Whether your business has invested in it or not, there’s no escaping content marketing. If executed correctly it can generate a loyal customer base and drive an increased amount of traffic to your website.

While many businesses know the value of content marketing, they often fall at the first hurdle when it comes to actually creating good content. It’s not enough to simply produce blog posts and add them to your website, or add a few sentences to bulk out your landing pages. By ignoring the content on all of the pages of your site, you are leaving your business vulnerable to a bad user experience and a Google penalty.

Wrath of Panda

Google’s constant algorithm updates have made it nearly impossible for companies to get ahead with bad content tricks. Try to get away with thin content, sites with high ad-to-content ratios, duplicate content or keyword-stuffed articles and you will be faced with a notorious Google Panda penalty.

Either your whole site will be penalised, or just a few pages affected. Usually it will cause your site to drop between 10 and 100 positions in the search engine rankings for multiple keywords, but in extreme cases you can be wiped from Google’s index completely.

Dropping off the Google index is extremely challenging for a business to overcome and can often take months of hard work to rectify the damage that their bad content has created. Don’t be fooled into thinking that Google will only check your recent content, as you can also be penalised for bad content that is months, or even years, old.

Google’s algorithm is dynamic, but it would be far too time consuming for businesses to constantly go back and tweak their content so that it doesn’t get penalised. Is there a way to make sure that your content always abides by Google’s policies?

Creating useful, relevant and interesting content

It may sound obvious, but the only way you can be certain that you are producing good quality content is to create something that adds value to the reader. Before you hit the publish button, think to yourself “Would somebody want to read this if Google didn’t exist?” If the answer is no, then rewrite it until you’re happy that it offers genuine value to your readership.

Many companies fall down because they know they should be consistently creating good content, but they don’t know the topics that they should be focusing on. The first element of creating a good content strategy is to consider your target audience. You could create hundreds of well written and engaging pieces of content for your site, but if they aren’t relevant to your specific audience then they are about as useful to you as having no content at all.

Data is essential for creating valuable content

Aside from producing content from the point of your audience’s mindset, data is an increasingly valuable tool for companies to evaluate and create effective content specifically for their target audience.

The benefits of data from a content marketing perspective are two-fold. Firstly, you can use analytics tools to garner statistics that highlight what your target audience are interested in and the best ways to connect with them. Once you’ve created a piece of content, you must monitor its performance. If you’ve written three separate pieces, but your analytics show that only one has generated a lot of traffic, you should have an idea as to what subjects you should be covering in the future.

By the same token, if your blog is bringing in plenty of people via twitter, but hardly anyone from Facebook or LinkedIn, you know which platforms you should be focusing on. Additionally, you can get a better idea of which times your target audience are most active – and thus more likely to engage with your content – on social media. All of this data can help you to shape a more targeted content marketing strategy.

Secondly, brands can create their own data by conducting surveys and then present their findings to their followers. Being able to publish brand new, exclusive data really does give you an edge over your rivals. However, businesses must know what to do with this data in order for it to be rewarding to them. Simply publishing findings in a bog standard way will not generate any interest with customers, while they may glance at a published survey it will not be able to add any lasting value. It is essential that businesses use this information to create bespoke pieces of content that genuinely connect with customers’ interests, social profiles and other factors. Companies need to be creative with how they use the information. Imagine that data acts as the seeds you need to plant in order to grow a flourishing content marketing tree – while they are crucial to the growing process they are not the end result. Presenting your data in an eye-catching infographic is a good way to generate interest.

Putting the extra effort into creating effective content like this will be much more rewarding in the long run. Unique and interesting content is more likely to be shared multiple times on social media, which in turn generates more exposure, drives more traffic to your website and hopefully leads to an increased sales conversion rate. Additionally, it will build your company’s reputation as a thought leader, which gives you a competitive edge, as consumers will go to your website for information and news.