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Content Marketing Essentials: Tactical Advice From A To Z

From boardrooms to blogs, mainstream marketers are fixated on “Content marketing” and why it’s so important these days. In reality, savvy advertisers, PR pros, brand evangelists, SEOs, in-house and agencies have been leveraging content’s intrinsic power since the dawn of organized marketing activities.

Wielded properly in the hands of masters, there are few tactics more powerful. Practically everyday, we come in contact with brands of all sizes, wanting to better understand how to develop a more holistic content program as a vehicle for nurturing traffic and conversions. Many of these brands shell out massive paid advertising spend and want to dilute the CPA. Other brands fear being left behind in social media without content of their own to promote.

Google’s Panda update left many a site’s ersatz content strategy eating dust outside razed puppy mill-content farms.  These folks are just trying to save their butt by tendering an actual strategy instead of the junk they proffered prior.

Like many agencies, we’re in the business of offering unabashed advice and have earned amazing clients all over the world who lean on us for support in developing their content strategies.

For this post, we’ve gone over a couple years of written recommendations to various clients and assembled 26 tasty tidbits, from mild to wild, to share herein with you, our valued reader.  We use the words, “Feed,” “Blog,” and “Publications” in the post interchangeably. Enjoy!

A: Bring A-list Writers

You get what you pay for so using $14 a page writers or automated software won’t yield the level of content that will matter. Sure, it still works, to an extent, to temporarily baffle Google and Bing with recurrent rubbish but once you get the click, how will users convert? More likely they will bounce.

Garbage content sure won’t earn links.  Puppy mill content does not make friends or repeat visitors.  Don’t kid yourself. Great content takes great writers and a significant investment of time and money. Content marketing is about business and investing money as you reach out to customers with brilliant information to serve, delight, demystify and share.

B: Gain buy-in & Approval For The Right Business Reasons

Content creation is more then just a happy little plaything and the strategy should be rooted in defensible commercial objectives.  Use content to increase keyword diversity and volume, as evidenced by traffic to the site. Dilute customer acquisition costs or improve client retention with the value you create.

Use Google Webmaster Central to measure organic CTR trends at the site, keyword, and semantic clusters levels.  Make long lasting friends for future remarketing.  Lift your SEO.

C: If Content Is King, Creativity Is Queen, Ruling Equally At His Majesty’s Side

Don’t settle for run-of-the-mill-everyone-has-already-done-it ideas or accept the team’s first impulse just because it’s an easy pathway.  The best idea wins.  Challenge your whole team. Run internal contests to cull ideas.

D: Take Time To Undertake Search & Social Demographic Research Creation Process

Use keyword research tools, Twitter, Facebook Ads, competitive intelligence tools and other classic demographic tools to unearth trends and predilections in social chatter and semantics.  This is essential for success.

“D” is also for “development.” Feed development is fundamental. Make sure that your blogging software is up to speed. Don’t overspend for expensive mongrel white elephants. Use Ning and turn the blog into a flat out social platform. WordPress, Drupal, Joomla are awesome blogging software choices.

E: Strive For Excellence

Make it your goal to be the definitive resource to readers in an intellectual space that is small enough to dominate in the SERPs whilst large enough to generate a high enough volume of readers.

F: Have Fun

We can’t emphasize this point enough.  Readers can smell a fabricated puppy mill article from miles away.  Don’t be dry and droll, even if the subject matter happens to be.  A single adjective, carefully placed can mean a lot, as can a screaming diatribe. Know what will teak your audience. Tweak them.

G: GO!

Get this sucker off the ground. Sure do your planning and take time to get things right, but don’t languish in never-actually-do-the-project-mode. Make this a priority and go for it!

H: Have A Heart

Highlight heart warming human-interest stories that matter to readers.  If you want content to go viral, then create content that someone would actually want to send to someone else.

I: Remember That Benefits Of Content Marketing Are Incremental

At first, you might feel as if you’re blogging to nobody. This is normal so prepare your team’s expectations.

J: Just Remember

That 25 visitors a day is over 9,000 a year. Do it right and pretty soon there will be 20,000 a month, then 30K and so on. Though there can be quick hits that yield thousands or even millions of buy-motivated visitors, think long term. This will take some time.

K: Keywords Matter

SpuFu Kombat is a killer paid subscription tool we use discover keyword overlap and areas of uniqueness between competitors. Extend your site’s organic footprint into areas that your competitors dominate without being challenged previously.  We love this tool when planning what to write about.

L:  We love link roundups

Because blogs monitor their reputations by alerts using various tools; bloggers: find out if you link to them or even mention their name or that of the publication they write for.

