Your content marketing strategy has a major impact on your ability to connect with your customers. Content allows you to enhance your reputation, improve your SEO and generate new leads. However, not all content is equal. You need a clearly defined strategy if you want to stand apart from your competition and truly serve your customers’ needs. Here are 7 guidelines to help you make a greater impact with your content.
1. Recognize Both Trends and Timeless Principles
Content marketing is always changing. A strategy that might be effective now could be out of date by next year. A new type of device, social media platform or Google algorithm could disrupt the industry overnight. At the same time, you need to recognize that certain content principles are timeless. One of the marketing challenges all businesses face is the ability to understand the difference between trends and timeless principles.
Many aspects of content marketing change. You need to keep up with the latest trends so you keep up.
- Search engine algorithms. For example, in the last few years, Google has introduced ranking factors such as page-loading speed, mobile-friendliness, and security (e.g. security certificates with HTTPS protocol).
- Web design trends. However, there are some general design trends that are worth noting such as responsive design, creative and custom fonts, asymmetrical layouts, and dynamic gradients. You probably won’t want to incorporate every current design trend as you have to consider your own business and audience. However, you should keep up with the latest designs so you know what’s available.
- Social media. Which platforms are growing and which are declining? It’s also crucial to know which platforms your particular audience favors, which may change over time.
There are some fundamental rules of content marketing that never change.
- Target the right audience. If you’re not reaching the right people it doesn’t matter what else you do.
- Consistency. If you don’t publish content regularly, you can’t build your brand or develop relationships with your customers.
- Provide real value. Deliver original and helpful content that addresses your audience’s needs.
- Stay true to your brand. Your content should reflect your unique brand. The style and appearance should remain consistent across platforms.
When planning your content strategy, it’s essential to understand the difference between changing trends and fundamentals. Trends are more about style and appearance. These are important for getting eyeballs on your material and catering to your customers’ tastes. However, it’s even more vital to remain true to timeless principles such as consistently delivering great content.
2. Embrace Trial and Error
There’s no precise formula for creating the ideal content for your audience. You can and should do plenty of demographic research, study your competition, and engage with your readers to find out what they like. However, the best way to find out what does and doesn’t work is to test different strategies and approaches. Think of everything as research. If you don’t get the result you hoped for, this isn’t a failure but valuable data.
Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment
There are more possibilities to publish your content than ever before. Don’t get into a comfortable rut where you’re afraid to try something new. Test new platforms, formats, and topics. While one of the core principles of content marketing is to stay relevant to your audience, this can be broader than you think.
Look for creative ways to connect the interests of your readers/viewers/listeners with topics related to your business. Branching out with your subject matter helps you rank for more search terms and attract a wider audience. For example, if you’re in the health and fitness niche you could publish articles about staying healthy on vacation. If your industry is real estate you could publish a series on local attractions in the areas you cover. Seek connections and ways to expand your sphere of influence.
Insufficient testing is one of the most common digital marketing mistakes businesses make. A/B or split testing is commonly used for paid advertising. However, it can also be useful for content marketing. You can split-test variables such as:
- Headlines. The headline of a blog post, article, or video is what attracts your audience in the first place. You can test different headlines by using different titles in your email or social media marketing. Changing even a single word can make a big difference. Note which version brings better results for future reference.
- Images. Like headlines, images are often crucial for attracting readers. Test different images and image types (e.g. photos, cartoons, infographics) with your audience.
- Content length. Test a variety of lengths for your content such as 500, 1000, 1500, and 2000-word posts. Keep in mind that there are advantages to publishing long-form content apart from your results. Longer pieces tend to be better for SEO and help build your authority. At the same time, if you find that shorter pieces bring you more traffic and engagement you should definitely include them in your mix.
- Topics. It’s essential to know what subjects your audience wants to know about. You can gauge this by measuring engagement on different topics.
- Landing pages and opt-in forms. If you’re building an email list, landing pages, and opt-in forms are an essential part of your content strategy. Test different styles and sizes of forms as well as placement on the page.
Remember to test these and other variables regularly. People’s tastes and preferences change over time. The demographics of your audience can shift as well. What people prefer one year might have changed. Testing isn’t something you just do once but an ongoing practice.
3. Don’t Try to Reach Everyone
It’s natural to want to reach as wide an audience as possible. The more traffic and readers, the better for your business, right? Not necessarily. The idea of reaching a broad, untargeted audience is typical of old-school marketing such as TV commercials and full-page print ads. With digital marketing, you want to focus on reaching the right audience. Without adequate targeting, many of your marketing efforts will be wasted. It won’t help for you to get clicks and engagement from people who aren’t likely to actually buy your products.
Who Are Your Customers?
Identify who your customers are based on criteria such as:
- Demographics such as age, gender, income, and geography. Some demographics will be more relevant to you than others depending on your business. Even if you just opened your business yesterday, you can use demographic research to engage with the people most likely to use your products.
- Look at your existing customers. If you’ve been in business for a while, take a look at the data you already have. It helps, of course, if you collect information from them. Moving forward, it’s a good idea to send out or post brief surveys to better segment your customers.
