21% of B2B marketers don’t have a content strategy. In an era where content consumption is done at a millisecond rate, not having a solid content plan will get you nothing. No views, no shares, no sales.
B2B content marketers everywhere are always extra busy trying to innovate their campaigns. While content marketing is not an award-based competition, staying top-of-mind and providing refreshing content does make a huge difference at a business level. So what’s all the fuss about?
Brands with no content whatsoever are invisible.
In fact, the Internet has now made it impossible for most B2B companies to prosper without content. Whether it’s a landing page, a social media profile, or just an ad you’ve posted on an industry-specific website, we all have some sort of a starting point for content already out there.
In this guide, I’m having a look at the steps you need to nail to ensure your B2B content strategy isn’t in vain. I’ve also talked to other marketers from diverse industries to get their secrets to non-anonymous content.
What is B2B content marketing?
B2B content marketing refers to the process of writing, rewriting, and promoting content with the purpose of growing your business, increasing your sales, stepping up your thought leadership game, and raising brand awareness.
The content you create through B2B content marketing is no longer directed at the general consumer. You’re writing to other businesses or professionals who represent a company that might be interested in your products or services.
It’s now all about positioning yourself on the right channels and in front of your ideal audience. A predominant focus on benefits and features will help readers make appropriate purchase decisions to meet not just their individual needs but also the requirements of all organization members who will be involved in using your product.
To keep things transparent, be aware that B2B strategies might cost more than a B2C one. This is because the B2B buyer’s journey tends to be longer and more complicated, requiring multiple network and promotion streams for you to create content for.
If in a B2C context, it can be enough to just showcase an item higher in your store or create a campaign with a leading influencer, B2B buyer funnels will require more steps. From the first interaction a potential buyer has with your company to creating guides, webinars, and case studies leading up to the purchase decision. Not to mention you’ll want to keep engaging with your customers through regular email messaging, educational content, and even live events.
This takes us to have an overall look at the differences between B2B and B2C content marketing.
B2B content marketing vs. B2C content marketing
The main goal for B2B content is to educate. Professionals read this type of content to find out more about a topic, learn new things they can apply at work, and make better decisions. On the other side of the spectrum, B2C is primarily entertaining. While headlines like “How to Become a Digital Nomad” or “How to Maintain Healthy Hair” aim to educate too, B2C content strategies are full of quizzes, fun facts, product recommendations, entertaining videos, celebrity gossip, and awe-inspiring stories. Meanwhile, a B2B blog looks like this:
This does not mean B2B content should be boring. Rather, we need to look at the two types of content marketing as having different purposes. B2C content aims to inspire and create emotional connections with customers in an attempt to retain them and create more engagement around a brand. Meanwhile, B2B is the more serious “team member” who dreams of becoming an expert in the field so that anyone can turn to them for help. In other words, the B2B content marketing vs. B2C content marketing debate is really expertise vs. feelings debate.
Note: The borders between the two content marketing approaches can get blurred at times. Individuals will often turn to B2B content for help just like a business can use B2C stories that inspire them.
Here’s a comparison of what the general marketing funnel looks like for each of the two. Keep in mind that every stage has its own types of content you can create to suit a different awareness level and interest.
How to make B2B content marketing work for your business
Doing B2B content marketing offers one large benefit: it boosts your ROI like no other method. Despite all of the positive effects content marketing can have on your revenue and brand, reality proves that not everyone is ready for a content strategy yet. As many as 15% of SaaS companies don’t even have a blog.
So are you asking yourself if a blog is still necessary?
Of course it does.
Here we are to take you through all of the steps you need to craft a B2B content strategy that will ensure future success when implemented from day one.
Positioning your brand
This is a step you’ve probably covered already. It’s time to decide how your brand is different from the others. What defines the personality of your brand? How are people going to remember you?
Think of your unique values, the client needs you can meet, what resources you have that your competitors don’t, and if there’s a niche or market segment you can dominate.
Why is this important for content marketing?
Because you don’t want your content to be the same as everywhere else.
While the Skyscraper Technique is ever so common in the B2B world, small businesses and startups won’t see results with it within the first year. For most keywords, there are already too many solid pieces from large companies and websites with strong authorities. So your only options are to either wait for new trends to appear and tap into that opportunity or look to create a unique content strategy.
