By some estimates, there are more than 2 million blogs published every day on the web. Let that sink in for a moment. Two million. Every day. Three hundred and sixty-five days a year. After you wrap your head around that, you might ask yourself: If there is so much new content being published on the web every single day, how can I possibly hope that my company blog or article series can stand out?
Simple answer: Quality.
Another question you might be asking yourself is, why bother? If there is so much content already being published, why dedicate my company’s finite resources to something so many other companies are already doing? I’m a pioneer, by gosh, not a sheep.
Well, that’s an easy one. There are very good reasons why so many companies invest in content marketing. Companies that have a blog are 13 times more likely to have a positive ROI on their efforts. Companies that blog get 97 percent more links to their websites than their non-blogging competitors. Websites with blogs have 424 percent more indexed pages.
And, qualitatively, blogs and articles are one of the most effective marketing tools to educate and foster trust among your customers and customers-to-be, particularly in B2B content marketing. But again – and this cannot be stressed enough – ROI in content marketing is largely dependent upon the quality of the content you’re producing.
The workhorse of a successful content marketing strategy
There are other important ingredients of a successful content marketing program, surely. Consistency is a big one. An intelligent deployment strategy, huge. But, for the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on quality and get down to the very nuts and bolts of producing a high-quality blog post or a top-notch article that will engage an existing or soon-to-be customer and encourage them to take some kind action.
Now, for the sausage making . . .
- FOLLOW YOUR “CONTENT COMPASS.” In what subject matter is your company an expert? As an expert in that subject matter, what information are you uniquely able to offer that will be useful and relevant to an audience?
The answers to these two questions should be your guiding star when generating topics for content development. This is what we at ContentOvation refer to as your “content compass,” as it provides you with direction for all phases of your content development.
In the example below, Bulletproof, a nutritional supplement company famous (or, perhaps, infamous) for its butter-infused coffee, offers readers a relevant and timely topic – strategies for improving wellness and maintaining healthy immune cell function during the holidays. This topic, in turn, aligns very closely with the company’s core mission: “Bulletproof is a science-based approach to nutrition and wellness that is tried, tested and proven to make your life more awesome.”
A successful content marketing strategy embraces topics that can be overlaid directly onto the foundational reasons for your company’s existence and purpose.
2. CREATE AN IMPACTFUL HEADLINE. The headline of your article will be the first thing readers see when they land on your page. And, unfortunately, for many it will also be the last thing they see. Minimize your bounce rates by using a bold headline that will immediately capture audience attention. Six to 13 words is the optimal length for a headline.
And don’t make a promise you can’t deliver on. We’ve all read articles that don’t live up to their title. It’s disappointing for readers and will erode long-term readership, thereby undermining your long-term content marketing goals.
3. BE RELEVANT AND USEFUL. Remember that you are writing for a targeted audience. Imagine your ideal customer. What are his or her concerns? What problems can you solve for your customers? What information do they need in their personal or professional lives?
When engaging in content marketing, your customer universe (existing customers, plus prospective customers, plus channel partners) is your audience or, in other words, your readers. Your subject must align with readers’ interests and concerns. Publishing a blog or article is transactional. You must give your readers something of value in exchange for their time investment.
4. OPEN WITH A COMPELLING VISUAL. Like your headline and opener, your graphics will be one of the first things readers notice. This is not a time to be vague or coy. You want your headline and opening image to work together to grab your reader’s attention and not let it go.
A strong, complementary image will pull your reader in and entice them to read your first paragraph.
Note in the example above how Bulletproof offers a powerful headline-image combination so the reader has an immediate (and perhaps visceral) grasp of the topic of the article.
5. SET AN OPENING HOOK. Like your headline, your first paragraph needs to hook your readers and make them want to invest precious minutes of their time consuming your content. The opening paragraph needs to justify their time investment, provoke interest and perhaps curiosity, establish your credibility, and connect with the audience.
If your readers don’t read the first paragraph, you have little hope that they’re going to read the second. Bulletproof’s article opens, “It’s safe to say that 2020 will be a major chapter in the history books of our lives.” Boom, I’m hooked. And I suspect Bulletproof’s readers will be as well.
6. BE SOCIAL. A surprising number of readers will share a good post without even reading it fully. Make it easy to share your piece using all of the major social media channels that your company actively uses. Social media is an indispensable content marketing tool because it offers a great way to exponentially increase your readership, so don’t make readers hunt for your social sharing links.
Bulletproof positions their social sharing icons near the headline, and the icons remain static as you scroll down the page to read the article so that a reader can post a link via their social channels any time the fancy strikes them.
You can also include preformatted social posts (e.g., “Click to tweet”) to make it even easier for readers to push your content on their social media channels.
7. MAKE YOUR CONTENT SCANNABLE. The last thing you want your reader to see when they click to read your latest blog or article is a monolithic wall of words. Your article should be scannable with multiple access points and short paragraphs. In other words, organize your piece into easily digested “chunks” of content that readers can easily scan.
When appropriate, use headings, bullet points, numbered lists, boldface type, pull quotes, and complementary visuals to create an inviting reading experience for your audience.
In the IBM example above, the text-heavy article is more accessible because of the headings, subheadings, and bulleted organization.
