for. Be as specific as you can with your content marketing goals. Are you looking for 2x your incoming links? Do you want to move a product page up from page 2 to page 1 in the SERPs (search engine result pages)? Do you want to increase website traffic by 20%? Increase leads by 25%? Conversions? Think through what your goals because they can shape which efforts you take, your content strategies, and ultimately what you’ll be tracking.

Step 2. Choose Your Content Marketing Mix

After you have your goals, try to choose content marketing tactics that will help you move towards your goals. You will, of course, need to be realistic about which things you will be able to pursue (based on your time, expertise, budget, etc.). And you’ll need to keep your audience in mind. Not all tactics work for all audiences equally. A whitepaper can be an effective business website marketing tool but not for consumer websites. The opposite is true for games. If your customers skew very young, email newsletter may not work since the youngest consumers favor texting and other forms of communication over email.

Step 3: Produce Your Content

Here’s where the rubber meets the road. You need to decide who is doing what (unless you are a solo act) and create an editorial calendar (or more general content production calendar) to map out what will be produced when for the next 3 or 4 months. Think about topics/content ideas that will resonate with your audience. Think about topics that will further your goals. If you are looking for traffic from a blog, do some keyword research to make sure you are blogging about popular topics and using the words your customers use. And remember, if you’re blogging, you want to be able to do it regularly and consistently to be effective. Here are some of our previous posts that may help you with your blog: How to Generate Ideas for your blog, 8 Blogging Tips for Small Business Owners, How to Publish a WordPress Blog on Your Website, Common Blogging Mistakes.

Step 4: Promote Your Content

It’s not just content. Don’t forget to put some marketing in your content marketing. Because if you produce your content and don’t promote it at all, it will be like the proverbial tree that falls in the woods that no one hears. So, think about all the ways you can promote your content.

Social media is a good place to start. You should have a Twitter account, and when you produce some content, send out a tweet about it. It’s OK to send out multiple tweets about the same content, but space them out and vary the tweet a bit so you don’t turn off your Twitter followers. Facebook, Google +, and other social networks are also good to spread the word about your content. Depending on the nature of your business, LinkedIn can also be good, especially if you are in groups there.

But don’t expect social to do all the work. If you are promoting a blog, make sure it’s prominently featured on your website so you get some traffic from current customers. If you send out a regular email to customers, link to your content. And don’t forget about all the traditional marketing ways to drive traffic.

Step 5: Track Your Success

Remember, you started this process with goals. So you want to have a way to confirm that your content marketing achieved its goals or not (in which case you re-evaluate and try again). EarthLink Web Hosting and professional web design customers have website tracking available within their Web Hosting Control Panel. Google Analytics is a free analytics solution you can sign up for. You’ll probably want to monitor traffic, engagement (time on site or on a specific page), return visitors, leads, conversions, and conversions. If your conversions are offline (like by phone) you’ll want to track that as well.

What Is Content Marketing? 15 Kinds of Content Marketing

You may have heard of the term “content marketing.” If you have, you’ve probably also heard that it’s important for online businesses. And it’s true.

But you may not be sure what it is.

Content marketing, according to Wikipedia, is

“an umbrella term encompassing all marketing formats that involve the creation and sharing of content in order to attract, acquire and engage clearly defined and understood current and potential consumer bases with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

I’ve bolded the headline characteristics, the creation and sharing of content. But it’s important not to lose sight of the objectives and goals behind this content generation and sharing: attracting, acquiring, or engaging customers and driving profitable customer action.

Creating and sharing content in and of itself is not content marketing if it’s not done to achieve these customer-focused goals. It’s also not content marketing if your “content” is really just marketing, promotion, or sales.

Consider these scenarios:

It’s not content marketing if you write a few poems and send them out to a group of your friends. It is content marketing if you are a poet and you create a small, limited-edition ebook of your poems and let fans who subscribe to your mailing list download the ebook.

It’s not content marketing if you have a camera store online and you send out an email to your customer base with all your current promotions. It is content marketing if you create an email with your to 10 tips to help your customers take the best holiday photos.

It’s not content marketing if you’re a car company and you air a commercial on TV (or post it online). It is content marketing if you create a series of short films featuring your cars, as BMW did with its film series called The Hire. (BMW called it “branded content” but it was clearly content marketing of the highest order.)

BMW Films "The Hire" - content marketing, branded content

Content marketing is often an important part of most company’s SEO strategies since web content gives you more things for search engines to index and more opportunities to get inbound links, which will help your web pages rank higher.

