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.
Try different types of content promotion
They say you should spend 40% of your time creating content and 60% promoting it (even 80% if you are very skillful). Readers are everywhere and your content has to grab their attention among millions of internet pieces.
So, you promote your posts on different social media and in different formats. This type of content recycling saves you time and makes your message more effective.
There are 2 types of content promotion: organic and paid promotion.
A) Organic promotion
You don‘t pay for it and there are several ways to do it:
- do your website SEO
I wrote about its basics in the previous post (see the link at the top),
- email marketing
It‘s much more effective to get new customers this way than by social media,
- social media
You reach new people on networks and create a community with similar values. If you play your cards right, they will become your future advocates,
- live promotions
There you get new opportunities and maybe even create future relationships,
If the real ones say a few kind words, their followers could get interested in you,
- word of mouth
Ads are everywhere, and people will rather believe someone they trust than a commercial. Get to know those people.
You can‘t do all of these types at the same time if you are doing the promotion all by yourself. So, focus on a few for each campaign and think about trying out the rest in the future.
B) Paid promotion
By paying a few bucks you get to a new highly-specific audience who can be more interested in what you offer than those you reach by organic promotion. These are the ways to do it:
- search engine ads on Google, Yahoo, or Bing,
- social media ads on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
Each platform has a different audience. They all prefer different types of content and consume it in different ways. Instagram is full of filters, everyone‘s beautiful and livin‘ la vida loca. On Facebook, the focus is on family and friends. On LinkedIn, they are all hard-working but ethical. However, there are many exceptions, such as the growing popularity of personal stories on LinkedIn.
Experiment with those platforms, customize the tone for each channel and measure the results afterward to see what goes well. Always keep your buyer persona in mind when deciding on what and how to promote (like I am always thinking about what interests a mother, not a woman without a family because the other one won‘t buy my children‘s book).
To be successful with conversion (i.e. how many visitors become your new leads, and how many leads turn into your customers), optimize. Write a clear powerful CTA and put a link to your landing page.
Before you start the promotion, organize your initiatives.
Create a Content Compass
It is an excel sheet that gets together all the pieces you have planned so far: your SMART goals, the overall theme, keywords and topics for your blog posts, the inbound marketing campaign (all the marketing efforts focused on 1 goal), external events that can influence your promotion, and your activities on social media.
This is how a part of my content compass looks:
The content compass helps you organize content creation in the next 3 months. It also connects the themes you have chosen to a specific month — you can have one for each month or a single theme for the whole 3-month period.
Don‘t make a content compass for more than 3 months because you have to be agile to outward circumstances.
Create a Facebook Page as an Author
Many people post only their own content. I don‘t think this is a good decision unless you have 200K fans. It looks too promotional and self-absorbed.
When I thought about creating an author‘s page, I wanted to post both in English and Serbian. I‘m a translator. I wrote a bilingual book. I have 2 different audiences and articles in both languages.
Later it turned out to be a bad idea: in a Facebook group, a majority of people (Serbs) usually read only the posts in their mother tongue. They get confused by English although they understand it.
I chose a bilingual Facebook page — to write a post in English, and then provide the Serbian translation for it before I press the Publish. 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.
A word of warning to bilingual authors: the bilingual Facebook page isn’t a good solution. When you post your article on Facebook, you can put only 1 embedded link (in 1 language). If you want to create 1 post in 2 languages, then you put the first URL in 1 language, and the second URL in the translation of the same post. These 2 URLs can only be a part of the text and not embedded. Now you need a picture at the bottom of the post to tie up both languages.
Not a good idea. People generally click on the picture but it doesn’t lead them directly to the article in that specific language. Because there is too much work for an average user to do, many won‘t go on clicking.
Because I had only 3 followers who didn‘t speak Serbian, I switched to a monolingual Facebook group (in Serbian).
After you make a content compass and decide what social media channels to use, create a social media calendar for the first month.
Make a Social Media Calendar
This is an excel sheet with a plan for what to post on what day.
To have the most important items in mind all the time, I pasted them here (SMART goals, theme, inbound marketing campaign, sales campaign).
I also wrote the 5:3:2 rule of Social sharing — you post 5 pieces of content from others, your 3 pieces which aren‘t too salesy, and 2 pieces of personal fun content. Authors generally don‘t do this. Still, my Facebook group is gaining more visitors since I started posting valuable content which isn‘t mine. I usually retell the short version of it and add the source at the bottom.
On this sheet, I put the information when to post on each platform (test them all in practice, they may not work for your niche and region).
This is how it looks:
Then I determined what article of mine to promote on what day and this is how I created my Social Media calendar for the first month.
I left Saturdays and Sundays free becauseyou never know what can happen during the week.
What you’ll see below is my first version for the month of October. In practice, I did half of it. I lacked experience. 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, so I take more time to fix it. And I made this mistake — no research.
Find Publications You Can Send Your Articles to BEFORE You Start with the Promotion
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 communicate well. The editor of the 3rd saw an article as too complicated. 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 the first round of promotion and promote the articles on my Facebook group.
If you post your article on your website and want to send it to someone else, wait at least 14 days between these two actions (because of the SEO). If 14 days have passed but you didn‘t promote it yet on social media, don‘t wait for the portal to post it first. Publish it in on your author‘s page and then send it to the portal. You can never tell what day the portal is going to publish your article.
One article of mine didn‘t get much engagement on my (then-75-member) Facebook page, but it went viral on the 245K parenting portal: “Leave the boys to grow up in peace” got more than 1,400 likes and shares in a week. Not so bad for a small country.
In the beginning, I posted an article for the Sales Qualified Lead on my Facebook group once in 2 weeks. Although it was too early, 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. 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 some traction but… The editor announced she has to take a timeout, so I’m back to nothing on Medium again.
But I‘m not giving up even though most of the audience on Medium isn‘t interested in the problems of growing up.
Only when you have done all this planning, it’s time to start posting your content on social media. If you are interested in how to promote content on social media, check out my post How to use social media for your writing business.