Great content marketers find their niche, and then write the hell out of the content that fits it.
In doing so, they build a strong audience quickly, but sometimes they get off track or miss out on the peripheral content that surrounds that niche.
What Is The Difference Between A Niche Site And Core Content?
There are two approaches to creating highly specialized content.
The first is creating a “niche site,” which basically means you have created a site tightly focused on one thing with the hopes of financial gain. These sites are often static and highly optimized for search engines. They can be lucrative but take a great deal of self control and effort to keep to the narrow niche and create good content in such a tight realm.
The second approach involves core content, which is a more typical content marketing approach. It’s more general than a true niche site, involving a “core” focus with a wider angle lens.
Let’s say you focus on a core topic of content marketing. A true niche site might focus only on content marketing on Facebook, but your site will cover more.
The difference is in the periphery.
A core content approach means you create peripheral content that is directly related to your main focus, but broadens the range a bit. You might talk about breaking social media news, helpful tools, interviews with top content marketers, and anything else related to that core.
That peripheral content will appeal to an audience interested in your core content. That also means that if your core is content marketing, there will be no stories about your pet dog in your content marketing.
It doesn’t fit and isn’t related.
The key is that you understand different levels of focus. Your content marketing audience is mostly interested in content marketing, but they might also really care about how to write better or stay organized or get things done. Your niche site audience, however, is interested in one thing only.
It’s a narrow lens vs. a wide angle lens, but both are still focused.
What Can Focused Content Do For You?
Sticking with focused content is the smart move, whether you’re going hardcore with a niche site or taking a bit broader approach with core content.
- Leads easily into new formats. When all of your content is about the same topic, it’s much easier to create ebooks, email courses, and other reused content forms. The same piece of content can be used in multiple ways, simply because it is all related and is flexible based on how you want to present an idea.
- Capitalizes on your expertise. You already know what you know. That’s only going to help you create content faster. While you may have to research and stay on top of trends, your underlying knowledge is going to take some of the pain out of creating content. You’ll also be better able to answer questions from your audience
- Shows that you are an expert. An expert is not a jack-of-all-trades, and your core content shows that you are focused on one thing instead of spread out too thinly across many topics. That means your audience knows how to categorize you, which sounds like a bad thing, but isn’t. When they have a specific question, they know to turn to the specific experts.
- Builds on previous content. Focused content is related content, often in a methodical way. Linking back to your own content is good both for search engine reasons as well as for introducing new readers to your old content. When content is all related, it’s easier to bring the old content to the top.
If you take away anything about the need to create content around a focused core, remember this: you are building authority.
Think about how you build authority, and it makes sense.
If you’re an expert, you can actually help people. If you’re an expert, you can participate in industry discussions and not sound ridiculous. If you’re an expert, you can write for important sites or be featured or interviewed by them. If you’re an expert and doing all of these things, you have authority.
Authority isn’t just some meaningless word, conjuring up visions of marketers acting like rulers of the internet. It is, instead, something that reduces the barrier to conversions and sales.
As I’ve said about authority before, brand authority is the most important business asset you can have today. This is a super competitive online world and without authority, you are nothing.
Keeping your focus on your core content makes you an expert and gives you authority.
Creating Content Around Your Core
Creating content that shows you are an expert isn’t difficult. It’s a matter or research and focus on several key aspects that make up both you, your brand, and your audience.
What is the purpose of your content?
While I hate to encourage you to focus too much on what you want from your content as opposed to focusing on creating content that is helpful for your audience, you have to have a reason for creating content in the first place.
You’re not creating content purely as a matter of public service. You want leads and conversions. Your content has a functional purpose for you.
You’d better write down what you want from your content as tangible goals that can be measured, or you’ll never know if you’re succeeding or need to pivot in a hurry.
Your content core should be one you can achieve your purpose from.
If you’re an expert in the art of freebies, budgeting, or couponing, you may create amazing content but your audience might not be able to support your financial benchmarks.
In other words, you should focus on your content core, but part of that is also a focus on your content’s purpose.
Who else is creating similar content?
If you don’t know where to get started with the content, but you know what kind of audience you want (more on that next), look at what others are doing.
