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Category Archive: Content Marketing

  1. 10 Free Ways to Increase Your Content Reach

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    The success of a content marketing campaign is dependent on two factors: one, how good your content is, and two, how far your content is able to reach. With self-discipline, practice, and the understanding that constant adjustment and improvement is necessary, almost anyone can develop themselves into a great content producer. So what happens if you’re writing great content on a regular basis, but nobody seems to be reading it?

    A scenario like this means you have a reach problem. Theoretically, if you start with a decent number of readers, good content should carry itself to a much wider audience through social shares, links, and word of mouth. But what if you don’t have a decent number of readers to start with?

    Fortunately, there’s more than one solution—10 of them, by my count. Try using 1 or more of these 10 ways to increase the reach of your content for free:

    1. Syndicate your post on social media.

    articleimage1610 Syndicate your post on social media

    This should be an obvious step, but you’d be surprised how many new content marketers overlook it. Your social media channels are made to get the message out, and everyone who’s liked or followed your brand so far will get to see it. Syndicate your content with a snappy title and lead-in, and be sure to hit every social platform you have. You can even syndicate older posts to give them a new boost of visibility.

    2. Submit your content to social bookmarking sites.

    articleimage1610 Submit your content to social bookmarking sites

    Social bookmarking sites are an underrated tool in the content marketer’s arsenal. Submitting to platforms like Reddit and StumbleUpon is easy, free, and best of all, gives you the potential for thousands of new views. Just remember the catch—you’re only going to get seen by a handful of users at first. It takes the support of the community to escalate your post to meaningful levels of visibility, but if you have great content, you’ll be able to get there.

    3. Get your colleagues, friends, and family to share.

    articleimage1610 Get your colleagues, friends, and family to share

    The reach of your brand on social media can only take you so far. The more people you have pushing your content out, the more new eyes you’ll get. In the early stages of your campaign, don’t be afraid to ask your coworkers, friends, and family members to support you with a little extra boost. It could get you dozens, or even hundreds of new eyes.

    4. Ask for guest spots on outside blogs.

    articleimage1610 Ask for guest spots on outside blogs

    Use your content as a platform to request guest spots on outside publishers. If you’re accepted, you’ll have a chance to post some of your greatest material there, getting in front of all their traffic (and pointing it back to your site when you can). The bigger and better known your target source is, the greater effects you’ll see.

    5. Use interlinking to increase visibility for older posts.

    articleimage1610 Use interlinking to increase visibility for older posts

    Interlinking is a simple process of including links to other posts you’ve written on every new post you submit. It only takes an extra few minutes to link relevant content within each post, and it has the tremendous benefit of keeping people browsing your site for content for longer. Plus, thoroughly interlinked sites get a boost to domain authority, helping you rank higher.

    6. Use external links to draw new traffic to your material.

    Manual link building is starting to fade as a cost-efficient strategy, but if you’re in the early stages of development and you’re desperate for some more visibility, it’s a viable option. Find relevant ways to mention your content on outside blogs and forums—just be confident you’re adding real value to the conversation by doing so.

    7. Work with influencers to distribute your content further.

    Influencers are gateways to thousands of social media users. If you can convince one to share your material, you could instantly gain access to all those potential new readers. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask.

    8. Offer an email newsletter to send updates and new posts.

    Get all your content readers, site visitors, and clients to subscribe to an email newsletter, and use that as a platform to send out your latest, greatest content. As long as you get a few interested users, it will be worth the effort. As your email list grows, so will the benefits.

    9. Consider paid traffic options.

    Content strategies perform fine given enough time, effort, and quality, every content strategy can become successful organically. However, if you need a little extra boost early on, you can consider a paid traffic option to complement your efforts. For example, you could use a Facebook ad or an affiliate link to generate some extra traffic for your best posts.

    10. Network in the real world.

    This is an underrated strategy because it’s time consuming and outside the digital realm, but it has a real impact on your total numbers. Get to know the other professionals in your area, speak at events, and get your brand known in your local area—you’ll get tons of new traffic to your site.

    Put some of these strategies to the test, and you’ll see results almost immediately. The wider your circles become and the more initial readers you can capture upon publication, the faster your content will be able to spread—that’s why content marketing has such potential for exponential growth. Keep your focus on writing great content, syndicate as often and as thoroughly as you can, and the rest should take care of itself.

  2. 7 Ways to Make Your Content More Fun

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    Nobody wants to read boring content. The problem is, boring is a necessary and common part of the world—or at least so it would seem. The fact is, even though there are collectively agreed-on “boring” industries (like manufacturing) and “exciting” industries (like pop culture), these are nothing more than stereotypes. The only thing necessary to prevent any content (no matter what industry it’s being written for) from being boring is your own imagination.

    If you find that the content you’re writing is boring, or if you just want to have a little more fun with your marketing strategy, try one or more of these strategies to add a little more spice to your campaign:

    1. Make your writing more digestible.

    articleimage1609 Make your writing more digestible

    By “digestible,” what I mean is easier for casual readers to pick apart. Your first job lies in the formatting of your piece; use sub-headings, different sections, bulleted lists, numbered lists, and bold fonts to call out specific subsections of your piece. It lets people read the piece how they want to read it—either by skimming the major sections, or reading it all the way through. Then, watch the individual sentences of your piece. Keep things light, concise, and easy to read—no need for complex vocabulary unless it’s necessary. Nobody’s going to have fun with your piece if it’s a chore to read through.

