After 8 weeks I am still playing with the options. But one thing I can tell you for sure is PLAN everything in detail and then be ready to IMPROVISE on every step.
How to become a better writer and content marketer
I set myself a goal – to create a product and do content marketing for it. For a year or two. The aim was to improve my storytelling and learn WordPress, Mailchimp, basic SEO, and Social Media Marketing. For a start. Maybe even copywriting if I have time. To become a better writer and marketer. To let the audience know I exist.
Early this year I finished HubSpot’s content marketing course. I learn marketing when my kids are asleep so that my brain doesn’t wither among the park, cartoons, and medicines. I have a master’s in English lit and 15 years of experience in translation, HR, and education.
The HubSpot’s course is awesome. In just 4 hours it explains 9 phases of the content marketing process in depth:
- Why storytelling is important,
- how to find content ideas,
- how to plan a content strategy,
- how to build a framework to create content,
- how to become an effective writer,
- the benefits of repurposing the old content,
- how to promote it,
- analysis and measuring the effects of the content,
- how to develop a growth marketing mentality.
I took all the information I got there and implemented them in the promotion of my book.
Before I took the course, I wrote a children’s book (Is there a better way to tell stories?). I gave it hesitantly to beta readers (who am I to call myself a real writer?). They loved did! A child psychologist from the Serbian Institute of Mental Health said it’s “interesting, dynamic, brings up numerous questions, and inspiring”. I was elated!
A new WordPress website
It was time to start implementing my knowledge from the content marketing course. I found myself unwillingly in the parenting niche. I’m not into such articles too much but with an idea to promote my children’s book, I just couldn’t write on Medium about writing anymore. I had to address people who would be interested in children’s literature.
My partner and I created a brand new bilingual WordPress website “Belgrade mama”. I didn’t want to devote it to parenting only, so I split it into 2 parts:
- writing and digital marketing
- and parenting.
I knew the decision is “wrong” – the niches are very different, it’s bad for the SEO, it confuses the visitors, I’d have a big bounce rate… And it’s all correct. Moreover, writing everything in 2 languages is time-consuming.
But I see it as a way to do my own personal branding – I’m a translator, I write native ads, I wrote a children’s book, I’m a Medium author. Above all, I’m a mom, sharing my own views on parenting and citing credible expert sources.
I tried to make it look nice – a minimalist theme, big illustrations, and a nice font. The icons to my social media are in the top right corner for better user experience, and share icons are below the text. I choose about 5 tags and try to stick to the basic SEO in each blog post.
The ABOUT page:
On the left, you can see what I do: Serbian translator, children’s author, content marketer.On the right, there is a CTA for an email subscription. Below the photo, there is a short bio with my skills, work experience, and what magazines I’m a contributor to.
I try to make it pleasing to the eye and not too busy. All the posts are formatted the same way: no big chunks of text, an appealing featured image, a couple of sentences for introduction, H2 for subtitles, 2-4 lines per paragraph, illustrations on every 400-500 words, bullets, bold for key sections, and italics for quotations.
For the sake of the SEO, I check my keywords on Ubersuggest. In each blog post I choose 5 tags (which I wrote within my WordPress), and try to stick to the basic SEO within the text. Each post belongs to 1 of several categories: parenting, digital marketing, Medium, my book, etc. I do Alt tag for every picture I put in my blog posts, so that people can find me if they google images instead of text.
Since it is a bilingual site, I use Polylang plugin. But I have to deactivate it every time I do the tagging because it won’t save any tags I write.
Also, I use the Antispam Bee to protect me from those who try to advertise Amoxycillin on my website.
The topic cluster: subtopics and the pillar page
For better SEO, I’ve created a topic cluster and a pillar page about growing up. I’ve tied them all up. This way search engines can more easily recognize what my new site is about.
My topic cluster consists of 8 blog posts about the most frequent problems children and teenagers face:
- negative emotions,
- stress and frustration,
- loneliness vs. solitude,
- being an outsider,
- peer acceptance,
One separate blog post for each topic.
All the posts connect to the core topic (the pillar page) and each other as well. Hopefully, this will rank me better in the parenting niche among children writers and mom blogs.
I thought of the main themes in the book: being different, loneliness, search for love, finding oneself, etc. The moral of the story is: “Life is uncomfortable, unpredictable and rewarding” – that’s my pillar page. All the content has to support the idea. My pillar page is all about giving our kids a spoonful of realism to make them grow into more resilient people.
When I wrote about problems of growing up, I mixed the expert advice with my own impressions. I wanted to write as a mom who tries to solve a problem, not a self-proclaimed expert. You can’t be authentic with somebody else’s voice.
