Category: Content Marketing Strategy

Content Marketing Strategy

How to Develop a Content Strategy: A Start-to-Finish Guide

Whether you’re just starting out with content marketing or you’ve been using the same approach for a while, it never hurts to revisit your content strategy plan — to make sure it’s up-to-date, innovative, and engaging for your prospects and customers, no matter when or how they intend to buy.

The first step to getting a leg up on the competition — and actively engaging your audience — is to have a solid, smart content marketing plan in place.

If you’re having trouble planning for the upcoming year or need some fresh ideas to include in your plan, read on.

In this post, we’ll dive into what content strategy is, why your business needs a content marketing plan, and what steps you need to take to create your strategy. Plus, we’ll explore some examples of effective content marketing strategies for inspiration. 

What is content strategy?

A content strategy is a strategy that takes your business goals, and then uses content as a primary means to achieve those goals. 

For instance, your business goals might include increasing brand awareness (to ultimately drive more revenue) — to achieve this goal, you might implement a content strategy that focuses on SEO to increase website visibility on the SERPs and drive traffic to your products or services. 

New business owners might assume a content strategy is a ‘nice-to-have’, but not entirely necessary early on. However, producing high-quality content to meet business needs can help companies build trust with new audiences and, ultimately, succeed over the long-haul. 

In essence, a good content strategy is often the foundation of your attract and delight stages in a buyers’ journey. Along with attracting new prospects to your brand, you might also use a content strategy for sales enablement and overall customer satisfaction. 

Plus, with 70% of marketers actively investing in content marketing, it’s often critical you develop a good content strategy to compete in your industry.

When you develop a content strategy, there are a few questions to answer. Let’s dive into those, now.

1. Who will be reading your content?

Who’s the target audience for your content? For how many audiences are you creating content? Just as your business might have more than one type of customer, your content strategy can cater to more than one type of reader or viewer.

Using a variety of content types and channels will help you deliver different content to each type of audience you have in mind and engage everyone your company does business with.

2. What problem will you be solving for your audience(s)?

Ideally, your product or service solves a problem you know your audience has. By the same token, your content coaches and educates your audience through this problem as they begin to identify and address it.

A sound content strategy supports people on both sides of your product: those who are still figuring out what their main challenges are, and those who are already using your product to overcome these challenges. Your content reinforces the solution(s) you’re offering and makes your customers more qualified users of your product.

3. What makes you unique?

Your competitors likely have a similar product as yours, which means your potential customers need to know what makes yours better — or, at least, different. This is where content comes in.

In order to prove why you’re worth buying from, you need to prove why you’re worth listening to.

4. What content formats will you focus on?

What forms will your content take? Infographics? Videos? Blog posts? Having identified the topics you want to take a position on, you’ll need to determine which formats to budget for so you can best express that position.

5. What channels will you publish on?

Just as you can create content in different formats, you’ll also have different channels you can publish to. Channels can include owned properties, such as your website and blog; and social media properties, such as Facebook and Twitter. We’ll talk more about social media content strategy in the step-by-step guide later in this article.

6. How will you manage content creation and publication?

Figuring out how you’ll create and publish all your content can be a daunting task. It’s important for a content strategy to know who’s creating what, where it’s being published, and when it’s going live.

Today’s content strategies prevent clutter by managing content from a topic standpoint — as explained in the video above. When planning a content editorial calendar around topics, you can easily visualize your company’s message and assert yourself as an authority in your market over time.

Why Marketers Need to Create a Content Marketing Strategy

Content marketing helps businesses prepare and plan for reliable and cost-effective sources of website traffic and new leads. If you can create just one blog post that gets a steady amount of organic traffic, an embedded link to an e-book or free tool will continue generating leads for you as time goes on — long after you click Publish.

HubSpot’s blog team found this to be key to increasing traffic to the Sales Blog over time — read about their blog strategy here.

The reliable source of traffic and leads from your evergreen content will give you the flexibility to experiment with other marketing tactics to generate revenue, such as sponsored content, social media advertising, and distributed content. Plus, your content will not only help attract leads — it will also help educate your target prospects and generate awareness for your brand.

How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy

Now, let’s dive in to learn the specifics of how to create a content marketing plan. Curious how HubSpot Head of Content SEO Aja Frost puts together our content strategy? Check out the video below before jumping into the tactical list.

