Why a content marketing audit is important and how to conduct one

It’s funny how I come across so many companies that pump out a good amount of weekly blog posts, but has never performed a content marketing audit.

What’s the point of writing so many blog post and releasing so many contents on a regular basis without knowing anything about your content’s performance?

How are you going to figure out what’s working and what isn’t? How do you know what topics your readers want to read next?

That’s why a solid content marketing audit is important. This means doing more than just setting up Google Analytics and looking at the traffic numbers.

A content marketing audit doesn’t take a lot of time and does not need to be performed daily, but it needs to be done to know your audience and how well your content is performing.

I do this for all my clients prior to writing for them to ensure that we have a plan set out that will bring them better results.

Never conducted a content marketing audit before? No worries, I’ll show you in this post exactly how you can do one right now easily.

Identify the top content performers

You always want to start off with identifying the top content performers. Meaning the articles that do best.

Which articles are getting the most views? Which articles are getting the most email subscribers?

Before you start, you should at least have goals set up within Google Analytics to track whatever your conversion goals are. This could be email sign-ups, trial signups for your product, or even just an ebook download.

Assuming you have all the goals set, within Google analytics, look at your Behavior > Site Content > All Pages report.

It should look something like this:

toppagesga

Switching this report to the comparison view makes the top performers even more obvious.

Usually, the articles that get the most traffic are also the articles that rank well in search engines.

There are two ways to see just the content that gets traffic from search. One is to use a segment. Create a segment for search traffic (where the medium is organic) and it won’t include visitors who came from social, email, direct or anything else.

Another thing you could do is just go to the acquisition tab to see where the users are coming from.

But our main focus, in the beginning, is just to find out what your readers enjoy reading the most.

That way we can generate more topics relating to these keywords in the near future.

To see the which posts are ranking and attracting visitors directly check the Acquisition > Search Console > Landing Pages report. Just sort this report by clicks and you’re measuring content performance from search per article.

You can toy around with Google Analytics to further narrow down different articles that are receiving good traffic.

The different types of content champions

Personally, I like to take a look at all the content and then split them into a different category that I like to call “content champions”.

This allows me to reoptimize old content and make it better and it allows me to add certain tricks and conversion goals to maximize the traffic coming in for the winning articles.

Winners

These are the type of content that receives the most attention. They’re the ones that get the most page views, most shares, and most engagement.

High search traffic pages. Also pages with high social shares and email open rates all fit within this category of winners.

Action: Link from these to your highest converting pages with internal links and calls to action. Add “related articles” links at the bottom to posts on related topics with high conversion rates. Add more call to action within these articles and link to articles with “weaker” traffic so that they can get a boost.

This can be as simple as adding another line within the middle of the article that says something like, “Related Read”

Runner-ups

The second type of content is what I consider “runner-ups”. These are usually the pages or posts with low search traffic, but high link popularity / Page Authority.

One of the best tips for boosting traffic to these type of articles is to rewrite them and include more long tail keywords so that search engines will pick it up.

These type of articles usually do not have a problem with quality. They’re the ones that readers enjoy reading with a low bounce rate, but the search engine just isn’t picking up the traffic. This could be due to the fact that other sites with strong authority is outranking you.

Action: Repurpose the URL and rewrite the article. Make it a high-quality piece focused on a specific topic and keyphrase. Then relaunch the piece with a new email campaign and social promotion. Finally, use internal linking to pass SEO authority from these pages to products and services pages and to other articles and guides that aren’t doing so well.

Another trick you can use is by updating the dates to the article in the title. For example, if you have a guide on “The best keyboard for 2018” change it to “The best keyboard for 2019” with a slight update in the content as well.

Weaklings

These are the content that just doesn’t perform well at all. I hate to call it “weaklings”, but that’s what they are. This doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved though!

These type of posts need a lot of help. My recommendation for these type of posts would be to rewrite them targeting the newest trends and keywords. At the same time, you would want to make them more in-depth than before.

Action: These pages need help before they fall off into obscurity. Google is looking for the best page on the internet for the topic, so our first goal is to simply make it a better page. Add anything that improves quality, including details, examples, images, video, statistics, contributor quotes and answers. These pages also get a boost when you link to them from “winners.”

Conversion kings

There are certain pages that convert REALLY well but receives close to none search traffic. These can be landing pages or subscription pages. They’re the ones that convince people to buy or sign up.

The strategy for these type of posts and pages is to leverage your winner pages to drive traffic onto these conversion kings.

Include all of these pages within the call to action at the bottom of every boost and do whatever it takes to include links from your most popular content to these pages. Pitch guest posts that refer back to them. You can even buy ads to these pages or try them in native advertising!

Making sure your content matches the proper guidelines

Next, create a section that assesses the quality of the content. Some of these metrics will be subjective, as you will need to use your judgment to rank their quality.

