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Category Archive: Content Marketing

  1. 7 Ways to Reinvent Your Content Strategy (And Why You Should)

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    Your content strategy shouldn’t be a statue—something you construct with great care, leading to a permanent establishment for your brand. Instead, it should be an organic living thing, growing and changing all the time. Our world changes often; new technologies roll out daily, trends come and go in mere weeks, and user preferences change quickly, without warning. Your content strategy needs to be continually reinvented if it’s going to stay relevant in that kind of world.

    So how do you go about reinventing a content strategy? It sounds complicated and intensive, but there are a handful of ways you can reshape the foundation of your content campaign with relative ease:

    1. Learn from what made your old strategy stale.

    articleimage1783 Learn from what made your old strategy stale

    Take a look at your strategy as it existed before your intended changes; what made it stale? If you’re too close to the campaign, this can be hard to spot, but try examining each critical area of development from an outsider’s perspective. Do you notice a pattern in your topic selection that hasn’t changed for months? Do you notice any forms of syndication that are repeated ad infinitum? There’s a reason your reader engagement metrics have stopped growing (or else, you’ve realized it’s time to upgrade your campaign), so try and sniff out what’s actually doing the damage in the conception, creation, publication, or syndication phases.

    2. Use new mediums.

    articleimage1783 Use new mediums

    It’s never a bad idea to try a new medium, especially if you’ve limited yourself to only one or two mediums in the past. Today’s users crave more engaging, visually arresting material, and purely written content isn’t as strong as it used to be in attracting and retaining new visitors. If you’re exclusively producing written content, consider throwing in more embedded images and video into them. Create infographics, videos, and other visually significant items, or go the audio route with podcasts or interviews. You don’t have to produce these new mediums 100 percent of the time, but they should be used occasionally to spice up your production value.

    3. “Frankenstein” together the best parts of competitors’ strategies.

    articleimage1783 Frankenstein  together the best parts of competitors’ strategies

    If you’re stuck on ideas of how to reinvent your own content strategy, look to your competitors. It’s a bad idea to merely copy one of your competitors’ strategies (since originality is a major indicator for success), but feel free to take inspiration from them, and combine elements from different competitors’ strategies in new ways. For example, let’s say one of your competitors has found success with a new interview series and another competitor seems to engage with its audience effectively with a new tutorial series. You could feasibly put together an interview tutorial series that invites industry authorities to share their best tips for success.

    4. Launch a new series or regular feature.

    articleimage1783 Launch a new series or regular featurees

    Series are big crowd pleasers; they provide some level of consistency (which keeps loyal readers coming back for more), and simultaneously give them something new every week (or however often you publish). Plus, you’ll have an automatic starting point for all your new pieces within that category. If you want to become known, or simply reenergize your audience, experiment with a new feature or series that keeps them wanting more. “Why,” “how-to,” interview, industry analysis, and “top 10” lists are all examples of popular series to consider—but try to think up your own!

    5. Find a subject in which you can break new ground.

    articleimage1783 Find a subject in which you can break new ground

    Some of the most successful content marketers are the ones who open new doors, or lead new lines of thinking. If you’re tired of the same old subjects or the same recycled direction, try to break new ground in an area relating to your industry. Start by reading industry publications and news—are there any emerging topics that haven’t yet been explored? Are there common topics with rocks unturned? Are there limited resources for a specific subject within your industry? Take advantage of them.

    6. Inject new contributors into your stream.

    It’s hard to keep your content campaign fresh when you rely on the same individual or team of writers to consistently produce new content. Consider inviting new voices to join your team—these can be new regular contributors as employees and freelancers, or one-time contributors as guest posters from other external industry sites. The goal is to get new voices and new ideas into your content stream, so the logistics are up to you.

    7. Ask your audience for suggestions.

    It seems like an obvious suggestion, but most content marketers miss it. Your end goal is to make your audience happy, so why not just ask them what they want directly? Talk to some of your best clients or your most loyal readers, or pose a public question on social media—ask them what they want to read and see from your brand, and you’ll probably get some insightful responses. Use those responses to guide a new direction for your campaign; you’ll be almost guaranteed a win.

    Apply these strategies to your content campaign, and you’ll end up with something fresher, more appropriate for your audience, and ultimately, more effective. Take the time to regularly evaluate the strength and direction of your campaign; if you notice your growth start to taper off, or if user engagement begins to sag, take action proactively before the problem worsens. This audit, if done consistently, can keep your content campaign fresh for years to come.

  2. 5 Ways to Use Google Analytics to Improve Your Content

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    Google Analytics is one of the most practical tools for executing, evaluating, and eventually improving an online marketing campaign. It’s fairly exhaustive, compatible with any website, and it’s completely free. It won’t give you all the bells and whistles that an advanced software system or a contracted marketing agency can, but it’s everything you need to get started.

    The thing is, most people realize Google Analytics is useful for tracking web traffic over time, but they don’t realize how much valuable data is available for other means, including improving your content marketing strategy. In fact, there are five distinct ways you can use Google Analytics—right out of the box—to refine your content over time:

    1. Searching for growth patterns over time.

    articleimage1782 Searching for growth patterns over time

    Your first—and biggest clue—to the effectiveness of your content should be your patterns of growth over time. For this, head to the Acquisition section of the dashboard and take a look at your inbound streams of traffic. Direct traffic refers to users who enter your URL directly, so instead look to Organic traffic, Referral traffic, and Social traffic.

