“It’s dangerous to go alone.” If you’ve ever played The Legend Of Zelda on the classic 8-bit Nintendo, then you’re probably familiar with this phrase (and if not, please bear with us, because we promise we’re going somewhere with this). For the uninitiated, these are the words Link (the main protagonist) hears from a shopkeeper who grants him his first sword before embarking on a treacherous quest to rescue Princess Zelda. Shortly after, the player is faced with overwhelming challenges, scarce resources, and no single path to victory. Sounds like many of our first journeys into content marketing. In fact, if you’re new to the content marketing game and working with a limited budget, you can probably relate to Link more than you might realize. Squaring off against better-financed competitors across a complex content marketing landscape can often feel like warding off monsters while wandering the desert with little more than your wits. Executing a comprehensive content strategy while under pressure to deliver results without an ideal toolset or a roadmap to victory can be stressful (and less fun than any video game).
Fortunately, it’s possible to succeed at content marketing on a limited budget. The key is to think like Link by making the most creative and efficient use of what you do have until you’ve got the strength to go toe-to-toe with bigger adversaries. To get there, you’ll need to generate maximum mileage with minimal effort while working smarter instead of harder. The only difference is you’ll be solving business problems instead of puzzles and slaying your competition instead of vicious monsters along the way. Take this guide and let’s begin.
If you’re working with an existing website or blog, especially one that has been around for a while, then your first step is to figure out exactly what content you already have (and how much of it is still useful). Think of it like giving your wardrobe a solid spring cleaning, with boxes for things you’d like to keep, patch up or update, and things to get rid of.
An easy way to keep track of your progress is to create a simple spreadsheet. There are a number of ways it can be laid out, but at a basic level, it should list all your URLs, page titles, and the following columns:
If you’re working with a large website that has a lot of URLs, a free downloadable tool called Screaming Frog may help speed up this process. This desktop website crawler can be used to quickly generate a list of all the URLs that exist on your domain, which can be helpful for discovering broken links or old pages you might have forgotten about.
If you’re short on time, keep in mind that your emphasis here should be on balancing speed with relevancy. Focus on posts or URLs that have the highest relevance to your readers to keep, and those that are objectively outdated or no longer relevant to get rid of. It’s also important not to burn yourself out while sorting through the URLs on your domain. This is especially true if your site features tens of thousands of pages (which is common with e-commerce websites, in particular).
Play To Your Strengths And Focus On The Right Channels
Once you’ve got a clear idea of what (if anything) is already on your blog or website, your next step is to determine which channels you’re going to create fresh content for. Beyond your site and your blog, you’ll also want to consider which social media are best for your needs. You may also want to consider whether other content channels make sense within your overall strategy.
With so many different platforms available, it’s easy to start feeling some option paralysis. If time is at a premium, try to focus only on the channels that will both deliver the most impact for your business and that you have time to comfortably invest in. Concentrated efforts in a few areas may yield stronger returns than splitting your attention between more platforms than you can manage.
Social Media Tips
- Choose the right platforms: In most cases, a Facebook page will be essential. Twitter is also a must-have for brands and bloggers. From there, think carefully about Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Google+. If you’re unsure whether you might have a potential audience on a particular platform, see what your competitors or other blogs in your niche are doing.
- Stay within what you can manage: Overextending yourself by committing to every new social media platform that becomes available can be exhausting. Worse than that, letting any of your channels stagnate can hurt your brand. Don’t give into pressure to chase every new flashy object if you don’t have time to spare.
Email Marketing Tips
- Don’t be boring: How many times have you signed up for a company’s email newsletter, only to be let down with horrendous formatting or a lack of any visual styling? This bland approach is boring and provides a poor user experience.
- Low-cost email marketing doesn’t have to mean low quality. Services like MailChimp offer free entry-level accounts and easy-to-use templates that can make putting together professional-looking e-newsletters simple (and if you’re curious how hard hand-coding emails can be, ask any developer).
- Reuse blog and social content: Cut time off your email content creation process by linking to your social campaigns and teasing your blog posts.
Establish A Consistent Posting Schedule
While there aren’t many hard and fast rules for how often you should post on any particular channel, it’s important that you keep them all updated on a regular, predictable basis.
If your audience knows when to visit your blog for updates, or knows that you post on a particular social media network regularly, they’re going to be more likely to keep coming back for more of your content. Knowing when you’ll post in advance also helps get more done in less time.
Best practices for post frequency vary by market and niche. But here are a few general guidelines to follow:
- Be consistent: Make sure users can reliably expect new content.
