Competing With Content Marketing: 10 Steps to Success [Infographic]

In today‘s digital age, content marketing has become a non-negotiable strategy for businesses looking to attract, engage and convert their target audiences online. With the average person now spending over 6 hours per day consuming digital media, the opportunity to reach potential customers through valuable, relevant content has never been greater.

But with opportunity comes competition. As more and more brands invest in content creation, cutting through the noise and capturing audience attention has become increasingly difficult. In fact, a recent study by Beckon found that while content marketing output increased by 35% in 2022, engagement actually decreased by 17%.

So how can you ensure your content marketing efforts deliver real results and ROI for your business? The key is to take a strategic, data-driven approach and focus on quality over quantity. In this post, we‘ll walk through 10 essential steps to content marketing success, backed by the latest industry data and insights.

Content Marketing in 2024: State of the Industry

Before we dive into the how-to, let‘s take a look at some key content marketing statistics that illustrate just how critical this strategy has become:

  • 91% of B2B marketers and 86% of B2C marketers now use content marketing (Content Marketing Institute)
  • The average number of content marketing tactics used by brands is 6 (Forbes)
  • The most popular content formats are blog posts (89%), email (87%), infographics (65%) and video (56%) (Statista)
  • The average word count for a page that ranks on page 1 of Google is 1,447 (Backlinko)
  • Content marketing generates 3X more leads than traditional marketing and costs 62% less (CMI)
  • Companies that publish 16+ blog posts per month get 4.5X more leads than those that publish 4 or less (HubSpot)
  • 78% of marketers say content marketing is becoming more important to their companies (Siege Media)

It‘s clear that content marketing is no longer a "nice-to-have" but a business imperative in 2024 and beyond. So let‘s look at how to do it right.

10 Steps to Content Marketing Mastery

1. Develop a Documented Content Strategy

The first and most critical step in any successful content marketing program is to develop a clear, documented strategy. This should include:

  • Your target audience and buyer personas
  • Your brand‘s unique value proposition and key differentiators
  • Your overall business and marketing goals
  • The primary topics and themes you‘ll cover
  • The content formats and channels you‘ll focus on
  • Your editorial calendar and publishing cadence
  • Your distribution and promotion plan
  • Your metrics and KPIs for measuring success

According to Content Marketing Institute, 69% of the most successful content marketers have a documented strategy vs. only 16% of the least successful. By taking the time to develop a comprehensive plan, you can ensure your content efforts are aligned with your larger business objectives and set yourself up for long-term success.

2. Prioritize Audience Needs Over Promotional Messaging

One of the biggest mistakes brands make with content marketing is focusing too much on themselves rather than their audience. Remember, the goal of content is to educate, inspire, entertain or convince your target customer, not to push your product or service.

To create content that truly resonates, you need to start with empathy and a deep understanding of your audience‘s needs, challenges, goals and preferences. Conduct market research, analyze website and social media data, and actually talk to your customers to gain insight into what makes them tick.

Then, develop content that addresses those needs and provides genuine value, whether that‘s by solving a problem, providing helpful tips and insights, or simply telling a good story. By prioritizing your audience over your brand, you can build trust, credibility and long-term relationships that ultimately drive business results.

3. Focus on Quality and Originality

In the early days of content marketing, brands could get away with pumping out high volumes of generic, superficial content and still see results. But today‘s consumers are savvier and more discerning, and search engines like Google are placing more emphasis on content quality and depth.

To stand out in a sea of mediocre blog posts and copycat content, focus on creating truly original, high-quality assets that showcase your brand‘s unique perspective and expertise. This might include:

  • Original research and data analysis
  • Thought leadership articles from company executives
  • In-depth ultimate guides and how-to content
  • Authentic customer stories and case studies
  • Visually engaging infographics and videos

By investing in a smaller number of high-quality assets, you can differentiate your brand, attract higher-quality leads, and build a reputation as a trusted resource in your industry.

4. Experiment with Content Formats & Channels

While blog posts remain the most popular content format, today‘s audiences expect more variety and visual appeal from the content they consume. To maximize engagement and reach, it‘s important to diversify your content mix and experiment with different formats and channels.

Some options to consider:

  • Short-form and long-form videos
  • Infographics and data visualizations
  • Interactive content like quizzes and calculators
  • Podcasts and audio content
  • User-generated content and influencer collaborations
  • Social media stories and livestreams
  • Slide decks and presentations

By testing out different formats, you can discover what resonates best with your unique audience and double down on the types of content that drive the most engagement and conversions for your business.

5. Use SEO to Increase Content Visibility

Creating amazing content is only half the battle – you also need to make sure your target audience can actually find it. That‘s where search engine optimization (SEO) comes in.

By optimizing your content for relevant keywords and phrases, you can increase your visibility in search engine results pages and attract more organic traffic to your website. Some key SEO best practices to follow:

  • Conduct keyword research to identify high-volume, low-competition terms
  • Use keywords naturally in your page titles, headings, body copy and meta descriptions
  • Optimize your images with descriptive file names and alt text
  • Include internal and external links to high-quality, relevant resources
  • Make sure your website is mobile-friendly and loads quickly

SEO is a complex and ever-evolving discipline, but by focusing on these basics, you can lay the foundation for long-term content success.

6. Amplify Content Reach Through Distribution

Even the best content won‘t generate results if no one sees it. That‘s why having a multi-channel distribution and promotion plan is critical to content marketing success.

