Here are some more damning facts from a study of 1.4 billion search queries. 6% were from paid search. 8% of internet users click on 85% of search engine ad clicks. Organic traffic wins 94% of the time (Search Engine Watch, 2012).
Let’s continue with a good ol’ text book definition:
“Content marketing” is a subdomain of inbound marketing. “Inbound marketing” means using pull rather than push techniques to draw visitors to your website or product. Content marketing consists of creating audio, visual or written content with the purpose of delighting people and drawing them to your website or product…. Oh and almost every one is doing it
Content is not just about driving people to the top of your conversion funnel and forgetting about them. At least, that’s not what we think at Twoodo. Content needs to be targeted to your niches and built to answer questions asked by your potential leads and users. It can also serve to inform and entertain your personas, allows you to show thought leadership and gain authority in social media, which will in turn affect the success of your company. Think SEO. Content marketing for startups can work awesomely.
Content marketing isn’t just blogging!!
There are so many types of content to choose from :
- Blog posts
- Guest blog posts
- Case Studies
- How-to Guides
- Press Releases
- Reports & Trends
- PDF and eBooks
- Web Forums
- Q/A websites
- Competitions and Reviews
- Pinterest pins
- Instagram pics
- Facebook posts
- Twitter tweets
- Linkedin posts
- Google+ posts
- Forum discussions
- Local Business Listings
Just to get you enticed, here are the numbers that convinced us that content marketing was a user acquisition channel to test:
inbound leads cost 61% less
SEO has a 14.6% close rate compared to 1.7% on outbound tactics
B2B businesses with blogs have 67% more leads
B2C businesses with blogs have 88% more leads
Incapsula’s 2014 bot traffic report found that only 44% of internet traffic is actually human – so it makes sense that humans will respond to humanized tactics rather than automation.
This doesn’t mean that other marketing tactics such as paid SEM or social ads should be ignored. Paid ad campaigns done wisely and on the correct platforms can yield great results. But what used to be a great way to gain traffic often isn’t as affordable in the long run. Channels such as SEM or Facebook Ads have rapidly become expensive and saturated. New emerging “wild west” platforms like Twitter and Pinterest offer great opportunities but in the back of your mind there will always be that feeling “with paid channels you’re I’m renting ad space on the web.. with content marketing I’m owning it!” Content is long-lasting.
I truly believe Ads may win a battle, but content will win the war.
Let’s look at these numbers again and dig a bit deeper:
The average CTR (click through rate) for ads is 0.1% (Hubspot, 2013). You would literally have to pay for 1000s of clicks just to get a handful of people clicking on your link. The average cost per conversion across all industries in 2013 was $10.44 (down from 2012’s hefty $24.40). This is something to think about next time you are trying to calculate what your CAC and LTV are going to be.
To summarise: content marketing…
takes time BUT gives long-term high value
improves your SEO tactics
requires you to truly get to know your personas
is cheaper than SEM
will turn your knowledge into conversions
will help you build relationships with influencers and the crowd (hello Series A / crowdfunding…!)
What has content marketing really got to do with my startup?
Press, Investors, Pundits and even your clients and users want to see traction.
Traction is defined as so by Brendan Baker:
- registered + active users
“Traction is proof that somebody wants your product. Ideally, it should communicate momentum in market adoption.”
Content marketing affects the first four of these points. The first 2 directly and the second 2 indirectly.
There seems a constant debate in startups – do we hire a developer or a marketer? On the one hand, product ultimately wins. On the other hand, a product can’t win if nobody has a clue it exists – ultimate fail. Seriously debate it with your co-founders rather than dismiss it is all I’m saying.
Our lessons learned about content marketing..
I’m going to focus on the content that we decided would give us the best overall results: guest blogging, and then blogging for ourselves. Written content is easily indexed by search engine crawlers, so we determined that would give the best long-term ROI than, say, an infographic which relies solely on social shares.
Results? Here are a few from March 2014 to Nov 2014:
- 416% increase in unique visitors from 120 to 620 unique daily visitors
- 380% increase in sign-ups (and no, I don’t mean going from 5 to 19!)