  • Word length: Content with a word count of 600 or lower will usually have a lower content quality score.
  • Uniqueness: Content that is very similar to content published on other sites or your site will usually have a lower content quality score.
  • Timeliness: If the content has outdated information, it will have a lower content quality score.
  • Topic relevance: Content that is very relevant to your products, services, and industry will have a higher content quality.
  • Overall quality: Give a score of 1 to 5 (with 5 being the highest) to rate the content quality based on the other factors.

Now, dig into the search engine optimization (SEO) value on each page. Create a section in your content audit template that identifies keywords that you’re using and whether or not you’re implementing best SEO practices on each page and post.

Fill in the page information for:

  • Main keyword
  • Meta description
  • Meta title

Answer yes or no to the following checklist:

  • Keyword in content?
  • Keyword in headline?
  • Keyword in subheading?
  • Keyword in image alt tag?
  • At least 1 to 3 inbound links?
  • At least 1 to 2 outbound links?

The information and metrics you collected related to engagement, quality, and SEO will help you determine what to do with each piece of content. Consider the factors and make a plan for each piece of content.

  • Keep posts that have a high audience engagement and content quality.
  • Fix posts that have SEO errors.
  • Revise posts that are low quality.
  • Update posts that have outdated information.
  • Republish posts that are relevant and high quality but were published in the past and have low engagement. (You can give new life to a post by refreshing the content and republishing it on your website or using it on third-party sites like LinkedIn or Medium.)
  • Delete posts that have low content quality, relevance, and engagement. (If you remove these posts, remember to set up link redirects so any traffic is directed to a new page of relevant content.)

Create a content marketing plan by:

  • assessing gaps in your topics and keywords. Decide what opportunities you are missing and create future posts based on those topics and keywords.
  • seeing how you can rival competitor content. Identify content that is performing well on other websites and see how you can create content on similar topics while increasing the quality. Pinpoint content gaps that competitors aren’t ranking for so that you can make content audiences seek but can’t currently find on competitor sites.
  • identifying ways to repurpose and revise what you have. Look back through your old content to see if you can reuse pieces or whole posts to fill keyword needs and topic gaps.

Reoptimizing your content

Now that you’ve identified your most popular content, have a strong understanding of what your readers like to read, and know the different types of content winners, it’s time to put together a framework that will drive endless traffic into your content funnel.

That’s the whole goal of a content marketing audit. We want to be able to identify all the winners and optimize all the ones that aren’t doing so well.

Follow all the strategies and action steps that you’ve gathered from your content marketing audit and re-optimize your content in a way that will convert more users.

If there are any changes that need to be made to your content, then do so with each and every single article, then log into Google search console and have them recrawl everything.

That’s all for this article! If you need help with your content marketing audit or need help with high-quality content creation that will drive you more traffic, then feel free to reach out to me anytime!

The Ultimate Guide To Creating a Content Marketing Strategy

Content marketing works and it’s sad how content marketing is undervalued. The main reason behind that is because most companies don’t have a strong content marketing strategy in place. What we’re seeing is an influx of spending and a massive increase in content creation, but most of them are low-quality work.

Content is a significant investment in your marketing. It also takes time to pay off, which is where many B2B SaaS companies get into trouble. Unlike paid acquisition channels, content isn’t a marketing tactic you can easily turn on and off. It takes months, even years, to build momentum.

With that said, content marketing is a long term investment that works. Imagine having organic traction without having to spend any money on any paid acquisition on a regular basis? Imagine having users come to you on autopilot. Yes, it works.

Developing a content strategy

Any content is only as good as the strategy behind it. Let’s start off with some must have questions that you need to ask yourself when developing a content strategy.

  1. Who is the target audience?
  2. Do they prefer a casual tone or a professional tone?
  3. What’s the marketing strategy behind it?
  4. What tools will we use?
  5. What type of content will you be pushing out weekly?

Who is the target audience?

You have to start with understanding what your audience wants to read. You have to know as much about them as you can.

What blogs are they reading? What community are they on?

You’ll hold yourself to a higher standard if you’re writing for real people. Fictitious personas also tend to reflect the average, not the median. This means you risk writing for a person well outside the stated demographics.

Do they prefer a casual or professional tone?

It’s very crucial to understand your readers and it’s even more important to be consistent with the tone of your company’s writing.

Creating content for an audience of 20-year-olds is very different than writing content for the older folks.

A good comparison would be to take a look at WSJ (Wall Street Journal) versus a trendy news site like The Hustle. Both of them have their own unique voice aimed towards a different set of audiences.

What’s the marketing strategy behind it?

Remember, everything requires a good plan and writing good content is just the start. Think about the promotion aspect after that. What happens after you write the content? How will you promote it?

Some questions that you could ask yourself is if your company already has a strong social following? Social is an excellent channel if you already have a strong following. What about your newsletter? That’s another great channel to keep your customers updated.

