Content marketing has become a popular buzzword for good reason. Effective content strategies leverage tools like blog posts, videos, social media, and infographics to connect with target audiences, stimulate the conversation and social sharing that deepens relationships, and increases brand awareness.
Though producing these tools takes an investment of time, thought, and energy, most content is highly accessible and affordable, even to small businesses with limited resources.
Now for the downside of content marketing…it’s popular. There’s quite a bit of competition for attention among audiences who are hammered with messages, day and night.
Much like the adage about whether a tree that falls in an empty forest is heard, your content marketing strategy is only effective when it cuts through the noise, and reaches your intended audience.
That’s not to say you can’t create content that gets noticed. But it does help to know a few tricks to reduce the odds that your hard work falls on deaf ears.
Be original. There are about 200 factors Google considers as part of its algorithm to determine the content it considers relevant enough to recommend.
Though familiarizing yourself with the technical details behind Google’s latest algorithm (which changes frequently) certainly won’t hurt your efforts, you don’t have to be technical to create content that will be viewed favorably by the search engines. Be original, relevant, and informative. Steer clear of the tired page rank trickery like keyword-stuffing. Avoid the emails you receive for “guest post” offers offering to create free content for your site, in exchange for a backlink. If Google suspects you’re part of either kind of arrangement, your site’s page rank could be penalized.
Be thoughtful. Though creating interesting and appealing content is an undertaking, it’s worth investing time into—mainly because the amount of media “noise” in tandem with Google’s algorithms all but guarantee the content you churn you churn out in minutes won’t drive any real business results.
But with that in mind, quality is in the eye of the beholder. High-value content tells your audience something they don’t know, want to know more about or discuss, or puts a new spin on an old idea. It educates, informs, demonstrates, or inspires through games, tools, “how to” posts, videos and podcasts, product reviews, profiles, timely news reports, and interviews with industry movers and shakers. Experiment with different tactics and measure the activity they generate. Eventually, you’ll find what sticks.
Know your audience. Relationships that always involve generic small talk don’t tend to evolve in “real life.” The same is true of your online content. Before you start talking, find out what you’re audience cares about. SEOBook provides a handy tool for Firefox and Google users that monitors page rank and lets you research which keywords bode well for your competitors. Google’s free Keyword Planner tool can help you identify the keywords and phrases your desired audience uses to search for businesses like yours.
Be timely. Productive content marketing demands that you plan—and react—strategically. Create an editorial calendar to establish a production and publishing cadence. It can simplify your internal processes, focus your efforts, and give your audience of a sense of when they’ll hear from you. But be willing to veer from your calendar when your audience is talking about other news. Establish Google Alerts for relevant keywords so you can gauge opportunities to create content that supports those conversations while they’re happening.
Subscribe to free tools like Reddit, BuzzSumo, and Alltop. All make it easy to search by topic and keyword and are great places to find inspiration for creating content that is relevant, timely–and extends beyond the obvious.
Be easy to digest. There is no hard and fast rule around content length, but some evidence suggests that established sites with longer articles (about 1,500 words) now tend to “earn” more page rank credibility than short posts (of 400 words or less). But there are far more content options than the written word—including video, podcasts, images, and infographics. Ultimately, the medium your audience prefers and can easily digest should dictate your strategy.
That may mean producing multiple content types like a longer form blog post, an infographic, and a short video—all on the same topic. Test which mediums perform best on different publishing platforms, and among which audiences. As you experiment, monitor, and measure, you’ll learn how your content is best received, and where.