The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Content Marketing for Small Businesses

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Content Marketing for Small Businesses

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Content marketing remains at the heart of digital marketing for small businesses. However, being unsure of where to begin can be overwhelming. You might also be wondering if this investment will take up a ton of time and money that you could spend on other important tasks.

This guide has you covered.

It delves into the essentials of content marketing and practical tips for making this online marketing strategy count for your business. Also included are examples of successful content marketing campaigns for your inspiration.

Let’s get started with content marketing definition.

What is Content Marketing?

HubSpot defines content marketing as:

the process of planning, creating, sharing, distributing, and publishing content to reach your target audience to boost factors like brand awareness, sales, reach, interaction and loyalty.

This is a solid definition but could do better with some explanation.

Simply put, content marketing is a long-term strategy that aims at establishing a formidable relationship with your target audience by consistently offering them valuable content that is highly relevant to them. It is not just the stuff you write to generate traffic or long-form articles or infographics. It is anything that speaks a message to your audience.

In a busier and noisier world, content marketing is a great way to show customers that you care about them…contrary to one-off advertising.

Using this strategy, you can nurture your prospects through the sales funnel, gradually building trust along the customer journey. In the long run, your prospects will buy your products/services and become loyal customers. Keep reading to learn about the current position of content marketing.

The State of Content Marketing in 2021

You must stay on top of the latest content marketing trends and advances to remain ahead of the competition. Following are the top content marketing statistics of 2021 that could help shape your promotional strategy.

  • The percentage of marketers who document their content marketing strategy rose a few inches higher from 65% in 2109 to 69% in 2020. (Content Marketing Institute)
  • Quality lead generation is the top priority for content marketing, accounting for about 75% of marketers’ goals. Driving traffic to a website and improving brand reputation follow closely 71% and 56%, respectively. (SEMrush)
  • Bloggers now spend 63% more time crafting a blog than in 2014. The expectations for content are higher than ever. As such, creating unique content worth sharing takes a ton of time. (Orbit Media)
  • The top metric for content marketing is organic traffic (76%), followed by lead (62%) and pageviews (60%). (SEMrush)
  • At 84 percent, content creation is the most outsourced content marketing activity by B2B organizations.
  • The average length of a blog post is 1269 words, up 57% since 2014. Additionally, 90% of bloggers include images in their posts. (Orbit Media)
  • The top skills required in the content marketing industry are Marketing (81%), Social Media (50%), Strategy (42%), SEO (38%), and Research (37%). Other essential skills include editing, analytics, and email marketing. (SEMrush)

Remember to keep the above statistics on top of your mind as we delve into the benefits of content marketing.

Why is Content Marketing Important?

It is normal to doubt the importance of content for your business if you are still on the fence or need some benefit guarantee to continue investing in the digital content marketing strategy. Following is a compilation of long-term benefits to consider.

Enhances Your SEO Efforts and Traffic

You cannot win at SEO by just addressing technical issues in your website. Any inbound marketing-savvy individual knows that content is central to success in organic search and traffic generation.

You need to consistently generate content that resonates with your audience. Content that answers their questions comprehensively. By doing so, Google rewards you with better rankings in search results, increasing your website’s visibility. Remember: Google ranks web pages, not websites.

On top of that, backlinks from trustworthy sites and blogs enhance search engines’ trust in your website. However, only unique content that inspires, excites, entertains, and intrigues readers is worth the link juice.

Builds Trust with Your Target Audience

Content creation is elemental to forming strong relationships with your audience. it is a solid way to create value without asking for anything in return. And by continually answering your prospects’ questions, they are more likely to trust your opinions and recommendations.  

It follows that publishing content at the right time and place improves your brand’s reputation. As such, customers won’t feel burdened to associate with your brand.

Builds Authority

Content marketing is your ticket to building solid authority and thought leadership online. By distinguishing your website as a preferred information resource, you are more likely to rank favorably on Google and other search engines.

Additionally, your audience is most likely to trust you and keep coming back for more if you set yourself apart as an expert in your niche. As such, create content that demonstrates your expertise and answers your prospects’ questions.