What tools will we use?

There’s definitely no shortage of tools when it comes to marketing automation and content writing.

Without overwhelming yourself, you should have a set of tools aligned for the entire content writing and marketing process. This list of tools should include basic SEO research tools, content publishing tools, grammar checking tools, and most importantly the marketing stack of tools to promote the content.

What type of content will you be pushing out weekly?

Topic ideation is something to be systematized. But first, let’s lay out a framework to help you understand the best way to choose blog post topics.

Your blog is not a publication, it’s a growing library of information. There are many reasons you need to adopt this mindset, but here’s one guiding principle that should be enough reason on its own.

A good content marketing process helps you address the entire lifecycle, from awareness through purchase.

Here are the funnel stages that I like to use when it comes to publishing content:

  • Top of Funnel: Use keyword research to address high-level topics, introduce new readers to your brand.
  • Middle of Funnel: Use keyword research in addition to sales and support feedback to tie problems to your specific solution.
  • Bottom of Funnel: Use sales and support feedback to write directly about your product.

As apart of your content strategy, you should implement content for all stages of the content funnel. This should also be dependent on the stage of your business and the target customer profile.

Having a consistent publishing schedule

Another huge mistake that I see a lot of companies make is that they tend to publish random articles whenever they feel like it. In addition to that, I also notice that a lot of companies tend to publish random topics, most of the time not even related to the business.

It’s impossible to write too much, but it’s easy to publish too much.

The result is typically shorter, less valuable pieces of content. This is not ideal.

The ideal publishing schedule is relative to your budget, but always choose quality over quantity.

Still, it’s difficult to scale publishing volume without sacrificing quality no matter how much money you can afford to spend. As a general rule, publish as often as you can without dropping your quality standards. There’s no use publishing content that won’t get read.

Here’s are some examples of publishing schedule you can use depending on your company stage and budget:

Starter:

1 article/week
1 ebook, whitepaper, drip email course, round up post per quarter

Advanced:

2 articles/week

1 ebook, whitepaper, drip email course, round up post per month

Top Level:

3 articles/week
2 ebook, whitepaper, drip email course, round up post per month

Following the above schedule, you should also have newsletters at least once a week.

Remember that a good content marketing strategy is all about compounding growth. Everything adds up and everybody needs to start somewhere. Publishing something is better than not publishing anything at all.

List of tools to help with content strategy and marketing

With your content marketing strategy in place, you’re going to need tools to make it all run smoothly. There are plenty of great options out there, but here are a few of my favorite content marketing tools.

SEO + Research

  • Ahrefs – An excellent tool for tracking links and doing keyword research.
  • Moz – Track your rankings for target keywords.
  • KeywordTool.io – Get tons of keyword ideas.
  • AnswerthePublic.com – Get keyword ideas in the form of questions.
  • Buzzsumo – Research successful posts with search and social metrics.
  • Clearbit – Add data to your existing email list for better segmentation.

Content Creation + Hosting

  • Quip – Our favorite tool for collaborative writing.
  • SketchDeck – Professional design resources on-demand.
  • DraftSend – Create simple presentations that you can embed in your posts.
  • WordPress – The best content management system for most SaaS blogs.
  • WPEngine – Our host of choice.
  • Wistia – The best video hosting platform out there.

Promotion + Conversion

  • Sumo – All kinds of tools for collecting email addresses on your site.
  • Freshchat– Simple live chat tool for having live conversations with readers.
  • Buffer – The industry standard social media sharing tool.

Workflow

  • Airtable – Create an insanely powerful content workflow.
  • CoSchedule – Build comprehensive marketing calendars.
  • Zapier – Connect all your apps and automate everything.
  • Trello – A popular and useful project management tool.
  • Teamwork – A robust and powerful project management app.

Analytics + Attribution

  • Google Analytics – Easy and free analytics. You can’t beat that.
  • Amplitude – Tie your product data into your content data.
  • Segment – Centralize your event tracking for cleaner data.

Conclusion

To wrap things up, it’s important to have a strong content marketing strategy moving forward. Content marketing is an ongoing challenge, not a task to be checked off your list, but it’s important to have a solid plan in place.

Need help with content creation or marketing? Reach out to me anytime!

The Most Straight Forward Guide To SEO For Content Marketers In 2018

Doing SEO for any type of content is one of the most difficult things out there when it comes to marketing. It’s a crowded market and you don’t have a ton of content to ramp things up, but good news is that it still works really well when done propertly.

I incorporate all the following SEO tactics when doing any sort of content marketing for both my clients that I consult as well as my own projects and it works well even in 2018.

Truth is that SEO still works and it’ll allow users to discover your product through their searches.

In this guide, I’ll cover the best practices for optimizing your rankings in Google. Hopefully, SaaS companies, marketers, and other entrepreneurs can learn a bit from this guide. I’ll try to make it as easy and straightforward as possible.