8. OFFER A MULTIMEDIA EXPERIENCE. If you’re able to provide additional content assets with your article to enhance the reader experience, then you should do so.
Videos, audio clips, slide shows, and downloadable checklists or guides will increase the amount of time readers spend on your site and, therefore, the chances they will take another action, such as read another article, subscribe to your newsletter, respond to an offer, or make an inquiry about your products or services.
Just make sure the additional content assets are relevant and complement your topic.
Note how IBM offers its audience a webinar on the same topic as the article to extend readers’ education on the subject matter.
9. INCORPORATE EXPLANATORY VISUALS. Most people are visual learners, at least to some degree. If you can provide a chart to help visualize any data you reference or some kind of graphic to complement your text, you will surely enhance the value you’re offering readers in your article or blog.
Note the flow chart included in the IBM article. The visual serves as a supplemental learning aid for a fairly complex topic.
10. HAVE A DELIBERATE LINK STRATEGY. A decision on whether to include outbound links should be based on this central question: Would an outbound link add value to my readers’ content experience? Direct readers to external websites when the third-party site will offer your audience helpful supplemental information resulting in a more comprehensive educational experience.
You will also want to provide external links when you’re referencing data, research, or some other information as a way to cite your original source. It gives you more credibility and offers readers access to the source material you’ve referenced.
Internal links are another important aspect of your link strategy. Drive readers deeper into your website by linking to other relevant content, including other articles or resources, aligned products or services, etc. The longer readers spend on your website, the greater your chances of converting them into customers.
11. OPTIMIZE FOR SEO. Books have been written on the topic of SEO. Many of them, actually. For our present purposes, however, we’ll leave it at this: Make sure you use keywords in your title tags, headers, meta descriptions, and body text.
But – and this is a big ‘but’ – prioritize humans over machines. That is, do not undermine your connection with your human readers by using clunky or otherwise unnatural language just to target Google’s algorithm. That’s almost always a losing game, anyway. Besides, Google constantly adapts its algorithm to evaluate and rank sites that do the best job of providing valuable content for their audiences.
Make readers your focus and much of your SEO authority will follow. Use natural language at all times when incorporating keywords.
12. BE AUDIENCE-AWARE. Throughout this article, we’ve been referring to your customers as your “audience.” This is not a mistake. Yes, content marketing targets your customers and prospective customers. But you need to get in the habit of thinking of your customer universe as your “audience” when you generate content for them. This is especially important in B2B content marketing.
Why? Because when you frame your customer as a “reader,” you’re not focusing on trying to sell them something. That will follow. But when you focus on an “audience,” you are more likely to home in on what your readers’ informational needs are and how you can serve those needs.
Over time, you will build engagement and trust. In most cases, you want to use your content to nurture and grow a relationship rather than push for a one-off transaction.
13. DON’T BE SELF-PROMOTIONAL. Content marketing is, fundamentally, engagement marketing. Prospects and customers aren’t going to spend their precious time reading your most recently published article because they want to subject themselves to an infomercial.
Remember, you’re playing the long game.
High-quality blogs and articles build relationships between customers and brands over time. When executed correctly, an effective content marketing strategy builds trust, establishes credibility, and showcases your expertise and thought-leadership. Save the more overt sales pitches for the later stages of your content strategy.
14. ESTABLISH CREDIBILITY. Your content is a reflection of your company. Be authoritative. Don’t make unsubstantiated claims. Back up claims with data and research. Content should be relevant, useful, and insightful.
During the content development phase, remember the people on your payroll who have brought your company into existence, influenced its direction, and continue to make it run successfully. Leverage the experience and the collective knowledge of your employees and internal experts to create your content, and your expertise will shine through to readers.
15. MAKE YOUR CONTENT ACTIONABLE. Make it easy for your readers to take action on the new information they’ve acquired by reading your article. This ties back to your article’s purpose.
In Intrepid Travel’s blog post above, “The top 8 destinations (we wish) we could travel to in December 2020,” the author makes it easy for readers to act on the information provided in the article by providing links to travel packages to some of the places featured in the article. There’s a very natural flow from passive (reading and, hopefully, being inspired by the article) to active (exploring the details of visiting one of the destinations highlighted in the article).
16. INCLUDE CTAS. Every single article published should include a call-to-action that invites readers to subscribe to receive future blogs and articles via a branded newsletter. This should be one of your primary strategies for building a robust prospect database.
If someone lands on the Intrepid Travel article after clicking to read it from a social media page, and they like the article and opt-in to receive more Intrepid Travel articles in the future, the company can continue to send them content as well as travel offers to convert that reader from a prospect to a customer.
17. BE GRAMMATICALLY COHERENT. Grammatical incoherence, misspellings, and punctuation errors are deal killers. Most readers have very little patience for such blunders and will click away immediately. These errors undermine the credibility of the article and, if flagrant enough and consistent enough, can effectively erode trust in the company, thereby tarnishing the brand itself.
It is essential to have professional-level writing, but even professionals can make mistakes. Proofread everything you publish multiple times and, if possible, have multiple people to do so. After the article has been proofread, proof it again!
Articles and blog posts are the workhorses of your content marketing efforts. Get as much mileage out of them as possible by Including these 17 ingredients for more impactful articles and blog posts.