Most Common Types of Digital Marketing

Barbara Spagnola - Monday, September 25, 2017

One way to describe digital marketing would be to compare it to teenage sex: “everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it…”. While this particular joke might seem absurd, it isn’t exactly that much off point.

You see, while the term digital marketing gets tossed around a lot, which makes the greatest majority of people believe they know what exactly that is. However, if you ask these people to explain what content marketing, PPC or SEO are, they might pause for a moment or even fail to give an answer altogether. In other words, not only are they not using them, they aren’t exactly sure what these methods entail at all. With this in mind and without further ado, here are several most common types of digital marketing that every business will encounter, or be in need of, sooner or later.

1.      Pay-per-click (PPC)

The first digital marketing method we are about to discuss is the popular PPC marketing. Here, the website owner is directly paying to the advertisers for every visit that comes through their website. The way this works is quite simple – you display an ad on someone’s website (let’s say blog) and every time someone clicks on this add, you pay that particular blogger a fixed fee. The best thing about this method is that it is quite easy to quantify, seeing how you pay for the exact figure of traffic boost that comes to your website. Bloggers trying to earn money this way might either go with affiliate marketing or Google AdSense, so they should be first two stops for an aspiring business willing to invest in PPC strategy as well.

2.      SEO (Search engine optimization)

Another term that a person getting started in the world of digital marketing is about to encounter is the SEO. Still, what is SEO exactly? In order to give an answer to this question, one must first know how search engines work. You see, an internet is a vast sea of data and information and without at least some form of pattern or organization, one wouldn’t be able to find anything they are looking for. This is where search engines come in. Through a complex algorithm, search engines sort, rank and display this data as search results. SEO is merely a process to improve your website’s standing on the World Wide Web.

3.      Social media marketing

Another thing you need to keep in mind is the fact that social media aren’t simply meant for reconnecting with your high school friends. A lot of companies are using platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as the main platforms through which they promote their business. However, this requires a no small amount of planning and a huge deal of strategizing. For instance, every network has its own audience, which is why you should first identify your target demographics. If you plan to sell arts and crafts items, your platform of choice should probably be Pinterest, while for digital tools and software you might want to try YouTube. At the end of the day, the greater your reach, the better, which is why you should always try to create a solid presence on at least several platforms at once.

4.      Content marketing

The best way to make people interested in what you have to offer is to actually present them with something that adds value. This, however, means that you should come up with quality content that either entertains, educates or gives your audience something to think about. The greatest problem with content marketing is the fact that it requires a lot of research, work and talent. Still, if you manage to meet all of these requirements, the results are bound to follow.

5.      Email marketing

Finally, while some may assume that email marketing is dead, nothing can be further from the truth. On the contrary, this particular method of outreach has been on a steady rise since the dawn of the internet, making it a true anomaly in the world of digital marketing. Nonetheless, in order to make it work, you need to A) learn how to make your audience interested by using as little words as possible and B) learn how to make a killer subject line. Moreover, keep in mind that in 2017 people mostly read emails through their mobile devices, which is why you should also find a way to make your emails mobile-friendly.

In conclusion

As you can see, digital marketing is hardly a rocket-science, yet it is still horribly underused by most businesses out there. Unbelievable as it may sound almost half of small businesses in the U.S. didn’t have a website in 2016. This figure alone might be enough to explain why 90 percent of all startups and SMBs fail within the first five years of doing business. Make no mistake, a strong online presence is mandatory in 2017 and the only way to achieve it is through adequate digital marketing.


Boosting Your Organic Traffic Through Content Marketing

Barbara Spagnola - Monday, September 18, 2017

While PPC (pay per click) is still a valid tactic for getting more traffic on your website, surveys have shown that having a high-quality content is even more reliable in the traffic it generates. What's even more important is that content marketing will also help you turn a visitor into a customer more easily than any other method, while also improving your brand loyalty and brand awareness. Setting up your content marketing strategy takes time and effort, but with this guide, you can get started today.

Write Catchy Headlines

For starters, you should keep in mind that having great written content isn't enough, simply because you need to get people to read it. The best way to catch someone's attention is to have a well-written headline. The importance of headlines is further highlighted through a simple fact that most of the content shared on social media wasn't even read by the people who shared it. This means that headlines alone are actually more important than the rest of the article, at least for organic traffic increase. Some simple tricks include asking a provocative question or offering a quick solution to the problems your audience resonates with. And don't forget to use a keyword or two in your headlines.

Research Your Keywords

While people might be sharing your content because of the catchy headlines, sharing isn't enough when it comes to organic search increase. In order to become visible to your audience, you need to start using the right keywords. You can use a tool like Google AdWords to find established keywords for most niches, but this will only get you so far because what you need are actually long-tail keywords for which you have a chance to rank well. Writing long-tail keywords will not only increase your traffic but also get more visitors that are further along in the buying circle. While someone looking for "Chicago style pizza" might only be interested in what it is, someone who searches for "Late night pizza delivery Detroit" is probably going to buy a product.

Use A/B Testing

A/B testing, when done right, can significantly improve your website's performance and help you with the conversion rate. It's very important to get a good idea of what A/B testing is and how to use it to your advantage before you even start testing. When it comes to content marketing, A/B testing can help you choose a headline, content topic, or generally help you with what will work best on your blog. Having a successful content marketing strategy requires you to have a lot of input, and A/B testing is the best way to get it.

Optimise Your Landing Pages

Having a homepage drawing traffic to your website isn't enough, and it often won't bring the best results. What you need is to create new pages and get started with Search Engine Optimisation in order to increase their ranking when it comes to search results. Poorly optimised pages hurt your rankings, which is something you'll want to avoid at all costs if you're ever going to increase your organic traffic. Having a well-optimised blog is a great way to start driving people to it and converting new users to customers. 

Visual Assets

We already covered that online audiences don't have the attention span in order to read too much, which is why it's imperative to have visual assets on your landing pages. Optimise your images and they will help you drive even more traffic to your pages. Most people learn and remember through visualization, so images and videos will get your audience more interested in your content. Just make sure that they are topic related and in turn, they will make your content much easier to absorb.

Make Your Content Shareable

It's the age of smartphones and social-media, so it's very important to do everything you can to make your content shareable. Basically, you want to have a story that people won't be able to keep to themselves but want others to see as well. Because of mobile-device users, you'll also want to avoid forcing people to copy paste the URL's, so make sure to add social-media icons for Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter on your blog. Being social-media friendly can increase your organic traffic quite significantly, but also help with your search engine ranking, so don't shy away from it.

