It’s no secret: content marketing pays. With 82% of marketers leveraging content marketing and millions of pieces of content published online each day, cutting through the noise has never been harder.
So when the content marketing consultants pull up in their sports cars, draped in their fur coats and designer suits, offering you the Holy Grail of real life audience engagement, is it any wonder they come with a $675-a-day price tag?
Well, close your wallet. These are hard times. Here are my top three content marketing tips for free.
1. Ensure your content has genuine value
All content marketers know that content should be valuable. But what ‘valuable’ means in practice isn’t always clear. If your company is offering a solution to a problem, and your content is directing readers to that solution, your content must be valuable, right? Well…
I like to think of content as a birthday gift. Imagine it’s your birthday and your best friend gives you a gift. You unwrap the gift to find that it’s a free vacation brochure. Huh.
“Well,” says your friend, “I just thought: vacations are good. And this will help you choose one. Enjoy!”
Your friend’s not wrong. Vacations are good. But does that make the vacation brochure a good birthday gift? Are you likely to remember it for years to come? Revisit it? Recommend it to your friends? Or will it just end up in the trash?
Don’t let your content be the brochure. Don’t direct your readers to something valuable – let your content be valuable by itself. That means being generous: share your knowledge, give applicable advice, help readers solve problems (without them having to engage with your company’s offering).
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Another way to ensure your content has value is by making sure it’s genuinely relevant to your audience. Research who they are and what interests them, invest in a keyword research tool like SEMrush so that you can see what they’re searching for on search engines, and keep up with current industry trends. This means doing your homework – and doing it consistently. Are you trying to reach financers? Read The Financial Times regularly. Publishers? InPublishing. Marketers? The Drum.
The litmus test of whether your content is valuable is to ask: is my audience going to actively seek this content out? If the answer is no, it’s usually a good indication that your content isn’t truly valuable for your audience.
2. Optimize your content for digital consumption
When it comes to digital content, it’s important to remember that your content should be produced for digital consumption. While that might sound self-explanatory, the truth is that a lot of good content can perform poorly because it isn’t fully optimized for the context in which your audience is interacting with it.
So how do you effectively optimize your content for digital? Firstly, understand how your audience is going to discover your content. Most of your audience will discover your company blog via a search engine. That means headlines or titles that don’t use simple, literal phrasing (i.e. mirror how people search for your topic) are likely to hinder engagement.
When New York City faced a blizzard in 2010, print newspapers reported on it with headlines such as, ‘The Brrrfect Storm’, and, ‘Ice Scream!’. These sorts of headlines might make sense when you’re looking at a physical newspaper already in front of you, but it would be a mistake to mimic this sort of wordplay in digital content because no one is using this sort of language to search for things on search engines. To draw traffic to your content, avoid being too clever with your headlines and titles, and opt for a one-line summary of what your article is about – no puns, no metaphors, no complicated wording.
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The majority of your audience will also be consuming digital content on their cell phones. That means for written content such as articles or blog posts, it’s best to avoid images that show complicated graphs or contain a lot of text – these images will appear in miniature and your audience will struggle to decipher the detail.
Similarly, for social media content, cell phone optimization is an absolute must, with 99% of users accessing social media apps or websites via their phone. Make sure your images or videos are vertical and measure 900×1600 so they can fit the average smartphone screen. And remember – if your audience are on their phones, they could also be anywhere: at the groceries, in the hospital, on the toilet. This means if you’re producing video content, you need to account for the fact that your audience may not be in a position to play the sound. In fact, according to Subly, up to 90% of users play videos with the sound off. To increase engagement, optimize your videos by including subtitles or captions.
3. Diversify your content channels
If your content marketing team have only one content channel, and you’re wondering why audience engagement is so low, you need to think outside the blog.
The fact is, for your content to succeed you should be repurposing and distributing it as widely as possible. Don’t plant a single crop and expect a fruitful harvest; scatter seeds throughout the whole field. While using keywords in your company blog might help to drive some traffic to your company website, diversifying your content channels will mean you’re not just relying on your audience coming to you: you’ll be meeting them where they’re at. Consider experimenting with video content (including short form), podcasting, email marketing (such as subscriber-based newsletters) and gamification.
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As well as utilizing different forms of content, consider publishing on different platforms too. Organic content may be lower cost, but paid content can ensure your content is put in front of a vast and highly-specialized audience. You’ve got the content, they’ve got the audience – it’s as simple as that. And hosting your content on third-party platforms will allow you to backlink to your native website, boosting your SEO (which is itself helpful for your organic content strategy).
At Open Mic, we publish our members’ content directly onto The Drum’s homepage each month, allowing them to tap into our 1.2 million monthly audience. Along with the social media short-form videos we help them produce, we help to position them as true thought-leaders in their field. Interested in joining the Open Mic community? Click here to find out more.
Visit The Drum’s Content Marketing in Focus hub for more news, insights, and strategies around content marketing.
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