Running a successful business relies on constantly evolving and adapting to changing trends. This doesn’t just consist of bringing in new products or editing services provided to customers. It also includes marketing. Content marketing has proven essential for companies spanning the last several decades, yet with so many businesses taking advantage of content marketing, it takes a little bit extra to stand out from the throngs of competing businesses. The problem here lies in understanding how to stand out and what actions help boost exposure and put the right eyes on the created content. Regardless of industry, the size of the company or how long it has been in business, these 12 tips from marketing experts will help any business get the most out of its content marketing content and strategy.
1) “Look at the CTAs in and around your site and improve them for subscriber growth. Often, we are so busy extracting value from customers and prospects that we don’t focus on providing true value in our content products.” – Joe Pulizzi
The call to action is one of the single most important parts of any marketing material. If a prospective client doesn’t clearly know what to do at the conclusion of the content, they may not do what the writer/company wants them to do. A poor call to action is also one of the most common problems companies have with the quality of their content. It doesn’t matter how great the rest of the material is, if the CTA doesn’t work, the entire piece doesn’t work.
The suggestion here, given by Joe Pulizzi, is the importance of not only focusing on a great call to action but updating the CTA around the website for any updates to the company’s marketing approach. It is always important to continually evolve outreach methods. As outreach changes, many websites fail to update other aspects of the site, such as the CTA. By looking at the current call to actions listed on the website and updating everything to ensure everything is direct, easy to understand and fresh, it helps increase subscriber growth, click through rates and follower numbers.
2) “Smart content marketers flip the script and think about how they can successfully promote and amplify their content first, and then build content to align with those strengths.” – Jay Baer
Many marketers focus on creating content. From there, they search for ways to spread the word of the material. This, as Jay Baer points out, is actually backward. Great content is nice to have, but if it doesn’t connect with consumers or have a clear avenue for exposure, it’s meaningless. Instead, Mr. Baer suggests flipping the script and focusing on ways to promote and amplify content first, then building and creating great content second. This way, there are clear channels for boosting visibility and bringing in more customers through the specially targeted material.
Jay doesn’t give specifics for identifying ways to boost promotional methods for content marketing. This likely is because every business is a bit different. What works for one may not work for the other. Naturally, there are a handful of commonalities, such as social media, blogging and so on. However, the best performing promotional methods rely heavily on the company’s key demographic and what target customers are more likely to interact with. A business needs to focus on identifying what promotional methods work, build a presence on these platforms, and then create marketing material from there.
3) “Formatting is a fast, cheap way to improve your current content. Make sure your articles use subheads, short paragraphs, internal links, bullet lists, and multiple images. This will slow down the scanners and reduce your bounce rate. If your visitors hit a wall of text, they’re likely to bounce.” – Andy Crestodina
Andy Crestodina hits one of the most important aspects of content marketing right on the head. Formatting is essential. Without proper formatting, nobody is going to read the content. The fact of the matter is, attention spans are dwindling now due to the Internet, social media and smartphones. If content doesn’t grab someone’s attention and pull them in, they will just skip out on the material and look for something else.
So, what does formatting have to do with drawing someone in? When a visitor first arrives on a blog or other post, they will look to see if it can be skimmed easily. Visitors will run for the hills if a post consists of giant blocks of text. Blocks of text cannot be scanned easily. A reader wants short paragraphs, with block headers, bullet points and other easy to access information. From there they can pick and choose the parts of a post they read. Then, if it proves interesting enough, they may then read the entire posted content.
Creating visually pleasing material is a must. It does not matter how great the content is because if a visitor is frightened away from the material, they’ll never know the quality. Too many content writers look towards the formatting they used in high school and college. Even journalists fall into this trap as well. Elaborating and drawing out paragraphs for more information doesn’t help the visibility factor. So even if it means breaking up a single idea into multiple paragraphs, if it helps reduce bounce rate and keep visitors on the content, it needs to be executed.
What’s important to remember here is not all content is viewed on a computer screen. Every year, more views move from traditional desktops to smartphones and tablets. Due to the smaller nature of the screens, it becomes that much more important for content to be easily read on the device, without appearing in large, block form. Outside of editorialized content for major news publications (such as large stories for the New York Times or The Wall Street Journal), content posted online needs to follow this marketing tip.
