Update 1: We’ve launched a far more in-depth guide on starting a content marketing strategy, which you can find here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.
Update 2: On August 4th, 2016, AudienceBloom CEO Jayson DeMers conducted a webinar on content marketing. Check out the full replay and transcript here.
Building a kickass content strategy isn’t all that hard. Many people are doing it already (and have been for a while), and are reaping the benefits. But Google’s growing steadily sharper over time, and even content strategies that have produced excellent SEO results for a time begin to falter. So the question is, how can you develop a content strategy that will stand the test of time, while winning approval from users as well as Google?
The thing is, when an SEO expert tells you to target guest posting as a strategy to build authority and your personal brand, what’s left unsaid is that your ultimate focus should be on delivering quality to the user. Many people simply take the advice to mean that Google loves guest posts, then proceed to spam the tactic. We saw this happen with infographics.
Building kickass content strategies focused on appealing to users isn’t difficult, though, and will always yield better results and not succumb to one of Google’s future algorithm updates. Even though high-quality content isn’t as scalable as mediocre or low-quality content, it pays for itself many times over. If you are consistent and persistent in your efforts, you’re more likely going to win the approval of your users as well as Google.
Here’s how to build strong content strategies that will stand the test of time and yield amazing results.
Onsite Content Strategy
Your content strategy should begin with the content that’s on your own website, where your focus should be on optimizing the user experience. User experience involves not just how cool, neat, simple, or beautiful your website looks. It describes how easily the user can find whatever they’re looking for on your website. This means you’ve got to put the “content” first: It should be prominent and accessible, while delivering the information that the user wants.
Intent-based content: What might your typical user intend to do on your website? Would he or she click ads? If you think that, you’re doing it wrong.
User intent plays a vital role in how your onsite strategy works. To do it right, you have to think about what a user wants (or expects, or needs) when he or she arrives on your website through search. For instance, it’s easy to discern that a user who searches for “domain discounts on godaddy” is looking for discount codes they can use on GoDaddy.
A unique style: Of course, you’ve probably got a ton of competitors (or at least a dozen), so the only way to stand out and make a good impression is to have a unique style of presentation.
Long-form vs. short content: Throughout discussions and analytics of long-form content and readability, long-form has stood the test of time. Two things are clear: people do read and convert better with long-form content and Google loves it (if it’s really valuable, smart, and high quality).
Don’t “sell”: Try to avoid naked selling with your content. That turns your work into marketing. Things have changed a lot on the web. Provide as much value as you can, and people will more naturally want to buy.
Offsite Content Strategy
Identify your audience: There are many blogs, websites, and communities that cater to the same audience you’re targeting. It’s easier and more productive to identify your target audience and understand what’s on their mind through what they are really talking about rather than trying to make “educated guesses.”
This is one of the true values of guest posting, actually: instead of picking topics at random and pitching them to publishers, you are really getting into the field and researching something that will really help. And often enough, you’ll see direct responses from members of your potential target audience.
Never “sell”: The same rules apply for offline strategies as with online; in fact, they apply even more strongly. Never try to take a piece of marketing copy and try to pass it off as a guest post or an offsite publication. It’ll probably backfire.
Don’t publish low-quality content: Most webmasters tend to think the best content should go on their own blog or website, and they save the mediocre stuff for offsite publishers. I disagree. A better way to build your authority, credibility, and brand recognition is simple: if you don’t consider a particular piece of content to be high-quality, don’t publish it anywhere.
Follow-up: Once you’ve distributed content (ie, via a guest posting campaign), make sure you follow up on it and check regularly to participate in whatever discussion follows. This signals to everyone that you’re “reachable”; it puts a real person behind the valuable information and makes people more inclined to trust you.
Build Strong Relationships: Building Natural Links & Authority
Identify key players: Link-building (in its proper form) has really become an Internet term for relationship building. You see people offer email templates to send to website owners. It’s a lot more powerful (and not that much more work) just to be natural.
Identify the key players in your field (they might even be your competitors), and build a really solid list of the people who’re trying to do (almost) the same thing you are trying to do; the folks who are, say, trying to build traffic, authority, brand, etc., within or near the same niche as you are.
Join hands with competitors: Once you build a huge list of such people, make friends with them. Not everyone is going to be helpful, but it’s interesting to note that on the Internet, some of the people who compete with you directly actually make great friends as well, and are often more than ready to help you out.
Once you build such relationships with other key players, a few things become easier. For instance, publishing on others people’s websites, getting a link-back or a natural mention (which is worth way more than a paid listing), and so on.
Hang out with other key players: You also want to find out where your niche players are discussing things on the web. Not just about SEO and websites, but about the core area of your target market. This gives you an edge, for example, over other players who just stick to their independent sources (like, maybe… Google?). And you get opportunities to meet more people you can build relationships with.
Help, help, help: Keep the focus on one thing: helping others. You only get out whatever you put in; so put in tons of value (in the form of helping others) and you’ll get it back exponentially in return.
Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.