Although paid search is our primary focus here at WordStream, we (along with almost every other company these days) are also in the media business. Purely by virtue of having a blog, we’re constantly looking at ways to not only optimize our content’s performance, but improve the content itself.
Since content is such a big part of what we do here at WordStream (and the fact that there are so many benefits of content marketing), we wanted to look back at our content marketing advice and collect it all into one, invaluable post. However, we weren’t “content” (pun most definitely intended) to focus on our content marketing advice from 2015, but rather the very best content-related content from the entirety of the WordStream blog.
So here we are – the best content marketing advice we have to offer. Whether you’re a seasoned blogger with strong traffic or a fledgling newbie with a small (yet beautiful), brand-new blog, you’ll find plenty of actionable advice you can use immediately in these 13 tips and strategies.
With so much content being produced, competition in today’s so-called “attention economy” has never been more intense. As such, it’s vital that you only publish the very best content possible, or you can’t possibly hope to succeed. It’s better to publish one excellent post per week than five mediocre posts per week.
Not only do you have to set the quality bar incredibly high, but you also have to keep meeting (or exceeding) this standard. This can be a challenge for even the most experienced content production teams, but it’s essential in standing out from an increasingly large crowd and making your voice heard. Accept that producing exceptional content takes time, effort, and money – and that there are no shortcuts.
For more advice on how to stand out in an increasingly competitive crowd, check out this post on 11 of the biggest content marketing challenges and how to overcome them.
One of the most common misconceptions about content marketing is that simply by publishing blog posts, your business will magically take off and you’ll be besieged by armies of eager prospective customers clamoring for whatever you sell. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Smart content marketers don’t just produce excellent content, but also know how to measure the results of their efforts.
Some bloggers are content to glance at the number of social shares their latest post has accrued and make a judgment call on its success based on that. However, even the most widely shared blog post may fall short of achieving your business goals. What do you want your content to actually accomplish, and how will you measure it?
Whatever you want your content to do, it’s crucial that you evaluate the performance of your content using analytics and other data-driven approaches – otherwise you could be wasting your time and money on content that isn’t doing anything for your business. For some, success might be measured in overall traffic using Google Analytics. For others, social shares or “attention metrics” such as scroll depth might be more important, a metric that can be measured by tools such as Chartbeat.
However – and whatever – you measure, be sure you’re actually assessing the performance of your content consistently to ensure your time and money are being used wisely and productively. For more advice on content marketing metrics and how to measure them, read this in-depth guide by WordStream Founder and CTO, Larry Kim.
A content audit could really help you out here! Use our content audit guide blog post (with free templates!) to identify your top performers and weed out the rest.
The best content takes time, effort, and skill to produce. Even if you’re giving away your best content for free (which you should be), that doesn’t mean you can’t get a greater return on investment from your content. This is why so many businesses repurpose content from one format into several.
Think of the last blog post you published that performed strongly. Did it resonate with readers because it served as a valuable, evergreen resource? Did it offer your audience something they couldn’t find anywhere else? Then it would probably do well as a downloadable guide. Similarly, some blog posts might be well-suited to an email blast, or a live webinar. However you choose to repurpose your content, be sure you’re getting your money’s worth from your content production investment.
For more on how (and when) to repurpose your content, check out this blog post.
If you’re running a PPC campaign and producing content, you should also consider repurposing your most strongly performing headlines into your ad copy. If a headline resonated strongly with your readers, a variation of it will likely resonate strongly with prospective buyers.
If you think about it, PPC ad copy and content share a lot of the same “hooks,” such as an emotionally engaging angle, strong verbs, and easily understood benefits. They’re also similar (or should be) in length – AdWords and Bing Ads have mandatory character limits in their ads that advertisers have no choice but to follow, while shorter headlines of around six words tend to perform strongly from a content perspective.
If a recent blog post, webinar, or whitepaper exceeded your expectations, run an A/B test to see if it performs as strongly as an ad. Check out this blog post on how to think like a content marketer for PPC for more tips on how you can make your content go further.
