Content creation is by no means an easy thing to do. but yet very rewarding, of course if you learn how to do it right.
The process may look easy on the surface yet it is anything but. You create ideas, implement them, do some outreach and networking to get traffic, backlinks and shares.
The problem is that the process looks easy. You brainstorm some ideas, choose one that you like, design and build it, do some outreach and you get traffic, links and social shares. Job done.
If only it was that straightforward
In this post, I’m going to share our process for putting together a content marketing campaign.
One thing to point out before we delve deeper is that it’s not just about “big” content. Our role as digital marketers goes much wider than content that is purely designed to generate links and social shares.
A content strategy needs to include more than just one type of content, we do multiple types of content based on their objectives.
But that’s a post for another day, because today I’m going to talk about our process in the context of content creation that is designed to generate links and social shares, driving traffic as a result.
There are five broad steps in the content creation process:
- Research and idea generation
- Idea validation
Step 1: Research Ideas for the Content
It’s easy to dive straight into brainstorming and idea generation, and sometimes, that can work. Nevertheless, I’d always recommend a period of research into an industry prior to this so that you can get a feel for what’s been done before, what has worked, and what hasn’t.
This ensures that you go into a brainstorming section far better prepared to generate ideas that may work.
One thing to point out at this stage is that you shouldn’t put yourself under pressure to come up with a completely new idea.
It’s great if you can, but it is unlikely that something hasn’t already been done before in some form or another. So you shouldn’t put this pressure on yourself.
The most successful content that you find will come down to at least one of three things:
- The story: If something has a strong story, it’s more likely to grab attention and be picked up by mainstream news websites and publishers.
- The data: People like numbers because they provide empirical evidence that what you are saying is true.
- The production: Sometimes a piece of content may just look visually stunning, and that is enough to generate links and shares.
Create content by Leveraging the content of your competitors
The first key step is to research your content competitors, and it’s very important to recognize the difference between your product/service competitors and your content competitors. I have written about this in depth and you can read it here Let’s look at an example.
Let’s say you own a clothing store website. You may be trying to rank for keywords such as “summer t-shirt sale” or “clothes for babies” because you provide those things.
You’ll have competitors who are trying to rank for the same kind of keywords and of course, you should take a look at what they’re up to.
However, there is a whole other section of websites who don’t compete for these type of keywords, but whom you can learn a lot from when it comes to content. In this example, those websites are bloggers and publishers who also provide the same kind of content.
They produce the exact kind of content that generates links, social shares and traffic – exactly what we’re trying to do with our own websites.
It’s pretty simple to find our content competitors. The quickest way is to think of a few non-commercial keywords.
You can also use the keyword search function in Buzzsumo to do these kind of searches:
The results will show you content that contains this keyword, ordered by social shares
Finding data sources for your content
Our next step is to try and find data sources that could lead to us creating a piece of content or a story that can be pitched to publications. I recommend Statista for this, which is a growing resource of statistics and facts.
Sticking with our travel example, here is a snapshot of the kind of data it has available with a simple search:
If Statista doesn’t have what you need, a few simple searches on Google will often yield good results. Just remember to do a bit of due diligence on where the data comes from and make sure that it’s as sound as possible.
Failing that, can you get? data from other sources. There are many organizations and services out there who will gather data on your behalf.
Yes, you have to pay for them, but if you think the data can help you generate links and shares for your website, then it could be worth the investment. Here are a few options:
Some of these can be expensive to use, so I recommend using something like Google Consumer Surveys to poll a small sample of people. Then, if the data is looking promising, run the full survey.
Putting all of this research together
That was a lot to go through! But trust me, in the end, it’ll all be worth it. The next step is to take all of this information and put it into a brainstorm session for your team. When it comes to brainstorming, many people will say “all ideas are good ideas” but this simply isn’t true.
A session is very important here, because your team needs to walk into that session with the right information and context. If they don’t, then the majority of ideas that are generated may not actually be usable which isn’t a very good use of time.
Step 2: Idea validation
By following a defined template, you can give your content the consistency it needs to provide value to your readers. In summary, there are six principles with which you should structure your content on.
- Simplicity: Your content doesn’t have to be complex to be good. There is a lot of value in keeping things simple. Are your headlines easy to understand? What about the rest of your content?
- Unexpectedness: Your content doesn’t have to be 100% new, but it should seek to provide insight that is different from the rest.