Often, link roundups yield greater long-term fruit then feature articles that take oodles of time to research and write. Get create and do video, infographic, and other themed roundups on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Recap at the end of the year for extra lift.

M: “M is for Money”

Make no mistake. I’m just saying. In all seriousness, this project is going to cost money. Don’t try and create content on the total cheap (see letter “B”.) On the other hand, don’t be wasteful.

An in-house blogger-extraordinaire is a fearsome weapon at a very reasonable cost.  Finally, don’t be afraid to spend some well planned cash on Facebook Ads, press releases or even Adwords to promote occasional posts that are brilliant.

N:  Being Naughty Is Good Sometimes

Don’t avoid controversy if the matter needs to be highlighted and there are no regulatory issues that prevent you from taking on tone of righteous indignation.

An industry wiz once called me out as being a troublemaker and indulging in click bait. It was the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. Sometimes Minnesota nice is a better answer. Have the wisdom to know the difference.

O: Organization Is A Major Key To Success

Make a publication calendar, just like in the old days. Budget, set organic goals and report regularly. Also gain buy-in from the whole organization. Each department of your company can contribute content or content ideas. Make sure everyone understands what the objectives are.

P: Think Of Your Feeds As A Publication, Not A Website

The best content marketing efforts we’ve ever seen treat the process as if it’s a magazine or newspaper. Ask the question, “how do we create an industry leading” publication in this space?” “What weekly features can we create as branded vehicles?”

Make a contribution to the industry your company runs in a build out a true serialized publication.

Q: Stay True To Quintessential Blogging Tactics

Cite other blogs as complimentary and non-competitive resources for your readers. Share data that really matters. Give until it hurts, without giving away information that is truly proprietary or gives you an edge that you want to hold close.

R: Recurrent Content

The idea here is to bring recurrent content, day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year. Slow and steady wins the race.  We’ve found a sweet spot that seems to happen socially and in search engines once a blog publishes 3X per week or more.  The point is that you need to blog, over and over, even if you don’t feel like it.

S: “S” Is For SEO

Make sure to undertake keyword research to advise the words in your blog headlines and body copy. Remember, one of the ideas here is to attain greater visibility in the SERPs. Blog optimization is crucial to maximize the effect of content marketing.

T: Allocate Enough Time

We know some strategies that take 20-40 hours a month. Others take a lot more, with multiple employees fully devoted to the endeavor.

For perspective, this article took me about three hours to write and that’s pretty fast for the type of response it will likely garner.  If this post had required research, then it could have easily taken 6-8 hours or even longer. Really amazing research can take teams days.

As a rule, it pays to invest time in content.  However, see letter “L.”

U: Deploy Useful Tools For Users

Make it easy for them to share with social buttons to like the content in Facebook, follow on Twitter or share in Google +1.  Also make it your goal design content that readers return to over and over as a resource.

I love the way Rand Fishkin publishes his SEO Ranking Factors study every couple of years. I go back to it over and over. It was well worth the time and money SEOmoz invests in this killer resource. It’s just so freakin’ useful.

V: Use The Adjective “Vital” To Describe Your Publication

Be vibrant, vivacious, effervescent, spirited and oh so alive. Make it your goal to hear subliminal crescendos of music and applause between written lines.  Be that good.

W: Be Timely & Capitalize On Obvious Windows Of Opportunity

Don’t regurgitate third hand news but, if you have an industry-shaking scoop, get it out there.  Don’t be afraid to rewrite a post if you need to publish it before you can complete it. Newspapers do this all the time. Still, be careful to get news right.

X: Play The Middle Against The Extremes

Explore issues with your readers that challenge their perceptions of important issues of the day. Create content that takes on relevant matters and conducts an internal debate taking each position in the same or serialized posts.

Try on the views of many and compare them, to draw in all parties.  This is a classic technique that always works because it draws in those who both agree and disagree with each perspective.

Y: Don’t Be Afraid To Leave Your Personal Mark As A Writer

Character sells so don’t try and squish the memorable traits that make you, you. At the same time be cognizant that the firm paying for the content has ownership of the project. Learn the line and walk it.

Z: Understand The True Zen Of Being A Blogger

Read CopyBlogger, ProBlogger, Danny Sullivan, Michael Gray, Rand Fishkin, Barry Schwartz, Greg jarboe, and Guy Kawasaki.

Dissemble their tactics and make them your own.  My kids think they invented Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith. LOL! This generation of marketers did not invent content marketing. Visit with the masters and study their venerable ways.

Image Credits

© Stephen VanHorn – Fotolia

© vlorzor – Fotolia

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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