One of my biggest pet peeves about the content marketing industry is the focus on storytelling. Don’t get me wrong – I firmly believe that storytelling is a crucial skill for aspiring (and even experienced) content marketers to cultivate, and that brand storytelling is one of the most effective ways to reach prospective new customers with your message.
However, that doesn’t mean that all content is storytelling, or that all content marketers are storytellers.
Not all content has to tell a story. Sometimes, a straightforward blog post that serves a purpose and provides value for your readers is more than enough. Oftentimes, the people who talk the most (and loudest) about storytelling in content marketing are those who either don’t do it, or don’t understand it. Don’t listen to these people, and don’t worry if you’re not a natural-born storyteller – it’s far from a prerequisite for content marketing success.
Don’t shy away from telling stories if that’s what makes the most sense for your content, but don’t buy into the hype that every single piece of content has to be an engaging, complex narrative – it simply isn’t true.
One of the biggest challenges facing content marketers is competing with and overcoming the sheer volume of content being produced. With literally millions of blog posts being published every single day, making your voice heard over the tsunami of (poorly written, useless) content can be an almost insurmountable task – unless you take a stand that nobody else is willing to take.
So much of the content being produced (especially in tight-knit industries such as digital marketing) merely parrots and regurgitates the opinions and viewpoints of a select few. This is why readers are rapidly becoming desensitized to content – if there are hundreds of blogs all saying the same things, why should readers waste their time consuming that content? This is what makes producing contrarian content so powerful.
Taking an unpopular stance, speaking your mind when others won’t, and flirting with controversy can be a powerfully effective strategy in your content. Of course, you should take care not to offend or be contrarian for its own sake, but dare to be bold and speak your mind. If nothing else, your readers will likely appreciate your candor. In addition, you’ll probably sound and appear much more authentic than you would by merely repeating what others have said.
Read more about the power of contrarian content marketing here.
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to worry about SEO. We’d publish insightful, thought-provoking blog posts about our chosen topics, and find enormous online audiences eager to learn from our experience and buy whatever we’re selling.
Obviously, we don’t live in that world, and we do have to think about SEO.
Some content experts advocate for a “keyword-less” approach to content; publishing content that serves reader interests first and foremost, and doesn’t concern itself with anything as “distasteful” as keyword targeting. Again, this is great in an ideal world, but it’s a jungle out there – if you’re not thinking about keyword targeting, you can bet your competitors are. That’s why it pays to target specific keywords with your content before you produce it.
SEO is essential for any lead-generating content marketing strategy. But a topic as broad and complex as keyword targeting for SEO is far beyond the scope of this post, so I won’t try to condense it here. Suffice to say that you should be thinking of keywords you want to rank for before you sit down to write a blog post or produce any other type of content. To learn more about how to target keywords with your content (and how to optimize your content for a better shot at ranking highly), check out this post on blogging tips and this post on the content marketing funnel.
In today’s digital media environment, trust can be hard to come by. With fact-checking and journalistic due diligence at all-time lows, it’s easy to see why so many readers have become reluctant to accept “facts” as the cold, hard truth. That’s why it’s so important to back up your assertions with data.
Using data in your content should be as natural and commonplace as spell-checking. If you make a point, include statistics and facts to back it up. Similarly, if you cite data to make a point, be sure to cite it appropriately and, if possible, include a link to the original source. After all, you wouldn’t want somebody else using your data in their content without tipping their hat to your research, right?
Read more about using data in your content in this blog post about marketing data and how to use statistics to make your content more convincing.
Content marketing is one of the best ways to develop and refine the “voice” of your brand. However, even large, well-funded businesses with dedicated content teams can struggle to identify and define what their brand voice actually sounds like, especially when working with larger teams.
Ensuring continuity of brand voice, especially across larger teams, can be a challenge. It requires constant review of editorial standards to ensure that both quality and tone are consistent (our editorial calendar may help!), as well as a higher-level overview of your blog and content in general. However, while developing brand voice through content can be challenging, it’s definitely worth considering.
For each and every post, ask questions about how the content advances and develops your brand’s voice. Does the writing reflect your company’s values? What does the tone say about what it’s like to do business with you? Is your brand voice sincere, or forced and artificial? These are all questions that can help you take control of your brand’s voice and refine your messaging through content. By answering these questions (and correcting course when necessary), you’ll also provide your audience with a more cohesive experience as a brand, something to which all blogs should aspire.