Generates Leads

Another impactful benefit of content marketing is the ability to attract leads. According to a HubSpot report, companies with a blog generate 67% more leads than brands without content… and marketers who focus more on blogging drive 13X more ROI (return on investment) than companies that do not prioritize blogging.

Prospective customers who read your content are more likely to buy your products/services in the future.

To generate leads, offer free, useful information to your audience, strategically placing actionable and clear Call-to-Actions(CTAs) in your content. The more a reader is excited by your content, the higher chances of them clicking your CTAs and proceeding to your landing pages.

Enhances Conversion

Having a low-conversion website is like fetching water with a leaky bucket- you put too much work into it without gaining meaningful results. Why not fix the bucket, instead?

Assuming your website has a great user experience and speed, you can improve your conversions with high-quality, consistent content that helps your audience connect with your brand and offers them the information necessary to make educated buying decisions.

Top-Performing Types of Content Marketing

Blogs

Blogs are the most popular content format for small businesses, with 86 percent of marketers using them as part of their marketing strategy. Blogging is popular for a good reason- it is among the best ways to enhance SEO and drive organic traffic to a website.

Besides, blogs offer you an excellent platform to discuss popular topics in your industry, position yourself as a thought leader, and showcase how your solutions can help customers’ everyday problems.

Statistically, websites with blogs boast 434% more indexed pages, meaning these websites have higher chances of ranking on the first page of search engine results for relevant keywords. Still, companies with blogs drive 97% more links to their websites.

Another benefit of blogging is that you can repurpose your content into other content formats, including infographics, long-form content, email series, social media posts, eBooks, and videos.

To learn more about getting results with blogging, check out this post by Forbes.

Infographics

An infographic is a visual type of content marketing that helps viewers effortlessly visualize data and information.

People love infographics because they are fun, understandable, and deliver concrete information using less space. You can use them to explain certain subjects and offer statistics about your industry/business, all geared to showcase the value your brand provides.

The point of infographics is to break down complicated information into important points. Make them simple, meaningful, and impactful. Here’s how Happify organized science-backed steps to reduce worry and anxiety into an easy-to-follow infographic.

Case Studies

Case studies are basically true customer stories illustrating how your businesses helped a particular customer alleviate a certain challenge. Case studies are a favorite among customers because the content type gives them a practical example of how a brand can improve their lives.

Case studies often feature at the bottom of the sales funnel because it is far easier to convince leads with a true story about a happy customer.

However, it is important to carefully consider the customer you intend to use as your case study example– ideally, a customer who has substantially benefited from your products/services. Also, look for a customer willing to offer you permission to use them as your example and some statistics and quotes that prove how your business helped them solve a particular challenge.

Case studies are often housed in a company’s website, but you can incorporate them in your other marketing materials, including social posts, blogs, and eBooks. Learn more about case studies here.

Whitepapers

Though more difficult to produce, whitepapers still rank among the most effective types of content marketing. In the world of content marketing, a whitepaper is a long-form piece of content tailored to help readers understand and solve a particular issue.

Whitepapers and eBooks are similar in several ways. But whitepapers tend to be more data-backed, technical, and detail-focused. This positions whitepapers as a more effective content marketing type for small businesses looking to establish thought leadership and gain more authority in their industry.

A vast majority of web users admit to sharing information about themselves in exchange for a valuable whitepaper. Done right, whitepapers can help you gather information about new leads, giving you a way to keep them in touch even after accessing your report. However, this strategy of information collection can only work if your whitepaper is gated. See the image below demonstrating how TATA Motors does this:

Source: LyfeMarketing

eBooks

An eBook is a digital book that offers valuable information and insight to a particular audience about their challenges and needs. Often, they are packaged in the form of PDF files for easy access and sharing.

However, eBooks require a bit more investment in terms of resources and time than other content marketing types such as social posts and blog posts. But this should not scare you from creating an outstanding eBook– you stand a chance to derive incredible benefits from this content type.

An eBook is not a 10-15-page ad. Instead, it should provide valuable information that resonates with your target audience, standing out as a great way to deliver a lot of critical information in a form potential customers are most willing to read.

One of the greatest advantages of eBooks to a business is that you can gate them in some kind of an opt-in, meaning visitors must provide their information to download your eBook. This technique’s output is more leads that you can nurture through the sales funnel until they become paying customers.