As I educate readers by giving them good sources, I get new leads. I don’t churn out content, but try to write as high-quality as I can. This means it will take me more time to get big traffic for my website (the more content you have, the more visits to the website you get).
Still, I’m a firm believer that quality pays off over time. I read a lot of expert advice. In each article I wrote, I mixed the information with my own impressions. I wanted to write as a mom who tries to solve a problem, not a self-proclaimed expert.
Content audit and content offer
Then I did a content audit – I listed all the articles I had written before. I tried to see what I could use for my topic cluster and determined what stage of the buyer’s journey they refer to. I also defined the format, buyer personas, and the topic of each post.
Some of my posts are in English, others are in Serbian, some are in both languages. I want to test both the Serbian market and the English-speaking world (I’m here for the sake of learning).
My book has 3 editions: English, Serbian, and bilingual. I decided to write generic evergreen content so that I can promote it both in Serbia (Southern Europe) and on Medium. I know, two completely different markets BUT: the content is evergreen AND millions of Serbs live abroad.
I knew parenting won’t go on Medium well – my most popular articles are about writing, not being a parent (such as How to write on Medium to get noticed). However, Medium gives you exposure and I need it.
I joined all the 8 articles in a Word document, shortened them, put visuals with short advice, and created an ebook How to help your kids become mentally strong. That is my content offer. Something that I will offer website visitors and hopefully get their email addresses.
Then I created a concise landing page where I offer my eBook: I address the worries parents have about their children, introduce myself, and say what I wrote about in my eBook. I didn’t want it long – many of us (especially Millennials) don’t have the patience for it.
A Buyer persona is an imaginary character. It’s like an avatar which resembles the ideal person you would like to attract with your content. It contains real human characteristics and behavior, such as a background, demographics, goals, challenges, and identifiers of people you see as your possible readers
Since I wrote a book about growing up (which deals with children’s and teenage problems), I decided to promote it to those who mainly buy children’s books in Serbia – moms. So, my buyer persona No.1 is a Serbian mom – Jelena. She is a 30 – 40-something devoted mother from the city who wants to help her child become more independent and resilient.
Then I wrote down all the buyer personas in Serbian and English, gave them names and ages. I polished my first buyer persona (Serbian mom Jelena) – her characteristics, problems, and goals:
During the content audit, I also jotted down the list of parenting portals and women’s magazines I wanted to publish my articles in: I wrote their names, Alexa rank, and added a column for potential comments.
Note: when republishing content elsewhere, wait at least 14 days to pass since you posted it on your website. And put a canonical tag, so that search engines can register the content on your website as the original and not penalize it for duplication. It looks like this:
<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://your page” />
I had another ambitious plan: to modify and send them an article or two (and get published) while promoting the posts on my own Facebook page. Then I realized it’s time-consuming and opted for the largest parenting portal in Serbia (over 240K Facebook followers) for my first round of promotion.
Event-based audit for the next 3 months
This helps you focus on the following period: according to your plans, what content to create for the next 3 months. You tie it all together into one theme – a single campaign. The campaign is connected to your readers’ stages of the buyer’s journey:
- awareness (they know they have a problem and try to find a solution),
- consideration (they consider what solution to choose),
- decision (you can offer them your product because you gained their trust).
Then I did the event-based audit for the next 3 months (October – December). My inbound marketing campaign called Building mental resilience and helping children grow into satisfied people for moms, teachers, and kids promotes my eBook. It addresses the reader’s awareness stage – they google solutions for the child’s problem.
I decided on blog post topics and what keywords to use (I use Ubersuggest – the volume has to be as big as possible but SEO difficulty as low as possible).
All of the posts were directed towards 1 aim – promotion of my free eBook on parenting from October until December. And this promotion of my eBook on mentally strong children is my first inbound marketing campaign.
Of course, I was too ambitious because I was clueless, so I put too much stuff for these 3 months. But these change as you learn along the way, this was just my first version.
A SMART goal helps you achieve concrete results with your content marketing. These goals are very specific, and the abbreviation stands for:
- S – specific (your goals are clear and concise)
- M – measurable (there are numbers/percentages you must achieve)
- A – attainable (goals are a challenge, but you can achieve it)
- R – relevant (they refer to your overall plan)
- T – timely (there is a definite time when a goal finishes).
A good example of a SMART goal would be Get the first 10 leads in one month.
I specified the SMART goals I wanted to reach within the next 3 months:
1) get 500 visits (did that)
2) create 1-2 blog posts a week (possible if I rewrite the old ones from my website and sometimes add something a new one)
3) get 8-9 recommendations (you have to ask people a few times to get one, so I haven’t been active much)
4) use the material for another new product by late December (hahaha, maybe).