1. Define your goal.

What’s your aim for developing a content marketing plan? Why do you want to produce content and create a content marketing plan? Know your goals before you begin planning, and you’ll have an easier time determining what’s best for your strategy.

Download this goal planning template for help figuring out the right content goals.

2. Conduct persona research.

To develop a successful plan, you need to clearly define your content’s target audience — also known as your buyer persona.

This is especially important for those who are starting out or are new to marketing. By knowing your target audience, you can produce more relevant and valuable content that they’ll want to read and convert on.

If you’re an experienced marketer, your target may have changed. Do you want to target a new group of people or expand your current target market? Do you want to keep the same target audience? Revisiting your audience parameters by conducting market research each year is crucial to growing your audience.

3. Run a content audit.

Most people start out with blog posts, but if you want to venture out and try producing other content pieces, consider which ones you want to make.

For instance, if you’ve been doing weekly blog posts for the past year, creating an ebook that distills all your blog posts into one ultimate guide would be one way to offer information in a different format. We’ll go over several different types of content you can use further down on the list.

If you’ve been in business for a while, review your content marketing efforts and the results from it in the last year by running a content audit. Figure out what you can do differently in the upcoming year and set new goals to reach. Now is a great time to align your team’s goals with the rest of your organization’s goals.

4. Choose a content management system.

Have a system in place where you can create, manage, and track your content, otherwise known as a content management system (CMS). A few vital parts of content management include content creation, content publication, and content analytics.

With HubSpot CMS, you can plan, produce, publish, and measure your results all in one place. Another popular CMS is WordPress, to which you can add the HubSpot WordPress plugin for free web forms, live chat, CRM access, email marketing, and analytics.

5. Brainstorm content ideas.

Now, it’s time to start coming up with ideas for your next content project.

Here are some tools to get the wheels turning:

HubSpot’s Website Grader

HubSpot’s Website Grader is a great tool to use when you want to see where you’re at with your digital marketing. From your blogging efforts to your social media marketing, Website Grader grades vital areas of your marketing and sends you a detailed report to help you optimize and improve each area.

With this tool, you can figure out how to make your website more SEO-friendly and discover new content ideas.

BlogAbout

Get your mind gears going with IMPACT’s unique content idea generator, BlogAbout. This tool works a bit like Mad Libs, but instead of joke sentences, it shows you common headline formats with blanks where you can fill in the subject you have in mind.

This brainstorming technique helps you put general ideas in contexts that would be appealing to your target audience. Once you have a headline you like, BlogAbout lets you add it to your “Notebook” so you can save your best ideas.

HubSpot’s Blog Ideas Generator

Get blog post ideas for an entire year with HubSpot’s Blog Ideas Generator. All you need to do is enter general topics or terms you’d like to write about, and this content idea generator does all the work for you.

Feedly

The Feedly RSS feed is a wonderful way to keep track of trendy topics in your industry and find content ideas at the same time.

BuzzSumo

Discover popular content and content ideas at BuzzSumo. This company offers a number of market research tools, one of which uses social media shares to determine if a piece of content is popular and well-liked. In turn, this information helps you see which content ideas would do well if you were to create content about them.

Blog Post Headline Analyzer

CoSchedule’s Blog Post Headline Analyzer tool analyzes headlines and titles and provides feedback on length, word choice, grammar, and keyword search volume. If you have an idea in mind, run a few title options through the Headline Analyzer to see how you could make it stronger, and to move your idea further along in the brainstorming process.

6. Determine which types of content you want to create.

There are a variety of options out there for content you can create. In the following section, we’ll discuss some of the most popular content formats marketers are creating, including some tools and templates to get you started.

7. Publish and manage your content.

Your marketing plan should go beyond the types of content you’ll create — it should also cover you’ll organize your content. With the help of an editorial calendar, you’ll be on the right track for publishing a well-balanced and diverse content library on your website. Then, create a social media content calendar so you can promote and manage your content on other sites.

Many of the ideas you think of will be evergreen — they’re just as relevant months from now as they are today. That being said, you shouldn’t ignore timely topics either. While they may not be the bulk of your editorial calendar, they can help you generate spikes of traffic.

Most people count on incorporating popular holidays such as New Year’s and Thanksgiving in their marketing efforts, but you don’t have to limit yourself to these important marketing dates.

If there are niche holidays that might appeal to your audience, it could be worth publishing content on your blog or on social media. Check out this ultimate list of social media holidays — keep an eye on it when you’re planning your calendar.

