BLACKSHIP ONE PRESENTS…
8 Ways our Content Marketing Strategy is Like War Planning
In this post we’ll talk about how we’ve drawn inspiration from historic military leaders to come up with our own in-house content marketing strategy
Create a Great Content Marketing Strategy By Studying War Strategists
At our content marketing agency we live and breath content. One of the biggest mistakes we see companies make is haphazardly approaching their content marketing strategy. They have poorly defined content goals supported by weak content marketing plans. It’s a recipe for disappointment.
It would be like fighting a war by putting troops on a field, not knowing what you’re fighting for, and saying “fight”. The results would be unpredictable and chaotic. You would lose unnecessary battles and your opponents would virtually always claim victory.
As a content marketing agency, when we look at the 1st page of organic results for any given keyword we see a battlefield. The blue links, featured snippets and featured videos… our enemies.
Our goal is to ruthlessly take over each position one by one until we’re at the top. We’re not polite about it, we don’t say excuse me as we pass our competitors… we just push forward until we’ve conquered the territory. It sounds a little bit harsh, and it is. But we’re not in this business to make friends, we’re in it to make money.
So let me tell you a little bit more about how we conquer organic search.
1. Understand your enemies
To win a war you need to understand yourself and your enemies better. Let’s talk about the importance of knowing your enemies first. In our experience, enemies generally fall into one of the following 4 categories:
1. Weaponless fighters: When you do any given search within Google you’ll be able to see the number of results for that keyword. The numbers are often in the millions.
However, this doesn’t mean you’re up against a million competitors. Most of these results are not being actively optimized.
If we use software like Raven tools, we can see content optimization signals, such as when people have included keyword rich anchor text, title tags and even include the keyword in the URL. After looking at this data, we might come to the conclusion that around 2000 people are actively optimizing for this search term.
2000 competitors might seem like a lot. However, the good news is that the vast majority of these pages are either run by people who are either beginners (generally easy to beat) or have experience but suffer from the Dunning Kruger Effect.
They keep doing the same thing and produce lackluster results. They are blind to their own content marketing inadequacy and their inability to recognize their own weakness ensures that they will not be a threat to you.
In the world of content marketing these people produce poor quality content by writing bad content themselves or hiring low quality writers at a discount.
They foolishly assume they found a content scaling loophole by outsmarting Google’s multi-billion dollar algorithm with an inexperience $60 writer they found on Fiverr.
The fatal flaw of these people is that they source talent from low quality talent pools but they don’t realize that content marketing is a competitive sport. They don’t realize they are playing chess, not solitaire.
They think they are being smart by looking for best of the worst, or best of the average writers. They don’t take into account that their competitors are building up serious armies of tier-one writing talent. Sending discount tier-nine writers onto a battle with well trained and ambious tier-one writers, will result in a bloodbath every time.
Because wins won’t come frequently to these people, most of the people who fall into this category will give up at some point. It can take a while for them to put down their weapons though. I find that people who fall into this category often chalk up their failures to system failures or hiring mistakes. They don’t see that their problem runs much deeper than that. Therefore, they often spend a lot of time trying to find better $60 writers or fixing their flawed system.
The good news is, that this type of activity will keep them busy. They get stuck in a content marketing hamster-wheel and they can’t see the exit.
All of these things together make these people mostly worth ignoring as enemies. You’ll walk past them on the battlefield.
Stone throwers: The next group of content marketers are weekend warriors. These people enjoy a good battle, but they don’t like wars to be too challenging, require too much sacrifice or go on for too long.
Their hearts are not totally in it. They know there are the equivalents of Napoleons and Caesars on the battlefield who are scheming day and night about victory, but stone throwers don’t have the planning skills or patience to see a battle through to victory.
These people often start out with a few good moves, but because they have the patience of a gnat, they give up within a few months.
We’ve found that with content marketing, most people don’t get past the 6 month mark. They essentially give up on their ideas before their ideas give up on them. Which is tragic, but also great news for businesses with better stamina.
