One of the questions we get asked regularly is: how long does it take content marketing to work?
For small business owners staking their own money or busy marketing managers needing to assuage skeptical bosses, the timeline for content marketing ROI is crucial.
‘How long does it take for content marketing to work’ is a simple enough question, but the answer is less straightforward. It will depend on what goals you set, what budget and resources you have at your disposal and where you’re starting from.
But “it depends” isn’t much of an answer, so we’ve put together some general milestones that you should look to tick off as you develop, deploy and manage your content marketing strategy. It should give you an idea of what you can hope to achieve in the first six months.
What can your content marketing achieve in one month?
Your first month of content marketing is going to fly by pretty quickly, but you can complete some really important tasks during these opening few weeks.
How content marketing works in one month
1. Understanding Your Users
Anyone who understands how content marketing works will know that it’s about offering value to your audience. Content that’s relevant, useful, interesting or entertaining offers your brand a chance to get in front of the right people and start to build relationships with them.
Start by doing some work to understand what your audience wants to know about your business, your products and your industry. What information are they searching for? What are the questions they want answers to? It’s these insights that should drive your content marketing strategy.
2. Setting up your Google Analytics
Before you can tell your boss or your bank manager how long your content marketing will take to work you need to know what it will look like when that happens. Google Analytics is likely to play a big role in how you judge whether or not you’re getting results from your content marketing. It will also help you adjust and improve your content strategy as you go.
An important month one goal is a thorough audit of your Google Analytics set-up to make sure you can track users around your site, understand the user journey and identify the points where you’re losing potential conversions. Google Analytics data cannot be changed retrospectively, so it’s worth taking the time to get it right before you publish your first piece of content.
20 Tips For Your Google Analytics
3. Documenting your content marketing strategy
You know what your audience wants and you’re ready to start tracking all that lovely extra traffic. But before month one is done you need a plan. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 Australian Benchmarks Study less than half (43 per cent) of marketers have a documented content marketing strategy.
You won’t finish this work in your first month, but you should have an outline that answers questions like: who are we targeting? What sorts of content do they want? What do we want them to do on our site? How will we promote our content? How will we track performance?
A documented content strategy can take various forms, but you might want to include: user personas to segment your target audience; user journeys to understand how visitors move around your site; a creative brief setting the topics, keyword groups, tone and style for your content creation; a content calendar to plan specific pieces of content; and reporting templates setting out your goals and KPIs.
4. Establishing your conversion goals
You may well have broader objectives than website conversions. But it’s likely they will play an important role in deciding whether or not content marketing is working for your business. Before your first piece of content rolls out the door spend some time on your calls-to-action (CTAs).
Every page of your site should have a simple, relevant and clearly-visible conversion opportunity. This will help you capture value from the additional visitors your content creation and promotion will attract. Landing pages with CTAs buried under 800 words of copy or a blog with no CTA at all is no way to start a successful content marketing experience.
What can your content marketing achieve in three months?
So, you’ve done your set-up work and you’re ready to get cracking. Let’s see what you can expect your content marketing to look like three months in.
How content marketing works in three months
1. Starting To Create And Publish Content
Before the first three months are out you should have published your first pieces of content. Don’t be in a hurry to get to this point because if you skimp on the prep work you’ll risk wasting ammo. Effective content needs to be carefully-targeted. Your audience will have plenty of choice when deciding where to go to get their information. You need to find ways to offer superior value to what’s already available.
That will require you to not only understand what it is that your audience wants, but also finding the opportunities where their needs are currently under-served. If you can’t create something significantly better than what’s in Google’s search results or on social media then find somewhere else to compete.
2. Promoting your content across multiple channels
The content you create for your blog and landing pages will be so amazing that word will quickly spread, visitors will rush to your site and you’ll be inundated with new leads. If only it were that simple. In reality you’re going to need to give your content a helping hand and you should do that from the outset.
Organic search is likely to play an important role in your content marketing strategy. That will require careful selection of topics and content for your blog posts and landing pages. And you’ll need to follow best practice on-page SEO, from unique title tags and breadcrumb URLs to internal linking and schema markup.
But your content marketing strategy should extend beyond search, into areas such as email and social media. Regular, targeted emails are an excellent way to nurture potential customers, maintaining loose contact until they’re ready to make a purchase. On social media your content – supported by a budget for ads and sponsored posts – can help introduce your brand to new audiences and drive traffic to your site.
40 Tips For Your Email Marketing
What Can Your Content Marketing Achieve In Six Months?
With the set-up and launch phases out of the way, you should be into test, learn and improve by the six-month mark.
How content marketing works in six months
1. Beginning to analyse your website traffic
You’ve created relevant, conversion-friendly landing pages; you’re posting carefully-targeted content on your blog; and you’re promoting it through search, email and social media. If you’ve also set up your Google Analytics properly, 6 months in is when you’ll be able to pull your first really meaningful performance report.
The results in that first report might not yet reach the threshold required for you to say: “yes, my content marketing is working”. But you should be able to see evidence that your efforts are having a positive impact in the form of more traffic, longer dwell times, lower bounce rates and hopefully more conversions.
Just as important as lines and arrows pointing in the right direction is the ability to see opportunities to improve. Which blog articles failed to resonate? Which steps in your conversion process are leaking visitors? Which email topics under-performed? You can feed this intelligence back to your content creation team to steadily improve performance.
2. Diversifying your content creation and promotion strategy
Only 3 per cent of respondents to the CMI’s 2016 Australian Benchmarks Survey described their content marketing strategy as “sophisticated”. That’s defined as “providing accurate measurement to the business, scaling across the organisation”.
After 6 months, you might have a documented content marketing strategy, some regular content on the go and your first performance report in your hand. You’re still only at the start of your journey. If these foundations are strong you can start to explore different types of content that may be more ambitious than your first few blog posts. You can also start to diversify your promotion strategy.
According to an Econsultancy / Marketo survey, one-third of Australian brands plan to invest in marketing automation and email platforms in the next 12 months. Email automation has wonderful potential, but it’s impossible without regular content and a waste of money and effort without a clear strategy for attracting, engaging and converting the right people.
In Summary: How Long Does It Take Content Marketing To Work?