By now you’ve heard of Content Marketing programs and know of the value behind those programs — to increase web traffic and magically make your business money. The problem with online content marketing is that businesses either still operate under old school SEO principles, or they’re just shooting in the dark. Let’s take a look at why content marketing programs fail, and what you can do to create a strategy that takes your traffic from Barry Allen to Flash (5 points if you understand this comic book nerdism).

Bad Content Marketing

What is bad content marketing? My initial thoughts on bad content marketing are old school SEO guided articles. On occasion you’ll still find these gracing some top spots in Google, but they’re on their way out. You can recognize these old school SEO articles by their robotic language, ridiculous use of specific keywords in every heading and paragraph, and no regards for entertainment or real value. My personal favorites are the ones that are clearly written by non-native english speakers, and the ones that are being optimized for misspelled keywords. Yes, I would love to learn the “10 Best Ways to Increase My PCP Marketing.” By the way, I’m very excited to see all of the great “PCP Marketing” traffic that reaches this page from the inclusion of that keyword. Here’s one more instance of “PCP Marketing” just for fun 😉

Other examples of bad content marketing strategies are either not having a plan in place or siloing your content to only one specific niche area. The latter was also very popular in the “SEO glory days,” and is still commonly used. I do my best to urge businesses to think outside of their bubble. An example of creating a silo is writing purely about a single topic. Just because you provide Cybersecurity Services, does’t mean every single article you write has to be about cybersecurity. Other SEO and content marketing experts may argue against me, but hey, different strokes for different folks.

Here’s why I urge businesses to break outside of their bubble. As an individual, I may be interested in a topic like Ghost Busting, but it would be a mistake for a Ghost Busting application to only write about that one concept. Why? Because I have other interests as well. One day I may be interested in learning about Ghost Busting best practices, the next how effectively drop kick goblins, and the next I may be interested in puppies wearing funny costumes. People are infinitely complex and so are their interests. Creating a more broad range of content allows you to keep your audience engaged with fresh ideas, to branch out and build audiences across different areas, and build a more effective lead acquisition funnel.

This is where I see content marketing strategies fail. They choose product or service specific keywords with high volume and saturate their website and article content with numerous instances of variations of those keywords. What happens is 1) keyword cannibalization and 2) failing to properly reach targets at various stages of the sales cycle.

The goal of your content marketing program isn’t just to create badass content, but to reach prospects at each phase of the sales cycle to properly nurture and guide them from initial interest to purchase.

Creating a Good Content Marketing Plan

The first step to creating a good content marketing plan is to understand the sales and marketing cycle. If you Google this, there will be a few different iterations, but for the sake of this example we’ll go with the simplest which is: Awareness, Evaluation, Purchase.

I like to think of Awareness at a very broad level, as a basic introduction to your brand. Here you’ll typically use blog posts, how-to content, and more fun, basic, top-level content. If you provide Ghost Busting software, then here you would create blog posts such as “Most Haunted Places in America,” or “Blair Witch: Fact or Fiction,” or even “Top 57 Movies About Ghosts.” You get the idea.

The next phase is the Evaluation stage. This is where I like to create content regarding various Pain Points, examples of how businesses solved similar problems, information on products/services, and the occasional article regarding competitors. Again, using the ghost busting software example, I’d create content such as: “75 Signs Your Home is Haunted,” or “How Family X Solved the Real Life Case of Annabelle,” or “How Families are Benefiting From Different Ghost Busting Solutions,” or “The Proper Way to Make Contact with a Ouija Board.” The content starts to assert that the prospect has a problem with a haunting or a ghost and will eventually purchase Ghost Busting software, but first, you’re helping them understand that they have a problem.

Finally, we get to the Purchase stage. This is where you tie content directly towards purchasing behavior. Here create content based around purchasing your software. Examples would include: “Something Strange is in your Neighborhood… Who you Gonna Call?” or “Tips for Buying Ghost Busting Software,” or “See Our Ghost Busting Software in Action,” or “How The Meyers Family Got rid of their Ammityville Horror With Our App in 5 Days.” You get the idea.

Using SEO in Your Content Marketing Program

Once you’ve put your purchase funnel together and have a general idea of the content you want to create for each stage, then you should start thinking about SEO. This is a pretty major step because it will help you prioritize your content creation based on estimated traffic volume.

Typically, I’ll look at competitors and see what keywords they’re using in titles and content, and then I’ll also use Google Adwords to start building out preliminary keywords lists based on my own ideas. As you search, you’ll start to get an understanding of what people are searching for and their interests. Use your initial list of keywords to create categories for each stage of the lifecycle or “buyer’s journey.”

For example, in the Awareness stage you may find that “Haunted Places” is a highly trafficked keyword that you use in your category. Under this category you may want to build out various content to support this category such as “Haunted Houses of the West Coast,” or “Haunted Amusement Parks and Why You Should Avoid Them,” and “5 Most Haunted Hotels.” You’ll also want to build upon this keyword category by using Semantic Search for additional SEO.

Using Semantic Search for Content Marketing

What is semantic search? In simple terms it’s a search engines way of trying to provide you with greater accuracy to your search by understanding intent and contextual meaning. Not simple enough? You know when you Google something, and it tries to fill in the blanks or guess what you’re typing by providing other results? That’s it.

However, this is a very useful tool as you build out the various articles that will be part of your content marketing plan. Let’s go back to my example of “Haunted Places,” in the awareness stage. I would type that in to Google and see what my top results are, which would be “Haunted Places in Texas,” “Haunted Places in Austin,” “Haunted Places Near Me,” “Haunted Places in Lubbock,” and “Haunted Places in San Antonio.” I’m located in Texas in case you haven’t figured that out ???? If Google is recommending these as popular search queries, then I know that providing location-centered content to support these would be beneficial for my content marketing strategy because other people out there are searching for the same exact thing.

It can get tedious, I know, but building a content marketing program is a strategic effort. As I mentioned earlier, when content marketing programs fail, it’s because of poor planning or not properly addressing the sales funnel with a broad range of content to attack each stage of the buying cycle. The goal of your content is to ultimately drive revenue and it’s time you start putting together a strategy that works. Do your research, make your plan, then create content that engages your readers and provides value to them at different stages of the buying cycle.