4) “Create content that adds value, invest in experienced journalists to investigate, unearth and write your stories and finally, expect that it will take time to position your brand as an authority in your space.” – Rakhal Ebeli
The quality of content is and always will be important to readers, customers, and subscribers. If the quality is not there, neither will the readers be. After all, with so many other options out there, why would a potential customer spend the time reading inferior material, content they’ve already read before, or poorly crafted and executed publications?
One of the biggest problems, at Rakhal Ebeli, eludes to, is companies relying on staff members who are not writers by trade and who do not have the necessary skills to produce exceptional, scannable and readable material. They pay staff members with a background in something other than writing or journalism and expect an upper-tier caliber level of marketing publications.
The issue with just having a staff member write blog posts is it is an ineffective way to reach customers and new readers. Investing in an experienced journalist or writer does require more money up front. They will cost more to write a blog post than someone on staff. However, these individuals are trained professionals who have worked in the field. They know how to sift out important data with an eye for detail. They understand what draws a reader in and what connects with the demographic. All of this goes to improving not just the quality of the content, but also the likelihood of someone both reading the material and returning to future posts.
Relying on professional writers doesn’t just increase quality and boost RSS subscribers though. It also helps establish a brand as an authority on the subject. A reader will see the quality of the work and gain knowledge from it. The carried out investigative research ensures this. When readers routinely learn from posts, they will identify the entire company as an authority on the subject. This means they will begin to turn to the brand for insights, news, and suggestions with regards to the industry. It also increases their chances of buying products and services from the company.
So, while the initial investment in such a writer is higher than having an employee create the content, the investment more than pays off for itself in the long run.
5) “Before you ever create content, I urge you to ask the critical question:Who will help amplify this and why?If you don’t have a great answer, a specific list of people, don’t create it.” – Rand Fishkin
Spreading the word of great content shouldn’t rely completely on a company’s own social media accounts. This can only take it so far and, in the long run, it only connects with the same recipients over and over. Following these tactics limits potential growth and may not bring about the desired impact of great content marketing. That is why, before focusing on additional blog titles or marketing material, it’s necessary to look at who, or what will help amplify the content. In other words, what outlets are available for growing and sharing content marketing?
For starters, are there social media influences that might prove beneficial? If a makeup company wants to expand its outreach, connecting with current social media personalities with large followings can help not only expand the brand but present the content marketing in front of new eyes.
This shouldn’t be a top-of-the-head kind of list. While brainstorming within the company can help identify some possibilities, it is wise to research perspective people and accounts who may help with content marketing. From popular blogs and websites to collaborating over YouTube channels and paying influencers to feature marketing and material within Instagram posts, every business needs to take a hard look at who will help amply the product and why.
Once a company creates a list of people, companies, storefronts, websites and others who can help amplify, it is necessary to identify why each would go about doing this. Do the companies share the same vision, or is the product line something an influencer might have interest in? If a company is unable to answer the who and the why, as Rand Fishkin puts it, it’s better to just not create anything in the first place. It may just be a waste of money, time and resources.
6) “Keep researching your clients’ needsby always asking them questions. Next time you organize a client event don’t just ask if the room temperature was all right but ask them what the next event should be about. What you’re actually asking is what is on top of their mind, use that to produce content that really resonates.” – AJ Huisman
The more a business knows about its key demographic, the easier it is at reaching them through content marketing. However, much like a business, the target audience evolves over time. What’s important to a customer one year may not be their top priority the next year. That is why it is so important for a business to continually research their client’s needs. It’s why AJ Huisman points out the need to always ask client questions.
Far too often, companies don’t ask customers the right questions. They ask generalized questions that don’t (or won’t) provide any real insight into what the customer is thinking. It’s important to find out what’s on the top of the customer’s mind. This doesn’t just need to be in regards to products the company sells but in life in general.
By identifying what’s on the top of a customer’s mind, it becomes easier to market to them. Marketing is all about identifying the problems of a customer and showing how a company’s products or services can address these issues.
There are many ways a business can go about asking questions. Offering quick surveys at the end of a purchase can help. Many companies do this and promise a product giveaway, shopping discounts or other benefits for helping in market research. When holding customer events or gatherings, this is another perfect time to ask what is on the minds of those present.
