5 Steps To Building An Epic Content Marketing Machine

When you think of content marketing success stories…

You might think of startups like Mint, the personal finance app that achieved its first million users leveraging landing pages, infographics and a blog with unique articles.

Mint helped push the movement that has inspired thousands of companies to invest in content to get more leads, customers, and revenue.

According to the B2B Content Marketing Survey, 70% of content marketers say they’re not happy with the results of their strategies.

Why is that?

Because, they are shooting in the dark, and running around like a chicken with its head cut off.  When content is done right, and when I say “right” I am referring to building a machine a duplicated proven approach for success.


This post will provide a guide on how to build and operate a Content Marketing Machine. But, to be clear, I’m not talking about basic content marketing. I am talking about building a lean mean content machine for your business, that is scalable from zero to one:

5 Steps To Building An Epic Content Marketing Machine

5 Steps To Building An Epic Content Marketing Machine

First, let’s take a look at the machine, all of its pistons, cogs, smokestacks and miscellaneous parts. This will give you an overview of what you’re building and what you’re going to operate:

  • Goals & KPI
  • Team
  • Ideas
  • Production
  • Promotion


Goals & Plan

Determine your content marketing goals and KPIs

content marketing machineAs Joe Pulizzi puts it:

“Great content marketers do two things differently than the rest: They document their content marketing strategy in some way, and they review and consistently refer to the plan on a regular basis.”

Start by documenting your goals to create the foundation of your content marketing strategy.

First, never create content for the sake of creating content – or because you “know” it’s important. You must understand what you want your content to solve.

In other words, what are your overarching marketing goals? Here are some goals you may want to focus on:

  • Increase brand awareness. (Brand Equity)
  • Drive more traffic to your website.
  • Generate sales leads.
  • Convert more leads into customers.


With each of these goals comes a different type of content marketing strategy focusing on specific audiences, leveraging different marketing channels, and communicating targeted messages.

Let’s take a quick look at each of these possible goals to get a better understanding of how to devise a content marketing machine and appropriate KPIs for each one.

1. Increase brand awareness

Focus on content that will catch the attention of a lot of people. Attention is king!


Types of content:

  • Epic content
  • Co-branded content (e-books, webinars,)
  • YouTube videos
  • Podcast


Ask yourself:

  • Is your content noteworthy enough to draw attention to your brand and get people to share it?


Examples of companies and people who KNOW how to do content


content marketing machine

Sujan Patel: Over at contentmarketer.io is one of my favorites when its comes to B2B. Not to mention the dude is beast of an entrepreneur. I highly recommend you study everything and anything that Sujan does.



content marketing machine
Nathan latka: Over at http://nathanlatka.com is one of personal favorites when it comes to doing content like a rock-star. His podcast strategy and the way is has created a system should be studied by all. Nathan if you are reading this, keep up the nuclear domination



content marketing machine
Alex Ikonn: Talk about knowing your audience. If you are looking to dominate YouTube, look no further than Alex. All I got to say is WOW!



KPIs for this goal:

  • Social impact
  • Traffic to site for lead generation


2. Traffic & Lead generation 

Attention seeking content must drive people to your site or your blog, show them why your company offers value, and lead them through the rest of the marketing funnel.

Types of content:

  • Blog posts with calls to action, (Content Upgrade)
  • Social media posts that link to your site or blog
  • Link worthy content


Ask yourself:

  • Are you optimizing your content to drive readers to your website?


content marketing machine
Brian Dean from Backlinko is one of the main guys you want to follow when it comes to understanding content upgrades. In fact, he has the #1 step-by-step article on exactly how to maximize conversions using content upgrades. His post is mandatory reading for anyone who is thinking of creating content upgrades for their site.


KPIs for this goal:

  • Number of blog visits per month
  • Email leads
  • Total number of website visits per month
  • Engaged time on site
  • Conversion on sites


3. Leads into clients 


The next step in the marketing funnel is converting your blog and website traffic into leads that you can nurture. Lead generation content is a great way to do this. Typically, lead gen content requires potential viewers to complete a form to access the content. Each piece of gated content also requires a unique landing page.

Content marketing strategy: Compile valuable content offers and gate them with a lead generation form.

Types of content:

  • E-books
  • Checklists
  • Tools and resources


Ask yourself:

  • Is the content we’re creating valuable enough that viewers will provide their email in exchange for it?
  • Does the content genuinely help educate your leads with valuable information and not just push a sale?


KPIs for this goal:

  • Number of leads generated from each piece of content
  • Landing-page conversion rates


content marketing machineRyan Stewart
 the head chief over at http://webris.org illustrates the power of a proper content machine and why goals are so important. If you got a second, I highly recommend you head over to webris and check Ryan work out, the dude is knows his stuff!