Read the “How other companies are planning” their B2B content marketing campaigns section to discover how you can make the Skyscraper Technique work for your business even if you have no previous content.
Creating client segments
By far the biggest mistake new companies make when starting to write content is not having an ideal customer segment in mind.
While you definitely know who you’re selling to, these buyer personas need to be a part of your articles. So let’s say you sell HR management software subscriptions and one of your ideal buyers includes CEOs and business owners.
Every single piece of content you create should have them in mind. “How to Choose an HR System” or “10 Benefits of HR Automation Tools You’ll Need for Your Team” are two good examples of headlines to go for. But how do you approach the article?
Imagine you’re getting a question like “Why should I use your tool?” or “Will your tool help with payroll?” from a CEO. Answer specific issues your target audience might have. Turn to your market research, keyword analysis, and look at what inquiries you’re already getting for inspiration.
The secret is to always keep one clear audience in mind. Otherwise, you risk tackling too many general questions that won’t meet anyone’s requirements.
Got multiple personas and don’t which to target first?
No worries. While you want to create content for all target audiences, you can run an analysis of your past content to see which readers are more engaged.
In general, people from the IT sector are more likely to interact with your content. This, however, doesn’t mean you won’t find success with other audiences in fields like Education, Telecommunication, or Advertising.
Establishing realistic goals
We all want more views, more sales, more leads, extra brand awareness, and maybe even a couple of backlinks and media company mentions. But will a single piece of content help you reach all of this?
If you’re just getting started, know that there’s a right time for every goal. Ranking with articles on a blog that’s been around for a month is fairly impossible. Especially if you’re targeting high-volume keywords that multiple companies try to win on a daily basis.
Driving engagement, increasing thought leadership, and raising brand awareness though are three attainable goals you can work towards from day one. Other targets you might have such as bringing in more product sales or leads will come only if you’re staying consistent with your content strategy efforts.
To better understand how other companies establish their goals, Jakub Rudnik explained his own approach to goal-setting:
“Most campaigns have the potential to move multiple metrics, but I need to know what the primary driver is. From there, I evaluate campaigns I’ve already conducted with the same primary metric. Then, I look at existing content from other organizations in the space.
For example, let’s take a campaign to drive organic backlinks. One strategy I’ve used before is to create statistics articles as they’re often cited. Knowing that from my past experience, I’d search Google for relevant topics + “statistics,” then run those top results through my SEO tool of choice to see the number of referring domains.
At Shortlister, we have a resource list of Telemedicine companies, for example. With this in mind, I searched for “telemedicine statistics.” I then take the top URLs and analyze them in Ahrefs. The top result has 67 referring domains, all since July.
Seeing this, I know that a “telemedicine statistics” article has a high potential for backlinks and I add it as a topic. If the article didn’t have many referring domains or backlinks, I’d continue to analyze search results to see if others had better results. I’d also try variations of the keywords to see if that turns up any better results. I’d repeat this across the broad topics I would like covered and analyze for various content types (example: statistics articles).”
One more thing to prioritize here is your sales funnel.
A healthy editorial calendar has a fair mix of top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, and bottom of the funnel content. So let’s say your main short-term goal is to increase brand awareness. To do this, you’ll want to primarily focus on educational blog posts, podcasts, and videos instead of case studies and customer stories. The latter should still be a part of your content strategy to support your long-term objectives, but keep their number lower to reach your short-term goal first.
Here are some ideas of content you can create depending on the stage of the funnel you want to target:
Finding content ideas
The worst approach to content is to simply write on topics you think about often. If there’s a “trendy” topic you want to tackle [see the recent remote work keyword surge], make sure you analyze all opportunities. You might not be able to rank for the main keyword but there’s bound to be dozens of other secondary keywords your competitors are missing out on as they’re too focused on the main one.
As a business owner though, you’ll want to reach out to a marketing agency or freelance content strategist to craft an editorial calendar that matches both your needs and realistic market demands.
You can bring your own ideas to a regular content schedule as long as you have goal-oriented articles and guides planned out too. This said, writing spontaneous content is a perfectly decent method of keeping your thought leadership at top levels. I’m the biggest fan of writing content on the spot because it helps you relay your unique thoughts and even talk about future trends and topics others aren’t mentioning.