    2. Get creative with images and memes.

    articleimage1609 Get creative with images and memes

    Multimedia content is always a win, whether you’re pursuing a pure content strategy or you’re optimizing for SEO. Including a few images or popular memes is an easy way to make your post a little more humorous, and a little more engaging. You might find a funny cat picture that perfectly summarizes your sentiments toward the latest industry news, or take a candid picture of one of your colleagues to demonstrate how something works in your business. The more creative you are, the better—and try to stay away from stock photography.

    3. Make jokes and asides (when appropriate).

    articleimage1609 Make jokes and asides

    Almost everyone loves a good joke now and then. Don’t make it a point to write out your best ice-breaking joke in the middle of your piece, but feel free to throw in some casual asides when you feel it’s appropriate. You might make fun of an industry standard, or call attention to the flaws in one of your illustrations. For this, you’ll have to be in tune with your creative and humorous sides, but as long as you stay within the boundaries of your brand, you can’t go too wrong.

    4. Include an interactive element.

    articleimage1609 Include an interactive element

    People have fun when they’re engaging with something—it’s why video games are becoming a popular form of storytelling. If you can find a way to get your audience to take action in your post, or even better, engage with it directly, you’ll instantly have a more fun piece on your hands. Include a brief quiz or survey at the end of your article, or encourage people to share their own stories (assuming you’ve told one of your own). It doesn’t matter how you get people to interact with you, as long as they do.

    5. Take advantage of storytelling.

    articleimage1609 Take advantage of storytelling

    Humans are naturally inclined to find meaning in stories more than any other format. We learn better by seeing and hearing a narrative example of how a strategy should be use than we do by simply reading the steps to the process—and we have more fun doing it. Take advantage of this natural preference, and incorporate more forms of storytelling into your content campaign. You might tell real-life examples of your company’s work in the form of case studies, or invent a fictional character who you can guide to illustrate complex industry concepts—again, the choice here is yours. All forms of storytelling are good forms.

    6. Use strange or amusing hypotheticals and metaphors.

    Hypothetical scenarios and illustrative metaphors are your best chance to get creative, so play them up as much as possible. There aren’t any rules here as long as you end up demonstrating your concept—you could have a fictional character named Bob wander into an alternate dimension after getting lost on the way to the pizza place, and then see how he reacts to different situations relevant to your company. Get as wacky as your brand voice will allow, and consider including actual illustrations if your artistic skills allow it.

    7. Be yourself.

    This is the last step I’m listing, but it’s also one of the most important. It’s a good idea to establish a consistent brand voice for your company and follow that brand voice when writing, but it’s also important to be yourself. Make the jokes you want to make. Use the tone you would use in conversations with clients. A little bit of personality goes a long way in making your content fun.

    Any one of these strategies should be enough to make your content more fun to read. Add in a few of them, and you’ll soar to new heights of amusement. Like any other element of content marketing, you’re going to get better with practice, so don’t be afraid to try these out immediately and stick with them even if you aren’t sure what you’re doing at first. In time, you’ll find a natural voice, and you’ll figure out exactly which of these tactics work best for you.

  3. 3 Types of Long-Form Content That Boost Traffic to Your Site

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    Content marketing, as a concept, is deceptively simple. Produce written, visual, or otherwise engaging material that informs or entertains an audience, and you’ll get more traffic, more visibility, and more respect for your brand. Unfortunately, the word “content” doesn’t begin to describe the hundreds of different forms, functions, and possibilities that can appeal to your readers.

    Even without getting into alternative mediums like video or images, there are two stark kingdoms of content available: short-form and long-form. Short-form content contains fewer than 1,000 words and is usually meant as a digestible overview of a given topic, or a specific report on a niche topic. Long-form content is more than 1,000 words, and is typically more than 2,000 words. It serves as a much more detailed, exploratory, and comprehensive piece.

    One form of content is not inherently better than the other. According to a recent report by Moz and BuzzSumo, links and shares generated by short-form content are in total greater, but individual pieces of long-form content generate far more shares than any individual piece of short-form content. Put simply, long-form content is more powerful if you put the necessary time and effort into it, but it’s harder to produce, so you won’t be able to produce it as frequently. Whether you publish your long-form content onsite or offer it via downloadable link externally, the benefits are nearly the same.

    With that in mind, you need to make sure every piece of long-form content you produce offers unparalleled quality. If done correctly, you can attract hundreds, if not thousands of new visitors to your site—and the piece itself will remain in your archives indefinitely for more people to review and earn more trust in your brand.

    There are three types of long-form content I like to use, and each one has its own unique advantages:

    1. Case Studies.

     articleimage1594 case studies

    Case studies are typically examinations of specific instances where your company was able to help a client (or did something innovative for itself). Case studies are usually used and flaunted by B2B companies, but there’s nothing to stop a B2C company from using one to demonstrate the effectiveness of a product on a large scale.

    There’s no “proper” way to format a case study, but most brands choose to start out with a description of the problem, or of the situation before the brand became involved. Think of this as the “before” section. Then, they delve into the specific mechanics they used to address the situation, including the strategies and tools they leveraged—the “during” section. Finally, they close with metrics and an evaluation of where the client was by the end of the process—the “after” section.

    There are three things that make case studies powerful. First, the power of storytelling; humans are naturally drawn to stories, and connect with them easier than blunt information. Tell a good story for your case study and you’ll instantly win over an audience. Second, measurable metrics; if you’re able to objectively quantify the work and benefits you’ve produced, people will trust you more. Finally, third-party validation; get a testimonial, or at least a quote from your client to show how trustworthy you are.