Content Strategy Examples

To understand what a content strategy is, it’s probably helpful if we explore some examples of real-life content strategies based off a few various business goals. 

To start, let’s explore an example of a content strategy used for SEO purposes (with the ultimate goal of attracting new prospects to a website). 

I’m a huge fan of Evernote’s blog, which offers a wealth of knowledge around the topic of productivity. The blog post, How To Stay Disciplined When Times Are Tough, made me laugh out loud — and then incentivized me to grab a pen and write down some of the tips I liked best. 

But why is a company that sells a note-taking app writing about discipline?

Because it’s how I found their website, when I searched “How to stay disciplined” on Google. 

Evernote is a good example of a content strategy used to attract new leads. People interested in reading content related to productivity are likely the same people interested in downloading Evernote’s note-taking product (because what’s better than a to-do list for helping you stay on-task?). 

On the contrary, if Evernote’s marketing team simply created content for the sake of increasing traffic — like publishing “Our 10 Favorite Beyonce Songs” — it wouldn’t be considered a content strategy at all; it would just be content.

A strategy needs to align content with business goals — in Evernote’s case, the strategy aligns content (blog posts on productivity) with the business goal of attracting leads (people interested in note-taking) to their site. 

Let’s take a look at another example to see how a good content strategy can help businesses with sales enablement

Consider the following scenario: a prospect calls a sales representative at Wistia and asks questions related to Wistia’s video hosting service. As the Wistia sales rep speaks with her, he learns her business is using a few other tools to convert leads into sales … including Intercom. 

Bingo. 

Once the call ends, the sales rep sends the prospect a follow-up email with a blog post about Wistia’s integration with Intercom, which enables Intercom users to further personalize messages to prospects based off video-watching data they collect through Wistia. 

This is a prime example of how you might use a content strategy as a sales enablement tool. On the surface, it might seem odd that Wistia has dedicated content regarding another business’ tool. However, this content is a great resource for Wistia’s sales team, particularly when prospects have concerns regarding how Wistia’s product can integrate with their existing software or processes.

Now that we’ve explored a few examples of content strategies, let’s dive into different types of content marketing. 

These are the eight most popular types of content marketing you can create for your readers and customers.

1. Blog Posts

If you haven’t already noticed, you’re currently reading a blog post. Blog posts live on a website and should be published regularly in order to attract new visitors.

Posts should provide valuable content for your audience that makes them inclined to share posts on social media and across other websites. We recommend that blog posts be between 1,000 and 2,000 words in length, but you should experiment to see if your audience prefers longer or shorter reads.

Check out our free blog post templates for writing great how-to, listicle, curation, SlideShare presentation, and newsjacking posts on your own blog.

2. Ebooks

Ebooks are lead-generation tools that potential customers can download after submitting a lead form with their contact information. They’re typically longer, more in-depth, and published less frequently than blog posts, which are written to attract visitors to a website.

Ebooks are the next step in the inbound marketing process: After reading a blog post (such as this one), visitors might want more information.

This is where calls-to-action (CTAs) come into play, directing people to a landing page where they can submit their contact information and download an ebook to learn more valuable information for their business. In turn, the business producing the ebook has a new lead for the sales team to contact.

3. Case Studies

Case studies are your opportunity to tell the story of a customer who succeeded in solving a problem by working with you. A case study is perhaps your most versatile type of content marketing because it can take many different forms — some of which are on this list. That’s right, case studies can take the form of a blog post, ebook, podcast … even an infographic.

Your goal in a case study is to show the people who are considering your product that the proof is in the pudding. Before choosing a customer for a case study, you should determine which form the testimonial will take and the area of your business to which you’re trying to drive value.

4. Templates

Templates are a handy content format to try because they generate leads for you while providing tremendous value to your audience. When you provide your audience with template tools to save them time and help them succeed, they’re more likely to keep engaging with your content in the future.

5. Infographics

Infographics can organize and visualize data in a more compelling way than words alone. These are great content formats to use if you’re trying to share a lot of data in a way that is clear and easy to understand.

If you’re ready to get started, get our templates for creating beautiful infographics in less than an hour.

6. Videos

Videos are a highly engaging content medium and are shareable across social media platforms and websites alike. Videos require a bigger investment of time and resources than written content, but as visual marketing increases in popularity — after all, it’s 40X more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content — it’s a medium worth experimenting with.

HubSpot Research recently found that video is the most preferred form of content. Video also captures people’s attention more than any other content format.