Again, this group of enemies can mostly be ignored.
Knights without a castle: There is a big jump at this point and this is where the competition starts to get quite fierce. Content marketers who fall into this category have excellent content planning and execution.
They also know the importance of sending their strongest and best prepared soldiers into battle. These people invest time in their strategies and money into their writers. Unlike the groups of people we talked about before who are trying to win an F1 race in a Honda, these people actually put F1 cars on an F1 track.
The fatal flaw amongst this group isn’t actually content, it’s about deeper business fundamentals. They might suffer from low LTV:CAC ratios, they might not have great product market fit yet, they could be overtaken by stronger competitors or their pricing or margins might be so low that they can’t scale quickly.
Either way, something not related to content is their achilles heel.
Think of how Caesar was great at conquering new territories over the course of many years. It wasn’t his weakness on the battlefield which took his life, it was his own senators who assisinated him.
I’ve seen the same happen with many businesses. Sometimes I’ll be following a new company and they seem to be doing everything right. They will be the #1 product on product hunt, they will produce exceptional content and everyone online seems to love them. But after a couple of years… they are gone.
This just goes to show that what gets hyped up today and seems to be unstoppable, can be gone in a very short period of time.
For example, my favorite AI powered text to speech engine Voicery, who I thought was unstoppable due to their seemingly perfect product, surprisingly shut down last month. They still rank on the main page of search for related keywords, but they no longer let people sign up.
This goes to show that you need more than just a good content marketing strategy to play the long game. Everything from your product, your pricing and your online reputation will impact the outcome of your content marketing campaign.
Powerful queens: Next, we have the equivalent to queens on the chessboard. In this category of enemies, we have content marketers producing tier-one content that helps them drive awareness to tier-one products.
Hubspot is a good example of a content queen. Their conquest strategy has been near perfect. Today they are valued at over 15 billion dollars.
They rank for virtually every single keyword they target because they have amassed a huge domain authority by providing huge amounts of value up front. When you deconstruct Hubspot’s content strategy, you see that they surrounded the market from every imaginable angle.
Today, they can bulldoze everyone because they have so much momentum within their flywheel, they are near impossible to stop. They are the content equivalent of Caesar in his prime.
2. Don’t start a content war until you’ve planned your content marketing strategy
In war, once you know who your enemies are, you can strategically pick the battles you want to fight based on your own abilities.
In the world of content marketing, you have more than one enemy. It’s more like a world war rather than a civil war. So you can start picking off easier, poorer defended enemies at first. If planned correctly, you’ll improve the stores in your war chest from the increases in revenue your new rankings will bring you.
So when planning your first attacks, you need to ask yourself:
“what will the reward be if you win this battle?”
Picking keywords outside of your domain authority (DA) that are too hard to rank for will result in long drawn out battles. Similarly, picking keywords with poor buying intent might result in easy wins but low to no payout.
You need to attack keywords strategically. This will allow you to win relatively quickly while at the same time giving you additional resources to help fund additional attacks and organic expansion.
3. Gain BOFU positions first
This is why we produce bottom of the funnel content first. Essentially, we prioritize content with high buying intent. Even though these keywords usually have much smaller search volumes, we can often score wins much quicker. Most importantly, wins with this category of content produce much needed revenue growth.
Often content marketers look at low volume search terms almost like pawns on a chess board. Because of their low search volumes, they are often overlooked and seen as insignificant. But in our experience, they are the single biggest drivers of early growth.
Therefore, we double down on these positions early on by using a content strategy that we call BOFU multiplication. It’s a content strategy that, on the surface, looks like we’re creating variations of seemingly insignificant content. This piece of content you’re reading now is part of a cluster of BOFU multipliers.
Many content marketers approach content marketing by looking for high volume keywords or low competition keywords.
At Blackship.One we don’t start there. Instead, we look at it like a chess board. We think about our first pieces of content as the opening game of a chess match. Amateur chess players look at their opponent’s king and start trying to attack right away.