Conclusion

In today's online world, you can have the best service or products but it won't matter if no one knows about them. Having high-quality content can help you become more visible, and increase your organic traffic significantly. By following these easy tips, you'll make sure to increase your organic traffic over time and hopefully grow with it. Just remember to stay in touch with current trends, as it can mean the difference between failure and success in the online world. 

3 Easy Calculations For Measuring Your Content Marketing ROI

Barbara Spagnola - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

by Jason DeMers

Content marketing is king when it comes to driving traffic and sales. But do you know how to track and measure the ROI of your efforts? If you’re like most marketers or business owners, this is probably a struggle. According to the 2015 B2B Content Marketing report, only 21% of marketers say they are successful at measuring their content marketing ROI.

This is a worrisome statistic given the costs associated with content marketing. How do you know if what you’re doing is working? And how do you know if it’s worthwhile to continue?

There are a number of challenges when it comes to calculating content marketing ROI:

  • Putting a dollar value on ‘soft’ metrics like number of fans or followers, engagement levels, brand awareness, etc.
  • Knowing exactly how a new customer or client found you (word of mouth can be difficult to track!)
  • Calculating the cost of content creation. For companies that outsource their content creation and management, this is relatively simple. However, in smaller companies where employees wear multiple hats, this can be a challenge.
  • While conversions will always be part of calculating ROI, not all conversions are equal. This begs the question: do you track ROI based on each piece of content, or on your content marketing strategy as a whole?

If any of these challenges sounds familiar, keep reading. This article provides three simple calculations for determining the ROI of your content marketing efforts.



Strategy 1: Calculate the value of your organic website traffic

Marketing and sales strategist David Meerman Scott suggests calculating how much you would need to pay to drive your current level of organic website traffic using Google GOOGL -0.72% AdWords. In other words, assuming you weren’t ranking in organic search for any of your current keywords, how much would you need to pay Google to get your current levels of traffic?

One of the drawbacks of this strategy is that it only takes into account your website content; it doesn’t factor in social media content, email content, etc. However, since the majority of your content will be in the form of blog posts, this strategy will get you pretty close to an accurate value.

Scott Severson of Brandpoint tested this strategy with the company’s own clients to see what the average ROI was. Here’s what he found: The average client broke even with their content in about 9 months, and saw a 200% increase in ROI from that content within 36 months.

Strategy 2:  Calculate ROI on a per sale basis (better for big-ticket sales)

This is a strategy that, to be honest, won’t work all that well for companies that sell a high volume of low-cost products or services. The very act of trying to calculate ROI on thousands of $5 products would significantly reduce your ROI!

For companies that specialize in big-ticket items or services, however, this strategy can be very useful. Contently lays out their own strategy for using this technique, which is based on this very simple, common sense calculation:


Content revenue – content cost = content ROI.

This strategy relies on one key capability: tracking exactly which content leads to sales. For many businesses, this will be the primary challenge in implementing this strategy. However, if you are able to do this, either through tracking goals in Google Analytics or through surveying your clients, this may be the best strategy for you.

Here is a breakdown of how Contently used this strategy to determine the ROI for acquiring one particular client:

  • Future client reads 2 Contently blog posts. Cost for writing posts: $700
  • Future client reads 2 more blog posts. Cost for these posts: $700
  • Future client fills out lead form, and then reads 2 case studies on the Contently website. Cost for these case studies: $900
  • Phone call with sales team (this cost is calculated into the ROI for sales, not content)
  • Sales team directs future client to a piece of content to help dispel her concerns about partnering with a vendor rather than keeping content creation in house. Cost for content:$350
  • Future client becomes current client! The sales process is complete. Total revenue from contract (attributable to content, not sales efforts): $41,000

The final calculations were as follows:

Total revenue from content: $41,000

Cost of content: $2,650

Content ROI: 15.5x


Strategy 3: Calculate ROI on a per-campaign basis

If you’re running specific, targeted content marketing campaigns – for instance, creating a series of blog posts, and then promoting them via social ads – you can calculate your ROI for each individual campaign.

This process is made much easier by using Fractl’s Content ROI Calculator. The calculator assumes you’re able to provide data on each of the following:

  • Total cost of campaign
  • Website traffic generated
  • Number of social shares
  • Number of links


5 Reasons Marketers Should Create 'Snackable' Online Content

Barbara Spagnola - Wednesday, May 25, 2016

by John Rampton

In recent years, I’ve talked a lot about how you should focus your efforts on long-form content to win Google algorithms. In-depth reports like whitepapers and case studies can help brands establish thought leadership on a specific topic, especially if they contain fresh information on an in-demand topic. That information will be cited in other places on the Internet, increasing its visibility.

The length of your content depends on the circumstances, though. While brands have refocused on 1,000-word-plus reports, consumers are gravitating toward 140-character tweets and video-oriented content. Sites like Instagram and Vine have captured the social media market, winning over customers who need information broken down into quick, easy-to-understand snippets. This has created more demand for “snackable” content, which gives consumers the information they need without bogging them down with text. Here are five reasons every online marketer should consider satisfying the demand for shorter content.




Visual Content Sticks

Marketers already know that visual content stands out in text-filled newsfeeds and articles. But a research study conducted by 3M puts science behind it. The human mind processes images 60,000 times faster than text, the study revealed, and unless text is connected to an image, many consumers won’t retain it. While words are stored in short-term memory, images go into long-term memory, making it more likely that the message you’re trying to convey to potential customers will actually make it through.


Attention Spans Are Short

As this infographic visually demonstrates, the human attention span is limited to merely eight seconds, which is four seconds less than it was in 2000. The average Internet user leaves a web page after only 10 to 20 seconds. This gives businesses a limited length of time to give consumers a reason to stay around. They need to be able to quickly get answers to whatever questions they have, whether they’re looking for a statistic for a school report or trying to determine a business’s hours of operation.


 Mobile Rules

Today’s consumers interact with social media and business sites on mobile devices. This is especially true of the much-coveted millennial generation, with 67 percent of those consumers accessing the Internet using smartphones and tablets. An increasing number of mobile users read content on the go, which means that scrolling through long paragraphs of text likely isn’t as appealing as viewing a quick infographic or reading multiple short social media posts.

“Long ago, people used to ask, ‘what’s your mobile strategy.’ That was really the wrong question,” says Tom Serres, Founder of DVTorque, a popular entrepreneur-in-residence program in Silicon Valley. “The real question is, what strategies are you deploying to connect with your customers…where they are.”

Unlike older generations, millennials are also more likely to be influenced to buy by friends, family, and strangers than by expert sources like doctors or celebrities.