7. Podcasts

Starting a podcast will help audiences find your brand if they don’t have time or interest in reading content every day. The number of podcast listeners is growing — in 2018, nearly one-third of the U.S. population has listened to a podcast in the last month.

If you have interesting people to interview or conversations to host, consider podcasting as another content format to experiment with. (Here’s our comprehensive guide to starting a podcast.)

8. Social Media

Once you’ve been regularly publishing content on your own site for a while, it might be time to start thinking about distributing your content on other sites. This could mean repurposing content into new formats and publishing them on your blog, creating original content specifically for external sites or publishing website content on various social networks.

Posting on social media, however, is pivotal to amplifying your brand’s reach and delivering your content to your customers where you know they spend their time. Social networks on which businesses often post include:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Snapchat
  • YouTube

When launching a business account on any of the social networks above, it’s important to post the type of content your followers expect to see. On Instagram, for example, users want photos, videos, and graphics that reflect current events, show off user-generated content, or even go behind the scenes of your organization.

On Facebook, your options for what to post open up a bit: Not only can you share your blog posts and website content, but you can also post native Facebook videos, product promotions, and original memes that resonate with your customers. You can also interact with other businesses that have a similar audience as your own.

While the goal on social media sites like Instagram or Snapchat is to connect more intimately with your audience, your goal on platforms like Facebook and Twitter is to expand that audience, drive traffic toward your website, and start conversations in your industry. Do some basic market research to discover which platforms your buyers are on, and mold your content to their expectations.

When you’re ready for more ideas, there are a plethora of different content types to diversify your content marketing.

It takes time, organization, and creativity to grow a successful content marketing strategy. From building the foundation of your content marketing plan to adding tools to better manage your content, setting up your strategy for the new year won’t be a hassle if you follow the steps and explore the resources here.

For additional guidance, use HubSpot’s Marketing Plan Generator to create a 12-month strategy in just a few minutes.

Happy creating!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in September 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Content Marketing Strategy

What Is a Micro Niche … and Do You…

A micro niche is a business offering that’s highly specific. You may also encounter the term sub-niche to describe these laser-focused products or services. Micro niches drill down from niches, which are already segmented out from a larger market.

Here are a few quick examples to clarify the difference between a market, a niche, and a micro niche:

  • Market, outdoor gear; Niche, camping supplies; Micro Niche, high-end mountaineering tents
  • Market, tech; Niche, social media platforms; Micro Niche, social platforms targeted to specific interests, such as Ravelry for knitters
  • Market, beauty supplies; Niche, cosmetics; Micro Niche, organic vegan cosmetics

Micro niches generally have more adjectives attached (not just ‘food truck,’ but ‘artisan grilled cheese truck featuring locally sourced cheese and bread’) and have a highly specific audience in mind (people who love grilled cheese with fancy additions).

Would your business benefit from a micro niche?

Among the greatest benefits of micro niches is that they pre-qualify customers and clients early in the marketing funnel. People who are looking for outdoor gear may be looking for anything from hiking boots to fly-fishing rods to harnesses for mountain climbing. But people searching specifically for camping supplies can have very different ‘wants’ as well. They may prioritize:

  • Affordability
  • Ease of use
  • Eco-friendly production
  • Aesthetics
  • Better, best glamping quality
  • Mountain-ready ruggedness

Often there will be an overlap of preferred qualities. But if your niche is producing and selling high-quality mountaineering tents, you won’t have to worry about capturing the attention of frugal families or people who want a luxurious camping experience.

The other benefits of a micro niche branch off from there. They include:

  • A passionate customer community. People interested in high-quality tents are often interested in clear topic areas related to your offering. This makes it easier to create a content strategy for organic traffic; there’s less guessing what will appeal to your customers. People who want exceptional quality tents for hiking are knowledgeable already. They would likely be interested in a blog or podcast offering specific, expert, or off-the-beaten path advice and recommendations.
  • Less competition. In broad markets and even niches, gaining visibility and brand awareness can be a challenge. In a micro niche, it’s easier to earn attention and differentiate yourself because you have fewer competitors. You still have to specify your unique value in the space and clarify that among your discerning audience.
  • Brand loyalty. While this isn’t a given and requires meeting the demands of your audience, a sub-niche can foster long-term interest. That’s because micro niches are built on expertise, passion, and customization. It’s more challenging to bring a personal touch to broad markets

Companies can start up with a single micro niche. For example, Bite offers sustainable toothpaste tablets called ‘bits,’ mouthwash bits, floss, and toothbrushes through a subscription plan. Their focus is zero-waste, plastic-free, vegan, and cruelty-free production.

