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Creating great content is expensive. As many entrepreneurs quickly find out, it’s usually not as simple as just hiring someone to write content and then posting it to a blog. There’s no magic in words on a page. Even if you invest heavily in creating great content, it can sometimes seem like a never-ending rat race. You publish something incredible, people love it and then it soon fizzles out. It may feel like you’re starting from scratch every time you publish something new.
The reality is that content marketing isn’t supposed to be about hitting home runs every time.
With the amount of time, money and resources it takes to do content marketing well, you should be thinking about creating long-term value. You should be approaching content marketing with months, years or even decades in mind. Because the companies that do content marketing the best are not the ones that have a single flash of marketing success, they’re the ones that do it consistently well, day and day out, for years.
This kind of thinking puts strategy first and relies on compounding results for real, measurable and sustainable business growth.
Here’s how you can frame your content marketing to think about it in terms of generating long-term value.
Start with your goals in mind
If you’re investing in content marketing, you must want it to help you achieve something. Maybe you want to increase brand awareness, drive more leads, generate more sales, or some other real, tangible business objective.
To create value from your content marketing, you need to start with the following goal in mind: set out to accomplish something measurable. Then, build a strategy and metrics around that goal. I’ve written previously about how to create a framework around your content based on this concept.
If you start with this real and measurable goal in mind, then you’ll be able to watch that as a way to gauge your success over time. (Hint: It should be improving!)
Build a community
Let me ask you a question: If your company blog was transformed into a magazine, who would subscribe to it?
If you can’t answer that (or you’re not sure), then chances are it’s because you haven’t spent enough time defining and cultivating a community around your content.
This is important, because one-time readers are nice, as we all like to see spikes in traffic in Google Analytics. But real value comes from creating a valuable source of news, information and insight that attracts your audience and keeps them coming back.
One of the reasons why content marketing folks tend to put a huge emphasis on the development of reader personas and buyer journeys is because the content that you create should be highly targeted to specific kinds of people. It should be the content they would read in their favorite magazines or on their favorite media websites.
In addition, you should invest in building and harnessing that community through different channels, such as:
- Regularly engaging readers through social channels
- Building and nurturing a list by email
- Encouraging discussion in the comments on your website
StartupNation, for example, recently launched some new community features that helps to connect its readership of entrepreneurs and startup-minded business all over the world. This is important too because as a company, they want to cultivate a tightly focused and engaged audience, and they want readers to keep coming back.
While content marketing has some big distinctions from traditional publishing, the model is not entirely different. In this case, you should think of your content as a meeting ground for like-minded readers, i.e. who signs up for a subscription?
When in doubt, think like a publisher.
Focus your content marketing on search
One of the most important ways to unlock long-term value with your content is to focus on SEO.
Content marketing and SEO really go hand-in-hand, and with the right plan to cash in on search, your content can become much more valuable to your business over time. But you must take the time to learn the basics of SEO and invest in creating a strategy that is linked to the search habits of your target customers.
(While this is a separate topic for an entirely different article, I highly recommend Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO as a resource for learning about SEO, content, and how the two work together).
With the right search-focused content marketing strategy, you can invest in content that pays off again and again over time. Rather than trying to drive traffic just through social and email channels, you can let Google and Bing do the heavy lifting. As your article rises in the search rankings, it may generate hundreds or thousands of visits to your website every single month.
This kind of long-term value is measurable and effective, and it’s one of the driving forces behind much of the hype around content marketing. Having a steady stream of new, targeted users coming to your site every month can generate a huge return for your investment.
Of course, this isn’t always easy to accomplish. If it were, everyone would be doing it.
Plan for content marketing with search in mind or risk missing out on a huge opportunity for your business.