Ep. 80 | Bigger, Braver, Bolder Content
Ann Handley is a content marketing legend, so when she talks, we listen. In this conversation, she talks about the concept of Bigger, Bolder, and Braver by differentiating your content from your competition.
In this Rethink Marketing podcast, we chatted with Ann in the summer of 2017. Ann is a best-selling author, keynote speaker and chief content officer for MarketingProfs.
Every day, large and small businesses use content marketing to increase their conversions, leads and traffic.
Having a powerful content marketing strategy in place can mean all the difference in whether you’re seeing the full potential of your efforts through the amount of conversions you’re turning over. To really drive home heavy conversions, you need to branch out of your comfort zone a little and take your content strategy to that next level.
So how do you complete this grand task, you ask? This expert guide will give you inside tips on the best techniques to use to take your content marketing strategy to the next level.
Writing exceptional quality content is hard
In order for your content marketing to really go to that next level, you need to ensure every piece is the highest quality you can create. As an example, many people pump out a lot of blog posts in a very short amount of time. The result is lower quality, less interesting – and much less likely to convert.
Quality takes time and consideration, but it’s the only game in town. Your content marketing strategy must emphasize the quality and standards necessary to really enrich the reader’s experience.
Don’t build content just because you can. Instead, implement a quality control process to ensure you maintain above average standards. Some tips in doing this include:
- Know your audience, and create content they will find useful, interesting, and/or entertaining.
- Write content based on research, facts, and supporting links in order to give your visitors accurate, trustworthy results.
- Make sure all headlines are interesting, truthful, and engaging for your audience.
- Create a content layout or template to use per each type of content.
- A basic blog template could be a headline, introduction, point, point, point, conclusion.
- A basic eBook could be a table of contents, introduction, point, image; point, image; chart; conclusion.
Keep the layout and template of each different type of content consistent throughout your production, so each piece works with the others to create a coherent, cohesive body of content that looks professional.
Let’s look at some specific techniques to help you achieve that quality your readers seek.
Think beyond the blog post
Many businesses make the assumption that blogs are the major way to go when creating a solid content marketing plan. This simply isn’t true. To take your content marketing strategy to that next level, you need to come up with other content avenues to explore in order to push your marketing efforts further beyond your current market. This holds true even if you’re already going beyond just blog posts. Some content avenues to explore, if you haven’t already, include:
- Case Studies
- How-To Articles
- Opinion Posts
- Product Reviews
- List Articles
- Research/Original Data Papers
While not every one of these will suit all companies, it’s important to know which ones you can use to really push your content strategy. Incorporating even just one more of these content avenues into your marketing strategy will give you the opportunity to increase your audience base.
Remember those who watch videos don’t necessarily listen to podcasts, and those who read eBooks might not read opinion posts. Each one of these areas has its own audience base and by tapping into multiple content types, you can build a very powerful marketing strategy that reaches a wide range of potential buyers, to drive in successful results.
An easy way to begin: Look at your most popular blog posts. Can you scale that content? Could one be expanded into an eBook, could another become a quiz, could a third be delivered as a podcast or a webinar?
Use related/relevant images
Add images to your content that offer high quality viewing with clear imagery. If you own an image – you took the photo or created the graphic, or paid someone to do it – that’s great, you own the copyright and there will be no issues. If you need to use images you don’t own, there are two good places to look:
- Stock images come from sites that license royalty-free images, such as Stock Photo Secrets, Fotolia, ShutterStock and Pixabay. They have different business models; some require a membership and allow you to download up to X number of images; others ask you to pay by the image.
- Free images can be found on some sites such as Creative Commons. Each artist can set their own rules for use of their images (such as you can or cannot make changes to an image). Check the owner’s rights notice to be sure, and follow the rules for attribution.
The biggest rule: Don’t use an image without knowing who owns it, or you may be committing a copyright violation. (This is why stock agencies are so useful; they take care of all that for you.)
Most important of all: Avoid using images which don’t complement the piece or tell part of the story. A piece of content is better plain than having the wrong images attached.
Don’t skip the editing process
Develop a house style guide so all your content creators use the same terms the same way, and the same spelling conventions. Share it with the agencies and freelancers you work with who create content for you. Consistency is important – and professional.
- Check for spelling errors, word usage mistakes, and grammar inconsistencies. These kinds of errors are distracting to the reader, and fatal for your credibility.
- Check for structure. Does the piece flow? Is it easy to read? Does the piece begin with something to intrigue the reader, progress through information/educations/entertainment, then conclude with a wrap or a good “button”? Is any important part of the story missing?
- Check facts. Check links. Check any claims being made.
Taking the time write, edit and correctly format your content goes a long way into whether or not your content will be noticed and whether your content marketing strategy is successful.
Encourage Guest Posting From Your Followers
Encouraging followers to help build your content through guest blog posting is a great way to find new and talented writers. It also provides you with another avenue to expand your content without you having to create it yourself. You still need to set a standard of quality to ensure your website ranking and authority stays intact. Remember almost everyone can write, but not everyone can write great content. To set a standard of quality for publishing you can implement guidelines that need to be met. Some things to consider when creating guidelines include:
- Word Count – According to Buffer’s compiled research, the ideal length for a blog post is 1,600 words (with a seven-minute reading time). But your site, and your audience, are unique. Look at your most popular blog posts, and other content; how long are they? Your content also is an important factor. If you need more words to tell the story, use them. If the story is shorter … say 750 words, and the rest would be filler … go for the 750 words that will have value for your reader, and skip the filler.
- Links – Usually a guest blogger hopes to have links back to their website, Twitter handle, LinkedIn profile, and so on. It’s up to you whether (and how much) of this to allow. Just be consistent with all your guest bloggers.
- Promotional Content – Unless it really serves your readers, don’t accept over promotional content from a guest blogger. The more subtle linking to a proof point on their site, etc., might be acceptable if it falls within your guidelines.
- Images – Decide whether you want the blogger to add the images or whether you want to do it. Remember the images need to be of good quality. Remember that if the blogger sends you images he or she licenses from a stock agency, those image licenses do not transfer over separate legal entities. You will need to license them yourself if you want to use them.
- Duplicate Content – Duplicate content can earn you a Google penalty. Don’t accept content that has been published anyplace else. You can check a submission with Copyscape.com if you’re concerned.
- Topic – The guest blogger should let you know what they’d like to write about for your site. Feel free to ask for tweaks or make suggestions. Make sure the guest blogger knows that you will not accept a topic if it’s not a good fit for your audience.
Having these guidelines in place will help you to keep control over guest post submissions. Remember you don’t have to publish the content just because they’ve written it. Publishing the guest blog on your website comes down to whether you feel the writing is up to your business standards and whether you feel it’s a good match with the rest of the content on your business website.
Too many business plans get written, then abandoned; content plans are no different. While having a good content marketing plan is great, using that plan is better. Pushing your content marketing strategy to the next level relies heavily on whether you’re managing your current plan so well that you’re ready to branch out.
If you are ready, then implement whichever of these tips seem next in line for you, and you’ll be able to see more leads, visitors and conversions in a very short amount of time.