How to Generate Content for Inbound Marketing

Content for Inbound MarketingYesterday, I attended Neil Patel’s webinar – How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy That Won’t Put You to Sleep.

For those of you who don’t know Neil, he’s a co-founder of KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg, and one of the most respected and visible internet marketers out there.

KISSmetrics is a powerful analytics tool that we plan on deploying in the near future. We’ve been a Crazy Egg customer since 2007 – it’s a wonderful heat-mapping tool that displays how users are interacting with our webpages.

Generating Content Ideas

The focus of the webinar was on content. Inbound marketing starts with great content. It’s how you connect with audiences, make an impression, obtain traffic and build links. Marketing automation tools like Marketo and HubSpot play an important role in inbound marketing, but they’re not very effective if you’re not consistently creating content.

If you’re just starting your inbound program, Neil suggests the following:

  • Always start with a blog – it’s the core of any inbound content program
  • Tie your email list into your blog (Neil uses aWeber) to build your subscriber list
  • Create content that teaches
  • Promote your content
  • Stick to a regular schedule

For most busy marketers at small to mid-size companies, the hardest part is that last point – sticking to a regular schedule to generate content. It’s not easy to consistently generate content that’s high-quality. You know the feeling … your next article is due tomorrow morning and you’ve hit the wall – writer’s block.

To avoid this last-minute panic, take a more proactive approach by establishing a content generation process that you and your team can follow.

A 5-Step Process to Consistently Generate Content for Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing isn’t a single event – it’s a continuous process.

Taking the time to set up your procedures to generate content will help you avoid burnout, by keeping your idea pipeline filled and giving yourself enough time for writing, design and promotion. Think like a publisher, instead of an article writer.

Here’s a 5-step approach that we use:

1.  Create a content schedule. Hold a brainstorming session to outline topics for a given timeframe. For example, if you’re going to post 2 articles per week for an entire year (52 weeks, minus 2 weeks for holidays), list 100 topics. Just record a one-sentence description of the topic. You can build it out later.

When brainstorming, I like to think about:

    • Topics that are currently hot in my market
    • Marketing tasks/challenges that we’re tackling now
    • Client programs we’re developing
    • Tried and true activities that new marketers must learn
    • How to improve on something that most of us already do

Neil suggests that you research your competitors’ blogs and social shares and track the results in Excel to see what people are writing about and reading. This gives you an idea of what’s out there.

After you’ve completed your topic list, sequence the topics, placing 2 topics per week on the calendar for the 50 work weeks in the year.

When opportunities arise for new, timely content, add it to the calendar, pushing back other less time-sensitive topics.

2.  Create an article outline. For the topics due next month, I create a bulleted list of the points I want to convey in the article. This outlines the flow of the article, which is tremendously helpful when it’s time to write. It also allows other writers to step in and write if needed.

3.  Determine how to distribute the content. Before I start writing, I like to think about how to best leverage the content. How many different ways can I share an idea? A blog article is a given, but can I:

    • Create a compelling infographic for distribution on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Flickr?
    • Create presentation deck for Slideshare, Scribd and LinkedIn?
    • Create a video format for YouTube, Facebook and Vimeo?

It’s also helpful to create content at least a week ahead of when it’s scheduled to go live, to give you and your team enough time to produce quality content and optimize your distribution.

4.  Promote each piece of content. To get the word out, Neil suggests that you compile a list of top bloggers and influential social media experts in your space and message them directly, asking them to retweet your content or to share it with their readers.

If you need assistance compiling a list, hire an inexpensive project-based consultant on oDesk or Elance.

5.  Optimize around high-performing content and writers. Track conversion metrics for your content (and make sure to optimize each around a keyword or phrase.) Use cohort analysis (measuring engagement of content over time) to show what content or writers are generating the best results.

Generating ROI from inbound marketing takes time, effort and discipline. This process should help.

To quote Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz:

There’s no black magic in internet marketing.

More of Neil’s Content Marketing Strategy Tips

There were a ton of great tips in the webinar, but if you don’t have an extra hour to view the recorded session, here are some more highlights:

  • You must engage people with your inbound marketing activities. Go where they are, and start a conversation. Content is a natural way to start this, but it also requires plenty of human interaction.
  • Stay consistent with the frequency your posts! Neil mentioned that he once skipped a post, and it took him months to recover to previous traffic levels.
  • Strive to build trust via your content, conversations and interactions.
  • Focus on metrics that relate to paying customers, not vanity metrics.
  • Test what’s important.
  • Testing different color CTA buttons is lazy! Instead, test different CTAs that fit the flow of your website.
  • Ask your readers whether they liked the content. Ask them what they’d like you to write about.
  • When reaching out to others to promote your content, use a simple intro like “Hey, I love your content – check out my new _____ that I think your readers will love.”
  • If you don’t have the time to write blog posts yourself, a consultant will charge anywhere between $10 per post to $200 per post.
  • Neil feels that the future of content marketing is in higher-quality content that is promoted by influential people. Google is already starting to weigh social links, shares and rel=author tagged content.

Good luck!

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