By Julia McCoy
My goal was to be the proof of my pudding and sell my business's brand using only content. For a content creation agency like mine, there couldn't have been a better strategy.
I focused exclusively on content for two years, not paying for a single ad during that time. By the end of the second year, I'd published 215 blogs, which brought in 500 visitors a day and an income of $29,000 a month.
But excitement soon turned to exhaustion. I realized I was doing too much without reaping the success I dreamed of. I was writing night and day, publishing blogs I wasn't proud of, and continually racking my brains for new topics my audience could relate to.
What was I doing wrong? Why wasn't my business skyrocketing through my exhaustive blogging efforts? Why had I hit a ceiling?
After several setbacks, I decided to pull back and rethink my content marketing. I spent time regrouping and rebuilding, convinced I didn't want to resort to going back to paid advertising.
What I came up with was a formula for growing my brand through blogging: a content strategy.
Once I'd implemented my content strategy, I began to see exciting results. We hit $71,000 a month in income. The number of keywords we ranked for on Google doubled. Our inbound leads were highly qualified and ready to buy our products.
Here's what I've learned from my nine years doing content marketing: you can grow your business through blogging, but only if you have a solid content strategy to back you up. Here are five steps to building your own.
1. Define your audience members, and learn how to turn them into customers.
You can whip up content that's sophisticated and well-polished, but it won't gain attention if it's not what people are looking for. For example, if your audience wants to learn how to make goat cheese at home, they won't read your beautiful, in-depth blog about the history of goat cheese.
To make sure you're not wasting hours creating content no one will read, find the sweet spot between your expertise and the topics your audience wants to read about. Let's say you're a pastry chef and your audience wants to learn how to bake. To gain their attention, add recipes and baking tips to your blog.
The next step is to turn your audience into customers. Set up your website with clear pathways to your product. A capable customer services team on stand-by converts hot leads into customers like magic.
2. Use the right SEO keywords and framework to pull in that audience.
There are now six billion searches per day on Google. Ranking highly in search results is a powerful way to put your brand in front of an audience.
To create search-engine-optimized content, begin with root keywords. Find ideas for these in your products or services. For instance, if you sell pastries, use keywords like "chocolate cake," "recipes," and "bread."
The next step is to generate long-tail keywords from your root keywords. Long-tail keywords
usually term three or more words long, are good to focus on because they have less competition to rank and because people searching for these terms are more likely to be making a purchase. Someone searching for a "small black prom dress" has higher buying intent than a person searching for a "dress" only.
Find long-tail keywords by using a keyword research tool. Sophisticated keyword research tools give you valuable information about keywords such as how competitive they are, search volumes, and which sites are currently ranking for them.
3. Focus on your website and build authority through long-form blog content.
If you're new to blogging, where should you publish most of your content? On Facebook, which has 2.6 billion monthly active users? On other sites' blogs that have established followings?
Sadly, many new bloggers focus all their energies on social media and guest blogging. While these platforms are excellent, they shouldn't be where you establish the foundation of your content "house." Post to a platform you're fully in control of — one you can grow steadily over time without worrying about disruptions.
Consider what happened when the Huffington Post discontinued its guest blogging platform. On the day of the announcement, many bloggers (myself included) realized they were losing access to years of hard work and creativity. If you build your content house on someone else's platform, there's no certainty you'll always have full control of it.
Focus on posting on your website to build brand authority. Spend most of your time publishing your best pieces there.
Tips for building your content house with authoritative content:
Never go light. Deep dive into topics and bolster what you write with actionable advice, stats, and research
Write longer blog posts. While 500-word posts are great for lighthearted, fun pieces, authoritative content should be at least 1,500 words in length. Go for 3,000 or more words for in-depth guides
4. Create content strategically and constantly.
Content creation shouldn't be left to just when the muse strikes. Instead, it should be strategic, consistent, and well-planned. Block time in your schedule for content creation, specifically. Make an editorial calendar with topics lined up to specific publishing dates. (When I plan content, I fill my editorial calendar with topics for the next three-to-six months.)
5. Maintain and promote your content. Just like a house, content needs maintenance over time. I review my existing content at least once a year. I update old stats, fix formatting, and add new stories and facts where applicable. Promote the content you create. Tell people it's out there. Share it on social. Send emails to your list. Content marketing should be 20 percent creation and 80 percent promotion. When you have unique, valuable content and you share it on the channels your audience uses, it won't be long before your content marketing successes snowball.
Entrepreneur Editors' Picks