Facts Get Shares

Data-driven blog posts are more likely to connect with your readers, giving them the facts they need to believe what they’re reading. Powering data-driven blog posts are facts, which will then be cited by other professionals searching for data to back up their own content. When multiple high-quality sites link to your post, that post is more likelyto be seen by Google’s algorithms as important content. This increases the chances potential customers will actually stumble upon your online posts, which also can increase the number of customers who will seek out more information about the products or services you’re offering.




Consistent Content Is Important

Brands may find it difficult to consistently post 1,000-word pieces of content, which means their online platforms will stagnate. By sourcing more short-form content on a daily basis, CMOs may find it easier to keep their platforms consistent, giving consumers daily reminders of a brand’s existence. Since repeat exposure to a brand tends to increase message recall, consistently reminding consumers about your product or service can be a fairly powerful marketing tactic. Simply posting a meme, a gif, an infographic, or a sharable social media post can be far more effective than waiting for a long report to be put together by your marketing team.

CMOs face the challenge of keeping up with constantly-evolving consumer habits. Snackable content helps meet the demand for easy-to-find information without losing search engine visibility. When content is loaded with insightful data and includes visuals, it’s much more likely to get through to readers, increasing the chances that they’ll take action on it.


Visual Content: A Case For Beautiful

Barbara Spagnola - Wednesday, May 25, 2016

by Matt Zucker

When it comes to content, marketers first tend to focus on written content—articles, posts, white papers, newsletters, pages, tweets. While I started out as a copywriter, what I’ve learned as a creative director and later as a content strategist is the mega-power of visually-driven forms. Videos. Photos. Illustrations. Infographics. Slideshare presentations, Pinterest boards, Snapchats. Animated GIFs. And, yes, maybe even those silly Vines. Just look at the variety of visual storytelling with my puppy Nora below.

Design Can Contribute To Business Performance

Nearly a decade ago, a U.K. Design Council study brilliantly mapped brands that employed high standards for design to their company’s actual stock price. The report proved for the first time, at least to me, that good design actually made people money. I think I showed it to every client I had at the time. Much more recently, the U.K.’s Design Management Institute and Motiv Strategies created the Design Value Index which tracks how design-focused companies perform relative to the S&P 500 over time. The British seem to get it.

Visual Content: A Case for Beautiful

Photo: Brian Fuhr; Design and Illustration: Dolores Phillips & Kelly O’Kane; Motion integration: Danny Rivera


Visual formats consistently rank in research as top performers among content types. For example, the Content Marketing Institute recently cited a Hubspot stat that your content would generate 94% more views if you added visual elements.  Who doesn’t see high performance adding just a simple image to a single tweet. They also described three ways to nail visual storytelling, including the factors of authenticity, sensory and relevancy, which can be helpful.

In The Content Game Of Thrones, Video Is King

Within the array of visual formats, there are winners—and, well, champions. Studies consistently show not only the growth, but the effectiveness of formats such as photography, illustration and my favorite, video. Effectiveness is often measured by consumption (video viewership is up – in fact, Cisco now predicts 80% of all Internet traffic will be streaming video by 2019) and sometimes by memorability or persuasion. Our brains, after all, process visual information faster than text-based content. Tyler Lessard, CMO of video marketing platform Vidyard, underscored the increased recognition for video’s power across categories and industries. “74% of B2B marketers now report that video converts better than other content types, making it a critical tool for educating buyers and building demand.”


Other visual formats certainly also do well, although I’m finding nuanced and differing opinions for infographics. Some rate infographics, for example, as initially effective, but recognize a more temporary effect as they disappear into the experience ether.

Visual Content Takes Pixel Sweat

Conviction also requires commitment. All content that is going to be truly valuable, especially visual, will take more effort, more resources and more planning than most expect to create. I rarely meet a client who doesn’t want to consider video for a program but execution quickly gets stalled not by the idea or the promise, but at the sticker shock of the investment required to simply shoot + edit. Demonstrating the compelling return on video helps, especially those facts around memorability, persuasion or demand gen; sometimes I’ve done business cases for action. And it’s not just video that takes muscle. Original photography outperforms stock but you have to invest in it. Telegraphic and infectious infographics take research and information design expertise. Good design is work.

You Need Money, People And Governance

Through research currently underway with Altimeter, we’re finding that many brands churning out volumes of high-quality content have a purpose-built team of roles at its core: content strategist; design; video production; paid and owned media coordination; and writing (staff or freelance). There are plenty of external content design studios to tap as well for programs, specialty or to simply keep up with volume. An example is agencyColumn Five which specializes in visual content and puts out some great content themselves, including this guide on visual content.


Go make valuable beautiful content. I can’t wait to see it.

Pictures Add 94% More Power

6 Ways To Increase User Engagement On Your Content

Barbara Spagnola - Tuesday, May 24, 2016

by Jason DeMers

A good content campaign has many goals. Increasing visibility is a plus, as is building a better brand reputation. You may primarily focus on driving traffic to your website, or just hope to use content to persuade existing audience members to purchase your products. But there’s one content factor you can’t afford to ignore, as it functions both as a factor for content success and as a goal you should strive to achieve: engagement.

Why is engagement so important?

    • Engagement promotes familiarity and loyalty. When a user engages with your material directly, he/she will feel like a more integrated part of your brand community. That means a greater sense of familiarity and loyalty, which could drive purchasing decisions in the future.
    • Engagement enhances visibility. Almost any kind of engagement has the potential to increase the visibility of your article. It may mean your article getting in front of a greater number of people, or your article developing a kind of aura around it based on existing discussions.
    • It’s a sign of content effectiveness. Getting more engagement generally means that your content has been more effective—it has generated interest, which means it’s probably going to excel in other areas. Monitoring engagement gives you insight into how your content is performing.

    But before you start trying to come up with a plan to “increase engagement” in some vague, general sense, you need to know that there are different kinds of engagement:

    • User comments. Found at the bottom of blog posts.
    • Discussion threads. Occurring in a forum setting, or on social media.
    • Active participation. For things like surveys and quizzes.
    • Social shares. Direct or indirect.
    • Positive ratings. “Likes” and other reactions fit here.

    Obviously, you’ll want a nice mix of all of these. How do you go about that?