We landed our largest client from content marketing and it cost us a whopping $0. Here’s how

content marketing machine


A content marketing machine team looks like this:

  • Publishing weekly blog updates to attract new visitors and keep them engaged,
  • Creating epic content materials to collect emails
  • Sending nurturing email cycles to walk leads through the customer’s journey,
  • Keeping up with social media and other distribution tactics to spread content reach… and so on.


I wont get into building a content marketing team here, as I wrote a resources guide just on how to build your team from scratch 

5 Tips and Tools for Hiring an All-Star Marketing Team


where do you start? What content idea will work best?

Step #1:  Buyer Persona

Starting with a buyer persona brings up to five times more results in website traffic attraction and lead conversion, according to MLT Creative. The process of identifying who you are talking to will help you deliver more useful content, answer questions being asked by your avatar, and be generally more effective with every article, ebook or post you create.

According to ITSMA research, only 44% of companies use this resource. If you’re not creating content based on your company’s buyer persona, developing a couple high-quality interviews with customers or users is the first step to get there.

Step #2: Research

We use an awesome tool called Buzzsumo to help with this, and I’m going to show you three core things:

Start Real-Time Conversations Using Trending Content

BuzzSumo’s Trending tab (pictured below) is one smart way to generate new content ideas, find third-party links to share on social and identify real-time marketing opportunities.

The goals of content profiling

This goal is important to remember because this process won’t magically give you fully formed content ideas, but it will feed into that heavily and lead to better content ideas and crucially, probably make you ditch some ideas that may not be so good!

There are a few secondary goals that help set the context for what we’re doing:

  • Learn what is working well in your industry
  • Learn what your competitors are doing well
  • Learn what social networks are best for you to target


Keep these in mind as you go through this process.

3 ways to achieve content marketing success with Buzzsumo

There are many ways in which you BuzzSumo can be used to turbo charge your content marketing research, but here is our tactics that we use regularly:

1. Campaign brainstorming

Using the ‘Top Content’ tab:

Put your search terms in the search box and the results you get will show whether your topic is popular and what kind of content has already been posted on that topic.

Example: “Content Marketing”

content marketing machine

Here’s an example of an outreach email for this purpose. 

Hey [NAME],

I noticed you tweeted about lead generation from [WEBSITE] last week. I think that is an amazing guide to get started. Have you applied it?

Anyway, I just published an article about how you systematize your lead generation. It has 7 tips that I think can be helpful in your business. Here’s the link, if you want to read it:


Let me know what you think!




Buzzsumo brings an added dimension to brainstorming sessions by given you data-driven ideas

BuzzSumo delivers a list of content marketing related posts, sorted by Total Shares and broken down by shares across different networks. I can filter this search by date, language, country or content type.

This also gives you added insight, such as how to best title or format a piece of content you’re writing and which social networks that topic is popular on.

  • Average shares by network
  • Average shares by content type
  • Total shares by date published
  • Average shares by content length


Check Out the Sharing Stats

A BuzzSumo topic search usually returns content in different categories (currently articles, infographics, guest posts, giveaways, interviews and videos) within the past year. For each piece of content, you can see the domain, author, publication date and article type.

Other columns show shares on the main social networks (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ and Pinterest), as well as total shares. You can sort by any column and can also change the date range to six months, a month, a week or (if you want to find really hot content) 24 hours.

So, for instance, these are the top 3 Facebook articles in the month for Content marketing:

content marketing machine


How to apply the research

Ask yourself:

  • Are you creating the types of content that are most likely to get shares?
  • are you creating titles that are clickable?


KPIs for this goal:

  • Number of leads generated from each piece of content
  • Share on social networks


Fresh Egg’s content marketing specialist Sarah Furbank, says:

“Searching for top content by domain is really useful if you’re trying to get a view of how
your own content is performing in terms of social shares, or what topics or types of content are proving popular for your competitors. You can then analyse the topics covered and look for trends, or look at who has been sSarah Furbank content marketing specialistharing that content on Twitter – are the people who have been sharing the content actually relevant to your site’s target audience?

“The ‘Content Analysis’ reports are really useful too. These reports straight away allow you to get a quick overview of how readily your site’s content is being shared and on which networks, plus an idea of some other useful insights too – popular content lengths, popular days of publication etc. Using the ‘Domain Comparison’ reports gives you the same info, but allows you to compare to a competitor of your choice. This allows you to see things like which social networks your competitors are taking advantage of, where perhaps your business can look to exploit further in the future.”



What constitutes epic content?

Great content is fairly predictable, but epic content often requires creativity and a hefty investment, both your time and money.

So… although I can’t tell you exactly how to make epic content for your specific business, I can show you what epic content looks like.

Let’s look at a few characteristics and kinds.

  • Long — This is not the best way to identify an epic blog post, but it’s the most obvious. For the most part epic blog posts are at a minimum 1,000 words. Two to five thousand is normal. It’s one dramatic scrolling page.



  • In-Depth — Like I mentioned above a long post doesn’t mean it’s an epic post. A long post that drills deep into a topic can be an epic post.