The information gathered directly from customers can then be used to produce content marketing that hits home on what’s important to consumers currently, which in turn helps the material resonate.
7) “Take the time to really get to know your audienceby building personas.” – Ardath Albee
Building the persona of a company’s key demographic goes hand in hand with the previous step. The more a business knows about those who may prove interested in the company’s products and services, the easier it is to reach them through content marketing.
Many businesses have varying demographics. It isn’t just one kind of person shopping with the company but several. Some may fall into sub-categories within a given demographic, but the clearer the average consumer’s persona is, the easier it becomes to tailor crafting material for the consumer. Therefore, as Ardath Albee points out, it is necessary to build customer personas.
A customer persona includes everything from their economic standing, their age, whether they are married, have kids, live in the suburbs, urban area or out in a rural destination. It covers what their political affiliation is, their taste in music, average education level and what they are more likely to wear. Because there are so many different variations within a demographic, creating different personals off of gathered information is needed.
Each persona should receive specified content marketing. As someone who lives in a rural community with a larger family and a higher income may respond to certain posts differently than a person who lives in an urban community in a condo with parents. Research is the name of the game for content marketing. The more research, the better the results from all future marketing campaigns.
8) “A simple rule to consider is tospend 20% of resources on production, and 80% on promotion.” – Paul Roetzer
There’s no point in creating great content if nobody is ever going to see it. This is the prime motivator with Paul Roetzer’s comment. He has found that, over the years, most content creators spend the vast majority of their time producing content while, on the flip side, spending very little time sharing it. In reality, it should be the other way around.
It takes a considerable amount of time to create quality content. From the research required to separate the article from others already online to paying a skilled writer to produce the content in the first place, content marketing deserves its time in the spotlight. That is why it is important to spend more time sharing and promoting the content simply producing the content. After all, if nobody knows about the content, it doesn’t matter how great it is. Instead of paying for and working on two articles nobody will end up reading, it’s far better to create one article and spend time and energy on making sure people do discover and read it.
9) “Tell better, more relevant and more unique stories. Many are pushing out content, but it’s too similar to others and not really a differentiator. Go story shopping, find those unique stories and share them.” – Christoph Trappe
Before sitting down to write a new blog post, the writer needs to stop and answer one important question: does it address an issue that hasn’t already been covered to death? So much online is simply repeated information from a different author. If it doesn’t bring with it a unique viewpoint or new ideas, is there any purpose in actually writing about it? If consumers have already read the exact same article from someone else, there’s no benefit to them in reading the material again. Instead, it’ll just come out as a waste of time for the consumer, which in turn will hinder content marketing as the consumer will become far less likely to return and read additional blog posts.
Publishing similar content with no new direction or angle just to populate a website doesn’t do much, if anything, for content marketing. It creates an additional post, which may bring about a new link while keeping the site fresh for Google to crawl. But outside of maintaining search engine optimization rankings, it does little to aid in content marketing. And besides, it would prove far more beneficial to focus on creating fresh content or focus on current content with a new twist to it.
By creating brand new content, a website not only gains the SEO benefits, but it also will see an improvement in unique visitors and better retention numbers. Nobody wants to waste their time. Both customers and producers understand time is money. A consumer doesn’t want to waste their time reading duplicate content, and a company should not waste its own time producing it. So before rushing out to produce nearly identical material that’s already found throughout the Internet, it’s better to go story shopping and uncover new, unique ideas to write about.
10) “This year, I learned how important it is to know your content landscape. Some topics are more saturated with content than others and knowing that saturation level is an important first step in planning a strategy that will engage an audience.” – Susan Moeller
Susan Moeller’s tip is similar to that of Christoph Trappe. Understanding the saturation level of the current landscape is a must. Overly saturated content won’t do much for anyone outside of wasting time. However, Susan provides an additional layer to this idea.
The landscape for a given industry is different from another, even if the topic is similar. For example, writing on how contaminated water affects humans may be something the healthcare industry has covered inside and out. However, writing on how contaminated water can affect livestock may not have received the same kind of coverage for the farming industry. Often times, content is produced and published to focus on a very specific industry. This is where understanding not only the saturation levels are important but also knowing what has been covered within a given industry is essential.
