Content Chemistry - A Content Bible for Newbies

Published 19/08/2020
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As someone new to the industry of content marketing, a book like Andy Crestodina's 'Content Chemistry' seems like the best place to start.
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And here is what a newcomer like me has learnt already about content marketing just from this book alone.

Who am I? 

My name is Alex and I graduated with first-class honours from BA Fashion Communication at Northumbria University. I’ve always had a strong interest in writing, and I know this is the career path I want to follow. 

However, little old me didn’t quite grasp and comprehend quite how broad writing is as a career. Ultimately, like most people, I have a passion for producing outstanding work, whether it be written, visual or a mixture of both. And this is where content marketing comes into the story. 

Working as a Blog and Event Assistant at Sanderson Arcade a few years ago, I began my journey of content marketing, and I didn’t even know it. I was producing regular blog posts along with accompanying imagery for the shopping centre and promoting this content on social media as well as through email newsletters. I thoroughly enjoyed my role but left not knowing the subconscious passion I had just started.  

As I progressed through university, various modules challenged me to develop a vast variety of skills but ultimately it always came back to producing excellent content and learning how best to promote it. 

Content Chemistry

I was very kindly gifted Andy’s book by James, founder of Converge, along with the message that Andy is “one of the world’s top and best known content marketers” so, as you can imagine, I was pretty keen to get stuck in!

The book begins with an excellent definition of content marketing – which is “the art and science of pulling your audience toward your business”. 

Andy goes on to explain, in the simplest of terms, that to be successful a website must attract visitors and trigger actions from those visitors by converting them into leads and customers. 

To do this, he explains that web marketers must create content and then promote it. It’s as simple as that! However, he’s right to say that’s “where the simplicity ends”. 

The book is split into two sections where Crestodina first discusses the theory behind web marketing and then, in the second section, his theories are put into practice, demonstrating how to create, promote and measure content. It’s an insightful book, but, more importantly perhaps, it’s a practical book. Full of ‘How-tos’ and things you can do straight away, rather than just think about.

Something that newcomers to content marketing like me need is a breakdown of key points and Andy’s book does exactly this. Starting with the heading of ‘How it all works’ is something that certainly appeals to me and seems like the perfect place to start. 

Below, I share some thoughts and takeaways from various sections of the book to give you a better idea of what’s inside ‘Content Chemistry’.

Strategy and branding

As Andy explains, strategy involves having a clear understanding of exactly why you’re in business and being crystal clear on your mission, vision and values. 

It also involves research (and plenty of it) - researching your audience, their needs, the market size you’re entering or are already a part of, as well as an analysis of competitors in your field. 

Branding looks at the perception of your business in the market. When it comes to branding, you need to ask yourself questions such as, what is unique about your position and makes you stand out from the crowd? 

How do you promote your message successfully, how do your visuals fit with your brand identity and are they consistent in everything you put out to the world? 

Creating a website and content. 

I learn that the strategy of a website must involve answering the questions and dilemmas your audience are searching for. This, in turn, should lead them directly to your product, service or experience.

Consequently, Andy explains how content must always be written with your audience in mind. What information do they need? What are they hoping for? What are they worried about? What evidence can you provide to make them feel reassured in their purchasing decision?

Content comes in a variety of forms but ultimately an effective content marketing plan is based on “topics, tone and frequency that align with the needs of the audience”. 

Andy discusses how thoroughly researched articles that involve surveys or original research are much more useful to the audience compared to opinion pieces. ‘How To’ posts are also often popular.

Content promotion.

Now that you’ve created some content, you want people to see it, right? 

A big factor to consider is ‘Search Engine Optimization’ or SEO, for short. Ultimately, this means creating content that has been carefully planned to rank high in search engines, therefore, encouraging a durable and consistent source of traffic to your site.

SEO can be achieved through keyword research. This involves selecting key phrases concerning your business to include in your content. What are people searching for? What questions do they want answers to? If you know what they’re searching for, you can align pages on your website, and content, with phrases they’re exploring. 

Guest blogging is another tactic Andy discusses to enhance SEO. Your content does not have to be limited to your own website. Submitting high-quality content to other relevant blogs is good for SEO, branding and ultimately, acts as a big ‘hello’ to new people, inviting them to join your business’ following.

Away from the web, offline marketing activity has potential search benefits too. Events, partnerships, advertising, association memberships and sponsorships can create link opportunities that can all be beneficial in the future too. 

