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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.