Updated: Jun 20, 2020
Are you looking to get started with content marketing for your business, but want to know more about what it entails, and if it’s really worth the investment?
This beginner’s guide to content marketing will tell you everything you need to know before you dive right in…
What is content marketing?
Considered a very ‘soft’ form of marketing, content marketing focuses on authentically communicating with your target audience and building trust with them over time, and is a way of marketing your business online without being overly ‘salesy’.
A successful content strategy tells your business's story in a way that attracts, engages and delights your audience through each stage of the buyer's journey.
But don’t be fooled—content marketing isn’t about sell, sell, sell.
Instead, it’s about providing useful, educational content for your ideal customers – finding out what they want and value, and giving it to them. Content marketing is more about giving than receiving.
Because you've got to give before you take. It’s a soft sell, in the most delicate and helpful of ways.
If done right, content marketing can tenfold your digital marketing efforts.
However—it only works when it’s authentic, consistent, helpful, and of great quality.
The more high-quality content you create in your area of expertise, the more trust and authority you build for your business, ultimately positioning yourself as a thought leader and expert in your field.
Not only is content marketing a great brand marketing tool, but it will also help your website to rank higher in search engines (SEO), which will attract more of your ideal customers to your website, and it can gently guide more of your ideal customers along your sales funnel. That means more leads and sales for your business!
Still on the fence about whether you should do content marketing?
Let's dive in a little deeper to find out more...
First up, let’s define ‘content’
Whenever I talk about content, I’m referring to online content specifically, which includes the information and creative elements found online. This is also commonly referred to as ‘digital content’.
Digital content can be created by anyone using the internet, and can include:
That means the selfie you posted on Instagram is content.
The adorable dog videos you watch are content.
Even the bad joke your dad posted on Facebook is… yup you guessed it. Content.
What are the different types of content marketing?
We’ve briefly touched on different types of digital content, but which content types are most commonly used for marketing purposes?
Well, that very much depends on what your business does, your industry, where your target audience spends most of their time online, and how they like to consume their content.
However, the most common types of content marketing methods include written/text, video/visual and recorded/sound content. Such as:
This could include writing a blog for your business, creating video content for your Youtube channel, or starting a podcast.
Some businesses (content marketing wizards) combine all three!
The content is then published/hosted on your website or another web platform (such as YouTube), and dispersed via social media, email marketing and paid advertising to get maximum reach.
Typically, a blog is the most cost-effective and SEO-friendly way to get started with content marketing, with video and podcasts growing rapidly.
To find out more about the incredible benefits of blogging for small businesses, read: 6 Reasons Why Your Small Business NEEDS a Blog.
How can businesses use content effectively for marketing?
In order for businesses to be effective at content marketing, they need to create great content.
Content should be created with the purpose of attracting and engaging your target audience. It should tell a story, entertain, educate, inspire, and provide VALUE for the consumer.
In a nutshell, content should attract your ideal customers, delight them, and engage them.
But the content should have a clear purpose behind it, and it should be highly relevant for your industry and business.
For example: if you own a hair salon and you’re posting videos of cats on your business social media channels, you’re going to look unprofessional and irrelevant.
Think about what your ideal customer would expect from you.
What would be interesting and useful to them in relation to your business and industry, and how you can use your expertise in your field to create incredible content that helps you build relationships with your audience, while making you stand out from your competitors?
In addition to this, you also need to consider what you want to achieve with the content.
What do you want your ideal customer to think, feel, or do as a result of watching your video or reading your blog post?
What would success look like?
Do you want to get more subscribers on YouTube, shares on social media, links to your blog, or to rank for a specific keyword in search engine results?
There are many ways to measure content success – but you need to be clear of what success would look like from the outset. This also helps you to be able to measure your efforts.
How to create content with purpose
All content on the internet was created by someone, and the majority has been created for a specific reason or purpose.
It’s not simply a matter of writing a blog post about a random topic that interests you, or posting an adorable picture of a cat. These are examples of content, of course, but what’s the purpose behind them?
Before you create content of any form for your business, you need to think about your intent behind it.
All content should be created with a clear purpose.
If you create content for the sake of creating content, you are setting yourself up for failure.
Here are some examples of content purposes:
To increase brand awareness and visibility.
