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Developing a Content Marketing Strategy...That Actually Works

Ann Smarty

Creating a content marketing strategy is easy. Creating one that actually manages to significantly increase visibility and promote engagement? That isn't always quite so simple.

We live in an age where marketing is a given for anything from product based selling to personal blog promotion. Whole marketing campaigns exist to promote social media profiles, and influencers are literal commodities in their own rights. People trade off of their reputation in a way more direct than ever before. In short, it has made it harder to stand out.

Despite all of the changes, content is still king. You just need to know what kind of content to create, how to market it, and what the results might be. Consider this your official checklist on the matter, so you can develop the best content marketing strategy possible.

1. Quality, Not Quantity

great-content-01It has been said again and again, and yet the number of people who are producing mediocre (or terrible) content in mass quantities is still staggeringly high. One possible reason is a lack of understanding about what 'quality' means.

Creating quality content isn't just about the content itself, but the purpose behind it (Tweet This). You can throw a coat of paint on a piece of scrap metal, but it is still just a piece of scrap metal. It doesn't turn it into a Maserati, no matter how much you polish the surface.

David McSweeney put it very well in the group interview I was reading the other day:

A year back my advice (and thought process) was write often and regularly -- kind of the copyblogger model. I was aiming to publish at least 2-3 articles every week.

While I still think the quality was good (most of my posts running to between 1,500 and 2,000 words) I have got much more traction in the past 6 months from publishing less often, ensuring every post has a real purpose and taking the time to properly promote the content. I guess I used to be scared that my audience would go away if I didn't keep 'feeding' them.

The truth is, if your content is truly exceptional, the gaps in between will build a hunger from your audience for more. Brian Dean (@backlinko) is a good example of how to do this right!

The same concept lies behind the new community we are building called MyBlogU: Creating epic content takes time and it's easier to accomplish via collaboration (think group interviews, visual quoting, etc)

2. Don't Blog Because You Have to...

Continuing the previous idea, you should be aiming to create content that offers something of genuine value to the people viewing it. Maybe it is information or a perspective they haven't seen, or something really cool or meaningful. But it should be more than just content created for the sake of upping how much you have making the rounds.

That is why I often recommend people not write blog posts or release videos based on a set schedule. It goes against usual advice, but only writing something when you have a lot to say will increase the worth of that content (Tweet This). Releasing a bunch to stay on schedule cheapens it, and lessens the impact.

While a set schedule may organize you better, it may kill creativity. Don't confuse this with editorial calendars (which are great!). Here's how the two are different in my mind:

  • Set schedule: Committing to blog every Monday (I'd avoid that)
  • Editorial calendar: Planning consistent columns (based on Twitter chats, for example), organizing guest contributions, planning contest promotions ahead of time, etc.

It's good to have a plan unless it kills your creativity!

3. Personalize Your Tone

Everyone wants to create a tone in their content, because it helps to brand you. That is a fundamental purpose behind marketing. However, there is an additional benefit to this process that you may not have taken into account. Having a tone helps you to produce more natural content on a more regular basis.

Think of it as a starting point. You might not know exactly what you want to say, even if you have a topic in mind. But knowing the tone of the article, and how it will be presented to the reader, can help bring to mind certain phrases or concepts. Those will, in turn, help to spark your imagination, right?

At least that is the idea, and worth a shot. If nothing else, it connects you to your target base.

4. Don't Follow The Status Quo

I will be the first to admit that sometimes I go looking at other people's ideas when I need some inspiration to spark my own. But I don't copy the topics wholesale; I try to think of what hasn't been said, and what I can contribute to the discussion. More than that, I try to think of a way to present it that doesn't follow the usual pattern of content I have seen.

For example, I might like the idea of writing an article on enhancing SERP results for YouTube videos. But I have seen a dozen dry, technical blog posts explaining the need for a Schema code, site map and meta data enhancement.

In order to avoid becoming just another voice in the crowd, and so potentially undermining the effectiveness of my own content marketing strategy, I think of what I can do that isn't so common. For this particular piece I might avoid writing a post and instead create an infographic. Or maybe do a slideshow that attempts to both show and create a story, injecting a bit of humor in the process.

You can see the final work here (I was able to re-use it on Slideshare as well)

Ask yourself: what is more likely to be shared? The infographic, or the dry technical post?

5. Look To Your Past

One of the best resources you have at your disposal in a marketing strategy is your old content. Why? Because it gives you two key elements for boosting your results:

  1. A look into what your target audience is looking for/likes; and
  2. A chance to re-package that content into a new format that attracts a whole other audience.

If your audience as you currently see it has already shown you the value of that particular piece, why wouldn't you want to provide it to others who may find it useful?

From turning old blog posts into an ebook, to creating a video of you explaining a process or discussing a topic, old content is ripe for an exciting update that reaches new eyes. If you aren't recreating your past work you are missing out on a major opportunity (Tweet This).

Here's a graphical example of re-packaging Google Hangouts into different types of formats and thus creating more value:


6. Target The Right Social Network For You

There is no "right" social network for marketing. Everyone has their preference, and they will defend it to the death. But in the end it is a matter of personal opinion, based on nothing more than a bias developed from experience.

You should aim to find a social network that works best for how you plan to market your content. Once that part is mastered, you may start trying to switch and combine them (focus is essential at the very beginning)

If connecting with social influencers is important to you... try Twitter. Some of the most influential users on the social web are there, and enjoy connecting one on one through the platform.

For those looking for professional connections.... try LinkedIn or Google+. Both have a high level of professionals, and a (forgive me) almost elitist feel that manages to strengthen the community, rather than tear it apart.

To directly promote a mix of content in various forms... try Facebook and StumbleUpon. One is great for personal engagement, one for generating clicks-through to the content itself.

With an eye for the visually appealing... go for Pinterest. It provides a platform directly correlating with visual content, such as pictures, videos and graphics.

Do you have a tip I didn't cover? Some feedback? Leave them below!

(Image via

Image Credit: NanoStockk / Getty Images
Ann Smarty Member
Ann Smarty is the social media enthusiast and active blogger writing about Internet marketing, search and social trends and productivity. Ann is the founder of, co-founder of Viral Content Buzz and Brand and Community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. Ann is also an active columnist at Search Engine Journal, Small Biz Trends, Lifehack and many others.