- Be social: Follow up on user comments and reply.
- Be persistent: Don’t allow social accounts to stagnate.
Investing in a tool to manage your post schedule can help you get organized and save a ton of time. That’s exactly what CoSchedule was built for. However, a simple spreadsheet or Google calendar can get you started with scheduling posts if spending money is out of the question.
Work Smarter, Not Harder To Generate Content Ideas Faster
Generating ideas for unique and interesting things to write about isn’t easy. However, there are ways to speed up the process while avoiding the time and soul-sucking dread of writer’s block.
Monitor Social Media Within Your Topic/Industry
What topics are buzzing on Twitter within your industry or niche? What are Facebook fans discussing on your page? Listening to social media chatter can give you a good idea of what your audience might be interested in reading about, as well as what questions or concerns they may have that you can create content to address.
Google AdWords Keyword Planner
You know your website and blog content needs to rank in search engines to bring in traffic. Use the Google Adwords Keyword Planner to get an idea of which keywords for your chosen blog or web page topic are generating the most attention.
It’s worth keeping in mind that this tool reports how many times a keyword has triggered a pay-per-click ad on Google, rather than the total number of searches it has received in general. Even still, it’s useful for getting a ballpark idea for which keywords you should target for organic traffic as well.
Creating content that provides an original take on a trending topic is an excellent way to drive traffic to your blog. Google Trends is the penultimate tool for those content marketing on a budget. If you think you’ve got a good idea for a post, or need some assistance coming up with timely posts, try Google Trends. It’s a useful tool for monitoring how many news headlines have appeared around your chosen keyword, as well as seeing which searches are most popular on Google at the moment.
Before you can deliver content people want to read, it helps to know what they’re looking for. Ubersuggest is a free tool that generates lists of actual search terms users have typed into Google’s search bar based on a selected keyword.
Do Some Competitive Analysis
If you notice a high number of blogs or websites writing about a particular topic, it’s probably because there’s a lot of reader interest in that subject. Check out what other sources are writing about, identify what’s popular, and see how you can make your own post unique or more useful.
You can do this by digging deeper into the research, including something that’s missing from other posts, or simply adding your own voice to the conversation. This can help you tap into what your audience wants to read and drive more traffic by providing a more authoritative resource than your competition.
How To Scale Content Creation On A Budget
At this point, you know what kinds of content you’re going to create, when it’s going to be created, and where it’s going to be posted. However, without much (if any) assistance, you might quickly find that keeping up with content creation over the long term can be difficult. But, it doesn’t have to be. By establishing efficient processes, finding ways to reuse content across channels, and maybe enlisting some outside assistance, you can generate more content than you might think.
If you don’t have much time to create content of your own (and even if you do), then leverage someone else’s. Now, this doesn’t mean you should go out and steal other people’s work. Rather, content curation simply describes the process of gathering and sharing content around a topic from other sources, and adding your own commentary or insight.
Here are a few content curation tips:
- Share content from authoritative sources.
- Include your own thoughts and insights.
- Stick to sharing what’s relevant to your audience.
On a weekly or monthly basis, round up the most interesting posts on your subject or industry and put them into a blog post or email newsletter. You can also reshare content on social media. Make sure you always give credit to the original source. Over time, this approach can position you as a valuable resource to your readers by helping them find the best content on your subject.
Find Guest Bloggers To Write For You
You might not always have time to write on your own blog as often as you’d like. Fortunately, someone out there probably does, and there’s a chance they might even want to work with you. Just make sure you realize that you’ll need to expand your content marketing budget slightly. However, there are ways to find bloggers on the cheaper side.
By cultivating relationships with industry influencers and soliciting guest writers, you can leverage others’ expertise, build connections in your industry, and generate authoritative content while easing your own workload. Here are two ways to find guest bloggers:
- Is there a blogger you’ve built a strong rapport with over social media? Or, is there a particular writer or subject matter expert out there you particularly respect? Try sending them a message to see if they’re interested in writing on your blog.You’ll want to be mindful and not overstep your bounds here, though. For example, if your site doesn’t generate much traffic yet, then it’s unlikely that a high-powered influencer will want to work with you (or at least not yet).
- Add a “write for us” section to your blog or website. There are a lot of writers out there looking for places to get published. Let them know you’re interested in seeing their pitches for post ideas.
