I've been thinking a lot about content marketing recently, probably because I've been reading a lot of content. Some of what I've read is good. Some of it is downright useless, and a lot of it is somewhere in-between the two.
My Thoughts on Producing Awesome Content
There is no point making content for content's sake. Nobody is going to take any pleasure in looking through a website inundated with sub-standard bits of information. Content needs to awesome, or at least the very best that you can make it with the resources available.
So, behold a list of things that you should be thinking about whenever you create a piece of content.
Stage 1: content Planning
Who is your audience? Are you targeting your current customers, or a whole new area of people who you haven't previously engaged with? Where do they hang out? What's their style. What do they like or dislike? Do they prefer short and sharp content or long and detailed? Spending the time researching this before you launch is crucial if you want your content to resonate.
Is your content going to be placed on your own site, or is it being hosted elsewhere, on a seperate blog or social media platform? Regardless, whatever you create needs to be crafted to perfectly align with the style, layout and overall ambience of the site it's placed on.
When you say 'content' to most people they think blog posts but there are so many different types of content you could produce. Consider crafting some cool images, videos, whitepapers, infographics, games, questionnaires, tools, podcasts to name a few. If you can't produce these yourselves then there are a whole bunch of super talented people who it can be outsourced to buy using sites such as odesk and peopleperhour. As more and more businesses are finally understanding the importance of content marketing, the wealth of generic blog posts swelling the net is increasing* so you need to do something to stand out.
*This blog post is not one of them.
A key question, but what is the ultimate goal of creating the piece of content? Is it to try and improve brand recognition, increase engagement on social media sites, create sales and revenue, or help to get people further along the sales process? How you answer this will this impact on what you create as it will need to fall into a wider plan of getting people to love you.
What Month. What Day. What Hour is your content going live? It might sound obvious but launching your content at 2am means less people are going to see it (unless your targeting insomniacs). Do your research and plan accordingly to work out when your audience is online and when they're most receptive.
Stage 2) Content Building
So, you've nailed down the kind of thing you want to create and who you want to create it for. Start looking around at fellow competitors and see what they're producing. What could be done better? What have they missed? Is there a new angle on something in your industry which hasn't been discussed.
People want something on value. You want something that can be shared, linked to and loved. Finding something that does both is hard - but not impossible, so you may have to constantly alter and refine your content to hit that sweet spot of providing something that provides a really great experience for people.
Once you've put something together it's time to work on a headline. If you're focussing on picking up traffic via organic search then make sure you stick to the recommended guidelines for meta titles. (if you need a reminder about this have a look at this Moz article). But if you're hoping for a something to be shared widely on social media then the choice is to often focus on a longer more compelling headline. Think Clickbait headlines, but offer genuine value in your content. If you look at the folks at Upworthy 25 different headlines are written for each article and then they're split tested to find out what is attracting the most people.
People like personality. Sometime's it's appropriate. On other occasions less so. But try and experiment with being emotive and interesting. I try to write these posts the way I do, because they keep me interested and people seem to like them. I could talk about digital marketing in the style of an academic paper, but they wouldn't be half as much fun or engaging..
As more and more businesses are becoming 'social' on the likes of Twitter and Facebook, it should follow that if you can show a lighter side to your business operations on there why can't you do it with your content too? And personality shouldn't mean saying everything is amazing. Be disagreeable if you see fit. If you're not happy with your business results online, test, experiment and review everything you do to see if it can work better.
Even if you're focussing on social for your content there's no harm in making sure you're content is well optimised too for SEO. From the alt text in images to internal links pointing to a page it's well worth making the page you're content sits on as search engine friendly as possible. If you're not sure how to do this, then read this.
stage 3) Content Promotion
During the content process there's no harm in reaching out to key influencers in the community. These are people who can easily broadcast your messages to a much wider audience. As well as getting their insight when creating your content, you can easily let them know when your work is live online, and hopefully they'll help to spread the word.
So many people often spend hours putting together content, but can't be bothered with the delivery message. If you're going to tweet your content, spend the time making sure every one of those 140 characters count. Find the best hashtag. Find a decent image. Do the same with every other channel you're planning on using to promote your content.
Pay to Promote
If you've spent time and effort in creating something of value, then set aside some of your budget to promote it. With the ever present Edgerank algorithm blighting organic reach on Facebook, why not pay a few extra pound to promote you post? If you're using Twitter then you could do the same. Or if you're targeting a specific keyword why not put some budget towards ads on Google Adwords. Combined, any paid promotion can have a massive effect on the overall performance on a piece of content.
Stage 4) Content Analysis
Before you get to this stage you'll probably want to work out your KPI's. Are you hoping for direct sales, an increase in email signups, or just an increase in your number of fans on Facebook? Either way, decide what you're tracking, track it, then monitor the effect.
Did your content do the job? How did it compare to other pieces of content you've produced? But remember, don't look at statistics in isolation. The content you create still needs to be relavant. I've seen plenty of sites that receive good traffic for a specific article, but the user intent of people focusing on that page is completely irrelevant to it's businesses objectives. More on content relevancy here.
Stage 5) Content Curation
Once that piece of content gradually fades into obscurity, there's still value in it. Can you refresh your content for the following year. Can you re-use it for another purpose. Can you turn that blog post into an infographic, an infographic into a video? The data and information you've gathered for your original post can be crafted into multiple angles and stories, so don't archive a piece of content after just one outing. Equally, why not tie it into a series of posts - either a follow up piece. You might also find that your content is ranking well for a specific keyword, so you could spend some additional time in trying to get it to reach the number 1 position in SERP's in order to bring in additional traffic beyond your current main sources. Either way, you're content needs to be managed.
So, hopefully this can help to get you off to a good start. What's your content plan? - I'm genuinely interested. Let me know on the comments below...