The ranking factors in SEO

I’m not going to go into the history behind SEO or what SEO is. I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this guide that you already know what SEO is, so let’s just cut the chase and go straight into the most important aspect of SEO.

Ranking factors…

What makes your content or website stand out from Google’s point of view?

If you’re just starting off, you should read Google’s webmaster guidlines. It’s a good introduction on how their rankings work.

The truth is that no expert in the SEO space can tell you exactly what makes your content rank higher on Google. It’s always changing and heck maybe even people who work in Google themselves don’t know. It’s a secret.

With that said, there’s a lot of ranking factors that are proven to help your article rank over time.

They are:

  • Keyword present in <title>;
  • Keyword present in <h1>;
  • Keyword present in <h2>;
  • Keyword present in <p>aragraphs;
  • Number of backlinks and internal links
  • Anchor text of links to any specific page on your website
  • Content length;
  • Content shares;
  • Unique content
  • Load speed of your site.

The tech stack that you use to build your app/site in matters as well. It’s not that certain tech stack isn’t Google friendly, it’s just hard to have Google crawl and index certain tech stacks. This includes ones like React, Native Node, Angular etc.

If you have a dedicated expert in SEO on your team, then it won’t be a problem, but if you’re bootstrapped then using a solution like WordPress can bring you in quicker results.

This is because there are plugins out there that can help with that such as Yoast SEO. It’ll save you a bunch of time.

If you are just focused on building a great product or tweaking things on your site to try to “optimize” when you have not laid a solid base and do not have any links, you will not do as well as you otherwise could.

I do understand that most SaaS apps are built on top of the tech stacks mentioned above. Heck, I built all my previous startups using Ruby on Rails, so I understand the pain.

The good news is that as long as you have well-structured pages that load fast, are accessible from other pages on your site, target keywords that have search volume, invest in unique content written for users and conversions, and acquire links to your domain and your individual pages, then you have a much better chance at ranking very well.

Technical SEO

Alright, we hear this term a lot, but what the heck is it exactly?

Technical SEO just refers to any SEO work that is done aside from the content. Essentially, it’s laying a strong foundation to give your content the best chance it can have to rank for relevant keywords and phrases.

One thing to note is that Google does not crawl pages within your app unless you literally tell them to, but I wouldn’t see why you would want Google crawling your user’s dashboard anyway.

Here’s an example and case study of things you can do to improve the technical side of SEO:

Zoompf analyzed the top 1,000 Alexa-ranked sites for site speed and found that the following four problems were the most common (in order from most to least):

  1. unoptimized images
  2. content served without HTTP compression
  3. too many CSS image requests (not using sprites)
  4. no caching information (expires header)

Usually people refer to load speed when talking about ranking factors for technical SEO. The reason behind this is because if you fix all your load speed issues, then most of the technical SEO side of things will progress with it.

Here are some solutions for common slow load speed problems:

If you are concerned about your web app being crawled, then there are ways to ensure that it is not crawled such as:

  1. Put it on a subdomain and block that subdomain in robots.txt;
  2. Put any logged in pages in a subfolder that you can then block in robots. txt (eg site.com/app/ and then Disallow: /app/)

I see many SaaS companies use something like WordPress for their “marketing site”, and then a custom web app on a subdomain. This is a great way to seperate your main app and a blog for example.

Meta elements

For every page on your site, there are meta elements in your documents’s <head> that should be present to help the search engines understand what your page is about. This is just as important as load speed.

The meta elements you must include on your pages are:

  1. Title tag – this is the text that shows in the search engines results pages. Keep this short.
  2. Meta Description –The summary of the page that appears in Google search.
  3. Rel tags – This tells the search engines the original source of the content
  4. Robot text – index, no follow, follow etc.
  5. Open graph (Twitter/Facebook) tags.

Without getting too in depth, those are the basics that you’ll need in terms of meta elements for ranking well on Google.

The most important out of the above is the title tag. That is what tells Google what your site is about and will relate to what people are searching for within your industry.

Make sure that you always include your targeted keyword within your title tag for all pages.

Meta Descriptions

The second most important factor in technical SEO is the Meta description.

Historically the meta description would be truncated around 160 characters, though in late 2017 Google announced that they were expanding this across their search results to around 300 characters.

If you’re using a plugin like Yoast for WordPress, you can edit the meta description easily. If not, then you would need to insert it yourself within your meta tags.

The meta description will tell the user who’s searching for your product what you’re looking for. Think of it as a book summary.

Canonical Tag

The canonical tag is a meta tag is a way to help control duplicate content. The canonical tag is a suggestion to the search engines that tells them the original source of the content.

This is useful if you’re repurposing content.

It looks something like this – <link rel=”canonical” href=”https://sumodash.com/guide/”>

If you’re a content marketer like me and like to put stuff on other sites like Medium, then the canonical tag becomes very useful. It tells Google which one is the real source of original content.