    2. Whitepapers.

    articleimage1594 white papers

    Whitepapers are similar in length to case studies, ranging from 1,500 to 5,000 words in most cases, but their intention is different. Rather than trying to make a pitch for a business or tell a story, whitepapers are informational. What that information is and how you present it is entirely up to you (and what fits with your brand identity).

    For example, you might choose to publish some of the original research you conducted on the current state of the market, breaking down your survey responses in both visual and written format. You might choose to make it more of a how-to document, detailing the finer points of accomplishing a certain task, strategy, or approach related to your industry.

    No matter what you choose to publish in whitepaper format, your goals here are specificity and clarity. You have plenty of length to work with, so include as many details as possible, and use whatever means you can to make sure your points are well understood (visual elements are nice here).

    3. eBooks.

    articleimage1594 ebook

    eBooks are a bit longer than whitepapers or case studies, though there’s no formal minimum length requirement. To be called an eBook, I recommend you have several chapters’ worth of information, or at least 10,000 words. eBooks are unique because they can be about pretty much anything—you can turn them into longer-form whitepapers, with each chapter serving as a mini-whitepaper on its own. You can use them as a personal platform to discuss your opinions and ideas in your area of expertise. You can even use them to detail your brand’s strategies as both an informative push and a soft pitch for more business.

    Usefulness and originality are the keys to success for eBooks. You’ll have to be informative, entertaining, or some blend of the two to capture an audience, and you’ll have to choose a topic that hasn’t already been done to death. It’s not easy—there are a lot of eBooks out there already, but if you can find an untapped niche, you’ll win a large, warm audience.

    There’s no rule that says you have to use all three of these forms for your content marketing strategy, or even a rule that you have to include long-form content at all. However, these forms collectively serve as an ideal complement to a consistent short-form content production schedule, offering shorter bursts of higher impact and the opportunity to truly show off what you’re capable of. Integrate these forms wisely, and don’t skimp on the time or effort you put into them.

  4. 7 Ways to Make Your Content More Trustworthy

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    To be successful with a content marketing program, your content needs to do a lot of things. It needs to be compelling if you want to attract new people. It needs to be informative if you want people to come back to you. It needs to be entertaining if you want people to keep reading. But if you want people to become more loyal to your brand, and eventually buy from you, there’s one trait that’s indispensable: trustworthiness.

    Trustworthy content will always perform better than questionable content because its information will be held in higher regard, and your brand, as author, will be more trusted and respected in turn. While building trust with people isn’t always easy, there are some simple ways to make your content more trustworthy to the public:

    1. Publish With Personal Brands.

    articleimage1597 Publish With Personal Brands

    People trust other people far more than they trust corporations, yet I still see many businesses posting blogs with a corporate brand as the author. This is a mistake; instead, establish a handful of personal brand profiles and embellish them in your blog. Include names, bylines, and brief bios so people know who’s writing all your material. Readers can follow their favorite authors, hold more trust in the information being provided to them, and ultimately form a closer relationship with your business. You can even invite other, outside personal brands in as guest writers.

    2. Cite Outside Sources.

    You may know a lot about your industry and have years of expertise fueling your claims, but that won’t mean much to a new reader who’s never met you. To add real substance and authoritative power to your writing, cite outside authorities on the matter, and include references for any data you received from an external source. It will make your content seem stronger, better researched, and more reliable than if you just wrote off the top of your head. The more valuable the source, like a national publisher or a leading expert in the industry, the better.

    3. Offer Personal Experience.

    articleimage1597 Offer Personal Experience

    Outside sources are great, but if you can cite personal experience—specifically—it’s going to make your content even more trustworthy. The key here is to recall specific instances; vaguely indicating that “I’ve seen this before” or “I’ve found that” isn’t going to cut it. Tell a story about the events that led you to this conclusion, step by step if necessary, and explain it in a context that will make sense to your reader. The more specific you can be with this, the better.

    4. Use Quantifiable Information When Possible.

    When it comes to logical information, quantifiable data is always better than qualitative data—at least when it comes to persuading someone. For example, stating that most marketers are currently using content marketing as a primary strategy isn’t as powerful as stating that 62 percent of most marketers are using content as a primary strategy. If you don’t have this information immediately available, try to find some backing for it in an external source. If that secondary research fails you, try to quantify it in a less precise way—for example, you could say 3 out of 5 marketers you’ve spoken to have stated that content is a primary strategy. Numbers almost always make your content more trustworthy.

    5. Avoid Attention-Grabbing Gimmicks.

    articleimage1597 Avoid Attention-Grabbing Gimmicks

    It might be tempting to earn more visibility and traffic with a sensational or slightly misleading headline; doing so can earn you more clicks, but be aware that those visitors will almost immediately distrust your brand as a result. It’s better to write strong, compelling headlines that are accurate and straightforward about the content you have to offer. They won’t earn you as many clicks or visits as a gimmicky strategy, but they’ll earn you a lot more trust.

    6. Be Thorough.

    When exploring a given topic, be as thorough as possible, even if it means compromising your position. For example, if you’re arguing in favor of adopting a new technology in a given industry, don’t stop after the main points of your argument; include the main points of a counterargument, and possible objections your readers might raise. Admit if you don’t have all the information, or if there are things you aren’t sure of. Nobody’s perfect, and nobody has all the answers—admitting that is only going to make you seem more trustworthy, so give your audience the full picture whenever you can.