Videos

Video content can be money- and time-consuming to produce, but it’s among the best types of content marketing to grab an audience’s attention and engage them fast, regardless of your business size or industry.

The demand for video content is ever-increasing, with 6 out of 10 people preferring to watch videos than television. And according to a HubSpot report, the percentage of businesses using video as a marketing tool has risen from 63% in 2017 to 85% in 2020.

Talking of video marketing potential, businesses that utilize video on their webpage are 53X more likely to appear on the first page of Google results. Still, adding videos to your emails can boost open rates by as much as 300%.

A thoughtfully produced video demonstrates a unique side of your business, allowing you to create content that shows potential customers how to do something, how your product(s) works, or how you manufacture your products. The sky is the limit when it comes to the information you can offer with videos. But always remember to create closed captions for your videos and text introduction for a unique user experience.

See how DollarShaveClub uses video to make something boring as razors funny and memorable.

Examples of Content Marketing Done Right

Get inspired by the following examples driving content marketing a step ahead:

HubSpot and Blogging

A marketing innovator, HubSpot creates lots and lots of in-depth blog posts to help readers progress their marketing. The articles are high-quality, relevant, engaging, authoritative, and detailed, which is central to great search rankings. Also available are content upgrades like user guides, videos, and e-books.

HubSpot is also behind Inbound.org, an educational and content sharing hub that allows the company to promote its certification and partnership programs

Be Vocal’s Beyond the Silence Documentary

Be Vocal, a non-profit organization focusing on mental health, partnered with Shaul Schwarz and Demi Lovato to produce Beyond Silence– a 29-min documentary that takes a new approach to discussing mental health.

The documentary follows three people -Jeff, Lauren, and Lloyd- who portray their struggles with mental illness and demonstrate how their lives changed by speaking out. The film’s reach was humongous. It was covered in over 240 articles and hit over 415 million impressions without any paid promotion.

Getty Images-Amanda Foundation Image Collection

Pet adoption is a fantastic experience. And the Amanda Foundation, an LA animal rescue foundation, understands the power of injecting the ‘aww’ factor in their content using cute pictures of animals under their care.

The foundation partnered with Getty Images to make a stock image collection using photos captured by its staff in their day-to-day efforts to help homeless pets find loving homes. As of January 2021, the collection has 218 high-resolution pictures of cats and dogs. The organization receives a donation for every stock image purchased on Getty Images.

AARP

AARP magazine, the world’s largest circulation magazine, demonstrates the importance of understanding your audience and offering them the information they want. The magazine has received multiple awards for its content, web design, and photography.

However, AARP’s ticket to its success is not a mystery. It’s basically what any savvy marketer would advise you- listen to your audience. AARP listens to their readers who reach them via social media, letters, and email and use the information to identify topics that will best resonate with the audience. Therefore, it comes as no massive surprise that AARP is American’s most-read magazine, reaching over 22 million American households and boasting an estimated 38 million readers per issue.

Coke’s Share a Coke Campaign

Coke harnessed the power of personalization in marketing to get everyone talking about the brand. The ‘Share a Coke’ Campaign allowed people to customize their drink, making them feel like it’s them and their bottle against the world.

The campaign kicked off in Australia by swapping Coke branding on cans and bottles with 150 of the most popular names in the country. The campaign’s success was unexpected. In the summer of 2011, the campaign sold over 250 million bottles and cans in a county of about 25 million people. This equates to approximately 10 bottles per citizen. ‘Share a Coke’ has since rolled out across the world, currently reaching over 70 countries.

You can personalize your bottle now, as I did here:

GoPro and Visual Content

GoPro, currently with 17.7m followers on Instagram and 10.2m subscribers on YouTube, understands the incredible power of visual content. Their marketing strategy is about quality visual content and products. They know what their ideal customers love and thus provide precisely that- quality pictures and videos.

Visual content is no longer an option but a necessity for a successful content marketing strategy.

But what do statistics reveal about visual elements?

Blog posts with images get 94% more total views, and Facebook posts with photos get 37% higher engagement than text-only posts. On top of that, Twitter research on post engagement factors revealed that photos and videos average 35% and 28% boost in retweets, respectively.

