Content Quantity Versus Quality

December 28, 2012

How much content is too much content? Take a look at the picture. This is from a local bookstore here where I live in Mountain View. How many Hobbit books can there be? I was reminded of this again as I read Michael Brenner’s post about the “content echo chamber” hitting spot on something that is happening in the ‘content marketing world’. Good content vs boring content.

 

Hobbit books by Daniel Kuperman

The tower of Hobbit books

Keeping Your Content Fresh

When talking with other companies about content marketing, the discussion is often steered to how much content to create. All the ideas start flowing and the great topics that will make prospects notice the new product being launched. Only to dawn on everybody that with a staff this small there is no way we can pull it off. Then I like to raise my hand and ask them to rethink their content approach. Is more content the same as good content? How about instead of trying to write blog posts every day, host webinars every week, and create new whitepapers every month we just stop to think about the following elements:

  • What is the message?
  • Who do we want to reach with our message?
  • Why is this message important for this group of people?
  • What is the most effective way to reach them?

I also like to ask something like “if you only had resources (budget, staff) to do one content piece, what would it be?”. The idea is not to do less content, but to do better content.

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Your Marketing Focus

December 5, 2012

Out of Focus by Tim Cummins @ FlickrWhether you have 5 or 50 people in your marketing team odds are that the demands for more whitepapers, a new website redesign, additional email campaigns, and overall more content creation are increasing. If recent reports like this one are any indication, marketers across the board are being pressured to produce more and more content.

How do you do it? The answer is focus.

The marketing focus I am talking about is not the concentration of all your efforts into producing content while forgetting everything else, but rather the focus of knowing exactly what type of content to produce.

I’ve seen big and small companies alike fall into this content creation trap. It starts with a brainstorming session to talk about all content that should be produced, followed by assigning priorities to each content piece and getting it in a schedule with respective owners assigned.

What’s wrong with this approach? It misses the point entirely. FOCUS means understanding what message you need to tell, then focusing on the story and making sure each content piece created tells and reinforces the same story.

It is less about creating a lot of content for creation sake but creating content that helps your audience (i.e. prospects) understand why your company is different and what story it is telling. To do that I like to ask marketing teams to get out of the brainstorming of content types (videos, whitepapers, ebooks, etc.) and think first of the topics, themes, or high-level stories that have to be told. Then we figure out which types of content will help tell that story. We focus on how to tell the story and disseminate the story so that we reach the higher number of prospects instead of just trying to create content like crazy.

Focus is the name of the game if you want to get more done with the same resources.


What Do Buyers Want?

November 6, 2012

You have created all that content, invested in a marketing automation system, and still the leads are not converting. Who is to blame? First, take a closer look at your content and answer the following questions:

1. Does it have your product name sprinkled throughout?

2. Does it focus on what your product does and describe features?

3. Does it use technical terms and acronyms?

If you answered “yes” to at least one question, your content might be the one to blame. So it’s time to clean up the house.

Cleaning Up Your Content

The best way to start cleaning up your content is to review it with a buyer’s eyes. What do buyers want? Try this:

A. The CFO doesn’t want another financial management system, she wants month-end closings to happen faster and without errors.

B. The VP Sales doesn’t need a new CRM system, he needs a better way to keep in touch with current opportunities and gain better visibility into the pipeline.

C. The Marketing Manager is not looking to replace the email software, she wants a better way to generate qualified leads.

Sometimes marketers and especially product marketers suffer of what I am going to call industry-induced content myopia. Just because every other vendor in the industry uses certain terms and creates certain types of content, it doesn’t mean you should follow their lead. Instead, take a breather, spend some time in another department, and ask for your 8 year old to review the latest customer case study you just published.

Yes, is tough to create content that will rise above the noise, that will get picked up and shared, but creating content that talks about what the buyer really wants is a good first step. What are you waiting for?


The Importance of Content Continuity

October 8, 2012

If good content marketing equates to telling a good story, then content continuity is getting that story to become memorable. Let me explain.

When you create a piece of content, why stop at the first distribution channel? Sure you can re-purpose the content so that it will be used at another channel but content continuity means more than simply taking the content and fitting it in another medium. It involves using that content and expanding it, working different angles, but keeping the core message intact. It’s not that difficult, but it requires some planning.

A good example might be that presentation one of your executives delivered at the trade show. The PowerPoint slides can be uploaded to SlideShare where people who didn’t attend the session can now access it (this is re-purposing the content). But if you take the presentation, and add a few more slides to it in order to emphasize a key message, or if you take that message and link it to a video or an eBook that reinforces the story, then you are creating continuity.

Why is this distinction important? First, because if you simply take the exact same message and just change the publishing format (from PowerPoint to video, for example) it may attract different readers but it doesn’t help promote or further expand the message, it’s just a rehash of what has already been said in another format. Second, if you simply repurpose content you already created then you may lose the opportunity to create important links between the multiple stories your products or services support.

So instead of creating pieces of content that stand alone, create a “content network” (for lack of a better term) in which each node reinforces another, where a story you started telling is continued and extended with the next piece of content.