Drybar is another micro niche company that carved a customer base from the hair salon industry. The ‘want’ they leveraged was people interested in a ‘just-from-the-salon’ look between full haircuts and coloring.

Alternatively, companies can add a micro niche after establishing their brand in a larger niche market. The mattress company, Casper, added dog beds to their niche offering. Mattresses, for most of us, are large and infrequent purchases. Although dog beds have a far smaller price point, dog owners are likely to replace them more often. Offering dog beds is also a way to introduce a new audience to the overall Casper brand and the quality of its craftsmanship.

How to discover the best micro niche(s) for your business

1. Identify your strengths.

To discover a micro niche worth developing, start by looking at your strengths — either as an individual, a team, or a company. You’re more likely to find sustainable success in areas that excite you and your team.

Consider a business offering employee recruitment support to companies. Perhaps their team excels when recruiting executives or helping mid-career changers climb the ladder? This could spark a micro niche B2B offering, such as mid-level leadership development services or executive compensation consulting.

2. Focus on the problem.

What issues need solving in your industry or your life? Think about the times you’ve thought “If only we had _____ ” to help with a common problem in day-to-day life, at work, or with a recreational activity. Fill in that blank for a promising micro-niche business idea. Problems you face are likely issues for others as well. Brainstorm different problems and creative solutions, and see which one gets you and trusted peers the most excited.

3. Do your micro-niche market research.

You want to make sure your micro niche has a customer base. Here are some areas on which to focus your research:

  • Informal and formal market research. Talk with friends and family about consumer ideas, or reach out to industry peers about business services needs. If you have the budget, send out email or social media surveys about the topic to gauge interest.
  • Google Trends. This tool can help you discover micro niches within larger niches, and the overall interest in your micro niche. Search various terms related to your sub-niche and then explore the related topics and queries. You can also find out regional variations in interest.
  • Social media and industry organizations. Explore hashtags on social media related to your sub-niche or industry. Also check out associations, professional groups, and organizations within your target industry. What are they discussing or excited about? Do you notice an emerging area of expertise? Do you notice a missing link in the discussions that might be an opportunity?

For example, a search for ‘mountain tent’ reveals strong (and unsurprising) regional interest in Colorado and Idaho. It also shares that ‘hyperlite mountain gear’ is a related topic, which can guide your product development and future marketing content.

4. Check out the competition.

It’s possible you’ll have a eureka moment and land on an untapped idea. But, more often, you’ll find your skills and interests lead you to micro niches with existing businesses. Now, you’ll have to toggle back to research and brainstorming mode. Here’s what you’ll need to figure out:

  • Is the market big enough for the two, four, or 15 of you?
  • How can you differentiate yourself from the competition? With white-glove service? With a lower or higher price point?
  • Where are they falling short?
  • How can you do better?

5. Test the waters.

You don’t have to dive into the deep end immediately. It’s smart to test the waters first with a single product offering. The apparel company Bombas launched in 2013 with a single product: comfortable performance socks. It has expanded to other items of clothing, but socks remain at the center of the brand.

Another way to test your idea is with a landing page, which is a simple process with drag-and-drop tools like HubSpot’s Landing Page Builder. Once you have a personalized landing page, begin advertising your product or service with paid search and social media ads. Your proof-of-concept is in the pudding — if the pudding were steady traffic, completed email forms, inbound sales calls, and product pre-orders.

On the landing page, and in your ads, use keywords that clearly define your offering. This way you draw people with authentic interest or buying intent in your micro niche.

6. Trust your instincts.

If you dream up a product or service idea that hasn’t been done before, or hasn’t been done particularly well, in your opinion, consider trusting your gut.

  • The company Untuckit was built on the simple premise that men wanted button-front shirts that looked neat untucked, and they were hard to find.
  • The e-commerce store Lefty’s sells common kitchen, gardening, school, and work tools designed specifically for people who are left handed.
  • Olive & June is a nail polish company that sells kits that make home manicures easy and fun. Their kits come with a holder for your phone, so you can watch a video while your polish dries.

These micro-niche companies often have one thing in common: When they hit the market, people often wonder how the products or services weren’t available before. Find your micro niche, and follow these steps to bring your business to life.

