I see companies struggle with content marketing all the time. The reason for the struggle usually has nothing to do with budget, time, or desire - most companies have those things to dedicate toward content marketing.
The most common reasons companies struggle with content marketing is not putting simple best practices to work. Some just write anything and post it thinking it's going to bring a return. Others, use content marketing tactics that went out of style before the iPhone was a thing.
So how do you create content and actually get more traffic and leads?
Content Marketing Tips for 2017 - Getting More Traffic and Leads
If you push subpar content, chances are you simply won't make them loyal customers. When your customers hate your content, you run the risk of losing them. If you lose them, they likely won't ever come back. What's more important is, there is a good chance they will tell others to avoid you more often than someone who wasn't your customer in the first place.
1. It's Focused on Selling
They've already become a customer, and yet all you ever do is ask them to buy more. They like you, they have already bought some of your products or services. Chances are, if they wanted to buy more they know how to get it.
This doesn't mean you shouldn't offer discounts or suggest items they may genuinely be interested in. But it does mean you have to do it carefully and only when appropriate.
Amazon does a great job of this with their recommended and similar item suggestions. It's relevant, timely, appropriate, and most importantly, accurate.
You know what Amazon doesn't do? They don't spam "content" that is basically a bunch of stuff I have no interest in and certainly don't want to purchase. If it's not relevant, helpful or even accurate it's just as bad as a used car salesman invading my inbox.
2. It's Not Relevant to Them
Most content is generated with the intention of gaining new customers. It's rare that the same piece you are using to attract new visitors is going to resonate with your current audience.
Most likely, your customer originally came to you because of some need, whether it was a new piece of software or a marketing consultation. Hopefully what they already purchased fulfilled that need.
So now what?
To be effective with existing customers, you need to create content specifically for them. It's essentially the same process you go through to build your buyer personas and plan your new acquisition marketing. You are simply aiming it towards the people who have already bought your product or service.
3. It's too personal, or not nearly enough.
Business isn't like it used to be. With social media and advances in technology, the relationship between company and customer has evolved.
According to a study from About.com and Latitude, 79% of consumers state that their relationship with brands is much more personal than ever before.
Using tokens for first name or company name is smart. Crafting your messages so that it only goes to people when it is relevant and accurate is very smart. But don't overdo it! Don't try so hard it leaves your customers feeling like you are cheap and creepy.
4. It's Too Pushy
Ever get an email from a company offering you money if you refer x amount of people?
I hate those!
If you're good, you're good. You won't need me to pimp you out to my friends and family and basically sell you their information for a $25 credit.
Word of mouth is a powerful thing.
As Walt Disney said, “What ever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it they will want to come back and see you do it again and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.”
When you do what you do well, your customers will come back for more, and they will talk about you, and recommend you, and bring others to you. You won't need to ask for help.
How Do You Fix Bad Content
Listen to your customers, to their problems, to their pain points, to their complaints. Listen to what they are saying and you'll be amazed- they will actually tell you what they want.
Tell them something new. Give them some genuinely useful information, without once trying to sell them anything.
Take them time to put together a fun video or an interesting infographic, and share it with just your customers.
Let your customers know about your content. If you're creating the kind of content they want, they will be happy you did.
Great Content Marketing in 2017: Presentation is Everything
Real estate agents have been known to pull out all the stops when it comes to staging homes – baking cookies to lend the house a wholesome aroma, clearing surfaces to provide the house with an uncluttered appearance, and strategically placing Pottery Barn furniture in the living room to foster an affluent and modern feel.
Similarly, with inbound marketing, there are plenty of proven and recommended tactics for maximizing warm impressions.
Let’s take a look at a few of them in depth.
KEEP Content As SHORT As Possible
Clear, concise language is pivotal. According analytics platform Chartbeat, most visitors decide whether or not to leave a content page within 15 seconds of loading it. If you take too long to get to the meat, if your language is disproportionately jargon-heavy, convoluted or otherwise difficult to understand, your audience will look elsewhere, fast.
Utilize active phrasing that gives the reader precise instructions, and active voice to make your content more direct, actionable and motivational.