Content marketing will also intersect with your social media strategy since when you create content on your website you’ll want to promote it on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc. And the sharing of your content on social sites will help support your SEO as well as your initial content marketing objectives.

 Here are 15 popular forms of content marketing:

  1. Blogs: You can blog in just about any style and with any content focus (how to generate ideas for your small business blog). Just make sure you are trying to add value with your content and not just sell your products or promote your business. Blogging can overlap with other items on this list, such as videos, photos, and infographics.
  2. Videos: Video content marketing could be how-tos, interviews, documentaries, humor or other entertainment. You can post videos on your blog, in a video section of your website, and social media sites like Facebook. You can even start your own channel, like this one for EarthLink Business on YouTube.
  3. Photos: You can post photos on your blog, create a special photos section of your website, and post photos to social media sites such as Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Facebook.
  4. Podcasts: Show off your expertise by creating one or a series of podcasts on any subject (think of it as an audio blog).
  5. Webcasts & webinars: A webcast is typically live, streaming video of an event. Webinar takes its name from Web + seminar and should therefore be educational/instructional in nature. Hold periodic webinars to teach others what you know and increase your online authority. Both webinars and webcasts may be live originally but have long-term content marketing value when integrated into your website.
  6. Online communities/forums: Create an online forum or other form of online community to position your business as a leader in your field. (Last week we showed you how to get started by installing PhpBB forums on your website.)
  7. Email newsletters: Create a weekly or monthly newsletter that shows off your knowledge; offers tips, advice, and support; links to related resources, and more. You may include some promotion, but keep the newsletter focused on content or it will be viewed as spam. (Here’s how EarthLink Web Hosting customers can get started with email newsletters using Announcer Pro.) The eLink newsletter that we send to our dial-up, DSL, and cable Internet access members fits into this category.
  8. Infographics: Infographics are a fun and shareable way to get across numbers and statistics related to your business.
  9. Whitepapers: Whitepapers are more typically found on B-to-B websites rather than consumer-focused websites. They are typically longer and perhaps more technical and researched-based than most blog posts, but the two do overlap and you can repurpose one for the other easily. See how EarthLink Business uses whitepapers (and webinars) in its Industry Insights educational series.
  10. Ebooks: Ebooks are the next step beyond blog post or whitepaper, but you can often put together an ebook based on several blog posts or whitepapers; you may need a designer to help you with this one.
  11. Slideshows/presentations: Think “public PowerPoint.” You can use presentations to show your expertise and passion for your subject, to educate or entertain. Slideshare.com is the #1 site for online presentation sharing. Since you may have already created a PowerPoint, you may be able to repurpose it for content marketing with a minimal amount of tweaking.
  12. Games: Creating a branded game that’s related to your business can be effective, though it’s not something you can typically do yourself. And even with a professional game builder helping you, success can be tricky.
  13. Apps: Branded apps that are helpful may be more likely to catch on than game apps and more likely to support your brand; but like games, they do require professional development that may not get much attention if buried below hundreds of other competing apps in the big app stores.
  14. Microsites: Microsites are just websites, but they’re not traditional business websites with product listings and other company info; instead they are websites designed to educate, entertain, or build community around a topic of interest, e.g., Proctor & Gamble’s Home Made Simple microsite.
  15. Custom magazines (print & online): If you’re an AAA member, you’re probably familiar with their monthly magazine about cars and travel. My son is a big fan of the Red Bulletin print magazine (which focuses on extreme sports and edgy culture) from energy drink maker Red Bull. They’ve also made the magazine available as a free iPad app.

We’ll be following up with some more in depth tips on content marketing in the upcoming weeks. Until then, good luck.

And, as always, let us know what you’re experience has been. Any content marketing successes? Failures? We’d love to know what you’ve learned.

Email Marketing: How To Create & Send Your First Marketing Email With Announcer Pro

As a full-service web hosting company, EarthLink believes that the hosting of your website on our servers is just the tip of the iceberg of what we offer our customers.

One of the many tools that are included with all our web hosting and professional website design services is Announcer Pro for in-house email marketing.

Announcer Pro email marketing toolAnnouncer Pro makes it simple for you to keep your customers, prospects, and partners up-to-date with your company and your product offerings. With Announcer Pro you can create graphic-rich emails, manage contact lists of email addresses, send email emails to these lists, as well as track and report the results.