    Organic traffic is a measure of how many people found your site through search engines—it’s a way of telling how much your content has led to increased domain authority and higher search ranks (though there are a combination of other factors at work here). Your Referral traffic, if you break it down to its individual sources, will tell you how effective your guest posts have been—look for high-traffic sources and growth over time. Social traffic works much the same way, telling you how many people have found your site on social media. Again, the strength of your content is the major indicator here. If you notice slow or stagnant growth in any of these areas, you’ll know where you need to focus your efforts to improve.

    2. Learning which topics attract the most people.

    articleimage1782 Learning which topics attract the most people

    This is critical. The effectiveness of your content marketing campaign begins with choosing the right topics. You have to choose headlines and subjects that are personally relevant to your audience, useful, yet still unique and rare enough that they don’t attract much competition.

    Stay in the Acquisition tab, and take a look at the landing URLs of your traffic—you can either look at all traffic here, or drill down to a category of sources. Arrange the columns by order of visits (this should be the default), and you should get a clear picture of which content topics are netting you the most traffic. Be sure to evaluate this figure at multiple points in time—you may find that a hugely popular topic from a year ago falls flat today, or vice versa. Either way, you’ll learn which topics are most and least effective in your campaign, and you’ll be able to adjust accordingly.

    3. Analyzing interest with user behavior.

    articleimage1782 Analyzing interest with user behavior

    Head to the Behavior tab, and you’ll be able to see how your content affects the actions of your users. This is useful for determining your content’s ability to motivate readers to explore your site further (and eventually convert). Track the “average” path of an inbound user by evaluating the Behavior Flow chart; see what most readers do after visiting one of your articles. Do they head to another article? Do they visit your Contact page? These insights will tell you how effective you’ve been at drawing your readers in further. If you notice a lapse, or if the majority of your readers end up on a page you don’t have as a high priority, you’ll need to adjust your internal linking strategy.

    4. Identifying weak points with bounce rates.

    articleimage1782 Identifying weak points with bounce rates

    Bounce rates aren’t the best way to learn about your traffic because people can bounce for almost any reason (and just because a user stays doesn’t mean he/she is meaningfully engaged with your content). However, high bounce rates can be an indication of weak points within your strategy. For example, if you notice your “how to” posts have a much higher bounce rate over time than your listicle-style posts, you know something in your listicle posts is doing a better job of keeping your audience engaged. Use these insights to compensate for any weaknesses you find and learn from your best material.

    5. Finding the most appropriate distribution channels.

    articleimage1782 Finding the most appropriate distribution channels

    Finally, use the segmented traffic options in the Acquisition tab to find the most appropriate, effective distribution channels for your content—and this can mean Referral or Social sources. Take a look at your inbound traffic on a per-channel basis, and arrange those sources according to total figures. Your most valuable sources will be at the top (in both Referral and Social sections). Don’t limit your distribution to only these sources, but do favor them, and do learn from them—why are these sources bringing you more traffic? Why does your audience prefer them?

    Google Analytics is practical, easily available, and intuitive for newcomers, but it’s not the only resource out there for improving your content—nor should it be your only reliance. Look to the behavior of your social media followers, the comment threads and user responses on your site, and any qualitative feedback you receive from your customers and readers. The more information you have at your disposal, the better you’ll be able to hone your content, both in terms of its inherent quality and in terms of its utility in your marketing strategy.

  3. 7 Final Polishes to Make Any Piece of Content Better

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    There are many phases to creating a landmark, effective piece of content, from the generation of the original idea to the publication and syndication of the piece. Ideally, you’ll have some degree of mastery over all of these phases, but there’s an advantage to treating them as independent segments. Instead of conceptualizing the process as the summary of “content marketing,” you’ll get the chance to zoom in and hone individual elements of your strategy. Think of it as owning a pizza shop and taking the time to ensure you’re using the best ingredients, the optimal cooking temperatures, and so on.

    I’m going to zoom in on one of these segments; under the metaphor above, this would be the “final bake” of your pizza. After writing a draft of your piece, you should go through and give it a final polish, correcting small issues and making your piece as presentable as possible. These are the seven polishes you should apply:

    1. Make Your Headline More Compelling.

    It could be argued that your headline is the most important part of your piece. With a bad headline, even a great piece of content can go unnoticed or unexplored by the masses. Before publishing the final version of your article, take a minute to make your headline just a little bit better. Can you add a more powerful word or phrase (like changing “The 5 Habits You Should Make…” to “The 5 Habits You Can’t Ignore…”)? Can you add a more noticeable, specific, or compelling value (like changing “5 _____ for SEO” to “5 _____ to overtake a competitor in local rankings”)? Can you make it more concise? More actionable? More unique?

    2. Look for Gaps in Your Arguments.

    articleimage1774 Look for Gaps in Your Arguments

    Run through your article and try to separate yourself from it entirely—it may help to enlist the eyes of a friend here. Put yourself in the role of devil’s advocate, and argue against yourself. Pretend that you don’t believe anything you’ve written, and look for holes in your arguments. Are there counterarguments you neglected to mention? Are there gaps in your logic that you didn’t address? Is there a lack of evidence for any of your points? This happens more often than you realize, but you have the power to catch it before it’s too late.

    3. Add a Few Visuals.

    articleimage1774 Add a Few Visuals

    Almost every post can do with some visual touch-ups. Vision is the strongest human sense, and people gravitate toward content that offers a visual component. As an easy solution, you can embed a handful of images related to your article. For example, you could post photos of the process you’re describing, or if you can afford the casual tone, memes or reaction images that entertain your readers. Beyond that, you can include infographics, videos, or anything else that compels your readers and relates to your content.

