If you are reading this article you are likely already engaged in content marketing, or strongly considering it. It's frankly passe to discuss whether content marketing is valuable. But for those readers who might still be wondering, make no mistake: content is the foundation of a broad range of digital marketing opportunities. 

Wish you appeared on page one of search for your strategic search terms? Practically impossible without good content. Want to grow your social media presence? You need great content. Interested driving loyalty and increased share of wallet from your existing customers? 

Content.

The challenge of course for small businesses is time and resources. Of all the things small business owners must attend to for growing their business, creating content could be the hardest of all. What topics will attract the best visitors? How long should my post be? What images should I use? Should the style be academic or conversational? Am I funny? How do i optimize it for search? Where do i start?

Unless you happen to also be a professional writer, the end result is probably lacking in many or all of these areas. And if you do manage to produce an article or two and pat yourself on the back for your pithiness, chances are the voracious appetite of the internet leaves you feeling like you can't keep up. 

How much content is enough?

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Of course it depends. But generally i recommend around one original blog article per week, for a few reasons: First, it often takes 3 to 5 pieces of content focused on a keyword or keyword group to begin to garner enough search engine attention and authority to move up in rankings. With lower frequency than weekly, it's just too hard to make your efforts pay off for search engines.

Second, making gains on social media channels usually requires daily activity. A common rule of thumb for social media engagement efforts applies the 80/20 rule...80% curated content and 20% original content. This ratio breaks down to one original blog post and 4 curated articles (retweets, reposts) each week to achieve a daily posting frequency. Without daily activity, most business find that the gains in follow base and engagement are minimal and not worth the effort. 

Third, we've all heard it's many times more expensive to sell to a new prospect than an existing customer. Email is one of the best tools for engaging regular customers. But without insightful content, there's little to justify communicating with existing customers and email subscribers. And poor quality content sent via email leads to opt-outs and tune-outs (people who don't unsubscribe, but tag your emails as junk or just ignore them).

Finally, good original content opens the door to valuable backlinks and guest post opportunities on referral sites. 

Outsourcing Your Content Marketing

You may have decided to outsource this activity. If so, then you have probably been reminded of the old adage, "you get what you pay for." Nowhere is this more true than in content marketing. 

Do a search for 'blog writing services' and you'll find the blogging service "mills". For as little as $20 - $40 you can get a 1000 word blog post. If you read the samples provided (no doubt the best of the best they offer) you will be put to sleep faster than a baby on breastmilk.

In my experience and the experience of many of my clients who have tried the content mills, it has taken more time and effort to get these articles to a 'passable' state than if they'd just written the article themselves. 

Let's consider the other end of the spectrum. An experienced writer with a good track record working for reputable clients will charge $300 to $600 for a 1000-word blog post. 

Many small businesses are not ready to invest $2000/mo for blog writing, nor should they (necessarily). The question becomes, 'how does a small business strike the right balance of quantity and quality without breaking the bank?'

Quality Content vs Quantity Content

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5 years ago, search algorithms and first mover advantage kept the bar low. Mediocre and even poor content delivered moderate benefits for low cost. You've all read the dreadful blog posts on in many consumer service categories (repair shops, landscapers, dentists, etc) with no personality, the same keyword repeated a dozen times, long lists of city names, and often grammatical errors. 

These pages came to existence due to search engine ranking algorithms that rewarded keyword stuffing. But search engines today have long since abandoned rewarding keywords in favor of rewarding things like page engagement, semantic relevance (rather than exact keyword matching) and user intent. AI and various other technologies have enabled search engines to be smarter. 

This is a good thing. At least to the degree content agencies will get the clue and stop punishing web visitors with such mundane content. 

Today, quality content is required both for search engines, and for the sake of engaging people in a world swimming in a sea of mediocre digital content. We need stories, and information that is presented in an engaging and interesting way.

What's the Solution?

Here are three suggestions to help you create highly engaging and affordable content:

  1. Find a partner to support your digital marketing and content efforts in the way that best suits your strengths and availability. Agencies are the most flexible in this regard because they can provide whatever mix of services you need. For example, you might just need support editing and optimizing for search. Or you might need an experienced writer in your industry space who can write with authority to more demanding content consumers.
  2. Develop your content strategy with an understanding of your target personas and purchase funnel. Create a matrix of personas x buying cycle stage and you will find that each persona (or target audience segment) will have different needs along their buying journey. Content should be developed to help them along that journey and nurture them to a purchase
  3. Work on creative ways to "Uplevel" your content to get more bang for the buck. Once you know your audience's content needs and you start creating content, you can look for ways for that content to be presented in different formats and mediums. A series of blog posts on a topic can be turned into an eBook, for example. The checklist in the eBook can be parsed out into a downloadable PDF. And your 5 tips can be made into a slideshare or checklist. 

Questions? Leave a comment or contact us. 

Further reading: 

Time To Get Real In Your B2B Content Marketing