An Introduction to the 3 Pillars Of Content Marketing
Content/Inbound Marketing is such a huge topic. It’s really common for small businesses to get excited by the concept – but feel overwhelmed when it comes time to implement. There’s a lot to learn.
Our ultimate goal is to create software that requires no training. Until we get there – there is some stuff you need to learn. But the good news is that Spokal takes care of a lot of the nitty gritty details. Leaving you to focus on the more creative and interesting things that computers can’t (yet) do so well.
The second piece of good news is that we’ve been doing this long enough to formulate what we think is the simplest way to break it down into easy-to-understand concepts.
Welcome to Spokal’s 3 Pillars Of Content Marketing™.
In this image, you can see discovery on the left hand side, your website in the middle, and lead nurturing on the right (with sales as a bonus on the far right!)
These are the 3 core, or fundamental principles to inbound/content marketing. We really focus on these 3 because they’re fundamental. That is – they work, and they work increasingly well over time – no matter how many google updates there are – each update rewards this kind of marketing and penalizes those who go after the cheap wins.
Those pillars are:
- Your website (content, useability, SEO)
- Discovery (SEO, Search, Social, Outreach, Paid Advertising)
- Lead Nurturing
All 3 work together to turn complete strangers, people who had never heard of you or your business before, into customers. That process, for them, usually looks a little something like this:
You can view discovery as the awareness part. That’s where you become a tiny little blip on their radar – they see you in a search result, or on social, or on another website. Without discovery – the rest of the funnel doesn’t matter. You can have the highest converting website and lead nurturing funnel in the world – but if no one sees it or goes through it – it’s useless.
From there they usually land somewhere on your website – likely a blog post, maybe a landing page, occassionaly your home page. Your website is mainly responsible for the consideration phase, and part of the preference stage.
Lead Nurturing takes over (and overlaps) with the website on the preference stage and moves the prospect into the purchase stage.
Is it always so clear cut? Nope.
Some people will just love you right away – and move right through to purchase without ever hopping into your lead nurturing funnel. But that’s only going to be a very few people. Some will like you, but not be ready to buy for a myriad of reasons, forget about you, then search you out 6 months later when they need what you have but ‘can’t quite remember what you were called’ – going way back to discovery – but now looking specifically for you. You can’t plan for or account for those. But you can increase conversions at every step along the funnel – and increase the number of people going through the funnel, so in the end – you wind up with more sales.
And that’s why you’re here, right?
Pillar 1: Your Website
Your website is your home.
It’s the piece of the big, wild internet you can call your own. It’s where you have completely control over the content, the Calls To Action (CTAs), offers – everything. It’s also where all your search traffic (from Google) is going to land, and where you want most of your social traffic to land as well.
So, yeah. It’s important.
There are 3 main parts to your website that need to be considered:
- Content: the stuff you write, or videos or podcasts you make. Anything that can be consumed by potential customers. Content is the backbone of any content marketing strategy (hence the name!) It plays a few roles, but the most important one is that it should solve a problem. It should explain something, teach something, entertain, or otherwise engage people. Ideally, the kind of people who may at some point become your customers. It’s also important for discovery – for people finding you via search, and for social shares – people are far more likely to retweet and share content that’s good than content that’s bad.
- On-Page SEO: this is the technical stuff. Like keyword density, OpenGraph tags, Twitter Card tags, meta descriptions, headers, cross-page linking. The good news is – all this stuff would normally take quite a while to learn – but with Spokal you don’t have to learn any of it. We do it all for you. How’s that for sweet 🙂
- User Experience. This is things like site layout, the speed of your site, and whether or not your site is responsive (can be read nicely on mobile phones).
The good news is that we take a lot of those off your plate and do them for you automatically.
Like keyword analysis and recommendations while you’re writing all your blog posts, automatic Twitter Card and Open Graph tags for easy and professional-looking social sharing. Consistent blog formatting using our editor and pre-defined styles so all posts look consistent – even if you change themes, or have more than one author.