    4. Take Out Sentences That Aren’t Adding Value.

    articleimage1774 Take Out Sentences That Aren’t Adding Value

    Most published content has at least a few sentences that don’t need to be there, so your draft probably does too. Take a few moments to comb through each sentence of your work individually and question its use. Does it relate to your point? Does it add value? Can it be altered, substituted, or transferred in any way? If a sentence isn’t objectively adding value, it doesn’t need to be there. Get rid of any sentences you find without purpose.

    5. Add in Bite-Sized Metaphors.

    People don’t think in words and sentences; they think in abstract feelings and illustrations. Metaphors are powerful because they allow us quick relations of subjects and ideas without getting bogged down with the technical language. Almost any concept can be conveyed in a simpler, more engaging way by use of a metaphor—like my pizza metaphor in the introduction. They don’t have to be big, complicated, or grandiose—instead, sprinkle them in whenever you believe there to be a potential gap in understanding between you and your reader.

    6. Proofread Twice.

    articleimage1774 Proofread Twice

    There’s no excuse not to proofread. It takes a few minutes and can save you embarrassment and reputation damage. For the keen-eyed reader, just one error could be enough to compromise their opinion of your piece (and your brand), so take the time to ensure those small mistakes haven’t crept up on you. Since it’s difficult to catch the mistakes of your own work, consider enlisting the aid of a coworker or friend.

    7. Write a Few Headline Variations.

    articleimage1774 Write a Few Headline Variations

    Remember when we improved your headline in the first step? Now we’re going to write a few alternates. Think up three or four new headlines for your piece—some can be simple alterations of your original, and some can be entirely new. Then, use these different headlines in rotation when it comes time to publish and syndicate your piece. With multiple versions, you’ll appeal to different segments of your audience, and ultimately, one version will work better than the others. This will help you maximize your readership in the short term, and provide you a better understanding of your audience for the long term.

    These steps don’t take long and don’t demand a high degree of expertise, so there’s no excuse why you should be taking them for every piece you produce. They won’t be able to salvage an uninteresting topic, nor will they guarantee you’ll get lots of readers if you don’t syndicate it effectively, but they will increase the inherent value and presentation of every piece they touch. And in the content marketing world, every bit of improvement helps.

  4. How Duplicate Content Drags Down Your Rankings

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    articleimage1760 How Duplicate Content Drags Down Your Rankings

    When you hear the phrase “duplicate content” in a discussion on SEO for the first time, you know it can’t be anything good. You know plagiarism is universally bad, and even if it wasn’t, users wouldn’t want to read the same content twice. It seems obvious that Google would penalize duplicate content, and they do.

    But here’s the trap most newcomers fall into: “duplicate content” doesn’t only refer to plagiarized or directly copied material, and unless you’ve done a recent onsite audit, it’s actually quite likely that you have some kind of duplicate content on your site. This article will help you understand what types of content Google views as “duplicate,” what the risks and penalties are, and how to prevent duplicate content from dragging down your ranks.

    Traditional “Duplicate Content”

    articleimage1760 Traditional “Duplicate Content”

    Traditional duplicate content is the type of content that comes to mind intuitively when you hear the phrase. It is content identical to, or highly similar to, content that exists elsewhere on the web (usually on your own site). There are a handful of reasons a site would intentionally duplicate this content:

    • Reproducing old content to make your site appear more updated.
    • Copying material over and over again to add more pages to your site.
    • Plagiarizing material to pass off as your own.

    All of these situations are deceitful, sometimes to users and sometimes to Google, and for the most part, webmasters know to stay far away from these practices. If you engage in them, you probably deserve a penalty.

    Sneaky Duplicate Content

    articleimage1760 Sneaky Duplicate Content

    I call it “sneaky” duplicate content because of how easily it can sneak up on you. You have no intention of creating duplicate pages, but they can happen anyway. Usually, this is due to a technical hiccup or an unwitting reproduction; for example:

    • If you have two versions of your website for http:// and https://, Google may index both versions of each page separately, then mark those pages as instances of duplicate content.
    • If you have a “printer friendly” version of a web page, it will display as a separate URL with the same content.
    • Full and mobile-modified forms of web pages, like forum sections.

    Unfortunately, most of these instances can arise naturally as you build and modify your website, unless you’ve specifically taken preventative action to stop it.

    How Google Penalizes Duplicate Content

    Google is fairly open about its duplicate content policies. According to their reports, if Google encounters two different versions of the same web page, or content that is appreciably similar to onsite content elsewhere, it will randomly select a “canonical” version to index. The example they give is this: imagine you have a standard web page and a printer-friendly version of that same web page, complete with identical content. Google would pick one of these pages at random to index, and completely ignore the other version. This doesn’t imply anything about suffering a penalty, but it’s in your best interest to make sure Google is properly indexing and organizing your site.

    The real trouble comes in when Google suspects your content of being maliciously or manipulatively duplicated. Basically, if Google thinks your duplicated content was an effort to fool their ranking algorithm, you’ll face punitive action. It’s in your best interest to clear up any errors well in advance to prevent such a fate for your site.

    How to Find and Clean Up Duplicate Content

    articleimage1760 How to Find and Clean Up Duplicate Content

    Fortunately, Google also makes it easy for you to find and correct duplicate content on your site. When you log into Google Webmaster Tools, head to “Search Appearance,” and then “HTML Improvements.” This will allow you to generate a list of any pages that Google detects as being duplicated. Once you have this list, you can begin eliminating the duplicate errors one by one with any of the following methods:

    • Eliminate one of the versions of the duplicated page, or modify it so it reads as a unique entry. This is the simplest but potentially the most time-consuming option, depending on how intensive your rewriting process is.
    • Create 301 redirects to forward both user and web crawler traffic to the appropriate version of the URL. This is especially handy for http:// and https:// confusion.
    • Use canonicalization tags to tell Google what to index and what to ignore. This will help you direct Google’s random index selection process to be in your favor.
    • Use the Search Console to tell Google how to crawl your site. There are a number of options here that can help you focus and inform Google’s web crawlers.

