Content marketing is one of the most important forms of digital marketing today, with an ROI that can grow exponentially if done correctly. Yet it also remains a difficult discipline to master.
Virtually any type of content you create for your brand is content marketing, but creating content that is really effective requires a content strategy and a good deal of skill and effort. Marketers can’t just throw content on the internet and hope for the best; they need a real, in-depth understanding of how, when and why content marketing is effective for their organization.
A Brief History of Content Marketing (CM)
First, it’s important to understand what CM really means in the context of online advertising. In the old days, a plumber might put up a simple website and seed it with the keywords “Plumber” and “Michigan.” When people searched for “plumber in Michigan,” their website would show up in the search results, and everything would be fine.
In those early days, the search engines were pretty dumb. All the content the plumber really needed was “Plumber Michigan.” He could have a website that essentially just said: “plumber michigan plumber michigan plumber michigan” and that would actually work. But as search engines grew up, they started looking for uniqueness and quality, too. The goal of the search engines became the delivery of links to quality content to the searcher.
At the same time, parallel to all of this, social media was starting to become a major channel for marketing. But people couldn’t and wouldn’t share pages that only said “Michigan plumber,” they only wanted to share insightful, meaningful content.
All of this combined to make creating valuable and interesting content incredibly important. Just having simple keywords wasn’t enough: content had to have keywords and content and context. Marketers found that they needed to develop a library of long-lasting content that would be discovered by search engines and shared by people alike.
Creating Memorable Content and Building Authority
What is memorable content? Think about the last blog, video, or podcast that really stuck in your mind. Odds are that it was creative and clever, surprised you, and/or taught you something. Memorable content is witty, insightful, fun, and unique. And creating that is something that isn’t as easy as you’d think.
Here are some hallmarks of memorable content:
- A unique perspective. Since people want to read content that’s unique and engaging to them, it’s important that it comes from a perspective that they find compelling. Don’t just focus on replicating the content from your competitors. You need to have some valuable information to impart: a different way of thinking about things.
- A multimedia approach. Blogs with images, infographics, and videos tend to be the most memorable and shareable. Of course, you also still need to make sure they’re properly search engine optimized. Infographics and video can be a challenge to optimize, so don’t forget titles, descriptive text, and appropriate markup. The takeaway: visual or audio material help people remember it more.
- Long-form media. In the old days, blog posts usually ranged from 300 to 400 words. That’s no longer the case. Today, people, and especially search engines, are reading more long-form content. Often that content varies from 1,200 to 2,500 words. In content marketing, longer is almost always better, as long as you have interesting content to write. New research indicates that posts in the length of 2,500 words bring more SEO punch.
- User interaction. Asking users to comment on a blog is a great way to keep them engaged. Responding to user’s comments creates a one-on-one relationship that can be quite powerful when used correctly. User interaction is absolutely critical for those who want to build a long-term following, as it shows customers that the company is listening (and there are real people working there).
- Mixed content. A solid content marketing campaign is going to include a blend of topical content and long-lasting (“evergreen”) content. It should have tutorials, DIYs, news posts, blogs, and more. The more diverse the content is, the more likely it is that users are going to find something that they can embrace.
- Clear voice and branding. It should be immediately obvious from which company the content has originated, and this can be achieved through better branding. From logos to phrasing, the content has to feel original and authentic. If it doesn’t, it won’t resonate with customers as strongly.
- Proper targeting. When writing content for a marketing campaign, consider your buyer personas. Think about a specific buyer that might want to engage with the company, and write or script to them. The more the content is personalized, the more likely it is to connect with and engage with a given customer.
And it isn’t just about being memorable. It’s also about building authority. Authority building improves your SEO and shows current and prospective customers that they can trust you. It tells them that you’re an expert in your industry, and therefore, they should entrust you with their business.
The Biggest Mistakes With Content Marketing
So, why isn’t your content taking off? The truth is, you can do everything right, but if you make just one mistake your campaign could fall apart. Here are some of the most common mistakes in content marketing:
- Giving up too soon. Content marketing takes a while to build a following. You can’t just launch a domain or open a social media account and expect to be successful right away. Instead, you need to plug along, posting valuable content at predictable (and frequent) intervals, and waiting until you build critical mass.
- Social media isn’t an integral part of your content marketing campaign. Social media sharing can boost your content, both through on-platform sharing and off-platform sharing. Social media sharing can even boost your rankings in search engines, by improving your domain authority. Consequently, social media and content marketing need to leverage each other for a complete advertising strategy.
- Relying too much on search engine optimization. Search engines today are primarily concerned about whether users find your content valuable. The longer users stay on your site without bouncing, the more valuable it will be. Thus, while you can and should do SEO, you don’t want to compromise the usefulness of the content for the end-user.
- Not optimizing for search engines at all. By the same token, you still need to consider what the search engine is going to see when it analyzes your pages as well as how the algorithm will process it. You need to take care to mention the right keywords and key phrases, just make sure you don’t overdo it will be in danger of being seen as keyword spam.
Content marketing is mission-critical for today’s businesses, as they need to be able to establish their authority, and they need to be able to build strong customer relationships. It can take some work to create the right content marketing strategy for a business, but once a business has that in hand, it will be able to significantly improve the effectiveness of its marketing.
For more on how Colling Media helps businesses grow with content marketing, visit https://collingmedia.com/services/digital-advertising/content-marketing/.