Connecting with your audience is hard. Building relationships is even harder. Converting those readers into loyal customers can seem so daunting it makes a career change or at least an indefinite sabbatical in the Antarctic look downright reasonable.
Running is for the weak, though, and you’re the kind of ambitious and determined go-getter that’s ready to win — you just need a few expert content marketing tips to help you back away from your exit strategy and get back to business.
These suggestions for best practice content marketing should do the trick.
1. Information as a Conversion Tactic
The public is tiring of blatantly self-serving content. When 71% of buyers turn their nose up at content that doubles as a sales pitch, you know there’s a problem.
Audiences are smart, and they know when they’re being manipulated. If your Facebook feed is nothing but pats on the back and company-centric blurbs that only share your content, there aren’t many reasons for consumers to continue following. On the other hand, a feed that balances branded content with curated pieces offering tips, how-tos and other valuable tidbits offers value in each and every post.
Still, no business can afford to be completely altruistic, but neither can we give in to the pull of betterment through bragging (unintentional or otherwise). The trick is in finding balance.
“Educational content is definitely favored over promotional nowadays,” says Rachel Cottam, content manager at ZipBooks, “but that doesn’t mean you should give up on conversions. The whole point of a business blog is to acquire new customers. Strategically positioning calls-to-action (CTAs) within blog posts can help to drive sales from content.”
Focus on creating high-quality content in your editorial calendar that informs first, and try to work in CTAs for your products or services in a natural way.
2. Gain Traction by Being Different
Some 60% of marketers generate at least one new piece of content each and every day. That’s an unbelievable amount of collateral floating around the internet and flooding consumers’ bubble, and that makes it increasingly difficult to come up with something interesting and unique.
Ali Schwanke, CEO and Chief Marketing Strategist at Simple Strat, offers a solution that’s helped her company grow traffic from 300 visits per month to over 6,000 monthly visits in less than two years. “Be smart about the content gaps in your industry and how you can leverage them for potential traffic. Use tools like Ahrefs or SEMRush to identify those gaps, along with keyword research to create the content with the right angle that matches what people are looking for online.”
It’s a smart yet efficient approach to content creation that ticks multiple boxes with one stroke. You’re addressing search engine optimization (SEO), which remains an important piece of the puzzle, and you’re going above and beyond the competition’s status-quo content to offer something above and beyond the rest of the noise cluttering everyone’s inbox.
3. Tweak Your Title Tags
While many tips focus on the big picture, sometimes it’s the seemingly small adjustments that have a major impact. For Rochelle Burnside, Content Marketing Specialist at BestCompany.com, there’s power in the humble title tag.
Title tags are bite-sized webpage descriptions that usually total roughly 70 characters (they can be shorter or longer, but Google and other search engines show around 70 characters). There’s just one per page, and it appears in the HTML looking something like this, “<title>This is the Title Tag</title>”, but also pops up as the headline in your browser tab, in search results, as the placeholder in your bookmarks folder when you save a page and in other places like previews on social media when someone shares a link. It’s easy to see that the right tag can help with visibility and also enhance user experience.
“Experiment with your title tags,” suggests Burnside. “Use a previewer like the Moz title tag viewer to see how your title and meta description will look in the SERP. Use a tool like ClickFlow to measure changes in CTR, clicks, and ranking when you change the title tag. Writing titles in headline style with quantitative data (2019 Update, 4.3 Stars, etc.) and characters like brackets and parentheses are more likely to draw the eye.”
Focusing on your title tags offers a number of benefits:
- Title tags are an important SEO ranking factor, so working your target keyword into the title can help boost your search rankings
- Having more compelling titles can boost your clickthrough rate in both search results and in social posts. That means more traffic for your content
- There’s some evidence that Google’s RankBrain is looking at behavioral metrics including your content’s organic clickthrough rate in its search results and ranking content with higher rates higher in results.
These are just a few reasons why taking time to optimize your titles is a key part of successful content marketing in 2019.
