Content is always king. The best techniques for content marketing are always changing to reflect consumer preferences and advances in technology. Marketers need to stay abreast of these changes and the shifting consumer needs in order to keep produce the very best content. To do this they need to stay away from certain “old school” content marketing strategies. Here are three methods to avoid as well as some best practices brands can use to ensure their content is crisp and engaging.
Create content for people – not search engines.
It’s important to focus on creating content that people will actually enjoy and might encourage them to take an action (subscription, purchase) etc. Too many firms focused just on the SEO aspect of their content. While SEO is important, it should take a back burner to quality and relevancy.
- When it’s overdone, SEO-focused writing can read terribly. Choppy sentences, repeated keywords, and odd sentence structures produce text which is hard to read and is easily forgettable. Remember to consider the audience’s perspective and write content to appeal to their needs.
- Search engines change their algorithms hundreds of times a year in order to refine the searches to delivery optimal relevance. They are now incredibly sophisticated and are able to effectively ignore sites that attempt to use SEO tricks to be more attractive, instead of relying on the quality of their content.
- A positive user experience and quality content are prominent factors for search engine rankings. Marketers should avoid any type of “black hat” tactics such as link spamming or hidden links that do not lead to any useful content.
What’s the payoff for a content-focused approach? For one, good content is more likely to be shared among visitors’ social circles, giving it more “legs” to have a reach beyond your site. It also makes good brand sense, as visitors can be entertained with your site’s content which reads like a person wrote it, not a SEO robot.
Use visual content to boost engagement.
Focusing on content does not mean you should have War and Peace length copy where two paragraphs would suffice. You need to avoid the dreaded “wall of text” which will be ignored by visitors with increasingly short attention spans. So what’s the alternative?
- Use visual content to “show not tell”. You know the cliché about pictures and the “thousand words” so use it to your advantage. Engaging visuals should go hand in hand with the written content to tell a story, evoke emotions, and encourage actions. Consider Facebook posts. The most eloquently written post without images can’t compete with a striking image and crisp text. Users communicate through images (think of the growth of Instagram), so content marketers should follow suit with visually-enhanced content.
- Website visitors now expect video content as well as imagery. Don’t just tell your story with written content, but use videos to guide people along. User product guides, assembly instructions, and amusing real-world use cases are all prime targets for video.
Visual content is vital for companies that want to stand out. From product description photographs to the inclusion of eye-catching charts in a press release, images are expected as a part of a complete marketing package.
Learn lessons from analytics to make content better.
Ignoring content analytics leaves marketers flying blind, without a sense of why users are responding to certain kinds of content (or if they are responding at all). Analytics can be used to narrow down what types of content work and which types are falling flat.
- Reviewing analytics weekly is vital to see what content is garnering the highest rates of engagement. Brands should then review this content to understand why it’s working. Is it especially funny? Is it shorter and more direct than other content initiatives? Whatever its unique characteristics, content marketers should be sure to catalogue them so they can recreate the success.
- Analytics might uncover some surprising discoveries. The pages that get the most views might not be the ones that actually hold your best content. Look to other metrics such as the average time a visitor spends on a page to find outliers where your most engaging content resides. You want to filter out pages that have very low page views, so you remove areas of the site that might have a few visitors that happened to stay a long time.
- Knowing where your traffic is coming from can help you adjust content to match those typical users. If you see a jump in traffic from certain keywords, then you can boost your site’s usage of those words through blog posts, social, or other site content. You also want to look at their overall journey through your site and ensure your content along that journey makes logical sense while progressing the visitor towards a purchase or some other desired action.
Marketers that use some of these “old school” methods will find their brands are not able to attract enough attention from users. Their visitors will leave sites without being engaged and certainly without being active sharers of the brand’s information. Content marketers that can develop people-friendly content that is visually interesting and refined through the review of data will be able to attract repeat visitors who are engaged and willing to share the content with friends.
Jake Athey is the Marketing Manager at Widen Enterprises who is the user and administrator of several popular marketing technologies including customer relationship management, campaign management, digital asset management, email marketing, blogging, and social media management platforms.