Content marketing is more than just writing text. You must know how to measure your work, code your content, market your own author profile, and much more. If learning (and doing) all of it seems overwhelming, think of it as a giant meal – eat one bite at a time. Today you’ll get 10 little bites of content marketing and SEO, all starting with the letter A. Bon appetit!
Preparing your basics
Getting started with content marketing and SEO is like building a house: get your foundation right and understand how things work, so you can see when something is going wrong or needs fixing.
Analytics – measure your work
The only way to know what’s worth spending your time on is to measure the result. If numbers and analysis scares you, don’t worry – it can be done with minimal effort.
The most important thing is to start collecting the data of your website traffic. If you do nothing else, at least make sure you have installed a good tracking tool on your site! That way, when you’re ready to refine and improve your content and website, you will have a lot of information to help you go in the right direction.
A free (and very powerful) tool for tracking your website traffic and goals is Google Analytics. Among many other things, you will be able to understand:
- where your visitors comes from
- what your visitors do on your site
- if your visitors convert, i.e. if they do what you want them to do
- what content and marketing channels are working really well
To get used to Google Analytics, here are a few very basic things you can look at first:
- The number of unique visitors. Compare to the previous month, to see if you’re improving.
- The source of your traffic. This will give you a good idea about how people are finding your content.
Important! The above stats are not what you should focus on, but are just examples of what you can look for before you’ve setup your conversion tracking. To understand what I mean by this, read “King of the metrics (and other stupid ideas)“.
In future blog posts we’ll look at how you set up goals in Google Analytics. We’ll also talk about using filters, which helps you to quickly see the stats you’re looking for.
Annotations – your website’s diary in Google Analytics
Annotations are little notes in Google Analytics mentioning what you’ve done on a certain date – posted a new blog post, tweeted something about your site, changed something on your server, etc. Using annotation in your Google Analytics account will really help you understand which SEO and marketing efforts has the best result (and which ones you should stop wasting your time and money on).
“Annotations allows any user with access to a Google Analytics profile to leave shared or private notes right on the over-time graph. … A simple note from a colleague can save hours of real work (and frustration) for an analyst who is tasked to explain a usually dry set of numbers.”
If you’ve never added an annotation, you’re not alone. Most of my clients had never added an annotation before we met. When analyzing their traffic, this meant we had no idea why certain traffic had increased, or why their conversion rate suddenly improved.
- Did they run a campaign somewhere?
- Was it some content published somewhere?
- An offline event maybe?
Hours wasted on something that should’ve taken seconds. Don’t make that mistake. Show your content editors how to add annotations in your Google Analytics account! To see how easy it is, and how to do it, watch this video by Google Analytics:
All together you will then be able to plan your content marketing based on facts – taking the guess work (almost completely) out of it.
Audit your content – what do you have and what do you need?
To figure out what content you have today, start with a content inventory. List all your website pages in an organized manner:
- topic / title
- category / tags
- length of text
When you know how many pages you have, the topic of them and how they are connected, you use the information for an audit of your content. Look at the facts from your content inventory and evaluate every item:
- Quality control: well-written, spelling, etc.
- Is it out-of-date? Should it be deleted or re-written?
- Who’s responsible for it?
- Is it relevant for your audience?
- Is it in line with your business goals?
- Is it in the right category, or should it be moved?
- Check Analytics for visitors, bounce rate, exits, etc – what converts best, and what’s useless?
- Does it have a good meta description and title?
- Can it be re-purposed into more content variations?
- Is the content very short or very long?
- Do you have content matching your internal search keywords?
- …the list can go on, so choose what’s important to you.
When doing a simple content audit, you should figure out what content can be deleted (remember to 301 redirect), and where there might be gaps you should fill with new content.
Once you’ve done a content inventory and audit, the next step is to look at your competitors to see what types of content they have (and that your site is missing). Use this as a first step for creating your own content marketing strategy (which we’ll talk more about when we get to the letter S in this content marketing series).
Automate – feed your content to your social networks
After you’ve published your new and awesome blog post…how do you let people know about it? You probably:
- go to your Facebook page and post the url
- log in to Twitter and send out a tweet with a link to your new content
- update your LinkedIn status with a little description
- and so on…
It’s manual work, time consuming, and unfortunately easy to forget that it has to be done.
Save yourself some time, and take advantage of the tools automating this for you. Just make sure you set it up properly, and use different styles of “update messages” on different social networks – short and sweet on Twitter, include a description on Facebook, etc.
My favorite tool is dlvr.it, and I’ll write more about it when we get to the letter D in this series about content marketing. Until we get there, go to dlvr.it and set up an account for yourself. Add your social networks and try it out for a while.