    Strategies for Greater Engagement

    There are many ways to drive higher engagement, but these are some of the most effective:

    1. Stir up controversy. Your first job is to make your posts more debatable by stirring up some controversy. This doesn’t mean you should write about something that’s going to outright offend people, or try to take a hard stance on something you don’t necessarily believe in. Instead, look for topics and angles where there are two sides of an argument, and take one side. This alone will likely encourage people to respond (and hopefully, discuss the issue with each other).
    2. Surprise people. People love to be surprised. On an immediate level, your surprising post will stand out from the crowd, attracting more attention and visibility. Beyond that, some readers will feel a compulsion to reward you, somehow, for surprising them, either by recognizing it in the comments or by giving you a “like.” They may also be more compelled to share your post with friends, spreading the contagious “surprise” factor.
    3. Ask your readers’ opinions. If you want your readers to engage in a conversation, why not start one by asking them a question? This is a common tactic often done at the end of an article; for example, a post about different strategies in headline writing might end with a question like, “what strategies have you found to be effective?” Doing this naturally prompts people to respond, but it’s even more effective when combined with the first tip in this section—strive to ask questions that you know are debatable, or questions that you know your users will be passionate about. The stronger they feel, the better.
    4. Get your readers involved. It’s also a good idea to encourage active participation. Interactive forms of content are easier to engage. Unfortunately, you don’t have many options when it comes to interactive content. You might develop a quiz, such as one that evaluates your readers’ current needs, or you might create some kind of survey or poll to reflect your readers’ opinions. These aren’t the only two options, but they are two of the most common and effective.
    5. Enlist more content mediums. Including more mediums in your content strategy will not only help your content become more visible and easier to interact with, it’s going to make a broader range of readers interested in interacting with it. For example, some users engage more readily with video content, while others are more likely to react to in-depth written features. Cycle these different types of content through in your strategy, and offer pieces with multiple mediums incorporated.
    6. Reward your users for engaging. This is an extremely important piece of the puzzle; you have to let your readers know that you appreciate their engagement. This can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be, but know that your efforts will be noticed. For example, you might get active in the discussion thread as a participant when it develops, or you might thank one of your readers specifically for sharing one of your content pieces on social media.

    With these strategies in consistent practice, I can almost guarantee you’ll earn more engagement in your content strategy. They may not turn your campaign around overnight, but if used regularly, you’ll start to see more comments, shares, and participation in growing patterns over time. Use these engagements as metrics to measure your content effectiveness, and reincorporate that feedback to take your content to an even higher level.


    4 Content-Marketing Methods to Stay Above Your Competition

    Barbara Spagnola - Monday, March 21, 2016

    by Yoav Vilner
    Startup-marketing expert, CEO of Ranky and a blogger.

    Promoting irrelevant content to your customer base is as useless as bringing a knife to a gunfight. The question is no longer whether targeted content is a competition worth entering, but how to bring home the gold.

    With 86 percent of buyers “frequently” using mobile phones to access business-related content, it’s no wonder marketers and publishers are leaving their pay-per-click and display tactics in the closet and opting for the gold medal of all advertising methods: content marketing.

    Here are some of the methods being used by winning companies:

    1. Leveraging influencers

    Influencer marketing is the force of nature shaking the online marketing world. There are two things to know when utilizing influencer-based marketing: it's expensive and it works. With that said, choosing the right influencer takes much more than a bit of YouTube browsing. Successful influencer marketing doesn’t end once a video goes live. It is important to follow up with comments and viewer queries across your channels, as well as the influencer’s.

    Recommended app: Mention allows brands to identify the best influencers for their brand and, with tools such as the influencer scorer, to know the amount of traction his or her brand will offer. The Mention dashboard also allows for you to connect with users directly.

    2. Making it move

    Digital storytelling should be as engaging and fluid as your content. Having a compelling user experience is exactly what your brand needs to draw your customer in and retain them. Content should be moving with your customer and enhancing their online customer journey. 

    Interactive content is also a highly useful way for testing audiences’ online preferences, allowing for brands to elevate the content they curate. 

    Recommended app: Apester allows brands to engage using personalized experiences such as quizzes and interactive content.

    3. Creating for your customer

    A surprising 61 percent of consumers are more likely to buy from a company that delivers personal content that is specific to their wants and needs, according to Custom Content Council. Being that content has such an impact on conversion and retention, having an awareness of trending topicsand industry keywords is a great way of understanding what your customer is searching for online.

    It’s crucial to remember that content should be targeted to your customer’s needs, not your own. While self promotion and PR are huge forces in marketing, giving information to your clients with no strings attached is the best way to organically reach your customer base and keep them for good. By knowing your customers' personas and breaking down their pain points, you can adapt your content to your target customer and create deeper connections.

    At the same time, if you are truly creating content for your customer, it should never be a one-way street. Instead, your content should be a catalyst for a dialogue. To make your content genuinely useful, encourage your users to add their own insights. This not only enriches the content itself, but it also empowers them to become loyal users.

    Recommended app: Popular sites such as EW.com use Spot.IM’s social sidebar to make such conversations easy and simple.

    4. Letting the journey drive content

    The competition for outstanding content begins with a keen understanding of the customer journey, so that your brand can improve it. By creating a road map for this epic, you can position your content to tell a consistent story -- one that individually addresses each action and motivation of your customer base. Much of the content story can be boiled down to smart planning and a well-devised content calendar.

    Recommended app: This one I haven't tried yet, but searching through many blogs I've found DivvyHQ to be highly recommended. With it, you are able to plan and manage your calendar on one dashboard, allowing you to be ready for your customers' journeys. Remember that the customer journey isn't necessarily linear, but is constantly in flux.


    A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Content Marketing Strategy

    Barbara Spagnola - Monday, March 21, 2016

    by Jeffrey Kranz
    FROM BUFFER


    The good news: your boss or client is totally on board with your running content marketing. (SCORE!)

    The challenge: she wants to see a content marketing plan . . . and you have NO IDEA what that’s supposed to look like.

    I’ve been there.

    It’s a tough situation, because you’ve been doing content marketing with your gut this whole time, and now you’re being asked to put all that into a document. (And the gut-to-document process can be pretty painful.) Plus, you know that awesome content marketing involves a lot of flexibility—how do you build that into a strategic document?

    Good news: we’ve scoured the Internet for content marketing strategy templates, tried a few, and put together an approach to building your own content marketing plan step-by-step.

    (This is built with both the in-house content marketer and the agent in mind, BTW!)

    Let’s go!

    Preface

    Before we get too far in, I’d love to start things off with a few quick notes:

    1. This is a long article.

    Feel free to bookmark or send to Pocket to set aside some time to hash through this.

    2. Content marketing strategies aren’t easy to write.

    We’re going to dig into big strategies like website crawls and persona profiles and thematic taxonomies and competitive analyses. (I had to learn a good deal of stuff I was unfamiliar with in order to start writing these, too!) At each step, I’ve included some recommended material for further reading.