While this does help you keep the content you create fresh, your blog depends on what Google’s demands are. To resume how the search algorithm works, you’re looking to create educational content on a regular basis while trying to bring in your own research and findings to every piece. This ensures you’re staying afloat in a sea of over four million content pieces published daily.
So where can you look for content ideas to suit your B2B business model?
- Your brand values and specific business goals
- Your competitors and their activity
- Market and societal trends
- Content discovery tools like BuzzSumo and even Medium or other media and news outlets you read
- Keyword research and Google’s related search queries
- Your own customer reviews or testimonials your competitors get
- Customer inquiries
- Forums and online communities [Yes, including Reddit.]
- Social media discussions and mentions
Choosing the right content format
So you have this great idea no one talked about yet but how are you going to present it?
The general rule is to create one core piece of content and repurpose it through other mediums.
Say you’ve got a 5,000-word guide.
You’ll then take its format and ideas and reuse them in a video, social media posts, PDF, webinar, leaflet, book, etc.
“Content repurposing is essential to scale content marketing efforts. Using multiple formats is a great way to increase reach, plan long-term promotion, and appeal to different audiences.
At RingCentral, the most significant example is customer testimonial videos. Videos are powerful but take a lot of time to create. To make the most of these efforts, each video is repurposed into a number of formats: blog articles, visuals and short clips for social media, ebooks, etc.
Having written content around the video is a good way to introduce it, make it rank, and go in-depth with the topic. We make sure to get enough information to create all formats. We also pay attention to making it evergreen so that it doesn’t look outdated after a few months.” – Adrien Lemaire, Content and PR Manager @RingCentral
So what’s the catch?
Certain audiences have a stronger preference for one single type of content. Things get even trickier when it comes to the same medium. Take video for example. For short content snippets, young audiences will likely turn to TikTok over YouTube.
Similarly, one format will be better than the other for conveying a specific purpose. This research, for instance, proves how opting for videos is the most popular choice when creating thought-leadership content. GaryVee and Lewis Howes both have good profiles that focus on this goal.
Analyzing and tweaking your B2B content marketing strategy
Very few articles will rank or perform well from day one. The ones that make you from the start are usually viral news on leading new outlets or long-form guides published on blogs that already have a solid readership to rely on.
For the rest of us, it’s all a matter of updating content on a regular basis. From changing keywords depending on volume shifts to keeping stats, reports, and data up-to-date. To be honest, you can change everything in an article once you see it’s not performing well—content and format included.
Got 3 listicles on a similar topic that aren’t getting any traffic? Put them together, develop upon their topic, find a keyword that’s worth going for, and add extra headings and findings for support.
But what metrics do you look at when deciding which articles to refresh?
- Behavior Flow – the path readers take on your blog from one page to another
- Landing Pages – compare the number of views and time spent on each of these to see which ones are underperforming and if there’s any content that just needs a small update for Google to place it higher
- All Pages – similar to the landing pages, this shows you the performance of your content regardless of whether you’re dealing with a first-time interaction or not
- Exit Pages – see which articles are making people leave either because they found what they needed [this can be bad if they never come back and convert] or the info you provided wasn’t sufficient
These key indicators and the Behavior section in Google Analytics should become your most trusted friend when it comes to keeping content “in top shape”.
“We could track SEO value with a wide variety of tools, but what we really needed was tracking how our content operated after people found it. A simple bounce rate isn’t enough.
Data aggregation is essential for us. We’re currently moving all data sources, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Analytics, and more to Power BI. This way, we’ve got the ability to combine all our data to get a complete picture of our marketing and sales activities in one report.
So far, it’s given us completely new opportunities to analyze performance while reducing the time spent manually exporting or seeking information from thousands of possible indicators. It’s not finished and we’re already considering the AI potential to better highlight the most influential indicators automatically.
