Content marketing is probably the most common traffic tactic these days. It lets us target specific audience segments, in some cases it allows us to get the benefit of some other brand’s or blogger’s authority with a market, and it doesn’t require that out target readers be using particular tools or networks the way social media does.
As I mentioned in a related post earlier this year, content marketing basically involves repackaging your message to meet the needs of different users and would-be users at specific moments in time, and in specific locations. You might repurpose content you’ve already written; you might not. But in all cases, you’re taking your blog’s key message and presenting it, via content, to a new, targeted audience.
Types of content marketing
How many types of content marketing are there? How long’s a piece of string?! There are as many variations of content marketing as there are bloggers, but here are the main types that we seem to be using:
- Guest posting: creating posts for publication on other sites and blogs. Note here that “creating” doesn’t necessarily mean just writing. You could be creating other content assets, like videos, infographics, comics, photos, and so on.
- Article marketing: writing posts for distribution through article “spinning” sites like Ezine Articles.
- Packaged content: working some of your content into a whitepaper, or mini-ebook, or emailed “course” or series, or some other product that you can offer free in exchange for the reader’s email address, and then promoting that offer in various hand-picked offsite locations.
- Syndication: disseminating your blog’s content to other locations, either through an open reuse policy (like Leo uses at Zenhabits), or offering select outlets reuse of a certain segment of your blog’s content.
Whatever the format, content marketing is really the process of taking your message—perhaps even taking content you’ve already produced and published on your site—and positioning it in a way that meets the needs of off-site audiences. It can be used to promote your blog as a whole, or a special product or offer that you’re running—really, it’s up to you.
The right kind of content marketing traffic
Obviously one of the great things about content marketing is that we can use it to target really specific sub-segments of our readership. So the traffic it brings us is usually primed for the other information we have on our blogs.
You’ll remember that last time, we talked about search engine optimization. Now, where searchers know they have a need, and it’s strong enough for them to search the web for a solution, the people who come into contact with your content marketing efforts may not realise they have a need for your material until they see it.
The purpose of your content marketing efforts is to show these new audiences that they have a need, that you can meet it, and to draw them through to your blog. For that reason, it’s important to shape the repackaging of the content itself to specific reader types, based on the profiles of readers on the outlets where you’ll be promoting or using that content.
So if you’re writing a guest post, you’ll want to make sure it casts your content as responding to the specific needs of the readers on the site where the post will be published. If you’re offering a special report or whitepaper, make sure that it meets a felt need of the audience of the location where it’ll be downloaded.
Obivously, it’s also important to choose your content marketing outlets carefully, to ensure that the readers who do come through to your blog are actually interested in what you have to offer on a broader scale.
Also, make sure it’s effortless for readers to move from the offsite content to your blog. Finally, the landing page may well make or break their response to, and engagement with, your blog, so pay special attention to that, to make sure readers get what they’re after, as preempted in your offsite content.
A content marketing case study
I think one of the keys to content marketing is being able to adapt your message to the needs of the readers in the locations where you’re doing the marketing. So, if you’re guest posting, the success of your post—not just in being accepted by the host blog, but in terms of drawing readers through to your own blog—depends largely on how well you shape your message to those readers.
The more content marketing you do, the easier it gets to adapt your message, but to make it clear I wanted to give you an example of content marketing we’ve done here at ProBlogger.
Earlier this year we launched Blog Wise, our ebook on blogging productivity. To help promote it, my editor Georgina wrote three guest articles for other blogs: one for Copyblogger, another for Goinswriter, and a final one for Zenhabits (as well as publishing a small series here on ProBlogger).
We all know that ProBlogger’s about pro blogging, and the ebook is about being productive—professional-blogger productive, in fact. But as the table below shows, these other blogs have different purposes. Georgina had to reshape that key message to suit each one.
How did she do that?
Each blog’s owner had been interviewed for the ebook, so she decided to leverage those interviews in writing her guest posts. Each post was intended to reveal to the blog’s loyal readers something new about a blogger they already know and love.
For each post, Georgina combined the topics of the blog she was writing for with the key topic (productivity) we’d discussed in the ebook. We’ve listed those on the far-right of the table.
Make it relevant
The above two points helped to make sure the guest posts were relevant, but she had a final imperative, which was to make sure that each guest post stood up for itself on the blog where it was published: if readers of that blog saw her post and had no interest in learning more about productivity through the ebook, they would still get something valuable out of her guest post, and be glad that the host blogger had published it.
Georgina repurposed content from the Blog Wise interviews and ebook to make the series she published here on ProBlogger. That was fine, since the ebook, like this blog, is written with our readers in mind! But for the other blogs, she wrote specially prepared content that met the needs outlined above.
The results for these posts were good—and that’s despite the minimalist bio she published alongside them! Each post attracted new users at a strong rate—between 50% and 90%—and each traffic source had lower bounce rates, higher on-site times, and more average pageviews per visit than most other sources for the same time periods, including social media.
The post on Zenhabits, for example, referred more traffic than any other referral source on the day it was published (including social media, Google, and so on), and remained in the top 5 referrers for a few days afterward. That traffic contained more first-time visitors than traffic from the other posts (around 86%). Bounce rates for that traffic were lower than any of the other traffic sources in the top 5—and about 10% lower than the site-wide average—for those few days.
That’s not bad for content marketing on a blog that’s not, at first glance, even closely aligned with the purpose of this one.
Of course, the added benefit of this kind of content marketing is the opportunity to engage with the readers at these other online locations and build your brand’s profile—something that you can do with search traffic. Have a look at the comments each of those posts generated and you’ll see intriguing discussion and more than a few ideas for follow-up guest pieces. If we continued to guest post at these locations, there’d be a strong chance that we’d be able to draw a larger percentage of readers through to problogger.net over time.
How does your content marketing perform?
As you can see, successful content marketing isn’t simply a matter of “spinning” your topic to suit a new audience. To work well, it needs to be done with care and, above all, consideration for the location at which your content will be published or shared.
This can be a particularly challenge when you’re doing things like article marketing, because with those options, you simply can’t get the level of audience insight required to target the content as heavily as this. Syndication can work better, so long as you know the blog where your content will appear, and can get to know its readers, too.
This is just one example of content marketing at work—and the kinds of results you can achieve with it. But let’s face it: guest posting isn’t the most innovative form of content marketing. What are you doing with content marketing at the moment? Share your secrets—and your tips!—in the comments.