    7. Get Rid of the Ads.

    articleimage1597 Get Rid of the Ads

    People don’t respond well to advertising. They don’t like being sold to, and if they feel like your content is primarily intended to make you more profitable, they aren’t going to continue reading. Remember that ads take on many forms—those flashy banner ads are probably the first and most important thing to remove, but also avoid making any hard sales pitches in the body of your content. Ending an article with a phrase like, “be sure to buy one of our great products today!” instantly destroys any credibility you might have built until that point. You can still encourage conversions, but do so subtly if you want to preserve your reputation.

    Put these elements into practice and your content will almost instantly become more trustworthy. As your readers continue to read more of your material, becoming more familiar with your brand in the process, that trust can only stand to grow. Prioritize trust as one of your top objectives in your marketing campaign, and you can’t go wrong.

  5. Why the Secret to a Great Content Campaign Is Networking

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    articleimage1584 Why the Secret to a Great Content Campaign Is Networking

    I’ve seen plenty of articles on the “secrets” of content marketing, covering great topics such as conducting original research, incorporating multiple mediums, doing customer research to find appropriate subjects and forms, and other valuable best practices. The quality of your content is of critical importance, and it’s impossible to have a successful campaign without it. However, high-quality content simply isn’t enough to make your campaign a success. For that, you need something else, and for most brands and companies, that something else is networking.

    The Tree in the Woods Problem

    articleimage1584 The Tree in the Woods Problem

    The big problem here is akin to the old thought experiment—if a tree falls in the woods, and there’s no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? There’s no one definitive answer to this question, but a similar question regarding content marketing does have a definitive answer. If content is high-quality and well-written, but there’s no one around to read it, does it have an effect? The answer is no.

    You can have the best-written content in your industry getting published on a regular basis, but it doesn’t matter if there’s nobody there to read it. The key to getting an initial base of readers (and growing any base you currently enjoy) is by reaching out to new prospects through networking.

    Networking as a Prequalification Strategy

    articleimage1584 Five Tiers of Networking

    The first major function of networking for a content campaign is a kind of prequalification. Prequalifying leads is all about weeding out tire kickers and other types of people who don’t really have a chance of buying anything. Networking for content readers is a way of finding new readers who might actually read and appreciate your work. Instead of waiting for those highly interested readers to show up on their own, give your campaign a jumpstart by going out and finding them yourself.

    Networking as a Growth Strategy

    articleimage1584 Networking as a Growth Strategy

    Of course, networking also functions as a growth strategy. It’s most critical when you’re first starting out and you have no readers, but even as your campaign grows organically, it can greatly escalate your visibility and reach. Every new person you bring in as a reader has the potential to share that content with his/her own network of followers, giving you a new outlet to a new audience, every time.

    Five Tiers of Networking

    articleimage1584 Five Tiers of Networking

    When you think about networking for a content campaign, you can generally rely on five “tiers.” Lower tiers are easier to access and easier to recruit, but have less relevance and less potential in growing your campaign. Conversely, higher tiers are harder to access and recruit, but have much greater relevance and growth potential:

    1. Coworkers, Friends, and Family.

    The first tier is the simplest, and most new content campaigns will have to start here. To give your content an early boost, try sharing it with your coworkers, friends, and family members. This is especially useful for small businesses who already have a dozen or more workers. Encourage everyone you know to check out your new blog and share it with their respective circles.

    2. Friends of Friends and Secondary Connections.

    Next, you’ll be working with secondary connections, which you can think of as “friends of friends.” Ask your tier one contacts (coworkers, friends, and family) if they know of anybody specifically who could get good use out of your blog. This will serve as a kind of “prequalification,” giving you access to the most valuable potential readers in your second tier of connections. Those readers who find your content most valuable will have the highest likelihood of sharing your content, escalating your reach even further.

    3. Outside Professionals.

    For the next circle, you’ll have to step outside the boundaries of people you already know. Specifically, you’ll be tracking down other professionals in your industry (or related to your industry) who might have an interest in your work. You can meet these professionals at networking events, conferences, tradeshows, and even in the general public. Every new connection you make is a potential new gateway to more prequalified readers (and brand new audiences).

    4. Competitors and Industry Leaders.

    The next circle is more difficult to go after, but you stand to benefit more by recruiting them. Competitors and industry leaders already carry some clout in your industry—getting them to read, share, and comment on your work will get you tons of new attention from their respective followers, and they likely have a lot of them. Choose your targets carefully, and be sure to offer something of value in exchange for getting a recommendation (or a spot as a guest blogger).

    5. Major Publishers and Influencers.

    Finally, reach out to major publishers and influencers with huge followings and authority to match. Getting a piece of work featured on one of these high-profile publishers can instantly connect you with thousands of new readers, but be prepared for a challenge in doing so unless you have ample lower-tier connections vouching for you. Once you’ve reached this tier, there’s no more upward trajectory remaining, so spend the remainder of your networking time seeking and recruiting similar-level sources.

    How you go about networking is up to you, but the more you network, the larger and more relevant an audience you’ll have to enjoy the content you put so much effort into. If your content is good enough, your audience will grow naturally—people will willingly, sometimes enthusiastically, share your material with others on their own. Until that happens, and even after it happens, use networking as a way to expand your circle of readership. With quality content and an ever-expanding audience in place, there’s nothing that can stop you from reaching your readership and traffic goals.