Again, if you’re already using something like Yoast, then they deal with this for you.

Robot Txt

Not sure why it’s named robot since I don’t see any robots involved, but it’s important when it comes to technical SEO as well.

The default is “index, follow”, meaning the search engines should crawl and index the page. It also tells Google to look within that specific page to find other links to crawl as well.

If you do not want a page to be indexed, then you can set the meta robots tag to the following:

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, follow”>

This is what most people refer to as no follow for backlink building.

For example, you might not want certain landing pages to be crawled. In that situation, you would do a no follow or noindex. Simple 🙂

Most of the time all of these including your robot.txt can be configured within Google’s search console.

If you don’t have that set up already, it is important that you go there now and set it up, then have Google fetch and crawl it.

On page SEO optimization

Before moving forward to more advanced topics, it is important that your on page SEO is optimized for your product or content.

Some of the biggest and most common mistakes I see that content marketers get wrong in the beginning are the following:

  • H1 targeting wrong keywords
  • H2 targeting wrong terms; most of the time they are targeting other keywords
  • H3s nested under H2s where necessary
  • Not enough context related to search topics etc.

The way on-page SEO works is that the search engines use different on-page elements to determine the page’s relevance for a certain term.

When it comes down to on page SEO optimization, you need to understand what Google is looking for in terms of priority.

In order of how search engines value on-page elements, your target keyword term should be in:

  1. Your title; try to include it in the beginning if possible
  2. Your URL; don’t make the URL too long
  3. Your H1
  4. Your H2
  5. Your H3
  6. Throughout your content (context).

Along with the above, your key pages need to be linked from other main pages so that they are passed link equity that provides the strength they need to begin ranking.

The easy way to do keyword research

There are a ton of guides out there that teaches keyword research and most of them cover the basics or get too complicated.

I’m personally not a huge fan of using all those keyword research tools, even though it can be helpful.

The only tool that I enjoy using is Google’s keyword planner. It’s true, it doesn’t have a lot of features that their competitors have, but it works.

There’s actually an easier way to do it without having to use any tools.

Start by generating topics with intent

While search engines still use keywords to determine what a page is about, they also now have a deeper understanding of what that specific keyword or keyword term is about and the other terms that it relates to. From this they build topics.

This means that keywords itself just isn’t enough. Back in the days, you can stuff your article with certain keywords and you’ll skyrocket in rankings.

Now, Google is a lot smarter.

We have to create topics based on user intent.

Think from your customer’s shoes. What are they searching for online? If you were to search online for a guide on how to polish your shoes, would you type in polish shoes or would you type in how to polish your shoes?

Again, think from a human’s perspective and not just keywords.

Ask yourself (and write down the answers to) these questions:

  • What does your product do?
  • Who is your product for?
  • What features does your product offer?

Then come up with topics based on that.

The easy way is to use Google Suggest.

You can easily access Google suggest by going to Google and typing in a snippet of what you’re looking for. Google will populate what people are searching for. It’s really that simple. See the picture below.

seo guide for content marketers

In that example, you could easily come up with ideas through that.

The second method that I LOVE is using AnswerThePublic. Type in any keyword and they’ll give you a beautiful visual of what to look for.

Competitor research

The third method that I like to use when coming up with topics and keywords is by looking at what my competitors are ranking for. What are they using?

Depending on your competitors, they may or may not be doing a great job with SEO and thus just doing competitor analysis will leave other potential profitable and traffic-driving keywords out of the list.

If you want to get advanced, you can use a tool like SEMRush to find related keywords and view their backlinks etc.

If you’re on a budget, just use Moz.

Link building

Let’s go into the bread and butter to SEO rankings – link building.

If you want to rank, you need links to your website from other websites. Now it’s not 100% necessary, but it can help A LOT if you have quality backlinks from other websites, especially other websites that have high authority in their industry.

The more and better links you have, the stronger your website and the better you rank.

Building links is about improving your website’s strength to rank better.

These are the links that search engines want to reward.

But it’s not that simple because there are different types of backlinks.

There are two kinds of links:

  • Followed
  • Nofollowed

Followed links are the links that pass link equity and are guaranteed to help you rank better. If a link is followed and from a strong relevant website, then this is the best link you can get to help your rankings.

You can determine if links are nofollow by right clicking on any site and viewing the page’s source to see if they have a “no-follow” in front of their links.

It used to be that links are always followed, but website owners got smarter and made a lot of their links no followed.

In 2018, the following are proven strategies for link building:

  • Manual outreach – emailing site owners, writers etc. to have them link to you
  • Resource page linking – Find resource pages within your industry and have them add your site to the list
  • Scholarship programs – This is an older SEO trick that still works. Create a scholarship program and have education websites link to it.
  • Infographics – This one is super tough and requires a team, but it can be done. Have websites that post similar content and send them an infographic in exchange for a link.
  • Industry roundups – These work well because companies are willing to share your work in their Press page.
  • Guest posting – This still works because it still gets you a link but a lot of media sites are making this nofollow.

