B2B Marketing Zone

An A to Z of Content Marketing Best Practices

An A to Z of Content Marketing Best Practices

An A to Z of Content Marketing Best Practices

There’s a lot to know about content marketing. You’ve got the content creation part, the social media part, the SEO. The audience growth, the influencers… Sometimes it seems like it just goes on and on.

That’s a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because it means there’s always more to learn. There are always new techniques to master, new technologies to try out. It keeps things interesting, and keeps your skill sets sharp and growing.

The bad part? Well, if you’re the type who’d like to just learn something once and then keep doing it the same way forever … that’s not going to work very well.

To give you a broad view of the content marketing best practices now in being used in the industry, we thought we’d package them up like ABCs. Odds are good you’re already doing most of these. But maybe there’s one or two you could add to your quiver. Keep reading to find out. ;)

Audience

You know how real estate is about “location, location, location?” Content marketing is about audience, audience, audience. That’s because the whole point of content marketing is to attract and engage an audience. It’s “owned media”, as the agency folks would say.

Audience is also a factor in persona marketing – the technique of breaking up your customers into different profiles, and then creating content and a sales funnel that’s tailored to each group.

Blog

The anchor of many content marketing programs. Use your blog as a content engine by reformatting what you publish there into ebooks, infographics, SlideShares and more. Also make sure you’ve got your blog set up for maximum lead generation. Blogs are particularly effective for that.

Call to Action

And its sister best practice – conversion optimization. Every piece of content you publish should have a call to action. Even if the call to action is just to like, comment or share. Using the call to action to lead people to another piece of content works well, too.

Data

As in data-driven marketing. Smart marketers are data-savvy. They know when to trust their data and when to question its limits. They are genius at shifting it for maximum actionable insights. They obsess about data quality. Their data wisdom gets applied to every aspect of their content marketing, from strategy to choosing a blog post title.

Engagement

It’s the thing we’re all focused on. Unfortunately, engagement rates appear to be in decline. To stay ahead of that trend, apply what you can from these best practices.

Facebook

Say what you will of the social Goliath. It’s the master of sharing. Recent research showed Facebook drives more referral traffic than even Google for the top 400 digital publishers.

Top-Traffic-Referrals-Sources

Google

Oh, mighty one. We humbly publish for your favor. Bing is not enough.

Seriously, though. Google’s a pretty big deal for content marketers. Sure, the Google+ thing isn’t going so well. But many of us live and die by our search engine rankings. We also love our free Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts. And then there’s YouTube, owned by Google. And then there’s Google Drive, which some companies use instead of Microsoft Office.

What’s next from “Big G?” Who knows, but I’m rooting for a search function for my house. (Editor’s note: YES!!)

Headlines

They matter. A lot. The right headlines can double, triple and even quadruple your content’s reach. The wrong one can kill it.

The editors at the viral powerhouse Upworthy would have us all write 25 headlines for every piece of content. Why? ‘Cause somewhere in all those words will be a killa headline. It just takes some work to find it.

Tool for the job: CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer, which will rate your headline on multiple fronts, including SEO length, emotional zing, and how it measures up to their database of headlines and their sharing stats.

Images

They’re not just pretty pictures. Having at least one image on every page helps with SEO. And as many of you know, adding images to social media posts is pretty much essential. Social posts with images can get up to two times more engagement.

5-images-increase-rts-favorites1

If you’re not a graphic designer, don’t sweat this. Tools like Canva can help a lot. And there’s dozens of places online to find free images.

Joe Pulizzi

The founder of The Content Marketing Institute and probably one of the top ten most influential people in the industry. So it would go without saying that it’s worth reading everything he writes. Find it on his Content Marketing Institute blog, and on his Twitter feed.

KPIs

As in Key Performance Indictors – another term for “metrics.” This is where the rubber meets the road in terms of results. Trouble is, KPIs can get complicated. There’s lots of them, for starters. And they come in several flavors:

  • Lead generation metrics
  • Content consumption metrics
  • Sharing metrics
  • Sales metrics
  • Retention metrics

Here’re the KPIs content marketers are most likely to track:

ContentMarketingMetricsAscend2

Lead generation

It’s the bread and butter of B2B content marketers. Most everything they publish is at least in part a lead generation effort.

Usually that lead generation happens through content downloads (aka “gated content”) and landing pages.

Mobile

There’s more Internet traffic on mobile devices than on desktops now. This has a lot of implications:

  • Your website and all other content formats must be mobile-friendly, if not completely responsive.
  • Mobile users are especially allergic to slow sites. So speed matters more all the time. Witness the new Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). It’s already influencing your search rankings.
  • App marketing is rising rapidly.
  • Video does particularly well on mobile.