It took me months to write the 8 articles in the topic cluster. Now that it’s time to promote them on my website, they need extra polishing. Also, this is a one-woman-show, so I have to post them on my social media, modify them to promote their different versions on other websites, AND create new material for another product by late December. It’s late November, and I’m still not thinking about the product. I’m a mom who usually works in the evenings, remember?
One of my SMART goals was to have 500 visits in 3 months. Just in the last 30 days, I had 424 users coming to my website. There were 229 organic searches (it’s not a referral or from social media, but people google the words I use in my articles or me), so my SEO is not that bad for a beginner.
However, I did not get 25 leads. I have a few explanations for this:
No.1 – The majority of people who saw me on Medium come to my website looking for advice in writing. I haven’t developed that part of the website yet; they are not interested in parenting, so they go away. How do I know this? Because most of them just see my Landing page. This is why my bounce rate is too high – 81% and the average time readers spend on a page is 1.5 minutes (those who are interested in advice about parenting).
No.2 – The Serbian portal (where my articles go well) just writes my name and the name of my book with a hyperlink to my website below the text. There is no author bio, nor my name in their Facebook post with my article. Although some of my articles went viral there, I don’t have enough traffic coming from the portal. I have to fix that.
No.3 – – I haven’t used a Facebook ad yet. Check out what happens when I boost my post for the first time.
Email marketing: As I already said, I use Mailchimp. Since I write in Serbian AND English, I had trouble with my Welcome mail. It had to be in Serbian. And in English! I didn’t know how to automate the splitting of the audience in two when they subscribed to my email. And I saw a few people unsubscribed when they received my 2 emails in English. So, I wrote a single email in English AND Serbian. Above the part in English, it writes: “The Serbian part of the text is at the bottom of the email.” Not a perfect solution but smooth enough to get people to unsubscribe because they can’t read my eBook in English.
I decided to write 1 email per week for my newsletter – I hate it when people spam me every day, so I usually unsubscribe very soon. I decided it would be on Thursday (because it generally has a better open rate than on Fridays) but… Sometimes it’s not strict – my kids are sick. But I send one every week. To my 8 subscribers!
Using the bullseye framework (choosing the top-performing channels for my content promotion), I decided to promote my content on Facebook and Instagram. I created all the visuals for Instagram for the first 3 months. BUT I gave up on Instagram for now – people like the picture, but they rarely click to read the post on the website. For the sake of time, I am currently focusing on Facebook and sometimes post something on Instagram. I didn’t think about LinkedIn since people there are not interested in children’s problems and literature.
The Facebook group
I opened a Facebook group Belgrade mama and let it inactive for 6 months! My first idea was to post there every article as soon as I write it on my website. But then I realized that was a bad idea and I needed to write my basic content first.
I never did any campaign or wrote a newsletter. Also, I didn’t want to spam my friends with my writing. Before Belgrade mama I rarely published my posts for my friends to see.
The posts were supposed to be in English and Serbian. Later it turned out to be a bad idea: in a Facebook group, a majority of people usually read posts in the language they opted for. They get confused by another language even though they know it.
So, I chose the bilingual option – to write the same post in English first, and then provide the Serbian translation. You can do it if you go to Settings (at the top right-hand corner of the Facebook page) and choose the option Post in Multiple Languages, click on the checkbox, and click Save Changes.
Again, this wasn’t a good solution. The posts which promote a new article have only 1 link. It’s not a good idea to put a picture in the post instead of the link, because people generally click on the picture (and it doesn’t lead them directly to the article… Too much work to do).
Since English was my option No.1, the link in the post was in English. In the Serbian translation of the same post the English link remained. I had only 3 followers who did not speak Serbian, so I switched to a monolingual Facebook group (in Serbian).
Don’t just post here what you put on Facebook. Adapt to the platform and have different content. Otherwise, you’ll be predictable and boring. Your followers may think you don’t care much about their user experience. Why should they follow you on both?
Here most people often like the picture but don’t read the text below. And even fewer click the link to read the post. Generally, all they want is to look at nice pictures. But many people are switching Facebook for it, so it’s good to be present on Instagram.
Moreover, it is harder to get readers from here because almost nobody cares to click the link to your BIO. The reading percentage would be a bit bigger if the link were just below every picture.
The good thing about Instagram is: when you boost a post on Facebook, it can also be shown on Instagram. I used this to promote my eBook on the problems of growing up.
When it comes to social sharing, the golden rule 5:3:2 applies to Instagram as well (for more detail, see the subtitle Social Media Calendar). If you post only images of your blog posts, you are too promotional. No one is interested in that, not even your friends. But put a Paw Patrol lookout tower made of toilet paper, and a miracle happens! People want personal stories. They want to see your life. They want funny. They don’t want to be sold to.
