Doing content marketing is one thing. Getting results is another.
Most businesses doing content marketing are focused mainly on their blog, with perhaps some promotion and guest blogging thrown in.
That’s not going to cut it.
It’s time to take your content marketing up a notch. To help, I’ve put together some content marketing tips that will help you be more strategic, create higher quality content, and get better results too.
Here they are, 15 tips designed to improve your content marketing results.
1. Know Your Audience
Your readers are the reason you create content. It should be for them and about them—not about your brand or your benefits or the next product you want them to buy.
Get to know your readers, and you won’t have any trouble coming up with ideas for ground-breaking content.
Keep in mind, though, great ideas aren’t enough. You need to create content your audience wants to read. Here’s how…
Solve their biggest problems
Figure out what they want to achieve and what their goals are. If they have questions, provide the answers. If they want to do something, show them how.
Your goal when creating content is to solve problems, entertain, inspire and educate—not to merely create content but to create destination pieces for your audience.
Deliver solutions in the formats they prefer
Some people like written content. Others like video or audio. Some people want short, quick answers to their questions. Others want think pieces, strategy, or how-tos.
You need to know what your best customers want and need. And the only way to know that is to create content in a wide variety of formats and lengths, then watch your metrics.
Track your share counts, the number of comments you get, your traffic and clickthrough rates. Use your metrics to help you identify people’s interests so you can deliver the information and the formats they like best.
2. Stay Current and Relevant
The best content speaks to the topics and issues your audience is thinking about now. It’s relevant and useful today. It’s not recycled content that everyone’s read a million times already.
So how do you ensure your content is fresh and useful today?
Always be researching
Research shouldn’t be reserved for planning or writing sessions only. The quality of your content will increase substantially if you do it on an ongoing basis, as ideas pop into your head.
Don’t just browse the Web. Research the Web. Whenever you’re online, be on the lookout for material that could help you tell your stories.
Pay attention to what’s trending, to the questions people are asking and issues they’re discussing. Then make sure your content joins the conversation.
Always be learning
Always be reading, studying what others are doing, and attending courses and events.
Read the best-selling books in your industry. Read books outside your industry. Read history and literature and cereal boxes.
The more input you have, the more connections you can make and the more stories you can tell.
Always be listening
The best way to staying current is to talk to real, live, breathing people.
Interact with them. Listen to them. The stuff you see in other blogs reflects recent and historical trends, but what you learn in live conversations will reflect new trends, the topics that are unfolding in real time.
3. Write Better Content
No matter how experienced or talented you are, writing is an art that needs to be nurtured and honed. Don’t expect to “arrive” at some magical moment where your writing is perfect. That moment doesn’t exist.
But don’t let that stop you. To be a great writer and write better content, you only need to master the basics of good writing.
Plain writing is best
Short paragraphs, short sentences, and easy words are the most readable. Don’t try to win any writing awards. Aim for clarity instead.
Forget most of what you learned in English class. Good writing comprises plain ideas dressed in plain clothes. So write like you talk, then go back and clean it up.
Details, details, details
In all communication, it’s the details that bring ideas to life.
Perhaps you’re writing a how-to piece or analysis. Find research or case studies to back up your points. Wherever possible, find real data to support your recommendations. Make concrete statements rather than abstractions.
Maybe you’re telling a story or reviewing a new product. Get screenshots or photos to show readers what happened. Don’t just tell. Show. Give the inside scoop.
What about a think piece? Tell readers why your idea is important… how it will affect them… what the challenges are… the trends that make it relevant today.
It’s the details that make your content worth reading. So avoid general statements. Bring your content to life with details.
Add a pinch of personality
There’s a reason people don’t usually read textbooks for fun. They’re b-o-r-i-n-g.
But writing that feels like a personal conversation? You’ll turn off the TV to read something like that.
Your goal as a writer is to let your personality show through, as if you’re talking face to face. Whatever you say, say it with style. If it’s fun and valuable, your audience will love you.
Depth and length should match
There are two things that make writing difficult to read. One is not giving enough detail, so you introduce an idea without saying anything about it. The other is to try to give too much detail for the space allowed.
Make sure you only go as deep as your length allows.
- Short articles should only provide a high-level discussion of your topic or in-depth coverage of one aspect of it.
- Longer content has the space to provide more details.
Speaking of length: there are high-value blog posts of just 400 words and low-value ebooks of 5,000 words. Don’t be fooled. Length does not equal quality.
The thing that makes one piece of content higher quality than another is its depth of coverage. Rather than rehashing ideas that are already making people yawn, high-quality content says something new: new ideas, new data, new conclusions.
Interesting. Fresh. That’s the key.