    It’s also worth noting that title tags and meta descriptions can also suffer from being duplicated. It might be tempting to replicate portions of your meta data to save time, but it’s far better for you to write unique versions for every page. You can find duplicated instances of meta data in Webmaster Tools as well.

    Key Takeaways

    articleimage1760 Key Takeaways

    Let’s do a brief recap. “Duplicate content” can refer to plagiarized material, copied content for the purposes of site inflation, but more importantly for the average user, pages that Google indexes twice. These duplicate forms of content are easy to track down with Google Webmaster Tools and fix with canonicalization adjustments or redirects, but if they go unnoticed, they can cumulatively bring your rankings down. Be proactive and scout for duplicate content at least once every few months—unless your site management process is flawless, it’s probably that duplicate content will surface when you least expect it.

  5. 10 Ways to Write More Engaging Body Content

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    When it comes to writing a piece of content, you can separate your goals into two categories: the headline, and the body content. The headline of your article will decide your topic, and how appealing it seems to potential readers. In effect, it’s how you’ll get people to your site (and your article) in the first place. Your body content, on the other hand, is all about keeping people there—and delivering on what you’ve promised.

    Headlines take a lot of work to perfect, and they tend to get a lot of attention from copywriters, but your body copy is just as important. Without a solid body to deliver on your promises and cement readers’ impressions of your brand, your article could end up doing more harm than good.

    To make sure your body matches the quality and intrigue of your headline (or if you just want to make your content a little bit better), try these 10 strategies:

    1. Take your readers through steps.

    articleimage1761 Take your readers through steps

    Don’t allow your content to become a stagnant lump of material. If a user gets to your web page and sees an impenetrable block of text, he/she might bounce immediately. Instead, break your content down into steps. You don’t have to be formal with a “step one, step two” approach, but you do have to use sub-headers and smaller sections to walk your readers through an idea.

    2. Personally relate to your audience.

    articleimage1761 Personally relate to your audience

    When your audience feels like you truly understand them, they’ll be much more immersed in your content. Take the time to understand what the true pain points for your readers are, and address them as specifically as possible (and early on in the piece). For example, you could start with a brief hypothetical story like “you’ve already done _____, but it didn’t work out. Now, you need _____ and you don’t know what to do.”

    3. Include visual references.

    articleimage1761 Include visual references

    This isn’t strictly a writing tip, but it will help you keep your readers happier. Break up all your written text with some visual elements—what those elements are is up to you. They could be photos, memes, embedded videos, or even hand-drawn doodles. As long as the supplement your text in some way, they’ll be an added value to the integrity of your piece.

    4. Use metaphors for complex ideas.

    articleimage1761 Use metaphors for complex ideas

    If you’re explaining something complex to your audience, try using a metaphor to illustrate it in more abstract terms. You’ll have to get creative for this, but I guarantee your metaphor will make almost any idea more understandable and more relatable. If you can frame that metaphor as a brief narrative, the effects will be compounded.

    5. Call in outside references.

    articleimage1761 Call in outside references

    People appreciate trust indicators and third-party verifications. The more you make reference to outside sources, the stronger your material is going to seem. Cite specific authorities on the issue your readers might recognize, or mention the credentials of ones they might not. It’s also valuable to cite sources on different sides of the argument, to show you’ve thoroughly done your research.

    6. Simplify everything.

    This is especially useful for dense technical articles; try to simplify your main points into the bare-bones takeaways. This will help readers more thoroughly understand your points. For example, you could write something like “hold the first chopstick between your thumb and forefinger, resting slightly on your middle finger,” then follow up with “it’s like holding a pencil” to clarify your point.

    7. Speak boldly.

    The stronger and more confident you are in your points, the more interested people are going to be in reading your material. Making a list of neutral facts is uninspiring, and will leave most readers feeling cold or alienated. Instead, pronounce your opinions with fervor and add more energy to your writing.

    8. Throw in some humor.

    No matter how professional or “stuffy” your brand strives to be, there’s always room for a little humor. You can crack jokes, make memes, or be more subtle with tongue-in-cheek references; the point is to liven up your text with more playful language. Do this, and your readers will be see your piece as being more approachable and fun to read.

    9. Cut the fluff.

    When you’re trying to achieve a certain length or elaborate on your most important points, it’s easy to fall into the “fluff” trap, writing additional words and explanations that don’t have to be there. This material adds volume to your piece without adding value, making the piece inherently weaker, so before you publish any piece, go through and eliminate as many unnecessary words and phrases as you can. It may end up shorter, but it will end up more concise and readable as well.

    10. Use mini-recaps to emphasize your main points.

    At the end of each paragraph, or each section, take the time to give your readers a mini-recap—only a sentence long in some cases. This will help your readers follow along with the most important takeaways, and also makes the piece more “skimmable” to readers in a rush or those coming back for a second glance.

    Together, these 10 strategies can make almost any article instantly better. Cumulatively, they’ll give your readers a better format, tell a more engaging story, and make the entire reading experience a little more pleasant. Do this enough, and your brand reputation will grow—and you’ll probably get more conversions along the way thanks to the increased customer respect and trust.

