According to the Content Marketing Institute, more than 58 percent of marketers plan to increase their content marketing budgets in 2014, and it’s no surprise—since its initial rise to popularity, more and more marketing professionals are realizing that content marketing isn’t some buzz-driven gimmick. It’s a real strategy that leads to real results when executed well. According to a survey by Marketing Land, 48 percent of marketers credit their content marketing strategies with a real-life engagement, and 41 percent are seeing a general increase in brand awareness as a result.
As a marketer in your own right, you might see some of these statistics with a degree of skepticism. Maybe you’ve tried content marketing in the past to no avail, or maybe you’ve never given content marketing a serious attempt. Or maybe you see these statistics as validation of your own efforts, but you’re interested in seeing even stronger results. No matter what the case is, it’s possible to become better at content marketing through a few simple tricks and a few strategic refinements.
Try these strategies to improve your website’s content creation and improve the results of your content marketing and writing campaigns:
First things first. If you want to get better at writing for SEO, you have to get better at reading. There are no shortcuts, tricks, or exceptions to this rule. Fiction writers live or die by this rule, but business content creators need to follow the same advice.
Content marketing in your industry is a living environment, with diverse strategies, multiple angles, and a steady stream of new ideas interacting in a loose, interdependent way. When an industry news channel releases breaking news, almost every major business following them will respond with a piece of content expressing their opinions on it.
Read as much as you can within your industry. It will clue you in to the latest news and events and give you a bigger perspective on your business. Plus, it will give you a chance to see what tactics your competitors are using, and respond accordingly. Sometimes, it might be advantageous to mimic your competitors’ strategies. Sometimes it’s better to go against the grain and pose a differing opinion. But you won’t be successful at creating new, engaging content unless you read, learn new information, and see new perspectives on a regular basis.
We’re content experts. We can tell you about the technical factors that lead to great content, best practices for formatting and syndicating your articles, and what things to avoid as you get deeper into your overall strategy. But we’re not the ones who determine whether or not your content is successful. Your readers are.
Listening to your readers and followers is the fastest way to learn what’s most important for your content strategy. After all, readers know what they like to read, and most of them are happy to share that insight with you. All you have to do is listen.
At the end of your blog posts or in your social media messaging, encourage your followers and readers to engage with you. Ask questions that get people thinking and debating. Pose a challenging argument that invites dissenting opinions. Do whatever you can to get your readers to speak up and share their own opinions—it’s the only way to get a true read on your audience’s preferences, beliefs, and interests.
By reading comments, reviewing conversations, and seeing which pieces of content seem to attract the most positive reception, you can fine-tune the types of content you write and eventually master the art of writing for your specific audience.
If you aren’t measuring the impact and success of your content marketing strategy, you need to start immediately. While subjective comments can guide and refine the philosophy behind your strategy, only objective data can give you an accurate, provable picture of your results.
There are several ways to measure how successful your content is. First, you could take a peek into Google Analytics and see which articles are attracting the most traffic (especially if you’re syndicating your content on your social media channels). Second, you can look on the individual blog pages to see how many people have left comments as an objective measure of how engaging that content is. Third, you can delve into your social media channels to see how many likes, retweets, favorites, or comments your article attracted when you sent out the link.
These metrics, when examined together, should help you conclude which types of content are objectively the most successful. If you notice that your opinion pieces tend to be extremely popular but your news items seem to falter, consider spending more time on your opinion pieces and halving your effort on the news front.
If your content creation seems to be lagging, or if you’re stuck and you aren’t sure what to write about, try exploring new ideas. That may seem like an obvious bit of advice, but it’s a key opportunity for you to become an expert in a unique niche related to your industry.
Your “new idea” doesn’t have to be some revolutionary new approach or a spectacular innovation. It can be as simple as a new take on an old system, or a specific perspective applied to a series of familiar industry challenges.
As an example, if a piece of news breaks and your competitors are all posting their opinions on it, do something different with the new information. Make an infographic or a short video that shows how the news affects your industry. Or, conduct a survey of your current customers to get their thoughts on the matter. Or, you could explore how that piece of news affects various aspects of your business. The key is to do something you’re not used to doing in order to keep your content creation fresh.
While the actual blog writing should be left to an individual, in the brainstorming process, the more minds are involved, the better. Getting your entire company involved in your content creation strategy is an invitation to new ideas, fresh perspectives, and a much more expansive thought engine. Instead of one person trying to come up with a dozen new ideas, a dozen minds can each come up with one. Working together with experts, specialists, and other creative minds is one of the best ways to guarantee a collection of diverse topics and interesting material for your customers.
It’s also a good idea to work with other content marketers to get some new ideas for your campaign and see how you measure up. Content marketing can get competitive within specific industries, but for the most part, sharing ideas is a mutually beneficial exercise. Offer to exchange guest posts and enrich each other’s web presence and build a more valuable, more attractive content platform for your combined customer base.
If you’re familiar with content marketing already, you know nothing happens overnight. Implementing these strategies is not a quick fix that will instantly promote you in search engine ranks or attract thousands of new followers to your brand. But when executed consistently over time, your content momentum will build exponentially, and your company will see the benefits manifested as brand awareness, engagement, more natural off-site link building and–eventually– revenue.