Next time you create some content (eBook, whitepaper, blog article, video, etc.), don’t just publish and forget; think of it as part of a broader theme or story. Good stories don’t have to end and neither does your content (think of it as “Your Content – Part II”, like in Hollywood).


How to Maintain Great Content Curation

June 19, 2012

A guest post by Lior Levin.

Content CurationOn the surface, content curation sounds like a great way to generate content with little to no time or effort. After all, you don’t actually have to write much new content, just find interesting items on the Web and point others to them, becoming a hub for all that’s relevant to your field.

However, doing content curation well means a lot more than just plastering your site with a bunch of synopses and links. Doing content curation right takes a lot of time and requires almost as much investment as creating original content.

Doing content curation poorly, though easy and quick, is often seen as spam and is likely to raise copyright and plagiarism issues for you. On the other hand, proper content curation can be a powerful tool for both building your site and driving traffic to it. In fact, in the best possible cases, it can make you an indispensable part of your niche’s ecosystem.

So how do you curate content in a way that both attracts visitors and makes you a hero to your peers? Here are a few tips to help you get started.

1. Participate in Your Community

If you want respect from your community, you need to do more than simply share their links. You need to create at least some original content and, equally importantly, connect with and interact with those around you.

Instead of just linking to a post, take the time to comment on it as well. Interact with other webmasters on social media and encourage them to send you interesting links. The more you contribute and interact with the community, the more they will respect and embrace you. That embracing not only makes the environment less hostile, but it also opens up new opportunities for cooperation that can make your offerings truly unique.

2. Be Careful How You Aggregate

Be careful about what you use and how you use it. Remember that the works you’re referencing are copyrighted and other webmasters, if they feel they are being infringed, may come after you.

Use only what you need, short snippets of text (usually under 50 words), headlines and links should be more than enough. If you find yourself writing a 400-word summary of a 500-word article, you likely need to rethink your approach.

Also, always attribute everything you use. Not only is it the right thing to do ethically, but it keeps you from making enemies needlessly.

3. Don’t Automate

When you have a site or service that seems perfectly relevant to your topic, it might be tempting to grab everything that it posts by RSS or another automated tool.

Don’t do it.

The benefit a curator brings to a niche is human involvement. If you’re not selecting the best posts to share, you miss out on adding value to your readers or community. Anyone can subscribe to a site via RSS, and no site is going to be 100% relevant.

In short, automatically shooting out everything that a site or a group of sites puts out is not only very spammy, but it is of no benefit to the reader or the community.

4. Be Where the Audience Is

While this is great advice for any site, it is even more true for curated content as curation is about convenience. You don’t want to make your readers work for your content so it’s important to be where they are.

Have an audience that spends a lot of time on Reddit? Be on Reddit. Are they active on Facebook? Be on Facebook.

Don’t be afraid of multiple platforms as the time needed to add a Tumblr or a Twitter is fairly minor. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to ditch services that aren’t working out for you.

5. Create Expectations and Meet Them

Very quickly, answer these questions for your readers:

  1. What are you going to post?
  2. How much are you going to post?
  3. And When are you going to post it?

Readers need this information so they know what to expect from your curation and know if they want to subscribe. Create a plan and stick to it.

Whether you want to curate ten links weekly about whales or five articles a day about modern medicine, tell your readers what to expect and deliver reliably.

In the end, great curation is a lot of work, but it’s that work that adds value to the reader and the community. Bad curation is, at best, mere spam and at worst copyright infringing.

As a curator, you can’t afford to be a parasite as you need a healthy, welcoming community for your efforts to thrive.

So don’t look for shortcuts with your curation efforts and, instead, focus on providing the best value you can, especially over the long haul. Your community, your readers and even the people you link to will all thank you and reward you for it.

This guest post is written by Lior Levin, a marketing consultant for a neon sign store that offers a variety of custom neon signs for businesses and individuals, and who also consults for a company that specializes in a to do list app.


What My Paper Route Taught Me about Content Marketing

May 3, 2012

Note: This is a guest post by Brad Shorr. See his bio at the end.

My career in content marketing started at age 12. Every day I’d load up my red Schwinn Varsity bicycle with The Aurora Beacon News and head out to make deliveries, learning valuable lessons about digital content marketing that just starting to sink in lately. Here are a few of these lessons, which I’m sure you will pick up a lot faster than I did!