  6. What’s More Important, Links or Social Shares?

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    articleimage1583 What's More Important, Links or Social Shares

    When it comes to the success of a piece of content, there are several possible metrics to evaluate. You can look at its views to determine its popularity, look at its comments to discern its level of engagement with the community, or the number of times it’s been shared on social media to determine how eager people are to spread the word about your content. But there’s another way to measure how eager people are to share your content, and that’s through the number of links pointing back to it.

    Links and social shares both offer a number of benefits in addition to being good indicators of a piece’s strength, and because of that, you should strive for both. However, it’s natural to wonder—is one more valuable or important than the other?

    Quick Definitions

    articleimage1583 Quick Definitions

    First, it’s important to define exactly what constitutes a “link” and what constitutes a “social share.” Under the strictest definition, a social share is the act of a user reading a piece of content on your website, then clicking a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social media icon to share that piece of content on their personal profile with their friends and followers. This could also apply to pieces of content that are found on social media and subsequently shared or retweeted from there, but you’ll only get some of the benefits from this type of “social sharing.” Your priority should be the former.

    When it comes to links, we’re referring to permanently built hyperlinks pointing back to the piece, and therefore, your domain. These aren’t nofollow links, and they aren’t manually built or asked for by the author. They might be used as citations in other authors’ pieces, or they might exist independently.

    Indicators of a Piece’s Success

    articleimage1583 Indicators of a Piece’s Success

    As an indicator of the overall “success” of your piece, links and social shares can be counted somewhat equally. A social share means a user has found your content valuable and interesting enough to share with other users, meaning that user is proud to support your brand. It represents an emotionally or socially successful piece. A link means an author or webmaster has found your content authoritative enough to be cited or referenced, which represents a more logically or scientifically successful piece. These are two different types of success, but one is not inherently more valuable than the other. Ideally, you’d win both.

    Potential for Attracting More Direct Visitors

    Both social shares and external links have the potential to attract more direct visitors; external links can be clicked, resulting in referral traffic, and socially shared links can be clicked, resulting in social traffic. A visitor is a visitor, so in that regard, links and social shares are practically equal. In terms of numbers of new visitors, that depends entirely on who’s doing the sharing and who’s doing the linking. A social influencer with 10,000 followers is going to send a lot more traffic your way than a newbie with 10.


    articleimage1583 Authoritativeness

    There’s a slight winner when it comes to how much “authoritativeness” your article is imbued with in link or share format. Social shares are easy to make, and don’t necessitate any particular reason for sharing. A user could share something out of boredom, amusement, or a genuine desire to add value to other people’s days. Links are more difficult to build and are usually indicators of greater authority. Links are only built when a site wants to give value or credit to another site. If you’re looking for factors of your article’s authoritativeness, links are your slightly more favorable option—just don’t forget that there are plenty of high-level professionals who can socially share your content for the same reasons.

    Value Variance

    articleimage1583 Value Variance

    We’ve already covered the fact that a social share isn’t inherently more or less valuable than a link, but what about the variance of value for each type of indicator? For example, a social share could be practically worthless if shared by someone with only a handful of followers and no influence, or potentially enormously valuable if shared by a major influencer. A link, on the other hand, could be very valuable on a high-authority source, or could actually do harm to your domain authority if it’s used on a low-authority or spam site. Because social shares have slightly less risk here and just as much potential, they get a slight edge.

    Ranking Signals

    When it comes to passing ranking signals that affect your search rank in Google, both social shares and links are active players. Links objectively pass more authority than social shares, but social shares are included as part of Google’s ranking algorithm. Again, the real value here is who’s doing the linking and sharing—a social share from a national brand could influence your rank more than a poorly built link, but links overall will have the advantage in the long run.

    The Bottom Line

    Both links and social shares are important indicators of content success and valuable additions to your inbound marketing strategy. However, one is not objectively superior to the other. Social shares are better indicators of the emotional strength of your piece and offer no risk whatsoever, while links are better indicators of the logical strength of your piece and offer greater ranking benefits overall. Try to find a balance between the two that suits your brand, and never turn down an opportunity to get more of each.

  7. How to Overcome the Quality Gap in Content Marketing

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    Content marketing is one of the most valuable long-term digital marketing strategies around. With enough valuable content, you can easily build a loyal audience of readers, drive more referral and social traffic to your site from your external and syndication sources, and even rank higher in search engines thanks to the links and shares you’ve gotten. It all sounds pretty good, but there’s one critical and growing problem in the content marketing world: the gap between what qualifies as “good” content and “bad” content is huge.

    The Extent of the Gap

    articleimage1579 The Extent of the Gap

    Due in part to the oversaturation of content and in part to the increasing user discernment, the average value of a piece of content in the world has decreased. In fact, according to a recent report by Moz and BuzzSumo, the “typical” piece of content adds almost no value to a site’s domain authority. Around 75 percent of the content pieces they examined had zero links and zero shares, meaning they passed no objective discernable value to their root domains. They could have still been seen and read by dozens or hundreds of people, but the key takeaway here is that only 25 percent of content becomes a worthy “top performer.”

    As that gap continues to increase, it becomes even more important for content marketers to make it to that top standard. Fortunately, there are several ways to do this.

    Choose Unique Topics

    articleimage1579 Choose Unique Topics

    Your first job is to stand out in the field. One of the biggest problems in the content world is that most everything’s been done already; when a user stumbles upon a headline that they’ve seen in 10 different forms already, they’re not especially inclined to check out the latest iteration. When they see a headline they’ve never seen before, however, they’ll stand a far better chance of investigating. Finding topics that nobody’s done before can be tough, but it’s a job you’ll have to take on if you want to differentiate yourself from the crowd.