  6. 5 Content Mistakes That Can Sandbag Your Strategy

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    Content marketing is somewhat forgiving when it comes to mistakes. If you’re regularly writing 1,000-word articles, several times a week, getting one fact wrong or misquoting someone slightly probably isn’t going to kill your strategy forever. These are temporary setbacks that might affect your reputation negatively, but ultimately, you can recover with a quick edit and a smooth transition back to best practices.

    Unfortunately, there are bigger mistakes that can hold your strategy back, and they tend to be made chronically, rather than acutely. These mistakes won’t kill your strategy by making it totally ineffective, nor will they prevent you from seeing any results—but that’s what makes them especially dangerous. They restrict your growth potential over the course of months, sometimes years, and often go completely unnoticed.

    Check your content strategy now to see if you’re making any of these debilitating mistakes, and correct them immediately:

    1. Gunning for quantity over quality.

    articleimage1760 Gunning for quantity over quality

    We’ve all fallen into this trap before because it’s rooted in a logical conclusion. Every new post you write adds more value to your site, more pages to Google’s index, more visibility for your brand, and more potential traffic for your business. How could more posts be a bad thing?

    The problem here is that the above conclusion rests on a crucial assumption: that all your posts are of a similarly high quality. If, instead of taking three hours to write an original, thoroughly researched piece, you take three hours to write four separate, decent pieces, you might end up getting zero new links and shares instead of several. Instead of four times the benefits, you’ve actually stripped most of your benefits away. Quantity can be a good thing, but only if your quality is high and consistent—don’t forget that.

    2. Writing for everyone.

    articleimage1760 Writing for everyone

    You want to maximize the visibility of your brand and content, so naturally you want to write and publish for the widest audience possible. There’s only one problem with that: the widest possible audience is literally everyone on the planet, and if you do that, nobody will want to read your piece.

    Instead, it’s in your best interest to write to the most focused niche of your target audience possible. This may seem counterintuitive, since you’ll be limiting the number of people you can potentially appeal to, but again, quality matters more than quantity—it’s far better to have 100 very interested readers than 10,000 apathetic ones. Get to know your demographics well, and customize your content to cater to their needs.

    3. Only producing one medium.

    articleimage1760 Only producing one medium

    Over time, you’re going to find a specialty—that might be written articles, or it might be infographics, or it could even be videos. Your naturally tendency will be to produce only this medium, even if you don’t originally intend to. It’s faster, easier, more enjoyable, and you tend to get better results—so it makes sense that you would produce it as frequently as possible.

    However, doing this can make your brand seem stagnant, predictable, and uninteresting. There are dozens of potential mediums available to the modern content marketer, and you’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re only taking advantage of one of them. Each medium has its own advantages and disadvantages, so the more you incorporate into your content campaign, the more enriched and beneficial your strategy will become.

    4. Waiting for readers instead of finding them.

    articleimage1760 Waiting for readers instead of finding them

    You’ve written some amazing material, packed with original research, strong opinions, and lots of detail to make it useful for your audience. The readers should come swarming to your piece any day now—except only a handful of people online actively seek out new content from new sources. The rest of us visit a handful of sources regularly, and discover new content only when those sources provide it to us.

    Accordingly, if you’re simply waiting around for more readers to show up, you’re wasting time. It’s far more productive to actively seek out new readers by posting more frequently on social media, finding new social outlets to post your work, sourcing and taking advantage of newer, bigger external publishers, and discovering entirely new outlets where people might find your content.

    5. Failing to syndicate your posts.

    articleimage1760 Failing to syndicate your posts

    Unless you’re writing about something that’s only relevant for the present, all of your posts have lasting value. If you aren’t taking advantage of this lasting value by syndicating your work, you’re reducing the staying power of each of your posts down to a minimum present value.

    Instead of allowing your posts to naturally decay, keep a running list of all the content you’ve ever published. Cycle them into an ongoing rotation, bumping or posting older articles on social media with fresh tags and headlines—or even editing the pieces into new posts entirely. Rediscover and harness the power of all your posts, and your growth rate can climb exponentially.

    These mistakes are especially frustrating since they can manifest without your notice. You may start off with the intention to produce content in multiple formats and mediums, with an editorial calendar to keep you on schedule, but as the months progress, you could naturally fall into a repetitive rut. Accordingly, it’s a good idea to take a step back and audit your content strategy for weaknesses like these—I personally recommend it on a quarterly basis, but that should vary based on your industry and goals. Only through modification will you be able to improve your results.

  7. 7 Seldom-Used Content Formats to Boost Engagement

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    If you want to succeed as a content marketer, you need to be original—but it’s hard to be original when newsfeeds are so cluttered with other content, and Google’s offering direct answers to most common user questions. Almost every industry, even those with lower tendencies to pursue content marketing (like manufacturing and other “traditional” industries) is feeling the pressure of this packed competition, put it’s impossible to spontaneously generate new topic ideas while still being relevant for consumers.

    So instead of racking your brain over which subjects to choose for your content campaign, seek originality elsewhere; choose some original content formats, mediums, and applications that your competitors just aren’t pursuing. Here are seven possibilities to get you started:

    1. Glossaries and FAQs.

    articleimage1720 Glossaries and FAQs

    Glossaries and FAQs serve the same basic function; to inform users of basic industry or company information in a permanent and comprehensive way. They’re often avoided due to their complexity—to be comprehensive demands countless hours of work, and these formats are often relegated only to one static page. However, you can start out small with minimal effort and gradually expand from there. You won’t be able to publish and syndicate your work like a typical blog post, but your long-standing, ever-growing showcase will consistently grow in page authority and make a better impression to incoming customers—especially if they’re comparing you to a competitor.