To increase SEO rankings and organic web traffic from search engines.
To sell a particular product, promotion or offer.
To grow your email list.
To grow your YouTube subscriber list.
When creating content, whether you're writing a blog post, recording a video, or posting an image on Facebook, make sure you have a clear purpose for doing so.
How does content marketing help SEO?
Content marketing is not only great for reaching new potential customers and guiding them gently along the sales journey, it also goes hand-in-hand with helping your website rank highly in search engine results.
Search engines, like Google, reward websites that publish the best quality content that answers searchers queries and provides solutions to their problems.
If you create content that provides real value to consumers, addresses their pain points, answers their questions and is backed up by research from trusted sources, you will be rewarded by being shown in relevant search results for those queries.
Plus, every new blog post is one new indexed page on your website, which means one more opportunity to show in search engines! Who doesn’t want more visibility for their business?
is backed up by research from trusted sources, Read my beginner’s guide which covers what SEO is and how it works for small businesses. You can also find out how to optimise a blog post for SEO and download the printable checklist.
How long does it take for content marketing to work?
You’re probably wondering how long it takes to see results from content marketing. That very much depends on what your idea of success is. If success for a piece of content is measured by the amount of views or leads it gets, you will be able to see results in real time after promoting that piece of content.
If SEO is a key metric, you can expect to start seeing results in rankings and organic traffic after about six months or more. Read how long does it take to rank in Google for more information.
Content marketing is a long-term strategy that requires consistency. Your brand won't become famous overnight – it takes time to build your audience and authority. But once you get there, the results are well worth the time and effort.
Trust the process, enjoy the journey, and reap the fruits of your labour when the season hits!
Is content marketing worth the investment?
It takes time and resources to create high-quality content that’s effective. You need to be consistent in your content marketing efforts, and understand that it’s about building your brand and relationships with your ideal customers over time. So, let’s think carefully before we dive on in. You need to make sure you have sufficient time and resources to invest in consistently creating great content that your target audience will love.
If you're going to create mediocre content that doesn't blow your competitors' content out of the water, don't bother. Spend your time and energy on paid advertising instead.
Is content marketing a good investment if the content quality is high?
Let me put it this way…
We read, watch and listen to content constantly.
Every time you scroll Facebook. Every time you type a question into Google. Every time you open your web browser.
Content, content, content… it’s EVERYWHERE.
In fact, findings by the 2019 Adobe Consumer Content Survey have shown that, on average, people spend eight or more hours a day engaging with digital content!
Younger generations consume significantly more, so this is only going to increase with time.
If your business isn’t creating great content, you’re going to get left in the digital dust of other businesses in your industry that are.
Eventually, you’re going to lose out in the digital marathon. (Especially as online advertising costs soar).
So, the question shouldn’t be whether or not content marketing is worth your time.
Instead, the question you should be asking is:
What type of content should I be creating for my business and how do I get started?
How to get started with content marketing
If you want to start content marketing for your business, first, you need a plan. And not just any plan will do – you need a content marketing strategy.
Otherwise, you risk spending a lot of time on content creation and getting very little in return.
Ideally, you want to be creating evergreen educational content that is of great value to your potential customers and can remain useful and relevant for years to come. Seasonal, topical content is also important to include in your strategy.
To discover what kind of content to create, put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customers.
What are their pain points?
What do they want to know about?
What are they searching for?
What questions are they asking?
Create content that serves your customers, not yourself (or your boss).
Effective content is relevant and useful for your audience, not your company. It should use your audience's language, and be made for them. It should be used to help people, and not just to promote your products and services without offering value.
‘Soft sell’, remember?
Since creating a content marketing strategy is a big topic in itself, I will cover this process in more depth in another article—so watch this space! (and sign up to my mailing list).
Need help with content marketing?
I (Janelle from ContentQueen) am a certified content marketing specialist with more than seven years’ experience in the field. I specialise in creating high quality content that tells a brand’s story, is engaging, provides value for the reader, and simultaneously earns its top place in search engine results.
Let’s work together to create strategic content for your business that turns readers into loyal fans, driving more leads and sales without having to pay for advertising.
Get in touch to find out how I can help your business flourish online with content marketing.
Want to keep learning? Check out my Content Marketing and SEO Guides.