It takes work, of course, and brain power. But without a little effort, your content will blend into the background. It won’t catch their attention, and it won’t impress them if it does.
Don’t post unless you have something new to say
If you’re scraping ideas (and especially if you’re scraping entire articles) from another site, you’re wasting your followers’ time.
Shallow content that regurgitates other people’s ideas doesn’t impress anyone. Look for something new to say and you’ll gain a lot more respect.
4. Stay Focused
For your content to be effective, it needs to be focused.
All your messaging should relate to one overarching theme—your core message. Within that theme, you should choose only a handful of topics to talk about.
It’s through this type of focus that you become known as an expert because, let’s face it, if you talk about everything, you won’t be known for anything. But by weeding out the extraneous topics, you’ll create laser focus that clearly communicates what your business is about. And that, my friend, is how you start improving your content marketing results.
If the idea of limiting your topics feels restrictive, think again. By deciding in advance what not to talk about, you open doors for ideas you might not have thought about otherwise.
Okay, that’s how you create strategic focus in all your content. Now let’s talk about 3 ways to create focus within each piece of content.
Follow the rule of one
Each piece of content should have one point. Only one.
The first thing you should do when you sit down to write is to figure out what your bottom-line point is.
After you write, the first round of edits is to make sure your writing stays on point.
You need to be ruthless. As William Faulkner said, “kill your darlings.” Any word, sentence or paragraph that’s off-topic must be deleted—no matter how much you like it.
Know your point before you start writing
If you can’t tell me your point in 25 words or less before you start writing, you’re going to struggle to write that piece of content. Guaranteed.
You’ll have to do twice the work—a first draft to figure out what you want to say and a second draft to say it well.
Know your point up front, and you’ll save tons of time. You’ll write better content too.
Create guidelines and stick to them
Decide up front how you’ll handle things like serial commas, capitalizations, slang, and other stylistic issues. Then be consistent from one piece to another.
It may seem like a little thing, but it’s often the details that take your content to the next level. Having your guidelines established in advance makes it easier to focus on what matters—clearly communicating your message.
5. Give Your Content a Strong Structure
To improve your content marketing results, you need to write better content. We’ve talked about how to improve your writing overall. Now, let’s look at how to structure your content so you can magnify its value.
Get the headline right
Even the most valuable, interesting content will be ignored if your title doesn’t connect with your audience. Your title should create interest and curiosity about the information you’re providing.
Here are 12 headline templates proven to work:
- # of [Something Useful or Interesting]
- Top # [List]
- How to [Do Something Useful or Interesting]
- How [Brand Name or Celebrity] [Does Something the Reader Wants to Do]
- Best of [Category or Type]
- Why [Something] Is [the Way It Is]
- Interview with [Celebrity]: [Interesting Topic or Title]
- Breaking News
- Secrets of [Something We’re Dying to Know]
- #1 Biggest Mistake Made by [Category]
- The #1 Secret to [Outcome Your Audience Wants]
In headlines, getting your wording right is critical. It’s the first thing people see, so it’s got to capture their imagination.
A recent study identified 2 phrases that consistently raise virality and engagement:
- “will make you” – “This little-known trick will make you lose weight”
- “x reasons why” – “10 reasons why you shouldn’t eat this in the mornings”
Be careful not to make it seem hard or like you’re recommending work. Phrases like “control of your”—as in, “Take Control of Your Time”— won’t get as many clickthroughs. Promise something easy, and you’ll attract more readers.
Bait your hook
You have about 3 seconds to hook your readers and get them reading. After your headline, it’s up to your first sentence to do the job.
Never mislead. Your headline and first sentence should take the reader smoothly to your main point. A good way to do that is with an intriguing or shocking statement. Or tell a story. Both will capture people’s interest right away.
Add your nut graf
Your readers want to know what your article is about before they invest time reading it. So tell them.
At the end of your intro, tell people what they’ll get if they keep reading. This is your main point laid bare. For bonus points, tell them how this new information will benefit them.
Short, pithy posts may be easier to create, but in most cases, you’ll get more engagement and traffic from longer, better-researched content.
Give your content the depth they need. Don’t just introduce a topic. Explore it. Don’t just share your ideas. Expand on them.
Aim for 1,000 words minimum, and don’t hesitate to go longer.
Learn to close better
Most writing teachers teach you to create a strong introduction. Few mention how important a strong close is.
In most conclusions, the writer restates the main point with something like, “See, now you know [topic].”
Don’t do that. Your conclusion should add value.
Tell your readers how their new knowledge will make their life better. Give them something to think about. Or ask them to act on the information you just gave them.
Close strong, and they’ll feel like your content was worth reading.