The things we can’t? Making sure your website is responsive. If your theme isn’t responsive – you may want to consider changing to a theme that is. A lot of discovery happens on phones, and if they click through to your site and can’t read it without doing some pinch and zoom gymnastics – they’ll leave. Your site needs to display well on phones.
The speed of your website. This matters – for SEO rankings, but also for user’s experience on your website. If your site is slow – people will click off before they even get to your site. These lost opportunities will be hard to track because your web analytics won’t even load if they’ve clicked off soon enough. Make sure your site is fast. If it’s not – consider a managed WordPress host like Flywheel. They’ll not only speed you up – but manage just about everything else technical about your site too, like telling you if you’re running any super-slow plugins, and protect you from hacker attempts.
And finally – the content of your site. We wish we could write a program that could tap into your mind and lay out all your thoughts and opinions on your blog. Okay, maybe not all!
Until we figure out how to plug into your brain – creating content is up to you! Content, in most cases blogging, is the heart of marketing yourself online.
Think of it as the place where you tell the world about who you are, what you do and what’s happening in your industry. It’s the key to getting found in Google, to getting shared on social media, and to have potential customers begin to self-qualify themselves and become prospects.
The best part about blogging is that, unlike other marketing or advertising channels that stop attracting customers when you stop paying for them, blogging is like a tap that never gets shut off! It’s a long-term growth strategy that will continue to attract clients for years to come.
The good news is that our drag and drop editor has been designed to make creating content as fast and easy as possible – with drag and drop Flickr images with automatic attribution and real-time SEO analysis, integrated social sharing and blog title A/B testing – our customers tell us it saves them up to 40% of their time compared to their old processes in WordPress.
You can start blogging right away by connecting your WordPress site and then clicking the blue pencil from the left-hand menu. You can also blog about keywords once you’ve done some keyword research, which is the topic of the next chapter.
Pillar 1: Stuck On Ideas To Blog About?
I was when I started blogging.
Even though I could chat with someone about my business all day long, I found it hard to make the transition online.
I didn’t know what to say.
And more importantly, I didn’t want to say anything that would haunt me down the road.
I think you’ll get over “not having anything” to say pretty fast, that’s where Spokal gives you a boost.
Check out this article on Your First 5 Blog Posts As A Small Business Owner. It gives you practical ideas to write about, so you can get more comfortable blogging about your business.
Another place to go to get inspiration (and a great headline!) is Portent’s Headline Generator. Just enter your keyword into it, and click the button until you get something that makes you smile. You can access it from right within the Spokal editor.
Also, check out Sarah’s blog post on how she came up with 100 ideas in 30 minutes.
As for the second concern, that’s tough. Blogs are a great way to generate customers because people can find posts years after you write them. This also means what you say will last.
Here’s the solution – be yourself. If you’re honest about your thoughts and opinions, you’re more likely to attract customers who believe in your approach, and those customers are more likely to be loyal to your business.
If you’re hesitant to take a stand in a blog post, one practical way to strengthen what you say is to include a few data points or research that supports your thinking, so your post is more concrete.
Plus, it’s okay to change your mind about something – you won’t be the first one. So go ahead, say something, back it up with a fact or two, and you’ll be set.
Pillar 2: Discovery. A brief introduction.
Discovery is all about making people aware that you exist. How do they find you?
There are a few ways when it comes to content marketing:
- Search. This one is huge, and an entire industry, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has sprung up that promises to increase rankings and traffic from search.
- Social Media. Another giant, and with the potential to spread quickly and provide both short-term boosts and long-term traffic. (I’ll explain how)
- Website referrals. When another website links to yours, and someone reads that other website – they become aware of you. And some of them will click on that link and visit your site.
- Paid Advertising. This isn’t really what I’d consider part of content marketing – but it can be used to supplement your content marketing efforts, or to test specific offers. We won’t dig into paid advertising in this course.
Spokal helps directly with the first 2 – and can radically improve your results in both of those areas. It helps indirectly (and in some ways I suppose directly) with website referrals. It doesn’t help with paid advertising.
Pillar 2: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Getting ranked in Google is really important. But it’s also usually really slow.