The Content Marketing Institute has some great tips on discovering content that fits into a niche, and part of that advice is to find other blogs who are creating content (or who have an audience) that you want.
What language are they using? What keywords do they seem to be focusing on? Who is engaging with their content? What questions are audience members asking? Which articles rank high in search?
Dissect the content and audience of these blogs and figure out what their content core is and why it works.
Who is your core audience?
Think of buyer personas.
Most people take a shallow swing at buyer personas, stopping at mere demographics. True buyer personas go much deeper than that, really digging into not just who the buyer is, but what motivates them.
The same kind of research and effort that you put into buyer personas should go into researching who your core audience is.
I came up with 150 different questions that can be used to create buyer personas.
While they might not all apply to your effort to determine your core audience (and you certainly don’t have to use all 150 questions), it’s worth taking a look to understand just how focused you must be on a specific audience if you want to stay focused on specific content.
What’s the big deal with understanding who your core audience is?
It should be obvious.
You are creating content, first and foremost, that is helpful and interesting to people who are not you. It’s one thing to stay focused on the things you care about, but it is a completely different level of complexity to stay focused on the things a disparate group of people might be interested in.
By creating buyer personas and really understanding who your core audience is, you won’t get sidetracked by that one guy who wants you to create content about that one thing that no one else is really interested in.
Additionally, the content you create attracts the people who are attracted to that content.
It sounds a little ridiculous to say that, but it’s easy to forget that when you veer off track and lose focus on your content core, you start to attract a different kind of audience that you might not be expert enough to handle as they start leading you away with their anomalous interests.
Write for the right people. Those right people will make sure you keep writing the right things.
What exists on your core audience’s periphery?
Acknowledging the periphery is the difference between a niche site (there is no periphery) and a more standard site with core content (what we’re talking about in this post).
A niche site says “I’m selling one thing. This is all you’ll get.” A site with core content says “I know you are interested in X. I also have these related products that you may also be interested in.”
In a sense, it’s the upsell or cross-sell.
You have additional things to create content about, but they are all directly related to the core and would be of interest to anyone interested in the core.
If you sold plants, your customers are also interested in pots, potting soil, tips on growing roses, and so on. If you sold sporting goods, your customers are also interested in where the best running paths are, or where to register for a marathon.
You will know what your peripheral content is if you know who your core audience is. You will know what they are afraid of, what they are motivated by, what they do for fun.
It is not up to you to decide what content makes a good upsell, but instead, it should be based on your core audience.
Peripheral content, when not anchored to a solid researched and documented content core, is going to shipwreck you. Instead of a merry-go-round that spins around a fixed point, you’re going to be a spinning top, moving all over the place.
Periodically making sure you’re still on a fixed point is the only way to avoid that mess.
Performing a content audit:
It is important to keep referencing back to your core content to make sure that you aren’t off track. You can do that by:
- Auditing your core audience. What have you been learning about your audience as time goes on? Has it changed or shifted? Creating a buyer persona isn’t exactly a set-it-and-forget-it approach, particularly as time goes on and your audience grows.
- Auditing your core content. Periodically go through your content and see how it fits in with your current core audience. I’d recommend doing a content review at least each month to make sure you’re sticking with your content plan as well as creating content that fits with your audience. Watch for content that performed poorly or that your audience didn’t seem interested in. Did it fit your core? Apparently not. The reverse can be said for content that got a lot of engagement and buzz.
- Take the industry temperature. Your industry and niche changes constantly. New products, trends, and influencers pop up all the time. Are you staying on top of it? A content plan from a year ago probably didn’t plan for topics that suddenly became important a week ago.
- Recheck your benchmarks. You know the goals you set for yourself and what you wanted from your content. Are you hitting them? If everything else is perfect but you’re not achieving the purpose you set out to achieve with your content, what’s the point? It may be that you are excellent and creating core content and maintaining a core audience, but you’re simply not converting. Either you nabbed a sluggish audience or your content itself needs a kick in the ass.
- Reset your course. After you audit your audience and your content, revamp your content plan accordingly and get back on course (or congratulate yourself for staying on course).
Creating Extra Content Types That Fit Your Core
My friend Rob Wormley and I wanted to share our expertise with others as well as see if we could walk the talk and live up to the marketing advice and help we’d been writing about for others.