- Psychographics. This is the study of the psychological factors that drive consumer behavior. Psychographics is currently a controversial field after the recent scandal involving Facebook mishandling member data. The social media company worked with Cambridge Analytica to drill deep into members’ psyches so they could better target ads. While it’s essential to use customer data in an ethical and transparent manner, there’s nothing inherently wrong with researching the inner motivations of customers. The advertising industry has always done this in one way or another even if they didn’t use that term.
Create a Buyer Persona
A buyer persona is a fictional yet still useful individual who represents your typical customer. You can use all the information you’ve accumulated to construct this profile. Alexa.com provides a helpful collection of 10 buyer persona profiles. This technique, while it might seem a little contrived, is actually well suited to content marketing as it allows you to “talk” to a specific person when you write blog posts, social media posts, make videos, or create any type of content.
Many businesses will have multiple buyer personas. For example, a fashion company might sell products targeting men and women of various ages and interests. You could create a buyer persona for each campaign. On the other hand, a company that markets a specific weight loss formula and related products might only have a single buyer persona.
Engage With Your Audience
While studying demographics and your own analytics provides you with valuable data, it’s also important to directly engage with your customers to get their opinions. While hard numbers are valuable, you also want to do qualitative research which provides insights into why customers make decisions. Put more simply, you want to talk to people as well as study them.
- Surveys. You can create polls and surveys on all kinds of topics related to your products and business. You can send these via email, post them to social media, and place them on your website. Answers can help you plan future product releases and gauge the reaction to current products. If you have a retail business your employees can hand out printed surveys. You can give people an incentive to answer your surveys by creating a contest.
- Focus groups. These are extremely useful for gauging reactions to a product. You can arrange focus groups before releasing a product. Participants can suggest helpful changes. Much of the value of these groups comes from informal discussions that participants have amongst themselves. While surveys are great for aggregating reactions such as “like” or “don’t like” or rating items on a scale, focus groups take you deeper and let you listen to detailed feedback.
- Monitor your pages. Always respond to readers who leave comments on your blog or social media pages. If you have a YouTube channel, be sure to monitor comments and answer them. Beyond this, encourage people to respond by asking provocative questions. You can use your platforms to do market research and find out how your audience feels about various issues.
4. Don’t Just Publish Content For Its Own Sake
Never create content just to create content. If you simply publish in order to meet your weekly quota, you’ll never see the results you’re seeking. Poor quality or irrelevant content does you more harm than good. It tarnishes your reputation, alienates your audience, and does damage to your SEO.
Identify Your Objectives
Before you can determine whether a certain strategy is successful or not, you need to have clear objectives. These may include one or more of the following:
- Generate new leads. Publishing great content is one of the best ways to build your mailing list or get prospects to call you.
- Build your brand. Content helps you get more people familiar with your brand.
- Establish your authority. You demonstrate your expertise by publishing informative content.
Most likely, you’d like to achieve all of these objectives with your content. However, you’ll want to emphasize different goals with different pieces of content. So the point is to identify your main objective for each campaign or each item you publish. This helps you avoid applying the wrong criteria when you measure your results. For example, a short blog post with an amusing graphic may generate more leads than a 2000-word thought leadership piece but the latter is more useful for building your authority.
Before creating or publishing content, ask yourself how (and if) it addresses your customers’ needs or interests. This follows from knowing and targeting your audience, of course. There’s no point in doing thorough market research and creating buyer personas if you’re not going to actually create the kind of content your customers want. This also includes publishing material that’s appropriate for your audience’s level of expertise. You don’t want to write over people’s heads or, conversely, something that’s too simplistic.
Authority and Length
Google tends to reward sites that publish authoritative, long-form content. For example, Search Engine Journal reports that the average length of page one results on Google is 1900 words. Of course, word count alone doesn’t make a piece authoritative. It has to also contain valuable information. Nor do you need to exclusively publish long-form pillar content. It’s fine to mix it up and also publish shorter blog posts and to curate content from other sites. However, you should strive to publish authoritative pieces of your own regularly.
5. Bring On the Visuals
Content marketing today is more than blog posts and articles. Visuals are playing an increasingly large role in driving content across the internet. People respond better to visual content such as photos, memes, infographics, and videos than text alone. This doesn’t mean that visual content can replace text. Rather, they should be used to complement one another. An eye-catching image enhances a blog post or web page.
Mix Up Your Content
Today’s internet users like variety. The more variety you provide, the easier it will be for you to grab and maintain your audience’s attention. You can publish various types of content and also incorporate variety into a single piece. For example, you can break up a long-form article with interesting visuals.
Use Quality Graphics
Visuals can really help make your content marketing more effective but only if they are original and captivating. Avoid sharing stock photos or other widely circulated images. Using your own photos or custom graphics is a worthwhile investment in your content strategy. At the very least, use high-quality photos that enhance your reputation.
With infographics, you can include data and communicate complex topics in a visual format. Infographics are also ideal for sharing on social media as well as placing on your website. You can mine your own articles for the content.