There’s a lot more, but these are the most effective and quickest way of doing linkbuilding.

Conclusion

Alright, that’s enough for now! I tried to make this as straight forward as possible for any content marketer to get things rolling with SEO and keyword research. Hopefully you learned something from this article and best of luck.

Make sure you track everything. All you need is something basic like Google Analytics.

If you need any help on growth strategies, content marketing, or writing content in general, you can always reach out to me at wilsonpeng23@gmail.com or tweet to me @itswilson8

 

Building A Content Strategy That Works In 2018

Content marketing has become very popular in the last decade. But for all that growth, there seems to be more noise and lower quality than ever. What we’re seeing is an influx of spending and a massive increase in content creation, but a lack of content marketing strategy.

Content is a significant investment in your marketing. It also takes time to pay off, which is where many SaaS companies get into trouble. Unlike paid acquisition channels, you can’t turn content on and off. It takes months, even years, to build momentum. If you’re going to spend that much time working on a blog, you better have a content marketing strategy.

How to Develop a Content Marketing Strategy

A blog is only as good as the content marketing strategy behind it. Here are the questions you must answer before and during—these are essential to earning traffic and proving that your company’s investment is getting them a return.

  1. Who Will You Write For?
  2. What Will You Write About?
  3. When Will You Publish?
  4. How Will You Earn Traffic?
  5. How Will You Support the Business?
  6. Content Marketing Tools

1. Who Will You Write For?

Your target readers should be living, breathing people, not fictitious personas. Target readers should be people you know and trust, people that you’d be honored to have reading your blog.

It’s important to use real people and not fictitious personas because it affects your approach to creating content. Creating content for “SaaS Sally” is very different than writing for your friend Ty Magnin who runs marketing at Appcues. You’ll hold yourself to a higher standard if you’re writing for real people. Fictitious personas also tend to reflect the average, not the median. This means you risk writing for a person well outside the stated demographics.

Be thoughtful about the personas you create. “Reaching decision-makers” is a trope. Every content marketing strategy aspires to reach the C-suite. But consider that software is often adopted by a collection of people:

  • Leader: sets the strategic vision, holds team accountable
  • Implementor: the people using and setting up SaaS tools
  • Researcher: the person tasked with learning about various tools and capabilities

Reaching readers in the C-suite is hard, but it’s actually not good enough. This is why you need to create content for the entire payscale—anyone who could be involved in the research, buying or using of your tool needs to be addressed. We think of this on a spectrum from very tactical to very strategic.

Tactical readers need information, comparisons, instructions and best practices. Strategic readers need models, frameworks and principles. Your blog needs a variety of tactical and strategic content to be comprehensive. For a more complete breakdown of writing tactical and strategic content, check out our guide to creating reader personas.

Remember that your ideal reader is the one who buys your product. It’s easy to get distracted by pageviews and newsletter subscribers, but the goal of a SaaS blog is to drive business growth. Identify your ideal reader and serve them well.

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2. What Will You Write About?

Topic ideation is something to be systematized. But first, let’s layout a framework to help you understand the best way to choose topics.

Your blog is not a publication, it’s a growing library of information. There are many reasons you need to adopt this mindset, but here’s one guiding principle that should be enough reason on its own.

  • Blogs that act like publications create series of standalone posts on different topics. They are hesitant to cover the same topic more than once.
  • Blogs that act like libraries create hubs of related posts. They have the freedom to cover the same core topics over and over again.

This strategy pairs nicely with another content marketing strategy essential, which is that people should primarily discover you via search. Since readers aren’t checking your site each time you post something new, you can write about the same thing for weeks in a row. No one will care since they are finding what they need, when they need it via search engines.

Most of your topics should be driven by 1) keyword research and 2) sales and support feedback. Use keyword research to identify entry points for new readers. Keywords should be top and middle of the funnel, meaning they serve searchers who are looking for information and education. Create content for the bottom of the funnel by talking to your sales and support teams about what prospects and customers are having trouble with. This process helps you address the entire lifecycle, from awareness through purchase.

  • Top of Funnel: Use keyword research to address high-level topics, introduce new readers to your brand.
  • Middle of Funnel: Use keyword research in addition to sales and support feedback to tie problems to your specific solution.
  • Bottom of Funnel: Use sales and support feedback to write directly about your product.

Here are examples of each from Wistia:

Top of the Funnel: Shooting Video with an iPhone

This post introduces anyone interested in shooting better video with an iPhone to some really useful tips. Many of the people who find this post won’t be ready to buy Wistia, but some will be doing research for a work project and will remember this resource.