The ‘Rule of Thirds’. 

Social media - it’s a ‘no-brainer’ when it comes to promotion. 

However, social media promotion does not simply involve creating a post and sharing it. Andy discusses that “great social media marketing includes content promotion, content curation and one-to-one conversation”. Also known as the ‘rule of thirds’.

Content that involves self-promotion is known as the ‘Creation’ rule. Making up a third of your social media promotion, this involves sharing your own content. This results in traffic being driven directly towards your website. 

Next, is the ‘Curation’ third. These posts are news-related or discuss ideas and advice from other people in your industry. This not only helps your audience gain more knowledge, but also supports your relationships with influencers.  

Finally, ‘Conversation’ is the final rule. This makes up, you guessed it, the final third of your social media posts. Here, you personally interact with your followers. Saying thank you, asking or answering questions or talking to people directly. This involves your customers, strangers, influencers – anyone!

Email marketing. 

What is one of the first things you see when you visit any major blog or media website? 

An email signup form - it’s only a couple of minutes before one pops up. This is because, as Andy explains, “all serious content marketing programs share one common goal: capture the email addresses of visitors”. 

With email addresses, you, as a business, have a direct connection with your audience. This makes email marketing the traffic source you can best control. Both B2B and B2C businesses can benefit from email marketing. 

With visitors’ permission, your job is to make signing up to receive your emails worth their while. Successful email marketing involves growing your list, delivering consistently, timing the release of your emails well in addition to creating emails with effective subject lines and that contain great content with clear calls to action. 

Generating a list of engaged subscribers who look forward to content you produce is a powerful tool for generating long term brand awareness and demand. 

Make your subscribers want to open an email. Timing and frequency of your emails are equal in importance to their design and subject line. By knowing when your audience is most likely to open your email is key to making this a reality. How often you should be sending emails is another key factor to email marketing success. But overall, Andy emphasises a key message we all know – “quality not quantity”.

Convert and repeat. 

Andy describes a conversion as when a visitor to your website takes a profitable action. This could involve them becoming a lead, a subscriber, a registrant, or an e-commerce customer. 

Subscribers, followers and fans make up the best conversions. This is because they allow your content to reach farther and drive greater traffic, resulting in higher conversions in the future.

Two factors affect conversion. Andy explains the first is motivation. This pulls your visitors towards conversion and is the result of compelling content, a user-friendly and site and trustworthy values to make visitors feel welcome and safe. 

The other factor is friction. This factor stops visitors from converting and could include weak or unclear content, unanswered questions and/or a site that is hard to use, leaving visitors feeling confused and lacking in trust. 

Overall, if the perceived value the site offers is greater than the effort required to get that value, visitors simply convert. Andy explains that this is the result of the motivation outweighing the friction. 

Like many of us, when visitors land on our site they ask themselves – what’s in it for us? What will we gain from this site? There are two ways to increase conversion rates and make visitors feel motivated to convert. The first is to increase their motivation to react and the second is to make it easier for them to take action, therefore reducing the friction of their decision. 

By understanding and answering your visitors’ questions with supportive evidence, addressing any of their concerns and by providing a clear and specific way for them to react, your visitors are more motivated to convert. 

Andy discusses research by Hubspot and NN Group, where results showed that 76% of respondents said the most important factor of a website was a design that enabled visitors to easily find what they wanted. Less were interested in a beautiful appearance or a cutting-edge interactive experience. 

This was further echoed in research that revealed 60% of people said that the highest cause of user failure on a website was findability. This emphasises the great importance of making your site as user-friendly as possible, to encourage motivation and reduce friction. 

As a result, with little effort, visitors can easily find answers and are therefore much more likely to become a conversion. Bryan Eisenberg, founder and CMO IdealSpot, sums up this factor effortlessly – “For you to achieve your goals, visitors must first achieve theirs”. 

Testimonials are another essential tool to increase conversion rates by providing proof and reassuring visitors of their decision. As Andy explains, recommendations show that someone has received value from your service and that they believe in your brand. A testimonial provides a form of social proof and is more credible than the voice of the brand - people trust real people.

Of course, Andy Crestodina’s Content Chemistry explains so much more than I ever could in this article - it is an excellent book for breaking down absolutely everything regarding content marketing down into manageable chunks which is perfect for a beginner like me. 

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