    2. Interviews.

    articleimage1720 interviews

    Most content marketers don’t bother with interviews because they seem to take too much work, but in reality they’re easier to put together than most content types. The only hard part is securing a noteworthy personality to host—and if you’re hard-pressed, you could even find someone within the company. All you’ll be producing are the questions ask, which are important, but your interviewee will shoulder much of the burden of content generation. Interviews hold a few key advantages over other forms of content—most importantly, they can be featured in multiple mediums (video, audio, and in written transcript), so they can instantly reach a wider audience.

    3. Quizzes.

    articleimage1720 quizzes

    Quizzes aren’t rarely used in general, but they are rarely used in content marketing for business. Most of the quizzes you’ve seen relate to pop culture like “Which Game of Thrones Character Are You?” These are shockingly popular, but it’s not just the subject matter that makes them so—it’s the interactive element of filling out the questions. You can host your own quiz, no matter what industry you’re in, if you can think creatively enough. For example, you could have a quiz like “Should I Install a New Front Door?” or “Which Brand of Paint Should I Choose?” to help users with practical decisions.

    4. Surveys.

    articleimage1720 survey

    Surveys are similar to quizzes because of their interactive element, but they offer two critical advantages: one, the results are much more open-ended, and two, the results can be aggregated for an entirely separate post. For example, you could post a survey about your audience’s opinion on a certain issue in your industry, and then write up a formal analysis of the results for everyone to see at a later date. It’s a two-for-the-price-of-one content format, and as long as your topic is interesting, it should pay off for you.

    5. Comic Strips.

    articleimage1720 comic strips

    You don’t have to be a fantastic artist to include a handful of comic strips in your content lineup—stick figures are perfectly fine, and might even make your brand more relatable. Comics offer three distinct qualities that make them loved by audiences everywhere. First, they’re visual—and as you undoubtedly know, visual content is becoming increasingly important. Second, they’re concise—the paneled format forces a more succinct and easily interpretable point. Finally, they’re amusing—people associate comics with down-to-earth humor, and that makes them more approachable and more engaging.

    6. Expert Panels.

    Chances are, you’ve gotten to know some heavy hitters in your industry, whether that’s through meetings, networking events, or just random path crossings. Expert panels take advantage of this, serving as a more open form of interviews. You might ask one or two core questions and ask a dozen different experts what their opinions are—readers will love to peruse the different opinions, and you’ll probably get extra shares and visibility from all of them once the piece goes live. The only trouble is herding them all and convincing them to participate in your post.

    7. Micro-content.

    Micro-content can be almost anything—it just has to be very concise, and not the star of the show. This could be a series of “little known facts” rotating in the footer of your site, or random tips that pop up when a user hits a loading screen, or even very short blog posts that feature a single image or short paragraph. These forms of content are kind of like icing on the cake—they won’t help you boost the core of your strategy, but they will add an interesting and unique element to your user experience that could take your brand to the next competitive level. But like standard content, your micro-content still needs to be useful, relevant, and intelligently presented.

    These types of content are rarely used, and could give you an edge in the content marketing game, but don’t let that be an excuse for laziness. It’s still your job to make sure every piece of content, no matter what format it’s in, is well-researched, relevant, authoritative, and engaging. As you’ll likely have less experience with these content types than something like a blog post or simple video, it’s going to be harder for you to achieve that level of quality. But the harder you work, the better results you’ll see—and the fewer competitors you’ll have to face.

  8. How to Audit Your Content Strategy in One Hour

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    Few companies are seeing the inbound marketing results they want. Some are thrilled with their results, and some are doing abysmally, but the majority of businesses out there are doing “okay,” but would love to be seeing better results. The abysmal performers and “okay” crowds both have one strategy they can use to almost instantly start working toward a higher ROI, but they’re often too intimidated or apathetic to try.

    The phrase “content audit” tends to call upon our societal associations with a financial audit: a long, arduous, sometimes painful process that stresses us out and makes us miserable. But, like a financial audit, a content audit can uncover things you’re doing wrong that you didn’t know you were doing wrong—and give you a chance to correct those mistakes. Fortunately for you, content audits aren’t nearly as scary as they sound. In fact, they can be done in as little as one hour—and I’m about to prove it to you.

    5 Minutes: Gather Up What Your Content Strategy Is “In Theory”

    articleimage1693 5 Minutes

    This first step is probably the quickest, especially if you don’t have a content plan to begin with. Gather up any materials or individuals responsible for producing your brand’s original content strategy. What were your goals? What were your plans? What was the outline for your brand voice and topic selection? At this point, you don’t have to do anything else. Read over or contemplate these items, then set them aside for the next few steps. It’s important to keep these goals and ideas in mind for the next several minutes, but we won’t dig deep until later.

    15 Minutes: Take Inventory of All Your Current Efforts, Processes, and Results

    articleimage1693 15 Minutes

    Next, spend about 15 minutes taking inventory of everything you’re currently doing for your content strategy, including any formal processes you have documented and any staff members you have dedicated to execution. Editorial calendars are also helpful here. If you have all this formally documented already, you can almost completely skip this step—but chances are, you don’t.

    • How often are you posting onsite content?
    • What types of content are you posting?
    • What content formats are you using?
    • What topics and audiences are you targeting?
    • Where are you posting offsite?
    • How often are you posting offsite?
    • Who is developing your material?
    • How are they developing your material?
    • How much are you spending (time or money)?
    • How many new people are coming to your site because of your content?
    • How many people are sharing your content?
    • How many comments and engagements are produced by your content?
    • How many conversions are produced by your content?

    All these questions should be kept as high-level as possible. You’re looking at structures and processes here; in the next step you’ll dive a little deeper.