From here, we can get a wider view, which is essential for the likes of CPA, and we can filter by region/campaign to properly attribute success—credit where credit is due!” – Edward Marsh, Senior Content Specialist @Unity Group
How other companies are planning their B2B content marketing campaigns
As a B2B content strategist myself, over the years I’ve kept a close eye on the main and rising blogs from various industries. I’ve seen companies maintain the same strategy for years while others change it every other month. Similarly, I’ve seen businesses lose traction once they stop focusing on their content while startups win more exposure through a straightforward strategy that targets higher SERP rankings.
Taking all this into account, there’s no single formula that will work for you. Content strategies are after all a learning process. No company has got them fully under control but there are leading B2B businesses that are able to distinguish themselves through their content and storytelling.
To see what makes their approach distinctive, I had a close look at other B2B blogs that nail their content tactics. For an in-depth understanding of their process and goals, I’ve also reached out to leading B2B content marketers to share how they plan and track their content campaigns.
The Chanty team uses the classic competitor analysis approach when deciding which topics to write about. This gives them a head-start at covering unique ideas while also meeting the needs of their client target.
“We have a very simple process. We take a competitor’s website and start looking into the content that they’re writing. We find opportunities in keywords that are low to moderate difficulty and have a decent search volume. We then do some research and write content that beats this competitor and everything else online on the same topic. That way, we take away our competitors’ rankings, one by one. We track our success weekly by checking into Ahrefs to see if we rank for these keywords and how we’re progressing.” – Jane Kovalkova, CMO @Chanty
This is also the safest process to undertake—particularly for an early-stage startup that’s looking for the perfect initial strategy. Your competitors have already done part of the research in your place and they have no choice but to make it public through the content they write. One quick look at the Chanty blog and you’ll notice the even distribution of popular keywords through other types of content that target all of the three large content funnels.
Brainstorming ideas together with the entire team
When you’ve got a limited budget to distribute to your content strategy, you’ll want to turn to your team to help you with both ideation and writing.
Gather your marketing team, sales professionals, customer support representatives, project managers, and even devs and designers for tech-oriented topics. Talk about your general goals and have them come up with a list of topics they think are worth pursuing or would simply love to write about. You can also start a Slack channel and encourage your team to add one idea/day.
“We brainstormed content ideas that answer questions prospects have at the bottom of our ‘funnel’. These questions almost always revolve around what goes into a background check, how much do they cost, and how long do they take. We wrote the campaign and then promoted it over social media and external link building with our SEO agency. The results have dramatically improved our search rankings, driven engagement through social media, and drove new prospects to ScoutLogic’s website.
To develop high-performing content, we organize a brainstorming session with all of our customer-facing team members. We share with each other the questions prospects and customers most often ask about our solutions. We know prospects utilize Google to research the buying decision and they are coming to us much more prepared than five years ago. We want to provide factual and practical advice about our industry so they can make the best decision for their company. The questions prospects ask are almost always about decision criteria, price or value, and implementation.” – David Garcia, CEO @ScoutLogic
David says their goal is to become a thought leader and partner as prospects go through the awareness and consideration stages of their buying decisions. This technique has helped them tackle only the topics they’re confident will help establish their subject matter expertise.
The Wistia team gets together to collaborate on joint campaigns that will benefit from the knowledge of both sides:
“Our Content and Creative team often partner with the Growth and Acquisition team to launch content-driven campaigns. This involves collaborating on a concept, working with design and development to execute our content assets, and developing specific promotional strategies that align with our goal.
We typically execute a campaign over a set period of time and optimize for performance during that time. KPIs vary per campaign but often include engagement-based metrics to measure how well our content is resonating with our audiences and performance-based metrics to measure how well the content supports our funnel.
We recently launched a campaign aimed at growing our top-funnel leads. The campaign centered around a new Guide to Video Marketing we launched. The piece was two-fold with goals for organic search performance and demand generation.
For organic search, we are focused on acquiring links and increasing our rank, which both support driving more qualified website traffic. For demand generation, we are focused on driving top-funnel leads that we can then nurture with additional content.” -Meisha Bochicchio, Content Marketing Manager @Wistia
Understanding your KPIs
Knowing what your KPIs are will help you both jump-start your editorial planning and keep track of content campaigns and their performance.
“There are two different types of tracking to implement:
- tracking of campaign publishing or completion
- tracking of results upon publishing
For the actual creation of the content and campaign, I use a product management tool. This allows stakeholders to see progress at a high level while keeping the content creators on track for various stages of creation, due dates, and more.