Repurpose Your Content Across Channels
Have a great idea for a Facebook post? Try adapting it for Twitter (and maybe Google+). Just posted something awesome on your blog? Put that in your email newsletter. By finding opportunities to stretch your content across platforms, you can keep your various channels updated efficiently while giving your content maximum exposure.
Don’t Skip Out On Visual Content
Creating strong graphics for blogs and social media posts can be tough if design isn’t your forte. If that sounds like you (and you don’t have access to a skilled designer), consider these options:
Canva is a free web-based service, which allows you to create images using a wide variety of fonts, backgrounds, and templates. It has its limitations, but it’s capable of producing some surprisingly strong results in relatively little time. In our opinion, it’s perfect for content marketing on a limited budget.
People love data. Info.gram is great for data pertaining to Instagram. People love pictures. Bring the two together with Info.gram. This free infographic tool makes it easy to plug in stats and numbers to create quick infographics and data visualizations easily.
Piktochart is another freemium graphic design tool. It’s perfect for creating posters and infographics. Plus, it’s used by some high-profile companies and media outlets, like TechCrunch, Forbes, and Survey Monkey.
Shoot Better Mobile Video
Video content dominates the Web. In fact, recent Facebook algorithm updates have started to give more weight to videos on that platform. However, pro video equipment is expensive, and not much use without the expertise of a skilled shooter and videographer. There is a solution to this problem, however, and it’s probably in your pocket right now.
While shooting video on your smartphone won’t match the quality of what’s possible with a real camera, it is possible to shoot compelling footage with one in a pinch. Depending on your business, the more raw, unpolished look might even be perceived as more authentic too. If you don’t consider yourself much of a camera person, try following these tips:
- Fill the whole frame with each shot.
- Position your subjects slightly to the left or right (rather than right in the middle) of each frame.
- Consider using a tripod for balance.
If you can afford one, try attaching an external microphone for better audio quality.
Measure Your Success (And Act On Your Data)
Once you’ve got your content machine rolling, you’ll want to measure your results and use that data to help drive better decisions moving forward. If you’re getting a ton of traffic from search engines, then continuing to work on content strategy and search engine optimization is probably smart.
Or, if you notice that certain social media channels are driving tons of traffic while others are stagnating, that might be a sign that you should focus on the ones that are succeeding, or alter your strategy on the ones that aren’t.
The best content marketing plan in the world doesn’t mean much if you can’t measure the results. Fortunately, one of the best digital marketing analytics platforms happens to be free and fairly easy to set up (at least at a very basic level).
While Google Analytics is both free and relatively easy to get started with, it’s also a powerful tool with a lot of advanced functionality. Avoid wasting time drowning in data and analytics by focusing on the following three top KPIs (key performance indicators):
- Natural/Organic Traffic
- Bounce Rate
- Conversion Rate
When time is of the essence, these are the most essential metrics to monitor.
Cyfe is a freemium custom data dashboard. It connects data from other apps, services, and analytics tools, allowing you to monitor everything in one place. A free account allows for up to five custom widgets, while a paid plan ($19 a month) allows for unlimited data.
Between these two tools, you should be more than capable of getting a clear view of how your efforts are performing.
Pay Attention To SEO
Let’s get one thing out of the way here: search engine optimization isn’t dead. You will, however, ignore SEO at your own risk. You’re content marketing on a budget, so you’ll need to pick and choose which SEO practices to are worth it at first.
If You’re Looking To Save Time: Use An SEO Platform
There’s a lot of competition out there for premium SEO software platforms (such as Moz, Raven Tools, and more). If you have enough budget for your content marketing project, plans generally start around $99 a month and go up from there for more keywords. These options provide powerful capabilities and will make it easier to get more done faster. Common functionality typically includes:
- Keyword rank tracking
- Content analysis
- Inbound link monitoring
Browse around to find an option that fits your needs and content marketing budget.
If You’re Looking To Save Money: Use Free SEO Tools
You’re not totally out of luck if that cost is too high. We’re talking about doing content marketing on a budget here, after all. Premium SEO toolset provider SERPS.com has put together a handy resource of free SEO tools, including a handy rank checking tool and more. Consider this option if the budget simply isn’t available.
Now You’re Ready To Do More With Less And Win
This might seem like a lot of work. Frankly, that’s because it is a lot of work (at least until you get your plans and processes in place). Once you get your content marketing flywheel moving, however, you should find you’re able to get more done in less time on a limited budget with some simple planning, prioritizing, and persistence. Best of all, it won’t cost you much (or possibly anything at all), and you won’t have to cut (too many) corners to get it all done.