It’s all a bit overwhelming, trying to get started in content marketing. All these companies and marketing experts are telling you that content marketing is the thing you have to do now. You’ve got to write a blog and make a video, and do all this stuff that you just don’t have time to do. And you don’t even know where to start. And you’re not a great writer. And what’s all this SEO stuff? Doesn’t it change all the time anyway?
I admit it can seem like a very steep learning curve if you’re thinking about content marketing. I spend all day with my head in this stuff, and I get overwhelmed. So this article will take a step back and explain the basic stuff you need to get your content marketing started.
But first, an answer to those questions. You don’t have to be a great writer. Finding even a small amount of time to get started is better than sitting back and trying to work it all out. And while small details of SEO change a lot, the basic idea behind it hasn’t changed. Both you and search engines want to deliver as much good content to people as you can.
The basic first thing you need to get started in content marketing
You start with a plan, a blog, and time. Of these three things, time is the hardest to carve out. There are plenty of great books that give tips on how to organise yourself, and they all boil down to the same basic advice. Clear a space. Set a timer. Write anything at all, good or bad, but get it out on paper. When the timer goes off, after half an hour or an hour, put it away and don’t think about it again until tomorrow.
But tomorrow, come back to it. Set a timer. Start working on it again.
Repeat that the next day.
Creating an appointment with yourself every day, or week, or month, to do this is the only way to get it done. Do three or four articles before you think of publishing.
Creating the basic plan
Your plan can be very complex or very easy. I would opt for very easy at first. Plan to publish one blog post at a set time, on a set day, on a regular basis. We make a lot of appointments for other things in our lives: Monday meetings, date nights, gym visits, after-school pickups. This will be one more thing. When, where and how you do it is up to you. But make that appointment. Set an alarm.
As you get better at this, your plan will become more complex. But don’t worry about that at first. The first step is just to get that regular publishing habit. That’s your plan. Publish.
If you’re worried about not coming up with enough ideas, read this post to get some inspiration from writers who do this all the time.
Invest in email marketing software
Email seem quaint and old-fashioned now, but it’s still the most important weapon in your content marketing arsenal. That’s because it is still the only way you can connect with an audience you own.
Any audience you get on social media is not your audience. It’s the audience of that social media platform. That platform can block you from reaching that audience, and demand you pay to do so.
Whereas having an email address gives you a direct line of communication.
Email marketing software has an advantage over just an excel spreadsheet of email address. It lets you create lists of people based on their interests, and it lets you see who is opening your emails and clicking through to your blog.
This is where the ‘marketing’ part of content marketing starts. Before you use this, you’re just creating content. When you start to target that content to particular groups, you’re marketing.
Invest in social media scheduling software
It’s very difficult to get attention for what you write straight away. We like to believe that we can produce something so useful and interesting that people will just find it. But in the real world, that doesn’t happen.
That’s why you need to tell people that your content is there. To do that, you use a social media scheduling tool. Hootsuite is very common, although I prefer CoSchedule because of the easy calendar interface that it uses. There are others out there as well, which you can find by Googling ‘social media scheduling tool’.
They are all cloud-based software platforms. You use them to set up a series of social messages that link back to your blog posts. The aim is to drive an audience to your website. Hopefully, when they’re there, you can ask them for their email address so they can receive more content from you.
If you’re going to use Facebook, you will still need to pay to boost your posts if you want people to see them. But you can create a custom audience to boost that post to, and pay the minimum to get it in front of people (currently US$5 on Facebook), and you’ll get a good result.
Do keyword planning, but be careful
The last thing worth doing is a bit of keyword planning. If you’re not sure what keywords are for you, this is a good basic guide to understanding keywords. There are a lot of keyword planning tools, and many of them offer free or partly free use.
The most comprehensive is Google’s free keyword tool. It is more comprehensive than anyone else because Google crawls and indexes more websites than anyone else. But it exists to help people who are buying Google ads. So it will give you a lot of results that aren’t really useful.
If you’re starting out, it’s best to use your imagination first. Try to think of any words or phrases that people would type into a search engine to find you. Not just your company name, but any phrase that they would use when looking for your services.
The more of these you come up with, the better. They will give you an idea of what you should be addressing in your content.
You need to block out a defined period of time to get started in content marketing. You don’t need a complex or detailed plan straight away. You will need one further down the track, but it’s more important to just get started.
The three most important tools you will need are emailing marketing software like MailChimp or Campaign Monitor; social media scheduling software; and keyword tools.
With these basics, you can begin the process of producing content quickly, effectively and cheaply.
Your next step is to create a strategy and refine what you are doing to execute that strategy.