Content Marketing Guide
What Is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is the process of planning, creating, distributing, sharing, and publishing
content. The earliest known example of content marketing dates back to 1731 when Benjamin Franklin published his first annual Poor Richard’s Almanac as a way to promote his printing business.
Many years and iterations later, modern-day content marketing primarily takes place on digital channels and is used by B2B and B2C brands to reach target audiences, increase sales, and improve customer engagement and loyalty.
Content marketing is rooted in the practice of inbound marketing — a style of marketing that is designed to reach an audience through non-disruptive means that feel more natural than outbound marketing tactics. Content marketing works to connect businesses with their target customers by delivering content that serves readers along the various stages of the buyer’s journey. Stages of the buyer’s journey include:
- Top of Funnel (TOFU) — content at the top of the funnel is focused on attracting a broad audience to a website and should be helpful and educational. Blog articles that aim to answer questions and offer advice (without including a sales pitch) fall into this category.
- Middle of Funnel (MOFU) — mid-funnel content serves to connect people more deeply to a brand through articles and assets that compel them to engage in some measurable way. Content in this stage can include things like infographics, calculators, surveys, and more brand-specific content.
- Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU) — content at this stage of the buyer’s journey acts as a way to convince readers that the service or product being offered is worth their investment. It can also be used to delight current customers. Examples include case studies, competitor comparisons, and gated long-form downloads.
These three buyer journey stages can be addressed in each of the six types of content marketing that follow.
6 Types of Content Marketing
There are multiple categories within the realm of content marketing. Many variables — including industry, audience demographics, business goals, and budget — can help businesses determine which type is right for their business to pursue.
1. Social Media Content Marketing
Also known as organic social media, this form of content marketing can be incredibly beneficial for certain businesses. With 3.96 billion social media users as of January 2022 (that number is expected to reach 4.41 billion by 2025) — it’s easy to see why some brands choose to prioritize social media content marketing.
Statista reports that 93% of marketers use Facebook making it the most utilized social media platform, while Instagram takes second place at 78%. Businesses that don’t yet have a social media presence, can hire an agency or contractor to help out, or can take these steps to get started:
- Choose the right platform(s). Determine where your target personas are spending their time online. A tool like SparkToro (created by Rand Fiskin of Moz fame) helps marketers determine exactly which social platforms their target audience is using.
- Claim your profile handles. Claim and/or create your business profiles on the social media platforms you’ll be using.
- Follow best practices. Learn and leverage social media best practices for businesses.
2. Infographic Content Marketing
As the fourth most-used type of content marketing, infographics consistently perform well for inbound marketers. These versatile long-form visual assets can accompany a blog article or stand alone as a self-sufficient piece of content. Because visuals are the most liked and shared type of content on social media, infographic content marketing plays nicely with social media strategies.
Studies show that infographics are up to 30 times more likely to be completely read through than a standard blog article. Businesses that can distill complex or nuanced content into an engaging visual like an infographic will end up attracting more potential customers to their website.
3. Blog Content Marketing
Perhaps the most common and well-known type of content marketing is blogging. Blogs, or articles, are another vehicle to help move the visitors on your website through the buyer’s journey. Businesses should write blog articles about topics that are timely, valuable to the audience, and relevant to the industry.
Blog content marketing should be based on a strategic search engine optimization (SEO) foundation. SEO is the process of optimizing content so that it ranks and appears near the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) so more people will see and interact with a business’ website.
The most successful business blogs and company resource centers begin with a thoughtful strategy that considers the buyer’s journey, incorporates SEO best practices, and delivers value to the audience.
4. Podcast Content Marketing
Podcasting, or digital audio files available for listening or downloading from the internet, has gained tremendous momentum in recent years. From 2018 to 2021, monthly podcast listeners in the U.S. grew by 61.5%, with new listener growth during the same period reported at 29.5%.
The growing demand for podcasts has unsurprisingly resulted in a spike of new shows and podcasts on platforms where this type of audio content is made available. Businesses looking to connect more deeply with their audience on a channel their audience likely already enjoys can benefit from the flexibility that podcasting affords. From choosing topics of discussion and scheduling logistics to the types of guests to be interviewed and the length of each episode — all are factors under the control of the business running the podcast. The most attractive draw for businesses interested in podcasting is the price of admission — free. With multiple platforms offering free services and paid plans starting around $10/month, podcasting is a great organic content marketing tool that’s within reach for any business that’s interested in pursuing it.