Some effective tactics to boost content reach:

  • Share content on your brand‘s social media channels and encourage employees to do the same
  • Post content on relevant industry forums and online communities
  • Submit guest posts and sponsored content to high-traffic blogs and publications
  • Leverage paid social ads and native advertising to target specific audiences
  • Syndicate content on platforms like Medium and LinkedIn Publishing
  • Use email marketing to share content with subscribers and nurture leads

By promoting your content across a range of owned, earned and paid channels, you can reach a wider audience, drive more traffic to your website and accelerate your content marketing results.

7. Measure and Optimize Based on Data

Finally, to prove the ROI of your content marketing efforts and continuously improve your results, it‘s essential to measure and optimize based on data.

Some key metrics to track:

  • Website traffic and pageviews
  • Average time on page and bounce rate
  • Social media shares and engagement
  • Email opens and click-through rates
  • Lead generation and conversion rates
  • Revenue and sales influenced by content

By regularly monitoring these metrics, you can identify which topics, formats and channels are driving the most engagement and business value, and adjust your strategy accordingly. Use A/B testing to optimize individual elements like headlines, images and calls-to-action, and don‘t be afraid to cut underperforming content and double down on your top performers.

Top Content Marketing Tools & Platforms

To streamline your content creation and distribution efforts, it‘s helpful to have the right tools and platforms in your arsenal. Here are some of the top options to consider:

Tool Category Key Features Pricing
WordPress CMS Customizable website templates, SEO tools, vast plugin library Free – $45/month
Google Docs Content Creation Real-time collaboration, version history, built-in templates Free
Canva Design Drag-and-drop editor, pre-made templates, stock photos and graphics Free – $30/month
Hootsuite Social Media Management Schedule and publish posts, track mentions and keywords, analyze performance $49-$739/month
Mailchimp Email Marketing Email builder, list management, marketing automation, analytics Free – $299/month
Buzzsumo Content Research Find top-performing content, analyze competitors, identify influencers $99-$299/month
SEMrush SEO Keyword research, site audits, rank tracking, backlink analysis $119-$449/month
Hotjar User Feedback Heatmaps, visitor recordings, surveys, feedback polls Free – $99/month

Content Marketing Examples to Inspire You

Need some inspiration for your own content marketing efforts? Here are a few examples of brands that are crushing it:

1. HubSpot

HubSpot is the undisputed king of content marketing in the B2B space, with a vast library of blog posts, ebooks, courses, templates and tools that educate and empower marketers and salespeople. Their content is not only highly informative and actionable, but also beautifully designed and optimized for conversions.

One standout content asset is their annual State of Inbound report, which surveys thousands of marketers and salespeople around the world to uncover key trends and benchmarks. By providing this valuable industry data, HubSpot cements its position as a thought leader and go-to resource for marketing insights.

2. Glossier

Glossier is a beauty brand that has built its entire business on the power of content and community. Rather than relying on traditional advertising, Glossier focuses on creating authentic, user-generated content that showcases real customers using and loving their products.

One of their most successful content initiatives is their "Top Shelf" series, which features interviews with inspiring women about their beauty routines and favorite products. By highlighting diverse voices and experiences, Glossier creates a sense of inclusivity and relatability that resonates with their target audience.

3. Airbnb

Airbnb is a master of using content to inspire wanderlust and showcase the unique experiences available through their platform. From their Instagram-worthy destination guides to their "Experiences" video series highlighting local hosts and activities, Airbnb‘s content transports viewers and makes them want to book their next adventure.

One particularly impressive content project was their 2017 "We Accept" Super Bowl ad and accompanying online campaign, which promoted a message of diversity, inclusion and belonging in response to political tensions around travel bans and immigration. By taking a stand on a social issue and aligning their content with their brand values, Airbnb demonstrated the power of purpose-driven content.

The Future of Content Marketing

As we look ahead to the rest of the 2020s and beyond, it‘s clear that content marketing will only continue to grow in importance and sophistication. Here are a few key trends and predictions to watch:

1. Content Personalization at Scale

As artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies advance, brands will be able to deliver increasingly personalized content experiences based on individual user data and behavior. Think Netflix-style content recommendations, but for your blog and email campaigns.

2. Interactive and Immersive Content

Static content is no longer enough to capture audience attention. Expect to see more brands experimenting with interactive formats like quizzes, assessments, polls and chatbots to engage users and collect valuable data. The rise of virtual and augmented reality will also open up new possibilities for immersive content experiences.

3. Voice Search and Audio Content

With the proliferation of smart speakers and virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri, optimizing content for voice search will become a key consideration for brands. This means focusing on conversational keywords, question-based queries and concise, easy-to-read content. Audio content like podcasts and voice-enabled ads will also continue to gain popularity as a way to reach audiences on the go.

4. User-Generated Content

As consumers become increasingly skeptical of traditional advertising, user-generated content (UGC) will become an even more valuable asset for building trust and authenticity. Brands will need to find ways to encourage and incentivize customers to create and share content, whether that‘s through social media contests, influencer partnerships or branded community platforms.

5. Content as a Service

Finally, we may see more brands productizing their content and offering it as a paid service or subscription. This could include access to exclusive research and insights, personalized content recommendations, or even custom content creation for other businesses. By treating content as a revenue generator rather than just a marketing expense, brands can create a more sustainable and scalable model for content success.

Conclusion

Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. By following these 10 steps and staying ahead of the curve on industry trends and best practices, you can create a winning content strategy that drives real business results over the long term.

Remember, the key is to focus on quality over quantity, prioritize your audience‘s needs over promotional messaging, and consistently measure and optimize based on data. With the right approach, content marketing can be a powerful tool for building brand awareness, establishing thought leadership, and nurturing customer relationships.

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, content will only become more important as a way to cut through the noise and connect with consumers on a human level. So start investing in your content strategy today – your future self (and bottom line) will thank you.