    3. This isn’t gospel.

    Like the pirate code, these are more guidelines than actual rules. =) You’ll find that some projects need more in-depth planning than others.

    4. Stay flexible.

    A strong content marketing strategy should give you focus, not lock you into less-than-awesome ideas! The key to a great content marketing strategy is being able to tweak, break, and chuck parts of it as you learn more about what works and what doesn’t.

    All right, now that we’ve covered the caveats, let’s look at how to write this content marketing strategy!

    How to write a content marketing strategy step-by-step

    Let’s walk though how you can write a content marketing strategy—one that pulls together all the pieces and gives you a clear plan for moving forward.

    Step 1: Start with an outline

    Writing a strategy can sound like a daunting task. How detailed should it be? How high-level should it be? Starting with an outline can help you conceptualize all the ground you need to cover—and it may save you from expending your energy covering unnecessary ground!

    And what is the right ground to cover anyway?

    A good content marketing strategy will answer three basic questions:

    1. Why are we making content in the first place?
    2. What content do we need?
    3. How do we get that content to accomplish our goals?

    Your outline will help you structure your research and ideation so that you’re focused on answering these key questions.

    For example, one way this could look is by splitting the remaining steps below (all 20 of ’em) into each of these buckets. The outline, then, could look a little something like this:

    For the rest of these steps, I’m going to work through a basic outline template that has helped me in both in-house and agency roles. (And I’d be more than happy to give you a copy of this outline to copy or tweak!)

    Once you’ve got an outline, it’s time to start with what you know: yourself.

    Step 2: Write down what you’re trying to accomplish

    This is where you’ll write out your content marketing goals. What are you trying to accomplish? It helps if this is specific, because later on in this process, you will be comparing your content to your goals to see what’s truly in alignment.

    This may express itself as a big objective with smaller SMART goals folded underneath (SMART stands for “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely”).

    An example may be:

    Goal: To become perceived as a thought leader on the phenomenon of Roomba rodeos.

    • Objective #1: Generate $500,000 in revenue from online training courses by December 31, 2016.
    • Objective #2: Rank on the first page of Google search engine results for “Roomba rodeo” by April 1, 2016.
    • Objective #3: Grow an email list of 5,000 unique double opt-in subscribers by March 4, 2016.

    Note: A great question to ask for added context might be: What are the overall marketing goals, and how can content marketing support them?I’ve found that some organizations group content marketing into a separate team (or outsource the efforts), which means it may be wise to get some advice from other non–content marketing folks in your organization.

    (Protip: sometimes asking other teams and departments for content input is a great way to build a culture of content in your organization!)

    Once you’ve written down these goals, you can ask yourself (and your team) a few questions:

    • How does good content accomplish these goals?
    • How can we measure whether or not our content is aligned with these goals?

    This is where you’ll outline your content KPIs (key performance indicators).

    For more thoughts on setting marketing goals, check out this best-of list of methods from experts like Noah Kagan, Ryan Holiday, Rand Fishkin, our own Courtney Seiter. You might also want to swipe some goal-setting templatesfrom HubSpot’s Mike Lemire.

    Step 3 (optional): Write down what you’re selling

    I’ve found it helpful to write out what the product or service I’m trying to sell is. It helps me think through the features, the different product tiers, the sales cycle, etc. When you know what you’re selling, you can more easily frame the kind of content you will need to sell it.

    Of course, you may be the product creator, the marketer, the one-human show, and this might not be something you need to write down. If not, feel free to skip this part.

    Step 4: Now, who’s going to consume your content?

    It’s time to outline who the audience for your content marketing efforts is going to be. If you’ve done some of your persona research already, huzzah! You can plug those little blocks of fictional, alliterative goodness here.

    Don’t have your buyer personas fleshed out yet? Now’s a terrific time to get started on this! Here are a few resources to help you start developing your own personas:

    Step 5: Map your personas’ needs to your product or service

    Jay Acunzo wrote my very favorite definition of content marketing:

    Once you’ve looked at who your audience is, you need to ask one crucial question: How can you help them?

    This question is the heart and soul of content marketing. Your whole content marketing plan will benefit from writing this out.

    The key to this step is to map your persona’s pain points, goals, and desires to the solutions you want to sell. This might look like making a table with brief descriptions of each. Or it might be something you’d like to write out in story form—something Moz’s Isla McKetta has some super helpful thoughts on!

    Again, this step is key, because the rest of this strategy is going to be about creating and upgrading and curating and promoting content that solves the same problems your product solves!

    Step 6 (optional): Heroes and watering holes

    You’re laying a terrific foundation for your content strategy. You’ve dug through your personas’ deepest wants and needs and mapped those to your product. You’re getting an idea of what kinds of problems your content needs to solve. Things are starting to take shape.

    There’s another (optional) thing I like to look at before leaving the audience section of the content marketing plan, though. I like to know:

    Where is my audience already going for this kind of information?

    This is a fun exercise I’ve nicknamed “heroes and watering holes.” (You can probably come up with a better name for it!) I call them that because at this stage in the content marketing plan, it’s good to start thinking of the sources of information the audience already trusts. Those sources generally fall into two groups:

    1. Heroes are those celebrity thought-leaders who have followings around their personal brands. These are the names that jump to mind when you think of the experts in your industry. An example of one of my heroes isBryan Harris, whose intensely practical case studies give me and other marketers so much to riff off in our own efforts.
    2. Watering holes are those sources of information that aren’t necessarily tied to a person. They represent places your customers trust for awesome content. Examples of watering holes for me are Inbound.org or Quora, where I know there’s always going to be more interesting information that will help me do my job better.

    If you examine where your audience is already going for information, you can get a more comprehensive view of the content marketplace. It can help protect you from trying to reinvent any content wheels, and it can give you some awesome ideas for guest postingthe lifeblood of the early content marketing strategy at Buffer!

    Unless you have a really wide reach, you can probably use your own intuition to map out your audience’s influencers. But if you’d like a more data-driven approach, you may want to use tools like FollowerWonk andBuzzSumo.

    Step 7: Look to the competition’s content marketing efforts for inspiration

    It’s good to know what kind of content your audience wants.

    It’s fantastic to know what kind of content your competitors are already giving them.

    You don’t need to do a deep-dive competitive analysis for every single content marketing plan you write, but you will probably find it helpful to take a moment to reflect on just what other people and brands are offering your personas.

    By the way, when you think about competition in terms of content marketing, it can work a little differently than you might imagine. Your competitors aren’t necessarily the organizations that are competing for customer dollars. When it comes to content marketing, your competitors are the people and organizations that are competing for your audience’s attention.

