Over the past decade or so, relationships between brands and customers have evolved from scattershot, one-way advertising to intensely intimate marketing. Today we have at our disposal the data and means to make meaningful connections, bringing to bear the power and persuasion of an in-home sales pitch based on knowledge and customer desire.
To harness that power, marketers developed inbound (content) marketing. And as the web becomes ever more crowded with words and clutter, the content you create can't be mediocre, or good, or even better than average.
Your content has to have a level of excellence that shines through the mediocrity and positions your brand as an industry leader, the go-to expert for all things in your field.
It can all be a little intimidating. Far too many businesses decide on quantity over quality and fill their sites with words no one wants to read about topics already rehashed dozens of times – or worse, a long string of poorly disguised sales pitches masquerading as a blog.
Forget quantity. Go for quality and promotion.
Producing quality content
This is the confusing part. Year after year, studies show that length wins the internet. Specifically, quality content longer than 3,000 words gets the most attention. Does it seem strange that 85 percent of posts are shorter than 1,000 words?
There is no hard-and-fast rule that defines quality content.
While some popular websites exist solely on short, juicy posts, it's important to note that most of them are entertainment blogs, or blogs related to highly visual themes. Travel, food, fashion, celebrity news, humor, and even science topics can be reduced to appetizer-style small bites of information with stunning photos adding to the shareability factor.
So what happens if you're not in an industry ordinarily associated with visuals? You need to find another way to make your content interesting and relevant.
1. Begin with your base.
Great content is all about what your customers want to know. Think about how people search. They enter a search term, read the title and descriptions on the first page, and click on the post they think is most relevant. If it's not what they are looking for, they will click away, ruining your bounce rate.
Really get to know your base. Connect on social media. Deep-dive into your data. Answer these questions and let your content flow from there:
- Who am I talking to? You need a clear picture of your customer. Not simply basic demographic information like age and gender, but specifics.
- Buying habits: What do they buy and when? What do other people buy after making similar purchases?
- Family members: Do they have children? What age?
- Lifestyle: Hobbies? Sports and activities?
- What social media channels do they frequent? What kind of content are they most likely to share? What time and day are they most active?
- How does my brand/product fit into my customer's life?
- What are their needs and pain points?
- Why is my brand uniquely qualified to answer their needs?
- When is the best time to share and promote my content to reach the most customers?
Make your content compelling by avoiding recitation of dry fact. "Here are my product specs …" is deathly boring. You want to excite your customers. Be creative. Tell them how your product or service will impact their lives. Show them how they can use your product and explain what pain point your product will address.
2. Find your keywords.
The old keyword "rules" are out – thank goodness – but keywords are still important. Start with the keywords your competitors rank for and build related content for each stage of the buying process using high-value keywords.
Don't make the mistake of repeating keyword phrases throughout the text. You want to write the best available content on a subject. Simple keyword search does not exist anymore. Search engine results pages (SERPs) are sophisticated enough to understand what users mean, not just what they type.
3. Write in a simple, direct style.
Your customers and potential customers are looking for specific information. That's what your blog should be about. It's that simple. Keep the writing personable, simple and straightforward. You're not writing a mystery novel or a poem. Don't be cryptic or flowery, and limit technical or industry-specific language.
You are not writing for other industry professionals. You're writing for laymen who are interested in your goods or services. Don't make them work for it.
4. Use your unique values.
One thing you have that no other company in the world has is your customer data, and within any industry, the most interesting thing is data. You can get multiple SEO boosts from producing authoritative, data-driven reports:
- Quality links from other industry blogs (often even competitors)
- New visitors to your site
- Social media shares, which generate social signals
- Interest from journalists and links from news sites
All of these factors increase your authority and boost your SEO rank. Extracting ad-analyzing data can be difficult, but the payoff is usually worth the work.
Data-driven reports include customer surveys, case studies and bulk analysis. Bloggers and journalists link to these kinds of reports to support their writing.
5. Make it interesting.
The most boring thing you can do with your content is the same thing ... over and over and over. Avoid sameness by varying your content. Broaden your topics without straying too far from your wheelhouse. Here's an example of a boring industry and how you can grab your customer's attention.
