Content marketing may have become the most effective strategy for online promotion, but we can all agree that content crafting is extremely difficult. According to a DigitalBuzz infographic, over two million blog posts were being published every single day back in 2013. It’s safe to assume that this number has increased significantly. Despite these overwhelming statistics, there seem to be a select few pieces of content that receive thousands upon thousands of likes, shares, visitors and tweets.
How did they do it?
The answer is simple: they are gems. Content that results in links, leads, shares or sales taps into the most intrinsic emotions of humans, it educates, it is thought-provoking and it is simply too good not to share.
Make no mistake. Despite the fact that all articles follow several common quality guidelines, the strategy behind content that generates shares and links is different from that of content that generates leads or sales.
If you want to create irresistible content you have to identify your target audience, develop a solid strategy, craft it, and seed it for maximum visibility. This is what we will be talking about today, but before we do, here are the 8 main qualities of exceptional content. Exceptional content is valuable, original, personal, educational, actionable, engaging, easy to understand and timely.
Identify your Target Audience & Content Marketing Goals
Content is created for various purposes: increasing brand awareness, attracting new prospects and customers, generating relevant organic traffic, improving visibility on social media etc. Your content strategy will develop around these goals and help you identify your target audience.
No. Search engines can’t be your target audience.
When I say target audience I’m referring to actual human beings. Here are a few tips that will help you identify them:
#1 Truly understand your content goals
Most online marketers think about the topics that relate best to what they’re trying to sell. This is completely wrong. Your first question should be: “What type of information will truly help the people I want to see on my website?” Focusing your entire content strategy on topics related to your product will limit your content strategy.
#2 Use your Analytics Data
If you already have a sizeable audience you should break down your analytics data for information such as age, gender, affinity category, engagement etc. Don’t forget to check out your Behaviour -> Site Content section to see what type of posts performed well. Find out why and reverse-engineer the process.
#3 Conduct Competitive Analysis
Find two or three strong competitors in your industry and identify their target audience. You can use tools like SimilarWeb, Alexa or SemRush for this purpose. Also check their social media profiles, content strategy and blog comments. Instead of wasting your time on keywords you should look for influencers who focus on people. Try to get in contact with them.
#4 Create User Personas
User personas are fictional characters that encompass your target audience’s goals, pain points and behavioural patterns. They will enable you to segment contacts into smaller lists and generate qualified leads. To define your user personas you must conduct extensive research, including polls and surveys.
How to Create Linkable & Shareable Content
Now that you have identified your target audience, it’s time to start working on your content. Most so-called blogging experts will tell you to post as often as possible. Scratch that. Instead of publishing thin content just to keep up with your editorial calendar, why not focus on creating valuable, long-form articles that will actually help the user? It’s more effective.
Here are 5 proven strategies for creating linkable and shareable content:
#1 Apply the Principles of the Skyscraper Technique
This brilliant strategy, coined by Brian Dean of Backlinko, will work as long as people continue to post content online. The concept is simple: find great content in your niche that is already performing well and make it better. A lot better.
Here’s how you can do it:
- Instead of trying to find something that might work, look for something that has already proven to work. Create a list of articles that have good traffic and social signals. A few great places to start are Wikipedia’s resource lists, Reddit, HackerNews, and your competitors’ articles.
- Add 10-20 topic ideas to your Excel or Google Document. Add notes with possible improvements next to each title.
- Head over to Google. Make sure you have either the Moz or the SemRush bar installed. Evaluate the content, design and relevance of the top 10 results. Realistically speaking, can you beat them? If the answer is yes you can start crafting your content.
- How can you improve upon the original article? There are four common possibilities: make it more up-to-date, improve the design, write it better or add more information.
- Start writing. Edit, edit, and then edit some more. Hire a designer to tweak the visual elements of your post. Heck, you can even slap on an infographic, video or create a table of contents. Anything that will improve your user’s experience is welcome.
- Now comes the most important part: getting the word out. Your content isn’t going to promote itself, so you have to make sure people hear about it. Check the original article’s linking sites and contact them. Take to Reddit, Facebook, Twitter and other Social Media channels. Use hash-tags and reach out to influencers.
#2 Build Content that Answers Questions
As much as you’d want to, it’s impossible to apply the principles of the Skyscraper technique to every piece of content you create. It’s daunting, time-consuming and nerve-wrecking. So how can you generate links without spending 40+ hours on an article? I’d say that one of the best ways would be to create content that answers the burning questions of your audience.
To do this you will have to first find unanswered questions in your industry. Visit niche forums, or Q&A sites like Quora. Talk to your customers on Social Media. Set up Alerts for niche-related questions. Send an email blast and inquire about your audience’s pain-points. Conduct keyword research on SemRush or Google Adwords.
These methods should help you identify more than a few questions that are in need of answers. Prioritize them according to trends, seasonality or search volume and craft your editorial calendar.
#3 Create Powerful Headlines (but avoid Click-Baits)
Did you know that 80% of people will read a headline, but only 20% of them will actually read the content? That’s how important your article title is. Here are two examples of headlines:
5 CONTENT MARKETING STRATEGIES FOR YOUR BLOG
BRILLIANT CONTENT MARKETING STRATEGIES THAT INCREASED MY BLOG’S TRAFFIC BY 170%
You would definitely click on the second one. That’s because it clearly describes the problem and it also proves its effectiveness. Take your time with the title. Make it positive, controversial, thought-provoking or personal and watch as your click-through-rate soars.
#4 Be Accurate in your Reporting
There is nothing more embarrassing than trying to establish yourself as an authority in a certain niche and sharing information that turns out to be inaccurate. Your blog is the reflection of your brand and this is why you should always double check the information you use. Verify each statistic with a link to a reputable website.
#5 Create Link-Assets & Resource Lists
Would a scientist try to reinvent the wheel if it already works well? Probably not. The same rule applies to content. If an exceptional, in-depth article (top of the Skyscraper) already exists on a certain resource there’s no point in creating another – unless you can make it better, of course.
Compile a list of several such articles to help your visitors make better sense of the maze that we call Internet. Contact your sources and let them know you mentioned them. They will be more than happy to mention you on social media. They might even give you a link.
How to Create Content that Generates Sales or Leads
As long as your content is valuable, it will inspire. By this logic, the principles described above are also applicable for content designed to sell. However, content designed to sell should also:
- Evoke consumer connection. Successful brands don’t just try to sell their products. They try to create meaningful, long-lasting relationships with their customers. This is why you should always take into account the magic triggers that will lead to them taking action.
- Lead prospects through the marketing funnel (Explorer -> Gatherer -> Decided -> Customer -> Brand Advocate). At the top of the funnel, content should raise awareness. At the middle, it should encourage consideration of your product. At the bottom, it should drive action. Several marketing statistics demonstrate that businesses which nurture their leads through email, blog-posting or direct contact are more likely to increase conversions. Create meaningful and useful content and connect it to your product pages, but make sure all your pages provide the same level of quality.
- Demonstrate the value of your product. There are several types of lead-generating content that actually work: case-studies, white papers, video courses and eBooks. Use them on your blog.