Content Marketing Strategy

Rethinking Your Premium Content: How to Build a Guided…

Are you seeing a lower return of effort for traditional premium content like whitepapers, webinars, ebooks and more?

Alternatively, do you find the biggest results just aren’t there for the amount of work you put into the creation? If so, you’re not alone. While these offers can provide in-depth insights for prospects, not every prospect sees the value in them.

Still, we continue offering premium content to build trust throughout the buyer’s journey and learn information about prospects along the way.

And yet, the problem remains: Where do you draw the line between offering free, useful content and charging for your expert knowledge and insight?

Some brands are beginning to define this blurry line by developing their own learning management systems (LMS), as a private hub for paid access to their best educational resources.

And yes, you can even build an LMS in HubSpot. Here, we’ll explore what a learning management system is, the benefits of using one, and how you can repurpose content into your own guided learning course. 

Let’s dive in. 

What’s a learning management system (LMS)?

First, let’s first make sure we’re on the same page with a definition.

A learning management system (LMS) is a software application to administer, document, track, report on and deliver educational courses, training programs, or learning and development programs.

It’s a portal that users can log into to exclusively access the premium content you develop specifically for your paid audience. (Paid can mean literal financial payment or the currency of data/membership).

While online courses aren’t new, using a learning management system (LMS) to deliver premium content is still uncharted territory for most brands.

As marketers, we’re always trying to create valuable content. But in a crowded marketplace, it can be difficult to demonstrate value in your content even if you have a strong content marketing strategy.

That’s where a guided learning course can prove beneficial. A guided learning course can offer in-depth solutions to your prospects’ challenges, and ultimately, can provide your company with higher-quality leads.

Which makes LMS’ invaluable to anyone wanting to create a guided learning course, since courses need to be built on a LMS. 

To explore the importance of guided learning courses, let’s consider an example. Let’s say you have two competitors, and both offer a webinar on “Email Marketing Strategy”.

To differentiate your own brand, imagine instead you take an hour-long webinar and split it up into a dozen topics for five-to-seven minutes each. That could easily be offered as a 12-module course.

Your prospect can now go through the content on their own time and only explore the sections that feel relevant to them, versus having to sit and listen to an hour-long webinar. The perception and value is magnified and fits the nature of how your prospect actually wants to consume the content.

Why use an LMS?

Once we know what an LMS is, it’s time to explore why. As you learn what an LMS is and how it works for users, let’s dig into why it could change your business.

1. User Accessibility

Right now most marketers create an ebook, promote that PDF through blog posts and social posts, then use workflows and emails to “guide” prospects and contacts throughout the journey.

We can tell when someone downloads the PDF, but we have no idea how much they consume. Then, with emails, information can get lost on the user side of the equation. So many of us delete emails or forget what the exact phrase in an email is we’re searching for … it can easily become a mess.

An LMS allows the user flexibility to go back into the journey and see what they need to see inside a comprehensive portal.

Users no longer have to rely on emails. Instead, they can reference each step in the learning path, see what’s next, and enjoy a more realistic and user-friendly experience.

2. Buyer’s Journey Trackability

On the marketer’s side, an LMS provides us with more data points to better understand a prospect’s position in the buyer’s journey — especially when using an LMS for lead management and education.

Imagine a world where you can watch your buyer discover your content during their awareness stage, and move through consideration and into the decision stage, all within your ecosystem.

It’s possible to track a prospect’s journey throughout the buying stages with guided learning courses that tailor to users in different stages of the buyer’s journey — this is what truly creating content for the buyer’s journey looks like.

With a webinar or PDF, you’re left wondering how much someone consumed. You don’t have access to the data with PDFs. You know prospects downloaded it, but did they actually consume the information? For the most part, it’s the same with webinars on the user level.

When you use guided learning or an LMS, you can see every module or every single page they viewed, and how far through the course users got. You can measure to make sure it’s effective in general, and you can also measure the intent and automate your systems based on topic performance and even individual chapter performance. 

3. Cross-Device Consumption

Want to know a bonus to creating a guided learning course that users sign into for consumption? Think about a frictionless cross-device experience.

How often do we start a video or article on our laptop while working or researching, only to want to continue it on our phone later? This is especially true when the content is longer than a 2-minute video.

When a user has a membership to your LMS, they can go to their laptop, their phone, their iPad … wherever they want to consume content at that moment, and it’s there waiting for them. That’s winning at UX!

Guided Learning Course Examples

What does a learning management system look like in practice? Let’s take a look at two examples right under our noses.