Once the content is published, you want to set up some automation within your analytics, SEO tool or other software that can measure your KPIs.
To use organic traffic-driving content as an example, I’d want to build campaigns around my targeted keywords which I analyze in Moz or SEMrush. Then I set up dashboards and automated emails so I can see when I begin to rank for the keywords I’m targeting and when there are major movements within the SERP.” -Jakub Rudnik, VP of Content and SEO @Shortlister
Jakub also shared with us some of the key metrics he tracks and how those translate into hands-on results:
“One core metric to track is overall organic keywords. Unless you’re targeting a keyword no one wrote about before [which is nearly impossible in 2020], it will take time for you to rank. Google slowly adds your content to more and more long-tail keywords, testing out how people interact with your content. As the number of keywords your content ranks for increases, you’ll notice that Google is considering the results of your content as positive. So although the actual traffic you see might be small for months, things are still progressing well.
This is how Shortlister’s 401k companies page progressed:
As you can see, it was ranking for organic keywords well before it received meaningful organic traffic.
As I track pages like this against their metrics, I make adjustments along the way. If people aren’t clicking the CTA I’m using, it’s time to A/B test new copy or button placement. If I’m looking for organic traffic and I’m stuck on the second page of the search results, I might tweak my headings or build new backlinks. It all depends on what goals I’m targeting and the results I’m seeing.”
Making a list of the keywords you must rank for
As a business owner or marketing representative, I’m sure you already have a general idea of where you want your website to appear first. Most B2B companies want to be in the top 10 results for their industry, business model, and any keywords they’re already using to define their products and services.
At Zengrowth, we base our blog’s editorial calendar on a list of keywords that define our agency and craft. We use these for articles we want to rank with so we can be sure that potential clients who search for similar services can find us. To ensure authenticity and thought leadership, we have the experts in our team write on topics that suit their expertise.
“Besides our own blog, the keywords we target provide content to different types of clients at specific stages in their journey. Some keywords cover the top-of-the-funnel questions. At this stage, the content we provide needs to be more educational and help readers to get a better understanding of a topic.
Other keywords apply to relevant topics further down in the funnel, at a stage when the reader is already informed and (almost) ready to make a purchase decision. This is when we play with different content types. For instance, general, educational keywords ask for blog articles while long-tail keywords work best in case studies or testimonials.” – Katrin Marx, COO @Zengrowth
Need to establish your website and brand as a subject matter expert? Look into creating content [or topic] clusters—the perfect mix of content and SEO efforts. In short, you can grow a core [pillar] page by linking to it from articles or other content formats that discuss the same or similar topic. Here’s an illustration from the Paymo team:
“What we did in the first place was to decide on the more general topics we want to target but keep the ones closely related to our product. In doing so, we looked at the most obvious ones, like “project manager” or “project management.” These are highly competitive topics that offered us the opportunity to significantly increase our domain authority and topic expertise.
We created the pillar page first, a comprehensive guide about how you can become a project manager. We followed the “standard procedure” through keyword research, looking at the top 20+ results in Google, and trying to create the best content piece ever on that topic.
The next step was to establish the internal connections, starting by linking to several existing topic cluster pages. These provide in-depth information about a subject from the pillar page. For example, we linked from the project manager skills section to a detailed article on this topic and added a link back to the pillar page.
The final step was to create additional topic cluster pages that were missing and add more relevant internal links between these and the pillar page.
The result? For over two years, the article has been ranking in top three results for the main keyword while also earning high ranking spots for thousands of other keywords.” – Andrei-Marcel Țiț, Product Marketer @Paymo
Finding your own content marketing position
Just because something is trendy in the content world or seems to be working for other companies, doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for your own goals.
The Sales Hacker website, for example, is in a unique position. As a publication, their SEO content is designed to be as helpful as possible without worrying about including a subtle use case in the content.
“We use keyword research not primarily to identify traffic opportunities, but to focus on what’s most important to our sales and go-to-market teams. We centralize our content planning by adding to a master list of keywords that is broken down by theme—sales development, sales management, personal development, etc. That way we ensure that we pull in topics that people may be talking about, even if a small number are searching for it.