The 9 Most Important Content Marketing Hacks for Your Business

As you delve into the content marketing game, you’ll need to leverage ways to drive customer growth, not just more content. Here are a few content marketing tips you can start using to grow your business. 

Set Your Content Marketing Goals

You need to know what you want to achieve with your content marketing efforts. You could want to grow your reach or generate more revenues, generate more leads, or boost your revenue.

Your content marketing goals will determine the KPIs (key performance indicators) you use to measure your progress. Standard metrics include web traffic, number of leads, social engagement, sales, and SEO success.

Get Your Content Ideas Right

Why do some ideas go viral while others sink into the abyss?

If you’re looking for ideas on creating content that people will want to share, Jonah Berger’s insights may prove to be useful. In his guide to creating contagious content, Jonah stated that helpful, emotion-evoking content gets the most shares. He was right.

When we mention emotions, think of laughter, pain, anger, fear, loss, etc.

Because search engine results are currently linked to the quality of content, it’s no longer enough to simply create content that matches search terms. Now, you need to focus on creating emotionally resonant content that has value for your target audience, so they’re more likely to share it.

Get started with the following questions when brainstorming ideas for your content:

  • What trending idea do you have in mind that people will want to know?
  • Will your idea be controversial?
  • Will your idea provoke an emotional response in your target readers?
  • Does your target audience love long-form or short-form content?
  • Which of your already-published blog posts and articles account for the most social media shares?
  • Can you partner with industry influencers to promote your content?

There is an alternative approach. Identify thought leaders in your niche. Find their best-performing content and use similar topics and headline styles to create something more compelling.

With a tool like Buzzsumo, you can find the most viral headlines on a specific topic (keyword), so you generate better ideas for your own content.

Target the Right Keywords

To rank favorably in organic search results, you need to optimize your content with highly relevant keywords. Incorporate these words in the title and throughout the rest of the copy, while taking care to describe your product or solution accurately. 

When you’re trying to find a keyword, try starting with a broader topic like “women’s health” and then narrow it down with Google autocomplete. Or if you already have a good idea of what you want to write about, you can use keyword research tools to narrow down your keyword options, depending on factors like search volume and SEO difficulty. 

Experts suggest that you focus more on long-tail keywords– those phrases containing three or more words. These phrases are more specific than short-head keywords and people using them often have a higher search intent. Ultimately, they get you highly interested visitors and help you weed out the people likely to find your website by mistake.

Let’s assume you own a travel agency and intend to write a blog post about the best places to visit in France. Now, if you Google the phrase “best places to visit in France,” autocomplete offers you the following suggestions.

Google Autocomplete

With the above suggestions, you know the related phrases commonly searched on Google. Such are the terms you should incorporate in your blog post to boost its ranking. 

By carefully selecting the related phrases commonly searched on Google, you know which keywords to incorporate in your upcoming blog post. Make sure not to overuse keywords (to manipulate rankings), or you will get punished by Google for keyword stuffing.

Learn more:

Write More In-depth Articles

A detailed article on a subject is better than a short one. A shorter one ignores essential details and leaves out valuable information, which may upset your potential customers and even Google.

Now that you know that Google and your future customers won’t stop at just the article title or intro, it’s time you start developing detailed content. By “detailed,” we are talking about a 1500-word article (at least) thatdigs deep into all the aspects of a subject.

When it comes to conversions, long-form content typically outperforms short-form content. In a recent study, Crazy Egg found that making their homepage 20X longer increased their conversions by 30%. Visitors wanted their questions answered comprehensively, and that’s precisely what Crazzy Eggs delivered. This proves that you cannot have a page that is too long- only a boring one

There are many ways to write a detailed article. For example, you could interview experts in the niche and then paraphrase their answers. Or you could research the topic and then write your own answer to an imaginary question. If you choose the latter, here are few tips to get you started:

  • Pick a broad topic/subject.
  • Target a long-tail keyword in your headline- for example, how to build a successful travel business
  • Research current, accurate data on the subject
  • Create exciting content. Remember to mention reputed blog authors in the body.
  • Add some visual element to your content (images, graphics, slide presentations, videos)
  • Use a lead generator in the article’s body to collect emails 
  • Ask mentioned influencers to share your article

Write Compelling Headlines

Next on our list of content marketing tips involves nailing your headlines. 