Middle of the Funnel: Using Video with Marketing Automation

This post is textbook middle of the funnel content. It inserts the product directly into a conversation about a broader and highly relevant topic (marketing automation). It’s thorough and insightful, with just the right amount of sales pitch.

Bottom of the Funnel: Get Better Organized and More Productive with the New Wistia Trello Power-Up

Product updates are a great way to educate existing customers and nudge prospects. When you’re targeting the bottom of the funnel, don’t be shy about addressing your product.

To wrap up, don’t forget these two rules about topic ideation:

  • Write about the same core topics from every angle.
  • Serve the entire lifecycle, from top to bottom.

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3. When Will You Publish?

It’s impossible to write too much, but it’s easy to publish too much.

“A lot of content marketers worry about not publishing enough,” says Podia CMO Len Markidan, “but the truth is that publishing too much is a more dangerous mistake. Write something that your readers will love, and then give them time to enjoy it, share it and hunger for more. This lands at the very top of the list of ‘things I wish someone told me when I started.’”

Remember the publication vs. library framework? Well, publications also sometimes get into the habit of publishing too often. The result is typically shorter, less valuable pieces of content. This is not ideal.

The ideal publishing schedule is relative to your budgetary constraints. Still, it’s difficult to scale publishing volume without sacrificing quality no matter how much money you can afford to spend. As a general rule, publish as often as you can without dropping your quality standards. There’s no use publishing content that won’t get read.

Here’s are publishing schedule templates you can use depending on your budget:

Level 1:

1 article/week
1 ebook/quarter

Level 2:

2 articles/week
1 ebook/month

Level 3:

3 articles/week
2 ebooks/month

Remember that a good content marketing strategy is all about compounding growth. Level 1 may not seem like much, but will result in 52 articles per year. Brian Dean grew Backlinko to 100,000 monthly uniques with just 35 posts. Level 3 will get you 153 posts in a year, but it doesn’t guarantee traffic. Don’t publish more if that time or money compromises time spent doing solid keyword research and great promotion and distribution.

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4. How Will You Earn Traffic?

Here’s the golden rule of content marketing strategy: compounding growth is the only growth.

Don’t invest significant time in non-recurring acquisition channels. When it comes down to it, organic search and your own email list are the only channels you can count on.

Organic Search

You should be thinking about organic search from day one and everyday thereafter. It’s essential that you gain traction in search engines if you want to grow your audience. Here are a few things to think about:

  • Internal linking: Go on Wikipedia and observe how they link all of their entries together. Apply the same strategy to your own site by linking to and from related posts. This helps search engines contextualize your site and reduces bounce rate.
  • Technical SEO: Your site structure, navigation, meta descriptions, canonical links—it all plays into your rankings. If you don’t have an internal SEO resource, hire a consultant to make sure you aren’t working harder than you need to.
  • Content Saturation: If you’ve been in the habit of publishing too much, consider deleting or refreshing old content. Pages that live on your site and don’t get traffic can hurt your rankings. And if you do decide to remove pages, do so carefully.
  • Content Length and Depth: Most research says that longer posts rank better. That fits nicely with the idea of publishing less often but does require plenty of writing. Brian Dean recommends a minimum of 1,900 words per post.

Email

Organic traffic compounds faster than email, meaning it should be the primary source of growth. But email is a medium that you have complete control over. It’s not a channel for new reader acquisition, but it is an excellent way to drive traffic to middle and bottom of the funnel content. Here’s a template for email that most SaaS companies can use:

  • Weekly Content Newsletter: Get readers in the habit of hearing from you each week.
  • Regular Product Updates: Let people know about product updates. This is a good way to tie education to your solution.
  • Free Email Course: This is an underrated way to capture email addresses on top of funnel posts. These can be short—three to five emails in a series—but should be comprehensive.
  • New Subscriber Welcome Series: Let new readers know about your product, what it does and how it can help them.
  • Free Trial Onboarding Series: Use a blend of help docs and content to get people going. They should feel well-equipped and inspired.
  • Recurring Emails: Weekly or monthly usage emails. These are a great opportunity to use content to help people make progress in areas where they are lacking. (Example: “You haven’t created a new campaign in a while, here’s some inspiration from our blog.”)
  • Retention Email Series: Highly targeted emails for users who aren’t engaging in the product. Use a blend of content, questions and help docs to get them going again. Test these emails early and often.

There are, of course, other ways to get traffic but they tend to be fickle and temporary. Should you invest at least some time in things like social media, communities and guest posting? Yes, but never take your eye off organic search.

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5. How Will You Support the Business?

Content marketers need to get very used to the phrase business objectives. Traffic is great. Email subscribers are great. But those things cost you money. The only thing that makes you money is recruiting more paying customers.

There are plenty of popular blogs out there that don’t drive business growth. A comprehensive content marketing strategy includes monetization. Here are four things that absolutely cannot be overlooked as you start, grow and run a blog.