To get started with Announcer Pro, sign in to your EarthLink Web Hosting Control Panel at control.earthlink.net. Click on the Email tab and then the icon for Announcer Pro.

HOW TO CREATE AN EMAIL WITH ANNOUNCER PRO

Step 1: Email Details

After you click the Create an Email tab or link in Announcer Pro, you’ll go to the Email Details page.

On this page, you can view or edit your company information, change your sender email address, name the email and give it a subject line, and choose options for social networking and analytics.

  • Company Information: your company contact information will appear in the footer of all sent email. Click the Edit button to change this information. U.S. law requires an email sender’s physical address be included in any commercial email. You can, however, choose to hide your phone number in your emails; just check the box next to hide phone in footer.
  • Time Zone: Select the time zone that’s accurate for your location.
  • Sender Email Address: Your email will be sent from the Sender Email Address. To edit or change your sender email address click the Edit button. If you do not see the sender email address you want listed here, go to Email Settings at the top of the screen, then click Create an Email to return to this screen.

NOTE: Emails will not be sent from an unconfirmed email addresses. When you edit or change your sender email address, Announcer Pro will send a verification email to that address. When you get the verification email, click on the link to finish the email verification process.

  • Email Information: Choose a name for your email and write a subject line. Keep in mind, the name is only so you can remember what the email is and will not appear to recipients, but the subject line is what recipients will see.
  • Webpage Version: Check the box here if you want to include a link to a webpage version of the email. You can edit the default text for that if you want.
  • Social Networking and Google Analytics: Click the boxes in this section if you’d like recipients to share your email on Facebook and Twitter. Icons for the social networks you select will appear at the bottom of your email. Click the Google checkbox to track your email campaign with your Google Analytics account.

When you’re done on the Email Details page, click the Next button to move on to Step 2.

Step 2: Choose Contacts

This step is where you’ll choose contacts to send your email to. If this is your first email, you will need to create a list or lists and add contacts to it.

Simply check the box next to the list or lists of contacts you wish to send your email to. Or create a new list by clicking the Create new list button and add your contacts from the How would you like to add your contacts drop-down menu. You can import contacts from a spreadsheet or most email programs, or you can add individual email addresses.

If you want to be able to segment your contact list and send custom emails to subgroups within your list based on demographic and other information (zip code, city/town, company name, etc.), click the I want to segment my contacts checkbox. You can create up to 5 rules for selecting demographics to segment by.

Step 3: Choose a Template

  • Use the drop down menu to select a category of email templates (many are by industry categories, but there are also General, Blank, and Holiday template categories).
  • Scroll through the thumbnail views of all the templates in your chosen category. Click on any one you want to see larger. At the top of the template, click Select different template if you don’t want to use it and Select this template if you do.
  • Click the Next button once you have selected a template and you see a checkmark on its thumbnail image.

Step 4: Edit Template

In this step, you use editing tools to add your email content to the template you selected. (If you need help using the editor, click the help icon on the screen in the upper-left corner of the editor page.)

Before you finish editing, you can click the Send Test button to send a copy of your email to see what your email will look like to recipients.

When you finish editing your email, click Save and then Next.

NOTE: Any time before your email is sent, you can make changes by going to Manage Emails tab.

Step 5: Schedule Email

On this page, you can choose when to send your email. These are your options:

  •  Send Now: Click this radio button to add your email now to the distribution queue and have it sent as soon as possible.
  • Save Draft:  Click this radio button to save a draft of your email. (Go to the Manage Emails tab to edit or send later.)
  • Schedule: Click this radio button to choose a delivery date and time for your email to be sent (be careful to select AM or PM if it matters to you and select your time zone from the drop-down menu).
  • Save as an Autoresponder: Click this radio button to save the email and use as an autoresponder.

Click the Next button after you’ve made your selection.

You should see an Email Completed confirmation page (see screenshot below) with some options for what you’d like to do next.

Announcer Pro Email Marketing

You’ll receive an email confirming when your email is sent out to your contact list.

After that, you can monitor the results of the email by clicking on the View Results tab in Announcer Pro.

8 Blogging Tips for Small Business Owners

Start a blog for your business - EarthLink Web Hosting customers get WordPress blogging software.If you have your own business, you’ve undoubtedly heard that you need to have a blog. Not all business do, but if your business has a website, a blog can be a valuable content marketing tool to help you succeed online.

