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Flickr image by Frederic BISSON

Content marketing has been around for a while, and many companies incorporate it into their greater marketing plan these days. But how do you ensure that your content really packs a punch and helps your overall marketing efforts?

To achieve this goal, precise targeting and strategic planning are required. Make sure you know your target audience and have a clear plan of how exactly you are going to market to them by means of Web content long-term.

Define your target audience

OK, I think I just heard you say "But we know our target audience already; we cater for parents with kids aged 3 to 7". Well, guess what, simply having a general (and usually over-simplified) idea of who your potential customer is just isn't enough.

Many marketing departments nowadays create extremely detailed target customer "portraits" (normally, up to 5 such profiles is enough) and base their content strategy on their findings. This way one gets a lot more insight into their prospect's needs, the type of content they could be interested in, when they'd be likely to consume it, etc.

Let's say you sell child development games for kids from 3 to 7. One of your customer profiles could look like this:

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So, what type of content would Alice want? If she reads science magazines, she'd probably want statistics and research data. While we know she's a responsible mom, she'll probably read an article titled "If Your Child Doesn't Develop Skill X by Age 7, This May Never Happen".

Plus, as Alice and her family go to Disney World for vacation, it could be a good idea to create an online questionnaire that prompts parents to leave their emails to receive the results plus offers one a chance to win a trip to Disney World.

Create an editorial calendar

Once you know who to target with your content, prepare an editorial calendar before your begin content production. This way you will avoid unnecessarily creating content that's out of line with your greater content strategy.

1. Consistency is key

Decide right away which sections you are going to have on your blog and stick to this plan in the future. For example, these could be "News", "Interviews with X", "How to", "Ask Gene", etc.

By the way, Search Engine Journal used to have a Friday Humor column which I really miss:

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Then decide how frequently you are going to add content to each section and stick to this periodicity in the future. For instance, if you'd like your site to be a go-to news resource, don't miss a single noteworthy event in the niche, as your regular readers should be able to rely on you to cover them all.

Now, how often should you add content to each column? It really depends. Just choose a frequency you can realistically commit to. You could decide to publish certain types of posts on a daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, bi-monthly or even annual (such as "Best of 2013") basis.

Also, do allocate some space in your calendar for one-off publications, promo campaign announcements, seasonal holidays, etc.

2. Having an own style is important

Think of the style of your site as a cookie cutter:

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Flickr image by Heartlover1717

It should be that which defines your site/blog and is easily recognized by others. The style of your online resource would normally be made of a number of things:

  • The design and layout
  • The topics you normally cover
  • The tone of your posts
  • The expertise level of your publications, etc.

It's a good idea to put together editorial guidelines (which you can adjust later on) and hire an editor who will make sure the style of your blog is kept intact. Having editorial guidelines ensures that the style of your blog won't change even if you get a new editor.

3. Help your content produce maximum impact

For you content not to "fall on deaf ears" and to trigger maximum response from your audience, it has to be relevant and expected (it has to blend in with the pattern of your greater content strategy).

We already spoke about relevance and how a marketer can make sure their content addresses the right people.

Speaking of expectations, there are certain tricks you can resort to to make your content expected and anticipated, and to make people come back to your site.

On the one hand, you can achieve this by being consistent with your publishing efforts (as discussed above). On the other hand, you can pursue a Scheherazade-style storytelling strategy, that is, make people crave for more content from you, whet their appetites " and satisfy that craving when created.

  • Write a series of posts

Well, they do this at Hollywood all the time 🙂

  • Make pre-announcements and publish spoilers

If you are about to launch a new product, release an e-book, etc., make a mouse-watering pre-announcement post or create a video spoiler that ushers it (if you can).

For instance, here is how we pre-announced our Easter Egg Hunt last year:

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  • Write supporting posts relevant to the theme of your latest whitepaper, e-book, etc.

For instance, Jamie Turner of The 60 Second Marketer recently co-authors a book titled "Go Mobile". This could one of the reasons one finds quite a few posts about mobile websites and mobile marketing on his blog (apart from mobile being a hot topic per se).

  • Provide links to related posts

I'd say, if the platform you use on your site allows it, this one is a must. To keep people reading your blog/site, provide links to other posts you have on the same topic.

This is done automatically by many publishing platforms, you only need to ask your webmaster to set this up. E.g., here is what it looks like on Search Engine People (or you can test the feature at the end of this post):

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  • Repurpose your content

Repurposing the content you create (such as, creating an infographic out of the long whitepaper, making an online presentation of your exhaustive how-to post, etc.) not only helps you to pro-long the life cycle of a particular piece of content, but also to reach new audiences (SlideShare audiences, for example) or to appeal to a different category of readers.

For example, some people hate to read, but would gladly watch a slide presentation or a video.

  • Share your content on social media

Why would I single out this as a separate point? That's because sharing your latest post on social media should not be as primitive as pressing the share button. For maximum impact, craft a custom message for each network you use and check for responses. It also makes sense to re-share this content several times to reach audiences in other time-zones/those who check their feeds, say, only on the week-end.

It's also important to determine who will be responsible for sharing the content you publish on social media (and include this activity/reminder to the SMM manager into your calendar).

  • Syndicate your content to third-party sites

Do you know a few editors of reputable sites in your industry who could be interested in covering the exclusive interview you just published?

Syndicating your content means pitching in to (usually more reputable) online source in your niche hoping they will write about it/cover it. Some websites have a special content form where you can enter a link to a coverage-worthy piece of content. If you see one " use it.

For example, Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting is one person in the Internet marketing world whose interviews are often covered by other industry blogs (apart from also being published on his own site). Here is an example from Search Engine Watch:

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So, when creating your editorial calendar, plan the above mentioned content organization tactics as well!

Eventually, your editorial calendar could look like this:

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Your thought and critical comments on how one can improve on the above suggested strategy are welcome (in comments).