Old man using a laptop with his grand son reading a newspaper1.     Content Marketing Is Hard Work

Delivering content may not be as physically demanding as it once was, but today it is a combination of strategic planning, thorough execution, meticulous review and continual improvement. There are no shortcuts, either. Back in the day, if I cut across a neighbor’s yard to get to the next house … I’d get yelled at. Today, if you try to skip steps or gloss over them, you’ll similarly be punished. Shortcuts to avoid include things such as –

  • Trying to pass off lame, rehashed content as something new and relevant
  • Relying on automated feeds to push content rather than building genuine social media connections
  • Putting content marketing processes on autopilot in order to shift attention to shiny new marketing toys

2.     Reader Convenience Is Everything

In the print era, there was nothing more convenient than having the latest news delivered literally to your doorstep. Newspapers thrived in part because of their efficient and ultra-convenient delivery system. The principle still applies in the age of digital content. Making content easy for the reader to obtain and consume makes all the difference:

  • Site loading speed. A big consideration, one that is so important that Google now uses loading speed as a ranking factor. If I showed up at a subscriber’s house an hour late … I’d get yelled at. Today, if readers have to wait five seconds for a page to load, they will click off.
  • On-page usability factors. Facilitating easy content consumption means adhering to best practices for typography, navigation, page layout and design. Tripping up in any one of these areas invites readers to make a hasty exit and leave with a bad taste in their mouths.
  •  Multiple search options.It should be as easy as possible for readers to find relevant content on a business site or blog. Among the techniques to accomplish this:
    • Internal search engines
    • “Most Popular” blog posts listed on the sidebar
    • “Most Commented” blog posts listed on the sidebar
    • “Recent” blog posts listed on the sidebar
    • User-friendly archiving
    • Meaningful blog categories
  • Multiple delivery options.  In the past, there weren’t many ways to deliver news. Today, content marketers must support readers who find content via RSS, email subscriptions, bookmarking sites, social media, and organic search. This necessitates optimizing content for search and social sharing, and engaging with multiple communities on multiple social networks.

3.     Consistent Delivery Matters

My paper route taught me how much we humans are creatures of habit. If I showed up 15 minutes behind schedule … I’d get yelled at. Some people would even freak out if I showed up early. Well, even though content marketing technology has changed enormously, human nature remains the same. This means content marketers must bring a certain degree of consistency to their execution, including –

  • Theming. Is the big-picture, underlying message consistent, or does it change from one day to the next? Inconsistencies dilute brand identity and put obstacles in front of prospects that are trying to figure out what a company does and why they should care.
  • Publishing. Are blog posts and e-newsletters delivered on a consistent, predictable schedule, or haphazardly? Digital marketers can learn a LOT from the newspaper industry on this score: when people know when to expect information, they have a greater appetite for it.
  • Social Sharing. Because people are habitual, they hang out on Facebook, Twitter and other networks at fairly regular times throughout the day. By testing and analyzing re-shares and mentions, content marketers can develop intelligent timetables for both scheduled posting and active engagement.

About the Author

Brad Shorr is Director of Content & Social Media for Straight North, a search engine marketing firm in Chicago. They work with middle market B2Bs in industries as diverse as restaurant merchant processing and bulk gloves. Brad is an experienced content strategist, SEO copywriter and blogger. He still rides a bicycle. 


Ten Tips On How To Promote Your Website Through Content

May 1, 2012

Note: This is a guest post by David Tully. See his bio at the end.

Image by mdurwin2 via Flickr

The emphasis on creating quality content has increased markedly since Google put the hammer down on many old tried and tested SEO tactics. Below I have listed 10 tips on how you can promote your website through content.

1. Offer How to Guides/Whitepapers/Analysis – Good first hand analysis or guides in relation to the niche you are in can really help boost visitor numbers to your website. You are giving valuable, relevant information which they will appreciate.

2. Utilizing personas – Always write content from the perspective of the intended reader. Questions that a reader may have such as “why is this information useful?” and “what benefits are there to me?” should be in your mind when writing content so as to hook the reader in.

3. Understand what works and what doesn’t – Get a form of site analytics set up on your site to assess what type of content works. You may find that a particular type of blog post does a lot better than others.  Optimizing content in this way can help rank better as more of your content is shared and read by web users.

4. Incorporate user feedback – The more interactivity you have with readers the better. If someone asks you a question of Facebook, Twitter or in blog comments, it is a good idea to create some content about it as it is more likely than that others within your niche market have the same question.

5. Regular posting – Many websites fall down on this last point. People will come to your site often for fresh content, if you don’t provide it, your audience will cease visiting. Google will also see the lack of fresh content and rank your far lower.

6. Repurpose content into different forms – If you have had a very popular blog post, there is every possibility that the content will do well if you repurpose it as a video, podcast or infographic. Each form may reach a slightly different audience helping to boost your website.

7. Social media promotion – The most important aspect for promoting your site through content. Google ranks websites depending on indicators from social media. In addition, the more something is shared on Facebook or retweeted on Twitter, the more site visitors you will have. Creating content which is more likely to be shared is therefore crucial.

8. Share your content on PDF sharing websites – PDF sharing websites such as DocStoc and SlideShare always rank highly in Google. If you have a great piece of content and want it spread as widely as possible, create a PDF file and share it on these websites.

9. Content Curation – Curating content is becoming ever more popular in marketing online. Basically, you are sharing quality content and adding your own take on stories or issues within your market. As long as you link back to your original source, this is an excellent way of using content to help improve site numbers.

10. Use of video – Some niches are not very interesting and when marketing your website, getting the message across in an inventive video can really make a difference. It has a greater possibility of going viral and helping your site.

 

About the Author:

David Tully has written many articles on content marketing and is currently a regular contributor to content marketing strategy website Bright Authority.


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