1. HubSpot Academy

HubSpot Academy is a great example of using an LMS for lead generation and trust building.

Academy courses teach users all about HubSpot’s philosophy and mindset. Users can learn about HubSpot before purchasing HubSpot’s products or services — but users can also learn about a variety of other marketing, sales, service, and web design topics without ever becoming a HubSpot customer. 

Consider the Marketing Software Certification course. Instead of a PDF with screenshots, users can walk through videos with screen-sharing options, download study guides, and take quizzes and exams along the way to assess progress.

2. SEMrush Academy

SEMrush offers solutions for SEO, PPC, content, social media, and competitive research. To appeal to both prospects and users, the company created SEMrush Academy, a Digital Marketing guided learning course with courses on SEO, content marketing, PPC, and more. SEMrush Academy is free and offers a certification when users complete courses.

Best of all, the guided learning courses have both video and text with some of the industry’s most well-known digital marketing professionals, and while all courses are offered in English, many of them are also offered in Spanish.

Whether you’re a content marketer looking to up your game or you’re already a customer of SEMrush, you’ll undeniably find value in their courses, ranging from beginner to advanced.

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For more inspiration, take a look at 60 Best Free Online Courses For Whatever You Want to Learn.

How to Repurpose Your Content into a Guided Learning Course

If you’re thinking, “Wait a minute … Now I have to create all this new content?” take a breath. Yes, new content is needed. However, you can also repurpose content you already have as you’re creating new content for your LMS strategy.

Most of your existing content can be reimagined into a guided learning course.

You can revisit popular ebooks, webinars, pillar pages, blog posts, slide decks and more to create a multimedia course to serve your customers. You can even turn toolkits and related offers into guided learning opportunities.

For instance, you might consider taking your ebook and using each chapter as a chapter or module in your course. Additionally, you might take some information on the subject from various blog posts and turn it into a checklist or template format for users to try for themselves.

At Impulse Creative, we can turn our Brand Plan ebook into the Brand Plan Course and create a whole new offering. Here’s how that would look:

LMS

You get the idea. Each chapter becomes a module, and the subjects in those chapters become the videos that make up the course. This way, you can keep videos shorter for more bite-sized consumption.

Additionally, you’ll want to perform a content audit to uncover what pieces you have and what problems each one solves before placing them into buckets. Then, you can take each of these buckets and create a course.

The content you have will act as a storyboard so you can script your videos. Then you can use the existing content with a slight refresh as the bonus materials in your courses.

Brands find themselves at a critical turning point today … Traditional content can feel stale — and users are demanding more.

There is a major opportunity for the LMS to serve multiple facets of your business, from lead generation to sales or customer success. Ultimately, you’ll want to figure out how a LMS could serve your own business needs, as well as the needs of your prospects and customers.

Content Marketing Strategy

What Are Website Traffic Exchange Sites? (And Why You…

Traffic matters. The more traffic your website generates, the greater your chances of capturing visitor interest, encouraging user action and generating sales.

So it’s no surprise that traffic remains a top priority no matter what kind of site you run. As noted by a recent Forbes piece, everything from specific search engine optimization (SEO) strategies to contextually-relevant content can help boost traffic volumes and increase key metrics, while more technical traffic attractions such as reducing page load delays and improving user experience on mobile devices can also enhance your website impact.

The potential downside? These traffic-boosting tactics aren’t quick fixes. They require time and effort to deliver ongoing results — and they’re not guaranteed.

Website traffic exchange sites offer a supposedly speedy solution to deliver increased impressions and help your click-throughs climb the charts, but as noted by Google, they also come with significant risk “because they may lead to invalid clicks or impressions and result in your account being disabled.”

Here’s what you need to know about website traffic exchange sites, how they work — and the red flags that make them a non-starter for sustained traffic over time.

What is a Website Traffic Exchange?

The idea behind a website traffic exchange is simple: Quid pro quo — you do something, and you get something in return.

In this case, what you’re doing is visiting other business owners’ websites, and they’re visiting yours in return. The theory holds that with enough visits your site will start to climb relevant search rankings and eventually drive more organic traffic your way.

At face value, this doesn’t seem like a bad idea: Since website owners all want the same thing — traffic — why not band together and use the power of the Web at large for collective gain?

But problems crop up as traffic trends away from the organic views and user engagements that search engines are now built to detect. Since you’re visiting sites as quickly as possible to generate their traffic and get the same in return, your website impressions are feather-light and fleeting; there’s no engagement with content and no context for the visit.