    15 Minutes: Choose a Selection of Individual Pieces for Analysis

    articleimage1693 Choose a Selection of Individual Pieces for Analysis

    Ideally, you’d be able to read every piece your company has developed in the past few months, but we’re 20 minutes into a 1-hour audit—we don’t have time for that. Instead, choose two to three pieces for closer examination. If you can, choose different formats of content, content written by different writers, or content featured on different publishers. Read these pieces as closely as you can in 15 minutes and ask yourself the following questions to start things off:

    • Are these pieces well-written and free of error?
    • Are these pieces consistently demonstrating our intended brand voice?
    • Do these pieces offer unique insights and original research?
    • Are these pieces unique topics?
    • Do these pieces make our brand trustworthy?
    • Are these pieces feeding our bottom line with traffic or conversion potential?

    5 Minutes: Decide Whether You’re Meeting Your Current Goals

    articleimage1693 Decide Whether You’re Meeting Your Current Goals

    Now that you have all the information in front of you, decide whether or not you’re meeting your current content marketing goals. Are you seeing the traffic or conversions you wanted? Are you following the processes as you outlined them?

    10 Minutes: Decide Whether Your Current Goals and Main Directives Need to Be Updated

    articleimage1693 Decide Whether Your Current Goals and Main Directives Need to Be Updated

    If you’re already meeting your goals, but you think you could see more progress, you’ll need to update those goals to be higher. If you aren’t meeting your goals but you feel like you’re doing everything you can, you might have set unrealistic expectations, warranting a goal change. Most other situations will fall into a gray area. Decide whether you want to change your goals or keep them the same. Either way, you’ll likely have to make modifications to your approach, which is the final step.

    10 Minutes: Make a Quick List of Alterations You Can Make

    Whether you’re following new goals or still aiming at old ones, there are definite improvements you can make to your approach. Is there a new, more efficient way you can produce content? Can you reprioritize things like brand voice consistency and unique topic selection? Can you go after newer, more relevant offsite publishers? During the course of this audit, you’ve likely found at least a handful of potential improvements, so make a solid list of them and put them to good use. You don’t have to catch everything, as long as you have a direction to move forward.

    This exercise was designed to show you that a content audit can be performed in an hour or less—but that doesn’t necessarily mean it should. During the course of this one-hour, high-level exploration, you’ll likely find specific areas that warrant further research and consideration. For example, when you review two or three recent pieces of content, you might develop questions that can only be answered by diving deeper into your past content productions. When brainstorming new ways to supplement your strategy, you may be driven to perform more research to explore your options.

    In any case, this one-hour content audit will give you everything you need to get started. If nothing else, it should help you overcome that all-too-common audit anxiety, and get you working toward a better, more comprehensive strategy.

  9. 7 Ways Content Can Build You a Better Brand Reputation

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    Reputation is critical for any business that wants to grow. If you’re just starting out, you may offer the best product in the industry with the quality customer service to back it up, but it won’t matter because you’ll have zero notoriety to start. On the other hand, if you’re customer service is a work in progress and your product isn’t quite perfect, you can make up for it with a brand reputation that makes people comfortable buying from you.

    Building this reputation through consistent service and fair offers is effective, but also very slow. If you want a faster, efficient, and powerful way to build your reputation even further, consider leveraging the true potential of content marketing.

    There are seven ways content can build you a better brand reputation, and all of them are impactful:

    1. It shows off your expertise.

    articleimage1691 It shows off your expertise

    This first way should be fairly obvious to you. If you write frequently about a given topic, always speak in an authoritative voice, and bring new insights to the discussion, eventually people will begin to recognize you as an expert in the field. For new customers, this might mean browsing for a specific product, reading a recent blog, and deciding that this particular provider knows what they’re talking about. For older customers, it might mean checking your newsfeed regularly and growing more comfortable every day that your voice is one of authority and expertise. Either way, people will grow to trust you as a commanding voice in your niche.

    2. It helps potential customers in need.

    articleimage1691 It helps potential customers in need

    One of the key benefits of inbound content marketing is getting in front of customers who are already looking for someone like you. When you write “how-to,” “why,” and “what” style posts, you’re using long-tail keywords that help you appear in common user searches for those topics. When you’re in need of something, whether it’s as urgent as a plumbing emergency or as innocuous as a curious question about meat packing, you get a sense of relief whenever you find the answers to your questions. If you’re the one answering those questions, people will associate that comfortable relief with your brand, and they’ll remember you the next time they need something.

    3. It gives you authority by proxy.

    articleimage1691 It gives you authority by proxy

    Building authority isn’t all about self-promotion. If your content gets featured in an external publication, you can build your authority by proxy, siphoning some authority from whatever external platform you’ve chosen to work with. In some cases, this means an industry affiliation—for example, you might be considered more of an expert if your piece is featured prominently in an industry trade publication. In other cases, this is sheer name recognition—for example, people might think more highly of your brand if you’re featured in high-profile publications like Forbes or Entrepreneur.

    4. It slowly builds name recognition.

    articleimage1691 It slowly builds name recognition

    This is especially true if you taking advantage of guest posting (as you should). As long as you choose the right topics and do a decent job of promoting your work, you’ll start showing up for people looking for content. The first time you show up, people might not think anything of your name, but the second time they see it, they’ll likely remember it. By the fourth or fifth time they see your name, they’ll instantly trust you, and beyond that, they’ll seek you out specifically whenever they have a need (assuming you’ve been meeting their needs).

    5. It demonstrates your commitment to your business.

    Not all businesses take the time or effort to produce content. If a visitor perusing your site finds your blog and newsfeeds empty, it might reflect that you aren’t interested in regularly updating your customers. On the other hand, if your blog is full and your site is ripe with fresh, interesting content, it shows you’re committed to making your business better, and that builds trust.

