The Internet is overflowing with content, with approximately 4 million blog posts published daily. And this number doesn’t include the numerous white papers, case studies, infographics, videos, and all the other types of content being published. After you hit that “publish” button, the next great piece that you create will join this vast sea of information, leaving you to wonder, “Will mine be read and shared and drive customers to action?” The answer may be “yes” … but first, the piece must be found.
Content marketing is an effective strategy for generating both inbound traffic and leads. This type of content is typically “evergreen” and continues to drive traffic long after creation. In contrast, pay-per-click (PPC) provides quick spurts of traffic that make its performance easy to measure and understand. These are two very different marketing strategies and are most often used separately, but some marketers are asking an important question: Why not do both?
The Benefits of Combining PPC and Content Marketing
Creating excellent content is only half the battle of reaching your target market. PPC allows you to take that great content, promote it, and drive sales and leads faster.
Leveraging PPC in your content marketing strategy also helps you better understand exactly who is interested in your products and services. Maybe those who are completing purchases, for example, are slightly different from your original buyer persona. If so, you can modify that persona to better reflect the true purchasers of your products and services.
The results of PPC are easily tracked, which helps you better understand how to present an offer. For example, let’s say that you create an e-book focused on a burning pain point of your target market. You can test a couple of different variations of presenting that offer through PPC, measure your results, and perfect the strategy. But before launching this strategy, you must first create amazing content and resources that will entice customers to engage with your brand.
The First Step: Creating High-Performing Content
The first step to creating a great content marketing and PCP strategy is to design something that your audience will be excited to read. Knowing what topics your audience will love isn’t always easy. So, instead of reinventing the wheel, tap into topics that are proven to work. Find content that has gone viral in the past … and then create something even better.
Use a tool such as BuzzSumo to view what issues are trending in your industry to better understand the topics that are getting traction. For example, let’s say that you type “content marketing” into the tool. The most popular article for that keyword is “8 Trends That Will Shape Content Marketing in 2017,” which harnessed 1.3K LinkedIn shares and 720 Twitter shares.
Do a careful read of the article and ask yourself, “What could be improved on this topic?” Maybe there are gaps in the existing article, or things that aren’t covered well ― or covered at all. Maybe the content would benefit from interviews, research, or additional statistics. For example, for a trends article, you could interview several industry influencers and use their quotes to support each trend. Or perhaps you could infuse the article with videos to add depth and insight to the subject. Take a topic that has performed well and use this knowledge to create something better by adding more of what the reader wants.
You can also tap into the content that you’ve already published through your own content marketing efforts. You may have a high-performing e-book that you’d like to get into the hands of more prospects. If so, you can use a PPC strategy to accomplish that (more on that in a minute). But first, here are a few tips for making content even better, whether it’s a new piece or an existing asset that you’re refreshing:
- Create twists and turns to capture interest. Has your topic been covered excessively? If so, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t write about it, especially if the topic has performed exceptionally well in the past, but the key is to stand out. Try doing the opposite of what others are doing. For example, if everybody is writing about the best strategies for XYZ, write about the worst ones (and how to fix them).
- Capture attention with amazing headlines. Eighty percent of people will read your headlines, but only 20 percent will read your content. So, you can never spend enough time perfecting your headlines and checking their results. PPC is an excellent tool for testing your headlines and determining which works best.
- Create content that is actionable. Providing strategy is great, but what can your readers do with your content? Can they take what they learned and apply it right away? Actionable content empowers your readers and builds greater engagement and brand loyalty.
- Add images and video to your content. Video is expected to claim more than 80 percent of all traffic by 2019, and 90 percent of customers report that product videos help them make purchasing decisions. If you’re not using video in your content, brainstorm ways to add it. For example, in the 2017 content marketing trends example above, you could include short video clips of the influencers giving their predictions, and then test the results through PPC campaigns.
You’ve created amazing content that is proven to perform well because you’ve invested time and research in finding the best topics. You’ve reviewed existing high-performing content, found the gaps ― and you know exactly how to make it better. So now what? If you want to get truly amazing results, couple that amazing content with a PPC strategy.
Combining Your Content Marketing and PPC Strategies
Using content marketing and PPC together works very well because you’re taking a piece of powerful, popular content and sharing it with people through PPC ads. This instantly boosts the odds that you’ll get a higher ROI on your marketing dollars. But first, you must understand the most effective place to invest your content and PPC dollars. Here are a few tips for getting started.
– Understand where customers spent time on social media. Measure the engagement that you receive from different social media platforms. For example, a B2B technology company notices it gets a high level of engagement through LinkedIn. If so, this is the first platform where you should test content-driven PPC. Measure your results, and iterate as needed.
– Determine the best content subject and format to promote it. Gated assets, such as that great e-book or detailed white paper that you wrote about a major pain point for the audience, are ideal candidates for PPC. Seasonal content, such as that trends article launched at the end of the year, are also good choices. Take the assets with a track record of excellent performance and test those first.
– Segment your campaigns. Some companies make the mistake of setting up campaigns for each of their products or services. Instead, plan campaigns for as many groups as possible, and segment by the main product feature, benefit, or other specific pertinent factor for your target audience.
– Leverage relevant keywords. The more specific your campaigns are, including keywords, the better your leads will be. Obsess over searcher intent.
For past content marketing efforts, you may have used guest posting, which is an effective strategy for getting in front of a target audience. The challenge, however, is that only a fraction of the total readers will be interested in your product. In contrast, leveraging content through PPC campaigns allows you to drill down to a specific persona that you’d like to target, so it’s no longer a numbers game.
For example, LinkedIn allows you to create a sponsored content campaign by using the campaign manager feature and then clicking the “sponsored content campaign” option. Simply select the piece of content that you want to sponsor. NewsCred used this strategy with LinkedIn and increased views 4.2 times for their unsponsored company updates, after running 20 sponsored update campaigns. Use examples like these to inspire your efforts.
Altering the Buying Path for Greater Results
Customers are traveling a buying path, and it may be long or it may be short. They may have some awareness of your product ― perhaps they saw it at a trade show or a co-worker mentioned it ― but they’re not even close to purchase yet. Combining content marketing with PPC allows you to alter the course of this path.
Whether prospective customers are at the start of their search or at the end of the sales cycle, you can move them forward faster and closer to the sale with this powerful double-whammy strategy.
Have you used PPC to increase the effectiveness of your content- marketing efforts? If so, please share what you’ve learned.