5. Video Content Marketing
As of 2022, 86% of businesses use video in their marketing efforts. A few factors played into why this number is so high, one of which is the shift in production quality expectations. As more people began working from home, creating marketing videos literally “in-house” became commonplace. Thirty-eight percent of first-time video marketers in 2021 reported adopting it into their strategy because it “had become quicker and less time-consuming to create video,” while 27% said it was due to video becoming more affordable to produce.
Like other types of content marketing, video can — and should — serve buyers through all stages of their journey. The most common types of video content created in 2021 included explainer videos, social media videos, and presentation videos. Video testimonials are also powerful at the MOFU and BOFU stages of the buyer’s journey and can be used in a variety of ways.
Now easier and more affordable to make — and with 88% of people reporting to have been convinced to buy a product or service after watching a brand’s video — businesses that want to sell more should consider adding video to their content marketing plan.
6. Paid Ad Content Marketing
Businesses looking to accelerate the “distribution” and “sharing” part of the content marketing process can leverage paid advertising. Paid ads can enable businesses to expand their reach to a broader audience by paying for placement at the top of Google SERPs, within social media feeds, and through sponsored content. Essentially, businesses can use paid ads to get in front of the people they’re unable to reach organically.
Paid ads can perform well as a singular tactic but tend to perform better when used alongside non-paid, organic inbound marketing. Users are more likely to click on a paid ad featuring a piece of value-add content than they are to click a heavily branded ad about a product or service.
Content Marketing Best Practices
There are several content marketing best practices that businesses should follow when developing a plan for inbound content.
Build Your Audience Personas
Audience personas — fictionalized profiles that represent a larger group of like-minded people within a target audience — are paramount to developing and executing a successful content marketing strategy.
Businesses that take time to build audience personas will have deeper insights into potential buyers, which makes it easier to create targeted content that delivers the value those potential buyers are seeking. Online tools, like this one from HubSpot, help businesses efficiently build audience personas.
Understand Your Brand Positioning and Story
Along with identifying audience personas, businesses also need to consider where they fit in the market. Brand positioning is the literal process of finding out where a brand lives in the mind of its customers. A brand positioning strategy often includes competitive differentiation in areas of the solution/product offered, customer service, customer experience, quality, price, and other relevant value considerations.
By differentiating itself from competitors, a business can increase brand awareness, approach pricing discussions more effectively, and better communicate an overall value to potential customers.
Determine the Type of Content to Create
It is critical to determine the types of content your audience Audience personas can be used to determine the types of content an audience is interested in consuming and engaging with. One of the best ways to do this is to create content that answers potential customers’ questions. Tools like Answer the Public provide helpful insights for businesses that want to create content that
resonates with their intended audience.
Set SMART Goals
A SMART goal is a formulaic approach to goal setting that ensures objectives are attainable within a certain timeframe. Goals set within the SMART framework meet the following criteria:
- Specific — if the goal isn’t specific, it shouldn’t be set.
- Measurable — there must be a way to measure the goal.[H4] Attainable — the goal should be within reach of achieving. SMART goals are not stretch goals.
- Relevant — a goal should always have a relevant reason for being set.
- Time-bound — SMART goals need to be achieved within a certain time frame.
For example, a business that is just starting with a blogging program might have a SMART goal as simple as this: Publish one new article per week for three months. While succinct, this goal meets the SMART goal criteria:
- It’s specific — publishing articles.
- It’s measurable — did one new article get published each week for three months or not?
- It’s attainable — this team has determined it can easily keep up with a one article per week publishing cadence.
- It’s relevant — the business wants to start a blog.
- It’s time-bound — the timing is defined as three months.
Set Meaningful KPIs
Along with setting goals, it’s important to tie those goals to meaningful key performance indicators (KPIs). The following KPIs are common and should be set by business owners to track the performance of content marketing initiatives:
- Number of articles — how many new pieces of content should be published each week or month?