Structure your paragraphs in an inverted pyramid structure, stating your primary thesis concisely at the very top and then following it with supporting sentences. This helps readers move from point to point quickly, and it enables them to decide where they’d like to dive in deeper. Keep your paragraphs to five sentences or less, and make sure to feature only one idea per paragraph.
If You CAN’T SCAN IT? BAN IT!
In his oft-cited web usability study of 1997, user experience thought leader Jakob Nielsen made the case that 79% of web users scan rather than read. While Nielsen’s data is now decades old, the results have been proven again and again, and today’s mobile, social consumers of content are even less likely actually to read content thoroughly than their predecessors.
Website usability is critical to your business and digital content is all about serving up readily available, quickly digestible information. Screen reading is about 25% slower than reading from paper. Audience members are busy, easily frustrated creatures who are only trying to accomplish their goals without encountering unnecessary obstacles. By ensuring that your content is scannable, the likelihood that the user will feel favorable about your brand and return for more information skyrockets.
As a publishing industry term, “scannability” refers to the cumulative effect of techniques that address the fact that most people don’t fully read content on the web. Always insert meaningful, action-focused subheadings throughout your content. Subheadings are important because they provide an outline of the information you’re presenting, so people can skip directly to the portions of your article that most interest them. Also, if your subheadings are intriguing, they will keep your readers engaged.
Secondly, bold the most critical concepts. See how your eye flew straight to that line? That’s because you’re normal. By utilizing selective bolding, your readers will be able to scan through and pick out the most critical information at a glance.
Thirdly, embed images, videos and other visual elements between larger blocks of body text, so that your readers won’t get too overwhelmed. Amazingly but not surprisingly, people are four times more likely to read image captions than body copy. Videos can also improve the experience of content, rather than forcing people to read. One study found that adults are 39% more likely to share video content online than text-only content.
Also worth mentioning is The F pattern. This construct is based on an eye-tracking study that documented how users read web pages. The long and the short of it is that web pages are consumed in an F-shaped pattern: two horizontal stripes followed by a vertical stripe. What does this mean for you and your scannability? Begin all subheadings, paragraphs and bullet points with information-laden words that users will notice when scanning down the left side of your content in the final stem of their Fs. They'll read the third word on a line much less often than the first two words.
Build TRUST OR Go BUST – MAINTAIN OBJECTIVITY
Establishing credibility is essential for grabbing hold of site visitors. Nurturing trust is a process, and the first way to achieve it is by including references to statistics and research (see what we did there?) to back up your claims. Linking out to further information, citations or source material makes it easy for your site visitor to verify your information’s accuracy.
Another critical piece is staying clear of over-promotion. People detest over-hyped, disproportionately sales-y writing. Nobody wants to feel pressured, and once you cross the line into “We’re the best out there; buy now!” your readers will begin to question the credibility of your statements. Credibility and trust suffer when visitors start catching whiffs of hyperbole, boastfulness, and pressure.
Remove all “marketese” from your content by eliminating superlative adjectives (greatest, incredible, ultimate) and buzzwords (dynamic, guru, low hanging fruit) as well as any claims unsupported by solid evidence. Just talk about the benefits of solutions and convey your company’s take on issues that are relevant to your industry. Remember that the goal of your content is to build relationships of trust with prospects over time.
CREATE INVITING CONTENT
Ultimately, your goal should be to create content that is inviting, useful and easy to consume. That’s how to stage your marketing materials effectively.
When your content is concise, scannable and objective, it’s actually primed to engage and convert.
Top Business Content Mistakes
If you have been blogging for at least 6 months but aren’t seeing a growth in traffic and aren’t gaining any new leads, make sure you aren’t making one of these mistakes:
1. YOU NEVER DEVELOPED A STRATEGY.
The number one mistake companies make when launching a blog is that they have no strategy. Without the proper planning you are unlikely to be successful, or even be able to accurately measure your success.
Take a look at your industry. Is it a niche market that has left a gap for your kind of content, or are you in an area that is oversaturated with fresh, interesting, and innovative brands, as was the case with SalesLion? This will give you a better idea of how to track and analyze your success. If you have a great opportunity, you can start to see results in as little as 4-6 months; tougher markets will take longer. This is one thing you can’t change, so be realistic about your timeline, milestones, and goals or you will be setting yourself up for failure.
