There are so many reasons to commit to content marketing that thought leaders like Seth Godin have declared that “content marketing is the only marketing left.”
Content marketing helps you generate brand awareness, build up your credibility, drive visitors to your site and increase sales. Need more convincing? Check out my post on fourteen reasons why content marketing is the only marketing left.
Content marketing is even more advantageous for small businesses
Many smaller businesses are intimidated by content marketing. They tend to think that any marketing that doesn’t directly promote their brand is a luxury they can’t afford.
But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, small businesses have all the more reason to invest in content marketing activities because:
Can small businesses handle the content marketing workload?
Content marketing can be pretty work intensive. You have to create a marketing strategy, constantly generate fresh content ideas, and consistently produce quality content. Even then, your work is far from done. Because you should be spending at least as much time promoting your content as you spend producing it.
And rushing through your content creation just to keep up isn’t wise. Why? Because 4 million posts are published to the Internet every day.
You need high-quality content to stand out from the crowd.
But how do you compete with larger brands who have more influence, more social followers, larger budgets and a massive marketing team?
It can seem like a David and Goliath situation but it’s all about working smart.
In this post, I’ll share some best practices for small businesses who want to fine-tune their content marketing methods to get better results on a small marketing budget.
Content marketing best practices for small businesses
1. Have a plan
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen small businesses make is to launch into creating blog posts without having a clearly outlined content marketing plan. While it’s true that your content should be about providing value, not self-promotion (more on this below), the ultimate goal of a content marketing program is to grow your business.
That’s why your content strategy needs to align with your business objectives.
Don’t waste time and resources executing a bad plan. Spend time upfront clearly identifying your objectives, then develop content marketing strategies to help you reach them.
2. Focus on information, not self-promotion
It can be tempting to focus exclusively on content that promotes your brand, especially if, like many small companies, you’re intently focused on growing your business. But in content marketing, it’s important to take a longer-term view.
Studies show that 90% of the most successful B2B content marketers give priority to the audience’s informational needs over their own promotional messaging. (By comparison, the same studies indicate that only 56% of the least successful B2B content markers do the same.)
3. Keep your audience in mind
If you want your content to hit its mark, you need to have a very clear picture of who you’re talking to. What are their goals and challenges? How can you create content that will help them achieve their goals and overcome their challenges?
Before you start creating content, define a buyer persona. And then, while you’re writing, pretend that you’re writing to that one person. Better yet, pretend you are speaking to that one person. Your writing style will be more natural and engaging.
4. Choose the right content topics
When you don’t have a massive team to push out new content on a daily basis, make sure that every piece you produce has an impact and gets you closer to your business goals.
In addition to making sure your content is relevant to your audience:
- Use keyword research to identify search topics that are heavily searched but still attainable.
- Focus on evergreen content topics – that is, content that will still be relevant months from now and provide lasting benefits.
For more information on this subject, check out my post on generating the right content ideas.
5. Be consistent
Don’t make the mistake of establishing a posting schedule that you can’t possibly maintain.
If you aren’t able to consistently publish (and promote!) new content several times a week, every week, then don’t start that way. Shoot for once a week or twice a month, but be consistent. Consistency helps build up trust and anticipation in your audience.
6. Prioritize quality over quantity
Never sacrifice content quality just to publish more often. Try to apply these best practices in your content creation:
- Favor long-form posts, which generate more traffic and qualified leads than their shorter counterparts.
- Meticulously proofread all your content to avoid spelling and grammar mistakes that will hurt your credibility. (Tools like Grammarly and Hemingway are very helpful.)
- Write irresistible headlines and inviting introductions that hook the reader and keep them on your page. (You’ll find great tips over at Copyblogger.)
- Keep your tone and language conversational and accessible, as well as aligned to your audience.
- Make your content skimmable, with effective use of sub-headings, bullets and white space. Let’s face it, today’s readers are scared off by paragraphs that are too long.
7. Use visuals
Part of creating quality content involves using the power of visuals to give your content wings. Study after study has shown that posts with visuals deliver more shares and likes on social media, which means your brand gets more visibility and even more traffic to your website.
Once on your site, visitors are more likely to stick around for content that uses strong visuals rather than big blocks of text.
8. Find “easier” content opportunities
Not every post can be a masterpiece that takes you days to produce. Small businesses have to be pragmatic. Look for ways to intersperse your more time-consuming original content pieces with posts that require less time.
Here are a few things you can do:
- Instead of creating content from scratch every time, give older posts a second lease on life by updating them with fresh tips and statistics. (Make sure to keep the same URL for SEO reasons.)
- Repurpose old posts as a different content format. For example, turn video transcripts into long-form blog posts, or convert your most popular blog posts into SlideShares.
- Accept relevant guest posts from carefully selected writers.
9. Promote, promote, promote
Up until now, the best practices I’ve listed here have focused on content creation. In reality, creating quality content is only half the battle. To get the most bang from your content, make sure you do everything you can to amplify it and get it seen by as many people as possible.
To start off with, search engine optimize every post. For detailed on-page SEO tips, check out this post. Search engine optimization can create dramatic and lasting organic search traffic and is well worth the effort. Unfortunately, though, it can sometimes take months for a new post to rank on search engines.
Lucky for you, there are plenty of things you can do to get more eyeballs on your content in the shorter term. Here are a few examples:
- Share every post on the social networks where your ideal customers hang out. Make sure to use eye-catching images and popular, relevant hash tags. If your post is evergreen share it more than once.
- Make it easy for visitors to share the content on your site. Use click to tweet plugins and social share buttons like this one from Shareaholic. Use Yoast SEO to optimize your post for social.
- Reach out to influencers who have shared related posts who have otherwise shown interest in your subject matter. If you’re lucky, they may share your post with their following.
- Guest post on popular, high-authority websites to expand your reach, earn quality backlinks and drive traffic to your website..
For more helpful tips on how to promote each new post, check out this article.