These days, it’s easier than ever to create marketing content and distribute it. Everyone and their uncle is doing it.
But not all content will be successful …The key to success lies in creating really good content.
If you’re new to writing content, it can be tricky to grasp the basic building blocks of great content, or to know where to start or how to write content.
The best way to master the recipe for killer content is to learn from brands that are already getting it right.
This article will highlight five content marketing tips we’ve gathered by reviewing the work of expert content marketers. We’ll also provide suggestions for tools to help you get started.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
(Click on a link below to jump to that section)
Lessons Learned From Killer Content Marketers
1. Pick Relevant Topics
The difference between great content and content that’s met with crickets is this:
Great content is relevant and usable. If you address topics your readers value, they’re more likely to engage with it.
This means you’ll need to think about what your audience wants to read and how to craft content they want to click on, before you start writing.
Start With Keywords
Start by performing keyword research around the topics and themes your audience cares about. Then, identify keywords with search volume (those that people search the most) and incorporate them into your content. You can do this by using those keywords in your:
- Title tags
- Body text
- Meta description
This increases your content’s chances of being found easily on search engine results pages (SERPs). Content that pops up front and center when your target audience searches for things is more likely to be successful.
Address What People Care About
Your target audience has questions, concerns and pain points. If you speak to those when you write content, they’re more likely to find value in it.
For instance, McDonald’s Canada created a special website for their “Our Food, Your Questions” program launched in June 2012. In it, readers post questions and McDonald’s answers them.
What’s the secret sauce in McDonald’s bold move? They address exactly what their readers care about and tackle even the most accusatory questions with total honesty. It makes for an interesting and relevant experience for their website visitors.
What else makes it neat? Participants must connect with either their Twitter or Facebook accounts, so questions asked also appear on their respective social networks. This boosts McDonald’s visibility.
As proof of concept, Fast Company cited that, within the first four months of the website’s launch, 16,000 questions were asked, more than 10,000 questions were answered and 3.1 million questions were read.
How does this strategy apply to you? Research your target audience to find out what they talk about and look for online. Then speak to that. This will position you (and your content) as a source of valuable information.
Write a Catchy Headline
Don’t forget to choose an eye-catching headline that people want to click on. It should tell the reader what they can expect to learn and be relatively unique. In other words, you want to both hook and inform your readers.
Moz, a marketing software provider, makes great use of catchy headlines in their blog. They’re punchy and intriguing.
Tools of the Trade:
For a strategy like this to work, you need to know what your audience cares about. You’ll also need to understand what they’re looking for online. The good news: There are tools for that.
- Use social media monitoring software to learn what your target audience is talking about on social media and gauge what types of content might resonate.
- Marketing automation software often provides functionality to capture lead intelligence from various digital channels (e.g., your website). You can use that intelligence to choose highly relevant and targeted content topics.
- Use Keyword Tool to find keywords related to your topic idea and Google Adwords to identify which of those keywords have high search volume.
- Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO can help you learn how to use keywords to optimize your content.
- For ideas on catchy headlines, check out Portent’s Content Idea Generator.
2. Tell a Good Story
A good story is both factual and compelling. In other words—it provides useful information while engaging readers on an emotional level. Good storytelling makes content more memorable and elevates perceptions of value. It’s also more share-worthy.
The Wharton Business School conducted a study of New York Times articles to find out what makes content go viral. Here’s what they found:
The most-shared content provoked arousal, igniting emotions such as amusement, awe, anger or anxiety.
Coca-Cola Company adopted this approach by turning their website into a digital magazine. With it, they are able to associate their brand with a wide variety of feel-good topics:
Coca-Cola’s strategy worked—in the first year of it’s launch, the website earned a whopping 1.1 million unique monthly visitors, a number that rivaled many traditional media outlets at the time.
To implement this strategy, think about how you can make your content more personal. For example, if your readers want to learn how to improve their customer service, you might create an article that begins with a story about a really stellar customer service experience. Then break down what tactics made it so successful.
Tools of the Trade:
If you’re new to storytelling, there are a lot of guides and tools to help you start off on the right foot.
