Originally posted on 06.28.2018.
Updated on 04.19.2019.

Instant gratification is a glorious thing. After waiting for your website to be built and published, you want immediate results. With content marketing, you’ll see an ROI, but you’ll need patience. Here’s why…

So you’ve set up your website, and you have a good content marketing plan. You know consistent, valuable content will grow your business. But how soon will you see results? How will you know when your content marketing—not just blog posts but also tutorials, downloadables, ebooks, email, social and case studies—begins to bear fruit?

Content marketing is a long game, where your traffic, audience, and subsequent revenue grow exponentially rather than linearly.

While there is no magic formula to predict just when your content will produce growth, there are some checkpoints you can set for your expectations.

Month 1

In this time frame, if you don’t already have a content strategy in place, it’s time to brainstorm one. To offer value to your audience, you have to know your audience.

  • What do they search for?
  • What questions do they ask that are related to your business?
  • Where do they currently find those answers?

When you know these things, you can place yourself in their line of sight by providing value for them through your content. As you go, you’ll need Google Analytics to help you see if you’re getting it right. But Google Analytics filters do not apply retroactively, so careful consideration of their setup must be done. Through this process, you’ll learn what content you’re posting is more attractive, ranks higher in search results, and leads people to your site. From there, you can tailor future content to continue the upward trend of visitors by asking questions: Who’s our target and what do they want to see? What do we want them to do while on our site? What’s our promotion strategy for the content, and how do we track it?

Month 3

Chances are, in the first month, you’ve already posted some content. Because organic searches are very important to people finding you, your SEO optimization needs to be on point. But there’s more to it than that. Your internal linking, strong landing pages, and cross-promotion to social media are also helping people discover the best of what you have to offer. Proper hashtag usage can get you into larger conversations on Twitter and Instagram, leading people to your site where they find great information. Testing which promotional strategies lead to higher visit counts can help you drive people to your site; having great content will keep them there longer.

Month 6

By this time, you’re well past planning and launch and into testing, testing, and more testing. What you began by month three, you’ve improved upon by month six. You know your audience, and through Google Analytics, you’re learning their likes and dislikes with regard to your marketing message. What keeps them reading? What makes them click away? You still may not have enough data to say unequivocally your content marketing strategy is working, but you have definite knowledge of which posts do better, and what kind of value your particular target appreciates.

Based on this information, you can get more creative and ambitious.

Create events or promotions for people to follow through your site and social media, using hashtags to keep it cohesive across platforms. Perhaps a workshop to describe how your services help the consumer would be valuable. A short video depicting the versatile ways in which your products can be used could give consumers more confidence in what you’re company’s selling. The options are varied and far-reaching.

In the window between 3 and 6 months, it may feel like a slog, where the stats aren’t rolling in, but the amount of time and creativity you put in is high and possibly not sustainable for the long run. Low search engine results don’t seem to be backing up the high investment of time and effort to keep going. Don’t give up. This is when you need to power through the most. It’s about quantity and quality, and around the six-month mark, your search engine results will likely see an uptick. This is when your more creative campaigns gain more attention and continue the upward trend.

Now, Some Stats

Content marketing produces three times more leads than paid search. In a head-to-head comparison, content marketing costs less up front than paid search, and the long-term benefits are deeper.

Content marketing costs 62% less and generates 3x the leads as outbound marketing.

61% of online consumers have made a purchase after a recommendation by a blog. Part of the reason is blogs are so much less in-your-face advertising than ads. Its more subtle approach is why people trust blogs more. Consumers want authenticity, transparency, and friendliness in a brand. Content marketing is a great way to achieve all three.

Content marketing has 6 times the conversion rate of traditional marketing. While it takes more patience and time, it’s definitely worth the effort in the long run.

Companies with 400+ published posts get twice the traffic as those with less than 400, and 3 times the number of leads than those with 0-100 posts.

The bottom line is there’s a lot of up-front effort, creation, and analysis that happens before results begin to show.

Understanding from the beginning that results won’t be immediate, but that when they begin to roll in, they’re invaluable can go a long way toward helping you keep your eye on the prize. For the investment, content marketing has one of the strongest returns possible. It just takes time.

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