The Inbound Content Development Survival Guide
Consumers today are in a position of power. The abundance of information available to them at a moment’s notice, thanks to the revolutionary power of the internet, enables them to carefully research their options before making a purchase. As such, a company's success across the digital landscape depends on an inbound strategy prioritizing quality content that delivers valuable information and the type of engaging experience your prospects are looking for, all the while building their trust in you as a solution to their problems.
Below are 10 steps for creating content that attracts your target customers and positions your brand for inbound success.
1. Do your keyword and topic research.
Your success in inbound content marketing is determined by your ability to add value to your target customer’s buying experience. The foundation for that is identifying what they’re looking for.
Keyword research is the start of this process. By understanding what people are searching for, you can begin to develop a content plan that addresses those terms. But don’t lose sight of why you’re doing this in the first place. Your page could be stuffed with a particular keyword (not recommended!), but if it doesn’t add value to the searcher’s experience, it’s all for naught. Don’t forget to ask yourself why someone would be searching for a certain keyword and what they would expect to find from the top result. Then, once you have the answer—deliver!
Bonus tip: Don’t be afraid to branch out beyond what you find in your research. If a topic in your vertical occurs to you naturally, and you believe it would be valuable to your target audience, write about it—even if it’s not a commonly searched topic. When someone does go looking for that answer, you’ll be there waiting for them.
2. Be human.
As digital content creators, it can be easy to fall into a routine of thinking only in terms of what is SEO-friendly. Search engine crawlers, however, aren’t actually the ones reading and extracting value from your work—people are.
If you communicate with your audience in a way that feels natural, the reader will be more likely to relate to you. Luckily, with recent core updates to Google’s algorithm, being human with your language will also benefit you from an SEO perspective. Google’s recent Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers update (or BERT for short) does just that by looking beyond individual keywords and taking into consideration the surrounding content. Thanks to our friend BERT, Google is better equipped at understanding the true intent behind a given search and more apt at deciphering the meaning behind longer search queries that better mimic how people communicate. Writers who complement that communication are poised to reap the benefits.
3. Know your audience.
As we said above, you’ll want to be human. Not all humans communicate in the exact same way, though. Think about it. Do you talk to your boss the same way you talk to your best friend? Perhaps some employees have that type of relationship with the person who signs their checks—and if so, great! But the chances are the majority of workers can't relate.
The same goes for your content marketing. If you’ve done your research, your topics are probably well aligned with who you’re trying to speak to. The next step is to tailor the way in which you write about those topics to fit who you believe will be reading it. To do that, identify the kind of language and tone that would appeal to your target audience. For example, are they likely to be receptive to humor? Or should you perhaps keep the jokes to a minimum and get right to the point?
Knowing your audience must go beyond understanding which tone to take, though. As the content developer, you need to know them inside and out! Getting to the bottom of this information can guide you to using the proper industry terminology, citing the most influential sources, sharing on the most appropriate social media platforms, and much more.
Bonus tip: Your target audience might not always be the same throughout your site! A rank-and-file member of a company may do preliminary research into a solution and read deep-dive guides or blog posts before sending your website to the ultimate decision maker, who might be more likely to review top-level main navigation pages to make the final say.
4. Structure it for success.
The way your content is organized and presented to the reader can be just as important as what it actually says. One of the biggest factors contributing to whether or not a visitor stays on your website and continue through the sales funnel is the experience they have once they arrive on the site. As such, you need to accommodate the way in which they are likely to consume your content.
That likely means being prepared for them to scan the page to pick out the information they're looking for within just a couple of seconds. Plan for this by organizing your content so that the most important bits of information are easy to locate.
Meeting your visitors with a wall of text is the easiest way to overwhelm them and send them running back to the SERP for a source that is more digestible and reader-friendly. Instead, make use of subheadings, bolded text, and colors and icons to draw their eye, while making sure there's enough white space to break up the page.
5. Think beyond the written word.
There is no denying the importance of text when it comes to developing content for your website. To run a truly competitive inbound campaign, however, you’ll need to go beyond the written word and expand into other forms of media to maximize your audience and engagement.
Video, for instance, accounts for a growing portion of the content consumed by people online, with the global research firm Deloitte reporting that Americans spend just about as much time each week watching videos as they do at work. Supplementing your content with video is an excellent opportunity to deliver users an answer through a preferred medium. Along with improving the user experience, it makes your work discoverable in a whole new set of results, such as the video results section of Google or YouTube.
Video is not the only growing medium for content marketing. Podcasting is also on track to become a highly effective means of communicating valuable answers, with more than half of Americans listening to at least one of the millions of episodes from hundreds of thousands of programs available online today.
By expanding your content production into these methods, you will be well positioned to engage your target audiences as these mediums continue to grow.
6. Prove it!
The ultimate goal of a content marketing strategy is to be seen as the ultimate authority in your field. You can’t, however, be expected to be an expert on everything—especially when it comes to specific statistics and research that was collected by other organizations.
In cases where you’ve borrowed information from another source, it’s best that you cite the source and add an outbound link to where you found it.
Doing so will reinforce to your readers that you’ve done your research and your information is trustworthy!
Bonus tip: Citing your sources only aids your credibility when your sources are trustworthy. Don’t forget to confirm that the information you’re using is accurate and reasonably current.
7. Write a strong headline and meta description.
Your headline and meta description are generally the first impression your readers have of your content. Don’t waste it!
Make sure that the headline is engaging and clearly indicates what the reader should expect to find and support it with a meta description that briefly elaborates on the topic. It might be tempting to over-promise in the title and meta description as a means to encourage a click (our polite way of saying “clickbait”), but this is highly discouraged as it will ultimately reduce your rankings when people realize they are not getting what they expected and return to their previous page.
8. Edit and edit again!
One of the most important steps before hitting that “publish” button is editing your work. There’s nothing worse than having readers and potential customers find errors in your content, so when in doubt, follow the Morey philosophy:
- Read aloud
More often than not, you’ll find errors. Even if the content is error-free, there’s a strong chance that you’ll find spots that can be re-written and improved. Remember: Your organization's reputation will partly be judged on the quality of your content. Put your best foot forward and don’t rush! Trust us, you’ll be happy you took another look.
Publishing content is only one piece of the inbound content marketing journey. It’s important to take additional steps to ensure that it’s seen by a significant portion of your target audience. Doing that involves promoting everything you create through various methods after publication.
Start by sharing it on your social media platforms! Not only does it increase the possibility of attracting a broader audience, but potential customers also like to see an active social media presence when researching a possible company to purchase from.
Another method of amplifying your content is sharing it with your email database. Always make sure there are opportunities on your website for visitors to subscribe to receive automatic updates from your blog. Beyond the typical subscription, though, it’s important to think about who else would consider your content useful.
Do you have a new article you're confident would benefit contacts in your database? Send them an email about it even if they don’t subscribe to the blog.
10. Be prepared for voice search.
Smart speakers leveraging voice-enabled digital assistants occupy the homes of more than 50 million Americans—and that number is only growing. This makes crafting your content to be delivered by Google Home and Amazon Alexa devices increasingly important. While this mode of search behavior may be in a state of relative infancy, it is likely to evolve quickly over time. Additionally, current findings suggest that there are some steps content developers can take to make sure their content gets read aloud by Google or Alexa when a user asks a relevant question.
Some of these current best practices includes:
- Favoring simple language that can be easily read by digital assistants and easily heard by searchers.
- Condensing key information to brief captions that can be read quickly.
- Targeting long-tail keywords that better reflect normal speech, particularly questions.