Content marketers are on a collision course with harsh reality. They can either repeat the sins of the last decade — producing endless streams of flavourless content — or they can eliminate the extraneous to focus on the extraordinary.
When marketing executives talk about great content — the kind that can be featured, repurposed, and reverse engineered — they use words like “intelligent” and “atomic.” That’s because, unlike forgettable short-form copy, long-form content contains enough detailed information to create meaningful engagement and change within an audience. This content usually takes the form of whitepapers, ebooks, and elaborate infographics, shrinking the overall audience but greatly increasing the interest of those invested enough in the topic to consume it.
Smart long-form content is rare because of the deep research it requires, but companies are catching on. According to Orbit Media Studios, the average blog post today is 19% longer than it was a year ago. By taking advantage of modern technology, marketers can personalise and track their meatier content to repurpose it and reduce it to smaller portions, providing easier access to more lay-people without sacrificing the attention to detail that interests more educated audiences.
With content marketing expected to become a $300 billion industry by 2019, according to a study by IMPACT, the time to generate smarter content — and to master the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) strategies to put that content in front of the right audiences — is now.
The bigger the content...
After you spend the time to research and develop a great piece of content, don’t let it sit idle. You can take several approaches to extend the life of your content and get more from your efforts.
One way to do this is through a reverse-engineering process. Rather than spend half the day seeing how many times you can post on Facebook and Twitter, analyse the data surrounding your successful long-form pieces, and use it to develop a new strategy of less frequent, more effective content.
Not everyone wants to dive straight into a 3,000-word whitepaper. A parcel-and-tease approach may work better. To hook your audience, break down your longer piece into multiple daily pieces of valuable content. This allows you to stop pushing out forgettable daily posts and start developing a conversation people actually want to hear.
All your parcelled content posts should include a call to action to access the full content piece. With a high-quality piece, you don’t need a hard sell. Simply demonstrate your knowledge on a subject people care about, and show them where they can learn more.
Using these strategies, you can transform one piece of great content into an entire campaign.
SEO and epic content
The best SEO strategy is to own great content. If you fail to position it properly, however, not enough people will see it, rendering your insight forgotten — or, worse, marketed better by a competitor.
Think of yourself as a publisher. Focus first on the channels you own, starting with your website. Remember: You want to build up your audience, not Facebook’s. Use appropriate headlines and teaser content to drive traffic back to your site, and flesh out your meta descriptions to mirror your topic.
Within the content and your promotional posts, leverage the right keyword phrases so search engines will recognise your expertise. Avoid overuse, however, so your piece doesn’t feel redundant after your audience locates it via search.
Avoid getting too topical or dating your content. You never know when your target audience will read your piece (or when new events will make the topic relevant again), so build every piece with an evergreen mindset.
Don’t make assumptions about the right way to market your piece. Perform A/B testing to make decisions based on quantifiable results. The Wall Street Journal cites the average CMO (chief marketing officer) tenure as 42 months, and your content might last much longer. Evaluate each content piece to ensure it will still be worth reading years later.
Stay the course
I’ve seen many brands grow impatient and change strategies before giving search engines (and, by extension, customers) enough time to appreciate a progressive content marketing strategy. A brand’s desired results won’t manifest overnight, but adhering to SEO best practices, performing A/B testing, and focusing on smarter content will put you ahead of your competitors before they know what’s happened.
Expedite your success by evolving your marketing organisation into a company newsroom. Favour journalistic storytelling over intrusive advertising. By rejecting the old marketing infrastructure and turning toward a more progressive, more objectively valuable strategy, you will grow an audience of consumers who trust (and care about) what you have to say.