Putting in the necessary research for this idea doesn’t just help uncover valuable story ideas for a company’s content marketing strategy, but it may outline a very important topic that hasn’t receive much, if any attention, for a given industry. Despite using a similar, short-tail keyword such as “contaminated water,” producing long-tail keywords focusing on “how contaminated water affects livestock” may reveal not just an important topic to write about, but a valuable one.
One of the most important and underlying tips every single marketing expert relies on within their strategies is research. From researching landscape saturation and the changing mindset of a key demographic to identifying people who may be able to share the written blog post, nearly everything in the world of content marketing comes down to research.
11) “The biggest tool for creating the content strategy is the community. Each month, I look at Twitter and Slack and ask the people I know what they’re interested in.” – Emily Schiola
Producing quality content that brings readers in time and time again relies on connecting with a target audience. The best way for it to be shared by the target audience is by growing and nurturing a company’s community. This includes social media platforms, email lists and physical, brick and mortar customers. Every business is a bit different, but as Emily Schiola points out, one of the best tools for generating quality content is to turn to the community.
Discussing issues and what is important to customers helps outline the kind of topics content marketing should focus on. Perhaps customers are interested in what it takes for free trade coffee to come from Peru and make it to the United States. Or consumers want to make sure the items they are purchasing from a company do not stem from child labor. A company’s marketing department may have no clue as to what customers are truly interested in learning about. Yes, a customer knows about the product and they may know what it is used for. But there is so much more to the process consumers are interested in. It just takes, again, a little bit of research to uncover this information.
Emily Schiola said she uses Twitter and Slack to communicate with consumers and company followers. This works for her. Every business in this way is a bit different. Twitter might work, or Facebook, or Instagram or even YouTube. There’s no shortage of ways to work with a growing community and uncovering what the community is interested in.
It may take a writer, business owner or content marketer some experimentation to find out the best ways of idea discovery. They may also find followers on one social platform provide different insights than those on another. That is to be expected as each social platform has a different general audience. But there’s nothing wrong with bringing in varying viewpoints and ideas. In fact, it can help provide more ideas to write about.
12) “Don’t try to be everything to everyone and try to tick off all the boxes at once. Identify where your expertise lands and how it intersects with your company’s mission (this will help you come up with your core content themes) and know your audience. Write really thoughtful content that’s useful to your audience, first and foremost, and figure out how to get it out to as many people as possible.” – Kasey Fleisher Hickey
It’s impossible to be great at everything. There simply is not enough time in the day (or in a life) to become a master at everything. Despite this, far too many marketers and business owners try to be good at everything. This results in sub-par material across the board. It’s similar to a restaurant with an elaborate menu featuring food types from around the world. With a restaurant’s menu is the size of a novel, it doesn’t mean everything will be bad, but it usually means nothing is great. As Kasey Fleisher Hickey points out, it is better to not be everything and check off all the boxes at once, but instead, focus on the one thing a person is great at and focus on it.
A writer is not going to have all the answers. When creating content, they are not going to know the ins and outs of the pharmaceutical industry, the automotive industry, creative writing and pet care. They may instead have one or two specialties they typically focus on and have the greatest amount of knowledge about. It is important to focus on what a content writer understands and use his or her knowledge to produce high-quality content. When someone with next to no understanding of a product or service attempts to write about it, the audience will instantly pick up on it. Someone who’s never seen the inner working of a semi-truck engine will have no basis on how to write repair blogs, and a reader will instantly figure this out, which in turn will turn off the reader from all future posts.
Not everyone in the marketing department can be Superman. It’s just not possible. Content marketing is all about providing quality content to customers that offers a unique reading experience and can be shared in many different ways. For business owners who create their own content marketing all the way to members of an expansive advertising department, the very best move available is to focus on what they know, understand, and love. All of that will come out in the content while hooking the reader and bringing them in for more.
The foundation of all great content marketing strategies is excellent content. Without quality material, to begin with, an advertising campaign will fall flat on its nose. However, quality isn’t the only pillar holding up the campaign. It requires research, understanding the key demographic, knowing what’s already out there and targeting outreach methods. By taking advantage of these 12 tips from marketing experts, it’s possible for any business, regardless of industry, size or length of time it’s been around, to reach new customers and see an increased return on investment for the entire advertising strategy.