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Content marketing for small businesses: 8 key steps

Content marketing manager using laptop in office

Key takeaways

  • Diversify your content by creating information tailored to your target audience and sharing it where they spend their time
  • Use organizational tools to publish content consistently and keep track of everything you’ve already produced
  • Promote your content with paid ads and track success using analytics tools

As a small business owner, you know how important it is to get your brand in front of potential customers. In today’s digital world, that means creating content that not only provides solutions to their pain points but is more engaging and informative than what your competitors put out there.

This is known as content marketing—the process of creating content like blogs, videos, infographics, and social media posts to attract new and existing customers. The goal is to provide helpful, interesting, and high-quality content to build authority, establish trust, and get people to give you their business.

The sheer volume of content being put in front of customers can certainly impact their ability to absorb it—in fact, 54% of respondents in a Demand Gen annual report said they were overwhelmed by the amount of online content available, though the report also shared that it’s because the quality of the content available was lacking. This means there’s a golden opportunity to build better content than what’s already out there.

Here are eight tips on content marketing for small businesses to help you start building valuable content that attracts new customers.

8 tips to build content marketing for small businesses

Strategies for small business content creation and marketing: content marketing team sitting around table

Content marketing is a valuable tool that lets you connect with your audience and provide the information they want. These eight steps will guide your content creation process—from building a blog with interesting storytelling to analyzing metrics that maximize your results.

1. Get to know your target audience

Before creating new content, it’s essential to understand who you’re addressing and what drives them. Great content aims to answer a specific question or solve a problem. Understanding your audience’s needs is the only way to do this effectively.

Consider these questions when establishing your target audience:

  • What common problems do they face? Do your services provide a solution?
  • Where does your typical audience live? Does their neighborhood or region face specific challenges?
  • What are the demographics of your audience? Are they tech-savvy?

Answering these questions can help you determine who you’re creating content for and how they’re most likely to find it.

Knowing your audience also informs where you’ll share your content, whether that’s on social media, through email newsletters, or via in-depth yearly industry reports, webinars, or white papers. Start by collecting customer data to see where your target audience is most active.

Look at competitors to see how they’re engaging with their audience. A similar approach may work for you and can offer a starting point for you to share your content.

2. Develop the foundations for your content

Next, you’ll want to lay the groundwork for your content. This means creating profiles on sites where you want to share your content. It also involves setting up tools to track progress and improve quality.

Consider investing time and effort in these critical components:

  • A small business website with a blog section
  • Accounts on different social media platforms
  • Basic digital branding assets like logos and branded colors for visual content
  • Analytics tools like Google Analytics to track performance and MixPanel to see who’s viewing your site
  • Conversion elements, such as call-to-action (CTA) buttons or subscriber sign-ups, that you can create yourself using free tools like Canva or hire a freelance designer to do

3. Create a content strategy and marketing plan

Marketing manager standing at his desk

Small business owners know how important it is to have a plan, and content marketing is no different. Set a content marketing plan that covers the types of content you’ll produce, how you’ll distribute it, and how you’ll track its success.

Most successful content marketing strategies include various types of content. You don’t have to do it all, but you’ll likely need to leverage a few content types to share your message and reach your target audience.

Different content types can include:

  • Social media posts
  • Blog articles
  • Case studies
  • Podcasts
  • Video content
  • Email newsletters

In addition to deciding what you’ll create, it’s essential to decide where you’ll publish. Examples of content marketing platforms you could publish on include:

  • Your website
  • An external site (guest blog)
  • Social media platforms
  • YouTube (for video content)
  • Spotify or Apple Podcasts (for podcasts)
  • Blogging platforms like Medium or the LinkedIn Publishing Platform

Keep your goals in mind when choosing which channels to share your content on. For example, blogging is a good option if you want to drive traffic to your website or generate sales. If your content goals include building your brand authority and reputation, being a guest writer on another site or blog can help you boost brand awareness and credibility. If you publish on social media, you can choose to post images, infographics, or videos with a caption.

To make the process easier, repurpose your content and share it on multiple channels. For instance, you can write an informative blog post or case study and then pull out a key piece of information to share on a social media post. You could also build an email marketing campaign based on the information you wrote in the blog or case study.

Keep in mind that the topics you’ll want to cover will typically address:

  • Common pain points your customers experience
  • Questions about the industry or services you provide (like “how to fix a water leak” if you’re a plumber)

When you know your customer base and which platforms they use to engage with your business or competitors, you can distribute your content more effectively.

4. Focus on engaging, valuable content

You’re not the only one interested in content marketing for small businesses. One study from the Content Marketing Institute found that 81% of respondents reported they view content as a core business strategy. That means creating content that stands out and addresses your specific audience is more important than ever.

Start by considering the purpose of the content—whether that’s getting a customer to share their email address or make a purchase. Make it easy for the customer to take action and use your content to share helpful information that guides them to that decision.