If you’re currently getting 20 visitors a month to your site (and 10 of those are your friends and family), then expecting to get thousands in the next 30 days through SEO is not very likely.
It is possible to do that in 6-9 months.
If that sounds like it’s too long, don’t worry, search engines aren’t the only source of traffic available. We’ll show you how to get traffic from other sources in the meantime while pursuing the long-term advantage of being highly ranked in Google.
Optimizing for SEO is a long-term strategy.
Like rolling a snowball, or a train starting to gather speed – everything you do here compounds over time. And once it’s built up – will continue to drive traffic for years to come.
You can also look at it like going to the gym.
If you go to the gym once and expect to have that perfect beach-ready body, well, you’re probably going to be disappointed. But if you keep going to the gym, it’s pretty much inevitable. And if, once you’ve reached a physical state of perfection you stop going to the gym, you don’t automatically gain 20 lbs. You still enjoy the benefits of all the hard work you put in. Sure, slowly it will deteriorate, but you’ll still be looking good for quite some time, and you’ll never fully lose the muscles you gained. SEO is exactly the same.
Before I really get into SEO, know this: You don’t need to understand this now.
Spokal makes much of this process pretty automatic so long as you do a little keyword research and pick the best keywords (green and yellow, not red), then follow the SEO guidelines when you’re writing. The MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do is write content that your customers and potential customers will want to read (and even better, share with their colleagues or friends).
You can stop reading now.
Still here? Want more details? Read on.
Spokal Helps With SEO through:
Keyword Research Tools to get you pointed in the right direction. Know what you’re trying to rank for. Pick the words with the best ratio of number of searches vs difficulty. Blog about keywords that are scored green or yellow. Avoid those scored red. Find your way in. We’ll help you find keywords, and then rank them from best to worst. Check out this video to get started with keyword research. (10 minutes)
SEO analysis: real-time advice and guidelines as you type. You don’t need to learn all the ‘rules’. It’ll just tell you. Maximize everything you write for high Google placement without having to take a degree in Google ranking algorithms. Just start using the editor to see how this works.
Analytics: Not too long ago the SEO consultant world was in an uproar. Google changed the game and stopped giving keyword data to websites. (Google ‘keyword not provided’ if you’re interested in the debate.) These consultants felt like they had no way to track their performance anymore. Spokal has a way to track keyword performance even in a ‘keyword not provided’ world, so you can do more of what’s working, and less of what’s not. Progress is inevitable.
We’ll also show you where you’re ranking for each keyword, in both google.com and one other country of your choice.
Social Tie-In There’s a lot of overlap in the world of driving traffic to your site – and social and search overlap. That is – there is correlation between the number of social signals a post gets and its ranking in Google. Because we help a lot with social – this will also help with SEO.
Pillar 2: Social Media
Social media is how you will jumpstart your website, while you’re waiting for your SEO efforts to kick in.
There’s really only 5 things you need to do to grow your social media authority, get traffic to your site, and start generating leads. And it doesn’t take long!
- Make sure you have Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages set up. (not every industry will need all of those, if you’re heavily B2B, you may not need Facebook. If you’re heavily B2C, you may not need LinkedIn.) But you absolutely do need Twitter. Even if you think you don’t. Even if you think your customers aren’t there. Set up Twitter. Trust me on this – it will accelerate your growth in the first few months more than any other platform. Read this and make sure you have a good profile.
- Connect your accounts to Spokal and set up a custom sharing schedule. Every time you blog, we’ll automatically push your content out on a schedule you choose. This will save you a ton of time, and promote your content to your followers. If it’s good content, it’ll even get retweeted and shared, and you’ll slowly gain more followers and website traffic. Watch this video to see how to set up a custom schedule. (5 min)
- Start curating content in Feedly and sharing that in your Spokal calendar. You can’t just share your content on Twitter, that’s bad form. You have to share content from others too – highly relevant content that your followers will appreciate. In that way you become an expert – someone worth following. Watch this video (2 min)
- Respond to any tweets or messages that come your way. Engage there. If you have a smartphone, the easiest way to do this is install the Twitter app on your phone. Then you can do that when you’re waiting in line, or during commercials. You can also just do it twitter.com a couple times a day. This doesn’t take long at all, especially at first before you have tons of followers. It’s important for relationship building, and it’s a good habit to get into – but it’s also really important to build up your Twitter account if it doesn’t have a lot of activity so you can get full use of….
