They say that content is king, and it’s true.
As the digital landscape has become more sophisticated, content marketing has triumphed, planting the flag on behalf of engaged audiences web-wide.
It’s not going anywhere, so now’s the time to get a better understanding of exactly what content marketing is, and how it can be used to grow a dedicated audience - and increase sales and conversions.
What exactly is content marketing?
Content marketing is basically the use of high-quality articles and material to interest and engage your audience – and encourage them to take a particular action.
These actions are ideally quantifiable, such as increasing sales, social shares, or newsletter signups.
Content marketing for all budgets and businesses
As with most things in business, the scope of your content marketing efforts is most likely going to be linked to budget and personnel resources.
Large companies might have whole content marketing teams working on pieces optimised to go viral, or articles that can be placed with larger media organisations.
Smaller companies, on the other hand, might have to get by on their wits and resourcefulness alone. But that’s just fine: with the right methods, reasonable expectations, and realistic objectives, you’ll get results.
First things first: know what’s out there
Understanding the lay of the land is a key first step. If you’re a small business, don’t reinvent the wheel. Instead, visit your competitors’ websites and see which of their articles boast the most shares and user engagement.
Tools such as URLProfiler.com can give some insight into a site’s most shareable pages, and although you won’t be able to get exact stats on hits or conversions, you’ll be able to get a good sense about what’s working for them – and therefore what might work for you.
What kind of content is a surefire hit?
There are plenty of ways to catch your audience’s attention. Here are our top ten tips for getting eyeballs to your site.
- Turn their world upside down.
Articles with an element of surprise tend to encourage sharing, so look for those with a “huh!” element. These can includes articles that upend conventional wisdom, or that offer an unusual perspective.
For example, in the footwear industry, conventional wisdom typically underscores the importance of comfy, cushioned shoes. But if you happen to find evidence that minimalist shoes – or even socks – are the way to go, then you’ve potentially got a viral article on your hands.
- Us vs. Them.
Articles that pit different groups against each other are sure to see a flurry of activity on social media or in comments sections as people try to assert themselves as being “in the right” in a particular issue.
This type of engagement is precisely what drives newspaper letters pages and talkback radio.
Are you a purveyor of vinyl records? Perhaps you have evidence that vinyl aficionados live in fancier areas than those who buy CDs or MP3s. Put the suggestion out there and bask in the warm glow of social media controversy.
- Topical and Timely.
If you have the ability to respond in a timely manner to current events, you can leverage this to your advantage. Perhaps a report is going around that paints your industry in an incorrect or one-sided manner, and you’re able to offer a different or more comprehensive perspective, or to use the report as a springboard for discussion.
- Anniversaries, milestones and obits.
Commenting on the anniversaries of significant events, or writing an obituary of a recently deceased industry giant such as s musician or product designer can be another way of garnering topical hits for your website. Just mind that you err on the side of respectful rather than sensational – one of the risks of running an obituary is to be seen as “cashing in” on someone’s death.
- Let’s get critical.
Reviews are a great way to position yourself as an authority and provide helpful information that your readers will be able to use – and share.
Readers are highly likely to share content that makes them look knowledgeable, authoritative, and “in the know”, so take advantage of this.
Perhaps you sell equipment for travellers. If so, consider reviewing books related to hiking trails or travel destinations. Or think about offering overviews of products you’re considering for your store – offering an insider’s view about what goes in to your product selection and giving your readers an opportunity to be the first to hear about it.
- It’s all in the how-to.
People search the web for information, and a “how-to” guide plays perfectly to that need. Perhaps you sell tech equipment and accessories. If so, an article showing how to use a GoPro or the best way to safely transport teach gear can pull in the hits.
- Get profiling.
Journalism-style interviews can be time-consuming, but pre-prepared questionnaires are a great way to get the information you need without sinking in too much time.
Prepare a pro-forma questionnaire and sent it to suppliers, industry influencers or product manufacturers. They’ll love the opportunity to showcase their work, and your audience will enjoy the insight.
- An infographic’s worth a thousand words.
Infographics are a great option for combining topical and interesting content in a visually appealing manner. They’re accessible, eye-catching, and best of all, shareable. If you have access to a designer, tap into their skills, but even a simple infographic can speak volumes.
- …and so’s a video
Videos are a great way to drive sales, both on their own and when incorporated into some of the above options. Consider using video for reviews, how-tos, product overviews, and “fly-on-the-wall” insider sneak peeks. They don’t need to be long, either – a six-second Vine might just do the job.
- Become a list-maker.
Viral websites like Buzzfeed are masters of lists, so take a page out of their book. If it begins with “Ten ways to…” or “Ten reasons why…” or “Ten things you didn’t know…”, then you’re in business.
Lists are easy to compile and have great SEO value. Compile a list of Twitter influencers in your industry, or prepare a list of top UK destinations to traverse with a GoPro in hand.
Slowly does it.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your content marketing strategy. Be patient as you grow your content, striving for great quality that’s tailored to your intended audience.
As you become more familiar with content marketing, you might find that you want to adjust or evolve your strategy to increase its success, target a new niche, or just focus on the areas where your passion shines.
Sometimes this will happen organically or through the guidance of user feedback, but it’s also worth keeping an eye on metrics such as social shares and backlinks to see just who’s checking out your content – and most importantly, whether you’re making sales or conversions as a result.