    6. It gives people social confirmation.

    You might struggle with this aspect at first, but the longer you spend optimizing your content strategy, the stronger it’s going to become. People trust brands and personalities that other people already trust—it’s a social confirmation bias that’s hard wired into our brains. When people see others commenting on, sharing, or otherwise engaging with your content, your content instantly appears more valuable, and your brand builds a stronger reputation as a result.

    7. It drives comfort through consistency.

    Think about the most comfortable things in your life. It could be your favorite chair in the living room, your mom’s old chicken soup recipe, or that perfect spot in the park down the street. Few of these things were inherently comfortable when you first encountered them, but they became comfortable over time because you experienced them repeatedly and consistently. The view in the park never changed. The taste of the soup never differed. People grow comfortable with things because they’re consistent, and if your content consistently demonstrates your brand voice, that trustworthy reputation will naturally come along for the ride.

    A better brand reputation isn’t just about getting more people to recognize your name, or getting more people to visit your website. It’s about building trust with new customers and loyalty with older ones. Trust and loyalty are qualities that can’t be bought or traded, nor can they be forcefully acquired. But over time, with diligence and commitment to quality, your content campaign can earn them, and your brand will enjoy the benefits of a bigger, more invested audience.

  10. 7 Easy Ways to Diversify Your Content Strategy

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    There are many qualities necessary for a content marketing strategy to be successful; your content needs to be thoroughly researched, original, and intended for a specific target audience. But there’s one quality that’s easy to miss and hard to achieve even when you prioritize it: diversity. Diversity in a content strategy means including a wide range of topics, different types of posts, and using different publication and syndication channels. The more diverse your campaign is, the more likely it is you’ll keep your audience interested, and the wider range of people you’ll be able to reach.

    The problem is diversity requires “out of the box thinking,” breaking your routines and stepping out of your comfort zone. It also require delicate balancing with the consistency of your brand’s material, which is just as important. Fortunately, there are a handful of easy ways you can diversify your strategy without disrupting the magic you’ve already established:

    1. Include more non-blog content.

    articleimage1690 Include more non-blog content

    Your website is a big place, and you can make it as big as you want. Instead of relegating all your content to the blog (in whatever form you choose), start developing new content for other sections of your site. For example, instead of writing five blog posts that answer different questions commonly asked by your user base, consider writing up a detailed FAQ page that answers all of them. Instead of writing up a few detailed tutorials about how to use your products, create a dedicated, interactive “tutorials” page. You can also go back and write smaller blog posts to present the information in a different light.

    2. Start developing infographics.

    articleimage1690 Start developing infographics

    Infographics aren’t quite as powerful as they used to be because users have grown accustomed to seeing them frequently in their newsfeeds. The way to overcome this is to stand out among the crowd. Infographics haven’t inherently lost value; instead, they’ve been overproduced by people trying to take advantage of their popularity. Find an interesting, unique topic that people actually care about, and put the time and effort necessary into making an infographic. Do this on an occasional basis, and you’ll attract more of the “visual learner” crowd, not to mention making your blog feed seem more interesting.

    3. Produce a video at least once a month.

    articleimage1690 Produce a video at least once a month

    Videos are super popular online, and they’re only getting more popular as brands like Facebook, Twitter, and Google continue making additions to make video viewing easier. If you’re worried about the time, effort it costs to produce a professional video, relax—remember, you likely have a video camera right in your phone, and not all your company videos need to be produced on a Hollywood budget. Sometimes, the simple act of talking to an audience through a camera is more than enough to get your message across and diversify your strategy at the same time. aim to do this at least once a month.

    4. Start a podcast or interview series.

    articleimage1690 Start a podcast or interview series

    Audio content is nearly as valuable as video content, especially if it’s offered in a downloadable format so people can listen to it on the go. Consider starting up a podcast with special guests, or an interview series, or a hybrid of both. Whatever you choose, be sure to invite other influencers in your industry—doing so will instantly expand your audience and improve your appeal, plus your guest will likely share and promote the post as well.

    5. Experiment with shorter and longer content.

    Don’t keep writing the same medium-length blog posts. Consider experimenting with a handful of short snippet articles, or go the other direction by producing a large-scale whitepaper or eBook. Your blog feed will look boring if it’s just an endless pattern of identically formatted posts; liven it up with shorter and longer pieces.

    6. Reach out to one new publication channel per week.

    Getting on a new publication platform is an instant gateway to a new segment of your audience (and possibly, a slightly new angle on the content you produce). Make it your duty to reach out to one new potential publisher every week; you won’t always get accepted, especially in the first few months of this strategy as you build your reputation, but you should get at least one or two new recurring opportunities per month to extend your reach.

    7. Get different people writing.

    This is the final tip on my list, but it’s one of the most impactful. Introduce more writers to your stream of content. You can hire more writers or contract freelancers, but you don’t even have to spend money to get fresh content from fresh minds. You could ask around the office and recruit people from other departments to contribute a post or two, or even better—you could hold an open call for guest posters. There’s never a shortage of people willing to write for free on your site to get a little extra visibility. New writers means new ideas, new angles, and a richer stream of content.

    Consistency and diversity may seem like opposite qualities, but they can exist in harmony as long as you prioritize them. While diversifying the type, nature, format, and location of your posts, you can keep your target audience, voice, and aesthetics more or less the same, retaining your brand’s marketing focus while maximizing the possibility of attracting new readers. Put these diversity tips to use in your own content strategy, and if you need help putting everything together, don’t be afraid to contact us.

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