That’s it – Twitter especially is an incredible way to turbocharge your traffic, leads and inbound marketing efforts. And it’s so easy. Once you get past the awkward stage (hey, we all start there!), you can do it all in 15-30 minutes a week. Less if you’re already reading content in your industry that you’d like to share.
This, combined with blogging at least 1x a week will make a huge difference to your business within 6 months. It’ll transform it in 12. Just these 2 things. They work together, and snowball.
Pillar 3: Lead Nurturing
This the final pillar to online marketing.
The truth is – if you don’t have much traffic yet – I’m going to arbitrarily say at least 1000 visitors a month (this will vary, but everyone wants a number, so there’s a number), there’s not much point in spending time on lead nurturing yet.
Here’s why. If you’re getting 1000 visitors a month to your site, and if you get a 2-4% conversion rate to your lead nurture funnel (which is not unusual, and pretty good) that’s 20-40 people a month. Now, if you’re selling really high-priced stuff – that’s fantastic, and frankly, you can follow up with each of those people manually until it becomes too much. If you’re not selling high-priced stuff, then it’s unlikely that 20-40 leads a month will result in many new sales, and your time is likely better spend on top of funnel activities like blogging, SEO and social media.
If however, you do have more traffic than that, or you have too many leads to follow up with manually, then you’re going to want to start to implement lead nurturing.
Lead nurturing at it’s most basic is simply:
- Offering something to your website visitors in exchange for permission to email them. This could be anything. It could be a guide to xyz, an e-book, a video that promises to teach them something, or even just to get notified of your new blog posts when you post them. For example, on our site, we used to offer a guide on how to get your first 1000 visitors from Twitter in the next 30 days
- Delivering on that promise. So, in our case, we sent out that guide with step by step instructions on how to do that. We then continue with an educational email series about social media, inbound marketing, and other bits of info that we come across that we think will be useful. All of this we give away, and it’s all legit. We don’t hold back. They are all tips, strategies and tactics that we’re using, that are current, and that work. We give away some really valuable stuff – stuff that you might otherwise pay thousands in consulting fees for – for free.
- We see who engages with our content. Who opens the emails, clicks on them, re-visits our site? What pages do they go to? How long do they spend on the site? All these questions we ask, and then score each person based on how engaged they are with our content.
- Then we can segment – we can send targeted offers to our most engaged people. Or try to re-engage those least engaged. Or reach out personally to those most engaged. Whatever we want to do.
This is all a way to build trust. The more value we can provide to people, the better. If our mini-courses, tutorials and other content provides real results – guess what – we just made a friend. And when the time comes that they might be interested in Marketing Automation software, they will likely think of us.
It’s the same for you. You can educate or entertain, or ideally, both. If you’re a massage therapist for example, you could send tips on stress reduction, or easing back pain.
Once you have the traffic, creating a lead nurturing program is hugely worthwhile – it helps qualify leads for you, and by the time they reach out to you, they already feel like they know you and trust you, and the sales process becomes much faster and easier.
So – to recap. A Lead Nurturing program is HUGELY worthwhile – but only after you have traffic.
Traffic first. Then Lead Nurturing. I don’t think I can repeat that enough.
While you’re building traffic – you can setup your list and start to collect emails, maybe even set up an autoresponder offering a free consultation or something until that starts to become too much work. But that’s an easy way to maximize the few leads that come through while traffic is building. When you start reaching that point – that’s the point to start building out a nurturing series, and leave the free consulations to your more qualified leads.
Spokal has lead scoring built in, it makes it easy to set this up, and to score the leads based on their interactions with your website and email – you can even set it up to notify you when someone scores at a certain level or above, so you can reach out to them personally. To see how to set it up – check out this video. (4 min)
That’s it! That’s the 3rd Pillar.