    This is generally a good place in your content strategy to ask a few questions:

    1. Who is competing for my personas’ business? These are your direct competitors.
    2. Who is competing for my personas’ attention, but not necessarily their business? These are your indirect
    3. How can my brand stand out?

    It’s helpful to think through the ways that your content can uniquely appeal to your personas. Will you offer more long-form, deep tactical content? Will your content be more visually oriented? Will your content be crafted with a distinctively delightful tone?

    This graphic from Garrett Moon of CoSchedule does a great job explaining this concept (the blue ocean blogs are what you’d aim for):

    This piece of the strategy will help you orient yourself in the content marketplace, so that you, your team, and/or your client can create content marketing pieces that stand out rather than blend in.

    Not sure who your competitors are?

    There are a few ways to find out.

    One of my favorites: SEMRush. They show you which websites are ranking for the same keywords in search engines as you—which is super helpful! At a glance, you can see who else is getting organic and paid search engine attention for the keywords you might be targeting.

    Step 8: Take inventory of your content

    OK, this step could be its own blog post. Or blog series. Or book. Or director’s edition extended cut DVD set.

    You get the idea: taking inventory of your marketing content is no small task.

    Let’s get a high-level view of what this could look like, and then I’ll be happy to share some links for further reading.

    When you take inventory of your content, you get a list of all your content marketing assets (both onsite and offsite).

    This could be as general as a list of channels. For example, if Buffer were to do a high-level content inventory without digging into the details, it might look like this:

    Onsite

    • Buffer.com informational pages
    • Buffer.com landing pages
    • Social blog
    • Open blog
    • Overflow blog

    Offsite

    • Social media accounts
    • MailChimp lists
    • Guest posts
    • Syndication relationships

    Even something as simple as this is helpful—but only to the extent of figuring out where all your content might be.

    The deeper dive into these individual content marketing assets (a fantastic exercise if you’re up for it) would include:

    • getting a list of all the keywords you rank for in search engines,
    • all the blog posts getting significant traffic and conversions,
    • all the active email lists,
    • all the live high-level web pages,
    • all your social media accounts . . .

    everything.

    It’s a great deal of work. But you emerge from it being incredibly well-attuned to the state of content marketing for your brand.

    In short, what we’re looking at here is a content audit.

    And how do you do a content audit? There are many, many tools and blog posts that can help you do this, but here are a few that I’ve personally found invaluable.

    • This post from Portent Inc. CEO Ian Lurie is the end-all guide to writing one of these. Well done, Ian!
    • Screaming Frog is a super useful tool for taking inventory of all the pages on your site.
    • Google Webmaster ToolsMoz, and SEMRush are helpful for taking inventory of the keywords your content ranks for.
    • But what about the social media offsite content? We can help you with that:Buffer for Business analytics show you what kind of traction your social accounts are gaining, and what kind of posts are driving said traction. =)

    Step 9: Evaluate your existing content

    Now that you’ve put together a list of your content marketing assets, it’s time to line them up against those objectives we covered at the beginning of this plan.

    The central question we’re trying to answer: Which pieces of content are aligned with our objectives?

    (With a follow-up: Which pieces of content can we reorient to align with our objectives?)

    One approach I find super helpful here is to map out the most important pieces of content from the inventory on a matrix like the one below.

    The X axis plots performance: that’s metrics like pageviews, likes, shares, comments, and rankings. The Y axis plots alignment, which is a little fuzzier. The higher up a piece of content is, the more in alignment with our brand’s goals and ethos it is.

    When looking at the content you’ve inventoried, which content falls into which quadrants? (You could assign a quadrant value to each type of content if you like, but unless you’re dealing with a hefty budget, your intuition will work just fine.)

    Some resources that help with evaluating content performance:

    • Google Analytics measures traffic and conversions.
    • Buzzsumo measures your content’s spread via major social media networks.
    • Moz and Ahrefs tell you which content is pulling in those epic backlinks.
    • Google Webmaster ToolsMoz, and SEMRush tell you which pages are ranking for search terms.
    • Buffer for Business is my favorite tool for measuring social media channels.
    • Your users­—it’s easy (for me!) to get stuck in the quantitative performance metrics, but it’s also good to keep in mind what your audience is telling you they like best.

    When you’ve finished this, it’s time to ask four important questions:

    1. What sticks?
    2. What should we fix?
    3. What should we nix?
    4. What should we add to the mix?

    What sticks? (Step 10)

    This speaks to that sweet, sweet top-right corner of the matrix, where your content is aligned with your brand and acing performance. One thing I find helpful in a content strategy is to list out the content assets that are already performing well at this point.

    What should we fix? (Step 11)

    There will probably be bits of content in quadrants 1 and 4 that could get bumped into quadrant 4 with a little love and care. Make a list of the pieces that really have potential to turn into high-value content marketing assets, along with the ways in which they could be improved.

    For example, you may notice that your “how-to” infographics are generating some super positive comments, but they’re not getting very many shares or backlinks. You might want to take note of this, as this will be worked into the content strategy later.

    What should we nix? (Step 12)

    Where’s the dead weight? There may be some content in quadrant 3 that’s just not doing you any favors. No backlinks, no likes, no rankings—it’s just clutter. (This may also include totally outdated content.)

    If it’s no good, don’t be afraid to put it on the list to be nixed. It’ll clear up space and help you focus on the content that’s most important.

    What do we add to the mix? (Step 13)

    And here’s where your content marketing strategy begins to take on that epic creative element! After meticulously combing over your content, what ideas do you get for new content? What assets could be driving business objectives? What has your brand overlooked? What have you always wanted to try?

    (This is probably my favorite part of writing content marketing strategies!)

    Step 14 (optional): Sort your effective and prospective content marketing assets by theme

    You’ve audited all your content.

    Huzzah!

    We’re about to move into the part of the strategy that deals with making this content, but first, let’s pull some of this audit together by identifying some major content themes. This will play a big part in mapping out a content production and promotion schedule soon.

    Look at the content that sticks.

    1. What categories or topics are really resonating with your readers?
    2. Look at your personas—why would they favor those topics?

    By asking these questions, we can start building out content themes: these are the broad umbrella topics that your best content tends to group under. This is the time in the content marketing strategizing stage where I find it helpful to write these down. Doing so helps hone the plan for producing new content around these themes—which makes things a lot simpler for the folks writing, designing, and coding the content!

    Step 15: Refill your coffee

    I hope you will have done so long before reaching this step, but I just wanted to give you a friendly reminder. ?

    Step 15 (for serious): List the types of content you’ll be dealing with

    You’ve completed a huge component of this strategy piece: you’ve combed through all your content and channels to find what’s working, what’s not, and what you’d like to create.