Newsletters

You know the old adage: “The money’s in the list.” Even if you’re not in retail, the money’s probably in the list. Newsletters – and other email marketing messages, like welcome emails, surveys, lead nurturing and more – are extremely affordable and a fab way to stay in touch with your audience.

And guess what: Emails are still the preferred channel of communication for marketing messages.

chartofweek-02-03-15-lp
How MarketingSherpa survey respondents answered the question, “In which of the following ways, if any, would you prefer companies to communicate with you? Please select all that apply.”

Optimization

As in search engine optimization. If you want results from your content marketing work, you’ll need the help of the search engines to get there. But don’t worry – SEO is not rocket science. You can learn the rudiments of it in an afternoon. Then leverage tools like Yoast SEO (for WordPress users) to get the basics done.

Promotion

When you hit “publish”, the work has just begun. 2 million blog posts are published every day – getting your post (or any other content format) some exposure requires a bit of finesse.

Promotion (also called “amplification”) includes working with influencers, sharing on social media, announcing the content to your email subscribers, and even… gasp… advertising.

Yes – consider advertising your content.

Quizzes

These interactive content formats are fab for lead generation, engagement rates and as a clever way to repackage content from other formats. Try one!

Repurposing

Aka “reformatting.” This is a must-use content marketing practice, especially if you’re struggling to keep up with content production. Everything you publish should be repurposed into another content format.

That can mean taking something text-based and making it into something visual. Or it can be grouping text-based content like blog posts into ebooks – or even full-length books. Think post-Thanksgiving turkey here. How many delicious leftovers can you make out of your content?

This is also a great opportunity for a competitive edge. Because 51% of content marketers don’t ever repurpose their content. Geez, guys…

Do-SMB-marketers-repurpose-content-from-one-format-to-another

Strategy

The way to avoid “random acts of content.” Strategy should be an iterative process, in that you’re always reviewing how your strategy is working and you’re always checking the data to see how it could be improved.

Test

Test headlines and calls to action. Test email subject lines and landing pages. Test ebook covers, best times to post on social media, and even which social media platforms to be on. Test it all!

User experience

This applies to everything from how you handle customer service to how easy it is to sign up for your emails. It’s also about how easy it is to navigate your site, and how you craft your messaging through the sales funnel.

This is the age of the customer, after all. Their needs (and how consistently you meet them across channels and stages) should shape every aspect of your marketing and your company.

Video

It’s big and getting bigger. Remember: The second-largest search engine isn’t Bing. It’s YouTube.

If the idea of getting in front of a camera terrifies you, or if you’ve got no idea how to develop a video marketing strategy, check out our post, Why Your B2B Marketing Needs More Video [And How to Add It]. Or depending on your product, perhaps your customers could be tempted to create a video or two. LINK TO USER-GENERATED CONTENT BLOG POST

Webinars

Webinars came in very high on the list of effective content marketing tactics in the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs 2016 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends – North America report.

While they take a bit of work and promotion, webinars are an excellent way to build your email list, position your company as a thought leader, and give your audience and in-depth view of important topics. If doing one on your own seems too hard, consider partnering with another company for a co-webinar. Or hook up with an influencer. The extra payoff there is the influencer is usually very willing to promote this webinar to his or her audience.

CMI Profs B2B Most Effective

Another powerful W best practice: White papers. They even beat out videos and blogs in the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs’ report.

X

As in the X factor. The mysterious secret sauce that causes a piece of content to “go viral.” Despite a lot of studies and a lot of tools and a lot of really bright people trying to crack the code, it’s still a mystery why some things spread like wildfire and why other things – apparently similar things – flop.

You

One of the most powerful words you can use in your content. You is a magic word – it’s a spell to build intimacy and trust with your readers. It does particularly well in headlines.

Screen-shot-2014-03-13-at-3.32.52-PM

Z end

OK, I cheated there. But some of the best content marketing bends the rules a bit. It’s OK to play and take a few risks. Otherwise we risk being boring, and that’s terrible for business.

Over to you

Can you think of any content marketing best practices I missed? Come on, there’s gotta be a few. Give them a shout out in the comments.

4 Steps to Develop a Content Plan

Content marketing is on the rise, and companies that invest in content creation generate 67% more leads than their competitors. Download Act-On’s free workbook, “4 Steps to Develop a Content Plan,” and we’ll show you how to serve up content that attracts prospective buyers and creates brand affinity. The workbook will help you develop buyer personas, map out your buyer’s decision-making journey, and serve them content that will help them at each stage of the journey.


About

Pam Neely has been marketing online for 18 years. She has a background in publishing and journalism, including a New York Press Award and a Hermes Creative Award for blog writing. Pam holds a Master's Degree in Direct and Interactive Marketing from New York University and is the author of a bestselling Amazon Kindle book "50 Ways to Build Your Email Marketing List." Follow her on Twitter @pamellaneely.