Content marketing has been all the rage this year. Some see it as a new way to market. Maybe it is to them, but content has been a key piece of marketing for as long as I’ve been in the business.
There have been dozens, no, hundreds of articles with tips and tricks for how to manage content marketing. Many of them are in agreement, but we even see conflicting advice between different articles and blog posts.
Rather than pile on another post of tips for how to market yourself using content, let’s take a different angle. You can attack content from a wide variety of angles and there is no blueprint for what will or will not work. The following are seven pieces of advice that many bloggers and marketers will tell you are fact. Come along as I dispel each of these myths.
Long-Form Content Doesn’t Work On The Web
Web visitors tend to scan first before deciding to read a full page of content. This is the main reason for breaking out content into subheads, using short, choppy sentences, and weaving in bullet points, images, and video.
The natural conclusion is that shorter pages and blog posts are better. After all, everyone is time strapped. No one has time to read a diatribe about anything anymore, right?
Wrong. I can tell you from experience that long form content works.
We have tested this extensively both on our own blog and on client sites. On the Return On Now blog, every one of our top 10 posts of 2013 has one of the following characteristics:
- The post is between 1,100 and 1,600 words long
- The post is based on research/data that is hard to find
That’s it. All of the shorter posts fall below the top 10.
The research excels because it is unique. For the longer posts, I’ve found that it takes 1,000 or more words to truly flesh out a topic. Meanwhile, industry group-think says to limit blog posts to 300-800 words. We’ve tried both, and long form is the best answer for us.
Every site is different. Test both approaches to see what works for you.
More Content, More Content, More Content
There are plenty of studies out there that show a connection between frequency of posting to a blog and volume of leads generated. In a perfect world, I agree wholeheartedly.
In the real world, however, most of us lack sufficient time or resources to post daily, let alone multiple times a day.
Enterprises and inbound marketing firms like HubSpot do not face the same challenges. They have full staffs for content generation, lead generation, and conversion testing. This allows them to drive content in volume, while promoting it, pursuing social shares and interactions, driving organic rankings, and sustaining top notch quality.
For the resource constrained, that much activity is untenable. We are better off publishing a single, killer content item each week than rushing out five mediocre blog posts.
Half-baked content marketing focuses only on frequency and is the equivalent of email SPAM campaigns. Unless you have something interesting to say, don’t do it just to say you’re practicing content marketing.
A High Bounce Rate Means You’re Failing
Most web marketers monitor website bounce rates obsessively. The typical goal is to drive multiple pages per visit and increased time on site. Clearly, if someone visits one page and leaves, then those two metrics will suffer.
This is absolutely the right way to look at the number for lead gen or eCommerce websites. But again, every website is different.
For websites that depend primarily on content to drive traffic, a higher bounce rate is not necessarily bad. Rather than blindly using the default definition of bounce rate, consider using an adjusted bounce rate instead.
For example, if you have a site heavy on how-to videos and other similar content, engagement may be more important than overall pageviews. As a proxy for engagement, adjust the bounce rate to remove visitors who stay on a page over a certain amount of time.
If you post a two-minute video on the page, don’t count visits in excess of two minutes as bounces. After all, they made it through the video, saw that your brand was behind it and found the answer to their question. They will remember you the next time they have a similar issue.
It’s All About the Blog
As marketers, we love our blogs. After all, we get to write, engage with other professionals, and raise our profile in the industry. It’s also the easiest way to generate content rapidly and can greatly help your SEO campaign grow.
Content is so much more than posts on a blog! Are you thinking about content holistically? There are several factors which you can mix and match when creating a well-rounded inventory of content assets.
- Medium: In what format will the content be produced? Is it written, visual, video, audio, or another format? How can we use similar topics across various media?
- Customer Life Cycle or Sales Funnel Stage: What target audience are we going after, with respect to knowledge of us and our products or services? Is this piece a high level overview of why a product like ours is needed (i.e. early funnel) or is it a comparison between us and other leading vendors (i.e. late funnel)?
- Web Personas: Which of our target audiences do we want to consume this content? Is it on the right topic and in the right voice for them?
Any content you create for prospects or customer consumption is part of your content marketing efforts. Don’t box yourself in and think you can only do content marketing on your blog.
Every Piece of Content Has To Be Remarkable
One of the hardest parts of this whole process is creating remarkable content. Of course, nearly every “how to” you read about content marketing says that’s what you should do.
How do you define remarkable content? If you ask anyone in the industry, they’ll bandy about terms such as unique, engaging, viral, emotionally charged, passionate, informational, original, timely, inspirational, and high quality. Got it? Now go write some remarkable content!
It can be easy to feel overwhelmed after reading all of this advice. Cut yourself some slack. Even the best hitters in baseball don’t park the ball in the outfield seats every time they swing a bat. But they keep coming to the plate, waiting for the right moment, and seizing the opportunity to mash when the time is right.
Some of your content will blow the roof off, but some of it may be “okay” to “very good”. Don’t let it get you down. Just be yourself, use a common voice, be adamant about the values your brand stands for, and build a story over time. With enough swings, your next home run will come sooner or later.
Content Marketing Is About Generating Leads
Going back to the point that frequent bloggers generate more leads, it is true that content marketing can be used to support lead generation. Content marketing is not only for generating leads.
When you think of content more holistically, as suggested above, you are empowered to influence much more than a simple conversion event. Content marketing encompasses the entire buyer’s journey, including everything from thought leadership and branding, to demand generation, to lead generation.
We have worked with clients who increased lead volumes just by building out the entire buyer’s journey on their website. One particular client told their whole story in the language of their target persona, written to focus only on the customer’s needs and wants. This is a great example of content marketing at the very core itself.
This client operates under the belief that conversion is a process and not an event. I generally concur. Yes, the actual conversion is an event, but it rarely happens by chance.
Frequent bloggers are often converting readers who have been following them for weeks or months. In these cases, the process of pushing a prospect to convert starts long before a form is submitted. The hard work is in building the list of subscribers and convincing them that you are the right solution to their problems. Once convinced, the conversion becomes much easier.
So content marketing is not about generating leads, per se. It is about positioning yourself as the best option, so your prospects want to convert when presented with your offer.
Content Marketing is a great buzz word, but don’t get caught up in all the hype. Read everything you can and filter out what doesn’t make sense to you, then test the options for yourself.
What other content marketing myths have you seen out there? Surely there are more than six, so please share them below and let’s discuss! Thanks for reading.
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