    Well done. Very well done!

    Now we need to start making a plan for producing content. Just for reference, “producing content” covers two general areas of content crafting:

    1. Optimizing, updating, or otherwise fine-tuning the content that you identified in Step 11 (content to fix).
    2. Creating the content you listed in Step 13 (content to add to the mix).

    We’ll start by listing out the kind of work this will involve, namely, the types of content that need to be crafted. This might include:

    • Long-form, SEO-driven blog posts
    • Interviews
    • Ebooks
    • Infographics
    • Email courses
    • Explainer videos

    Once you have a list of the kinds of content you’re dealing with, you may want to give each one a brief description. For example, you could write:

    • Long-form, SEO-driven blog posts. Posts targeting specific search concepts, usually 2,200+ words in length, written to gain backlinks, comments, and organic search.
    • Ebooks. Documents expounding on a specific topic, usually 5,000+ words, delivered as PDFs, written to give away as lead-generation pieces.

    This is key, because in the next steps, you’ll outline how these kinds of content will be made.

    Step 16: Snapshot the content team and workflow

    One trap that I often fall into is underestimating how long it will take to create a piece of content. (Confession: I’m finishing this post two days later than I originally planned on it being done!) That’s why, when laying out a content strategy, it’s good to get an idea of who’s working on the content, and how that content is going to be created. The goal: get an idea of how much content you have capacity for.

    It may help to focus on answering two key questions here:

    1. Who’s the team?
    2. What’s the workflow?

    For the team, you can list your in-house content creators, as well as any contractors you plan to work with.

    For the workflow, this is a simple step-by-step breakdown of the content creation/fixing process. It could look like, “Ideate > Write > Design > Edit > Schedule > Promote,” or it could be more involved than this.

    This is a tricky one, especially if you’re proposing the first content marketing strategy for an organization. You face a host of unknowns. How long will it take to hire content specialists? How much will it cost to get a designer to make your infographics? How successful will content promotion efforts be?

    The good news: You don’t need to have all the answers here. In fact, sometimes this exercise is most helpful at identifying the elements of content creation that we haven’t figured out yet! What’s important is that you have some idea of where this content marketing effort is coming from. Refining this piece is an ongoing process. =)

    Step 17: Estimate your content capacity

    Once you’ve outlined everything you can in the previous step, it’s time to estimate just how much content can be created in the next span of time.

    If you’re outsourcing this part to a team of experienced content marketers, content production might follow a reliable timetable. But if your team is just getting into content marketing, this can be a tough one. This is where it helps to ask for advice from people with experience.

    And if you can’t know for sure, guess.

    The key here is to find a level of content production your team is confident they can take on, and then go for it. If you end up with lots of unfinished tasks at the end of the month, you can adjust expectations. If you finish way ahead of time, you can either ramp up production or invest in even higher-quality content.

    Either way, you want to have an idea of how much content you can make.

    Pro-tip: a spreadsheet may come in handy here! You can create columns for content type, estimated hours, quantity of pieces, and finally a total. This can help you build a few possible breakdowns of your content capacity.

    Step 18: Map out your editorial calendar

    You know what content you’re going to make.

    You know how you’re going to make it, and you have an idea of how long it’s going to take.

    Now, when will you publish it?

    It’s time to map out your editorial calendar for your content marketing assets. This is where you plot your blog posts, emails, ebooks, podcasts, etc. across a given patch of time, be it months, quarters, or semesters.

    (You could go longer, but I’ve found it helpful to keep the scope of time small enough for you to stay flexible and pivot based on what kind of content is performing.)

    One thing to keep in mind: you don’t necessarily need to plan out every single piece of individual content on this calendar from the get-go. But it will help to map out how those content themes from Step 14 and the content types you listed in Step 16 will be spread across the next time period.

    Protip: It’s easy to forget social media posting schedules here (since blogging and email take up a decent amount of brainspace). You may want to map out some of your social content schedule on the editorial calendar. Your social media conversations will understandably be more fluid than blog posts or emails, so this doesn’t need to be the end-all social media schedule. It’s just something to consider, as you may find it helpful just so you can see it in context of the rest of your content production. =)

    One more protip: This is a great place to include your guest blogging and syndication efforts, too!

    A few tools to consider for your editorial calendar:

    Step 19: Make a content promotion workflow

    If you publish a blog post in a forest, but nobody is around to read it, does it make a sound? ?

    Probably not.

    Creating amazing content is incredibly important, but there’s SO MUCH content being made every day! You’re going to need to find a way to get your awesome blog posts and infographics and podcasts in front of the right eyeballs.

    You don’t just want a plan for making content. You want a plan for driving attention to it.

    This is a great time in the content marketing plan building process to map that out. How will you drive traffic to your content?

    You can start with a very simple process for doing so. It could be as straightforward as this:

    1. Publish content
    2. Email co-workers to let them know about it, ask them to share (My teammate Kevan has some awesome thoughts on how this can work!)
    3. Share it to corporate social accounts
    4. Send a note to email subscribers about it
    5. Email influencers to let them know about it (backlinks!)
    6. Write guest posts linking back to that post

    Full disclosure: that’s not a complete list of things you can do, by any means—especially that last item. You’ll want to promote your content through those heroes and watering holes you described at the beginning of this strategy, and you’ll want to do it in a way that makes them look forward to getting more content from you.

    There’s a lot that can be said when it comes to figuring out a content promotion workflow. For now, it’s important that you have some means of driving traffic to your content once it’s published.

    For more on content promotion plans and tactics, go read anything (or everything!) by Brian Dean. I’ve found this video and this guide to be especially insightful.

    And here’s a peek at the content distribution checklist used at Buffer:

    Step 20: Write the epilogue

    Sum up your content strategy by painting an awesome picture of what it will be like if you execute on it. You can put lots of interesting things here, including experiments you hope to learn from and awesome blogs your content might be featured on.

    But, of course, the most important thing to do is briefly wrap up your strategy by relating it to those business objectives you listed at the very beginning. =)

    Step 21: Write the executive summary

    You’ve done it.

    You have put together the epic content marketing strategy. You might be sitting on top of a 20-page document. Heck, if you’re working with a really big organization, it could be pushing 50 pages. You have just made yourself the ultimate expert on your content.

    Your boss or client is going to be totally floored by the amount of time and research and thought you just put into this.

    And they won’t have time to read it. =)

    That’s why you’ll want to circle back around and add an executive summary to the beginning of your content strategy. Think of it as a TL;DR that answers four basic questions:

    1. What are you aiming to accomplish?
    2. What’s the state of content right now?
    3. What needs to change?
    4. How will you make it happen?