- Prioritize your blogging goals: engagement, search, thought leadership?
- How often will you be blogging?
- How many leads are you aiming for in 6 months, 9 months, a year?
- What long tail keywords can you utilize?
Developing a blog strategy is the first step, before you hit publish on that first post, but it’s not too late after you have already started blogging.
Take a step back and reevaluate. Look at your traffic growth, develop your timeline, set your goals and milestones and refocus your blogging efforts, it is never too late to develop a winning strategy.
2. YOU AREN'T CONSISTENTLY ADDING CONTENT.
When determining how often to blog, it is tempting to try and blog as much as possible. While it is true that 82% of daily bloggers acquired a customer using their blog, as opposed to 57% who blog monthly, it is more important to focus on quality than quantity.
Look at your available resources. Who is going to be blogging? How will you be developing topics? These are questions that should have been flushed out in the strategic phase to determine a blogging schedule that you feel is appropriate for your team.
The key is to commit to a consistent schedule. Regularly publishing a quality blogpost once a month is better than trying to focus on a high posting frequency that is not sustainable. Nothing makes a company look outdated or loses them credibility quicker than a blog that hasn’t had a new article in 8 months.
Again, be realistic. While a higher frequency is better, consistency is best.
3. YOU ONLY WRITE ABOUT YOUR COMPANY, PRODUCTS, AND SERVICES.
This is the number one blog killer: a company that only talks about themselves.
All that information about your products and services is available on the rest of your website, don’t make it the focal point of your blog. Yes, you need the content to be relevant to your audience, industry, and company, but your readers don’t care about you.
Let me repeat that, your readers don’t care about you.
Your readers care about themselves. And if they are stuck reading about how great you are all the time, they are not going to come back. Which leads me to this next mistake…
4. YOU WRITE IRRELEVANT CONTENT.
If you are not writing about things your target audience wants to read, you will never be successful with blogging. This seems like a no-brainer, but I see a lot of companies that put all their effort into just making sure they are publishing articles, but don’t spend the necessary time understanding what their readers want.
This could happen for a number of reasons:
- You don’t understand your buyers (i.e. you need to develop your buyer personas)
- Focus is on quantity over quality
- Your topics aren’t relevant
- Content isn’t useful or interesting
- You only write about yourself (see #3 above)
Invest some time back into the content strategy. Here's a way to come up with 100 relevant topics in 60 minutes or less.
Research long tail keyword opportunities, read other industry blogs, get involved in communities where you can engage with your target audience so you can better understand the kind of information they are looking for.
5. YOU'RE NOT INCLUDING CTA'S IN EVERY BLOG POST.
Relevant offers on your blog are key for lead generation. You may be bringing in new leads through a basic blog update/newsletter sign up, but having a call to action that ties directly into each post topic is very powerful.
Ideally, each blog post should have a compelling CTA that is at least closely related to that blog. Not only is this more successful at generating leads, these leads will be more qualified than your basic blog registration.
If you have been focusing solely on blogging and not on other content, I urge you to slow down your blogging and focus those resources on developing high quality pieces that you can use to generate leads.
6. YOU'RE NOT INVESTING IN YOUR BLOG.
Despite how time-consuming and difficult it can be to blog, too many companies don’t dedicate the right amount or the right type of resources to make it successful.
Just because you have a marketer that can throw out a few paragraphs and hit publish does not mean you have a content marketing specialist. If you are aiming for a high quality, lead generating, traffic growing blog, you are going to need some solid writers, and more than one.
It goes back to your strategy - you likely won’t be focusing on search, engagement, thought-leadership, high frequency, and lead generation all at once. Look at your goals, timeline, and milestones and determine the minimum amount of resources you will need.
Now, Go Forth and Conquer With content Marketing
Blogging is an extremely effective inbound marketing component and lead generation tool, but it is critical that you invest the time and effort into doing it right. Too often companies are making these mistakes and then wondering why they aren’t seeing any success with their blog. I know I have made these mistakes myself in the past.
What are the biggest content marketing mistakes you see often?