However, chess is made up of three distinct parts:
– An opening game
– The middle game
– The end game
The opening game is all about proper positioning. To oversimplify the process, it’s about dominating the center of the board early on, positioning good defense, developing your minor pieces (knights and bishops), and castling your king early on.
Once the foundation is built, you can begin attacking your opponent in the middle game with much better efficiency. Also, BOFU content, like pawns, are sleeping giants. A passed pawn can be promoted into a queen just as a piece of BOFU content can become your biggest driver of new sales.
In fact, François-André Danican Philidor, a French composer and chess player, once famously said “pawns are the soul of the game.” We believe the same is true for BOFU content. A high ranking inventory of bottom of the funnel content can completely change the future of your company.
4. Focus on positioning before you focus on attacking
Now, with your army of BOFU content starting to march forward, you need to start thinking about strengthening your BOFU content’s position.
BOFU content tends not to do very well on its own, due to its more sales focused content angle. It’s content that’s harder to acquire links for and therefore harder to rank. This is another reason why many content marketers don’t start here. They often start further up the funnel with more general high-value content in the hopes that their TOFU content will earn high quality backlinks.
We don’t take this approach, because content needs time to marinate in Google’s algorithm before it will rank. It takes time to acquire the necessary signals for Google to rank you favorably. Therefore, we double down on BOFU content early on in order to get that process started.
The truth is, it can take months, sometimes years to rank. In a study by Ahrefs, 95% of newly produced content does not rank within the first year. The same study found that the average age of a website on Google’s main page is over 3 years old.
This is why we invest in high value content first. BOFU content will have the highest page value out of any content we produce and therefore our content marketing strategy prioritizes this type of content.
The famous war strategist, Napoleon Bonaparte, once pointed out that “strategy is the art of making use of time and space. I am less concerned about the latter than the former. Space we can recover, lost time never.”
Focusing on BOFU content might seem like the slow path to growth. But in our experience it’s not. These pages will provide the fuel necessary to 10X growth later on. The sooner we build these growth engines, the better.
After your BOFU content is in position you’ll need to optimize it by creating BOFU support content. As I mentioned, BOFU content doesn’t perform very well on its own. It needs assistance from other content types.
When creating BOFU support content, what most people do is they prioritize quantity over quality. They know they need to create content clusters around their BOFU content in order to funnel link equity to their most valuable commercial pages. This is where a lot of people go wrong. They over-produce low quality or irrelevant content in the hopes it will support their BOFU content. They pick a keyword, produce the content. Pick a keyword, produce the content.
It’s a vicious cycle, because you’ll feel busy and you’ll also experience slow wins. However, if you take this approach, much of the content you produce will underperform. As I touched on, at scale it works. It’s just not the most efficient content marketing strategy out there.
To go back to our military analogy, it’s like sending 100 troops to support the progression of 2 soldiers.
If possible, it would be smarter and more efficient to send 2-5 troops as backup, as long as the front-line can keep pushing forward at your desired speed. Doing more with less is always desirable in the world of content marketing.
If the goal at this point is to funnel link equity from lower buying intent to higher buying intent pages, then it makes sense NOT to over-produce content, but instead to study content types that are best suited to earn links.
5. Lure the enemy in with bait
At this point, we have our pawns in place. But as I mentioned above, we don’t attack yet. We do something that will make attacking in the future much easier.
In a game of chess, this is the equivalent of developing your minor pieces and getting your rooks on an open file. After you finish the setup of your opening, the middle game will be much easier.
We’ve found that either doing original research pieces or developing high-value free tools to be the best way of naturally earning links quickly.
While your competition is out there trying to strong-arm their way tryin to acquire backlinks (often using questionable techniques), you can sit back and earn links passively. At Blackship.One, we’ve never built links. We have focused 100% of our energies on earning links. It’s a fundamental shift in the way you need to think about SEO.
Therefore, after our BOFU content is in position, the second move of our content marketing strategy is to create link magnets.