- Concreteness: Your content need to be clear, precise and easy to read and understand
- Credibility: Your content should have some credibility in the the form of data or an expert opinion
- Emotion: People tend to remember things that strike them emotionally
- Story: Your content needs to tell stories. Doing this creates deep emotional connections with your readers
The key here isn’t the framework itself, although that is very important. The key is the ability for you and your team to give each other valuable, constructive feedback on an idea.
It’s often easy to just say “I don’t like that idea” or “That idea won’t work,” which, even if you’re right, isn’t the most useful feedback to receive.
With a good template, someone can reference it in their feedback. So if you’re using the template above, you can say “I don’t think the idea is simple.”
This is far more useful feedback to hear and it may mean that an idea simply needs tweaking rather than dumping completely.
Step 3: Production
Function over form
This step is very important. The format of your content will ultimately determine how well people interact with them
You should focus on getting the right idea first, then ask what the best way to present that idea is.
If it turns out that an infographic is the best way to present your idea, then great. But don’t start with the form; start with the idea and see where it takes you.
In relation to content creation, It is important to note that more and ore people are surfing the net with mobile devices.
We? think of content discovery as someone browsing on their laptop/desktop machines and clicking through from a blog, Twitter, or Facebook. In reality, though, it actually looks more like this:
When someone clicks on a link like this on their mobile device, they expect the content they land on to work perfectly on their device. If it doesn’t, the user is not likely to enjoy or engage with the content, let along share it or link to it from somewhere.
Another key thing here is to let designers design. Try not to restrict them by providing a brief that tells them 100% how something needs to be done.
Give them the goals of the piece and some guidelines, then let them design. Of course give them feedback along the way, but try not to be too prescriptive.
Step 4: Promotion
Here is one of the key takeaways: Spend just as much time on promotion as you do on the production. It’s so easy to get caught up on design, development, and the idea itself, you can end up spending most of your time on producing it and not nearly enough time on promoting it.
There are three different types of promotions. A combination of all three can help ensure that your content reaches as many people as possible.
Paying to promote your content can be very useful in generating traffic to a piece of content, which in turn, can also help generate social shares and sometimes links. Larry Kim goes into detail about paid promotion in a post he wrote.
The basic principle is that you can use paid promotion to get your content in front of writers, bloggers, journalists, and influencers.
There are a few options for how you can do this. Firstly, to reach a wide audience, you can use platforms such as Taboola or Outbrain. These can work well for reaching a very big audience, but targeting options for specific demographics on these platforms is still rather limited.
Other options are more regular social channels such as:
The one I want to focus on is Facebook. But they’re useful to us nonetheless. You can do things such as specifically targeting journalists using options such as:
You can put whatever list you’d like in here, but I’m sure you get the idea!
You can also go one step further in targeting people by uploading their email address into the custom audience feature of Facebook:
It’s straightforward here to upload your outreach list; if Facebook can find a match for the email addresses, you can advertise directly to those people. If you’d like to go into more detail on this, take a look at.
This is likely to be more familiar to most of us because this section covers traditional link building outreach. Essentially, we need to find a list of influencers and contact them in order to promote our content to them.
All you have to do is go to google search and use the following guidelines:
The next thing you have to do is swap [industry] with your own industry and viola!
This sounds simple, but can often be the trickiest part of the process because it’s here that you may find out that you don’t actually have a great idea! This is why the idea validation step is so important because it reduces the chances of promotion going wrong.
This one will depend heavily on what social media networks you are on, but essentially we’re talking about using your own channels, such as:
- Social channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Pinterest
- Your existing blog
- Your email marketing list
Basically you are using social media to drive traffic to your website.
Step 5: Conversion and tracking
It can be quite hard to convert a visitor to a piece of content that is designed for links and social shares.
These kind of content creation are often not designed to “sell” to the visitor, so getting them to click across to the main website or a product page (let alone getting them to buy something) is difficult.
Generally though, this is difficult to pull off. So what can we do instead?
If we can’t convert someone into a buyer, what else can we do? One thing you could do is to try and capture a visitor’s email address so that you can then target them on Facebook or via email marketing.
Build your re-targeting lists
If someone visits a piece of content, you can build a re-targeting list and then advertise to them in the future. There are two ways you can do this:
- Advertise your products and services to try and encourage clicks and future purchases
- Advertise your future content pieces this can work very well if you’re working on a content series, i.e. a series of blog posts that all tie together
These are the five broad steps that you can take for a content marketing campaign, and while we’re always iterating on them and improving them, they are sure to increase your chances of success.
Creating a sustainable content creation process that you can stick to over time is harder. It requires work and effort, but the rewards far exceed the effort.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!