    Rely on Original Research

    articleimage1579 Rely on Original Research

    Original research is the basis for most great content. Because nobody else has done it before, it automatically imbues it with a level of uniqueness. Because it takes time and effort, it automatically makes it valuable (as long as you choose a topic that people care about). The difficult part of original research is that it’s often either time consuming or expensive. However, putting greater effort into your content is going to make it inherently more valuable, and more worthy of those links and shares.

    Incorporate Multiple Mediums

    articleimage1579 Incorporate Multiple Mediums

    It isn’t enough to provide written content to your users these days. Readers demand content in multiple digestible forms. Typically presenting your content in infographic or video form is good enough to spark greater user interest, but if you write up an article, be sure to include at least one visual to accompany it. Even an image to go along with the headline can lead to a substantial increase in likes and shares. The more innovative you get here, the better—try to cater to different audiences.

    Choose an Appropriate Length

    The length of your content matters greatly to its share potential. Generally, short pieces like listicles, quizzes, and other forms of “bite sized” content perform best when they’re under 1,000 words. If you’re producing a video that translates to less than 5 minutes. On the other hand, if you’re delving into some deep research or writing in detail about an opinion, it’s better to have your piece between 1,000 and 10,000 words, or a video between 5 and 15 minutes in length. No matter what length of content you choose, be sure your writing in concise and detailed.

    Write in a Unique Brand Voice

    People have a lot of choices when it comes to providers of content. Make sure your tone and brand position are attractive enough to warrant links and shares from your readers. This should be in line with your overall brand standards, but should also cater to your readership. Use personal inflections and write from the heart—people will find it much easier to connect with your material.

    End With a Valuable Insight or Takeaway

    Some of the most shared content on the web is practical—it helps readers in some way. Opinion pieces can be great sources of original thoughts, but only if those thoughts lead to some meaningful action, such as informing voters about an upcoming issue and presenting an understated viewpoint. Be sure your article ends with some mention of value, or a takeaway for readers.

    Do Something Surprising

    Last but not least, do something that takes your audience by surprise. Surprise is a somewhat contagious emotion, so if you surprise your readers successfully, they’ll be more likely to share it with their friends and followers. The nature of that surprise is up to you, your topic, and the seriousness of your brand voice.

    It’s true that the average piece of content is less valuable today than a similar piece was just five years ago, but that doesn’t mean your content has to be average. As long as you’re putting the right level of effort into your content, there’s nothing stopping you from reaping the greatest benefits of a long-term campaign—even in this oversaturated market. Remain critical and vigilant of every piece of content you produce, so that only the best content ever makes the cut. Your results will speak for themselves.

  8. 7 Forms of Content That You Need for Your Strategy

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    Content marketing demands a level of diversity. While one of your biggest priorities should be keeping your brand voice and output consistent to build a loyal audience, you’ll need to include multiple mediums and forms of content if you want to gain more domain authority and attract more new users to your site.

    Fortunately, there’s little guesswork involved in what forms of content you need to make a campaign successful. There have been numerous studies conducted to evaluate exactly what types of content generate the greatest number of links and shares, and a handful of key winners always seem to stand out. Include these seven forms of content in your own ongoing strategy, and you’ll see far more links, shares, and traffic accordingly:

    1. Original research and research-backed pieces.

    articleimage1555 Original research and research-backed pieces

    Original research is some of the best content you can produce for two reasons. First, it’s rare—people are seldom willing to take research into their own hands, so original pieces are inherently more valuable and more attractive to all those people doing secondary research. Second, it’s unique—because you’re the only person doing this research, your piece will get all the credit for the findings (and won’t have to worry about any competition). Unfortunately, original research is often costly and time-consuming, so if you can’t afford it, at least use multiple sources of outside research to inform your piece and come to an original conclusion.

    2. Strong opinion pieces.

    articleimage1555 Strong opinion pieces

    Opinion pieces can go either way, because they’re typically either concise, detailed, and logical, or they’re random, long-winded tangents with lots of opinion and little substance. If you want to be successful with an opinion piece, you’ll need to be as detailed, reasonable, and articulate as possible. People aren’t going to be interested in your opinion just because it’s your opinion—they’ll be interested because it’s well-researched, well-thought out, and intelligently stated. Make sure that your opinion piece is directly relevant to your field of expertise—don’t delve into subjects that you have little experience with or tangential matters like political issues.

    3. Listicles.

    articleimage1555 Listicles

    Listicles are a standby for a reason—people love to read them. Even if you have reservations about the integrity of the format, you can’t deny how many people click, read, and share these types of features. You can make a listicle about almost anything—in fact, this article counts as a listicle itself. All you really need is some kind of numbered list at the center of your piece. Still, don’t think you’re out of the woods just because you’ve included the proper number of items—you need to back up your findings with research or evidence, and make compelling cases for each item on your list.

    4. Videos.

    articleimage1555 Videos

    Online videos have grown in popularity every year since their first appearance on the web, driven in part by better Internet access that makes streaming more convenient and in part from new technology that makes it easier to produce and share videos. If you have a camera in your phone, there’s no excuse why you shouldn’t be producing videos for your brand. They don’t have to be exquisitely produced high-budget features, but they do have to use visuals and sounds to communicate with your audience. If you’re low on ideas, try doing an interactive whiteboard segment, or simply filming an interview with a well-known authority in your industry.