For the time being, I post on Instagram once or twice a week. I don’t like to spam people with mediocre content just to remind them I exist.
This is how a part of my Instagram feed looks:
- No more sweets and white flour for me from tomorrow
- My son’s book about blackbirds in Word
- Jean-Paul Sartre on loneliness (promotes my post Loneliness vs. Solitude)
- The cover of my children’s book Just a blackbird – The story about growing up (promotional)
- My daughter’s drawing on Viber (don’t be afraid of communism)
- A set of pictures from Corfu, Greece where we spent our summer vacation
As you can see, only 2 out of 6 photos refer to my blog posts on growing up.
A few more tips on Instagram:
- Stories – they exist only for 24 hours but attract a lot of your followers.
Play with effects, text and gifs to add a humorous tone. In one I combined a gif with Dawson Leery and a dinosaur watering flowers.
- Feed – make the images in a similar tone. Play with filters to get a better image. Tag people and add location to get a better following. Explain every image briefly.
Use hashtags and strangers will come across your image: #pawpatrol #lookouttower #handcrafts
Share the stories and posts on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr.
- Highlights – use the best stories here. This way they won’t disappear and will engage your new followers.
- Link in BIO – edit it regularly by posting a link to your latest article.
And don’t be too self-promotional. Everybody has some course or product to sell nowadays. Gain the followers’ trust and pitch occasionally.
Social Media Calendar
On a new blank excel sheet, I wrote the most important facts from all the previous excel sheets. I also wrote some advice about Social media:
- the 5:3:2 rule of Social sharing (5 pieces of content from others : 3 of mine but not salesy : 2 pieces of personal fun content)
- when to post on each platform,
- and what type of content I can create (campaign, eBook, webinar, blog post, etc.):
And I created the first Social Media calendar for the first month.
I left Saturday and Sunday free because – family, I want to read about marketing, books, and articles, AND write new content for the following months.
What you’ll see below is my first version for the month of October. In practice, I did half of it. You just can’t influence some changes. The kids are sick, so I postpone all the work for a couple of days. I’m not satisfied with the quality of the article I wrote, so I take more time to fix it. Or…
The portals I used to send my articles to don’t want to publish my content anymore – I rejected to work for one, the editor of another didn’t want to publish 1 article of mine, the editor of the 3rd sees it as too complicated for readers. The forum of a great political magazine I wrote for doesn’t exist anymore (!) Therefore, I decided to stick to only 1 Serbian portal for promotion for now while I’m (finally) posting my articles on my Facebook group.
Also, my Facebook group is very small – 75 followers. They are mostly my friends and acquaintances. They are not so interested in reading parenting articles – they’re just being supportive and sometimes click on Like, which is too bad because my articles are good, but they get only a like or two.
I thought it would be a good idea to post in my Facebook group the link to my article published on that big parenting portal. That way I could speed up the process of getting credibility. But you can never tell what day the portal is going to publish your article, so now I publish it first on my Facebook group (and get one Like) and then wait for the portal to do it (and get several hundred Likes for it). Some of them have gone viral, like Leave the boys to grow up in peace, which got more than 1,400 likes and shares in a week. Not so bad for a small country.
Once in 2-3 weeks, I posted an article for the Sales Qualified Lead. It may be too early, but my friends were so curious about my book, I wanted to keep their interest.
It also took me weeks to find a parenting publication on Medium; so I would get a few claps because nobody reads your articles when they are self-published. Then I found a parenting publication and I was gaining traction but… The editor announced she has to take a timeout, so I’m back to nothing again. Medium writers, could you give us help with publications?
Regarding the Facebook author page: I saw that other authors post mainly their own stuff on their profiles, so I decided to loosen up a bit with the 5:3:2 rule – to post only extremely great posts from other sources and not confuse the readers with the stuff that isn’t mine.
As far as LinkedIn is concerned – I posted a few articles there while I was still writing about the process of writing. But I wouldn’t play with the parenting niche there. However, sometimes people from Medium try to find me there. Or I appear in some job searches. And I’ve written a children’s book, which is something for an online writer. So, I changed my cover photo on LinkedIn as well – just in case someone is interested in what I’m currently doing.
I started this whole thing because I couldn’t earn money on Medium (my country is not on the list for the MPP). I was also inspired by Medium writers who have so many skills I want to learn. In the end, I love writing. It relaxes me. And the more I do it, the better I become at it. When I do my campaign for a year or two, maybe I will get a nice job. There is yet so much to learn.