    Ka-BAM!

    You’re done. =D


    7 Steps to Get Influencers to Share Your Content

    Barbara Spagnola - Monday, March 21, 2016

    by Aaron Agius
    Search, Content and Social Marketer

    Influencer marketing is one of the hottest strategies today, which means there are plenty of marketers out there wanting to build mutually beneficial relationships.

     

    You’ve already researched and identified your influencers (if not, read this). Now, here are seven steps to get them to share.

    Related: How to Get 1,000 Visitors to Your Next Blog Post Using an Influencer Group Post

    1. Share their content.

    Sharing your influencer’s content is an easy way to get them to notice you. Determine what platforms they’re most active on, and focus your efforts there. You can check up on their social pages or use a social-media management tool to create a list of your influencers. That will make it easy to view and retweet their content.

    Add a personal touch to your sharing by creating a modified tweet that says something positive about the piece. You can also tag them in the tweet to increase the chances that they’ll see it.

    2. Comment on their blog.

    Engaging with your influencer on their blog is a great way to connect with them further -- especially if they actively respond to comments. Say something insightful about the post that might inspire others to engage as well.

    Make sure you use your real name, so the influencer can recognize who you are, but don’t say anything that can be perceived as self-serving.

    3. Offer to contribute to their blog

    If the influencer hasn’t noticed you yet, they will if you contact them aboutwriting a guest post. Check their website to see if they have posted guest submission guidelines, and follow them to a T. If they don’t have any guidelines listed, then reach out to them with an email requesting to contribute.

    Be sure to include:

    • Who you are and what you do

    • A detailed synopsis of what you’d like to write

    • An explanation of how their audience could benefit from the piece

    4. Write Amazing Content.
    Engaging with your influencer and landing a guest post are helpful steps to building a relationship with your influencer. Now you can see if they’re interested in sharing your content. I’ve always stressed the point that quality trumps quantity -- and it couldn’t be more true when you’re trying to create content that influencers will share.  

    Research by Moz and Buzzsumo found that the Internet has a dearth of quality content, which is why when it does appear, it’s bound to get more engagement:

    Your article should be relevant to both of your niches and be well-researched, accurate and engaging. Influencers won’t be interested in sharing rewrites of other people’s work, so be original, and offer a new perspective that will get people talking.

    5. Consider mentioning them.

    One easy way to get an influencer’s attention with your content is by somehow featuring them in it -- especially if you didn’t manage a guest post with them before. It can be something as simple as curating a quote or highlighting positive attributes of the influencer or their brand. If it’s a high-quality, helpful endorsement, they’ll love to share it.

    Mentioning an influencer in your article is a great strategy -- especially for new relationships. However, you can still find success with just quality, targeted content.

    6: Tell them about it.

    The blogosphere and social media are crowded arenas. Even if an influencer is interested in your content, there’s no guarantee they’ll manage to find and read it on their own. It’s your job to make sure they do. If you featured them in your post, it’s totally acceptable to send them a quick email about it.

    Otherwise, I definitely recommend tagging them when you share the post on Twitter. Just be sure that the post you’re tagging them in is genuinely relevant to them and their audience -- otherwise it will seem like you’re fishing for shares.

    7. Ask them to share.

    There are only so many ways to encourage someone to share your contentindirectly. If you wrote great content, built a relationship with the influencer and consistently shared their content, there’s no reason they wouldn’t be willing to share yours -- unless they’re not interested in collaborating with you at all.

    If that’s the case, it’s best to move on to targeting someone more aligned with your interests. If you send them an email telling them about the post, you can include a short comment at the end asking them to share if they think their audience would enjoy it. The worst thing that could happen is that they say "No," and you take your efforts to the next influencer.



    The 4 Rs of Content Management

    Barbara Spagnola - Monday, March 21, 2016

    by Robert Bly
    Author, Copywriter, and Marketing Consultant

    In The Marketing Plan Handbook, author Robert W. Bly explains how you can develop big-picture marketing plans for pennies on the dollar with his 12-step marketing plan. In this edited excerpt, Bly offers four quick tips for easily managing your marketing content.  

    Managing your marketing content so it remains relevant to your needs and those of your customers is essential for maintaining successful engagement and, ultimately, future sales. As part of your content distribution cal­endar, always review your content before posting it, even if it worked well before. Develop a strategy for the four Rs of management that follows.

    1. Refresh.

    When you pull out content that you posted last year for another posting, read it through carefully and make sure that each compo­nent is still relevant and up to date. For example, you might have posted last year that ABC Media was the best place for finding royalty-free photographs. If you don't use ABC Media yourself, then go to the website first and make sure they're still in business and offering royalty-free photographs.

    There's nothing worse than sending your customers to a website that has changed its practices or no longer exists. If it's out of business, then do some quick research for other websites that offer royalty-free photographs. In fact, you might want to add in a couple of similar sites, not just one.

    2. Recycle.

    Recycling your marketing content refers to using sections from other content pieces, such as blogs or ebooks, and then expanding that message a little more to develop your new message. You can also use content sent out in your blog a year ago, particularly if you use a link to one of your reports, products, or services, and just change some of the text around, while still keeping the link.

    If you showed your customers how to do a process in one of your ebooks, take that information and turn it around into a visual presentation as a video or series of photographs. It's the same information that was written in the book. Alternatively, if you had a webinar on how to start a crafts business, turn all that information into an ebook and sell it. Better yet, provide both as a complete package.

    3. Retire.

    Some content will become outdated over time as technology and pro­cesses change, which happens almost on a daily basis. What was once a unique process of gathering customer information several years ago through email strategies may no longer be relevant if you're using an outside vendor who can do it far better than your long, drawn-out process, mainly because it's what the vendor does, professionally and efficiently. Many customers will be more interested in who you use to take care of that side of your distribution and information col­lection. Therefore, that content piece should be retired.

    4. Replace.

    As noted in the previous section, you'll need to retire content from time to time when it's no longer relevant or if it's out of date. It's important, however, to replace it with a new content piece, such as a list of the best companies to use for taking care of your email list. Show the importance of best practices in gath­ering customer information, handling subscriptions and deletions, and also maintaining your content distribution schedule. Provide pertinent criteria on how to choose the best vendor.

    Every content piece has value, and while you may need to replace an old blog post, for example, you can update it with fresh, new information, even while keeping in a link that is still good and, most likely, has search engine optimization (SEO) attached to it. When you get ready to repost the updated version, use an editor’s note at the top under the title, or at the bottom, indicating when the post was first published and noting that it's been updated for new information.