Next, we identify whether the topic would be better handled by a contributor (a sales leader) or our own writer. Either way, we match every article to a target keyword, tracking ranking and traffic over time. Each year, we update past content to reflect what it’s ranking for—optimized for the interest of sales pros, in other words.
This approach can be successfully used by smaller brands looking to connect with their audience. Instead of trying to go after the highest volume keywords, focus on interest, helpfulness, depth, and actionability.” -Brooklin Nash, Head of Content @Sales Hacker
Specifically, when it comes to choosing keywords, companies tend to take the approach that works best for their targets:
“When planning content, we take a look at all the keywords and phrases that relate to our product and break them up into sections, with the most competitive of them acting as the headers for each section. For example, we might look at the keywords, ‘Content Amplification’, ‘Content Promotion’, and ‘Content Distribution’ as our headers.
Underneath those headers, we list the less competitive, long-tail key phrases (because we have a better chance ranking for them in the shorter term). For Content Amplification, some possible long-tail key phrases could be, ‘content amplification examples’, ‘content amplification strategy’, ‘content amplification services’. What we’ll then do is look to create content that targets those specific keywords, creating in-depth articles that answer queries with practical advice or share an opinion on the subject.
If particular keywords or phrases could be classed as buyer intent keywords, we look to create some content or landing pages that target that keyword and have a more aggressive sales message.” -James Tennant, Founder @Converge
Be where your audience is
Social media networks, websites, podcasts, events, forums, and Slack groups are just a couple of the places you need to narrow down to your ideal buyer persona.
“The biggest flaw in most content marketing is distribution. That’s where most plans fail. We often think of distribution first. We ask, ‘Where do these people hang out?’ I call these hangout places ‘watering holes.’ It’s where your customer repeatedly goes to get their information.
Once you’ve identified these places, you need to hang out there, to have a presence. That does not mean you’re trying to convert people at the watering hole. Your only goal is to introduce yourself, so they’re aware of you when they encounter the problem that your business solves.
When they’re ready, they’ll come to you. It’s less about capturing demand than actively creating it. And distribution is the key.
When we wanted to expand our business in education this year, we needed the ears of students, staff, and faculty at universities.
As it turns out, 2/3 of NPR stations are on college campuses. With that strategic distribution plan in place, we got our CEO interviewed on one of the most popular live shows and podcasts on NPR.
And as that awareness grew, so did the demand for Calendly in the education sector.” -Adam Lambert, Sr. Content & Digital Marketing Manager @Calendly
Within a B2B content marketing context, storytelling holds its core value through case studies and customer stories that focus on relaying human feelings and experiences that readers can connect to. Beyond being a marketing buzzword, telling stories instead of plain facts helps companies create lasting relations and strengthen their brand’s image for longer.
“As marketers in the WordPress hosting industry, a big part of our jobs is distilling complex and highly technical information into the core features and benefits that matter most to our customers.
Recently, we launched a campaign focused on a part of our website hosting tech stack: the C2 virtual machines for cloud computing. The technical details are nuanced, but at the end of the day, our customers will see a significantly faster website- which will lead to a better user experience for their audience, better SEO, and in most cases, higher conversions.
Our marketing team focused on the everyday impact that C2 machines would have on our customers’ lives. Their experience, not the nitty-gritty technical details, was what drove our messaging. Once we narrowed these broad ideas into a relatable message, focused on people rather than technology, we were able to create campaigns that were stronger, clearer, and more unified across our outreach channels.
From there, we relied on tools like HubSpot, Sprout Social, and Google Analytics to track our metrics and the purchases made from people who interacted with this messaging.” – Kiera Kosciolek, Social Media Manager @Kinsta
Defining blog categories that reflect your brand, product, or service
Think of your blog as a summary of what your brand is all about. Care about a specific work issue? Add that as a category. Want to be known as a leader in your industry? Create a specific category to match that intent.
We got an insider’s look at how Helga Moreno, Content Marketing Manager @andcards, structures her company’s blog:
“As I work for a company that develops software, my content must inform our customers about the latest product features and educate them on how technology can simplify and automate all their daily routines. To ensure goal alignment, our content plan creation always includes coordination with the product team.