Tell them what to do next
The point of content marketing is to market with your content. That means you need to make a call to action.
Ask for engagement or a share. Tell people to click through to a landing page. Or offer a free download related to the free content they just read.
If you don’t tell people what to do after they consume your content, you won’t be able to improve your content marketing results.
6: Edit. Edit. Edit
Great writing never happens in the first draft.
The first draft is usually a good effort at figuring out how to express your ideas. As a result, they’re almost always badly written. For all writers.
Great writing happens in the editing stage. So when you write:
- Focus first on getting your ideas down.
- Write fast so you can keep up with your ideas.
- Then edit. A lot.
Don’t just settle for one round of edits. For high-quality writing, you’ll need to go through several rounds of review.
First, clean up your writing so it says exactly what you meant it to say. Second, make it worth your readers’ time.
Your content should offer immediate, tangible value. Make sure you reward your readers with surprising insights, engaging ideas, and useful information.
Remove the boring
High-quality content doesn’t repackage and regurgitate everything the gurus are saying. And it certainly doesn’t summarize with vague, general statements.
As you read through your drafts, look for the obvious, the repetitions, the generalities that will put your readers to sleep. Delete anything that isn’t necessary. Tighten everything that stays.
Add commentary and analysis
It’s your ideas, not your words, that add value. So don’t just share an idea or example. Expand on it. Share your ideas and opinions.
For example, let’s say you create a list post with examples of direct response ads. Don’t just introduce the ads and plug in a picture. Explain why you’ve included them in your list. Analyze their strengths and weaknesses.
The list by itself isn’t valuable. Your commentary is.
Take it above and beyond
A good writing style and smart commentary are great. They make your readers enjoy spending time with your content.
But to take your writing up a notch, you need something else: a point of view. You need to stand for something and against other things. You need to have strong opinions and be unafraid of sharing them.
Great content doesn’t just chime into a conversation. It adds another perspective. It gives insights and food for thought.
Whatever your core topic happens to be, take it up a notch. Challenge the status quo. Say something new. Say it well. And bottom line, add to the conversation. That’s what makes your content great.
7. Think Engagement
We talk a lot about engagement in content marketing. But it’s a difficult concept to define. What is engagement? I talk about it in-depth in this article.
But how exactly do you forge an emotional connection and delight your audience? Here’s my approach…
To begin, you need to feel something when you write. Care about your topic. Then let your feelings seep into your writing.
If you’re mad about the topic, show it. If you’re bothered by an idea, express it. Emotions are more engaging than words and ideas. So work yourself into the appropriate emotional state before you start writing, then let it all hang out.
Add images to your posts. Research has shown that you can nearly double readership by including images in your posts.
It adds more work to content production, but it’s worth the effort. This article shares tools that will help you create incredible visuals.
Break up large chunks of text. Subheads. Bullets. Click-to-tweets. They all add white space, making the page look more relaxed and easier to read.
Make it easy to share and comment. Use share buttons. Turn your comments on, and ask readers to leave a comment. But don’t stop there. Aim to build a community where your audience can hang out, ask questions, share ideas, and network with their peers.
8. Spend More Time on Promotion and Distribution
Unless you actively promote your content, it won’t get traffic.
There are no set rules for getting eyeballs on your content, and no single strategy will work by itself. Test different options and combinations to find what works for you.
This is low-hanging fruit, by the way. You can dramatically improve your content marketing results simply by doing more promotion.
Here are a few ideas…
After an article goes live, send an alert to your email list and promote it through social media. Then notify experts you featured in your article. In many cases, they’ll help you promote your article and may even comment in it.
It’s also a good idea to mention your post in forums such as Quora, Reddit, and Linkedin or Facebook Groups. Be careful, though. Every forum and group has different rules. Some allow for content promotion; others don’t.
Done right, SEO can generate more traffic with less content. But for that to happen, you need to do 3 things on a regular basis: research your best keywords, write better content, and build backlinks.
You also need to take the time to optimize every piece of content you create, including setting up the meta data.
Be aware, there’s no easy button for SEO. It’s difficult to do well, and it takes time to see results. But even if you don’t spend a lot of time on link building, you’ll benefit from on-page optimization.
This strategy takes your content to the sites where your audience already hangs out. In many cases, it will generate more traffic and subscribers than just publishing on your own site.
The only thing you need to be careful of is having the duplicate article ranked as the original in search engines. To avoid that, publish your content on your own site first. Wait a few weeks, then republish it (or a portion of it) on a site like Medium and LinkedIn Pulse.
Similarly, you can set up automated republication on syndication sites. You’ll have less control over timing, but once you set it up, you won’t have to think about it.