We want authoritative news sites and high quality bloggers to link to our content. This content type takes a lot longer to produce because it’s a more complex and expensive content type.
The upside to this dynamic is that a LOT less people create this type of content. It often requires that you have researchers or programmers on your team. However, in our experience, this is where the biggest SEO and referral traffic opportunities are. The more value you can create with your free tools and original research, the faster your BOFU content will reach the finish line.
In the Art of War, Sun Tsu reminds us that it’s more important to outthink our enimies than it is to outfight them. He also reminds us that quantity alone provides us with no strategic advantage. He states:
“Don’t advance relying on military power, numbers alone confer no advantage.”
The same principle applies when planning your content marketing strategy. Content quantity alone will do little to produce tangible business improvements.
6. Now it’s time to wage your content marketing war
At this point, your BOFU content pieces are in place and supported by strategically designed support content. At this point, we can finally declare war and start attacking.
However, it’s important to brace yourself of a long drawn out war. With content marketing, unlike PPC growth channels, wins will often come at a slower speed. Therefore, it’s important to think long term.
However, time is inconsequential to to ambitious military leaders with a strong vision. At Blackship.One we’ve found that the reason most people give up on their idea before they reach the finish line is because they simply don’t care enough about their project to fight the long fight. The process can be painful and dawn out. Content marketing is not the right growth channel for people looking for a win tomorrow. Victories will be realized months down the line. Sometimes years.
This is a problem for many because we live in a startup culture where people are planning their exit before they even have their first customer.
7. Focus on winning the crusade, not the battle
Wannapreneurs, want the glory of a victory without having to taste blood on a battlefield. They want the win to be frictionless and smooth. The moment things take a turn for the worse, they are gone. They move to another idea (one they hope will be easier). But the road to victory is almost always paved with obstacles.
During Caesar’s reign, there were many soldiers who wanted his position. But not many who would do what he would do to get it.
Most content marketing soldiers do not have the patience to wait too long for a win, nor do they have the bravery to risk it all for a victory.
I often find that around the 6 month mark (sometimes sooner), founders lose their presence of mind and stop focusing on the bigger picture. They have a hard time seeing the forest from the trees and they start to feel the exhaustion from a few lost battles.
Others, like us at Blackship.One see the battlefield for what it is. There will be good days and bad days. In fact, there will be good months and bad months. But we never lose sight of our bigger vision.
We push forward. There will be battles that we will win as well as battles that we will lose. But we’re not looking to win a battle, we’re looking to win the crusade.
8. Surround and overwhelm your enemies
The next stage of our content marketing strategy involves us additional troops onto the battlefield in the form of middle of the funnel (MOFU) as well as top of the funnel (TOFU) content. We start to surround our enemies from every angle and rank for every keyword we target.
What started out many months ago as one insignificant seeming pawn move has now ballooned into us flanking our enemies from every angle in organic search. At this point, much like the Zulu warriors would enclose in on their enemies, we too surround and and overwhelm our competition.
Using this strategy is how we our last project to 168,000 page views in 6 months. It’s not easy, but with a good content marketing strategy, it’s possible!
Content marketing strategy conclusion
In short, this is how you launch a content crusade. At our content marketing agency we’ve never lost a war. We’ve lost battles, and we’ve made mistakes. We’ve even lived to regret selling kingdoms we’ve conquered. But, when we use this content strategy to target a niche… it’s all soldiers on the battlefield until it’s ours.
If this strategy sounds interesting to you and you’re looking for a similar approach for your company, then get in contact with us today. We’d be happy to jump on the phone for a free 30 minute content marketing consultation to see if we’d be the right organic growth team for your company.
Thanks for stopping by today.
We Help You Grow Through Content
Blackship.one is a content marketing agency that helps hi-tech brands grow through the use of our organic growth playbook. We help with content planning, strategy, writing, publishing and SEO optimization. If you want to learn more about how we scaled a recent project to over 160,000 organic page views / month in 6 months, watch the video to the right. 🤝