- Check out these TED talks to learn how stories engage people and how to tell great stories: Andrew Stanton: The clues to a great story and Nancy Duarte: That Resonates with Me!
- Play with artist James Harris’s Periodic Table of Storytelling. It was designed to help inform plot devices and archetypes for fictional content, but it’s also great for those who want to learn how to tell stories and just need a little inspiration.
- Check out blogs about how to incorporate storytelling into your marketing. There are several, but here’s one to start with: The Story of Telling.
3. Leverage Visuals for an Emotional Impact
Visuals can be especially powerful—they compliment your text and engage readers on an emotional level.
In fact, HubSpot cites that content with relevant images gets 94 percent more views than content that doesn’t include them.
GoPro, a manufacturer of action cameras, makes good use of this strategy by creating content that is made up almost exclusively of high-quality pictures and videos. Their use of images is also relevant to their product and brand, making it a win-win with their followers.
Red Bull also relies heavily on visual content. For example, eight million people watched their Stratos Jump video, featuring parachute jumper Felix Baumgartner’s high altitude fall during which he broke the sound barrier.
Look for high-quality visuals to help tell your story. Adding strategically placed visuals in your content can evoke emotion and help break up large blocks of text. This will make your content more interesting and palatable.
Tools of the Trade:
If you use (or intend to use) lots of images in your content, you’ll want to learn how to choose visuals that have an impact. You’ll also want a way to easily manage them.
- To learn how to create and use visual representations of data, check out Edward Tufte’s book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. If you have the budget for it, you can also check out his course on the subject.
- Check sites that offer glyph icons (e.g., The Noun Project) and photo and image sites that offer quality visuals for a fee or free (e.g., Negative Space and Unsplash).
- Consider digital asset management software and marketing resource management software, which offer functionality to help store and organize your visual assets, simplify version control, streamline collaboration and maintain a consistent brand image.
4. Include Helpful Navigation
A piece of content can go in depth about a particular topic, but not necessarily be exhaustive. In other words: even a highly useful piece of content may not address everything your readers care about.
If your content topics are focused or narrow, offer links to related supplemental content. Navigational elements can be used to offer readers a complete narrative and increase the time they spend on your site.
HubSpot does this really well. Their blog offers a gratifying “rabbit hole” of content with cleverly placed links for readers to follow. One topic easily leads to another, offering readers a holistic picture of fairly broad subject matter.
5. Build a Community
It’s all too easy to publish your content and assume that’s the end of it. But great content marketers know that’s only one step toward content that’s successful in the long run.
Building a community of followers who share your content means it will reach more eyes.
American Express does a great job of creating a community with their OPEN Forum—an advice-sharing platform, where entrepreneurs exchange ideas and advice. Communities such as these can turn into a self-sustaining online presence for your brand.
While you may not have the resources to start something on this scale right off the bat, it’s a good example of how powerful it can be to collect and engage with like minds. Small businesses can start simple and achieve similar results.
For example, you can start creating a community by building a social media presence, which is a relatively simple way to engage with customers. You can also easily see who is sharing or talking about your content.
Social media platforms also provide the means for two-way conversations with your audience. Stay in touch with your readers after you publish your content on social media. This keeps your content alive well after it’s published and fosters ongoing engagement.
For an example of a unique small business retailer that kills it on social media, check out our article on social selling.
Tools of the Trade:
- Social media marketing software can help you build and maintain a social media presence and keep your voice in the action more often, with features such as automated posting. Some of these platforms can even help you identify social media influencers (who make great brand advocates).
- Social media monitoring software can help you stay on top of what people are saying about your brand, so you can jump into meaningful conversations at the right time.
We’ve listed a few tools here that can help you become a successful content marketer. That said, there are many options for content marketing, either as standalone applications or integrated solutions.
If you decide to use a combination of software systems, be sure they work well together. Look for systems designed to integrate and/or purchase from vendors that can support you through the integration process.
Need help choosing the right marketing solution? Here are a couple steps you can take to narrow down your options and get more information:
- Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m available to help you start the software selection process, or to answer any additional questions you might have about creating killer marketing content.