- Organic keyword rankings — how many relevant keywords does the business rank for organically?
- Organic website traffic — how many website visitors are coming to a site strictly from organic content marketing efforts?
- Sessions-to-submission rate — what percentage of website visitors fill out a form when they land on a webpage?
- Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) — how many people who came in through inbound marketing efforts turned into sales opportunities?
- Sales — how many SQLs end up converting into customers?
While the number of articles, keywords, sessions, SQLs, and sales will vary by company, every business investing in content marketing should keep these KPIs top of mind to track the content marketing program’s return on investment.
Related Read: How to Choose Keywords for SEO: 5 Tips
Plan an Editorial Calendar
Building an editorial calendar is essential to creating process and consistency in a content marketing program. There are many online tools for building and maintaining an editorial calendar, but simple templates built within Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets can be just as powerful.
Content marketing assets, regardless of format — blog article, video, infographic, social media post, etc.) — should all move through a content creation cycle that involves the following steps:
- Legal review
- Stakeholder approval
Each of these steps should be accounted for in the editorial calendar, along with the content piece’s title, format type, publishing date, and target keywords for SEO.
Related Read: How to Build a Content Marketing Strategy
Analyze and Measure Content Marketing Results
Various metrics can help measure the success of content marketing efforts. Businesses with websites built in HubSpot have analytical tools readily available. Businesses with websites built on other platforms can use third-party tools like Google Analytics to measure content marketing results. Some of the metrics businesses should use to track performance include:
- Bounce Rate: A low bounce rate may indicate that people who found a piece of content were interested in engaging with it. A high bounce rate can indicate that people were initially interested in the topic or headline, but their expectations weren’t met once they arrived to consume the content.
- Pageviews: A blog post or landing page with a lot of pageviews can mean the right audience located the content and found it useful.
- Time on Page: When a reader finds a piece of content and stays on the post or landing page for a long period of time, it can be an indication that they found the content useful and engaging.
- Social Shares: When a piece of content is shared multiple times on social media, it increases a brand’s visibility and helps drive organic traffic to the website.
Businesses should assign a team member to regularly track blog post and other content marketing metrics with a spreadsheet detailing how content is performing. The title, target SEO keywords, bounce rate, pageviews, and social share counts should all be included. Seeing all of this information in one place is a great way to quickly identify the types of content and topics that are working for your business, as well as those that are not.
Maximize Content Marketing ROI
Content marketing is an investment in time and resources. When done right, that investment pays
off with strong ROI. Ensuring maximum ROI for a content marketing investment is top of mind for any business. Here are some things businesses can do to help maximize content marketing ROI.
Promote a Strong Call-to-Action
Calls to action (CTAs) tell a website visitor what they should do next. This can be a colorful button with text overlay, hyperlinked text, or an image. When developing CTAs for a piece of content, it’s important to understand the journey stage it lives within so it progresses the reader further down
Add Email Signup Forms
Having a simple one-line email signup form can help businesses get marketing qualified leads (MQLs) from organic traffic. When it comes to email signup forms, there are three main types:
- Embedded forms — average conversion rate .3%
- Flyout forms — average conversion rate 2.2%
- Popup forms — average conversion rate 3.2%
Embedded forms, which typically live in the sidebar or footer of a website page, aren’t as easily seen by every visitor. Flyout and popup forms, on the other hand, boast higher average conversion rates due to being more prominently displayed. Website visitors are less likely to miss a form that literally pops up and blocks their view.
Improve Page Speed
Websites should fully load within a four second time frame. A business website with longer page speeds results in conversion rates dropping by an average of 4.42% with each additional second added to the load time. With 70% of online consumers reporting page speed as a critical factor when deciding whether to make a purchase — businesses should prioritize improving page speed. Compressing images and text on the site can free up space, resulting in faster page speeds.
Successful Content Marketing for Businesses
Content marketing is a non-traditional approach to marketing focused on providing value to readers through useful, engaging content. By leveraging the inbound tactics and best practices outlined in this guide, B2B and B2C businesses can reach more potential customers, build brand awareness, and establish themselves as industry thought leaders.