Here are a few ways to make each piece of content engaging:

  • Choose relevant content topics: Write about things your customers are interested in or that are related to your products or services.
  • Consider the user’s needs: Are they looking for updates? Do they need information to make a decision? Are they looking for inspiration? Your content topics and format should address these needs.
  • Make content easy to skim: Catchy headlines capture audience attention while helpful, well-organized content keeps users engaged and helps them find the information they’re looking for so they don’t have to read every word of your post. Use elements like bulleted lists, bolded text, headers, and charts to make the information skimmable.
  • Pick the right content format: Consider the best way to share the information, such as a survey, quiz, or listicle explaining different options or tips.
  • Leverage CTAs: Remember that each piece of content should have a purpose. Make it easy for readers to take a specific action by adding CTA buttons to sign up for a newsletter, download a template, or contact your company. On vlogs, you can include pop-up links with related content for viewers to click on. In email newsletters, CTA buttons can include links to products or services and sign-up forms. You could also use social share buttons to encourage readers to share your content with other people who may be interested in what you have to say.
  • Use internal links: Add links to other blog posts, landing pages, your ecommerce store, or resources on your site so readers can learn more and find the solutions they’re looking for.
  • Tell a story: Use storytelling to make information more engaging. Reference a past customer’s experience or a situation where your services offered a much-needed solution. These stories can help you connect with your audience, build brand awareness, and establish your business as a thought leader in the industry.

5. Create content with SEO in mind

You can create the best content, but if you don’t optimize it for search engines, people may have a hard time finding it. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of your website and brand on search sites like Bing, Google, and Yahoo.

SEO is vital to the success of your content marketing efforts. It increases the likelihood of people finding your business when they search for key terms or services.

Optimize your content for search engines by:

  • Making it easy for search engines to crawl your site: Search engines use data like URL structure, site navigation (landing pages and categories), and internal links to figure out what your site is about and what services you offer so they can display it when users search for those types of products. Make your site easy to crawl by submitting your sitemap to Google, creating navigation bars with relevant categories to your services, and linking to relevant pages in blog posts and other content like videos.
  • Ensuring a good user experience: Make sure your website loads quickly, is mobile-friendly, and secure (with HTTPS). That way, readers feel safe navigating your site and can easily find the information they seek.
  • Creating content for people: Your content should make finding information easy by using proper formatting (bulleted lists, a table of contents, and bolded text), targeted keywords, and helpful information.
  • Using SEO best practices: All your blog content should have a clear title and a meta description—a quick sentence or two describing what the post is about. If there are images in your post, add alt text that describes what the image represents.

6. Establish processes for your content creation

Creating content and keeping it in order can be a big undertaking. Stay organized by creating content creation processes. A content calendar can help you visualize all the content you have planned and what you’ve already created. Consistency is key. A calendar ensures you regularly share content with your audience—whether it’s a daily email newsletter or a weekly blog post.

As your small business content marketing strategy grows, you may want to hire a freelance content writer to ensure consistent output. A project management tool like Asana, Monday, or ClickUp can also help you keep track of content creation as your team expands—plus each platform has free plans.

7. Promote your content

Young business owner recording a YouTube video

Once you’ve created your content, you need to get it in front of your target audience and make it easy for people to find your business. Use distribution channels like your social media to share snippets of your content so users will click through to read more. Send email newsletters to communicate with both prospective and current customers, and include links to your most recent blog posts or YouTube videos. For even more impact, segment your email list so each target audience gets its own customized messaging and tailored pieces of content.

Another way to promote your content is to work with influencers who can share what you’ve written with their own audiences, expanding your reach further. Micro-influencers can be especially effective as they’re usually more affordable, and while their following may not be as large, they often garner more user engagement in local areas.

Online advertising is an even more effective way to promote your content. With online ads, you can claim prime spots on social media feeds and appear above search results, helping you get in front of the users you want to target. These ads help you get more views and clicks—and you typically only need to pay when you earn a click. Plus, with programs like Yelp Ads, you can set your own budget for each campaign, so your promotions can be as cost-effective as you need them to be.

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8. Track your performance

Finally, don’t forget to track the performance of your content marketing. Most digital marketing platforms offer built-in metrics that you can track—both for your regular (organic) posts and for your paid campaigns. With these tools, you can see where traffic comes from and get sales insights like how many people buy your services after reading a specific blog post.

Make sure to check these metrics on a regular basis (ideally at least once per week) so you know if your marketing efforts are actually creating the results you want.

Take stock of which content performs best and track performance across campaigns using analytics. There are dozens of digital marketing tools to choose from depending on which key performance indicators (KPIs) you want to track.

Some important marketing metrics to keep tabs on include:

  • Conversion rate: The percentage of users who’ve taken a specific action
  • Website traffic: The number of people viewing a piece of content, the number of people visiting your site, or identifying the pages that generate the most sales or views
  • Search engine rankings: Where your post ranks in the search results page when people type in a key term
  • Engagement metrics: The number of times someone views a video embedded in a blog post, downloads content, or clicks on a specific link
  • Bounce rate: The percentage of readers who click on a page but then leave immediately
  • Content shares: The number of times readers share your content with other users
  • Time on page: The average time spent on a specific page or post—the longer someone stays, the more likely your information is engaging and helpful

Create a better content marketing strategy for your small business

Despite the content overload that consumers face each day, they’re still paying attention to useful content—the information that helps them solve problems or even entertains them.

With these content marketing for small business strategies, you’ll be better equipped to connect with your target audience and get potential customers to engage with your brand.

Learn more about expanding your reach with these 15 marketing tips for small businesses to find new leads and boost your bottom line.

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The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.