A Quick Guide To Effective Content Marketing

Maybe you’ve been distracted lately by Tupac’s hologram stealing the show at Coachella, but if you’ll allow me, I’d like to turn the conversation to content marketing for a moment. Okay, maybe a few moments—get comfy. From the bold strategy Coca-Cola shared with the public, to debates over whether content marketing sucks, content marketing has captured quite a bit of Internet attention, and it doesn’t seem to be letting up.

But one thing I’ve noticed is most people are focusing on the marketing part, and not so much on the content part. The general consensus is that quality content is the way to high rankings, traffic, and conversions. But while I’ve read a lot of posts that say you need quality content, I haven’t seen many that outline exactly how to create it. There seems to be a disconnect between copywriting advice, and content marketing how-tos. So let’s connect those dots.

Before you can engage in content marketing, you need content to market. Whether it’s blog posts, articles, infographics, instructographics, podcasts, videos, whatever. Before you sit down to create any of those, run through this checklist to make sure you get the most benefit from your content.

Come up With a Kickass Topic

If you know your stuff, topics should come pretty easily, but everyone experiences writer’s block from time to time. When that happens, the best way to decide on a topic for your next piece of content is to read. And then read some more. Oh, and then try reading. See what other people are writing. Look at what info-graphics they’re producing, and on what subjects. And when you’re done with that, watch videos related to your area of expertise, or produced by someone you admire. The point is not to copy what everyone else is doing, but to discover conversations, and hit upon something people will want to read about/listen to/watch.

What’s that? You don’t have time to do a bunch of reading just to write a post? Yeah, I hear you. Lucky for us, the generous people over at SEOgadget put together a content idea generator tool, and just updated it to an even more kickass version last month. The tool scrapes the latest posts on tons of sites for a given keyword so you can see what’s being talked about. Go check that out—after you finish reading this post, of course.

What’s that now? You’re so busy, you’re not even sitting in front of a computer most of the time to use a tool like that? If you have an iPhone, try downloading the News.me app. With access to your Facebook and Twitter accounts, it processes the links your connections are sharing, and delivers them to you in aggregate form, while showing you who shared them and when. If it’s true that the RSS feed death knell is sounding, apps like this may very well become the next iteration. No word yet on if or when News.me will be available for Android or other platforms.

With all that at your fingertips, you really have no excuse for not being able to come up with interesting, relevant topics.

Use Relevant Anchor Text

There’s a rumor going around that exact match anchor text isn’t as important a link signal as it once was. Google’s numerous Panda updates precipitated a shift in exact match anchor text value, and it seemed partial match was coming out ahead. To use the example in SEOMoz’s post, if you’re trying to rank for “Bing cherries,” you’re probably better off not using that exact phrase all the time, but mixing in others like “Bing is awesome.”

I don’t think anchor text can be broken down so simply into just two camps of exact or partial match. If you’re not considering user intent when constructing your links, you’re doing your readers and customers a disservice. If you were to link “Bing is awesome” to your page about Bing cherries, and bring in someone looking for information about the search engine, what do you imagine that’s going to do to your bounce rate? To your quality rating?

Need another reason to be specific with your anchor text? Here you go. In March, Google announced a few tweaks to how it interprets anchor text. One specifically says:

Better interpretation and use of anchor text. We’ve improved systems we use to interpret and use anchor text, and determine how relevant a given anchor might be for a given query and website.

So if you’re linking “Bing is awesome” to your Bing cherries page, that might not work out so well for you, not to mention the people who land on your page and feel duped. Keep your anchor text specific and relevant, and make sure it matches user intent.

Link In and Link Out

One of the link building methods we employ at Outspoken Media is guest posting. I’ve been shocked a couple of times by blog owners who questioned our use of links in a post. And I’m not talking about the one or two links we were really trying to build—I mean informational links used throughout the post. External links are citations that bolster your content’s authority and trust factor. They’re also a show of good will. If you link to a site, they’ll see it, and maybe they’ll return the favor someday, or at least share the content where you cited them.

Internal links are just as important. Ever placed a guest post and had your client’s link stripped out? Frustrating, isn’t it? There’s no chance of that happening with internal links. The only way you’ll miss out is if you don’t use them in the first place, and that would just be crazy. In addition to improving your site’s architecture, internal links give you total link building control to pass link juice to the areas of your site you want to focus on. Don’t pass up those opportunities. And remember what we just went over about anchor text.

Now, aside from the SEO copywriting aspects, let’s keep in mind some general writing tactics. Ready?

Grab Your Audience’s Attention Immediately

If your blog post, infographic, podcast, or whatever starts off sounding like a tenth grade book report, you have a problem. As an editor, my next pet peeve after extraneous use of the word that is an opening sentence that begins, “According to statistics…” or “Many people…” or “There is/are…” English may not be as flowery a language as Spanish or Italian, but with a little effort, you can come up with much more attention-grabbing beginnings to your content. Get your reader’s attention right off the bat, and you stand a better chance of them sticking around to the end.

Get to the Point

If your readers can’t tell what your blog post is about by the end of the first, but no later than the second paragraph, you’ve failed them. An infographic’s topic should be immediately apparent by skimming the title and glancing at the images. An instructographic’s title should tell you exactly what it’s going to instruct you to do. Leave the clever, esoteric titles for your fiction writing. Informational content has a purpose, which should be clearly stated. Don’t make your readers or customers work any harder than they absolutely have to in order to understand your content’s purpose.

Find Your Own Style

It’s one thing to admire someone for their talent and skill. It’s quite another to try to copy it. That rarely works anyway because it’s obvious to everyone you’re simply copying someone else, and you’ll lose people’s interest quickly that way. The person who coined the saying, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” was trying to excuse their own lack of imagination. Copying someone doesn’t flatter them. It probably pisses them off. Ever had original content of yours used without your permission? Were you flattered? I didn’t think so.

The key here is putting yourself out there. Yeah, it can be scary. Be yourself on the Internet? Who does that?! Isn’t this the place we can be cooler than we are in real life? Sure, but then what happens when you have to interact with people, whether in an e-mail exchange, or at a conference? It’s best to be yourself from the get-go, and flaunt your style. Not everyone will like it, that’s true. But you’ll have the advantage of not having to twist yourself into something everyone will like, which means you can relax and have fun with your content.

What about you? What’s your style? What methods do you use to create interesting, shareable content that provides the most benefit for your content marketing efforts? Let’s hear it!