Headlines are the secret sauce to generating more clicks, blog readership, shares, and sales. They are the first thing users see after clicking on your listing and are a critical tool for luring readers into your blogs.

A good headline is what makes the difference between someone who visits your blog/listing and eventually buys your product and someone who doesn’t. 

But you have barely 8 seconds to grab your readers’ attention; otherwise, you lose valuable prospects to your competitors. 

The most important thing is to ensure that your titles are compelling to encourage readers to click and read. Add some touch of curiosity and creativity, too.

According to Single Grain, headlines with numbers tend to get more clicks on the organic search results. Additionally, longer headlines (12-18 words) typically account for the highest number of Facebook engagements. 

While you can include buzzwords that get users excited and eager to learn more, refrain from using business jargon. It’s noted that phrases like “need to know,” “the future of”, and “X ways to” drive the highest engagement for B2B (business to business) companies. In comparison, phrases like “X reasons why,” “this is what”, and “X things to” work well for B2C (business to consumer) brands. 

Finally, split test your headlines to see which ones generate the best results. Learn more about A/B tests. 

Work With a Content Calendar

If you want to boost your rankings and web traffic, then you need to publish content regularly. Follow a publishing schedule and it won’t be long before content marketing becomes part of your daily routine. Once you’ve published enough articles, readers will start coming back to check out your latest posts. This brings us to an important tool for effective content marketing strategy- a content calendar.

A content calendar helps you stay organized by mapping out your content creation for the month or a whole quarter.

Based on your audience, you decide what to produce and on which platforms to publish. Each piece of content will have a life cycle (creation, editing, and publishing), and it’s important to know how long each stage takes. 

That’s how you maintain consistency in your content publishing schedule, avoiding a situation where you might overwhelm your fans with content or appear inactive.

Add Actionable Call-to-Actions

If you have only written content and nothing to capture leads, it’s time you try out CTAs. They can help you generate more leads for your business. In fact, you can increase clicks by 371%  by including a single CTA in your email. You certainly don’t want to miss out on such customer acquisition gains.

The goal of a CTA is to get someone to take your desired action, such as subscribing to your email list, reading more of your content, or making a purchase. 

You can try both written CTAs and CTA buttons. 

With CTA buttons, use informative phrases to inform users what happens next. So, you want to avoid generic phrases like “click here” and instead say “click here to get your free ebook.” Instead of “buy now,” say “add to cart- save 30%”. 

Don’t push potential customers to buy anything, though. Rather, appeal to what they want and how you can help them.

Above is an example of an actionable CTA button by Giftrockets. It does not urge customers to “buy” or “subscribe” but nudges them to “Send a Giftrocket” to their loved ones. 

Developing successful CTAs also requires split testing (A/B testing). Test things like button text, shape, color, and size to determine what works for you.

Continually Update Your Content  

Updating content has to be the most underrated hack for content marketing. 

But truth be told, your industry and business change frequently. And so information changes too. Consider also that Google constantly changes its algorithm. As a result, articles that offer outdated information often drop in rank as more counterparts offer updated information. 

Maintaining fresh content is vital for any website to rank well on Google. It’s essential that you update old content to be as up-to-date as possible, and ensure that every detail of your content is accurate. 

Repurposing your old content in new and interesting ways is a great way to get existing customers interested in your old content. Examples include turning an old blog post into a white paper or repackaging an old webinar as a podcast. Also, you can use an old blog post as the basis for a new webinar or create a video from an old blog post that you can post on social media.

Share Your Content

Don’t rely solely on organic searches to grow your traffic and business. If you have social media marketing or email marketing, you can use the mediums to promote your content. As a result, you not only boost your traffic for your blogs but also create opportunities for your fans to share your content, further expanding your reach. 

You can elevate content promotion using automation. Rather than sharing content manually, you can, for instance, integrate social share buttons at the bottom or top of your blog posts to make it easy for readers to share your content on their social media pages/accounts. 

Measuring and Optimizing Content Marketing

The last content marketing tip we will look at involves measuring results. Below is a list of indicators to monitor closely to accurately assess the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts.