Coding your content
Don’t freak out! This part is for content editors, not for developers. If you are working with text and images online, you should read this part and learn the stuff. Ok?
ALT tag – describe your images
To help search engines understand what the images on your website are about, you use the alternative text tag (“ALT tag”) for every image in your article. This will also help your images to show up in Google Image search for relevant keywords.
This is very basic SEO practices, and every content editor should know how to use the alt tag. Grab a cup of coffee and read our mini-tutorial about how to use the alternative text tag to describe your images.
Anchor text – describe your links
Anchor text is the text in your article linking to another webpage. It’s usually blue and underlined, but depending on the style of your website it can look different.
Make sure your anchor text describes the content of the page you are linking to. It should make sense for both humans and search engines, so make it short, clear, accurate and keyword optimized:
Example of bad anchor text: “For more information about content marketing, click here.”
Example of good anchor text: “Read more about content marketing“
Creating the content
Who is creating your content, and who are they creating it for? There is much to think about here, more than you might expect, but lets start with the basics.
Audience – who are you writing for?
If you don’t know who you are writing for, how will you make sure your target market comes to your website and do what you want them to do?
Two things to look at:
- Who is visiting your site?
- Who should visit your site?
“But I can’t narrow down my audience, my service/product/stuff is for everybody”
No, it isn’t! Do yourself a favor, get your calendar and book an hour with yourself. You are going to make a description of the perfect person for your ‘stuff’. This is also called a persona, something we’ll write more about when we get to the letter P in this series.
When you know who you are creating content for you will be so much more confident when writing that blog post, or creating that video…and your audience (and most likely also your bank account) will thank you for the result.
To help you figure out who your ideal visitor/reader/customer is, here are some resources to help you:
- Case study in best practice: Defining your audience and their tasks (blog post to read and podcast to listen to)
- How to define your target audience
- Three Steps to Creating Audience Archetypes for Smarter Content Marketing
- Weekend Project: Research the Audience You Want … but Don’t Have (interesting approach, and quite funny reading)
Authors – who is writing your content?
Small business owner often write their own content, while bigger companies usually have a whole team of in-house staff or freelancers creating it.
Not all business owners are natural born authors, and finds the constant pressure of creating new content too time consuming. If that’s how you feel, you have a few options:
Delegate the content creation within your company
Let different people create different content. You might be surprised to find that someone in your team has an amazing ability to create just the content your audience wants and your business needs.
Before you publish any content, make sure you proof-read it and keep in mind that all your content should the same voice.
Hire someone from outside your company
Compare your website content to cooking: anybody can do it, but there is a big difference between someone putting “food on a plate” versus creating “such a delicious meal you want to eat it again, AND recommend it to all your friends”.
How do you think your website visitors feel about your website content..? (Hint: your analytics stats will tell you all about your returning visitors, bounce rate and conversions).
You might think you can’t afford to pay someone else to write those blog posts, newsletters or Facebook updates for you…but the real question is: can you afford not to? In this day and age of search engine optimization and clued-up customers your content should match the needs of your (current and potential) customers. Can you achieve this yourself, or should you start the conversation with someone that can help you?
“Don’t kid yourself. Great content takes great writers and a significant investment of time and money. Content marketing is about business and investing money as you reach out to customers with brilliant information…” Source: Content Marketing Essentials: Tactical Advice From A To Z
When you look around for freelance writers, you will see a huge range of rates for article writing. All I can say is you get what you pay for. Make sure your authors understand your business and your audience, and be very careful with duplicate content and automated article writing software – it will come back and bite you. Hard.
Author profile – who are you?
Unless you’re ghost blogging, you should always tell your audience who created the content they’re reading. An easy way to do this is by having an author bio under your blog post (like I have under this blog post).
In WordPress this is connected to your Profile, so log in to your WordPress admin and go to Users > Your Profile and add a description of yourself under Biographical Info.
An author profile isn’t only useful for building your personal brand with your current audience, but is also important as a click-through factor from search engine results. We will write more about this later in this series, so make sure you read about Google Plus and Rel=me/author when we get there.
Article length – how many words should you write?
My suggestion for written articles is to aim for 500 – 600 words. It’s about a page in Word, so it’s pretty easy to create even for beginners. It’s also a good amount of content for the Google spiders, so they’ll understand what your page is about.
That said, don’t make every article that length…and be creative when it comes to the type of content you create. Embedd videos in your blog posts, create quick tips based on your FAQs, and create longer tutorials and case studies. Remember, you are writing for your potential and current customers so make the content interesting for them.
We will talk more about this topic in another blog post, so let us know in the comments below what your favorite type of content is…and what type of content you really don’t like.