Ebooks and similar content that are outside of your usual content creation habits require a different approach, particularly in making sure your audience finds them.
Promotion is key to making sure this kind of content doesn’t bomb and fade away.
Landing Pages Focus Attention
Your core content is already focused, as far as the content topic is concerned. But, when you’re creating something that is above and beyond your usual offerings, you need to do more than focus topic: you need to focus attention.
That’s where a landing page comes in.
Sending people to the front page of your website and hoping that they find the page you want them to is a bad idea. You need to create landing pages for specific products or ideas, and get the SEO on each landing page customized for specific types of searches.
That might even mean a few landing pages for the same product, depending on what keywords and searches you are optimizing for.
Why use a landing page in this scenario?
- You hold yourself accountable. When you put a live landing page out for the world to see, you have to follow through or you make yourself (and your brand) look pretty bad.
- You train your audience. When the ebook was ready to go, we already had a place online where it could live, as well as people and search engines already wearing down a path to that location.
You validate your idea. If no one signed up or expressed interest in our ebook through our landing page, it would be a pretty good indicator to kill the project. That, of course, wasn’t the case, but it’s an excellent reason for the landing page to go live even before your project is started. We used our landing page for sales pre-orders.
We used Instapage.com to create a landing page for our ebook because Instapage allowed us to do some A/B testing that would let us optimize the hell out of the page. We wanted the tightest focused landing page we could get.
Here’s the kicker: the landing page was live and active long before we had the book even started. We’ll get to that next.
Write before you get started
Before our ebook was even available, we were talking about it. We found sites that had an audience that shared an interest in our core content, and wrote guest posts and did interviews to let them know about the ebook.
Here are a few:
- Let Your Customers Write Your Marketing Copy, a guest post on Sixteen Ventures
- AdTalk Interview With Bannerstack
- AMA with the Maker Hunt Slack Community
- An Interview on The Growth Hacking Podcast
- How To Write and Send Super Effective Re-Engagement Emails, a guest post on Vero we wrote, spoke, interviewed, and published in places that our core audience would be found.
Take a lean approach
Instead of weeks and months of revisions and perfection in editing, we wanted to launch our ebook quickly. We took a lean approach, which made good sense.
After all, we didn’t know if it would be a hit or not. Why waste massive amounts of precious time when you could take a lean approach instead?
We gave ourselves only thirty days to make it happen, including the writing, pre-promotion, and launch.
The result? We sold 10,000 copies in six months.
Instead of taking six months to perfect our content, we took thirty days.
If you’re writing in your niche, you already know your stuff. You’re the expert, the authority.
Writing lean should be almost second nature to you at this point, and unless you fall into the trap of fearing anything less than “perfection,” you should be able to create powerful niche content that gets serious traction without devoting excessive amounts of time.
Stay Focused When Engaging
Keep your core content in mind when you are out commenting on social media or blogs.
By carefully choosing the right blogs to leave meaningful comments on, you’re grabbing onto an audience already in your core.
In an effort to promote my ContentMarketer.io launch, I turned to blog comment participation.
After 20 hours of leaving meaningful comments and responding to those comments, I managed to grab nearly 2,500 new visitors and over 500 new trial users (about a 14% conversion rate).
That’s pretty damn good (and inexpensive) for merely taking the time to leave meaningful comments and get involved in a good conversation on someone else’s blog.
There were several things I did to make sure this venture was both successful and not spammy, but one key trait was that I found relevant articles within my content core to comment on.
Spam, after all, is anything that doesn’t belong.
Talking about ContentMarketer.io and the need to engage with influencers belongs in a specific niche. The same comment that would sound appropriate and be welcomed on a content marketing blog post would be pure spam on an automotive repair blog post.
When Rob and I were promoting our ebook, we were active on forums where people who would be interested in the book could be found, forums like Growthhackers.com, Inbound.org, and in a few Slack groups.
We answered questions in Quora. Again, we weren’t spammy or too promotional but provided meaningful engagement that opened the door to letting them know about our ebook.
Core content + core audience = traffic and conversions.
That’s the gist of it.
You can write all the content in the world, but if it isn’t focused on your purpose, your audience, and your expertise, it goes nowhere.