Nearly 3 billion people worldwide are online.  When they want a product or service, they don’t wait for an ad to appear on television, scour magazine ads, or heaven forbid, pick up a phone book.  They go to the Internet and search via search engines or social sites, because these methods promise fast results and relevant content – and generally deliver on that promise.

With customer attention shifting online, so too has the focus of marketers, requiring new marketing strategies as we begin to understand how the Internet works for users and how those users interact with it.

Simply put, web users are consumers of content.  Therefore, you need to deliver useful content that will engage your customers and keep them coming back for more.  Of most significance, web users are searching for content to consume.  This is key for every business’ relevance and branding.

Let’s dive in and see how you can generate more traffic, more leads, and more conversions for your business.

Below are eight crucial steps for a successful online marketing campaign.

1.  Creating A Content Marketing Strategy

Today’s leading websites provide more than just information about their company and product offerings.  They now deliver resources for solving frequent customer problems and create fresh, engaging content that is continuously updated so that visitors return often and build trust with the brand.  Your business should develop a content strategy because:

  • Content provides the customer easy, reasonable access to products and services.
  • Useful content should funnel the audience to the site’s conversion pages.
  • Quality content provides information that answers some of the toughest problems your customers face.
  • Authoritative content positions your brand as the trusted expert in its industry.

By consistently producing useful content, you can establish your company as an industry leader, and work to help your audience – not sell to them.  Smart content marketing begins with understanding what the customer needs rather than what you want to offer.

2.  Research The Audience’s Needs

When developing an effective content marketing strategy, it’s vital to first create content that answers your audience’s questions.  People ask all types of questions, on nearly every topic imaginable, and as you analyze what people are asking, you can spot trends that you can create content around.  Think about it this way, the people asking questions about your industry are actually doing the work for you!  Track these inquiries and answer them with useful content!

By searching for inquiries that include your targeted keywords, you can discover what people are asking about and create content that answers those questions.  To make it even easier, you can title your content in the form of the very question people are asking.  This gives your content the best chance to be found in the SERPs when someone enters that question.

3.  Using An Editorial Calendar And Creating Content

Editorial calendars have been used to manage the publication of content since the very beginning.  Just as traditional print publications have an editor who manages their calendar, your company should include a content strategist who governs an editorial calendar.  This calendar is essential because a lot of content will be published on different dates and areas – including websites, social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), distribution channels (YouTube, Slideshare, Vimeo), your blog, and more – the editorial calendar is a must-have.

An editorial calendar should be a guideline that helps plan your content publications out a year in advance.  This should include all of the content that your business plans to publish; not only the date of launch but also the steps included in meeting those goals.  Your appointed content marketing strategist or creative team needs to review the calendar continuously and brainstorm for upcoming projects.  This way, they can make adjustments based on the successes and failures of your content.

4.  Optimizing Your Content For Search

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of making your web content “search-engine-friendly”.  Search engines have advanced algorithms that reward content that is clear and user-friendly, and content that comes from a respected (or trusted) source.

For your content marketing strategy to succeed, you must understand the basic principles of content optimization.  Every piece of content you create should be optimized for organic search; this includes written content, images, or video.  In its most basic terms, SEO optimization helps make content appear relevant or authoritative to the search engine’s algorithm.  If you correctly optimize your content, it will likely appear high in the search results.

5.  Promoting Your Content Through Social Media

Once your content has been created, it’s time to focus on drawing attention to the piece from the largest, relevant audience possible.  The purpose of content marketing is to engage customers with things they’re already interested in and searching for , often providing them creative solutions to their common challenges.

Every business will have a unique approach to how it promotes content, based on the industry and customer profiles.

That’s why it’s important to decide what social media profiles are most relevant to your industry.  To do this, take a look at your competition’s activity in social media and ask the following questions:

  • What channels are they using?
  • How many friends do they have on Facebook?
  • How many followers do they have on Twitter?
  • Are they working in blogs and forums? (If not, why?)
  • By leveraging social media, you can promote and circulate your content and put your brand in front of potential customers or new audiences.

6.  Distributing Your Content

Distribution channels create more opportunities to deliver content to potential customers.  While promoting your content through social media is all about generating interest around your content, distribution helps find different ways to get your content to appear in the search results.

To boost the distribution of your content, try repurposing it so you can reach a variety of channels.  For example, you can take an existing article from your blog to create a video that will live on YouTube.  Or, take talking points from an already created video, and produce slides that can be published to Slideshare.

Diversifying your distribution channels gives you the opportunity to fill the search results with all of your best content.  In fact, a branded profile on Slideshare or YouTube might just outrank similar content on your website.  If you implement a diverse distribution strategy for your content and target the right keywords, your brand could potentially fill several slots on the search results page!

7.  Nurturing Those New Leads

Lead nurture is one of the most important steps in a content marketing strategy because it capitalizes on all the work you’ve already done: you created great content, optimized it to be found online, promoted and distributed it to the right channels, and you’ve even gained leads.  Real, live, and (hopefully) qualified leads!

According to Gleanster Research, 50% of leads are qualified but not yet ready to buy.  Think about that for a second – half of all the people that come through your digital door are the people you want to be working with.  They just aren’t ready yet.  Now is your chance to build a relationship with those leads, growing their loyalty to you, and if all goes well, one day win their business.

8.  Measuring Your Content Marketing Progress

To measure the success of your content marketing strategy, you need to set specific objectives.  You can’t fully grasp what’s working and what’s failing if you haven’t established benchmarks for your content.  Successful content should:

  • Generate more traffic to your site.
  • Attract new customer leads and/or sales.
  • Help boost your brand awareness.
  • Develop your online reputation.
  • Encourage natural links and optimize search engine ranking.

All content you develop should work toward measurable business / brand goals.  By both establishing your goal and measuring your efforts using analytics, you can be smart about each new effort; which will actually free you up to follow bold, creative ideas with confidence.

Follow these eight steps and build a culture of content marketing within your organization.  The businesses that understand and follow these principles will be the ones who win over the next several years.