Video has grown significantly over the last few years and there’s no reason to think this trend will end anytime soon. More importantly, video drives sales. Animoto reports that 64% of consumers were influenced by Facebook videos when making a buying decision. Of course, videos on other platforms such as YouTube and Instagram are also powerful. Here are some important video marketing tips to keep in mind.
- Incorporate videos on your website. Videos aren’t just for YouTube and Facebook.
- Live Streaming. With competitors such as YouTube Live, Facebook Live, IG Live, there’s every reason to believe live streaming will continue to explode. Live streaming is a powerful way to generate excitement and engage with viewers in real-time.
- AR, VR, and 360-degree video. These types of videos provide a more immersive experience and are especially good for industries such as real estate, hospitality, and the arts.
6. Stick to a Schedule
Quality is more important than quantity when it comes to content marketing. You’re better off publishing some brilliant pieces occasionally than consistently pouring out fluff or garbage. However, you also need to publish on a consistent schedule. If you want to attract a loyal audience, you have to get them accustomed to seeing your blog posts and other material. Otherwise, you won’t stay fresh in their minds and your busier competitors will fill the gap.
While you should have a schedule for content creation, it doesn’t need to be set in stone. You always need to test your results and you may find that it’s helpful to change things up every so often. You might find, for example, that you get a better response by publishing posts in the evening than in the morning (or vice versa). When you make changes, however, it should be for a good reason.
Consistency is helpful for you as well as your customers. A schedule keeps you disciplined. When publishing content has a definite place on your agenda, you’re more likely to do it than if it’s just something you do when you get around to it. When planning your content schedule, consider how often you want to post, what days of the week, and what time of day.
7. Take an Omnichannel Approach
Not so long ago, content marketing was practically synonymous with publishing blogs and articles. Today, however, the definition has expanded to include many other types of content. The increasing popularity of visuals is just one example of this. There are also many other possibilities. The more places you can reach your audience, the easier it is to engage.
When creating content on multiple platforms, however, it’s important to have a strategy. You don’t want to simply have lots of disconnected items floating around cyberspace. Rather, you should aim for an omnichannel approach that connects everything in a seamless manner. Then your customers can decide where to connect with you. This can include many possibilities.
Social media marketing is sometimes considered a subcategory of content marketing and sometimes defined as a distinct category of its own. Either way, it plays a crucial role in supporting your overall content strategy. You don’t need to be on every single social media platform. Facebook and Twitter are fairly universal. However, other platforms are more specialized.
- YouTube. Still the biggest video sharing site and the second-largest search engine after Google.
- Instagram. A fast-growing site that’s quite powerful for visuals. You should definitely use it if you have a younger audience or a product that’s visually interesting (which can include many things such as food, fashion, electronics, pets, anything travel-related, and many other niches).
- Pinterest. Another visual site. Although the majority of users are women, this is gradually changing with many men now joining. Many Pinterest users are actively shopping.
- LinkedIn. Essential for any type of B2B marketing. It’s also a good platform on which to publish content, including both daily updates and longer-form articles.
- Snapchat. This site is currently struggling a bit. After introducing the Stories feature, Instagram promptly copied it and quickly attracted more users. Facebook also has Stories as well. Snapchat, however, is still popular with younger audiences.
Email marketing and content marketing are an ideal combination. When you collect email addresses, you have a powerful vehicle to promote all of your content. Of course, as with everything else you create, you need to provide value in your messages or newsletter. However, informing your subscribers of an informative blog post can be quite helpful.
Podcasting has been growing quickly in the last few years. People listen to podcasts while driving, exercising, or doing chores around the house. This format is quite popular with millennials but people of all ages are tuning in on their smartphones and tablets. You can conduct interviews, review products, or discuss anything you choose. You can also announce your website URL and social media pages with each broadcast.
Webinars give you the chance to connect with your audience live. They can be used to pre-sell products and services, conduct interviews, or hold focus group sessions with customers. You can also convert your webinar into a video and upload it to YouTube, your website, or anywhere else.
Publishing books on Kindle and other self-publishing platforms is another content strategy that’s excellent for branding. Many brands sell their books for low prices such as 99 cents or even give them away. One advantage of e-books is that you can include live links. Be aware, however, that Amazon and other publishing sites have restrictions regarding promotional content in books. These rules are frequently updated so make sure you consult them so you don’t violate TOS.
These are some examples of platforms and content types you can incorporate into an omnichannel strategy. Offering content in multiple formats gives your audience a choice and lets you reach them on the devices and channels they prefer.
Content Marketing: An Evergreen Strategy That’s Always Evolving
These 7 tips can help you create a successful content marketing strategy to help you build your brand. It’s important to stay current on the latest changes in the industry while also staying true to the fundamentals such as providing material that’s helpful and relevant to your audience.
Are you ready to experience a shift in the client/agency relationship? At RedShift, we do things a little differently, using a data-driven, transparent, and customer-driven strategy. Our approach is customized to your needs and we help you design campaigns tailored to your unique business. To find out how we can help your business reach the next stage in its growth, contact us.