- Average guest post gets just under 1000 social shares of which we calculate 6% convert to sign-ups
- Users are more active after signing up because they have been better targeted
- Retention rates from content marketing efforts are 47% higher than through our paid ad efforts
Above is an example of a guest blog we published on The Next Web on December 21st 2013 at the beginning of our content journey. As of May 2nd 2014 it has been viewed over 16,700 times (and counting). It has been shared over 2,500 times across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google Plus. Two hours after this article was repromoted on The Next Web (approx. 6 months after it was originally published) 246 people came to our website. We were given the opportunity to delight and convince 246 potential users to sign up. The article has historically brought 1210 people directly to our website. Between Dec 21st and Dec 31st (new blog posts have an active life for approximately the first week after publishing – we allowed more due to the Christmas break) 213 people signed up to Twoodo. Our UTM trackers indicated that 78% of those came from the article. At the time we weren’t getting any PR or promoting ourselves in any other way. The only thing that had to be paid for were the hours put into researching and writing the article.
What were the mishaps along the way?
Content is not entirely straightforward. Here’s a summary of the roadblocks we had to deal with along the way:
the first 5 months were research + trial and error
some things work once and once only (or not at all…)
you cannot automate content creation
interpreting qual data + quant data + making correct correlations between events
it’s hard to “force” content creativity!
We tried to write a blog post a day – but I burnt out pretty fast. We tried all the tricks that we could think of, but found that our ideal pace was 2 a week, in order for the creative juices to keep flowing.
OK. Now can I have the insider tips on how to create great blog posts?
I guess you won’t be surprised to know that most stuff shared on the internet is not read…
Image credit: Contently
So I will share with you my quick-fix tips, before you become a more profound writer (quite a few of these tips apply to other written and visual pieces of content as well):
great header image
lots of spacing
break it up with images and quotes
emotional AND rational message
sub-headings that summarise
bolded key findings
Make your information interesting, actionable or entertaining whether it’s a webinar or an Instagram picture.
My favorite tools and tricks
Everyone’s got a list of things that work best for them. I use my own unique combination of (mostly free) tools to get what I need done. What I need are tools to a) get ideas b) get information to back up the ideas c) create quality writing/images d) promote e) track.
Social media and promotion:
- bufferapp: schedule social media shares across the main channels, and monitor how successful they were
- tweetdeck: follow conversations and URLs that matter to you, and take part in them
- buzzsumo: search for content to share, and also find out who is sharing it by using their “export sharers” function
- snip.ly: Embed messages into every link you share
- flipboard: curate your best/most successful content into a beautiful magazine
- canva: quick infographic/image templates
- flickr creative commons
- hemingwayapp: scan your articles for structural and grammatical errors
- impactbnd blog title generator: get ideas for blog post headlines
- Google alerts: scrape the latest news from the web on topics that you want to write about
- Yoast WP plugin: your SEO checklist for WordPress blog posts
- quora: need an idea for a blog post? Answer a question put up on Quora
- Moz extension: check the PA/DA of the top ten search results to see if you could potentially rank for it
- Hubspot’s ‘signals’ extension: check to see if your article submissions/article pitches have been opened on the other end (this extension does not expire like others)
- ‘check my links’ extension: quickly scans pages for broken links – fix your broken links, or offer your content to fix someone else’s broken links
- ritetag: get the right hashtag (trending up) for your Twitter promotions
- hashtagify: more hashtag suggestions
- link sites (stumbleupon, reddit…): find those relevant to your content
- tweetdeck: manage conversations by creating a column with the URL of the article you want to track
- quora: does your article/infographic/video answer someone’s question? drop it there
Here’s a full checklist of what to do with your content once you’ve published it:
Content marketing for startups is becoming the best way to show authority in a niche
Startups are niche-based. Therefore, it makes total sense to leverage the knowledge of that niche by using it for SEO and authority-building. It is particularly relevant for SaaS startups, like us.