Improving Content Marketing, For Publishers & Marketers

by , Jan 2, 2014, 9:03 AM
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The hullaballoo surrounding content marketing in 2014 is nearly deafening (yes, an exaggeration). In 2013, when content marketing became the latest-and-greatest buzzword, marketers and publishers flocked to develop easily digestible content and revamped their SEO tactics in a no-holds-barred attempt to outflank competitors. In fact, key figureheads began making predictions on content marketing for 2014 as early as July.

Why is content marketing such a big deal? It’s not so hard to see when you consider the amount of activity going on in social.  In a given day, there are 140 million tweets, 1.5 billion Facebook updates, 10 million Tumblr posts, 1.6 million blog posts, and 2 million YouTube video uploads. Now multiply that by 365 days. That’s a lot of content. And unfortunately, it’s not always good content.  Publishers today can vouch that a sizable portion of this content is unread, littered with sloppy writing, and inconsequential. Sure you can uselessly double, triple, or even quadruple your content production (stop reading here if you’ve already made that decision – you’ll learn nothing more), or you can adjust your approach and watch your subscribers laud your efforts.

Marketers and publishers, listen up! Here are few tips on how you can successfully be a part of the content revolution (and by successful, I mean increased views and engagement on quality content, not an increased amount of mediocre content).

Clean up your writing

As a person who comes from a creative writing background, I worship strong writers and value strong writing, meaning stories (read: content) rich with narrative and free of grammatical and spelling errors. Great, you say, why should I care? You shouldn’t. Lesson number one is, nobody cares who writes the article. People care about the content in the article and how absorbing this information can positively benefit them.  Keep your ego out of your writing and focus on your audience.

Your readers’ attention shouldn’t be broken by poor content flow or grammar. If you can’t write a few paragraphs without misspelling a word or aren’t keen enough to grammar-check your content in Word, you’re an expert in sloppy writing, which, in effect, instantly calls into question your credibility as a source. A good writer will spend hours, days, a lifetime perfecting a single sentence and it will never be perfect – only bearable. Lesson number two is to treat the act of writing as an act of creation. Take a page from those who have spent their lifetimes writing and remember that you are building a world with your words.

Quality writing is about just that: quality writing.  Do not fit in as many key terms and buzzwords as possible just to improve the article’s SEO, while paying little attention to style, grammar, or syntax. If you treat writing with the proper care, your readers will continue to return

How deep is your content?

We’re not talking about the metaphysical or psychological depth of your content, although what you’re saying should be highly relevant and thought-provoking for your readers. While resource link-building has long been a tactic to improve SEO rankings, in 2014, it will serve another purpose: establishing your credibility. Any Joe Schmo off the street can write a one-thousand-word article and publish it online. But that doesn’t mean that Mr. Schmo’s article will be beneficial to everyone (hell, it might not even be beneficial to anyone!).  Remember that you’re writing to bring ideas, resources, examples, etc. to your readers so that you can help them in some way. By linking to other articles, you show that you have done your research and formulated an informed opinion while simultaneously giving readers even more resources to reference.

Do not, however, link needlessly. Lesson number three is to link where necessary -- that is, where the reader will benefit most from additional sources.  Do not make unsubstantiated claims because you’ve heard these arguments somewhere. Do your research to locate and link to sources. Also, when linking to an article, select text in your writing that hints at what you’re linking to so your reader has an idea of where they will be taken. See the first paragraph of this article for an example.

Limit your writing

Cut back on your content development. Why? Because if social media comment streams are to be any indication of readership, we know that only a select few actually read an article, while most form an opinion from the article’s short blurb.

So just make the blurb better, you say. Well, it isn’t that simple. Readers are busy. They have children to feed, classes to study for, deadlines to meet. More importantly, most content has been recycled or regurgitated. If all you have to say has been said before, why are you saying it? This world doesn’t need another bullhorn – the Senate and House are full of enough bull... horns.

By cutting your content development down, you’ll be able to focus on building the depth and breadth of your writing. By inserting links into your pieces, you further build your credibility as a source and demonstrate to the reader that you have formed an educated opinion. And by proofreading and checking your writing for grammar, you subtly let the reader know that you are a writer and you recognize your words have power.

Acknowledge and use that power. Digital writers – particularly those who write on and within tech – get so caught up in the pitchy selling of a product that they forget that what the audience is reading is the first transaction: an exchange dealt in ideas between minds, writer and reader.

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