The categories on our blog were selected to fit our brand goals and positioning. As we establish ourselves as a member-first coworking software, our primary goal is to show the readers how they can make their members happier using proper technology.
So, the User Experience category is the most important. It includes everything related to improving member experience in the coworking space.
The Productivity category includes articles about software and technologies workspaces can use to automate administrative tasks and improve the level of service.
In the Tips category, we add advice for coworking space operators. They mostly teach how to promote a workspace, monetize it, and attract more customers.
I publish three times a week on our blog, promote these posts on socials, send a newsletter, and put together article interpretations for Medium and LinkedIn.”
Establishing thought leadership
Throughout all Google algorithm changes, one aspect strikes as valid forever: becoming a thought leader in your industry. Now, if everyone were to be an expert at something, we wouldn’t have subject matter experts to begin with. That’s why, in order to thrive, B2B companies take the route of finding niches and industry segments others leave unnoticed.
“To run effective content marketing campaigns, our team works off of a monthly content theme. We brainstorm topic ideas within that broader bucket using tools like Google Trends, Answer the Public, and Spyfu. Once we’ve decided which topics fit best for each piece (e.g. blogs, ebooks, infographics), we use a combination of Monday.com and Google Docs to track progress.
We recently produced our quarterly industry report and used our proprietary product data to fuel the planning and execution. I partnered with our graphic designer to produce graphs and an overall layout that best represented the trends we uncovered. Then, we tracked distribution and promotion via Monday.com to ensure we were hitting each target audience at the right touchpoint.
By sharing this robust report, we not only empowered our audience to take a more data-driven approach to their hiring strategies but strengthened JazzHR’s position as the go-to expert in SMB recruiting. In laying out insights alongside actionable hiring takeaways, this content provides both education and brand awareness.” -Kelly Peters, PR and Communications Manager @JazzHR
Experimenting with content formats
Are you noticing extra engagement and leads from your videos while your articles sit on your blog with no one to read them? Time to test out multiple content formats and see which one works best for your goals and audience. In a world where many companies can afford long-form written content, you might find more success with video, audio, or social media.
“I always tell marketers to adopt a “perpetual beta” approach to their content. That means they should be always testing and always iterating because on social channels—what worked last month isn’t necessarily going to work this month. Social media analytics should inform what they do next. The performance metrics of organic and paid content are the best indicators that marketers can use to help fine-tune their content strategy. Opinions are great but data insights are much better!” -Tim Hill, Co-Founder & CEO @Social Status
Do have a look at the Social Status blog to see some of the formats and topics they’ve tested. Their experimentation game is top-notch as they’ve recently shifted their focus towards video content.
Original research always wins
One top-of-mind example I always reference is Buffer’s State of Remote Work report. They create this on a yearly basis and see enormous benefits from both the opportunity to position themselves as leaders in the field and the thousands of backlinks a single report brings in.
But most companies don’t have the resources to send a survey to thousands of respondents. So another approach you can take is turning to quotes from industry experts and your own analysis. Fun fact: This is the method I chose for this very article you’re reading.
The Databox blog is a perfect representative of this technique with articles such as “33 Effective Social Selling Tips for B2B Companies” and “49 SEO KPIs Every SEO Pro Should Track and Measure” spread across their editorial:
The Toggl Plan team also avoids letting SEO be the only thing that dictates their editorial calendar:
“If you believe that getting your content to rank is the holy grail of content marketing, think again.
No amount of SEO and link building helps if your content is substandard. That’s because it’s harder than ever before to rank with poor content.
That’s why you need to ditch the 20:80 content formula and focus equally on creating great content.
But what does great content actually mean?
For us, it simply refers to content that is: relevant to the visitor, engages the visitor, and encourages the visitor to take the next step. To identify content ideas, we often look at the top 10 Google results. First, we choose keywords where we can match the searcher’s intent with our goal. Once matched, we read the top 10 results and identify the common factors such as content format, content length, sub-topics covered, media used, etc. We also find a unique angle and the next step we want the visitor to take.
Based on this research, we identify secondary keywords, create an outline, and hand it over to a writer. Our writers know how to format the content for engagement—lots of section headings and bullet points.