4. Play the Long Game
Content marketing takes time. Looking for immediate results will only lead to disappointment and frustration, so be prepared to think long-term and wait with all the patience you don’t really have (I know, it’s crazy hard). Most experts agree it takes between 6 to 12 months to see a return from a new content marketing campaign. Results come in waves, too; while you may see spikes in traffic and number of backlinks early on, boosted search ranking and more sustainable increases don’t typically emerge until later on.
Use the SMART framework to set goals that are:
Schwanke has another tip: “Publish consistently. This seems like a no-nonsense tip, but many companies give up before they see results simply because they didn’t stick with it.”
You’ve taken the time to design a solid content marketing strategy that will connect with your audience; make sure you give it enough time to succeed and continue publishing content regularly.
5. Create Content That Can Multitask
One-trick ponies are a waste of resources. It really is that simple. Pouring time and money into a white paper that’s only useful for one client or one month is akin to running in place and wondering why you’re not getting anywhere. Unless you can turn exhaustion into a currency, you’re going to lose.
Fight financial fatigue and make the most of your freelancers and your marketing budget by creating content that makes sense today, tomorrow and a year from now and that can be modified for use on more than one channel.
Ryan Turner founded The Email Funnels Agency (an agency that helps eCommerce companies get the most out of their email lists) and he knows more than a little about harnessing the power of search, email marketing and Facebook to grow sales. He’s a big believer in adaptable evergreen content as a means to “help you build out a comprehensive content calendar that covers all channels by getting the most out of every piece you create.” That’s huge.
“If the content is evergreen in nature it can also be utilized again later in the year or be placed inside automated marketing sequences which indoctrinate new leads and prospects coming into the business,” continues Turner. “The latter is particularly true in the email channel, and very effective for building strong relationships with potential customers using content pieces which performed well in previous campaigns.
It’s marketing best practices at work, really. You could potentially hire a freelance writer to create a pillar page about travel nursing, then transform that near-encyclopedic guide into a series of shorter blog posts, an infographic, an email campaign, a webinar and a whole host of other microcontent. Those pieces can then be distributed everywhere from LinkedIn to Instagram to your own branded app.
Transforming or repurposing a pillar piece of content to give you multiple types of content is a great way to maximize your marketing spend, and also lets your naturally cross-promote between channels.
Andrew Clark, Marketing Strategist at Duckpin, uses monthly marketing calendars and a clear-cut template to keep that cornucopia of content organized. “Without some type of brand and content guidelines, a company runs the risk of taking a ‘shoot from the hip’ approach, which may drive away traffic and business opportunities.”
Good digital marketing relies on careful planning. Make sure your calendar specifies not only what pieces of content you’ll create and promote, but also what types of content and where you’ll promote them.
6. Use Data to Fuel Every Part of Your Best Practice Content Marketing
Building on Clark’s warning against shooting from the hip, it’s vital to understand how dangerous acts of random marketing can be. Spontaneity is great if you want to surprise your date with a trip to the drive-in or get a pixie cut instead of a blunt bob (actually, you may want to give that one some extra though too), but marketing is a strategy for a reason. Use data to create, monitor and measure your plan and you’ll be better positioned for success.
“Two things truly drive my work in content marketing,” says certified social media marketer and strategist and public relations consultant Sierra Marling of Semper Public Relations, “analytics & user personas. Whenever I utilize platform analytics, I try to align whatever I am posting with what is performing well.”
“For example, videos typically get more results with clients with a Millennial (or younger) following. However I have a specific client whose target audience prefers informational articles and simple photography… That’s why you have to concentrate not only on your post-performance, but you have to also use your analytics data to create detailed user personas that will inform your decisions online.”
There’s one content marketing tip that reigns supreme over all others, and that’s authenticity. You won’t ever win over your audience by trying to be someone else. Consumers have built-in lie detectors that wail at 150 decibels when a brand goes off the rails. If you’re a clothing company that constantly yammers on and on about sustainability and your CEO is caught racking up a couple hundred trips per year on his private jet, you’ve got a messaging problem.
So, make like Dove and “Be Real”. Take all of these tips on board and figure out how you can craft a killer marketing strategy while still honoring everything that makes your brand special. This is how you get ahead in 2019 and stay there.
Have any other content marketing tips you think we should cover? Let us know in the comments.