Traffic 

If nobody is visiting your website, your content (no matter how amazing) means nothing to your bottom line.  That’s why you must measure traffic, which can be divided into three categories:

  • Users: the total number of unique visitors
  • Pageviews: the total number of times a web page has been viewed
  • Unique pageviews: The total number of times a single user has viewed a page combined into one pageview. 

Traffic data offers valuable insights. You can get a sense of where your visitors come from, what kind of devices they use, and how much traffic you get to specific pages on your website. 

Use this information to better tailor your content to your target audience. For instance, if you primarily target UK customers, but most traffic comes from Canada, you can tailor future content to your Canadian visitors.

Conversions

What actions are your visitors taking after reading your content? Are they signing up for your newsletter? Are they clicking on your links and CTA buttons? Are they making a purchase? These are just a few examples of conversion.


If you own a B2B business, we must mention that your ideal customers will hardly move from the awareness stage to completing e-commerce transactions after reading your blog post. They take several steps on their journey to conversion. Track each step from the lite actions of clicking a blog post or subscribing to a newsletter to the more profound actions like registering for an offer.

Engagement 

Engagement indicates how good your content is, unlike traffic which typically shows how effectively you get users to click your links. 

You undoubtedly want a lot of visitors on your site, and you want to keep them there as long as possible. You can use Google Analytics to see how well you do this. 

Analytics lets you know the average number of pages that people visit per session, the average amount of time they spend on each page, and your bounce rates. Aim for a high number of pages per session, long average session duration, and low bounce rate. 

A  high average session duration means you’re offering something that keeps users engaged. If users frequently bounce from your website, it means they can’t find what they need. Such are the details you should use to adjust your content marketing strategy.

Another practical approach to content engagement analysis is to analyze performance on social media. The most important metric here is the number of times your content has been shared on social platforms- it’s a good way to track how well your content resonates with your target audience. 

You can use BuzzSumo to track social media shares and quickly identify your top-performing content.

SEO Performance

Organic traffic does not give much insight into your site’s performance in search engines. SEO performance analysis comes in here. 

The search engine ranking position is arguably the most critical metric to track when analyzing SEO performance. That’s because rankings are straightforward indicators of how well a page is doing in organic search results for a particular term. Better rankings, logically, equate to more traffic and conversions. 

Whereas your ranking may fluctuate a little, you want to see it stay in a good spot or improve. 

You can use Google Search Console to see the terms your website is ranking for and how your ranking fluctuates over time. 

Another indicator of good SEO is when your content appears in answer boxes for relevant keywords. For example, if you were selling a product that helps people cut their heating bills, an article entitled “How to Reduce Your Heating Bill” might appear in the answer box for this query.

Authority 

Measuring authority is not as straightforward as most other metrics we have discussed. 

Domain authority measures the likelihood that your site will rank on a search engine results page (SERP). It is calculated by Moz. The more authority your domain has, the more authoritative your content will be and the more people will trust your brand.


 You can use Moz’s domain analysis tool to determine your domain authority(DA) and page authority(PA). Let’s catch a glimpse of Apple’s DA scores.

Note that DA and PA scores range between 1 and 100, with the higher scores indicating higher authority. And while there is no universally accepted ideal DA/PA score, essentially, you want to outscore your competitors.

Don’t just collect data. Analyze the metrics to discover where improvement opportunities lie. 

Bottom Line

Stop being a content marketing amateur. Understand that it doesn’t matter how much you spend on content marketing if you don’t do it right. 

So, what are you waiting for? Gather your resources and put the above tips into action to build an effective content marketing strategy for your business.


So, you want to be an expert in your space. Congrats. But what if you don’t have the time? There are services that can help you fix that. 

With a strong understanding of your business and your target market, ContentGenics can craft compelling content that converts, builds engagement, and helps build your brand. Contact us today to turn your ideas into compelling content that builds value for your business

Ezekiel Maina

Website: http://contentgenics.com

Ezekiel is the founder and blogger at ContentGenics. He's a versatile B2B and B2C writer born and raised in Kenya who focuses on connecting with audiences through content. By day, he hides in his home office, creating educational content and sales materials on topics related to digital marketing, home services, medical equipment, IT products, or IV therapy. And by night, he’s a blend of a terrific cook and a couch potato catching up with the latest docuseries on Netflix.

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