Let Readers Know About Your Product

You have to assume that readers do not know there is a software product behind your content. It’s likely that they have 10 tabs open, Twitter notifications coming in and a meeting that starts in five minutes. Make it abundantly clear that they are on a SaaS product site, not just a blog. To do this:

  • Consider using a conversational messaging tool like Drift or Intercom to ask questions of readers while they are on your site. (Example: “Is there something about [topic] that we can help you with?”)
  • Keep your blog in a sub-folder, not a sub-domain and definitely not on Medium. You want your main site navigation menu on all blog pages. The ideal URL is saasinc.com/blog, not blog.saasinc.com.
  • Use author bios to let people know who they are hearing from. A post from “Jessica, head of marketing at SaaS Inc.” inspires more confidence than “Tom, freelance writer.”
  • Use product language in the header, footer and sidebar. Don’t be shy about offering free trials, showing testimonials or using social proof to show that people love the product.
  • Use contextual calls to action. If a post is about push notifications, use a CTA about push notifications.

Capture Email Addresses

99% of readers won’t be ready to buy now, but many will need your product in the future. This creates an attribution problem that makes measuring content difficult, but it also means it’s vitally important to capture email addresses. You need to establish an ongoing relationship so that if and when the times comes to buy, every reader knows where to go.

  • Offer a course instead of a newsletter. People know that newsletters are eternal and that’s a big commitment. Courses have a clear start and end, which makes it easier for people to opt in. Once it’s over, you can transition them to an infrequent newsletter.
  • Or just send a newsletter. Courses are an easier entry point for new readers, but good old-fashioned newsletter can still work too. Just make sure you let them know the frequency of emails they can expect ahead of time.
  • Use content upgrades for contextual calls to action. Whitepapers, ebooks, case studies—these are great ways to market to readers interested in specific topics. Use them within articles on relevant topics.

Follow Up with Everyone

If you have a sales team, make sure there is a process in place to hand off email addresses. If you don’t, make sure you have good drip campaigns in place to nurture leads. Following up on every single lead is no longer a huge challenge thanks to behavioral email and marketing automation. Put these tools in place and don’t let anyone slip through the cracks.

Agree on Attribution

Measuring content marketing is hard and often a point of contention among stakeholders. Revenue growth from content is a lagging indicator of success since almost no readers will be ready to buy immediately. There isn’t a perfect way to attribute content to revenue, but here are a few things to think about:

  • Capturing email addresses makes it way easier to track a user’s path from reader to customer.
  • Running a site in a sub-folder as opposed to subdomain makes it easier to attribute signups in Google Analytics.
  • Don’t try to make a 1:1 connection between reading a single post and signing up. Shoot for something more holistic, like tracking all behavior in the 90 days leading to the signup.

Scrambling to prove the blog is working is something you want to avoid (and it happens all the time). Agree on the metrics you will measure ahead of time.

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6. Content Marketing Strategy Tools

With your content marketing strategy in place, you’re going to need tools make it all run smoothly. There are plenty of great options out there, but here are a few of our favorite content marketing tools.

SEO + Research

  • Ahrefs – An excellent tool for tracking links and doing keyword research.
  • Moz – Track your rankings for target keywords.
  • KeywordTool.io – Get tons of keyword ideas.
  • AnswerthePublic.com – Get keyword ideas in the form of questions.
  • Buzzsumo – Research successful posts with search and social metrics.
  • Clearbit – Add data to your existing email list for better segmentation.

Content Creation + Hosting

  • Quip – Our favorite tool for collaborative writing.
  • SketchDeck – Professional design resources on-demand.
  • DraftSend – Create simple presentations that you can embed in your posts.
  • WordPress – The best content management system for most SaaS blogs.
  • WPEngine – Our host of choice.
  • Wistia – The best video hosting platform out there.

Email

  • ConvertKit – A tool built specifically for bloggers to send emails and create courses.
  • Customer.io – An excellent tool for creating behavioral email campaigns.
  • CampaignMonitor – An easy-to-use email tool with beautiful templates.

Promotion + Conversion

  • Sumo – All kinds of tools for collecting email addresses on your site.
  • Drift – Simple live chat tool for having live conversations with readers.
  • Buffer – The industry standard social media sharing tool.

Workflow

  • Airtable – Create an insanely powerful content workflow.
  • CoSchedule – Build comprehensive marketing calendars.
  • Zapier – Connect all your apps and automate everything.
  • Trello – A popular and useful project management tool.
  • Teamwork – A robust and powerful project management app.

Analytics + Attribution

  • Google Analytics – Easy and free analytics. You can’t be that.
  • Amplitude – Tie your product data into your content data.
  • Segment – Centralize your event tracking for cleaner data.

Content marketing is an ongoing challenge, not a task to be checked off your list.

Wanna chat? Tweet me @itswilson8