Once you’ve decided that you do want a blog, here are some tips that we hope will help you get started with blogging for your business.

If you’re an EarthLink Web Hosting customer, you may also want to look back at our earlier posts about how to publish a blog on your website and how to publish your first blog post using WordPress.

  1. Just Start Your Blog: Waiting for the perfect moment to start your blog may mean you never start it. Don’t think you need everything planned or that you need to make everything perfect. Don’t worry that you’re not a writer. Don’t think your business may not be interesting enough. Just (can’t remember where I heard this advice) do it. You can always refine and change as you go along.
  2. Make a Blog Plan: Yes, this really does make more sense as #1, but sometimes the need for a plan gets in the way of starting. If you know you can plan first without delaying too long, make the plan first. Your plan doesn’t need to be overly detailed. Decide how often you think you’ll be able to write. Give some thoughts to the types of posts you want to do. Map out some topics to cover. Think about your audience: what different types of customers (or site visitors) do you have and what sorts of things would they find helpful or interesting?
  3. Decide on Goals for Your Blog: This is an important enough part of your planning that I wanted to call it out separately. For your blog to be a success, you have to know what success will look like to you. You need to decide what your goals are. You may want to start blogging to build your company’s brand, to position yourself as an expert, to build customer loyalty, to solve customer issues and divert support calls, to increase site traffic, to build your social media presence, to increase sales or repeat sales. If you’re very good and very lucky, you may end up doing it all, but you should start with a few goals to focus on. And make sure the goals of your blog align with the goals of your business.
  4. Make an Editorial Calendar: Don’t let this scare you if it sounds too much like you need to be a publisher. You just need to map out a few things. Decide how often you think you’re going to write. Most successful blogs post at least 2 -3 times per week, and the more you post the faster you may reach your goals, but don’t worry if you have to start small with once-a-week posts. Decide about the different content categories relating to your business that you want to post about. Consider the different kinds of posts you could do. Will you be interviewing experts? Will you be doing product reviews or writing tutorials? Will you be answering customer questions? Are you going to have guest bloggers, a staff of other bloggers, or tackle it all yourself? You can always grow and change your editorial calendar, but try to develop one early.
  5. Be Yourself & Write with Passion: So you’re not a writer. But you are someone who’s passionate about your business. You are someone with a point of view and a voice. Let all those things shine through. Yes blogging is writing, but don’t think about the writing part too much. It’ll slow you down and lead to writer’s block. Write like you’d talk to a friend if you were trying to solve his problem. Yes, blogging should position you as an expert, but don’t worry about sounding like some abstract idea of an expert. Write like you talk to your friends who you share your interests. If possible, let your authentic voice and point of view shine through without editing it out because you think your blog should sound like something else.
  6. Don’t Only Focus on Your Business: A blog is not a place to write more and more sales copy. Nor is it a place for you to talk about how great your business is. Again and again. Sure, share what’s new and cool in your business. Don’t be afraid of promoting products when they fit into a post on a larger topic. But make sure you broaden your blog’s focus to help position either you or your company as an expert in your field. Tackle what’s new or noteworthy in your industry. Comment on larger trends. Provide unique insights and offer tips. This is one of the ways you bring value to your readers and grow your readership.
  7. Focus on Your Customers (and Potential Customers): This is the flip side to the last point. Don’t focus your blog only in; turn your focus out. Provide value by knowing who your customers (or audience) are and what they are interested in. Even better, know what their problems are and solve them. Help people make smarter decisions, save time, save money, etc. If your blog can do that regularly, you may strike gold.
  8. Don’t Expect Too Much: Yes, I just said “you may strike gold,” but don’t expect to. At least not in the short term. A blog is a medium-to-long-term investment that you need to be patient with. Unrealistic expectations are what’s most likely to make you quit blogging prematurely. First, you need to be patient with yourself. You will make mistakes. You will change your mind. You will miss deadlines. You will have to feel your way through the early going. And you also need to be patient on the audience/reader side. Even if you are on your A-game from Day 1, no one may read your blog on Day 1…or 2 or… Keep in mind that some of what you do early on will be of value to your business later even if nobody reads it when it’s written. It will have some SEO value when the pages are indexed. It will help build your brand when people do get around to reading early posts. And you can always update early posts later to give you more fresh content. So don’t worry…start writing.

If you already have a blog up and running, let us know how it’s going. Tell us what has worked or not worked for your blog.

We’ll be publishing more blog tips in the future. Good luck with your blog.