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by Cat Fyson on 23rd December 2013
More and more businesses are now on board with the importance of content marketing, but its one thing to know how vital it is to your digital strategy and another to actually implement and stick to it as a valuable asset.
Let’s face it – for small businesses in particular with teams that are already stretched, finding the time to keep a blog updated, gain valuable links with guest blogging and increase brand awareness through other content mediums can be too much of an effort to comprehend. Not to mention the time needed to promote the content.
It doesn’t have to be hard though. By using some of these completely free tools available on the web, you can get organised and not only create a well-researched plan for your content, but you can also ensure you are targeting the right audiences for it.
A popular excuse for not integrating content marketing into a business is the lack of time to manage it.
Here at Koozai we are fortunate enough to have the resources to update our blog every week day – and our blog schedule goes right up until Christmas Eve! No rest for the wicked here.
However, not every business can do this type of daily update, and they don’t always need to. You can update your company blog just once a week to appease Google’s guidelines on creating fresh content for your site. So how do you ensure this happens? By scheduling it in, of course.
There are loads of tools online that let you manage your time effectively. From built in tools on email management software such as Outlook, to plugins that can be downloaded via your site’s content management system.
A particularly popular tool for WordPress is the Editorial Calendar plug in, which lets you do a few nifty things that make it a lot easier to manage exactly when your blog posts will go live, including being able to drag and drop your posts to change their post date.
Most of all though, it’s incredibly useful for visualising your planned blog posts. It also encourages a collaborative effort – if you have a small team of 4 who can each contribute a post a month, they can drop in their article and schedule it accordingly so that your blog stays populated regularly.
Writing a blog post for your site does not have to take up a huge amount of time – by each team member dedicating a couple of hours a month to research and write a piece to upload and schedule, you effectively have a basic structure for your on-site content strategy.
Once you have an idea on a topic (more on coming up with those later), write it down with a few notes and a basic structure as this will make it much easier and quicker to write the piece.
If you fancy being a bit more retro, why not print out a calendar template and stick it on the office wall? Or if you have a whiteboard handy you can draw out your calendar. This is a great way of visualising and editing your content strategy as a whole, feeding in any planned off-site content as well, such as the date that any guest posts are due to go live so they can be promoted via your social platforms.
Now you know when to slot in content, you need to know what topics you can cover. Remember, content marketing is not about plugging your product or service – it’s about the topics around your product or service that your customers are interested in. You may also want to share industry insights, showing your business as experts in your specific field.
So which tools can help you research and determine the topics to talk about?
There are several RSS feeds available online, Feedly just happens to be one of my favourites and the one that many of us here at Koozai use. An RSS feed allows you to add the URL of blogs that you read into one place so that you can easier catch up with articles that you have an interest in.
Once you have signed up to Feedly, use the ‘Add Content’ function to search for a topic, or specific URL to add to your feed. For example, if you operate within the Social Media industry, search for ‘Social Media’ for a list of blogs that cover this topic, or type in a blog you already know about and add it to your feed.
You can break your feed into categories, which is particularly useful for us as an agency keeping up with various different industries. For example, if I am creating content around motoring, I can create a Motoring category for key blogs in that niche, with a separate category for the Fashion blogs I follow to keep up-to-date for a client in that industry. Easy peasy.
Following industry blogs helps you come up with ideas of topics to cover, but it also allows you to keep an eye on any of your competitor’s content as well.
If you come across interesting content that you haven’t got the time to look at straight away, Pocket is a brilliant tool for bookmarking content to come back to it later.
All you have to do is add the Chrome bookmark button, and whenever you come across an article you find interesting which might inspire a future piece of content, just click the Chrome extension button (you will be prompted to download this when you sign up), and it will be saved to your Pocket account. Alternatively, log into Pocket and click the + to save a URL from there.
The best thing about Pocket is that you can access the bookmarked content offline, so you can have a read on your commute or any other situations where you might be without Wifi. You can also access your Pocket account on the go via the app.
Using a tool like this is also handy for curating content around a particular topic to add strength and depth to your research.
The thought of sourcing relevant news and research on your industry might sound exhausting and incredibly time consuming, but SEOGadget have made this job easier with their Content Strategy Generator.
All you have to do is have a Google account, download their spreadsheet template by saving a copy, and then type in your search term in the “Search Query” section to see the latest news from a whole host of online resources. It takes some navigating, but it will certainly give you some inspiration as to how your industry is being discussed across the web.
As you can see in the screenshot below, when searching for “SEO”, results will appear for top news stories from various sources.
Keep this document to hand in your Google Docs folder to gather inspiration for content that is relevant to current news and events whenever you need it.
It goes without saying that you need to be creating content for your audience based on their wants and needs and what they find interesting or useful. Quora is a website that essentially acts as a platform for users to ask questions, and give answers.
So what does this mean for your content strategy? Quora allows you to identify trends and find the questions that people are asking based around the service or product your business supplies.
Be aware that Quora shouldn’t be a one stop solution – it’s just handy for a little inspiration.
Twitter is often cited as a news source – and has quickly become the birthing place of many big news stories of recent times. Use it to your advantage by listening to your key audiences – what do they Tweet about, and what sorts of content are they sharing? Set up Tweetdeck to monitor keywords, hashtags and lists of key influencers who are discussing your industry.
Content marketing doesn’t ‘finish’ at the publishing stage. It needs to be promoted to your followers, as well as potential new audiences. There are a lot of tools on the web for scheduling updates, automatic posting and finding the key influencers.
Buffer gives you the option of manually inputting a date and time for sharing your updates, or will automatically schedule them for optimum times in the day depending on your followers’ behaviour. What’s more, Buffer supplies baseline analytics of how your update has performed as well, so you can tinker the timing of your posts to reflect this.
No time to manually type up Tweets or Facebook updates to go with your content? Set up an RSS feed on Twitterfeed that will post your content for you. Bear in mind though that a custom update with some text and perhaps an image to go with it will likely bring in more engagement than just the title and a link.
Buzzsumo is a great way to discover content within your niche – making it another handy research tool. However, it also offers an Influencer Search that shows you the key players in your industry to engage with.
When searching for Influencers, type in your industry and click Search. You will be presented with a list of key players on Twitter, as well as data such as their number of Followers and Retweet ratio – you want to be looking for individuals with a decent number of followers and % of retweets to get a good idea of the likelihood that they will share and engage with your content.
The promotion of your content doesn’t need to be exclusively left up to you – read this great post from Yoast on how to add social buttons to all of your blog posts so that readers who enjoy your content can share it with their network easily.
These are just some of the many tools available to help you save time in creating a robust content marketing strategy that will help you build your site, and business reputation.
Have I missed any of your favourite tools out? Or are there other areas of content marketing that you would like there to be free resources for? Let me know in the comments.