Start Content Marketing With Free and Low-Cost Tools
Content marketing is a lot of work, no question. Why not just blog when you can, update social media when you can, and hope for the best? If you’re thinking content marketing and blogging are basically the same thing – you’ve probably seen disappointing results.
The big difference between content marketing and blogging that content marketing ties your actions to your business goals. Blogging often becomes posting ‘when you can.’ This is a recipe for frustration, because:
- Once you do grab a minute to write or post to social media, it’s hard to know where best to focus
- It’s nearly impossible to coordinate haphazard action to serve the goals you want to achieve
- It’s hard to tell if you’re getting the desired results
A simple, entry-level content marketing action plan helps you
- Choose a realistic, achievable business goal
- Know the hot topics and up-trending interests in your business area
- Streamline your production of social media posts each month
- Have a process for regularly writing articles each month (or having them written)
- Align your social media activity and blogging with your goals
- See and measure the results
Here is a brief content marketing action plan – 7 steps using free and low-cost resources to get you started doing effective content marketing. Make progress you can measure with a process you can sustain.
Simple Content Marketing Plan: Overview
The first step is to choose a goal. Content marketing is a plan to serve a business goal by meeting a need in your market. Define a goal so it’s something you can measure.
Next we find ways to discover the hot topics people care about relative to the work you do. These topics will guide your topic choices for the content and social media activity you’ll do. Then we add a call to action that ties the interesting content to your goal.
Finally, we’ll track the activity and results so you can see what difference it’s making.
A Simple Content Marketing Plan in 7 Steps
Step 1) Choose content-marketing business goal:
Content marketing uses coordinated actions for building awareness (rather than sales). For a simple, appropriate goal, pick from one of the following:
- Get more website traffic (from real people, not robots) – say, 10% more
- Get more social media followers – e.g., 10% more
- Get more email subscribers – e.g., grow 3% per month
How do you know if your goal is a fitting one for content marketing? I recommend the Content Marketing Manifesto by Rand Fishkin of SEO Moz. This slideshow is a quick way to see why having a content creation plan is important to your marketing and your business. It also explains what content marketing should do – and what is — and is not — suited for.
The short answer: Content marketing doesn’t make sales directly – (landing pages do that). Content marketing builds trust, makes you familiar and likeable – all valuable to form a business relationship.
Step 2) Find current up-trending topics in your area:
Sum up your main business area in a short phrase. (If you have more than one focus, pick one for now.) Here’s one process. Go to Google Trends and type in your word and select your country or service area.
If you see a line going up – good! Interest is increasing for that term. If interest is low or you can find no data, look for another short phrase. If you see “Not enough search volume to show graphs,” come up with a shorter phrase, or ask someone to tell you in two words what you do. Try that phrase.
To see how people searching Google explore your topic, look toward the bottom for the heading “related searches” In particular, look for the “rising” terms (click the Rising sort button).
List the top 3 to 5 terms on a worksheet or document for yourself.
Step 3) Create some headlines or post titles — that you like — for 10 posts:
Take the terms from Step 2 and transform them into a list of potential article titles.
It’s okay to have fun with this — using a wizard or automated tool for inspiration.
Some hot title creation tools to try:
- The Blog About title generator wizard
- Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator
- Inboundnow Blog Title Idea Generator
Step 4) Set a realistic schedule and commit resources to create your content:
Let’s face it — creating content is the hard part for many people. Set yourself a schedule and come up with a production plan. This means doing more than “writing as time permits.” It means creating an editorial calendar.
Free 2016 Blog Editorial Calendar Template: To download and use the same editorial calendar template I created and use, click here.
Experts will tell you that the more blog posts per month, the better your traffic. If weekly posting is too daunting, commit to one every other week. Commit to some schedule and dedicate the resources you need – even if you have to pay for writing help.
Choose your writing resource and map it to your calendar. For instance, if you are the writing resource, and you have 2 weeks between post dates, draft the article during the first wee. If this doesn’t happen, try finding someone else who can draft it. One option is to use a service at the start of week 2 to delegate the writing project, and get it done.
The most important part of this step is to hold yourself accountable to getting a post done in your timeframe. Content creation is what moves you toward your goals.
Yes, it’s serious work, but it can still be fun. Just write naturally and for added value, consider listing your resources at the end. Aim for 300-500 words. Don’t worry about SEO or keywords for now.