Once written, we review and edit the content for crispness and publish it. We’ve seen that most of our content that ranks high also converts really well. And that too without building links.” -Jitesh Patil, SEO & Content Specialist @Toggl Plan
But why do so many companies fancy original research?
It’s a straightforward way of ensuring you provide unique value to your audience. In addition, you’re able to strengthen your thought leadership and win loads of links which will prove highly beneficial when it comes to getting your content to rank higher.
Helping visitors take the imaginative leap to category-creating products
Merrill Cook leads the content creation process at Diffbot with the purpose of helping visitors to take the imaginative leap of what their workflow could look like.
“Two ways we try to help visitors take this leap include:
- broad educational content that exposes users to important concepts related to knowledge graphs and the semantic web
- creating and explaining new concrete uses for Diffbot’s tools in content.
You can see an example of the first in our Knowledge Graph Glossary.
The idea here was to create a system of content that signals each piece is in the same ‘semantic neighbourhood’ as the others. As individual pieces of content rank, they validate the others as a cluster of KG knowledge.
As KGs are just gaining enterprise awareness, this is also a great way to quickly educate in general terms about what a KG does, where it fits into the history of the semantic web, and so forth. If you’re educating a visitor, they trust you. And that’s the first step in the sales process.
You can see an example of our second in a recent video showing how to enrich the profile of an individual who scheduled a virtual meeting with you. This takes our Knowledge Graph Enhance product and provides an actionable way to set up your own profile enrichment.” -Merrill Cook, Content Marketing Manager @Diffbot
Relying on an SEO tool
This seems to me as a clear tip that so many new companies fail to stick to.
Just remember this: Every marketer of a high-authority company uses them.
You don’t even need a complicated stack. The free Google Analytics and Search Console along with a specialized tool like Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Mangools will do.
A keyword research tool, in particular, saves you endless hours of work you’d spend manually checking out which keywords perform best and where your content efforts should be directed. You can even add your competitor’s website to see their top ranking pages, backlinks, and so much more.
The Skyscraper Technique
While I’ve already mentioned this technique won’t always work for new websites, it’s worth a mention as it is the #1 hack content marketers are using at the moment. With no exaggeration, I can say that most articles in the top 10 for educational intent keywords are created using this technique.
So how can you use this method if you’ve barely launched your blog?
The best tip I have is to stick to this technique while keeping your long-term goals in mind. This said, you can confidently start using the Skyscraper Technique on low-volume keywords until you grow the authority of your domain. Months later and you’ll be able to see higher rankings for past content too. Otherwise, your first articles won’t match the reader’s intent and are likely to get buried in the back of your blog.
To see it at top use, we must turn to the person who invented it: Brian Dean. His Backlinko blog is definitely one of the blogs you need to check in detail. From the structure of the article to the way he uses links, images, and data.
Don’t stop at writing. Keep promoting!
Your content is nothing if no one sees it. That’s why you’ll want to craft a top-notch content promoting strategy to follow up on your writing efforts.
For starters, Google remains your #1 promoter. If you’re putting in the right SEO efforts, you’ve probably got this covered already.
But what about the other networks?
Besides the classic social media shares, you’ll want to look into promotion methods that will get to the right audience. As many as 35% of content marketers are already using industry communities to create strong networks and push their content forward. 84% of B2B marketers use paid channels like sponsorships or banner ads together with their content strategy.
Just these two ideas can get you thinking about a dozen other ways to get creative with your promo. Take advantage of an upcoming online event to hold a presentation, launch a podcast, start a series of live Q&A sessions on YouTube… Anything works as long as you manage to get in front of your ideal audience and cater to their needs. But if you want to distinguish yourself from the competition, choose a promotion technique they haven’t thought of yet.
The content marketing industry will only grow next year. If you’re ready to launch your own content strategy, bookmark this article and get back to it whenever you need some inspiration from brands that are already reaping the benefits of their content strategy.
I also suggest taking a couple of hours to go through their blog pages and see how they tackle content formats, keywords, and goals. This will be particularly handy if you haven’t launched a content campaign before or are looking to set up your first blog.
Feel free to reach out to me or the Zengrowth team if you have any questions or need help with your next content marketing and growth strategies.