  • Step-by-step — Similar to in-depth is the step-by-step tutorial. This is educational at its core. The only goal is to teach someone how to accomplish a task. Simple tasks like taking out the trash would not make an epic blog post. What you need to do to create your own compost pile, on the other hand, might make an epic blog post.


  • Lists — This is the staple and classic form of epic blog posts. But I’m not talking about ten tips or even twenty. Fifty is okay, but epic is in the one hundred.


  • Interview Round-Up Post — This one is simple: hunt down several names to give you advice on a narrow topic, collect their answers, edit and publish. Granted, not everyone will respond, so start with a large list and collect as many as you can.


Let me repeat this: it is not just the size that makes a post epic. It’s the content. The content takes you over.

If you want to be successful, do this: Many of these ideas aren’t that complicated. I’m sure you’ll think many times throughout this post, “Why didn’t I think of this before?”

Example: A guide written by Ramit Sethi

The Ultimate Guide to Making Money

He has a lot of content that I consider epic, but I chose to single out his ultimate guide to making money here.

Right away, you can tell that it’s not the standard content you see on blogs. He went to the trouble of having it professionally designed and formatted:


On the left, it has a table of contents—how many blog posts have that?

As you can see by the number of social shares, this guide is incredibly popular.

Over 7000 Facebook share, holy shit!!

Epic content can produce epic conversions too: One mistake that I see many content marketers make is producing great content but not wanting to collect email signups right away.

If you take a close look at this guide, you’ll realize that it’s set up as a highly optimized lead generation source.

At the bottom of every single section, it has an opt-in form along with a brief pitch for signing up.


Despite that, it still got thousands of shares, and I’m sure it’s had hundreds of thousands of visitors.

The two main reasons this is epic: The first I already touched on—the formatting. When you make content look amazing, it stands out from ordinary blog posts. People value it more, just like they do paid content.

It’s Time to Go Epic, or Go Home




There are a million ways you can promote your epic content, for the sake of saving my fingers from bleeding and typing till pigs fly. I will show you the most cost effective ways to share your epic content

Contact People Who Have Linked to Similar Content

Find people who have linked to similar content, and contact them introducing your new (and better) content.

There are multiple tools that allow you to find links to a website or URL. Two of the best are Ahrefs and Open Site Explorer.

Identify content similar to yours. Copy the URL from these items and paste them into Ahrefs or Open Site Explorer. You’ll get a list of pages that have linked to these items. These will be your targets. To reach out and ask them to consider linking to your new (and better) content, go back to BuzzStream to find contact information.

9 ahrefs km

When you find a site that links to content similar to yours, reach out with this message (email, contact form, social media, etc.):

10 name of site owner


Reach out to influencers who share similar content.

Once again we use BuzzSumo (My favorite software ever). You can use it to find the most popular content on a particular topic. For your content promotion strategy, BuzzSumo can help you discover the right influencers to reach out to help you promote your content.

Let’s say that you’ve just written a great post about Build a High performance marketing team, BuzzSumo will show you the most popular articles about that topic.

content marketing machine

You can click on the View Sharers button to see who helped make these articles popular.


You can then reach out to these people to see if they would be interested in informing their audience of the new information that you have just published on the same subject. Chances are, they will.

The keys to making this strategy work include:

  • Aim to find influencers who have shared a similar topic recently. They’ll likely still be interested in it and therefore interested in your post.


  • Start by trying to find an email address (I use https://www.voilanorbert.com to find their email address ) or website contact form for these influencers and sending them a personalized email about your story. Sell them on why your post will be of interest to their audience.


  • If you can’t find a way to contact these influencers by email, you can tweet them.


Create specific Google Alerts.

You can get boat loads of insane amounts of opportunities to promote your epic content delivered to your inbox via Google Alerts. What you’ll need to do is find specific networks where people ask questions about topics related to your blog post.

Two networks where you’ll find people asking about great online marketing conferences are Quora and Reddit.

content marketing machine

What you can do with Google Alerts is set up an alert that specifically looks for new questions from people about online marketing conferences on Quora and Reddit.

content marketing machine

This search (and similar ones) will send opportunities for you to promote your post direct to your inbox.

The keys to making this strategy work include:

  • Search Google for similar questions that relate to your epic content and note the sites those questions are asked upon.


  • Use a site specific search (site:reddit.com) to minimize the number of emails you receive when someone else publishes a similar blog post.


  • Respond to each question with a portion of your epic content and include your blog post link as a supplement to that answer


The methods outlined above are the same strategies used by the most successful content marketers in the world. Now it’s your turn to build a big audience.

How to apply the research

Ask yourself:

  • Are you planning out your promotion in advance?
  • Which type of promotion strategy will work the best?


KPIs for this goal:

  • Number of leads generated from each piece of content
  • Share on social networks



In life systems will always out perform luck. The sooner you and your company focuses on building out a scalable and quantifiable content machine, the sooner you will see leads and sales improve. And above the most important aspect is.. You will be providing immense value for your tribe.