Content Marketing is one of our favourite things. It’s the core of everything we do: outreach, videos, infographics, landing page optimisation, surveys, competitions, white papers, guides and so on. We’re forever planning, writing, proofing, editing, researching, creating, plotting, pitching and analysing.

Unfortunately, Content Marketing is at threat due to the tidal wave of “Content for Content Sake” that’s beginning to engulf the internet like plastic bags in the ocean. It’s blocking the well-documented series of internet tubes and clogging up our routers. More worryingly, it has the potential to give Content Marketing a bad name.
The rise in popularity is a result of, well, content being awesome and it being fundamental to everything good online. There have been some really successful content campaigns over the last few years and now everyone wants a piece of the pie.

Content is king, as the saying goes.

SEO agencies are evolving into content agencies, social media teams use content to produce more meaningful posts, and even the most niche of niche business websites have blogs. This is all great, it’s what the industry has been advising businesses to do for years.
More recently, a new trend is emerging which is being coined “brands as publishers”. Take Red Bull, for instance, they have a library spanning over 5,000 videos, 50,000 images not to mention running several extreme sports events, many of which are televised. They also happen to sell a drink, don’t you know?
Exciting stuff.

The downside of all this content marketing hype

All the hype means that there will be a lot more content than there was before – and it’s growing still.  This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem except for the fact that it brings a deluge of copycats and half-baked attempts to replicate other brands successes minus the originality, commitment to quality and expertise.
Making matters worse, businesses will succumb to commercial pressures compounding the issue such as squeezed margins and increased scalability, both of which led to a further decline in quality.
The result of all this is that those in Content Marketing are going to find it harder and harder to make an impact. Not just because of a crowded market, but because the level of ‘noise’ is just going to wear down your potential readers to the point that they switch off completely.
“Fake News” and those awful celebrity click-baits are fine examples of Content Marketing going wrong and raising a generation of content-sceptics. Going hand-in-hand with this is an abuse of ad space and pop-ups resulting in a terrible user experience.

So, how do you succeed at Content Marketing and cut through the noise?

Like most things, there’s no one size fits all approach. There are, however, many ways to optimise your approach and produce the best content in your field.

  1. Prize strategy over tactics

Tactics are great, but they’re just a means to an end and aren’t going to give your content marketing strategy any weight. If your content strategy is lacking a strategy, then it’s just content (for content sake).
A strategy should outline how the content is aligned to wider marketing activities and messaging. It should set commercial objectives and plot where you are, where you want to be and the activities which will enable you to get there. For instance:

  • The plan is to increase market share by improving our brand’s reputation as leading experts and a source of quality advice
    • To do this, we will produce X, Y, and Z
    • While aligning to a relevant timeline/calendar
    • Generate new customers through search
    • As well as inform existing audiences through social
    • And success looks like this…
  1. Have purpose

A really simple concept, but how do you decide on the purpose of the content?
Pick a goal.
Some easy to measure, achievable goals include:

  • Drive traffic through Google
  • To be engaged with on Facebook
  • Be linked to from other sites

Once a goal is assigned, you have a barometer of “what good looks like” and by default, your content will improve. Trust me.
If the goal is to get links, then the content has to be good to gain links. If it’s Google traffic, it has to be good in order for Google rank it. If it’s for social engagement, it won’t be engaged with unless it’s good.

  1. Fail to plan, plan to fail

While having purpose ensures the success of each piece, having a plan ensures successes of the wider strategy.
Having plotted where you are and where you want to be, the plan is essentially the roadmap of specific steps that make up the strategy.

  1. Go research yourself

Research these days seems to consist almost entirely of Googling, copy/pasting, and spinning. Whilst it’s good to back up your points with sourced data (I’ve done it a few times in this article), it’s just regurgitating something that already exists online. There’s also a chance that your “source” has done the same, as has the person before.
Start getting in the habit of introducing something new and original into everything you do. It’s easy to run little surveys, or crowdsource some information from actual human beings, or insert some information taken from an offline source.
Combining two pieces of online research to produce something new and interesting can be equally valid. Just try to do something original with the research instead of just quoting it.

  1. Write about what you know

Blogs aren’t really personal / business diaries. No one really wants to read stories like “we’ve hired a new cleaner” and “we’ve got new headed paper”.
If you’re business blogging, write about your field. Be the expert. Be a mentor to you readers. Don’t take what you know for granted. You probably know more than anyone about headed paper, so be useful and offer tips and insight instead.
If you’re stuck for ideas, a great way to be useful is creating FAQ content. What questions do your customers or clients always ask? The chances are you’ve answered these questions in depth as emails. All you have to do is polish it and post on the blog. Easy.
For example, an FAQ we receive is “how do you track sales in Google Analytics”. That right there is a worthwhile blog post.
This is such an effective strategy for SEO. People ask Google all sorts of questions and you never know, your helpful answer might end up in the position number one, drive traffic and business leads.

  1. Mobile-first content

Mobile represents as much as 65% of digital media consumption so poor UX caused by page size, load speeds, ads, pop-ups and so on will negatively impact two-thirds of your readers. Furthermore, as much as 80 percent of social media time is spent on mobile devices, so if you want your content shared, it has to be mobile-friendly.
Getting Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) on your site should be a priority for 2017/18.

  1. Promote your content

If the extent of your Content Marketing is to hit publish and move on to the next piece, then it’s like the old saying says, “if a tree fell in the woods…”.
Website content should be shared on social media as standard, but that’s merely the basics. Content should be proactively shared with the industry, opening opportunities to get featured on other sites and share the messaging further. You can begin to harness a customer information base by capturing emails and start to update fans with regular news and information.
This kind of activity turns passive readers into brand advocates, it turns casual visits into leads.
Promotion is a great quality test too. If people don’t like and share your content or want to link to it, feature it on their sites etc. then you might need to try a little harder.

  1. Analyse.

Analysis doesn’t have to be complicated or laborious. A great, simple ways to track performance is to use Google Analytics to track page-level visits and view the source of traffic, be it social, search or referral. That way, you build on the channels that are working and improve the ones that aren’t.
Using Google Webmaster tools (now knowns as Search Console), you can track non-brand keywords. A strong series of FAQ style content can result in a surprising amount of non-brand SEO traffic for niche keywords. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see a more than half of traffic driven by editorial content, when it’s done properly.

  1. Finally, ………. Be patient

No one said content marketing was easy. It takes time to cultivate an audience, build trust, review and refine. It takes time for search ranks to build and organic traffic to rise. It takes time to build a loyal readership and an army of fans ready to comment on and share your words of wisdom.
Setting realistic goals and celebrating milestones will enable the wider team and business share in your successes and help improve stakeholder buy-in along the way.

So… No More “Content for Content Sake”

All the research and the surveys point in the same direction. A huge tidal wave of content is coming. Apparently, 78% of CMOs cite content as the future of marketing and that’s a big deal. It also begs the question, what do the remaining 22% think?
Some businesses are reporting that Content Marketing costs around half the price of traditional marketing and can drive three times the number of leads. As far as ballpark figures go, that’s off the scale.
There’s no doubt that Content Marketing will play a huge part in your business’s marketing efforts and with the right strategy, can yield some impressive results.
But, as the saying goes, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.
Oh, and of course, Glaze can help. #justsaying