As search engines become more sophisticated, meanwhile they can detect this lack of legitimacy — and penalize your site for it.

Understanding Website Traffic Exchange Sites

The most common form factor for these traffic exchange options is as traffic exchange websites. Do a quick Google search and dozens will pop up, all offering high-volume, low-risk services.

These websites are simply groups of website owners who all agree to visit the other sites on the list and in return have their own sites visited. Some are free to join and have hundreds or thousands of sites listed; others come with a fee and may support millions of sites worldwide.

While smaller sites typically operate on a one-for-one model — you visit one website and get a visit in return — larger operations may impose a site-viewing ratio, especially if your site is just starting. For example, if your ratio is 0.5 you must visit two sites before getting one visit in return.

To help smaller companies boost their profile more quickly, many of these website traffic exchange sites now offer for-pay options that promise to deliver a certain quantity of digital visitors in a specific time frame. They may also run contests or promotions that group members can enter (for free or for pay) which will boost their traffic multiplier and supposedly get them closer to the top of relevant, front-page searches.

Red Flags: Why You Shouldn’t Use Traffic Exchange Services

So far, these traffic exchange sites don’t sound like a terrible idea: You get traffic for free or for pay and provide traffic for other sites.

But here’s the problem: As noted by Google, their AdSense program specifically prohibits any artificial means of generating impressions or clicks — if your website is found to be using these methods, your AdSense profile may be suspended and your search ranking will drop. Although website traffic exchange sites use a slightly different model to deliver click-throughs and visitor impressions, they may create similar red flags for popular search engines in turn causing your site’s search ranking to crash.

There’s also the larger problem of organic and contextual traffic. Your ultimate goal is to attract visitors with relevant website content that drives specific action — such as signing up for a newsletter, filling out a contact form or making a purchase. Achieving this goal requires two things: Organic searches that return your website as a top result and contextual, value-driven content that creates consumer engagement

Traffic exchange sites provide the first part of this equation, since group members may be given specific keywords to enter which return your site and boost search rankings. But they fall short on the second half, since these aren’t real visitors but other group members clicking through and then bouncing away while waiting for you to return the favor. This creates an issue for intelligent search engine algorithms that notice your traffic increase — and commensurate lack of engagement, in turn red-flagging your site and potentially damaging your search ranking.

Green-light Options for Increasing Your Website Traffic

If website traffic exchange services are a non-starter, what can site owners do to increase traffic, drive more leads and deliver ROI?

Some of the most effective options include:

  1. Creating relevant content
  2. Buying targeted ads
  3. Writing guest posts
  4. Capturing better backlinks
  5. Repurposing old assets

Curated, context-aware content matters to improve traffic metrics. This means creating website layouts and resources that are relevant to your target audience and provide actionable information about your products, unique market position or pricing.

Free press is great, but it’s not always easy to find. As a result, it’s worth doing your research and purchasing targeted ad space on the social platforms preferred by your buyer personas. For example, if you find significant group numbers of Facebook dedicated to discussions of products or services in your industry, it’s worth considering some targeted ad spend to attract specific user interest.

Many website owners are experts in their field, making them ideal authors for guest posts on more popular blogs or sites. Start by reaching out to site admins about writing a guest post with the caveat that they’ll include a link to your site. This lets you capitalize on larger traffic pools without paying for traffic exchange sites.

Speaking of backlinks, it’s worth trying to generate as many great backlinks as possible. Start with a quick search of your brand, product and service names — if you see them mentioned in search results but unlinked, reach out to the author and ask for a backlink. It’s also worth checking the most-searched terms in your market vertical; if you can capture these searches with on-site content, there’s potential to secure backlinks on popular “best of” articles and listicles.

You’ve got content you’re no longer using, but that doesn’t mean it’s useless. While simply reposting it won’t generate new traffic, you can repurpose popular resources into something else. For example, a well-performing blog post could be turned into a video or serve as the jumping-off point for a discussion, while a whitepaper could see new life as an infographic with updated statistics.

The bottom line? More traffic means better search rankings and improved user engagement on your website.

But not all traffic is created equal. While traffic exchange websites promise high volume and velocity, the value of this tactic comes with risk — and can’t compare to value-driven, user-focused traffic building that steadily boosts your search ranking and helps turn first-page curiosity into a functional sales conversion.

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