    5. How-to posts.

    How-to posts are pretty straightforward. They take a topic and use content to inform a reader how to approach that topic. Simple examples include “how to tie a tie” or “how to swim,” while more complex, niche topics include “how to invest in mutual funds for retirement” or “how to repair a broken garage door.” Try to be as unique in your topic selection as possible—find topics that people haven’t already beaten to death. You’ll also want to incorporate multiple mediums if you can—images and videos go a long way in supporting how-to post quality.

    6. “Why” posts.

    Why posts are similar to how-to posts because they introduce a topic and explain it, but rather than taking a user through a step-by-step of a given action or behavior, they take a higher level approach. Why posts demand ample research before their writing, and aren’t necessarily relevant for all topics and industries. Think carefully about what your audience would actually care to learn about, and write “why” posts around those topics.

    7. Infographics

    articleimage1555 Infographics

    Infographics aren’t as popular as they used to be, thanks mostly to their oversaturation in the market, but they’re still incredibly valuable pieces of content if you do them up properly. Infographics combine the power of objective, valuable research with the aesthetics of a simple image-based design. The end result is something that’s fun, easy to read, digestible, and ultimately valuable for a user. It’s no wonder they’re some of the most-shared pieces of content on the web. Just be aware that these aren’t pieces you can bluff your way through—you need a real knockout piece to be successful.

    There’s one caveat to this list—you won’t be able to rely on it forever. While this list accurately depicts the state of content marketing currently, it’s an industry that undergoes constant changes. In a few years, some of these forms may fall out of style, and new mediums may move in to replace them. Pay attention to what your audience responds to best, and favor those forms above the others.

  9. Why Organic Inbound Marketing Almost Always Beats Native Advertising in ROI

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    When it comes to modern marketing, there are two primary approaches that can be broadly categorized as “inbound” and “outbound” marketing. Inbound marketing is all about building a reputation, naturally attracting people to your brand and site, and using that traffic as fuel for conversions and revenue. Outbound marketing refers on a more traditional direct advertising approach, using mediums and messages to get people to buy a product directly.

    Of course, there’s some overlap between these two approaches, but for the most part, they’re distinct. Inbound marketing generally includes things like content marketing, SEO, social media marketing, and online brand awareness building, but these strategies aren’t as commonly adopted as traditional advertising because there’s a perception that its overall ROI (return on investment) is too hard to measure, or is too low to be worthwhile.

    On the contrary, inbound marketing actually tends to have a higher ROI than outbound advertising methods—even online approaches like native advertising. So why is this the case?

    Diminishing Returns

    articleimage1533 Diminishing Returns

    Native advertising relies on an innocuous appearance to disguise itself as advertising, but beneath that surface it’s a genuine, full-fledged ad. Savvy users who click on this type of material will feel tricked, as if they were lured into buying a product, and may not only avoid purchasing the product, but actively distrust the brand in the future. Of course, some people may appreciate the ad and buy the product anyway, but with organic inbound marketing, there’s virtually no risk of turning anybody away.

    The Modern Importance of Trust

    articleimage1533 The Modern Importance of Trust

    To the average modern web user, trust is one of the most important factors for making a final purchasing decision. If a user doesn’t trust a brand, he/she isn’t going to buy from it. For the most part, people are naturally distrustful of corporations and naturally distrustful of advertising—they realize that these are mechanisms of profit, driven to make money off of consumers. Organic inbound marketing strategies work against these stereotypes by presenting valuable information (or entertainment) to their users. Over time, this cultivates trust, and users will naturally be more likely to buy. Even consumers who don’t buy immediately will be more likely to speak highly of the brand to others, generating an atmosphere of trust and a higher reputation.

    Increased Competition

    articleimage1533 Increased Competition

    When it comes to online advertising, increased competition is making it harder to remain profitable. The most popular platforms for online advertising, like Google AdWords, are quickly ratcheting up in cost while offering more competition in the form of other advertisers. The less popular platforms, while cheaper, tend to offer fewer analytics tools, less traffic, and less benefit overall. The cost of native advertising slowly creeps up over time while offering similar returns (though the analytics tools and audience targeting abilities are admittedly getting more powerful). It could be argued that inbound marketing strategies like content marketing are seeing similarly increased rates of competition, but there are more avenues for differentiation available.

    Richer Targeting

    articleimage1533 Richer Targeting

    The best native advertising platforms are able to offer diverse and sophisticated means of audience targeting. For example, Facebook offers advertisers the ability to target individuals based on their age, gender, geographic location, and even their interests. However, there’s no guarantee that users within those demographics will be interested in your ad (or your product). If you display an ad to an uninterested user, that ad has completely gone to waste. On the other hand, content marketing gives you the opportunity to attract only people interested in a certain industry or a certain range of topics. Even if a reader finds your content interesting without formalizing a sale, there’s a chance that user will return and/or spread the message about your products.

    Multiple Avenues

    articleimage1533 Multiple Avenues

    Native advertising has one line to revenue; a user sees the ad, clicks the ad, and buys the product. Inbound marketing offers several possible channels for consumption. A user might know the brand name from their favorite blog, they might be a loyal reader, they might have seen one of your offers on social media, or they might have just found your site through a basic search. There’s a much wider funnel here, and as long as you have some means of conversion, you’re bound to get a decent return from multiple angles.