In the past, I’ve worked with several clients who asked me to make their corporate blog “sexy” and more appealing. In such discussions, corporate content managers often point to the blogs of influential solo bloggers who have established vast, loyal readerships as an example of the direction they’d like their blog to take.
This is a more challenging task than it might appear.
Even large, well-established corporate blogs can learn a great deal from the influential blogging superstars who dominate web publishing. For one, these blogging rock stars simply ooze authenticity, because they’re writing as themselves and representing their own brand by being themselves – a challenge for many corporate blogs. They’re selling themselves by being themselves, a valuable lesson that any corporate blog could stand to learn (and practice).
Whether you’ve been tasked with revamping an ailing corporate blog or launching one from scratch, don’t look to other corporate blogs for inspiration. Study how the individuals behind the most popular and influential blogs on the web have established their audiences, and emulate those strategies instead. Your readers will thank you for it – and come back for more.
One of the questions I’m asked the most often is, “How can I become a better writer?” To many would-be content producers, their relative lack of experience or confidence is the biggest obstacle to their aspirations, and there’s nothing worse than telling people to just stick with it in the vague hopes that their writing skills will improve.
I’ve been blogging professionally for quite a while now, and although I’m confident in my abilities, I’m always trying to improve and seeking out advice and help from the experts. Writing, like many skills, is a craft that you can always improve. Read more widely and extensively by reading material you may not ordinarily read (and yes, I mean actual, honest-to-God books, not just blogs). Write every single day – yes, every day, even if it’s only a hundred words or so. Be relentless in your pursuit of excellence, and don’t settle for mediocrity.
Even if you know what you’re doing when it comes to content, adopt the mindset of the perpetual student, and never be satisfied. Strive to push your writing skills to their limit – then push even farther. The more time and effort you invest in honing your writing skills, the more readers you’ll attract.
Earlier, we discussed the value of targeting specific keywords with your content. If you’re already doing this, the chances are pretty good that you’re targeting (and hopefully ranking for) a solid number of simple keyword terms that are relevant to your business. While this is still a worthwhile strategy to pursue, going after rankings for complex search queries can have an even bigger payoff, namely ranking in the Google Featured Snippet – or, as Moz’s Dr. Pete Meyers calls it, position zero.
The Google Featured Snippet is some of the most coveted real estate on the search engine results page. If your content answers a complex question by appearing in the Featured Snippet, not only could you drive a ton of referral traffic to your site, but you could also give your brand a major lift in terms of subject matter expertise. User trust in the content promoted in the Featured Snippet is high, meaning that if Google chooses your content to answer a complex question, your brand wins big.
Want to rank in the Featured Snippet? Read this post on position zero and the value of answering complex questions with your content.
So much time and effort goes into content production, only for a blog post or whitepaper to underwhelm you. Along with the actual overheads of producing content, it’s this (sometimes inevitable) poor return on investment that dissuades newcomers of content’s value to their business – a fallacy that even larger companies and experienced marketers can buy into. However, there’s a surefire way to make sure that more people see, interact with, and respond to your content, and that’s content remarketing.
Just as you’re (hopefully) using remarketing in your PPC campaigns to maximize their impact, you can use remarketing to get more eyes on the content you’re producing. First, you define the audience to which you want to remarket your content, then you tag visitors who come to your site so that you can remarket to them using banner ads on the Google Display Network later. This results in greater brand awareness and – hopefully – greater engagement with the content you spent so much time and effort producing.
While incredibly powerful, content remarketing is still very much the exception, rather than the rule. Many companies simply don’t even think about leveraging remarketing to promote their content, so if you want to get ahead of the curve and broaden your content’s reach, check out this exhaustive guide to content remarketing courtesy of Larry Kim.
Originally from the U.K., Dan Shewan is a journalist and web content specialist who now lives and writes in New England. Dan’s work has appeared in a wide range of publications in print and online, including The Guardian, The Daily Beast, Pacific Standard magazine, The Independent, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and many other outlets.
See other posts by Dan Shewan
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