Content marketing includes blogs, newsletters, webinars, podcasts, ebooks, and more.
At the bottom of this page is a cheatsheet that recaps most of this handbook.
On this page, I'll cover:
The first rule of content marketing is to write for extremely high quality. Until you've established quality in the reader's mind, they don't read closely. Instead:
The antidote is to not shy away from great, in-depth content.
The truth is that people don't actually have short attention spans for content: They finish three hour Joe Rogan episodes and they binge fourteen hour Netflix shows. What they have is short consideration spans: they must be hooked quickly. To do so, ensure your first minute is incredible.
Extreme quality stems from four factors:
Writing for quality is not only important for retention, it's also critical for ranking on Google. Google used to be all about backlinks—but not anymore.
When someone finds your page through a Google search, Google measures your post's quality in part by whether someone bounces from it to read another site instead. To keep readers from bouncing, you have to hook them immediately, cover everything they're looking for, and do so concisely.
Content must not only attract readers but also convert them—into subscribers, purchasers, or some other meaningful status.
To understand reader conversion, first review the blog consumption funnel:
This is one of many paths a reader can take through your content. To continually usher readers forward, focus on four goals:
To prevent people from bouncing, make reading frictionless:
To build affinity with readers so they convince themselves to buy your product, expose them to as much great content as you can.
For instance, the blog post a visitor lands on from a Google search may be most related to their search query, but it might not be the best post for converting readers into customers. Therefore, every blog post should cross-link to your best-converting posts.
And don't bury these links at the bottom of the page where no one reads them. Inject them naturally into the content.
Your goal is to continually feed readers quality until they encounter a post that finally strikes the chord needed to get them to convert.
Next, introduce your pitch without turning them off. When pitching, consider three principles:
When pitching a newsletter subscription in particular, overcome people's concerns of inbox spam by visualizing its value and putting readers in control:
Consider making some of your content only accessible to readers who enter their email. Getting an email is how you convert an anonymous visitor into a newsletter subscriber. Now you have an ongoing dialogue.
There are a two strong ways to "email gate:"
Give readers enough non-gated material to first see how great your content is.
If you blog and no one reads it, you didn't blog. You wrote in your diary.
Content marketing = content creation + distribution.
Content distribution happens via internal and external channels.
Internal channels are the channels you own:
Try all of them.
These are the distribution channels you don't own:
Try all of these channels.
Not all content channels are equally good at acquiring users. Only some are optimized for attracting new eyeballs. Namely Twitter, YouTube, and SEO.
Other channels are better optimized for keeping those eyeballs engaged—until they eventually purchase. Podcasts and Newsletters are biased toward this.
This bifurcation exists because some channels do a great job automatically distributing content for you (Twitter, YouTube, SEO) while others have weak discovery mechanisms (Podcasts and Newsletters).
As a result, there's a proven funnel for building an audience through content:
Let's break that down:
Guest blogging entails posting your content on someone else's blog.
This exposes you to new audiences and might increase your site's SEO potential by securing a "backlink" from a popular site in your space.
This is hit-or-miss. Most blogs are read by no one. You can partially assess blog engagement by seeing how how frequently its posts are shared on social media. (BuzzSumo will tell you.) You can also get a broad idea of a site's traffic by visiting its Alexa page.
The pro's of guest-blogging:
Write guest content then send it for consideration. If it's high quality, this is like handing bloggers candy: you did their writing work for them this week.
In other words, don't first ask for their permission to write. If you do, the good blogs will ignore you because saying yes is a commitment to editing your post or awkwardly rejecting you if it turns out your post sucks.
Before you email them your post, ensure your writing mimics their style:
Make it a no-brainer for them to simply copy-paste your post and hit publish.
There's surprisingly little worth knowing about SEO. Most of the Internet's SEO advice is a waste of time—they're trivial optimizations offering marginal returns.
Primarily focus on four things:
If you're new to SEO, below is a quick primer.
Fully cover your topic to increase the odds of being the last site a Google searcher visits to satisfy the intent of their search. Answer all their possible questions.
Google detects if you're the last page that's visited, and they heavily promote you for it. They want content that resolves a searcher's intent.
Google values the number of relevant and trustworthy sites with non-trivial amounts of traffic that link to you.
You don't need quality backlinks to rank at the top of Google for many queries, but links do speed up the timeframe in which Google tests you on the front page.
Keep your page titles below 62 characters—or Google will truncate it.
Also, avoid clickbait syntax such as "You won't believe how X did Y!" It's played out, and it makes you look like spam.
Instead, aim for specificity and accuracy. Examples:
The keywords in your post's title should exist within its content—or Google will assume your topic is misleading. Don’t stuff keywords to try to game Google.
Your meta description is for enticing people with a summary of what your post covers. Don't stuff this with keywords either; Google no longer uses this to determine your site's relevancy to a search query.
Include one or two primary keywords in your post's URL. Do not exceed five total keywords, or Google will dismiss them as an attempt at keyword stuffing.
If you're covering a topic that's continually trending and changing, such as politics or bitcoin news, your content will become outdated quickly. And Google aggressively prioritizes trend-related content that was recently published. For this reason, trending content is unlikely to stick at the top of search results. It's therefore not a good long-term investment, and I recommend avoiding it.
For a deeper dive into content production, see the Demand Curve curriculum.
Sometimes users generate share-worthy content for you. If they do, that's vastly preferable to creating content on your own—because now you have a scalable and viral content engine.
User-generated content (UGC) can be a silver bullet that catapults a startup, but unfortunately it's not realistic for most businesses. Here's the litmus test: If your product's core purpose is to help people create and distribute content—if that's why users are signing up—then UGC is viable.
You use those products for the purpose of creating or sharing content. Therefore, they have UGC potential.
As with every growth asset, UGC exists within a funnel. Optimize every step of it:
Via Demand Curve, I'll train you or your company in ten times more growth marketing topics than were featured in this handbook.
We also run a growth agency for larger companies looking to scale: Bell Curve.
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