For syndication, you’ll need an RSS feed and approval from the site in question.
9. Experiment more
Content marketing, like every other area of marketing, needs constant tweaking and optimization.
What works today won’t necessarily work tomorrow, so you can’t get complacent.
Experiment with formats, channels, and style. Test different offers and how you present them. Then watch your metrics. Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
10. It’s Content Marketing
Never forget that content is marketing. It should integrate with your entire marketing plan. At every touch, you need messaging that informs, persuades, educates, and builds loyalty and trust.
You need content that supports and expands your marketing strategy without seeming promotional.
Create content that takes people on a journey—a customer journey—without them ever know you planned the route in advance. That’s how you’ll improve your content marketing results.
11. Think Beyond TOFU
When it comes to content, most people limit their thinking to blog posts and lead magnets. But content isn’t limited to the top of the funnel (TOFU).
To get your best results, you need content for every stage of the customer journey, guiding them step by step from awareness to purchase and beyond.
Evaluate your customer journey. What questions do people ask at each stage? What information do they need?
Give them the information they need at each stage, and you’ll easily build trust and loyalty. That gives you an unfair advantage, raising the odds they’ll buy from you and become long-term customers.
To gain an unfair advantage, build trust: create content for every stage of the customer journey.Click to tweet
12. Don’t be Afraid to Recycle Content
Top marketers have argued both for and against recycling content.
Those who are against it think recycling is the lazy option. They tend to use content to inform and engage, but they don’t always integrate it into the customer journey.
Those who are for recycling tend to appreciate the marketing aspect of content. For them, recycling isn’t a fallback when they run out of ideas. They simply understand that a big idea is worth repeating.
Keep in mind, recycling isn’t blanket reproduction of content. It’s the strategic use of big ideas and messaging in multiple formats and channels. So instead of starting from scratch with each project, you reformat and reuse your best ideas.
For instance, a blog post can be recreated in video format and as an infographic. A video can be used in a blog post, in your indoctrination series, and in a product training portal.
Recycling can be done by changing formats as well as where and how it’s delivered.
13. Avoid Content for Content’s Sake
The goal of content marketing is not to be able to check the box on the survey asking if you do content marketing. It’s not about keeping up with the big brands down the street.
Content is about engaging with your audience, building trust and relationship. It’s about creating pages that are so valuable, they rank in search engines, attract backlinks, build your status as a leader in the industry.
You get no brownie points for writing short, poorly researched, poorly written blog posts on a regular schedule.
You do get points for figuring out what your customers need to know and freely offering them the best information on the internet.
Every piece of content should have a reason for existing. Will it attract traffic or leads? Will it encourage subscriber opt-ins? Will it create interest in a product or service? Will it build loyalty or drive action?
Don’t waste time on content that doesn’t serve your visitors while also building your brand.
14. Think Outside the Website
Content has a broad definition. It includes articles, videos, podcasts, webinars, emails, advanced guides, lead magnets, ebooks, physical books, interviews, guest posts, emails (including personal emails, segmented blasts, and automated emails), web pages, presentations, infographics, and more.
Some of these pieces of content can and should live in a channel that’s not your website.
Your goal is to put your brand and your brand message in front of as many eyeballs as possible. That means you need to put your content in channels and sites they’re already trafficking.
You need to go to them, not require them to come to you.
So put a course on Udemy. Write a book and put it on Amazon (and anywhere else your readers will find it). Republish your best blog posts on Medium. Syndicate your blog. Write guest posts for the blogs your customers read. Partner with other brands they use. Share your content on social channels.
Wherever your best customers are, put your content there.
Think outside the box. Expand your distribution. Get discovered. And always include a call to action that leads people back to your site.
15. Track Results
Is your content doing what it’s supposed to do? Is it ranking in search engines? Is it driving subscriptions, engagement, and traffic?
You won’t know if you don’t watch your metrics.
Don’t just create and promote content and hope for the best. Set a goal for each piece of content. Measure results.
You need to know if the topics you’re writing about are connecting with your audience, if the headlines are driving clicks, if people are spending time on your pages—because that means they’re reading it.
Find the metrics that will tell you whether your content is doing its job. Then watch your numbers.
Bottom line, if you do more of what works and less of what doesn’t, you’ll see the growth you’re looking for.
Content marketing is an incredible growth hack if you step back from the blog and take a broader view of how and where it can be used.
But you need to be strategic. Use the content marketing tips I’ve shared in this article to develop a plan that’s right for your business. Adopt a culture of testing and experimentation. And tweak your results to continue giving you measurable growth.
Then consistently write better content. Aim for quality, even if it means reducing your quantity.
That’s how you can make content marketing work for your business.