Places to get articles drafted at entry-level pricing:
- Writer’s Access
- iWriter (helpful tips to get started with this resource here)
Tip- you may prefer to edit rather than write. Review and change what you get back to ensure clear focus on your message and to say what know connects well with your audience.
Tips for writing blog articles yourself:
Create an outline. Here is one example:
1) What is the positive result people want?
2) What gets in the way? State the problem – empathize with how it feels.
3) What do you suggest to solve the problem?
- Make a clear thesis statement: What is your main point?
- What first step eases the problem?
- What other steps address it and why?
- Sum up some tips to address the problem in a bullet list
Good, brief guides to writing quickly and well (to adapt to your business):
From Grammarly: 7 Tips for Formulating the Perfect Five-Paragraph Essay
From Enchanted Marketing: No Time to Write? These 4 Routines Cut My Writing Time By 50%
A tip for writing without writing:
You can dictate your post by speaking your thoughts, and having them converted to text. I use the “speech to text” feature of Microsoft Word. I’ve also used the transcribing service at Spechpad.com. Get your transcript however you like, then edit away.
Post your article to your website with a featured image – I use WordPress to post and manage my content online. Pixabay is my go-to resource for quality royalty-free images. Depending on your publishing software (and how it tags your images) the graphic that you add can automatically get picked up on social media to help catch attention as your post is shared on the web.
Step 5) Include a call to action to serve the business goal from Step #1:
Clearly state what you want people to do before they leave your post. Even if you think it’s obvious, asking for what you want makes a huge difference in whether or not you get it.
If you want people to sign up for your email list, ask them to do it, and make it easy to comply. If you want more visibility on social media, ask readers to share your post. If you want them to look at a landing page or view more content, give a link and a good reason why – from their point of view.
Important: Put your call to action near the link or button that presents the desired next click. The call to action is your goal in Step #1. For best results, show how the action is in the reader’s best interest to do it.
For example, if you want shares, your call to action can urge people to
“Share this and let your friends see what you’re up to”.
To request subscribers, you could ask:
“Want great content marketing results with less work? Get our newest and best ideas in your inbox for instant access.”
To get traffic to an offer page or e-store, you can say:
“If your goal for the new year is more traffic, engaged fans and prospects, check out our 2016 content marketing action plan.”
Make sure your signup form is easy to see or click to from that call to action!
Step 6) Actively and systematically promote your content and other’s too:
This means, share about your topic on your own social media accounts and in groups where others learn about your field of work.
It’s critical to automate this process. Going to three, four or more sites each day to post updates manually is a giant waste of time. And it’s not sustainable! Write batches of 10, then schedule them using an automation tool — HootSuite is one that can get you started even at the free level. They even have a helpful library of free tutorials at the HootSuite Podium.
How to come up with 10 social media posts in one sitting
To craft good posts efficiently – here’s a process. Find 10 pieces of content – by other people – about your favorite topic or recent concern. If they’re popular, that’s good – it means people find them useful. Choose the ones you like best. Draft 10 updates to share them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus.
For content, consider infographics, slideshows, articles or videos.
Among your 10 posts, also draft some about your own post on social media – take some quick excerpts about what people can find from your post, and share the link to it. Promote your post once for every 2-3 tips from others you share.
To join existing conversations – Find one or two LinkedIn groups that are on your topic of interest and check there weekly. If you can find someone who is asking a genuine question – chime in.
Step 7) Once a week, check how it’s all going:
Use a chart like this to help you keep track of your progress (what’s in your chart will depend on your goals)
Example Content Marketing Progress Chart
|Week ending…||# Articles posted||# Social updates posted||# web visitors this week||# shares in Facebook||# views in LinkedIn||# new email subscribers|
Now you’ve got a process that
- Focuses you on a realistic, achievable business goal
- Helps you identify the hot topics and rising interest trends in your business area
- Provides steps to produce 10 social media posts a month
- Shows how to write 2 articles a month (or get them written)
- Helps you streamline your social media activity
- Promotes your client’s goals and your business goals with calls to action
- Shows you the results
This basic action plan can get you started. But it’s important to remember, as Neil Patel says, “Content marketing takes time. Don’t expect results in a matter of a few weeks or even a few months…Give your content time to gain traction and deliver organic results.”
Content marketing is the new marketing, and if you need a way to get started, or get yourself out of a slump, this basic 7 steps can help you get a fresh start.
And maybe, even have a little fun talking more about what you do…