If your product is a software application used by the food service industry to manage inventory, you can use your data to write about the following:
- Spoilage: Your software can help them reduce loss by more accurate ordering. Teach them how to work it.
- Theft: Theft is a huge problem in the industry; can tracking inventory identify patterns?
- Seasonal foods: Inventory tracking software can show unusual things, if you get creative. For example, a baker might sell more cupcakes on rainy days and cookies when it's scorching outside.
- Regional preferences: What foods sell best in which areas? Can you suggest similar foods that might go over well?
- Record-breaking sales: What types of food service businesses are ordering most?
- Demographics: What kind of people choose what kind of food? Do older people prefer American homestyle (meatloaf and mashed potatoes) and 30-somethings want more unique cuisine (Asian fusion tacos)? This kind of information can help restaurant owners refine their menus and food trucks find the best place to park.
You get the idea. Surprise your customers with ideas they won't find elsewhere.
You also want to vary your media. We've already talked about varying post length, but you may also want to consider adding videos, graphics, tutorials, podcasts, slideshows and anything else your customers will enjoy. And if they share something, do more of it!
6. Write kick-ass titles.
The title is the single most important thing on the page, with the meta description coming in at a close second. Your title and description is your hook; the best ones intrigue the reader without being deceptive.
Spend plenty of time crafting a title your readers cannot resist. CoSchedule has a headline analyzer tool and a lot of resources relating to creating a great title. Use it to refine your idea until it's a high-scorer, but be careful. Google has declared war on clickbait titles. Headlines like "You Won't Believe What Happened Next" rarely deliver whatever exciting thing the reader expects.
Promise the valuable content users are looking for and then deliver the best version of that content on the web.
You've produced great content. Now what?
Wouldn't it be fantastic if you publish a post and so many people read it your site crashes? Forget it. It could happen, but it's a unicorn. The harsh truth is that your post is going nowhere without intense promotion, and you can't do it alone. This is where social media comes into play.
Social distribution is the beginning. You publish your work, share it on your social media channels, email it to your list ... and hope for the best? No. You can do better.
Social amplification is when others read your content and share it through their networks, and some of their friends share, and so on. Your first layer of social amplification is friends, family, employees and loyal customers.
The advent of social media took word-of-mouth advertising to another dimension. Brand references both negative and positive spread like wildfire when influencers get involved. Influencer marketing is one of the most effective ways to grow your brand, attract new sales and retain your loyal customers.
Influencers are not always who you think they are. You can spend time courting people with huge social media followings and not necessarily see a benefit. An influencer's value is not strictly about how many followers they have. Microinfluencers with only a few hundred loyal followers are rapidly becoming a thing. Their audiences may be small, but they are often far more engaged, focused and receptive.
Look at people who actively engage the audience you most want to reach. Find those people who are passionate about your industry – the brand evangelists and niche promoters who will spark their followers to action.
How to define your influencers
Here's how to identify the right influencers for your brand:
- Niche. The first step is to connect with people already talking about your brand, your industry or your niche. Search social media channels for keywords and hashtags related to your business, and connect to everyone who consistently posts about your industry.
- Reach. Once you find people who seem to be great fits for your brand, look at the size of their following – and their followers. When you engage an influencer, amplification happens when your brand reaches their audience.
- Engagement. Do their followers also discuss industry topics? Do they respond and retweet? Your ideal influencers have active, engaged followers. They have earned trust from their followers.
Extending your reach
List of influencers in hand, it's time to engage. Way too many "experts" tell you to make friends before soliciting influencers, but few tell you how to do that. Participate in public conversations about your industry, retweet their interesting tweets, comment on and share their blog posts, and ask for their opinions.
You may also want to consider offering them swag. Can you offer free product or services for review? Sponsor a blogger event in your area? Offer a special prize as an incentive for a blogging contest, with extra entries if they share on social media? Start an affiliate program?
Note: When you make offers to bloggers or other social media influencers, make sure they comply with FTC rules by disclosing any incentives.
Successful content marketing depends on four things: stellar content, onsite and outreach SEO, engagement, and reach. These tips can give you everything you need to launch a successful marketing campaign.