    Compounding Effects

    The greatest and clearest advantage organic inbound marketing has over native advertising is its ability to offer compounding returns. Your first few months of producing content, optimizing your site, and posting on social media may not return more than a few hundred visitors, but the more you invest in your strategy, the greater your returns will accelerate. You’ll accumulate more loyal readers, gradually grow your domain authority, attract more followers on social media, and before you know it, every new post you make will offer 10 times the value of one of your original posts. Native advertising always has a flat line of return, meaning over the course of several months, organic inbound marketing will always win out.

    Even though inbound marketing does tend to have a higher ROI than native advertising, that doesn’t mean you should ignore native advertising altogether. It can still be profitable and beneficial for your brand (though it will aid some brands more than others). Be sure to consider the balance of your marketing strategies carefully, and always measure your own ROI—general trends don’t apply to every business, and you may find that what works for your business doesn’t exactly match the national average.

  10. The 15-Point Content Quality Checklist You Need for Every Post

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    You’ve heard it before—if you want to be successful in content marketing or SEO, you need to consistently produce high-quality content for your brand. But “high-quality” is a generic and ambiguous term that could mean a lot of things. It theoretically refers to multiple mediums of content, and applies to content written for any strategy for any brand, but what does it actually mean? Is there some kind of switch that triggers and suddenly turns a low-quality piece into a high-quality one?

    It’s not a binary system—there’s a sliding scale of quality, and obviously, you want to get as high on that scale as possible. If you’re concerned or confused about the ambiguity of the term in relation to your own strategy, refer to this 15-point checklist, which I’ve used to define “high-quality” as succinctly and clearly as possible:

    1. Is your topic unique?

    articleimage1532 Is your topic unique

    If your topic is one that’s already been done to death, don’t bother writing it. It will fail to generate any meaningful momentum, and most users won’t even notice it. If you’re doing something that’s already been covered, you need to offer a new or unique spin on it.

    2. Do you have a compelling, descriptive headline?

    articleimage1532 Do you have a compelling, descriptive headline

    The headline is one of the most important parts of any piece of content—it’s what Google will use to interpret the intention of the article and what will form users’ first impressions. If your title isn’t descriptive, or accurate, or compelling and concise, users won’t click. Spend some time here.

    3. Is your content useful to readers?

    articleimage1532 Is your content useful to readers

    After someone reads your article, will they walk away with something of value? Will they have the means to accomplish one or more of their goals? Will they have a better understanding of a certain topic? You need to offer some kind of utility here.

    4. Does your content exhibit your unique brand voice?

    articleimage1532 Does your content exhibit your unique brand voice

    If you don’t already have a thought-out, well-described idea for your brand voice, that’s step one. A consistent, unique brand voice is the only way to build a loyal audience over time. When completing your piece, make sure it keeps that brand voice showcased and consistent.

    5. Is your content an appropriate length?

    articleimage1532 Is your content an appropriate length

    This can be subjective. Generally, lists and “bite-sized” forms of content need to be short—under 1,000 words in written form or under 5 minutes in video form. More comprehensive, research-based pieces need to be longer—over 1,000 words or over 5 minutes. No matter the length, make sure every word (or every minute) is used to add value.

    6. Have you included proper background research?

    No topic exists in a vacuum. Even if it’s never been explored exactly before, others in the industry have written about similar or related topics. Be sure to do your background research before writing the piece, and include that information in your finished product.

    7. Do you have internal and external links embedded?

    Good pieces rely on others to bolster themselves. Your article should feature links to other pieces in your own archive (to support your own site structure and add information when necessary), and external links to outside sources that support your claims.

    8. Do you take advantage of multiple mediums?

    Few modern content pieces are successful in only one medium. If you write an article, for example, it’s a good idea to include an image or embedded video. If you do a video, include still images or written phrases to complement your work.

    9. Are you adding something original to the discussion?

    There’s already a discussion around this topic, even if your topic is somewhat unique. Are you adding something original to it, that’s never been mentioned or described before?

    10. Is your content easily readable (or understandable)?

    This is a subjective measure, but it’s an important one. Consider your audience; are you using words and terminology that are too complex for them to understand? Are you writing in a way that’s difficult to decipher or confusing? Be as simple, clear, and concise as possible.

    11. Is your content organized logically?

    Like a good novel, content should have a beginning, middle, and end, with well-structured parts in between. If your content isn’t organized logically, it will throw users off.

    12. Is your format aesthetically pleasing?

    Modern web users have little patience for unorganized or strangely formatted content. Your articles should feature numbered lists, bullet points, or subheadings to make themselves scannable and easy to follow.

    13. Does your content actively engage an audience?

    It’s not enough to talk to an audience; you have to invite the other side of the conversation. Encourage users to rebut or comment, and encourage them to follow your advice and report back with results. Keep your audience engaged.

    14. Is your content generally comprehensive?

    Have you explored everything related to your topic? If you don’t have enough room to do this, you can mention side topics in passing along with a link so users can do their own supplementary research.

    15. Will other people cite your content?

    This can be a hard question to answer, but think about how other authorities in your industry will receive this content. Will they mention it in their own posts? Will they use your information as research for their future content? The more likely you are to be cited, the better.

    Follow this checklist, and you should have a high-quality piece on your hand. Google will see this content as more authoritative than others, and your readers will appreciate it too—that means you’ll earn more loyal readers, more brand enthusiasts, more followers, and of course more links and shares. Keep your standards high, and your content and/or SEO strategies will reward you.

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-The AudienceBloom Team